After tucking and rolling–perhaps even spin-dashing–away from the smoking wreckage of 5e in the denouement of the Elemental Evil public campaign, I made some small motions and noises towards starting up a new campaign. I shopped around locally, but my wife’s and my local gaming group was deep into the throes of winter, and getting something going did not occur. However, with our moving plans solidified, we reached out to some friends in Minnesota in order to look into what we might like to play. We started out by trying Through the Breach, though I wrote up primers for Pathfinder and the AGE system as well. One of my players is a big FATE fan (we were burning through the Dresden books in the lead up to the DFRPG‘s release, back when we were roommates) and I considered also throwing that system up, but new that as a DM I wanted more combat than I felt the DFRPG was really suited to. I still planned to incorporate parts of FATE–specifically Aspects–into any system that we played. One of the many great things about Through the Breach is that it already supports a similar approach to letting players modify their RNG; TtB pushes it a bit further, really, by putting all the “rolls” in the hands of players. I don’t touch the cards for nothin’ ‘cept to shuffle, and if and when I do that the players all get to put a little more gas into their cheatin’ hands. I also occasionally drop the last consonants in words, because it’s a Western. Sort of.
The original plan was to make characters for each system and play a quick session. Depending on whether the players wanted to stagger the builds and plays or build everything, then play everything, I was planning to take the first characters they built and make demonstration conversions to the other systems.
As we’re now four sessions into TtB, that obviously hasn’t happened. It was my wife’s suggestion that we try a build and play method, especially since she was concerned about abandoning dice for cards (and digital cards, since we’re doing this all over Roll20.net). However, she ended up being one of the loudest voices for sticking with TtB once we started, because she fell in love with her character; all the players did, and they’re an awesome crew, so we’ve been heads-down and pushing ahead since the start. We’re all adult people, with me currently having the funemploymentest schedule amongst us, so we’ve set a fairly regular alternating week play schedule, which has worked out so far.
This post concludes with a description of the party, and the next one will discuss their introductory adventure. After that I’ll get caught up with the subsequent sessions. That means that campaign posts after this one will contain spoilers for folks who haven’t yet played (or are in the midst of) the In Defense of Innocence campaign.
EVE: Played by The Wife (who is my wife), EVE is probably a slim, rather attractive woman dressed in a man’s suit, with short red hair. She might have a hat. She definitely carries a sword, a simple single-edged blade in a Three Kingdoms style–mechanically just a cavalry saber. Everything about EVE is vaguely described because her starting Pursuit is The Forgotten (from Under Quarantine). The character was originally built on the Infiltrator (Into the Steam), because the idea of someone who could slip into a crowd seamlessly was appealing to The Wife. However, the Forgotten are even better at that. The character is unmemorable to the point of just disappearing from view and memory, the unscanned face in any crowd. When developing the Aspects for characters, and thinking about how the party knew one another, one of EVE’s Aspects became “Have I Given You My Card?” because she often slips a small white rectangle into the hands of individuals she meets.
(I’m pretty confident she’s never seen that movie, so this is parallel evolution at its finest.)
The cards just read EVE, with the caps, and that’s where EVE gets her name. She’s not sure it is her name; she doesn’t remember much of anything about herself prior to the most recent events (and we really haven’t even explored how her short-term memory’s holding up). Since The Wife loves Ronin and the Viktorias, those were heavy influences into how she built EVE; the character’s a skilled melee combatant with an emphasis on focus (she gains +1 to the first Focused condition she acquires each turn) and defense (with a trigger on her failed Melee attacks that boosts her Df). She adds skill with stealth and athletics to that, and also serves as a party face (a duty split with Horatio, so mostly just not a role Worm supplies).
Horatio Plumbuck: Played by The Chemist, who is a chemist. A doctor of chemistin’, no less. While I’ve played some games (including my first foray into 4e, way back when) with The Chemist, his work on Horatio absolutely blew me away. He wrote up a short story, he had a strong visual sense, he had all sorts of exceptional wee details. A fellow in a hat, ready with a smirk and a laconic drawl, Horatio is many things: gambler, confidence man, engineer, and gunslinger. That’s pretty much the ascending order of his proficiency with those interests, as well.
Horatio carries a pair of pistols, Maggie (a Collier Navy) and Delilah (a Voyler Patent Revolver), and has the Paired Weapons Talent to make the most of them. His starting Pursuit was Engineer, so he’s always (well, see Part 4) accompanied by a Mobile Toolkit named Essen (Sn! Tin! Chemistry jokes! Like I said, blown away.). Interestingly, Horatio didn’t start out with any actual crafting skills, meaning he’s mostly a theoretical engineer. He can draft plans, but not actually assemble them.
Also, Essen talks to him…but only him, and very much in a devil-on-the-shoulder way.
Horatio’s equipped to do some serious damage, and has a secondary focus (perhaps primarily in his own mind) on chatting folks up and relieving them of their wealth. He also–as we realized amusingly some time down the line–the only character in the party who can read. It’s interesting that his character somewhat became the group’s leader by fiat–Worm is stone-faced and prefers his conversations with the dead, and EVE has to make an effort to be noticed, then an effort to be remembered, then a further effort to communicate.
Worm: Played by The Roommate (Not that we are roommates. We were roommates. But everyone else got a two-word title so consistency is king.). Worm is a conscious departure from the characters that The Roommate tends to gravitate towards; he explained a desire to play someone who wasn’t talky. I don’t think that Worm’s managed 100 words in all our sessions combined, so that seems to have been a success. Partially driven by the incredibly lopsided flips during character creation (Flipped Red Joker for Station, managed Black Joker for North), Worm took shape as a swamp hermit with Neverborn ties.
Again, and making this 3 for 3, we have a player who knocked the character concept out of the park. Talking during our first play session was great, because The Roommate kept revealing concepts from his character and I got to say “Go look at this piece of Malifaux art.” He fits seamlessly into the overall context of the world. Worm suffers from the constant, whispering presence of some sort of spiritual, quasi-real parasite–the Observer, placed there by the Mole King. Originally this creature was going to have some association with Worm’s grimoire, but I got Under Quarantine before our first session and–like with EVE–that made a sudden switch in character Pursuit from Graverobber to Necromancer completely fitting. Wearing a poncho, carrying an axe, and often daubed with dried blood, Worm balances EVE–Horatio never needs to explain her presence because folks don’t realize she’s there, but Worm raises brows, ire, and occasional alarms.
As a Necromancer, Worm doesn’t have a grimoire; not yet. He simply knows how to raise zombies, plus for starting as a Necromancer he has a Canine Remains (named “Dog”) as a constant companion. Worm’s stats are also interesting: he’s +3 in Might and Charm, +2 in Tenacity. That makes him a very compelling, physically imposing character. He’s got Int -3, though, with The Whispers applying a [-] on Int duels. So he’s very much primed to make bad, bad choices. It’s been a delicate challenge to navigate a way for Worm to be true to the player’s vision while not immediately a detriment to the entire party; that challenge is exacerbated by Worm’s willful, casual use of Resurrectionist magic. The Canine Remains granted at Step 0 of Necromancer is specifically described as looking like an ugly living dog; that’s less easy for subsequent zombies. However, Worm has the triggers and stitching skills necessary to make up for that problem, and it’s produced some great gameplay. Mocking up the process of creating the least-detectable zombie lets each corpse feel like an integral part of the party’s success.
Worm’s been a surprise, because with his stats I expected he’d be more of a melee monster. In practice, though, The Roommate has mostly focused on commanding minions from a middle ground. That means that, of the three, Worm’s the character who has most benefitted from advancing Pursuit steps; he’ll also jump in power a bit once he finds a Grimoire or dances into a Pursuit that offers some innate attacks at range. Of course, he also has a shotgun.
That’s the party, then. EVE, Horatio, and Worm (plus Dog and Sn) were introduced to as associates who found themselves needing to catch a ride…