Sunday, May 5, 2019

Manifested Destinies Campaign Guide

This year's campaign (for the 2018-19 school year) has been a bit different. For one thing, we've been playing every other week; for another, we switched it up a bit and played some Savage Worlds in the Sixth Gun campaign setting. I had a number of adventures ready to go from the start, with an idea of where I wanted to be at some point around the middle; the rest has evolved as we progressed. In the end, though, I wanted to provide something of an overview if a GM wanted to use this material in some kind of organized manner.

Connecting the Scenarios
The “Manifested Destinies” campaign connects a number of different adventures from the blog . While the development of a storyline, based on the actions of the Player Characters, can never be fully anticipated by the GM, the intended overall flow of the action is as follows. 

“Reversal of Fortune” provides an excellent means of bringing the PCs together for the first time, since they could be competitors, companions, spectators, would-be thieves, other passengers, or even crew members aboard the steamboat River Maiden for the big poker tournament. Then, finding those responsible for the strange attack can bring a common purpose, as detailed in “Ill-Gotten Gains.” A cryptic clue from that scenario leads to the little town of Smith's Crossing, where they can gain hints about one mystery. 

From there, too, they could be drawn into the events of “Blood on the Snow” and “Buried But Not Dead.” Those scenarios introduce two of the primary villains, the Pinkerton Alexandra Flynn and the werewolf Hugo Francois LeBlanc. The latter also allows the PCs to acquire a fabled grimoire, the Clavicula Salmonis, a text purportedly written by King Solomon himself and one that contains rituals for summoning demons and binding them to one's service. They could also thus be drawn into the events of “Restless Spirits,” which gives them the opportunity to win powerful allies. 

The plot thickens when Smith's Crossing is stricken by illness, as presented in “A Plague Among You.” Here the PCs can learn the truth about Mr. and Mrs. Smith and, based on what they learn there, rush off to prevent a calamity in “Hell to Pay.” From there, the scenario “South of the Border” can be used for a change of scenery, possibly letting the PCs come face to face with Alexandra Flynn, and even acquire two relics—the onyx mirror and a hand of glory

Once the end of the campaign approaches, the PCs can rush to stop a werewolf and his allies from unleashing a wicked and powerful loa, as described in “Unfettered,” and then face off once and for all with the Knights of Solomon.

Using the Supplements
Supplements from the blog connect directly to the different adventures, too.
  • The Steamboat,” of course, provides the setting and some of the NPCs for “Reversal of Fortune.”
  • Bad Medicine” details what the PCs can find during their first—and subsequent—visits to Smith's Crossing, especially during “A Plague Among You.” It is also the launching point for the scenario “Buried But Not Dead,” and possibly for “Blood on the Snow.”
  • The “Frontier Fort” becomes a focal point for the PCs, and is the center of the action for “Hell to Pay” as well as the point of entry for “Beyond the Veil” and, eventually, “Unfettered.”
  • Soldiers and Officers of the U.S. Army” and “Native People of the American Frontier” detail many of the NPCs who become important in the aforementioned scenarios, too.
  • The Dead Man's Hand” introduces another NPC, Small Raven, who could help the PCs in unraveling the greater mystery that they face.
  • Diablerie” inroduces a coven of witches who can add a lair of complication to these events, as allies, rivals or enemies.
  • Similarly, the “Black Stars” are meant to be employers for the PCs, unless they choose to pursue their own agendas.
  • The Train” is a setting for working in the PCs' own subplots, as detailed below.
  • Finally, “The Knights of Solomon” details the final foes for this campaign.

Including the PCs' Stories
The Savage Worlds game mechanic known as Interludes provides a good opportunity for the players to weave their characters more deeply into this story, by telling their own tales. Refer to page 105 of the Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition book for details. Good opportunities for Interludes occur during the journey through the southwest during “Buried But Not Dead” and the voyage across the Gulf of Mexico that's part of “South of the Border.” At the GM's discretion, other scenarios could provide more chances for this kind of elaboration, too. 

On the one hand, characters who are developed from these stories could be substituted for NPCs from the published adventures. On the other hand, the GM could improvise entirely new encounters and scenarios based on those stories, too.

Building up to the Big Finale
Here are a few tips for building up a satisfying climax at the end of the campaign.
  • When possible, it's best to introduce villains and let them become familiar before the PCs can have a showdown with them. Such could be the case with Jacques Lemaire, Mordechai and Angelica Smith, Hugo Francois LeBlanc, Alexandra Flynn and any of her associates from the Pinkertons and the Knights of Solomon.
  • The same goes for any possible allies, too; they might include Herr Meier, many of the people from Smith's Crossing, any soldiers and officers from Fort Arneson, as well as some of the local Native Americans, such as Little Raven, Red Hawk and Standing Bear. Depending on the GM's preferences, they could aid the PCs in battles against their enemies.
  • It's also important to revisit familiar locations, too, so as to help weave them into the tapestry that is the campaign setting.
  • After each scenario, when the PCs receive their Experience Points, the NPCs who were involved should receive the same total, reflecting the fact that they are continuing to pursue their own plans.
  • Finally, the big finish—whether it's a showdown at the strange manor house in “Unfettered,” an assault on the stronghold of the Knights of Solomon, or something else entirely—provides an opportunity to settle old scores once and for all.

Heading in Other Directions?
As written, these scenarios should provide the PCs with enough Experience Points to receive from ten to twelve Advances, and thus to achieve Veteran or even Heroic rank. A GM who wants to take this campaign to the Legendary level might, therefor, need to supplement this material. One option for doing so is working in more side adventures based on the stories from the Interludes; this might include making journeys back east to visit family and friends, seeking lost loved ones who've come out to different parts of the frontier, or going to find vengeance against those who've done the PCs wrong. Another possibility is to let the PCs explore the myriad possible worlds that are accessible via the Winding Way, and thus even to pursue alternate realities that upset the status quo of the outside world.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

My Methodology

Since I do a fair amount of writing for my home RPG campaigns, I thought it might be interesting if I shared a little about my methodology for it. I'm always interested to hear how other GMs plan for and keep record of their sessions.

Here goes.


1. First, I try to have paper and a writing utensil on my person at all times. One never knows when inspiration will strike, and I like to be ready to jot down or develop an idea when that happens. To that end, I generate a list of bullet point ideas for future reference.

2. Once I have an idea for an adventure, I use a technique that I stole from my brother Nick. It's a flowchart that starts with the adversary's actions, draws in the PCs, and then leads through various possible developments to what one hopes is a satisfying conclusion. This all keeps in mind, of course, that no GM plan ever survives contact with the players.

3. Sometimes--and especially for my recent Sixth Gun campaign, I've wanted to develop a location for use in a particular campaign setting. For that purpose I use a chart, one that has sections for different elements of that place. This helps me organize my plan for it.

4. Finally, during each session I use my notes to keep track of damage to various characters in battle, skill checks that characters make for later reference, possible repercussions for future sessions, and the like. Here's an example of that.