|The City of Lost Angels ... up until Saturday night anyway ...|
This weekend we managed to wrap up our Deadlands campaign with an epic finish that I believe left everyone satisfied. The only thing left for the party to do was to shed some blood on the doorstep of Reverend Grimme's grand cathedral in Lost Angels and that's exactly what they did ... eventually.
If you've read or played the adventure the final piece is presented as a bit of a set run - once the party drops the blood in the right spot Grimme and his 13 ghouls and some fallen angels all rush out of the cathedral and start a fight that has a 13-round timer ticking away before the flood finally hits the place.
This is not how it went at all ...
My crew was very concerned with trying to survive the earthquake and flood they were about to start and spent quite a bit of time running through various plans to achieve this. Boats were purchased, ironclad acquisitions were contemplated, a ridiculous amount of math was done to calculate how much weight the shapeshifting Indian shaman could carry in his most extreme form - and for how long, and at what speed. I joked that he had turned into a Vulcan at one point because he was "communing with the spirits" quite a bit in this effort.
There was a whole lot of recon in and around the city too looking for "safe ways in and routes to help them keep a low profile along the way. I emphasized that this was a city open to land and sea trade and not a tightly guarded fortress and eventually they calmed down about it.
In the end they decided they had done all of the planning they could do and said "well we have to go in" and did so.
|The Approach ...|
To summarize, they used the quiet, stealthy approach to get to the cathedral and then obliterated the exterior guards in two rounds of gunfire, magic and dragon flame - more on that in a minute. Smashing open the front gates they moved through the main space of the church and broke open the rear doors to the inner sanctum where Grimme and his allies were having their annual feast. This is where the fight broke out and where it stayed for about 9 rounds as they blew away the ghouls, the summoned demons, and eventually beat down the Reverend himself ...
|"Sir, there is a dragon in the cathedral ..."|
Then they went outside, spilled the blood, flew off towards Perdition, and watched the mighty power of the ocean wash away the center of Grimme's power.
Yeah it was seriously flipped from the projected finale but it still felt epic and it still worked out. They had no idea what the expected approach was so they did it their way and I loved it.
|Grimme's Last Stand (upper left part of the map)|
A few points of explanation:
- Unfortunately for the reverend my posse was a couple of advances into Legendary by the end and were both ridiculously powerful and damn versatile. "Only hurt by magic" on the demons didn't mean much when my shootists were using magic bullets (Smite from the Mad Scientist) from a .50 cal rifle and the Hexslinger was throwing her usual ammo-whammy'd shots.
- The party had discovered Grimme's original walking stick in the course of their travels and this started off in the hands of the martial artist with his ridiculous skills and super-boosted 30" of movement. This was not super-effective given Grimme's toughness so it was handed over to the dragon during the fight.
- The dragon ... sigh ... yes my Indian Shaman had the shape change power and at Legendary you can turn into any living creature up to size 10 ... and dragons are size 8. This seems like at least a bit of a limitation but he realized this during on of the last rune-marking efforts where they encountered an undead dragon - which I had placed as it seemed like a wild opponent for one of their last challenges. However, once I had established that dragons could be a thing in Deadlands he immediately jumped on that and I had a PC dragon for at least a little while in each of their last 3 fights. I could have blocked it but it felt a little heavy-handed and they were "legendary" and this was the thing that had wiped out the rest of his tribe so I allowed it. The player loved it and that's rarely the wrong call.
Effectively this meant that the party had a second decent melee combatant as thus far only Wu the martial artist had been filling that role and as the finale approached I thought it wouldn't hurt to have another HTH fighter available.
Something I did not foresee at the time was that the Reverend's Strength + 1d4 walking stick - the only thing that can actually hurt Grimme as he is immune to physical and magical damage - would end up being wielded by a Strength d12+8 dragon in this final encounter! That said, it was still very much a challenge for even the dragonized shaman to land real wounds on him for a while. Managing to score a single wound meant I would just bennie it away. I eventually ran out of bennies and then the concentrated attention of six legendary characters was more than even the Servitor of Famine could withstand.
- I had a total of seven players during the run of the game and six of them were present at the end. That was very satisfying. Everyone was on time, in a good mood, and invested in the challenge as they knew this was, one way or another, the end of the campaign - that's how you finish a campaign! We may revisit these characters a little way down the road for a coda but this was the big finish.
- We managed 33 sessions from September of 2021 through December of 2023. There was a six month gap in there while I packed up, moved, and then unpacked, plus the annual convention crew pause this year, but it works out to about two sessions a month during that time otherwise. That's a nice, sustainable pace I find. Knowing we run 5-6 hours per night that's 150-200 hours of Deadlands and I am not tired of it yet!
This also gave me time to run some other games in between when I had free off-weekends and interested players and that keeps the GM's wandering game-eye satisfied - in this case with d6 Star Wars, FFG Star Wars, WFRP 2E, the Sentinel Comics RPG, the new Marvel game, and ICONS.
- No PC deaths! I do not think I've ever run a campaign approaching this length without at least one character buying the farm. And I don't mean they were raised from the dead - no one got to the point of needing it in this campaign. The downside is that this denied us the chance to explore the Harrowed rules - ah well, maybe next time.
I chalk this extraordinary resilience up to a group of very experienced Savage Worlds players in this case - there was a Deadlands Japan game one of them was running on a different night that started before and was wrapped up during the run of this game. Plus there was a 50 Fathoms campaign that ran from 2018-2021 that many of us played in as well. I have also run multiple games going back 10+ years from other Deadlands runs to Necessary Evil. System mastery is still a thing and knowing how to make a mechanically effective character in a limited number of advances can be a game-changer.
|The Aftermath ...|
I have some more things to say in other posts about the system and the setting and some things I could do better if I was running it again but those are for later in the week - for now it was a blast and I am very happy with the whole thing.