Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Deadlands: The Flood - Things I Could Have Done Better as a GM

I had one last topic I wanted to cover here after running the latest Deadlands campaign to completion - what I could have done better. Anytime I have a campaign wind down I inevitably think of some things I could have done differently - and likely better. Some of this is perspective looking back but sometimes I realize things and try to course-correct while the campaign is still running. 

  • System Mastery - I've been running and playing Savage Worlds to a lesser or greater degree since it was published over 20 years ago. Casually, I know it like the back of my hand. When it comes to certain details though I rely heavily on my players to share their knowledge as things come up in play. I could be better at this and next time I will be.
    • There are some general rules that get tweaked when a new edition comes out like Shaken, the various conditions that can be imposed, or how backlash works, and those tend to catch me the first few times they come up. The chase rules change with every edition and those take a while to re-learn each time. 
    • Edges and Flaws are where a lot of the chrome comes in with this system and they get revised in every edition - sometimes even within a single edition - and more than once I have run a monster or NPC as though one of these worked like it did the "old" way. 
    • Powers are another area that gets tweaked quite a bit. The power itself may not be dramatically different but the extras and options often do and I should really pay more attention to these kinds of details before I start throwing dice with them.  
Lots of good pics from movies and TV out there for a western campaign

  • NPCs - I made an effort to individualize NPCs in this campaign and made sure to have images to show my players for many of them and this campaign was good about having names for almost every NPC one could encounter, but I am not sure many of them really stuck with my players. This is strictly a thing in my head, not something they have mentioned, but I do wonder about it after the fact. Anywhere the party is going to spend a lot of time it would be beneficial to work on more of this in advance.
    • For example, the Shan Fan run has a lot of distinctive NPCs built-in as it's a core part of the storyline here and I think it went pretty well but the Perdition election arc is presented in much less detail and I did not really fill out the townspeople beforehand like I could have done. It would have made for some more memorable characters at least.
    • That said my own award for "unusual NPC of the campaign" goes to Born in a Bowl's severed finger which had a definite personality while it was with the party. Holding a grudge against the character who botched the knife work that created it gave us some humor opportunities that most campaigns don't see.
  • The Setting - Deadlands has some very distinct qualities as a setting, both mechanically and just as a supernatural old west campaign. I think I hit a lot of these in play but I could have done more.
    • I did not emphasize the classic tale-tellin'-to-offset-the-fear-level part of play that figured a lot in old (and in some new) Deadlands adventures. I don't think my players missed it but I could have paid more attention to he fear levels of various areas and made that a bigger part of things. 
    • The Flood in particular is also heavily affected by Famine and I could have played this up more too as it's supposed to permeate the whole region. It was a factor in one of our adventures regarding the only decent ranch in the area, and it did come up in talking about the appeal of Lost Angels food program to the common man, but I don't feel like I made it ever-present as they were traveling through the state. I don't know that the campaign suffered from it really, but it's a part of the flavor of the campaign area that I could have used more frequently.
Those are my take-aways from this one - now on to the next game!