Gamma World: Ottawa

Every start of the school year, I have interested members of the University of Ottawa Club select a campaign that I (or someone else) will run from October to April. It is a two step process where members nominate games and then vote on the nominated games. Usually, I see many games get repeated year after year in the nominations list although the game selected in the end is always different. This year, I heard about Play a new RPG by Dice of Doom. It is a project for the month of October to encourage groups to play a rpg they have never played before. As the new campaign would start in October, I mentioned to the members when they were nominating games hoping to see a mostly new set of games. It worked. Most of the interested members nominated games I have never run a session or campaign for and two members even offered to run a game.

This year, the game is Gamma World 4th edition, a post-apocalyptic setting after a reality bending disaster. To help create the setting in which we would play, I used Dave Chalker’s Gammarizer article. After everyone created their character (or at least their origin), I handed out index cards to everyone. I rolled an origin for myself to participate. I asked everyone to choose a location in Ottawa and write it on the index card. I shuffled the cards, handed one to each and to exchange with the person to their right  if they got their initial card. Everyone altered their area. If they had trouble, we would help them and I even suggested them using their origin as inspiration. After the alteration, I gathered the cards, shuffled it, handed one to each and to exchange with the person to their right if they got the card they altered. I gave them instructions to add a connection in that location to the card they just altered. This created the basic framework of Gamma World: Ottawa.

The setting of Gamma World: Ottawa has 6 major locations. They are the Byward Market, Parliament Hill, Petrie Island, Rideau CentreRideau Canal and The Glebe. Additionally, there are minor locations and groups that inhabit the Ottawa region.

Around 100 years ago, a Klicky spaceship landed into the Byward Market. The Klickies are a race of mutated cockroaches from Planet X. They believe Earth is their birthright and transformed the Byward Market as a large factory emitting strange fumes. They collect any form of plastic for reasons unknown. At the outskirts of the market, you will find the Double Klick, a pizza restaurant run by the Klickies. For a decent amount of plastic bottles, you get 2 any size pizzas with 3 toppings each. They have over 100 different toppings ranging from the normal like pepperoni, mushrooms and bacon to the strange like boogers, grass and mint chocolate. They are four mutant turtles freedom fighters from Petrie Island who stop by regularly to try various wild and crazy pizzas.

On the outskirts of Ottawa, you will find the wild Petrie Island. The Big Mistake changed Petrie Island by removing any human influence. Instead, you will find anthropomorphic animals with a strong attachment to their natural lands. They view humanity as a threat to their way of life. Da Shu, one of the rats, found a human invention of television with a bunch of Chuck Norris videos. Learning the value of those martial arts, he founded a school to teach self-defence to his fellows. Finding a sign of Chuck E. Cheese, Da Shu named the school in honour of the mouse slave who worked for those terrible humans. The Chuck E. Cheese’s school of martial arts stands against any animal enslavement. There is some growing tension between the school and the ponies from the Glebe. Apparently, the ponies blame the school for their condition. Both sides have built their forces and armaments. War seems to be on the horizon and Ottawa might be destroyed if nothing is done.

The Theocratic String of Glebe is a religious community in the Glebe.  Over 7 decades ago, the human population of Glebe transformed into ponies. After the transformations started, they discovered the transformation occurred if a pure human accumulated over 7 days of living in the Glebe. Up to date, no cure was found. The Theocratic String of Glebe blame the animals from Petrie Island providing their base animal nature and hate of humans as reasoning. The swamp monsters from the old Rideau Canal prey on the ponies. The Theocratic String of Glebe erected barriers towards the south and east to
protect themselves from the swamp monsters.

The Rideau Canal changed drastically due to the Big Mistake. It ceased to be and returned to the swamp, rocky terrain and rough bush that existed before. This swampland evolved some nasty monsters like the arn, kai lins, froghemoths and others. There are stories that speak of a hermit that inhabits the swamp and controls its creatures but they are not confirmed. The Klickies dumb their toxic waste into the waters of the Rideau Swamp. They also corral some monsters for use as guardians of their facilities and sometimes some experimentation.

At the seat of government of the now dissolved country of Canada, Parliament Hill overlooks the surrounding area. During the Big Mistake, some strange energies surrounded the Hill and animated the Peace Tower and several statues.  Unfortunately, the Peace Tower has some insecurity issues. It has heard of another animated clock tower named Big Ben who constantly boast about his size compared to the Peace Tower. To resolve those issues, the Peace Tower and the animates have joined up with the Rideau Space & Amusement Centre. They hope to build a device to propel the Peace Tower into space and thus it can gloat over Big Ben.

The Rideau Space & Amusement Centre is owned and operated by NASA (Northern Amusement & Space Agency). This NASA comes from a reality where the agency started opening theme parks in order to fund their space program. It’s mascot is a certain space duck from the 24½th century named Duck Dodgers. During the Big Mistake, the Rideau Centre was replaced with the Rideau Space & Amusement Centre. It is a fun loving area where families can try out rides, research gets conducted into space flight and a space launch from time to time. Due to its proximity to the Klickies, they increased security by hiring
the Peace Tower as tour guide and the animates as security force. They had some minor issues with the Peace Tower as it flirts with the rockets which tends to distract them but otherwise it is going good. There are rumours that NASA has detected a base on the moon and they are working on making a space vehicle strong enough to reach it.

There are other things of note in Ottawa. In Orléans, an eastern suburb, a mafia of anthropomorphic pigeons known as the Good Feathers Loft controls the suburb. According to stories, Good Feathers Loft were members of a pigeon racing team. The current mayor of Ottawa, Mr. William Kirpatrick, lives in the family manor known as Silver City. A small community of miners is in the area working on the newly discovered silver mine. The mayor’s mother, Agatha Kirpatrick, is suffering from a debilitating disease which the mayor gets medicine to treat her. There are weekly competitions at the Rideau Carleton Raceway where inhabitants bring their vehicles armed to the teeth in a demolition derby known as Auto Wars.

We got great success with the Gammarizer. Some of us compared it to the character creation of the FATE system. It gives the group a great skeleton for a campaign setting. I can see using it for starting campaigns in other games. You could have a fantasy campaign where you have a village and you use the Gammarizer to have players generate adventuring locations of note in and around the village. For a space game, you can use it to generate a space sector with various planets. I found it a great tool and I look forward to play in our Gammarized version of Ottawa.

As for the other nominated games, I created some basic details of a villain for each. I plan to put more details on each of them and release them on this blog when they are ready. The one I’m currently working on is for Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space.

The 3×3 method: An analysis of a campaign experiment

Inspired after reading Chatty DM’s Freelancer biopic, I decided to start a blog. I hope to maintain it.

During the summer, I run a superhero campaign for the University of Ottawa Gaming Club. It follows the adventures of the Ottawa-based UN superhero team know the World Task Force (WTF for short, the players chose it but it fit my humour). I make the sessions episodic but try to have an overall theme. For summer 2010 (the first season), the major bad guy was Hitler’s brain in the jar, Nazis and time travel showed up. I had a few two part sessions and the finale was battling an army of Hitlers at the beginning of the Universe. It was epic.

For this season (summer 2011), I wanted to do something a bit different but still episodic. For around a decade I’ve had this idea of a alien contact superhero campaign but each time I worked on it, I felt it was too much like a story rather than a game. The idea involved some farmers/scientists discovering the famous Roswell crash site, faking the weather balloon incident, hiding the ship from the government, and using the alien technology to found a company that later became a major corporation. In the process, the corporation spliced some alien DNA and created a secret group of supers for covert ops but most later escaped when they uncovered the corporation’s true plans. This is where the WTF came in.

I read Dave Chalker’s 5×5 method and decided to use a modified version of it. In his 5×5 method, you take 5 quests and given them 5 steps each and you get around 25
adventures. As my summer campaign has only 8 sessions, I needed to cut the number of adventures to around 8. To keep the square grid, I chose to do a 3×3 grid with one of the plots only getting 2 steps. I chose 3 main villains to carry this story and gave them goals. I got Luke Johnson, CEO of Thesmophoros Inc, wants to use his company’s
teleportation technology to raid the alien home world and achieve godhood. The All-Mighty, alien computer program which arrived in the Roswell crash, plans to build a robotic army and take over earth to establish order and discipline. Finally, S’tan, a private eye supernatural entity, wishes to transform Earth into Hell to rule.

After establishing the 3 major plots of the season, I needed to decide which would get less focus. As Thesmophoros and the All-Mighty were related to my Roswell crash
idea, I picked S’tan as the story with 2 steps even though he proved to be the most fun to play. The 2 steps for S’tan was: Augmenting the anger of spousal abusers to transform them into demons; Wedding in Vegas as the focal point for a pentagram that covers the Earth in order to achieve his goal. The 3 steps for the All-Mighty were: Thief
stealing components to manufacture robot army; Robotic spy infiltrating World Task Force’s base to get Earth’s defensive strengths and weaknesses; Robotic invasion of Earth. The 3 steps for Thesmophoros Inc were: Anti-alien terrorists (secretly sponsored by Thesmophoros) attack the area where the official first appearance of the aliens will take place; Experimental drug that gives people superpowers is being sold; Luke Johnson leads a superhuman army onto the alien home world to get high technology.

Overall, the season of World Task Force went well. The method permitted me to organize my sessions and give a build-up. The overall story was a bit railroaded in the overall sense but the players had control over the details and their degree of success on each step set the difficulty for the final step. An issue that my players and I found was the lack of development. With my decision to have 3 story arcs with 2-3 steps, I didn’t have enough space to delve into the story. It was a bit rushed and there were stories that made cameo appearances but we had to put aside due to the time.

The 2012 season of World Task Force will deal with their arch-nemesis. Each player will get to assist me in designing their superhero’s arch-nemesis. Those super-villains
will form a League of Evil in the end to complete their evil task against the World Task Force. For now, I am starting a Gamma World campaign and we shall use ideas from another of Dave Chalker’s articles, The Gammarizer. I look forward to see what the group will create and I plan to write it up.