Words from the Wise (Guys)

Copyright Nicholas HM Caldwell © 2009

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion


To the 120th issue of The Guild Companion and our second podcast.

First Podcast and Xa-ar

Many thanks to everyone who commented on our first experimental podcast. It appears to have been well received, so we're repeating the trial with this month's editorial. You'll have found the link at the top of this webpage.

Terry Amthor was able to correct my pronounciation of Xa-ar, the title of our most recent Shadow World module. It is not Ax-ar, which is really hard on the vocal cords, but Zaar, which is much easier to say. Speaking of Xa-ar, we are very grateful for all the errata that have been caught so far by eagle-eyed readers. We will correct these for the printed edition and release an equally corrected pdf version. Hopefully this time all our pdf purchasers will have ensured that they have checked the relevant tickboxes on the ecommerce sites to get email notices of updates. No? Well, please do so before we update the files.

All Good Things

Since May 2007, I've been GMing a HARP SciFi campaign for the regular crew of Cambridge players. A continuation of the original playtest scenarios, "Resident Aliens" and "Special Delivery", the "Manifest Destinies" campaign has taken a diverse band of heroes from 3rd to 13th level in about sixty-five evening sessions. They've been pitted against Silth invaders, space pirates, megacorp mercs and executives, hackers, malevolent AIs, unknown technology, genetically engineered monsters, crime lords, rogue transhumans, squabbling Madji clans, Code Black threats to the survival of the Federation and the human species, intrigue, multi-layered conspiracies, and two new extreme alien species. They've survived close combat and full-scale space battles, ending the campaign in triumph. This campaign has been my attempt to mix old-fashioned space opera, elements of hard scifi, technothriller, military sf, cyberpunk and transhumanism into a varied blend to suit my eclectic tastes and whims. It has been a whole lot of fun.

"Manifest Destinies" has been the proving ground for the HARP SciFi rules - a number of changes were forced through into the various betas of the manuscript as a result of issues discovered during our actual play. Moreover it has generated extra ideas that will be properly developed in SysOp's Guide . It's also been a proving ground for the Tintamar setting. Although the Tintamar chapter in the HARP SciFi manuscript did not change (significantly) because of the campaign, running the campaign required me to invent additional detail based off what was written in the chapter, and wherever possible, to assimilate the backgrounds and life stories of the player-characters into the universe. For instance, I now know the names and sociotechnical natures of the four interdicted systems, whose existence is mentioned in the chapter.

As a consequence of one player being absent for an initial portion of the campaign, I started producing episode summaries early on and emailing them out to the players, even when we had a full house. Though this was extra work, meaning that each gaming session involved a unit of preparation beforehand and post-session writeups the next evening, it helped to keep everyone, including and especially me, straight with regard to the details of what was going on. Now that the campaign is over, the summaries represent a distillation of what actually happened when a bunch of player-characters met the adventures as written, and provide a way of reliving the campaign in the future. Combining the original adventure notes with the summaries will, I think, lead to a better version of the campaign, should circumstances permit me to convert it into a publishable product. Of course I might just try turning it into a novel!

All good things must come to an end and we brought the campaign to its conclusion via an unexpected final twist in a seven-hour concluding session. The mantle of GM has been passed on and it's my turn to be a player again, reprising my role as Doctor Theodor Storm, student become physician, in "More Tales of the Vampire Hunters", a campaign set in the grim and perilous world of Warhammer. Yes, I am quite aware that my character has the same name as a nineteenth century German writer - I did study "Immensee" at school. Should the good Doctor perish, my backup character will be named Heinrich Böll so there! But hopefully the good Doctor's next career as Spy will keep him alive for many sessions to come. Anyway, I'm looking forward to the relaxing and less arduous tasks of being just a player once more.

Farewell for now ...

It has been incredibly busy in the real world for me in the last month with multiple research projects demanding my attention, so I'm behind in where I want to be with Something Wicked for HARP Fantasy, hence no update on that work. And I dare not make promises that there will be an update next month as the real world continues to clamour for my attention, which is also my cue to leave you to enjoy this month's issue. We'll be back in March with issue 121, but until then …

Keep gaming and have fun,
Nicholas HM Caldwell
General Editor for The Guild Companion