Happy GURPSDay everyone!
It’s been another week of big news for the GURPS community as the Dungeon Fantasy RPG Kickstarter continues roaring towards full funding (and now has a contest on their forums, if you’d like a chance at a free copy). In addition to being a fantastic point of entry for newcomers, it is also being used to gauge interest in physical GURPS products as a whole — so, if that’s something you’d like to see more of in the future (yes, please!), please consider at least checking it out.
As if the rewards weren’t a crazy-great value already, Steve Jackson Games also announced a softcover print version of “How to Be a GURPS GM” as one of the AddOns! This was an amazing surprise, and I really can’t wait to get my hands on it. They posted a video of the proof copy on their Facebook page (sorry, no other source) — and, I love this cover!
I am really, really hoping this Kickstarter does well, and leads to a whole new age of printed, hold-in-my-grubby-hands GURPS products.
Turning now to today’s post, it is our final look at the “Hell on Wheels” convention game I ran a couple weekends ago, where I get all the notes and characters posted for download and talk a bit about how it actually ran at the table.
Here’s what the setup looked like just before the players arrived.
And here are all the materials for the game, in case you’d like to run the adventure yourself sometime.
Hell on Wheels | Downloads: 714 | Size: 2.5 MB
The 37-page PDF contains:
- pp. 1-5 The Adventure (Intro, eight scenes, motorcycles in combat, enemy stats)
- p. 6 “Life as a Hellhound” (setting background and GURPS summary)
- p. 7 Streamlined GURPS maneuvers and attack/defense options
- pp. 8-25 Character Sheets (six pre-generated PCs)
- pp. 26-29 GM Control Sheet
- pp. 30-37 Graphic materials (ID signs, tri-fold figures, motorcycle and weapon cards)
The entire adventure is just three pages of bullet points covering eight scenes. “The PCs are outlaw bikers who make their way out to a remote desert rendezvous, only to find that a werewolf (and her family) have messily devoured the bikers they were supposed to meet.” It might only be one sentence long, but it was plenty to fill a four-hour game and everyone seemed to have a great time (I know I did).
Friday’s group had five players, Sunday and Monday both had four, and all three groups were split about evenly between those familiar and unfamiliar with GURPS. I couldn’t have asked for better players! Everyone really dove into the characters with gusto and made it a ton of fun.
Speaking of the PCs, they all shared a number of traits related to “Because I’m a bad-ass outlaw biker, that’s why.”
Advantages: Combat Reflexes, High Pain Threshold, Luck
Disadvantages: Code of Honor (Biker), Duty (Hellhounds), Enemy (Law Enforcement), Social Stigma (Biker)
Skills: Driving (Motorcycle), Guns (Pistol/Rifle/Shotgun/SMG), Heraldry (Cuttes), Savoir-Faire (Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs), Streetwise
Primary skill was usually 16, secondary skills 12-14, so they were all very competent right out of the gate.
After setting the stage with a brief intro to GURPS and the characters, the first encounter (“Pistol Pete’s”) was just a flat-out action scene to get things rolling and demonstrate the loyalty between the PCs. As written, this is an encounter with a rival biker gang, the Marauders, at a dive bar called Pistol Pete’s, and that’s how it ran on Friday. On Sunday, it was instead a drug warehouse being raided by rogue FBI agents, and Monday it was a roadside beatdown between Marauders and Roadrunners (an ally group to the PCs).
I’m not sure I ever quite got this scene down the way I’d hoped, but it certainly had the desired results. By starting in the middle of an action scene, the players were immediately drawn together as a team and ready to move on to the adventure at hand.
The second encounter (“Desert Run”) was basically just their club president, Jones, sending them out to the desert to pick up the monthly collection of drugs and a very important USB drive. Just a little social scene, a “lay out the mission and hit the road” kind of thing.
The third encounter (“Marauders on the Highway”) was a resounding success in all three games, definitely the highlight besides the climax. In the notes it is written only as “On the way to the meet, run into a crew of 6 Marauders,” but each and every time it ballooned into a frenetic “Mad Max”-style brawl with shots ringing out, clubs cracking bones, bikers laying down their bikes in a shower of sparks, all happening at 80 mph or more on a lonely desert highway. Epic, epic fights.
The fourth encounter (“AZ Highway Patrol”) played out as I thought it would twice — the PCs got pulled over by a pair of Highway Patrol, hassled a bit, but the bikers kept their cool and were sent on their way. Only one group decided it was a better idea to just take out the cops and hide the bodies in the desert. With some groups, that’s just the way it goes when playing a pack of borderline psychotic degenerates!
I made a complete entry for the fifth scene (“Nighttime Cruise”) to make sure I remembered to describe it. I thought it was important to have a moment of quiet bonding for the characters, just a quick little scene to establish the in-game feeling of camaraderie that led them all to become biker brothers in the first place. Literally just a 30-second calm before the storm of reaching the meet.
In the sixth encounter (“Carnage”), the PCs reach the meet after all their misadventures and discover that all the people they were supposed to meet have been ripped to pieces by… something. This was the start of the big finale that lasted through to the end. All three groups checked the bodies and found the USB drive they needed to recover (as well as the monthly drug pick-up), and two of the three discovered the crate of AK-74s in the back of the van in time to use the weapons against the soon-to-be-seen werewolf (the third group had a much tougher time with that fight!).
The seventh encounter (“Skinwalker”) was a full-on combat against a “werewolf.” Technically, in my mind, the creatures were Skinwalkers, but that was just a detail I noted in case it ever came up in the story. It never did, so calling them werewolves was easier. The monster did manage to wound a couple of characters pretty seriously, but there ended up being no PC deaths at all!
I used the eighth encounter (“Pack’s Revenge”), where the lone werewolf’s three family members show up in response to her howls of pain, for the two groups that found and armed themselves with the AK-74s, leading to even more wonderful claw and fang and bullet mayhem. For the group that had a seriously tough time just getting the one monster down (using only handguns and melee weapons), they escaped back to the highway leaving the angry howls behind them — otherwise, it likely would have been a massacre (and not the good kind).
Judging by all the hoots, hollers, and laughter at the tables, I’m calling this con a complete success, three out of three great games!
You can read about the game prep in other posts. Mechanically, it wasn’t much different than most of my games — a bullet point adventure with some enemy stats, six pre-gen characters with simplified GURPS cheat sheets, and signs/figures/notecards as needed. One fun part of this game I liked was that the players could choose their own motorcycle as well as their character.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on “Hell on Wheels,” below in the comments or wherever. I’m a bit adrift now because the next convention isn’t for six months! But that hopefully means I can make a bit more time for Game Geekery projects.
If you enjoyed this post and others like it, might you consider the Game Geekery Patreon?
A behind-the-scenes look at putting together "one-shots," from idea and first notes to the finished adventure. Here are the five most recent posts, or select "View the entire series."
- Hell on Wheels (for Gateway 2016)
- More Thoughts on Hell on Wheels
- “Hell on Wheels,” Post-Con Wrap Up
- Requiem, The Cartoon Finale
- Creating “Hare Today…” – Part 1