Richard Ruane, Keeper of the Sacred Malignance: And we’re starting on 3…
Hey everyone, welcome to the first ever Gaunt Marches Slack chat, where the GM team for The Gaunt Marches shared campaign talk about what’s going on there.
I’m Richard, normally coming to you from Brooklyn, NY but TODAY coming to you from the lovely environs of Cherry Grove on Fire Island.
I’m moderating today’s chat, and am joined by the full Gaunt Marches team.
Gaunt Marches was started by Spencer, so I’ll let him introduce himself here.
Spencer Paskett, : So I've been with the Gauntlet since Jan and fell in love my first game. I play almost exclusively Dungeon World and was inspired to start what became the Gaunt Marches when I heard about the old DnD Westmarches games.
I wanted the feeling that players could run into problems they couldn't handle on their first time around.
Richard Ruane: I want to ask you more about the Westmarches style of games! But first, I’d like to introduce our other two GMs. Let’s start with Horst…
Horst Wurst, Keeper of the Yellow-Eyed Mask: Hi all, I'm Horst currently residing in the city in the Autumn stars. I'm with the Gauntlet since summer 2016 and my first game was ... Dungeon World! As a GM I run almost exclusively games associated with the DIY D&D scene.
Richard Ruane: And last (but definitely not least), Jim Crocker!
Jim Crocker, Keeper of the Eight Heavenly Questions of Gong-Gong the Dragon: Hey, all. Most folks in the community will know me as a game retailer specializing in indie/small press RPGs. I do a bunch of cons in the Northeast and Midwest, so I'm all over the place. I also was a co-founder of the Origins version of Games on Demand. I recently closed my shops, so joined the Gauntlet to be part of a community after that went away, and, as is the usual narrative, fell in love with the place. I think it was Rich who pitched the Gaunt Marches idea past me after we'd played together at Pax and on the Gauntlet, and it sounded like an excellent way to do some low-pressure and fun design work. Because I'm new to the Gantlet, I'm just now getting games as a GM off the ground. So folks have not seen me running Gaunt Marches games yet, but I've been active behind the scenes in discussion and world building.
Richard Ruane: So I want to start by asking Spencer about what got him interested in Westmarches style campaigns?
Spencer Paskett: I am into characters being heroes and showing off how awesome they are in RPGs but what I found lacking was the sense that the World didn't care about my character.
When I bumped into the idea of there being a little town full of adventurers and a whole dangerous and undiscovered world on their doorstep I thought that is exactly what I need to put the characters in their place.
Richard Ruane: So you also decided to do this using a shared world/shared GMing setup.
What drew you to that?
Spencer Paskett: There was a podcast I listened to for a while that did this but the stories never converged or overlapped. So I guess my brain just thought what if we did both at once?
Stories and parties that could converge on a single town and have as many GMs who wanted to join up and run games.
Jim Crocker: Did the specifics of the Gauntlet Open Table style of play enter into your thinking? One of the things I love about this approach is that it takes a potential problem with open table and turns it into a feature.
Spencer Paskett: It just seemed awesome to try. Since I've only been GMing since June it made sense to not be the only one.
I think the idea came and the Gauntlet's Open Table policy was the answer I didn't know I needed.
Jim Crocker: Yeah, I particularly love the way sometimes something one of us just sort of tosses off in a stream of ideas will really seize someone else. Horst Wurst was really taken with my Myconic Plague, which I threw in just because people with mushrooms growing out of their faces is super-creepy to me, but I didn't think any further than that! It's basically 3 other writers tossing you prompts so you can just jump right past the blank page.
Richard Ruane: So I want to hit on that, specifically, in a moment - what drew you to this shared world campaign, Horst Wurst and Jim Crocker (He/Him)?
Horst Wurst: I wanted to put a Westmarches style campaign on the calendar for ages. Like Spencer I love the idea of giving players a sense of place and to have emergent stories as a result of the players actions rather than as a reaction to something the GM had planned. I listened to the Hex-Talk episodes of Hobbs and Friends and read the original posts by Ben Robbins to get an idea about how to put everything in motion. When Spencer came up with the idea I knew it was my chance to realize the plan without having to invent the whole world on my own.
Jim Crocker: Well for starters after only a brief time with the community, it was pretty clear there was a shared sense of what we were aiming at in play, and as I said earlier, I knew you enough to trust you were serious about wanting it to be interesting and engaging.
Richard Ruane: So I think one question a few people have asked us, “Why Dungeon World?”
Jim Crocker: Because The Gauntlet?
Spencer Paskett: Simplicity.
DW is so easy to just throw things together in.
Richard Ruane: So true.
It also sort of a lingua franca in the Gauntlet community and something people show up expecting us to run [edit: that’s because of the great work Jason and David have done on Discern Realities].
Jim Crocker: Yeah, like if you're new (hello) you can limit the inputs, stick to basic moves and playbooks until you get your feet under you. If you're an OSR black belt like Horst Wurst, you can tinker to get exactly what you want.
Horst Wurst: Playing the devil's advocate for a moment: DW without Perilous Wilds is pretty terrible for wilderness adventures.
Jim Crocker: But then it's still easy to convert back on the fly.
Spencer Paskett: I think because it is the common ground for so many Gauntlet players it makes it easy for each of us to tweak.
Jim Crocker: I don't know about 'terrible', but it's certainly not optimized for that. I think we all agreed that Perilous Wilds really opens it up if you want the walk there to be as important as the volcano you throw the ring into.
Spencer Paskett: PW is a blessing from above when it comes to having a scary and dangerous frontier.
Richard Ruane: So Horst Wurst went one step farther and is running his sessions in Freebooters on the Frontier, which is a DW-derived system. Why did you pick that one?
Horst Wurst: We all use different versions of DW and I just felt Freebooters was the best fit for a Westmarches campaign on a dangerous frontier and it also goes nicely with PW because both are by the same author: Jason Lutes.
Jim Crocker: The other thing great about DW is the plug-in nature of it. Like, I plan to run adventures in the Knee-High Sea region, so I'll almost certainly be looking to someone's pirate add-on that I know exists somewhere.
Richard Ruane: Jim brings up a great point. I use a lot of non-standard playbooks in addition to Perilous Wilds and flags in my games. What add-ons or hacks are each of you using in your sessions so far?
Spencer Paskett: Lots of non-standard Playbooks! I've had a Mage, Witch, Hobgoblin, Itinerant Hunter, Wise Old Man, Winter Mage, and I'm sure another I am missing.
Jim Crocker: For my first couple of games, I'm going to keep it to standard playbooks. I'm skeptical of the rigor of playtesting going on in that space, shall we say.
Spencer Paskett: I also use Keys from the Wild Blue Yonder series instead of bonds
Jim Crocker: I'm a fan of niche protection, that may be my long years of D&D community management talking, though. I'm prepared to be convinced otherwise. But especially since I'm aiming my games at new players, starting things off with the familiar tropes will help us all get our feet under us.
Spencer Paskett: Jim, do you worry about some of our old players joining up in your first few games with their crazy playbooks?
Horst Wurst: TBH niche protection and crazy powerful playbooks were another reason for me to shy away from DW proper.
Jim Crocker: Nope. That's another wonderful thing about having 4 GMs. We can also reconcile play styles and GM tics. Totally sick of my community theater dialects and wild hand gestures? Play with Rich's laid-back Q&A style for a session or two instead.
Richard Ruane: I sometimes wonder if my GMing style is getting a tad Rogerian.
Jim Crocker: I anticipate folks trying each style and each of us ending up with a crew of 'regulars' in addition to a few folks who just play whatever Marches games they can.
Spencer Paskett: Haha. You heard it here first Rogerian gaming!
Jim Crocker: Dude, I love listening to your games as podcasts.
Richard Ruane: Horst, could you tell us a little about the work you do to help people convert their DW characters to Freebooters for your sessions?
Jim Crocker: Folks, I have a 4:30 Gauntlet game, so I'm gonna run.
Horst Wurst: I am looking at the core of the character and try to decide what Freebooters character they would match. I only had one case - that ended up not making the session - a weird were-rat type playbook that ended up having most of the moves from the fighter and HD and Load from the cleric. It's more an art than a science. The other conversion is more straightforward. I just change the random stats to the appropriate stat array.
Richard Ruane: Bye Jim!
Spencer Paskett: Have Fun
Jim Crocker: I'll be running my first Gaunt Marches game as part of Gauntlet Con 2018, then regularly thereafter!
You can find Jim's game here.
Jim Crocker: Love you guys, this has been so much fun. See you all in the Trello!
Richard Ruane: So I think just a couple of more questions…
First, what’s been the most exciting part of putting this shared world campaign together for you? Jim spoke a little bit about playing off each other above.
Spencer Paskett: I love seeing how each of us interpret the text we put in the World Keeper. I mean we all just throw ideas and descriptions in there and then to see another GM take it to a whole new place in session is so fun!
Horst Wurst: For me there were several highlights. Putting a half finished random encounter table on the Slack and seeing it being filled by awesome ideas as a community effort. The other was a scene in Spencer's game when a pc from Richard’s campaign used her prior knowledge to come up with a plan.
Spencer Paskett: It has also been great having a tight group of advisers for GM talk between sessions.
Richard Ruane: That hits on my next question, Horst: What have been some of your favorite moments so far from running these sessions?
Horst Wurst: My favorite moment was a combination of discovery and danger rolls that resulted in the pc wrestling with a Unicorn.
Spencer Paskett: My players on several occasions have been tempted to GO MURDERHOBO. It is fun to see them pull on the reigns and think, this is going to affect another group’s game, are we sure we want to go through with this?
The scene from Richard's game where the players were surrounded by zombies at the undead market was also very high tension. Really fun to listen to.
Richard Ruane: I was really amazed at how well “I am the law” worked for them as a move.
Okay, that’s my questions for this chat. Anything you want to add?
Spencer Paskett: We have only been at this for a couple of months and it is really hard to narrow it down to a few favorites. I think that bodes well for us!
Thank you all so much for working with me on this!
Richard Ruane: It’s been a real pleasure!
Upcoming Gaunt Marches Hangouts Sessions
Dungeon World - The Oncoming Storm (Spencer Paskett)
Freebooters on the Frontier - Into the Wild (Horst Wurst)
Dungeon World/Funnel World - Den of Iniquity (Richard Ruane)
Gaunt Marches at Gauntlet Con
Dungeon World - The Annuel Eel Extravaganza (Jim Crocker)
Dungeon World - Crypt of the Wight Lord (Spencer Paskett)
Dungeon World - Hunting the Beast Folk of Karrator (Spencer Paskett)