Begin at the Beginning
Updated: Mar 9
Every story is a journey, and when I was learning how to run games, my friends and I called it storytelling.
Where I Come From
My first role-playing game was probably Dungeons & Dragons - you know, like ya do - but I really got hooked on the whole idea in college, when my good friends Steve and Jamie introduced me to games by White Wolf Publishing. I did a lot of live-action roleplaying (LARPing) in that universe, usually as a vampire and sometimes as a changeling, but we all ran one-shot tabletop campaigns here and there, and that's the first time I was a Storyteller - that publisher's name for game-runners (aka Dungeon Masters, if you hail from D&D).
Steve, Jamie, & I went on to found Grand Guignol Games, an informal company made up of a group of friends that ran games at GenCon. Our specialty was theatrical LARPs: we'd kit out ballrooms with set pieces, lighting, props, and the occasional soundtrack, all in a bid to make the experience as unique and immersive as possible. We ran LARPs for Discworld, Doctor Who, Firefly, Hollow Earth, Pacific Rim... and everything we could think of in White Wolf's old 'World of Darkness' setting, like apocalyptic Vampire, retro Changeling, underworldly Wraith, underwater 'mixed-nuts' supernaturals, and chantry-bound Tremere.
Real life being the interfering busybody that it is, we disbanded after eleven years, and I joined a local TTRPG group called Madison Traditional Gaming, which hosts a plethora of games that rotate out every 3-4 months. In that group, I've gotten to try more TTRPG systems than I can honestly remember...
But a part of me missed running games, and I missed White Wolf, so I stepped up and ran a Changeling game (my veryfavorite old-school White Wolf game) at Madison Traditional Gaming for a few seasons. After that story ended, I started thinking up a new idea for a game.
Where I am Now
[Okay, there's going to be spoilers for my new game from here on out - players beware!]
I was rewatching Helix, a thoroughly ridiculous medical-horror drama that I inexplicably love, when it occurred to me that it would make a good premise for a game: a party of highly-trained specialists go to a remote area where shady, cutting-edge medical research is taking place, in order to investigate some mysterious happenings, and get caught up in increasingly alarming events. Some characters might get infected, changing their abilities and behaviors. Some might have Dramatic Backstory Ties to the people on the base.
But what if... it happened in space!? On an isolated space station, with the potential for the infection creating unearthly horrors while they are surrounded by - and possibly stranded in - the cold, unforgiving vacuum between planets?
This meant I had to find a new system to run. I could adapt White Wolf to my needs, but I felt that running a system built for a supernatural narrative sets up player expectations for supernatural events, and I wanted the horror to have a different flavor than that, and I wanted my players to all be mortal and human (for the most part). So I went searching.
Fortunately, I had two things on my side: the internet, with all the games recommendation forums a girl could want, and the tremendous backlog of games at the store I work for, Noble Knight Games. If there was a game out there that would suit my needs, I'd be able to find it.
My search brought me to Eclipse Phase, and I was immediately taken by it. It's not D&D In Space; it's not Star Trek, Star Wars, or any tentpole IP that comes with baked-in fan expectations; it has a minimum of aliens and is mostly about human factions/settlements within our own solar system, not traveling vast distances between stars; and, amazingly, it has a built-in Otherworldly Virus to play with. I can easily strip out the factors (pun intended, as the aliens are called Factors, and I'm dropping them, as well as the interstellar gates) that make it too cluttered for my goals for this game, and its transhumanist, non-utopic setting will allow me to play with the narrative themes my story needs. And I'm fine if not all my players aren't exactly human, so long as I don't have to deal with Space Elves or Jedi or Klingons or whateverelse that requires a ton of worldbuilding beyond 'humans and what they have wrought with their own technology.'
Where I'm Going From Here
This blog is intended to be a record of my preparations for the game: a sneak peek 'Behind the Screens' of how I'm building a campaign: detailing the tools I'm using, the characters I'm building, and all the other ways I'm preparing to run a game without a pre-set module at hand to reference.
I hope you enjoy the journey.
Up Next: Set the Stage