[RPG] D&D 5E character background – Skamos Sorrowson

I’m going to be playing in my first D&D 5E game in a few days, it’s a two-shot dungeon crawl inspired by the Tomb of Horrors being run by Rob ‘theSwamper’ Davis and featuring a host of other great players such as Alex ‘Captain Gothnog’ Gillot, Thashif Muran and Sameoldji; really looking forward to it, we’re genning 15th level characters and i’ve settled on a Tiefling rogue called Skamos Sorrowson, during my dinner break I though that i’d have a quick go at knocking up a background, below is what I came up with:

Alignment – CG

Skamos Sorrowson was born to the noble house of Turuval in the great City of Marapolean; whilst initially happy to be given a son at last the Patriarch of the family Michael Turuval was incensed when the childs infernally tainted features became obvious shortly after the birth, for a long time the child was shut up in doors and Michael would speak to no-one, not even his wife Sareena, who he secretly suspected of having been unfaithful to him, after all there was no way that such devilish features could have originated in his own family. The knowledge ate away at him like a cancer until it drove Michael mad and, one dark night, he gathered his loyal bodyguard to him and strode through the house determined to put an end to the cursed child; Sareena stood blocking their path, determined that no-one would kill her child, she was stabbed fatally for her efforts, but even with her last breath she triumphed, her sacrifice had given a loyal manservant time to steal away from the house carrying the child with him.

Originally the plan had been for the manservant Tollamy to carry the child to Sareena’s own family in a distant steading, but as with many things in life, things did not go according to plan and Tollamy ran afoul of the noted thief and footpad Vernius Mudge and his burgeoning gang of the thieves, the Clawed Hand. Determined to carry out his final orders the manservant refused to surrender his charge and was shot before he could leave the bounds of the city, throwing open the carriage, the robbers found not the gold and jewels they expected but a strange child who had an odd devilish look abot him; Mudge’s second in command, a half-orc brute by the name of Ramus, pulled out a knife ready to end the child’s life and as he did so the knife vanished to reappear in the crib next to the infant, smiling Mudge pronounced it a sign from the gods that the clawed hand was destined for greatness and that he would take the child as his own, naming it Skamos (after a child that he had long ago in another life, who had died along with it’s mother).

Mudge’s prophesy seemed to be true as the Clawed Hand, with Skamos as a member, rose to become the ruling thieves guild in the city.

Skamos initially harboured a great deal of hatred against the nobility (although Mudge had only told him the very basics about his history, raising him like his own son) and initially began adventuring as a way to make himself powerful enough to take revenge on those who had cast him; over the course of a long adventuring career he came to understand that the worth of a person was not defined by their class or their riches but by their own actions and the people they regarded as friends and finally he achieved some measure of peace before retiring from his adventuring days and returning to rule the Clawed Hand thieves as second, alongside the aging Verinus Mudge, who welcomed the return of his beloved son. 

(Please note the Tiefling picture is copyright 2009 Wizards of the Coast, it is used for non-profit making purposes and no challenge is intended to copyright)

Differences between First Run through of Skytrain Robbery and the Second

The Great Skytrain Robbery was a one-off scenario that I designed for the Fate Core setting Wild Blue by Brian Engard; I have ran the scenario twice thus far, once for theSwamper and Captain Gothnog as a G+ hangout sessions (details here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSe9tajmWRM) and yesterday for my home group (details can be found here http://wh40krpg.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/the-great-skytrain-robbery-again-actual.html). 
The Wild Blue setting is available in Fate World Book 1: Worlds of Fire.
Running the same scenario twice has been an interesting experience for me, since I seldom frequent conventions and have certainly never run a game at a convention, I don’t really have any experience of creating a scenario with re-play value, most of the adventures/scenarios (call them what you will) I prepare are tailored for a specific campaign and are only played through once (with the obvious exception of any elements that are recycled for later use in the campaign or a future game); this is the first time that I have ever run through the same scenario with two different groups of players, I was interested to see how the results of the storyline would differ (despite beginning from the same start point) due to the actions of the different groups. This post consists of some of my notes on the differences that I have found.
Please note: None of the notes below are intended to suggest than one group was better or worse than the other nor their version of the scenario any less ‘valid’ the comparison is simply because I was interested to see how different approaches caused the scenario to head in different directions.

  • The Groups

Google+ : Two very pro-active players who are used to jumping into plot.
Face to face : One very pro-active player, one slightly re-active player and one very re-active player.

  • The Characters

Google+ session:
Agent Gideon H. Barlow (played by Captain Gothnog) possessed the power create lightning in his body, a power with obvious combat potential but also a number of others uses, the character had been a queen’s executioner and was a grim, dedicated law-keeper (think Judge Dredd in a stetson).
Agent Jacob Karn (played by theSwamper) possessed the ability to phase himself (although not his possessions) through solid objects; an expert tracker, Karn was a little less severe with his pursuit of the law but held a deep and abiding hatred of the Folk who had murdered his wife and daughter.
Face to face session:
Agent Ferryman was a scientific explorer with an enquiring mind, he had constructed an iron suit capable of being worn beneath his clothes that could sheath him in metal at a moments notice and enhance his natural anti-gravity powers enabling him to fly.
Agent Valcro was also one of the Wise, through his experiments Valcro had transformed himself into a monster covered in spiney growths, although these allowed him to adhere to almost any surface they caused him to be regarded with suspicion and fear by many folk.
Agent Hawkeye had been raised by the Folk following the death of her family and was schooled in many of their secrets, it was rumoured that she could track a man simply by smelling his blood.

  • Character Generation

Google+ : The players had access to a handout that I created (via Google Drive on the web) a couple of weeks prior to the game session and were therefore able to create about 90% of their characters beforehand (whilst in correspondence with each other), this enabled us to spend only about half an hour finishing the characters up and creating some additional background before jumping into the game, the players had no problems with any of the character creation aspects and generated some really interesting, compelling backgrounds.
Face to face : With most of my regular group not checking online communications with any regularity the entirety of the first evening was taken up with character creation, some of the players seemed to really struggle with the 3-Phases style character generation aspect that links all of the characters together via shared backgrounds; although this noticably seemed to be more of a problem for the re-active players, our more pro-active player seemed to have no problem with it at all and was easily able to link himself in to the unfolding tapestry despite coming to the character generation somewhat later than the others.

  • Fate Core Rules

Both groups of players were not massively familiar with the Fate Core rules and therefore we took things a little slowly to get everyone used to it and there were no major rules problems in either game; I did make a couple of rules flubs in the face to face game (I blame being tired and my neighbour for waking me up a 3am on New Years Day), but the players were fairly understanding and I don’t think it majorly impacted upon their enjoyment of the scenario.

  • During the Session

Both groups of players managed to get the package to it’s destination (albeit with the face to face group losing the person that it was originally attached to) and achieve their mission objective, however, there were a number of differences that occurred during the session, some of which are highlighted below.
Prior to Getting on the Train
The G+ group spent their time enjoying some local colour, narrowly avoiding bar brawls in the coastal town of Ressen and chatting with a few NPCs before tethering their horses and boarding the train.
The face to face group didn’t do a lot in Ressen besides for the pro-active player who built a rapport with a blind sailor and used this to plot local wind conditions and map out the most likely spot and time for a Sky bandit ambush of the train.
Dealing with Railmarshal Booth
In the G+ game Agent Karn and Barlow were about to wow Booth with their status as survivors of an almost legendary massacre, using this status (and the fact that Booth had always wanted to be a Warden) they were able to secure the help of the Railmarshal in their mission; when Booth died helping defend the train both Agents laid him to rest with honours.
In the face to face game Agent Valcro took extreme exception to Booth questioning their business being on the Skytrain without registering their presence, after some time they convinced him to let them pass using the royal seal on their orders, as they entered the train Valcro had him detained by the other Marshals for impeding the Wardens whilst they were on royally sanctionned business.
Dealing with Mr Perriweather
As no-nonsense lawmen, the players in the G+ game kept Mr Perriweather safe, treating him like an item of cargo, taking an attitude that Perriweather didn’t have to like them as long as he (as the cobalt sample) got through safely; they managed to get both Perriweather and the sample to the capitol.
In the face to face group Agent Hawkeye engaged Perriweather in more friendly conversation, however, when one of the bandits proved to have the ability to teleport people they were unable to stop Perriweather being teleported outside the train and falling to his death, although they did retrieve the cobalt sample and deliver it safely to the capitol.

The Sky Bandits Attack
In the G+ the players engaged the bandits mainly onboard the Skytrain, using their powers to overcome them (narrowly preventing them escaping via their getaway sky ship) and keep Perriweather (and the sample) safe despite some severe damage being done to the train. Mercy Clements (the flame wielding pirate leader) was fought as she tried to leave via a rope ladder dropped from the sky ship (her companions having already been killed inside); as she tried to take shelter inside the train (after blowing the side off it) Agent Karn phased through the roof and drop-kicked the injured pirate off the train to fall to a messy death many miles below.
In the face to face game the players were (due to their powers) able to engage the sky ship before it reached the train and prevent it from doing so, without any means of escaping the Wardens dealt with the bandits mostly by hurling them from the train and relying on gravity to finish them off. Minimal damage was done to the train and the cobalt sample was recovered although Perriweather was killed. Mercy Clements managed to signal her getaway sky ship and her teleporting companion was able to steal the sample (after teleporting Perriweather to his death), however the getaway ship had already been stopped due to Agent Ferryman flying up to it and dealing with it before it reached the Skytrain; with no getaway they were taken care of by the other two agents, Clements and the teleporter being hurled from the train and the gun-wielding goons being stabbed by Agent Hawkeye.

  • Differences in Running the Game

A definitely found it helpful in the G+ game to have all of my materials on the computer and, since I was the only one physically in the room, any printed materials could be spread out, whereas space was at more of a premium in the face to face game.
There was more use of compels in the G+ game, I think perhaps this was to do with the players having developed more detailed backgrounds and characters that suggested a lot of ways to compel them, whereas it was a little more difficult for some of the characters in the face to face game.
Having had it pointed out to me that I tended to hand-hold the players a little bit (something i’d not really been aware of previously) and that it hadn’t really been necessary in the G+ game, I was more on the lookout for this in the face to face game and did notice that the more reactive players required far more hand-holding and suggestions as to what they might like to do.
The powers system seemed to work well in both the G+ and face to face games, being easy to manage and judge.

  • In Conclusion

From running the same scenario twice I have drawn the following conclusions:

    • Although I am capable of adapting my GM-ing style, my normal style (and the Fate Core) rules suit pro-active players far better than they do re-active players.
    • The 3-stage part of character generation may require some adaption for certain players (or even abandoning altogether).
    • For a one-off session, having characters generated in-session only really works when your players are willing to run with it, I think for less pro-active players using pre-generated characters (perhaps with some limited customisation options included) would be a far wiser choice.
    • The Wild Blue setting is excellent, and since it riffs on the Mythic Wild West theme is easy for most people to get in to.
    • Varying levels of commitment and involvement amongst players can have a serious effect on a session.

Many thanks to all of the players who played in both versions of this scenario, was very enjoyable for me to run as a GM and has been a very interesting experience – hope to game again with you in the future 🙂

Preparing a Player Handout for a Wild Blue one-off

I was flattered to be ask by theSwamper (of the Youtube RPG brigade) to run a one-off session of fate for himself and Captain Gothnog, theSwamper is going to be running a game of Fate Core next month and is looking to get more of a handle on the rules and so asked if i’d be interested in running a one-off game for himself and Gothnog over the week or so; having watched a number of Youtube videos by both of the gentlemen in question, and having wanted to expand my GM-ing experience beyond my usual circle of players for quite some time (not that there’s anything wrong with my usual players, but it’s a good thing to test yourself and grow as a GM) I was, of course, extremely interested.
What sort of Fate game should I run?

This was the first question I asked myself, the only criteria that theSwamper had given me was that it had to be a one-off, it had to use the Fate Core rules (since this was the version of the game that they would be playing) and they would prefer it to be more action-orientated rather than any sort of political thriller or deep investigative scenario. Normally I have to admit that Fate Accelerated would be my choice for a one-off game since I personally find it easier to pick up, however Fate Core is a fine version of the system and one I also use regularly for my Rogue Trader game so I am familiar with both  iterations of the Fate system (since they’re effectively just slightly different builds of the same system anyway).
This left me with the choice of what setting to run the game in, since it was a one-off crossing multiple time-zones and (as always) anticipating a number of technical hitches and startup problems with the internet/google+ hangouts I didn’t think that going through the setting generation section would be the best use of our time. Flipping through the Fate Worlds books my eyes turned to the Wild Blue setting by Brian Engard, a firefly-esque wild west setting on an alien world where human colonists had driven out the magical Folk who had previously been the indigenous people but then found that they had started to manifest strange powers with each generation; the Queen of the humans created the Wardens, people with powers designed to police other people with powers.
For those interested you can find my video review of Wild Blue and the first Fate Worlds book here:


Wild Blue works for me on a number of levels, it includes elements of magic and a freeform system for powers that I really like and that isn’t unduly complex, the technology level is also (with a few exceptions) that of the mythic wild west, and thus is easy to grasp for players since everyone has seen at least one western movie, plus it has the Sky Rail, and the image of a steam powered trail on floating rails very much appeals to me.
The Great Sky-Train Robbery
In a previous post (available here) I hashed out the bare-bones of a scenario where the players would be attempting to rescue a Sky Rail train (and the citizens on it) from a group of hi-jackers, skimming through this scenario I thought that (with some tweaks) it would make an excellent scenario to run for theSwamper and Captain Gothnog since it should be fairly action packed and should showcase a lot of the Fate rules which, after all, is one of the points of running the game. TheSwamper has been generous enough to say that they do not mind me filming the session to put up on my Red Dice Diaries Youtube Channel when we gen characters and run it next Saturday (14/12/13); obviously this is an introductory game and one designed for the purpose of learning/discussing the rules so there may be more rules chatter than would be normal for a game, i’m really looking forward to running it though and seeing what the guys make of my scenario 🙂
To give them a flavour of what sort of setting Wild Blue is, I created a small player handout for them to look at (also to give them a chance to ask any questions before the game), the handout is available here: