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[WW1] any tips on running the setting?

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  • [WW1] any tips on running the setting?

    I just got the Weird Wars 1 core books, the Juggernauts supplement and the “RoFD” and “Hellfighters” campaigns.
    i’m not really sure how to go about structuring campaigns or running it as a whole, i know that as a general rule the PPCs are supposed to be used as a lead-up to the “TotND” finale campaign and that the setting lends itself to a more episodic approach, but outside of that i don’t know.
    any tips would be greatly appreciated!

  • #2
    My advice is "tone".
    Weird War 1 is based upon World War 1, arguably the most horrific part of human history. It blended all the vicious violence and casual disregard for human life of earlier eras with the mechanical implacability and scale of destruction only available in a fully industrial society.
    New weapons of many varieties were fielded, and invented, in the war. Methods have were so shocking and scarring that they've since been outlawed in treaties that are taken seriously.
    It's full of mud, blood, poison, random death, disease, misery, and powerlessness. For the soldiers. Any civilians caught in the maelstrom have it even worse, lacking weapons, training, or protective gear (entrenching tools, gas masks, etc.).
    Life was cheap, in a way that society has since rejected, when 20,000 people could be killed in a single day on a single field and the commanders considered it just the cost of fighting.

    That tone is important to the setting. It's also really depressing and why I have never looked to run a major campaign despite my approval of the setting material.

    There are a lot of other issues, for the setting. Pacing, structure, characters, etc. Hopefully someone else will speak up about those soon.
    I hope you find the above post useful. And not insulting, because I was trying to be helpful, not insulting; being a pedantic jerk, that isn't always clear.


  • #3
    I have never ran Weird War I, but looking at it theoretically you have some dissonance from what SW does well (high action and adventure that could be combined with horror elements) and what you might expect a World War I experience would be (pretty much everything Val wrote). This dissonance can be solved, but it have to be acknowledged first.
    One simple but inadequate solution (IMO) is to make the war just a "wallpaper" background for the game in which the player characters fight unnatural monsters, uncover dark mysteries etc. It's not bad - it's what SW does well and it's fun, but you might lose the uniqueness of WW1 experience. The other side of this solution is to run your game in Call of Cthulhu or something that can pass that long depressing creeping fear better. In either way, you give up on one of the to dissonating factors.

    Assuming we want to eat the cake and keeping it, you might want to focus on one scene every two sessions or so that would be WW1-depressing. Keeping the bulk of the game in the "fight unnatural monsters, uncover dark mysteries etc." realm, but pepper it heavily with depression WW1 issues - it will give it tone but would still give you plenty of room to do interesting and exciting stuff.
    Things you may want to keep in mind:
    1- Those "WW1 depression" scenes - how do you make them have an impact? How do you pass the unending artillery shells falling? The endless wait? the hopelessness of charging the no-man's land through the machineguns fire?
    2- How do you keep the human part of the horror with all the unnatural monstrosities going around? The big lesson of the war is a human lesson, and blaming things on monsters might cheapen it and harm the WW1 experience.
    3- There is a divine power giving powers to priests and nuns and such. This is something you may want to think about - do you dive deep to the meaning of it? why are those beings/god give power against the unnatural but does nothing to the human horrors? Or maybe you prefer to ignore it completely? I think just giving the players the ability to use divine power in a campaign such as this is a waste of opportunity but YMMD

    Anyway I would love to know how things goes, since I am thinking of making my next campaign in Weird War I
    Good Luck!


    • ValhallaGH
      ValhallaGH commented
      Editing a comment
      In my experience, the benny economy, good descriptions, and having a table of random "bad stuff" that shows up randomly makes Savage Worlds more than grim and depressing enough for The Great War. Even before you start using other setting rules.
      "bad stuff" like gas attacks, sniper fire, a single mortar, a swarm of hungry rats, accidentally unearthed corpses, save versus disease, etc.

    • MadArchivist
      MadArchivist commented
      Editing a comment
      I’ve been rereading the PPCs and i’ve come up with a couple things.
      1: the Juggernauts campaign is actually very good. The tank mechanics are a little complicated for a first-time group, but it flows well from a structure and storytelling perspective, especially given that it’s supposed to be an entry point to the Twilight Legion by the end.

      2: All of the PPCs end at joining the Twilight Legion, which is the point where the weirdness becomes fully known by the squad. Which i feel makes it extremely difficult to justify characters getting Occultism or ABs at early stages, this is especially glaring with RoFD which starts at mid to high level with characters playing colonial troops who have just been fielded in the war and has the players deal with fairly blatant sorcery pretty quickly (my solution is to run it as a continuation of the French campaign from the WMG).
      2A: on the player access to weirdness point, i would suggest either having the character start of with the Arcane Exposure edge (as justification for an AB [EDIT: all ABs except Weird Science have this edge as a requirement in this setting] or a reason why they’re meaningfully interested in the occult) or, once the weirdness starts in during the campaign, give them access to something that would justify boosting the occult skill or awaken/grant an AB. That way they don’t have to (but can if they want) try and explain why their character is a wizard joining the army in a low-to-high weirdness game.

      3: it’s quite clear that the focus of these books are to have the DM build their own campaign entirely, not a bad idea given the ‘band of brothers’ sensibility of the setting, but it does result in relatively little for the DM to work with out of the box. Kind of like expecting a model of something and getting a box of LEGOs instead.

      4: there are some things missing in terms of character building/equipping that makes some things unclear.
      4A: There aren’t rules or suggestions for Machine-gunners or Snipers, while the assumption would be to use the Infantry
      rules, those don’t clarify any skill or equipment variations (i’m not versed in SW enough to have much of a sense of what they would need but Repair for the MG would make sense given gun jams, maybe Battle for deployment purposes?)
      4B: the rules aren’t particularly clear on how you go about gearing yourself in terms of augmenting your issued equipment, they say officers should get their uniforms tailored and imply that you should be able to bribe/cajole the quartermaster into getting other gear, but they don’t give prices or alternate methods of acquisition. [EDIT: they also reference a heavy trench knife in the text that does not exist in the book.]

      That’s what i’ve noticed thus far.
      Thanks for the advice!
      Last edited by MadArchivist; 06-15-2020, 03:50 AM. Reason: Read more of the books and found some additional information.

  • #4
    MadArchivist In response to some of the above points:

    #2) The Occult skill represents anything that can be construed as weird or obscure. In the early 20th century, this includes fortune-telling, palm reading, Haitian voodou, African/South American witch doctors, vampirism (or at least the rumors of it), and other similar things. As the game unfolds, the Occult skill then begins to cover the things the characters experience firsthand.

    #3) There are plenty of stories and accounts from the War that are readily available. Building a campaign would take time, but you aren't necessarily doing it from scratch.

    #4) I don't own the WW1 setting book, but if what you say is true, it sounds like the best option is to use SWADE rules and "layer" the Weird War setting on top. There is also the conversion doc if you haven't grabbed that yet.

    As for buying gear, remember that most gear was issued with no cost to the soldier. Getting your uniform tailored was practically a duty, since an ill-fitting uniform can become a liability. Not something you want when other lives depend on you. Are you sure that there are supposed to be mechanics tied to that statement, or is it just fluff?


    • MadArchivist
      MadArchivist commented
      Editing a comment
      #2) yeah but the vast majority of soldiers wouldn’t have much of a reason to have that trained, much less highly, until after they either had substantial contact with weirdness or had been recruited by the TL. That’s what i’m referring to, extremely weird situations would require substantial knowledge of the occult to consistently know how to navigate without dying horribly.

      #3) true, but it would’ve been nice to have a few more Savage Tales or some more detailed plot ideas for the theaters rather than leaving most of story building to the DM. But that’s me coming from D&D.

      #4) that’s what i’m figuring, but it still is a notable oversight given the ubiquity of MGs and Snipers and the land war focus of the game. As for the equipment, they referred specifically to officers getting their uniforms done up by civilians in the load out section but gave no indication what that would cost or how to make that happen but probably just fluff. Also they weren’t clear about body armor being available consistently for the respective branches eg a Sniper getting a Sniper Breastplate guaranteed. Plus it doesn’t give any idea on how i’d go about dealing with my players trying to get gear on the DL.

      There are definitely ways around this, but these struck me as important to discuss.

    • Deskepticon
      Deskepticon commented
      Editing a comment
      MadArchivist For gear, you can probably put together "packages" that players pick from. Each package would contain approximately equal value of equipment. So the Sniper Package has a long range rifle and a portable nest; the grunt might have a field rifle, sidearm, and a few grenades; etc.

    • MadArchivist
      MadArchivist commented
      Editing a comment
      That’s how they have the other kits set up, so i’ll figure out what would be the equivalent loadouts for the other 2.
      Ultimately not an actual problem, just something that requires a quick workaround.

  • #5
    Going back to the topics of the Occult skill and the "Powers That Be" granting divine magic... the year 1914 held great significance for the Watchtower Society (which later became the Jehovah's Witnesses). Incidentally, that was the same year the Great War broke out.

    The Watchtower Society was heavily steeped in the mysticisms of numerology and pyramidology... using the measurements and layout of the Great Pyramid in Giza as a form of divination and prediction by cross-referencing measurement figures with passages in the Bible.

    Depending on how weird you want things to get, you can delve a bit into this topic as a possible reason for the sudden "divine intervention" and other strange events. Charles T. Russell, one of the founders of the Watchtower Society, began publishing his theories in the 1890s, so young men conscripted into the War can very well be familiar with the bizarre notions being put forward by this esoteric group. Adherents of the theories (i.e, Jehovah's Witnesses) may even become the first arcanely sensitive individuals.

    Look into it!
    Even if you don't go with that particular religious route, the breadth of strange new arenas of thought in the late 19th, early 20th centuries is facinating. Even the symbologist and impressionist movements springing up in Europe make excellent fodder for the Occult skill. Such ideas were considered way off the beaten path at the time, even though they ended up shaping our modern culture.


    • MadArchivist
      MadArchivist commented
      Editing a comment
      Sounds useful! I’ll be sure to use that.