Earthfall, S1E4, GM Debrief

Session Recap; Stream

GM confidence: 4/5. Even with an extra week to prep for this session, I still didn’t feel remotely ready. I wonder if I ever will? But it turned out fine, and honestly, I can’t think of anything that went horribly wrong.


  • I expected the PCs to stop somewhere, but I did not expect them to stop at the Monster Lake Ranch on the way South—I probably should have. I had to scramble for some basic details, like screen grabs of the map, and I had no idea what might be available there. I think it went okay anyway, and the players (mostly CommJunkee) were helpful in digging up relevant info.
  • The “Terror Pod” was a planned event, but I did not have a specific location in mind, and as such, I did not have a map or establishing graphics—there’s really no excuse for that. That whole expedition to the house was on-the-fly, as I stupidly didn’t consider the PCs tracking them down. Fortunately I did actually have some 4e stats for the creatures already. I was also concerned the event would either take up too much time or not enough, close as it was to my intended end of the session. Again, I think it turned out well enough, and brought across the necessary story elements. But this was a “first contact” with a new campaign element, and it really deserved more polish.

Other Issues

  • I had to verbally describe the aliens’ external physiology, as well as the state of Grandfather’s corpse, and my attempts felt really clumsy to me; I really should have written that stuff out beforehand—this stuff is important
  • I was reasonably happy with my handling of the party NPCs. But I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to have James try to talk Robert into coming along with the PCs after Meeteetse, without really considering their motivations; now that it’s done, I’ll have to figure that out after-the-fact—not ideal.
  • I was aware of the Wind River Canyon but I didn’t realize where it was located until someone pointed out that it was on their route; it is notable enough to deserve an establishing-shot graphic, at the very least—missed opportunity
  • I really wanted to end the session with the bunker-reveal cliffhanger—I was happy with the results; but next week will begin with a bunch of exposition as a result, which can be awkward to handle
  • I keep forgetting that James is supposed to be a Will Robinson-style trouble magnet; I need to step up his danger level in the future

BTS: The Sk’ran (AKA the Alien Menace)

Since I don’t have all that much to say about the session itself, I’ll take the opportunity to talk a bit about where the campaign antagonist came from.

The origin of the Sk’ran goes back to 1991 or so, from a collaborative comic-book project, featuring myself and Rigil Kent (Phil), and a few others. But it actually predates even that period, as a continuation of an older project that predated my inclusion. I believe the name carried over from that earlier project, as did the basic “anthropomorphic insectoid” appearance. This early concept included the basic “soldier” type, and a few others. When I joined the project, I redesigned the appearance, though I was never really satisfied with it.

The comic-book project is now long defunct, but the race, as well as the “Earthfall” invasion event, lives on in the Daniverse in multiple campaigns, some of which have seen production, and some of which haven’t (yet?). The most prominent of them is the Dreamland campaign, where I merged in elements from the original X-Com, and Half-Life, expanding the bestiary considerably. I also credit Half-Life with inspiring the “utility creatures” seen throughout. Many creature types were statted for GURPS 3rd Edition as a result. I also redesigned the appearance (again) for the existing creatures, with Half-Life integration in mind.

These days, I am still unsatisfied with the rather on-the-nose design of the basic soldier, but I haven’t had the time or energy to devote to a serious redesign effort. But this campaign is forcing me to produce some new visuals anyway, as the sketches I have are very old and…sketchy. These days, I would also add the movie-version of Stephen King’s The Mist to the list of creature design influences. I have been updating the old 3e stats to 4e as needed, but also rethinking the basic assumptions about their physiology. A part of me is glad I’m now forced to update these things, and who knows when I’ll be able to make use of them in the future?

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