Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Of Campaigns Past: Tales of Port Kar...

Good Evening, All:

After the Nova-Kintar campaign, I ran a 2.5 year long campaign called Tales of Port Kar, using HERO System 4th Edition and the Fantasy HERO rules (plus plenty of house rules, of course, because HERO System is more of a toolkit than a rules system). The primary conceit was that Tales of Port Kar was Cinemax's fantasy series in response to the growing popularity of Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. I started each session with a description of the episode's intro, including a few cut scenes to help foreshadow elements of the day's adventure. This was back when I was still running eight hour sessions, and the response was great. The players really got into it, trying to work in the cut scenes and keeping with the television fantasy show format in terms of description. Our adventurers hit the high seas, saved their homeport, fought dinosaurs and demons, travelled back in time to create a prophecy, and ultimately fought against and destroyed the King of Demons, Sandamos. (This is where I first came up with the name Sandamos, which has remained as the Lord of Demons in many of my campaigns since.)

Unlike Nova-Kintar and its Greyhawk-esque pantheon of gods, Tales of Port Kar addressed the spiritual needs of the setting through churches and theologies, including a healing church that used rings to demonstrate a person's place within the hierarchy (the more rings you wore, the higher you were in the church) and a rune-jin who combined Oriental magic with symbols and runes to forge some spectacular special effects and powers. We had a ninja-pirate-poet, a ranger/shaman who was worshiped by Jermlaine-like cave dwellers at one point, an angellic vestal virgin who was corrupted by the forces of evil, and a mad inventor. I used my considerable skills as a horribly bad impersonator to portray "guest stars" in the series, the most memorable of which was a paladin-king based on Sean Connery.

Since Tales of Port Kar supposedly was a Cinemax series, we dealt with issues of sexuality as an adjunct of our adventures, and all in all, I found that the game went very well. I was fortunate enough to have mature gamers who did not turn the game into the mess it could have been when such matters were brought up, and like Nova-Kintar, this was a campaign in which I felt the players had a lot of personal investment. I really loved the level of Asian influence I was able to bring to Port Kar, and the use of a Fantasy TV series as the core conceit helped us focus on cinematic scenes that were easy to picture and did not bog down in day-to-day details of shopping or walking from Point A to Point B. This was also the first campaign in which I portrayed orcs as Jamaican pirates that went by the name of the Stefari (derived from the word Rastafarian.)

When the prophecy that the players had created had been fulfilled, and the Lord of Demons was slain, I felt the game had come to a close, so I wrapped it up and moved on. Tales of Port Kar was a change from Nova-Kintar in many ways, including gaming system, players, presentation style, setting and so on. I found it very successful on a number of levels, but when it was done, I never tried to go back to the setting again, nor did I ever really feel the desire to make that effort. Over time, some of the elements of the setting have found their way into other games, as is my way. If I ever compile a single world from my past campaigns, I think I'll likely use some of the flavor of the magic systems, as well as the use of Asian influences in portions of the campaign world, because it worked so well with Tales of Port Kar. Again, we can see the influence of time travel as a major element of plot development. This becomes less with future campaigns, but in the beginning of my GMing career, I enjoyed creating a setting and then letting the players change it through their actions. While I stopped using time travel as the means to do so, I still enjoy empowering players to make choices that have impact.

With Regards,

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