Deepfreeze - A
By Will McDermott
year in March, Sue and Monte Cook (senior producer for online D&D
and Star Wars content, and co-designer of third edition D&D,
respectively) allow around 70 overworked game designers, editors, and
friends to invade their house for a weekend mini-convention. With two
to five events running at any time, plus the video room, there's always
something going on . . . for nearly 48 hours straight.
Sue and Monte can't do it all alone, and this mini-con sees a long list
of gaming celebrities both running and playing games. If you don't recognize
names like Andy Collins, Bruce Cordell,
Chris Perkins, John Rateliff,
Ed Stark, Mike Selinker,
then you have
no right calling yourself a gamer. These were just a few of the luminaries
in attendance this year.
Daneen (who plays in James Wyatt's Sumberton
campaign) and I have gone to Montecon for the past two years. The
highlight for me this year was Andy Collin's "Operation: Deepfreeze"
on Saturday evening. This D&D adventure with a nostalgic twist
brought together a pretty prestigious cast. At the table, we had Andy
(co-designer of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game), Ed
director for D&D), Chris
(editor in chief of both Dungeon and Star Wars Gamer
(Star Wars game designer), LJ
(Owen's better half), Dan
(customer service rep and freelance writer), and me
(just a lowly reporter).
Deepfreeze" is a D&D adventure that Andy wrote about ten
years ago and updated to third edition for Montecon. Four of the characters
(played by Dan, Owen, LJ, and me) were space marines sent to guard a delegation
on a diplomatic mission to a frozen world called Aslak. However, the tribe
on this new world (the uldra) wanted the delegation members to prove their
worth in a physical trial. So our unit was sent to a cave in the frozen
wastes to bring back something of worth to benefit the tribe. To aid us,
we were given a guide (played by Ed) and his interpreter (played by Chris).
simple enough, right? All we had to do was ride out, get the artifact,
and ride back. Of course we had no horses, and the subzero conditions
of the surface could kill. Plus, Andy had a few surprises in store.
of all, Andy spent time with each player before the game, telling us a
little about our characters, their quirks, and their motivations. Mind
you, this information was not designed to make the adventure easier. The
marine unit characters had motivations and quirks that made working together
somewhat hard. For example, my character was second in command and had
no respect at all for the commander.
our guide did not speak common, so he had to interact with the marines
through an interpreter. But the interpreter was secretly trying to sabotage
our mission because he belonged to a splinter group among the tribe that
didn't trust offworlders. Ed and Chris roleplayed their characters beautifully.
Chris used his character's power as interpreter to keep the guide out
of battle and push us harder than we could really handle.
the only player who knew anything about his character before the game.
Andy had given Ed a couple of days to prepare for his role of a guide
who cannot speak common. Ed actually wrote up a short glossary of "common
phrases" so the gibberish from his end of the table would sound consistent.
"If anyone paid attention, they could learn a few of my key phrases,"
Ed said later. A sampling:
are they, idiots?"
to Ed, he seldom said that last one to anyone but Chris's character .
. . but it did get a lot of use!
end, we did survive the interpreter's treachery and the personality conflicts
that Andy laid upon our characters, but just barely. In the ice caves,
we found an ancient spelljammer ship that had crashed on Aslak during
the elf-human wars. Unfortunately, the ship was home to an Amarthuldra,
an "alien" creature that attacked the group and nearly wiped
us out (not to mention the Amarthuldra eggs that we would have found later
if we had played the entire adventure). The final scene of our adventure
found my character (sorcerer Lt. Yuri Prefect) trying to fly the still
functional but badly damaged spelljammer ship back to the tribe (where
our mother ship was under attack by the splinter group). Meanwhile, the
traitorous interpreter battled our guide and Private Dudley Horsan (LJ)
after he tried to attack me in an effort to bring the ship down. At the
same time, Commander Ricks (Dan) and Lt. Ozrick (Owen) were trying to
finish off the Amathuldra in the drafty stern of the boat. It was a rip-roaring,
chaotic conclusion to a great session.
to know more about the players and designer/DM of Montecon's "Operation
Deepfreeze"? Does the Amathuldra sound like the perfect monster to
pit against your PCs? Read more!
moving to the Online Media department at Wizards of the Coast, Will McDermott
was editor in chief of TopDeck magazine and, before that, The
Duelist. Will has written strategy guides for both Magic: The Gathering
and the Pokémon TCGs, and is currently writing a Magic:
The Gathering novel.