Celebrity Game Table Archive
Chris Pramas: The D&D Chainmail World
Andy Collins: Spelling is Everything
Peter Adkison's Ilboria Campaign
Operation: Deepfreeze - A Montecon Adventure
Thomas M. Reid: The Lunchtime Dungeon Crawl
Daneen McDermott: The Sumberton Campaign
Ed Stark: The Campaign Kick-Off
Rich Baker: Return to the Tomb of Horrors Campaign
Peter Adkison: Random NPC Generator
Philip Athans: The Tegel Campaign
Sean Reynolds: The Praemal Campaign

Celebrity Game Table
Operation: Deepfreeze - A Montecon Adventure
By Will McDermott

The DM Speaks

Want to know more about the designer/DM of Montecon's "Operation Deepfreeze"? Here's what Andy Collins had to say about the adventure and his DM strategies.

Who are you?

I'm a designer and editor of roleplaying games in Wizards R&D. I co-designed the Star Wars Roleplaying Game with Bill Slavicsek and JD Wiker. My recent editing projects include the D&D adventure The Standing Stone, the Forgotten Realms supplement Magic of Faerun, and the Dark•Matter campaign setting for Alternity.

How did this adventure come about?

Many years ago (like 10), I was hanging out with my gaming buddy, Viet Nguyen, when we had the idea to write a "cinematic" adventure -- that is, an adventure loosely based on the movies we loved -- that would use pregenerated PCs (so nobody got too attached to their short-lived characters). After some discussion, we decided to riff on the Alien and Aliens movies.

We wrote the adventure in secret. When it was finished, I told the group that I had a new adventure to try as a break from our regular campaign. I assigned characters to all of the players (including Viet -- nobody realized that he was the co-author and knew what was coming). Viet played the traitorous Goroch Khefaroth, secondhunter in the service of the uldra (dwarflike humanoids) on the icy world of Aslak.

Everything went just fine until the heroes set off on their long journey home, limping back in a half-wrecked mammoth ship. (Due to time constraints, this part of the adventure wasn't played at Montecon.) On the way back, the heroes had to fight off a pack of newly hatched alien creatures while dealing with the treachery of Goroch. I think Viet nearly managed to kill a couple characters before the aliens got him.

Amazingly enough, almost all of those players are still active in my campaigns.

Tell us about the personality quirks you placed on everyone's characters. Do you use this often in your games?

Whenever I'm running a one-shot game session like "Operation: Deepfreeze," I like to provide pregenerated characters with specific personality quirks. This lets me ensure that the PCs are appropriate for the adventure (for instance, I didn't provide a cleric for "Operation: Deepfreeze" because I didn't want the players to be tempted to rest and heal). The quirks also give everybody an angle you might not otherwise have in a regular D&D game.

When you're playing your own character in a campaign, you tend to make decisions based on long-term survival issues. Everybody usually cooperates, characters rarely take big risks, and you always look out for your buddies. But when you're playing a character for only a few hours, you don't mind being saddled with a psychological profile that doesn't lend itself to surviving the adventure. For example, in "Operation: Deepfreeze" I saddled the various PCs with poor decision-making, a superiority complex, overweening bravery, pathological cowardice, mistrust of fellow adventurers, and flat-out nihilistic rage. Now that's fun.

Tell us a little about your DMing philosophy and style.

I try to mix action and intrigue in my games. In campaign play, I like to have multiple storylines weaving in and out of the game, which the characters can participate in as desired, while still making sure there's always plenty of action and dice-rolling. My theory is, "when in doubt, throw in a fight."

I'm also a big fan of creating very vivid scenes in my games, because I think that helps players visualize the action. For example, when I tell the players that the ice-encrusted ship is plummeting out of the sky as the sorcerer grips the control helm trying to restart flight despite the traitor attempting to cut his throat, while the commander and the musket-wielding lieutenant are fighting off a deadly alien creature at the back of the ship as frigid winds whip through the vessel, which is rocking back and forth and threatening to hurl unwary characters out into thin air. . . . Well, people pay attention to that.

What was the coolest moment of this session for you?

When Lt. Ozrick (Owen) realized that the huge carved "face" jutting out from the ice wall was the prow of an ancient spelljamming vessel. I also got a kick out of the scene I mentioned above when Lt. Prefect (Will) was trying to regain control of the vessel before it crashed into the snowy landscape while a battle raged around him.

Tell us something about yourself that's not public knowledge

Fully 75 percent of my vocabulary is made up of quotes from The Simpsons.

Is there anything else you can tell us about "Operation: Deepfreeze"?

Just this: Watch out for the sequel, entitled "Operation: Deep Green."


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