Sunday 25 April 2021

Cogflower Campaign Post Mortem

When I got the pdf of the Ultraviolet Grasslands early in 2020 I didn’t read the whole thing. Instead I marveled at the illustrations, traced the roads to the Black City with my finger and decided to run UVG from beginning to end. I wanted to experience the Grasslands in a leisurely pace, travelling together with the players over the whole map. We left the Violet City, crossed the Trail of Vomish Dreams, descended into the Three Sticks Lake and climbed the Totem of the Sky. At the City Mountain we fought with the Veterans of the Psychic War and in the Umberlands we fulfilled the last wish of a depressed Autofac. A year later the caravan arrived at the Black City.

Below is a look back at memorable moments, comments on the specifics of our experience with the setting and suggestions about what I could do differently if I’d run it again. 

System and Characters: I love the d40 hero table and chose Whitehack mainly as a flexible system that made realizing these concepts easy, yet mechanically sound. We had a Redland District Folk Hero, Yellowlander Climate Migrant, Secret Azure Cultist, Metropolitan Accountant Monk, Volkan Diesel Dwarf, Purplefolk Doghead Anarchist, Black Gold Industrialist, Tumult Fisher Wizard, Cogflower Necromancer Lawyer, Wildfolk Demon Hunter and a Moon Mountain Witch, and they were all memorable characters. The heroes were rolled completely randomly although when in later stages of the campaign a player rolled a character type that was already chosen they would pick another of the three numbers to determine the hero instead. The two remaining results then decided the reason they were on the road and their starting item. Initially I wasn’t entirely convinced by the second column (Why are you on the road) but the quests turned out to be crucial for wrapping up the campaign and finding a satisfying end. Luka skillfully equipped many discoveries with potentially quest relevant content e.g. it is probably not a coincidence that there are plenty of replacement bodies to be found and a Mother Silicone in the Dark Hospital when “Finding a body for Mother” is one of the character goals. To incentivize pursuing their goal, the PCs earned XP when working towards it. In most cases it meant that there was a certain chance per Discovery they would find something related to their quest or that they ticked a progress clock when they used their action at a Destination to work on a project.

What I’d do differently: Maybe use a different system. The Whitehack “groups” that allow advantages on rolls worked well enough and performing miracles like Doodlebugging, Augury, Ghostly Brotherhood and Fishing in the Sea of Dimensions were fun to see in action and fitted the setting perfectly - but combat was slow and I never worked out how to make the Deft's attunement interesting. I’d probably try something simpler like Will Hilton’s Into the Grasslands or Mike Fernandino’s UltravioletWorld

Caravan and Travel: Travelling through the vast landscape felt appropriately epic, every leg of the journey taking at least one week. The travel procedure provided a satisfying structure and we got into the groove pretty quickly. In the beginning market research and trading was fun albeit not entirely successful. However they hit the jackpot when through some random rolls they first found Black Lotus at a discovery and then sold it at the Puce House for a multiple of its value. At that point market research and resource management became less of a focus but the players enjoyed the freedom their wealth gave them. Likewise when they arrived at the Behemoth Shell they encountered (again through a random roll) Great Folk Bone Farmers who sold them the nutritious marrow beets that solved their resource problems for large parts of the journey.

Seeing the caravan grow from one coach to several unique vehicles and numerous retainers was certainly fun. Most of the time I forgot to take vehicle speed into account, they only once accrued additional travel days and we handwaved it away.

What I’d do differently: I’d have more travel vignettes and campfire scenes, give retainers a bit more character by involving the players in establishing their irritating mannerism and alluring quirks. I could see giving vehicles traits as well and letting the players describe how they decorate their rides to make them more memorable. Maybe taking inspiration from Into the Odd and introduce a rival caravan.

Destinations and Discoveries: The stars of the show, incredibly evocative and visually interesting. The encounters and misfortunes helped to reinforce the theme of the place although the middle result of the misfortune table didn’t add anything immediately gameable. I really enjoyed the intro descriptions and often read them aloud as boxed text when the PCs entered a new destination. The weather descriptions were fun as well and further defined the feel of the place.

Memorable misfortunes include mysterious puncture wounds (Gall Grass), blinded by a speck of biomechanical garbage (Trail of Vomish Dreams) and a shard of hard light being lodged in one eye (Fractal Trees). The hands down best discovery was Johnny-7 who became a major NPC in the campaign, followed by the Lurid Pines - which took five sessions to clear out and bestowed Hamish with hamster reflexes.

What I’d do differently: It might be more interesting to replace the middle result on the misfortune table where nothing happens with a minor inconvenience that matches the theme of the area. I could also see adding a destination-appropriate faction encounter (to entangle the PCs with the factions) and maybe a caravan to the encounter table.

Factions: Early on the PCs aligned themselves with Syruss Sensible, blew up the Broken Line and stole a Porcelain Walker. At the Jade Baobab the PCs prevented members of the Second Hand Clan to sell Rainbowlanders into indentured service for the Porcelain Princes. In the second half of the campaign the Ultras organically emerged as the most influential faction of the campaign after the players encountered Soba de Garoba at the Gemstone Tomb in the Lake of Oil and Sama Zivani at the Lonely Lodge. Based on the rumor table on p. 167 it made sense to involve them in Azures plot to cause the end of the world. More important than the major factions were the groups the PCs belonged to, mainly the Cult of the Blue God and the Machine Humans. The setting with its apocalyptic cults, trade companies and revolutionaries has a lot of potential for faction play without actually involving the major factions.

What I’d do differently: To make the factions a bit more visible in the Grasslands I might add an entry to the encounter table that indicates to which sphere of influence an area belongs e.g. have one random encounter result for the Cat Lords East of the Porcelain Citadel


20 months of in-game time 

13 months of real world time from March 14 2020 to April 10 2021

15 characters, 14 players

100+ hours of actual play:



  1. I'm assuming that the audio for Season 13 was lost since it's not on the YouTube playlist?

    1. One of the players didn't want the sessions to be recorded so we played them off-stream.