We used the Fabulous Tiny Guild mini-zines to create the characters, this worked very well as the tiny illustration inspire the players but at the same time they are simple enough that you can interpret them in different ways. They kind of work like canvas.
The setup was that the player characters were the henchmen of the Wizard and now that he is dead they have to work for themselves and become full fledged adventurers. But after a while I realized that since the Black Hack award levels for completing quests or something that I had to give them goals. So we modified the setup a bit. The players are now in charge executing the will of the Wizard and to bestow the items from it inheritance. So instead of delving to find loot, they delve to deliver loot!
The first item to bestow was a frog bottle of transmutation to the Cactus Mother.
- They met some owl faced cultists and learned about their vendetta against the city state of Zar Naf.
- They walked through the purple grass and avoided a group of lost soldiers from Zar Naf.
- They picked up some narcotic cactus flowers.
- They encountered the succulent owl bear and pointed him toward the soldiers.
- A halfling kid shoot someone in the head with a sling shot and vanished in the cactus bushes.
- They encountered a group of sisters of filth who stole cactus flower from the Reboo's gang.
There was no fights, but there was a lot of fun interactions.
- The group evaded goons from the Reebo's while hiding in the cactus grooves.
- They met with the Cactus Mother who revealed that the old Wizard was once her apprentice.
- They gave her share of the wizard's inheritance: a bottle of transmutation liquor.
- She made one of the PC her champion and transformed him into a giant jade spider. She gave them the quest of awakening the statue of the Succulent Goddess.
- The group ventured in the caves and traded with the succulent guardian.
- Someone tasted the nutritive poop and said it tasted like caramel pudding. :P
- The group was ambushed by succulent spiders but the jade spider PC was able to recruit them.
- They awakened the Succulent Goddess and convinced the owl cultist that her people must help the goddess to protect the oasis instead of desiring vengeance over the city people.
- The goddess transmuted back the PC.
- Everyone leveled up to level 2.
I like the Black Hack but I think that I don't like awarding levels for quests because it short-circuit the exploration as the group only focus on accomplishing their goal. I prefer exploration oriented award but I am also curious about the option of awarding a level each session presented in the Black Hack book. I want to see what happen when the players don't have to worry about doing specific things to level up.
Since we rarely have the occasion to play, I think that I will use this option and award a level every session. This way if we play up to level 09, this will give us a 9 sessions campaign. Considering that we play maybe once a month, this give us reasonable campaign length and pacing.
To avoid the feeling that the whole campaign is a accelerated 9 days leveling up, I will run it as a episodic campaign, a month passing by between each session. This will also let me re-setup the seting a bit to underline the consequence of the player character's actions.