DexCon 2006: Silliness Afoot!

Just got home from DexCon. The con was hectic, but good. And there was a creeping tide of silliness in sundry places.

I wasn’t able to get any time off work, so I didn’t arrive until 7:50pm on Friday. I was scheduled to run With Great Power… at eight. I had three players hungry for four-color goodness so I ran them through “A League of Their Own.” It was probably the silliest game of WGP I’ve ever run. Fun, but in a sort of genre-mocking way. “Prepare to get your buttocks telekinesed, Stalwart!” was a line I recall. The players enjoyed it, and I found the silly a bit relaxing after the hectic of getting there.

After the game I did some chatting to decompress and got to cradle Burning Empires in my hands. It looks like nothing so much a one of those thick hardcover sci-fi novels. I can testify that it’s beautiful. People I trust assure me it plays better. I’m sure I’ll find out sooner or later.

Saturday began with great promise: Judd had a seat available in his Dictionary of Mu game. I love to play anything with Judd and have been anxious to try out Mu for a while. I started out as the prince of these awesome Martian uber-gorillas who had just grew a conscience and released his slaves. He was going to have to face the consequences of it. Oh, and he had this massive Dragon for a demon and I scored a +3 on the binding roll. Sweet. Unfortunately a RL crisis at home reared its head and I had to bow out of the game before actually getting to play. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t much silly in Mu.

Saturday afternoon saw me in an awkward position. Several months back when we were registering events, I thought I might develop my Game Chef game, Play Right!, into a publishable game. I subsequently decided not to, but forgot that I had signed up to playtest it at DexCon. Luckily no one showed up, allowing me the afternoon to reheat the With Great Chili… And, as it turns out, squeeze into a pick up game.

Alexander Newman ran Donjon for six of us. Mayuran suggested we’d be making one of the worst type of Conan movies. I played a wizened old sorcerer called Gu’laag. We were humming along making our characters, coming up with cool abilities and stuff. Then Alexander mentioned that the first part of the game is shopping for gear and you could see the energy level of everyone at the table sink. The rules-inspired slapstick that is the “shopping phase” ate up time and moved neither the adventure, nor our capabilities forward much. After that, people were desperate to do SOMEthing, so Nathan Paoletta summoned an undead wolf to use as a mount and the rest of the group attacked it. Classic dysfunctional player group behavior. Plus with a lot of silly along the way. The game was food for thought, though not for the appetite for role-playing. I hope Alexander writes up an AP.

Six o’clock was the party featuring With Great Chili and a vegetarian rice dish courtesy of Jenn Rodgers & Russ Gaines. The party went pretty well, but come January, we’re going to need a LOT more food.

I was scheduled to run With Great Power again at 8pm, and by 8:10 I had no players and was going to head off and maybe join in Nathan’s game of Carry. Then Eric from pscore.net showed up and said he was really excited to play. So over then next hour he recruited his sister Danae, and his friends Richard and Rob. Together with Kat, they played the Liberty League in a fun rendition of “A League of Their Own.” I don’t know that I’ll every get tired of this scenario, although I should likely retire it. They only got to play one enrichment and one conflict, but they all had fun (Rob even picked up the game the next day.)

Midnight belonged to the Master. I had six minions, three I knew (Fred Hicks, Rob Donahue, Steve-the-really-good-player) and three I didn’t, I had to turn folks away, as well. They made a beast-aspected Master who was a squat military genius of a general who was constructing an infernal war machine out of human parts. There’s a whole AP post here, as well. Suffice it to say that there was a lot of speaking in funny voices and dark silliness. Likely due to the uncomfortable subject matter. But the strength of the game still brought out the intrinsic tragedy.

Four hours of sleep, plus loading up the car, later was the Indie RPG roundtable. Due to scheduling problems, Luke was already gone, so it wasn’t the standard “Luke and Jared show.” I kinda ran things, asking for updates on games we had discussed in January (CUP/One Night has been broken productively and will emerge stronger — Contract Work is developing, but still needs playtesting — Mob Justice/Condemnation has seen a playtest, and a plethora of suggestions, but is waiting for other projects to be finished). The only new design we heard anything about was Rob’s Acts of Confederation-era swashbuckling game. It was a little chaotic, lacking some of that divine fire that motivated the January roundtable, but was a good meeting nonetheless.

A good con. Glad I went. Must sleep now.

A look back at Origins 2006

It’s Sunday night and I’m beat. Origins was quite an enjoyable show. Much less busy, less pressured, less like work than GenCon. There was a bit of time to play, a bit of time to eat (the North Market rules!), a bit of time to shop, a bit of time to chat. Turn, turn, turn.

Kat and I were scheduled to run 8 sessions of With Great Power… One session only attracted one guy (I ran him through a one-hour system tour), but the other seven had enough folks to actually play. And from nearly each session somebody came to booth to pick up the game.

But, I’d left off at Friday morning….

I did the booth stuff Friday morning, then rushed off to run a noon session of With Great Power… Unfortunately only one guy showed up. His name was James and he was more than happy to sit through a one-hour system tour. I showed him all the basic ins-and-outs of the game and refunded him a generic token for his time. Kat and I managed to get in a little shopping for Dalys & Sohely. It’s nice that you can see the whole exhibit hall in a couple of hours, rather than a whole day like at GenCon.

At 8pm Kat and I each had a session of WGP scheduled. We assumed that between the two tables we’d have enough to make a single game. We joked about drawing the short straw to see who ran the game and who got to scurry off to play in Iskander’s excellently disturbing Consiracy of Shadows Blood Opera scenario. When we showed up, I had 4 players (including James) and Kat had 5. I ran my alien-invasion scenario “They Came From Beyond!” and had a blast! Everyone understood the kind of story we were going for and the game rocked! The alien turncoat and the last remaining supervillain died in order to defeat the alien menace, and the last remaining superhero managed to resurrect the superteam that had died before the story had even started. The three players besides James were New Yorkers Jessica Hammer and her friends Robert Scott (an artist) and, I think, Amy. Excellent players, all.

In a odd bit of synchronicity, both Kat and I had double-ties in enrichment stakes in each of games. What that means is the player and the GM each played the same ranked card in an enrichment scene, so the original Stakes had to go up. Then they tied again, so the Stakes went up again. A great way to drive a game hard.

We were up kinda late with that, and Saturday started off moving slowly. I couldn’t make it to a panel on superheroes and their arch-nemeses because of a scheduled event. But the game went really well, included James again. He brought a friend from home, so I’m pretty sure he liked the game. That game also went really well, with Liberty Belle being arrested for trying to assassinate her father when she had actually subdued the assassin. Good stuff.

The Saturday crowd gave me the feeling of GenCon on Thursday.

Saturday night was something I was anticipating and anxious about for a while. Running Universalis for Peter Adkinson & friends. I brought Kat with me and we ran the game for Peter, his dad Gary, Rennie Arturo, the GenCon programming head, and Rennie’s assistant Jeanette, who had never done any role-playing before. The session was good, if slow. We made this cool fantasy world where the men were dying off because magic caused sterility and the women ran the wars because men were too precious to waste on the battlefield. We probably did too many tenets. It took us three hours before anyone added something to the story that caused an “oooh” at the table. But we did get there. Both Peter and Rennie were thorough and insightful in their questioning. They both said they thought they understood it much better know and could delve into playing it at home.

Didn’t get to bed till nearly two. This morning started early. There was booth stuff in the morning, then a noon panel on “Superhumans or Supersaints.” Morality in superhero stories and RPGs. Fellow panelists were Jim Lowder, Steve Kenson and Steve Long (of Hero Games). It went really well, as we delved into the philosophical aspects of power, responsibility, truth and justice. The bit where I got to show off a little: Don Concoran and Joann were in the audience. Don asked “How do your games address the moral dimension of supers?” Steve Kenson talked about how complications get you hero points in M&M. Steve Long talked about how Disads get you build points in Hero and not using your Disads penalized you xp in Hero. I talked about Suffering and Enrichment scenes and Stakes. Don followed up with “How much of your book is devoted to that moral dimension?” Kenson: “3 pages” Long: “There’s a few sidebars, plus more stuff in the supplements” Me: “Well, if you don’t count the index and stuff, over a hundred pages.”

Ya gotta love a great setup. Thanks, Don.

After that, did some last minute shopping and then some podcasters came to the booth. They were from Fistful of Comics and Games. They played the 10-minute demo, then interviewed me. One of them even bought the game. I may have rambled on, but all this public speaking has to be good for me. Like eating your broccoli, right?

I actually kinda like the press-stuff. Maybe I’ll listen to more podcasts.

Then it was breaking down the booth, loading up the car, and watching everyone else leave. Went to dinner with the hometown crew, caught up with how they’re con experience went, packed things up, and wrote this.

I liked my first Origins. It’s a unique show. It’s got its own flavor. It’s a taste I like. I’ll be back.