Kat, Michele, Don & Joanna Corcoran went out on Wednesday to get the ball rolling. There was a bit of a problem with the hotel stuff, but nobody had to sleep in the car.
My part of the con started on Thursday. Thursday was a bit of a tangled mess of preparations and last-minute errands. I worked until noon, came home, packed up the car with IPR’s shelving and Dalys, and hit the road! My first scheduled game was By The Stars at 8pm on Thursday. Because BTS was very LARP-like at the point in April when we set up the schedule, I had registered it as a LARP. Thus, they put me, appropriately, on the LARP floor. 8pm rolled around, and I had but 2 players. When 8:10 hit, and it seemed no one else was coming, I cancelled the session for lack of players and sent them to find other amusements for the evening. Not 5 minutes later, Kat showed up with Dalys & Rich Flynn in tow, but my original players were gone! I can’t say I was super disappointed because I was still unhappy with the game.
The goodness that came out of that was I think I perceived the threads of the Gordian Knot I’ve been in–the reason I’ve been continually unhappy with BTS. When designing, I’ve been pursuing social goals like number of players, session length, and learning curve. Then, after each session, when evalutating whether it went well or poorly, I’ve been using creative criteria like “was the story any good?” and “did the players care what was happening?” It’s analagous to navigating by compass, and then judging your progress by speed rather than direction. I’m going to have to do some soul-searching to discern which goals are truly important to me before I revise again.
Friday was my busy day–I had a game scheduled to run in every slot. The morning was the “Two to Die for” event–a double-header of Discernment and Serial. It was a great deal of fun. I met two guys named (I think) Joshua and Justin who played in both games. Ben Lehman, our esteemed Scholar Emeritus, leapt in for the game of Discernment. Discernment is quite a fun little game. We threw Joshua, our subject, into scenarios ranging from abandoning spacecraft, to climbing Mt. Everest, to finding his dead wife atop another man. Ben secured the Scholar Emeritus title once more.
For the second half, Ben jumped out, and Rob Bohl jumped in. I unveiled the new rules for Serial that Kat and I had cobbled together on our way back from Origins. The investigator phase now centers around building chains of evidence–which works really, really well. The profile has also been retooled. Rather than “everybody puts in an entry,” it is now a single thing that describes all the victims. But, it must be a single descriptor that ALL the players need to care about. In this game, Rob came up with the perfect profile: Geek. Our serial killer was hunting down geeks and murdering them. My potential victim, Cheri Wojciechoski, had her hope as “I hope I get to be Leonard Nimoy’s fan liason at the big convention!” She was the only victim not murdered, and the other players voted that she received her hope!
The afternoon found me upstairs in the wargame room running Mechaton! Those little LEGO robots drew a great many amused stares. I had three players for my first game. 2 had signed up and one was a captured walk-by. He ended up winning with my spider-bot army that I had built for my own use. I grabbed the flag first and got blown to smithereens! He also gave me one of my best compliments of the con. “When I got here, I really didn’t know if I was in the mood to just kick back and game, but this game was so much fun, I’m ready to go now!” We finished the first game by 4:30, and 2 of the players wanted to play again. During the short intermission, I drafted Luke Crane to join us. Luke didn’t lose a single attachment all game! I managed to grab the flag with a low doomsday clock, and bring my other mech in from the other side, encircling the flag. With each mech providing cover for the other, I was able to stay alive in the center long enough to click down the Doomsday clock and win!
Friday 8pm was supposed to be another BTS game. Although Kat and Michele were ready to jump in, there was no other group to jump into, so it folded as well. I ended up playing a pick-up game of Mechaton with Thor and Frank. I think there were only 4 damage dice that came up as hits the entire game! Frank siezed the flag before any of the rest of us and was able to hold it, mostly due to the cold damage and spot dice.
Note to self: Mechaton questions to Vincent: 1) Can you transfer an attachment from one mech to another in the middle of combat? 2) If Mike’s guy puts a spot on Thor’s guy, can only Mike’s other guys use the spot, or can any other players use it? I think it should be anyone, FWIW. 3) Do defense dice “bottom out” at 1, or is putting a “1” into defense just the same as putting in no die at all?
Saturday saw me with 2 open slots to actually PLAY! The morning took me out of the primary-color battlefield of Mechaton into the jungles of Vietnam. Nathan Paoletta ran carry for me, Matt Weber, Nicholas ?something?, the newly-transplanted Matt Wilson, Ben Lehman and Luke Crane. It was a tense story of incompetent leaders in the jungle. The cool thing about the game is how one’s Burden is created. I write a sentence about the soldier’s emotional baggage, like “My girlfriend told me she was pregnant the night before I shipped out.” Then, I pass it to the right and that player adds another sentence on the same theme, like “I don’t handle responsibility well.” Then it gets passed one more time, to give “I flee from trouble.” So, I thought I’d have this story about fatherhood, and maybe come up against a village with a pregnant woman, etc. but it ended up that I had a story about cowardice and sticking with the chain of command when it all falls apart. It was a surprise to me, and that’s good. My meek little guy ended up getting court-martialed for crimes the REST of his squad committed and spending the next 20 years in a military stockade. What beautiful tragedy.
It’s NOW time for me to head to work. I will edit this to include the rest of Saturday and alll of Sunday when I get the chance!