I believe I left off on Saturday afternoon. After the game of carry, I ran a scheduled game of With Great Power… It was my “Mutant Academy” scenario. I had two players: Duke and Tom, plus Kat played as much as she could, but had to jump out to prep for the party. With only two players, there was not as much rivalry as there has been in previous renditions of this scenario, but the players really siezed on the action, larger-than-life style of comics and we had burning parks, burning academies, a giant high-tech plane plummeting toward the city. It was a blast!
After that came the by-now-traditional Indie Potluck. There was not quite as much food as there has been, but there also was not quite as many people as there have been. Things went pretty well, but we’re definitely going to have to change some procedures if we’re going to do this again come Dreamation.
Thanks to the generous assistance of Dro, I was actually able to make it to the 8pm slot. I was very, very fortunate to snag an open spot in Luke’s Burning Empires session! It was called “There’s One Way Out of Hell” and, boy, was it grim. Beautiful and moving and I loved it–but grim. Burning Empires has a huge, twenty-odd session-spanning story arc built-in. Think WGP’s Story Arc written on a New York City scale. This session was written as if it were the very last one in the campaign. All the major figures of note on both sides were dead, and we were playing their seconds-in-command. The planet had already fallen to the Vaylen, and our goal was to get off-world before being “mopped up.” It was an elbows-to-the-ground, mud-in-your-teeth fight across no-man’s land to seize a piece of artillary and the only partially-operational shuttle left. Plus, you never knew if your fellow PC was actually a Vaylen or not.
Here’s how you can tell the players had fully embraced the tragedy of the game. A key NPC–a boy who had been infected with a Vaylen worm–was killed after a prolonged Duel of Wits that escalated to violence. The tougher-than-nails combat character had loved that boy more than life itself. He spent his last roll (you have a limited number of rolls in BE) on tossing a grenade at the rest of us for what we had done. Luke looked up the damage and it injured Rich Flynn’s pilot character and gave mine a superficial wound. We all kinda looked at each other like “That’s it? What do we do with that?” Then Luke remembers that he read the damage wrong–and we’re all anxious to fix the mistake so we can get more damage! Rich’s character died right there and I was maimed. So much better! Particularly because Rich was the only pilot and the only character with a roll left, so there was no way the two remaining PCs and my wounded Kerrn would make it off-world. They tromped up the hill to set up for a hopeless resistance. As I said, grim.
One of the cool bits of BE is the helping system. You can help other players with their rolls if you have the necessary skill, or if you have an applicable “-wise” skill (things like Ship-wise, Officer-wise, Chemical-wise, etc). The trick is, you can never help in the same way twice–it always has to be new. This is great because it forces and rewards players to continually make stuff up about the world. Setting details are generated right at the table so that you can keep getting that helping die. It’s also neat because it allows everyone to speak a little bit for every roll, as long as they can do something to help. In practice, it’s a bit like taking turns, although it isn’t explicitly set up that way. The down-side is that you have to–or, at least, are rewarded to–keep talking about the same things. My Kerrn repair-guy had “Tool-wise” at 2 and “Chemical-wise” at 5. During our two-real-hour-long Firefight, there was little I could do, due to lack of skills, other than call on my -wises to give helping dice to the commander. Plus, since my Chemical-wise generated 2 helping dice, rather than Tool-wise’s single helping die, I ended up talking about soil composition and how our weapons and maneuvers could benefit from it–in half-a-dozen different ways. One of the other players joked that I should have had “Dirt-wise” as a skill. I’m really good at that kind of thing, so it was fun. But over the length of multiple sessions, I could see it getting old. Still, dividing spotlight time by subject is something that requires more thought. I’m really glad I got to play BE with Luke.
My midnight Mechaton had no players sign up or show up. The wargame room was dead.
Sunday morning I ran Serial once more. My players were Kat, Michele, Bobbi Collyer, and Beth Barkley. With 4 women at the table, the profile that was chosen was “single mothers.” It took us a bit to come up with that, but as soon as it was mentioned, there was that sound all around the table. It’s a non-verbal sound people make when they agree and are interested. I have to figure out how to describe it on paper so I can tell Chief Investigators to seek it out. We ran longer than 2 hours, but that’s mainly because there were 5 of us and we were all on Sunday-morning speed. The investigation phase again went really well, although we need to clarify and clean up the rules for climax. But that’s just incidental. The game is hot! I just need to write up the latest edition and scrounge up some external playtesters.
After the Serial game, I slipped into one of the unintentionally-two Game Design seminars. Then it was all over except for the hugs and the driving. As always, the Double Exposure staff was helpful and friendly to the Nth degree. To be honest, I’m not super-excited about GenCon, but I can’t wait until Dreamation!