Ubercon Fall 2008

I went to Ubercon in Piscataway, NJ this past Saturday. Due to some scheduling issues, Kat stayed home and I went to this one solo. I drove out early Saturday morning and came home late Saturday night. In between there was much gaming and laughter.

The day kicked off with enormous hurt! I ran Mechaton for five players. As always, the game delivered much fun, much trash talking, and much admiration from interested onlookers. I used the really great short game scenario that Vincent has in the book. I broke the six of us up into two arenas of conflict. I lost in my circle by one roll! We ran a second time and I was able to grab the flag and hold it for dear life. I won that one only by sheer luck–everyone’s damage dice turned frosty when they rolled against me.

In the afternoon slot, I ran my “Mutant Academy” With Great Power… scenario. None of the players had played With Great Power… before, but they certainly knew enough about comics to enjoy the X-men-esque angst of the characters and situation. One of the characters has illusion powers. Now, one of the things I do when I run WGP is to let the players define their powers as much as possible. Inevitably, some player will ask “does my power work this way” and I tell them that the characters now belong to them and they can tell me. Well, the player of the illusionist set her stakes for the big fight scene as “If I win, I use my powers to make sure no one knows there ever was a big fight, so we don’t get in trouble with the school.” I try to follow the player’s lead in how much the illusion powers can rewrite reality. If she wanted to open the door, however, I figured I had to play along. I set counter stakes as “If you lose, you use your powers to make the Empress (the scenario’s Magneto analog) the headmistress of the school.” Well, she fought hard, but she just didn’t have the cards. We got to play some great little denouement scenes where everyone woke up the next day believing that the Empress had always been head of the school. I had a smile plastered across my face for the full last hour of the game. One of the best WGP events ever!

I rested in the car a bit during the dinner break. I didn’t know if the last game would actually happen, since no one had preregistered. I’ve been working away on Serial Homicide Unit, and it’s one of my favorite games to play. Eric Larsen, whom I met in the Mechaton and WGP games, said he wanted to take it for a spin. We ended up roping in some other folks who had time while waiting for other games, and there were five players (including me). Our profile was Collectors. My civilian character was a comic book collector who hoped to befriend Stan Lee. Our killer ended up killing the victims by choking them with an item of their collection. The game was far sillier and less tragic than many games of SHU have been, but I think that’s to be expected once in a while. Plus, we were an all-male group. I haven’t played often with all-male groups (I think this was the third), but they’ve tended to be the sillier sessions, rather than the more tragic emphasis with mixed-gender groups. Something to keep an eye on.

After that, it was just the drive home. Ubercon was a great con. Much thanks to Don & Joanna for convincing me to go, and for Liz for taking such good care of her GMs. Thanks to Eric for hanging out and chatting.

If all my friends jumped off a bridge…

… I would evidently play D&D 4th edition with them on the way down. I gotta admit that being an “indie guy” playing the most commercial RPG out there, gives me little twinges of feeling like a sellout. But, it’s very much a “System Matters” game, to its core. Plus, fun play is better than no play, even if it comes from The Man.

Kat’s been running a group of six of us through Keep on the Shadowfell. It’s pretty fun. I think the Sons of Kryos said it best when they said that D&D has stopped trying to be like fantasy novels or fantasy movies, but it’s just being D&D. You fight monsters. The fights are interesting. The map and minis/tokens are essential. You get treasure and gain levels and the levels let you do more fun things. You and your friends are a team standing up to evil. Those were all the strong points of D&D.

We’ve only done two sessions of the Shadowfell game, with six players in the group. Kat made up the characters so they’d all have good solid reasons to be together. The intraparty chatter is fun. We haven’t quite got a handle on great team tactics yet, but I’m sure that will come with time.

After the first Shadowfell game, Kat and Michele and I were paging through the books and came across the bit in the back of Monster Manual about making player character monsters. It sparked some ideas, and so I’m DMing a game where Kat is playing a goblin rogue called Twitch, Michele is playing a kobold war wizard called Shifty, and there are two semi-NPCs along: a minotaur cleric named Ferdinand and a drow archer ranger called Twang. All of them are of good alignment and all are outcasts from their own societies. They had been taken in by human cleric who was lost in the Underdark. The cleric died, but made them promise to take his holy symbol back to his main temple … on the surface! Thus, they’ve started on their long, long quest to the surface.

The fights have been fun. But it has reminded me a few things I always hated about D&D: money and experience points. Tracking all that stuff drives me batty. In the “Out of the Underdark” game, money doesn’t really matter, because where are they going to use it, anyway? For xp, I looked at the section in the DMG where they talk about not tracking xp and just leveling the whole party up every X encounters. I thought 1st level might get boring pretty fast, so I said “Let’s level up after every encounter.” However, Kat and Michele said that was too fast. So, we reached a compromise. At the end of every session, we take a vote: “Do we want to go up a level?” If the vote is unanimous, the party goes up. How’s that for player empowerment? 😉