For months and months, I’ve been somebody else. A troubled, heartsick, disgusted, frustrated, isolated, curmudgeonly version of me. Not every day, but more often than not. And for the last four days, I had a chance to take off that heavy, confining suit, and put on a better skin–to be a better version of me. I got to be a smiling guy who helps out his friends, sees patterns in the interplay of game rules, and makes up some pretty damn cool shit. I got to go to Dreamation!
As always, Thursday was a potent cocktail of endless last-minute errands, nerves, excitement, and dread. Would that neglected old skin still fit? Had the curmudgeon spoiled me for anything else?
And then we got there, and by ones and twos, we saw our friends, and there were waves and hugs and smiles. Pleasantries and chitchat and encouragements were thick in the air. And the skin itched in spots, and was stiff from neglect, but it still fit.
I began Thursday night by running a game of Ganakagok for four players. The game was good, but not great. Everyone was arriving, and settling in, getting reaquainted with each other, and with the particular kind of imagination these games require. Thursday and early Friday are time for “gearing up.”
In Ganakagok, the Nitu people were completely scattered by the melting ice, many washing up as strangers in distant lands. I recall a spirited chase in the penultimate scene, up the side of the highest peak of the mountain, pursued by the cannibal ghouls. I know that Lisa Padol kept detailed notes, so maybe she’ll be our lorekeeper for this one. It was good stuff, as always.
On Friday morning, I woke up with my gamer skin on. And it got a nice workout in the first slot, where I got to play in Kat’s With Great Power… game. When I made WGP…, I made the game I wanted to play, and Kat runs it so very, very well, that it’s a joy for me to experience. Her scenario was called “Teen Power: Underage and Overpowered.” We played a team of teenage superheroes. Most could pummel supervillians, but couldn’t speak to the opposite sex. We ended with a great battle at the school dance where my hero, Code Green, pushed himself to help a teammate until he could no longer stand the strain and passed out. Code Blue revealed her identity before the whole school so she could throw the villain off guard and prevail. I love my angst-ridden game.
Friday afternoon, I tried out a short pick-up game of Jason Morningstar’s new game, Fiasco. It does a great job of teaching and eliciting that desperate pettiness of the Coen brothers’ movies. We were three of us playing (me, Jason, and Eric Larsen). Our characters ran a private adventure tourism company in Antarctica. Tempers flared, murder and mayhem ensued, the virtuous and the vile were punished and celebrated. And the game taught us how to make it happen, step-by-step. I can see how Jason has built on the success of the Roach and Grey Ranks to fashion this teaching/play-eliciting machine.
After that, a quick pick-up game of Cheapass Games’ Lightspeed took on a life of its own as a number of the guys were interested in trying out “Jungle Speed, with math.”
Friday night dinner was a bit of a brisk walk to the Famished Frog pub. Very, very tasty pub fare. I greatly enjoyed.
In the Friday evening slot, I ran my new Mouse Guard scenario, “The Spring Thaw.” We got off to a rocky start, due to people arriving, leaving, and the like, but once we got going, the game was solid. It’s neat to see how the players use the power of being members of the Mouse Guard when faced with NPCs who dislike them for reasons they have no control over. But maybe I phrased it that way because of the game I played at Friday midnight….
I’ll get to that tomorrow. Right now, my skin and I are about to pass out from utter, blissful exhausion.