Dreamation 2016

Wow. What a #Dreamation.

As always, Vinny, Avie, and the entire Double Exposure crew made great things happen flawlessly and invisibly. They are amazing and I thank them deeply.

Jason Morningstar compared Dreamtion to a family reunion and he’s absolutely right. Except that there’s more people I’m excited to see at Dreamation.

Thursday, 8PM
For me, I started off the con with a game of Swords Without Master: Starward on Thurday night. It’s a supplement for SWoM that draws inspiration from Leigh Brackett, Flash Gordan, Akira Kurosawa, and WWII aviation films (just like a somewhat popular 1977 film you may have heard of). Andrew and Brian, neither of whom had played any SWoM before, both created fallen space knights. Patty played a translator/scientist from “not the United Federation of Planets”. They delved into a planet-sized ancient starship to find the lost panacea that would end a galaxy-wide plague. Despite the space skeletons and pirates, they got the cure and delivered it, but were cheated out of glory by the scheming space senate. How will they possibly clear their names? Find out in the next exciting episode of Starward!

Friday, 9AM
Friday morning, Bill White was running With Great Power. To keep myself from being a neurotic mother hen, I intentionally scheduled myself something else to do. I facilitated one of my favorite games: Serial Homicide Unit. Adam, Michael, Joann, Ephraim, Ian, and I told the stories of the workers and patients of the Helping Hands clinic, who just so happened to be hunted by a serial killer. The best and brightest of our characters were cut down just as their life turned around, while the worst thrived. It was sad and touching, just as SHU always is. I love this game.

Friday, 2PM
Friday afternoon, I got to play Bill White’s The New World. I played it several time over its many years of gestation, and this was the best version yet. So quick! So evocative! So fun! I think 2016 is finally the year for The New World. Just a few rough edges to polish and this one is ready to publish. We wove a tale of the last great city of learning in a fallen land, forcing the survivors of fallen cities into servitude, and the ambitious sand pirates that plagued them.

Friday, 6:55PM
Matt, Chris, and Chris had asked if I could run a demo of With Great Power for them. Asking me to run my game is my own personal Kryptonite, so run we did. In a quick 45 minutes, they made heroes and we played a couple of exciting phases.

Friday, 8PM
Finally, after years of trying, I got to play Sorcerer with Judd. It was a colonized solar system setting, with Adam portraying the secretly half-alien president of Mars, MadJay playing a xenoarcheologist, and me playing a horrible, Captain Bligh-type starship captain with xenotech fused into his head. If you’ve ever played a video game and took a while to understand the controls, you’ll know what I mean when I say that I often have trouble steering my character in Sorcerer. This game was no exception. I’d go into a scene thinking “I’ll show a bit of humanity, a bit of compassion” and then proceed to do the most evil stuff imaginable, like murdering a conscientious traitor, and trying to murder the president of Mars. I’m really, really glad I played. I’m uneasy with how the game went. And that’s exactly what Sorcerer is about.

Saturday, 9AM
I ran With Great Power for a group of three players: Jen played Noir, who could speak to ghosts; Nick played Mantis, who had instectoid alien power armor; and Adam played Blindspot, who could not be noticed, except on camera. Together, they faced down the flame-bodied Crucible who wanted to give superpowers to everyone in the entire world so that her husband could accept her as “normal”. It was a quick, fun session with green mutagenic gas at an MMA fight, quiet discussions on a park bench, a burning building, and punching a woman made of living flame in the face.

Saturday, 2PM
Joshua A.C. Newman’s The Name of Bronze is a work in progress. I like where it’s going and will be excited when it gets there. In our short session with Frank, Keith, and Matthew, I played Unlu, champion of Mard—tallest mountain and roof of the world. In Mard’s service, I crushed a rival mountain with my bare hands. It was interesting, and I could see where it will be fun once the whole game is communicated properly.

Saturday, 8PM
I finally played Torchbearer. Tony, Stephen, Carly and I did pretty well in Bret’s weird old school dungeon. Nobody died. We scored some loot. We rescued a guy from being eaten by a giant spider. I have my doubts about the “if you suggest an idea you have to be the one to roll for it” rule. I can see that the game is engineered to produce a particular type of experience and does it very, very well. It’s just not an experience I particularly enjoy. That’s an important thing to know.

Sunday, 10AM
A second game of With Great Power, this one with five players: Kat played the Scales of Justice/Dragon Princess who was rebelling against her dragon-tyrant father; Blair played the Winter Knight, born of Fey and fighting to hold onto his humanity; Karin played The Shade, who could speak the ghost of Andrew Carnegie; Ami played Feeback, an alien made of music who could take on the form of Jimi Hendrix; Kay played Refraction, a woman who lost most of her memories in the accident that turned her into a living hologram. Together they faced Upload, a robot from the future who was trying to force human society up to where future history said it ought to be, using things like nanobots to install mandatory upgrades in people. We had some great images like a dragon melting the snow off a blizzard-choked roadway to clear a path for ambulances, medical equipment exploding due to supernatural interference, living hologram destroying the evil nanotech disguised inside of charity blankets, and a fey knight cutting the tongue off a building-sized dragon.

Oh, and I also sold some actual, physical copies of With Great Power. Which made me very happy, and I hope will make all who bought it happy, too. Anyone who bought the game at Dreamation can contact my Gmail account (stalwartip) to get the electronic edition at no additional charge. The game and the origin cards will be available for order by the end of the month.

There is never enough time to see everyone I want to at Dreamation. I’m very glad for everyone I got to chat with, or game with, or even smile at in the hall. Thank you for a wonderful weekend.

Philly Games Con 2015

Philly Games Con was a good con, and both well-attended and well-run. Neither are to be taken for granted at a first year event.  I was impressed and would return again. Kudos to Dave and the Philly Games Con crew for a great debut.

 

Friday night, I got to play in a game of Itras By with Keith, Clarissa, Yael, Howard, and Brennan. We made a suitably surreal series of events for our racehorse jockey given to over-eating, encyclopedia salesman searching for the perfect sentence, birthright mime with a habit of nervous talking, organ-grinder’s monkey longing to learn how to dance, and truthful fortune-teller looking for someone to tell his fortune. It was an enjoyable session with a lot of laughter. Beware monkeys passing out counterfeit mime money.

 

Saturday morning, I ran InSpectres for Brendan, Tim, Kat, Joe, and Neil. They set up their franchise in a self-storage locker. We got through two missions: a wine cellar infested by alcoholic mole man, and an apartment building that was haunted by the spirits of every animal that that had died on that spot in the last four billion years of life on earth, particularly a smart-assed 10-year-old girl murdered in the mid-80s calling herself Zaxxon4ever. It was a fun time.

 

Saturday afternoon, I ran With Great Power for Mike, Brian, Matt, Dan, and Fran. They came up with some incredible heroes: Warpo, who could warp matter with his mind. Nudge who could hear thoughts and nudge people into making certain decisions. Thinktank, a quadriplegic with telekinetic power armor. Meltdown, given radioactive powers in a reactor accident. And finally, Starsigil, a farm girl who—when an alien crash-landed on her farm—was imbued with a tattoo of cosmic might. They faced the heedless fury of the Rampaging Shade, an energy manifestation of an everyday man’s darkest impulses. In the end, Omnidelphia was saved once more.

 

Kat wasn’t feeling well Sunday evening, so I bowed out of games. But after she went to bed I got to listen to the tail end of a game of Masks with Brendan, Mike, Daniele, and Rich. The game is in a much better shape than it was when I played it at DEXCON. I’m looking forward to this tale of super teen angst.

 

Kat’s Serial Homicide Unit game today at 8:00AM did not have any players. Morning slots on Sunday are always a hard sell, but *really* early slots are even more difficult. We had a nice, leisurely trip home, and reflected on a con well-spent.

Dreamation 2015

Dreamation is always phenomenal, and this year was no exception. The work that Vinny and Avie and the whole Double Exposure staff do to make the convention seamless is a wonder in its effectiveness and its invisibility. Thanks to each and every one. Now, here’s the fun I had:

Thursday 8pm
Event: *Kagematsu* “The Grand Seduction”
Colleagues: Jackson, Mikael, John, Sarah, Natalie, Arnold (facilitating only)
In a Canadian rust belt setting, I played Agnes, a 55 year old school teacher and mother of Karen, Mikael’s character. I tried sweetness. I tried flattery. I tried cookies. All ended in disaster. Finally, with thirty minutes left in the session, I went for broke, pulled out all the stops. I offered the doctor a good salary, and end to the financial woes that may have driven him here, and—when that didn’t work—threatened to drown him if he tried to leave. All utter failure. And Agnes was hauled away to a padded room, never to be seen or spoken of again.

Friday 9am
Event: *With Great Power* (playtest)
Colleagues: Josh, Mel, George
We took the latest revision of With Great Power (adapted from Swords Without Master) for a test drive and the game went really, really well. I was worried that my new hero creation system wouldn’t measure up to the task, but it came through with flying colors. Within moments of handing out the cards, I heard “These cards obviously go together” when there was nothing obvious about them, which is _exactly_ what I wanted. My players came up with Eve-8—an data-manipulating android who had created a flawed “child” called “Eve-L”. Also, Chevron—a government-sanctioned super-suit-wearing leader of Super Team Six. Also, Red Shift—a speedster who had to be careful of her speed, lest she approach relativistic speeds and destroy everything in her wake. They faced off against The Monolith—a scientist who had been transformed to living rock and wanted to evict humankind from Earth so it could return to the glory of its geological past. We had nice pacing with some great character development. I’m very happy with the direction of the game.

Friday 2pm
Event: *The Long Orbit*
Colleagues: William, Amber, John, Rachel (MC)
This was the first time I played TLO and it had a nice, slow burn of creepiness. I played the Journalist and spent much of the early game turning nearly everyone on, because I could. In the later game, I clung to the resolve that my sister was alive again and did all I could to protect her. The climax was a bit muddy due to time and my roll to rob the AI of the desire to oppose us. I liked the early scenes laying groundwork for later scenes, and our freedom to make our own decisions within the somewhat structured framework. It was a good game with a great table of players.

Friday 8pm
Event: *The Clay That Woke*
Colleagues: Aaron, Matt, Dev, Paul (GM)
I played a nameless minotaur who worked for a street performer who sucked and blamed his rivals, particularly a fortune teller who made her predictions by allowing insects to crawl over her body. I came up with a better act about selling the audience leaves for them to write their sins on. I would then consume the leaves as “the Devourer of Sins”. Evidently my cleverness bypassed the Krater of Lots completely. I didn’t make a single draw. The other players’ stories were also interesting with memory stones, and proxy duels, and demigods being reborn through polluted fish. Afterward, we had a good discussion of the game’s roots. I’m not sure that it clicks in my head, but Clay is definitely an interesting game.

Saturday 9am
Event: *With Great Power* (playtest)
Colleagues: Danielle, Adam, Paul, Buddha
This time, the cards worked just as well, with the players creating the Red Avenger—given energy projecting powers through an unethical experiment, the Red Avenger had caused some damage when she didn’t know what her powers were and was trying to claim a reputation as a superhero. Also, Rapid Racer—a super-speedy bicycle messenger that needed a hard-to-come-by chemical to survive. He had robbed his parents to get a supply of the chemical and was trying to make up for it. Also, The Heir—a jewel theif who stole a cursed diamond which allowed him to manipulate energy, but also held the consciousness of its previous owners. Also, Hellfire—a fiery being who had made a deal with the devil. He was constantly burning and wore an asbestos suit, while followed by his gang of groupies called “The Hellfire Club.” They faced off against Groupthink—a blind woman who had the power to infect others with her thoughts through touch. With repeated exposure, her powers would completely overwrite the personality of her victims, and she had already unintentionally turned her husband into an unthinking yes-man.
The story we played was really, really great. I’m going to go into it in a little more depth in another post, as I want to pull apart some of the great things that this version of WGP is doing. _This was my favorite game of the convention._ It’s rare for me to say that about my own games.

After this session, I was so happy with my little superhero origins cards that I started pestering people in conversation with my “Wanna make a superhero” schtick. Thanks to all who played.

Saturday 2pm
Event: *Everway* “Saved by Zero”
Colleagues: Grant, Joshua, Sarah, Kat (GM)
Although Kat was using aspects of the Everway system, this was a cyberpunk game with some elements inspired by the RPG _Zero_ from Archangel Entertainment. Due to some elevator issues the session was short and didn’t have quite enough time to develop, but what we did was fun. Being desperate and on the run from a powerful corporation is always great. And we got to use the word “exfitrate” which was awesome. And my fellow players brought a lot to the table.

Between slots, Vinny and JR slaughtered Kat and I in Tichu. It was pitiful. Kat and I were rusty, plus I never had a hand with more than three face cards the whole game. It was 600 to nothing after two hands. We managed to get on the board, but it was a bloodbath.

Saturday 8pm
Event: *Power Play: Schemes and Skullduggery*
Colleagues: Howard, Jeff, Paul
Going in, I didn’t know what to expect from this. It was game of narrative control with some board-gamey elements. The idea is that we each are a criminal with a secret goal and we spend time doing actions and adding traits to things to achieve our goal. The game is trying to find a middle ground between the limited menu of options in a board game and the infinite possiblity of an RPG. I wouldn’t say that the game failed, but it got very legalistic very quickly. The rules weren’t as clear as they could be, and it feels very much like there is a missing piece. I imagine that when the game designers run it, they do certain things without thinking that they never wrote down. I might look at it again if someone were running it who had played it successfully, but I’m certainly not buying it myself.

Sunday 10am
Event: *Serial Homicide Unit*
Colleagues: Michele, Liz, Ephraim, Kat
SHU is just so very heartbreakingly tragic. I love it. We played civilians who were hunted because of our association with the Morristown diner. My character had been eating there every day since his wife kicked him out. He was still paying the mortgage and shoveling the snow and had no idea why she wouldn’t talk to him. When he found out that his best friend was now staying at the house to “help out”, he thanked him and even gave him some money for gas for the snow blower. And then the poor slob was killed by a serial killer. We also had a poor waitress who only wanted to go to Ireland to see her mom, but couldn’t afford it. A waitress who wanted her son to graduate high school, but he already had a shady job on the side. A cook who wanted to open her own restaurant but was blocked at every turn. And a busboy who wanted to land a scholarship and shake the dust of Morristown, NJ from his feet. And all of them but one were cruelly murdered by the serial killer before he skipped town. Man, I love that game.

Can’t wait to do it all over again!

DEXCON 2014 – I’m still standin’.

Back from #Dexcon and had a great time. Despite any possible obstacles, +Avonelle Wing and +Vincent Salzillo and the entire Double Exposure family continue to present the most welcoming and fun filled conventions around. This year they even trumped the Fourth of July!

FRIDAY
My con started Friday morning with a rousing game of The Sundered Land. The players were mostly new faces, which is a nice change of pace at this point in my convention career. We played two games of Caravan Guards, a Night Watch, At Ends, and finally Warriors. On the road, we faced down stampeding dog-sized beetles, and a misshapen giant demanding tribute. At night, we learned of the origins of the rifles and bombs and pistols that the three of the characters bore, as well as the nameless witch’s time as a slave and my gray bearded rider’s use of the caravan to smuggle rune-covered parchments into the city. Once in the city itself, our various desires led us on different paths, which again converged when the patrons of two other characters wanted to ensure that my scrolls were never delivered and used to waken the fallen gods. We ended on a big fight where they attacked and destroyed the temple where I was defending the ritual readers of the scrolls. Enkidu, my character, lost his hand, but survived the fight.

In the afternoon, I played in +Brendan Conway ‘s game in development, Masks. It’s about teenage superheroes trying to figure out who they are and what kind of people they were going to become, would they believe the labels that the world affixed to them, or forge their own path? It’s a descendant of Apocalypse World and Monsterhearts, and full of clever ideas. Perhaps too many, but that is why it is still in development. My character was a pre-med high school student who, through an scientific accident, gained prehensile hair that could read the thoughts of whomever it touched and alter their body to heal them … or in other ways. Her superhero name was Dreads. We had some great players, like +Joe Zantek and +Michael McDowell , and a great young team, with Kid Ragnarock, Mags Donner , and Discordia. I have more thoughts on the game, but will take them to another post.

Friday night I brought out the “original” nanogame, Vast & Starlit. We had a full table, with +Melissa S Cohen , Brendan, +Kathryn Miller , +James Harold , +Neil Bennett , and Adam playing. We developed our characters pretty quickly, with some old rivalries and scores to settle both on and off the ship. Kat played the ship herself, a newly independent AI who didn’t want to be memory wiped, but also didn’t want to submit to control of a mere captain. There was a lot of craziness, as will happen with seven people, but actually developing a story was both dangerous and difficult. There was lots and lots of laughter, but I’m not sure that I will offer this one again.

SATURDAY
I started the day by playing Kat’s session of Heroine. Kat devised the session after we saw Maleficent, so the focus heroine was Aurora. She rebelled at never seeing another person besides her aunts, and ran off across the boundary-stream. With the help of an abandoned monster-under-the-bed, and an insightful crow played by +Lisa Padol , and the blind(folded) prince Philip, she lost and regained her shadow, faced That Witch Dwells Downstream, and returned home to better appreciate her lot. It was a decent story, but it took just a little too much work. This is the second time we’ve played, and there just feels like there’s something lacking. I’m not sure what.

After a fun lunch with +Rachael Storey Burke and +Robert Bohl , I had to face the fact that I am old and increasingly decrepit, so did no gaming in the afternoon. I can neither confirm nor deny the rumors of a nap-like activity.

Saturday evening was a second game of The Sundered Land. This had a full complement of Rob, Rich Flynn, Brendan, Sarah and Jenna. The characters were very metal, with rune scars and ancient six-guns and sewn-together monsters in equal measure. We played Caravan Guards twice, and it is definitely solid. Concrete threat led to concrete reaction, with the system eliciting unanticipated twists from us. Night Watch was alright, but really needs the night player to push rather forcefully with his starting questions, unafraid to impose back story on others’ characters. At Ends is still problematic. We were able to develop a single focal point around three of the characters breaking into House Alije for dissent reasons, so we played that using Restless Ambition. It went pretty well.

I actually played Enkidu, my character from the night before, and gave him a hook to replace the hand he lost in the battle. I regret not mentioning it to anyone until the game was over. It might have worked better as an open secret.

Saturday night was a great big ever-growing circle of chat with folks I missed elsewhere, like +Bill White and +Amanda Valentine and +Clark Valentine

SUNDAY
This morning I got to play some Marvel Heroic, run by Mr. McDowell. His characters were fun, with a super-luchador, a super intelligent ape, another thunder good (were they on sale?) and Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt. The fight mechanics are interesting, and this ran more smoothly than the demo I played a few years back. We did two fights and a tiny connecting scene and dénouement in four full hours. I enjoyed it and it scratched whatever itch I might have had for traditional play for a while.

Even with a smaller indie presence at DEXCON, there are still loads of people I didn’t get to see or talk to or game with! I better work on cloning myself.

It was a great con and I can’t wait for Metatopia. Only one hundred twenty four days!