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!

Maelstrom 2014: A New Thing Under the Sun

Okay, so my #maelstrom2014 post is a week late. It’s been a busy week. The convention was a good time, as always. Many thanks to Avie and Vinny and the incredible Double Exposure staff for making it happen. I launched three games and played in two.

*Vast & Starlit*
Friday night I was full of nervous energy and wanted to offer something unfamiliar, challenging, that I hadn’t run before. Vast & Starlit filled those points. I pitched the game as “a setting like Farscape run with a system like Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” I got three players, two of which I had never played with before. The start up was a bit rough. We played for two hours and crafted a game that was a bit scattered, and a bit silly. No one really was willing to do _anything_ to be captain. I think the nerves of a new con and a new group made everyone a little less willing to take the lead, and Vast & Starlit definitely needs proactive players. We did get a fun result from the alien species creation rules: A species who are big and strong and intimidating on their low-gravity home planet, but pushovers relative the rest of the galaxy.

*HERO system*
Since my first game finished after only 2 hours, I had a bit of time before bed. Darren Watts was launching a Hero System game. I had never played Hero, but I had once made a character for 4 hours. This session was fun and reminded me of both the strengths and the weaknesses of traditional gaming. I won’t spoil too much of the scenario, but Darren had very cleverly culled a number of ’70s and ’80s action TV shows for characters and setup, and put an interesting spin on the whole package. One of the strengths of traditional play is that the GM’s vision can be fully realized and explored, which is a good thing when the vision is as clever, amusing, and well thought-through as this one. Pondering on how that long-term prep can be brought to bear on the types of games I like is worth thinking about.

*Ganakagok*
Saturday morning I wanted to return to something more comfortable, but that I hadn’t actually played in a while. A return to the island of ice was in order. Rob Bohl, Flavio, Neil, Kat played our Nitu preparing to see the sun rise for the first time. The Ganakagok tarot, and our imaginations, worked their magic once more, and the specifics of our setting were really great. The island was an ice crust on the back of massive beluga whales. They came together to mate once a generation, and the peoples from the various islands would trade, intermarry, visit family, and the like. We only got through three scenes, but I felt it was enough to get a sense of myth and majesty. In the end, the rising of the sun drove the whales to dive deep, where the people could not follow. Luckily, the people were able to find solid land and prosper there, even though they cast out the one who led them there and forgot the ways of their ancestors. The sheets from this game were donated to Phredd & Krista’s project.

*Lunch*
Not technically a game, but one of the best times I had. Bill White, Marissa Kelley, Brendan Conway, Kat Miller, Mark Diaz Truman, Rich Flynn and I laughed over topics ranging from hacking D&D4 to make it amenable to the tastes of story gamers, to new AW hacks being developed, to that time that Hawkeye saved the entire multiverse. Really. He did.

*Four-Color Process*
James Fry gave quite the thought-provoking panel on racism in superhero comics. I wanted to hear other perspectives on the issue–thoughts that would take me outside my own head and my own biases as I continue to ponder the revision of With Great Power. I was not disappointed. James and his fellow panelists, Kirk Etienne and Cornell Green, gave me quite a bit to think about, and I greatly appreciate their time and insight.

*Everway*
The Saturday evening slot was overstuffed with GMs and unattached players were rare on the ground. So Kat and I grabbed a table with our friends Adrian Stein, Joann Clarke-Stein and played some Everway. Although the “adventure” was called “One Day and Three Knights” we did not make much progress. We had too fun making characters and laughing until our sides ached.

*Heroine*
Sunday morning Kat and I wanted to close out the con with something different. Avie had specifically requested that someone be willing to offer up Heroine, so we did. Our group consisted of Joshua Kronengold, Lisa Padol, Phredd Groves, Kat Miller. Kat played a heroine named Diane who was being forced to move from the suburbs into the city because of her father’s work. While unpacking “the Takers” came and stole her parents, and Diane had to venture into a far-off land to rescue them. Along the way, she met a cat looking for investors to help build his railroad, a perpetually indecisive planner covered in eyes, and a wyvern who painted landscapes. She also delivering a mysterious message from the Night King to the Queen of the Sun. It turns out it was a marriage proposal, and for her services in setting up the nuptials, her parents were returned to her and she was returned home. The game is interesting. I’m _really_ glad that I made the player reference cards that I did. Some of the most important rules are buried inside long paragraphs. I found it very difficult to get enough drama points as the narrator in order to do anything. But I really enjoyed the game, and I think I’ll add it to my regular bag as a pick up game.

Maelstrom was a fun time. I’ll post my thoughts on the convention structure separately, but it was a fun time and we’re looking forward to adding this to our regular convention rotation.