DEXCON 2017 convention summary

DEXCON 2017

Still exhausted from the best five days of gaming in my year. As always, Vinny, Avie and the entire Double Exposure staff put on a great show every year and I thank them for their tireless efforts.

 

Wednesday night, I taught four people how to play Joshua’s _The Bloody-Handed Name of Bronze_ which was pretty impressive, as I wasn’t certain I knew how to play it myself. But together, Sean, Blair, Misha, Will and I unveiled the secrets of the infamously opaque text to find a very fun, functional, and evocative game within. One of the heroes lifted a river to rid himself of pesky crocodiles. The spear that never misses hunted a sneaky name-dealer, but was duped into killing a mighty king. It was a grand spectacle and a grand game.

 

Thursday morning, I got to sit in as a player for a session of Monsterhearts 2. Kat was the MC for Jeff, Brian, JC, Daniele, and me. I played Zed, a ghoul who fed on fear. We were all part of a group of “regulars” in after-school detention called the Bad Pennies. Two of our own had been found dead and no one in town was lifting a finger to find out why. I found some incriminating evidence in an NPC’s locker and tried to get him to confess by zip-tying his hands behind his back, duct-taping one of his own fireworks into his hands and threatening to light the fuse. He didn’t do it, but the fear tasted lovely. Zed ended up getting killed by one of her oldest friends while others had traveled to the realms of faerie and made dark deals with darker powers. All in all, exactly what you’d expect from Monsterhearts.

 

Thursday afternoon, I ran a Games On Demand session of The Sundered Land with Hamish and Dana. We faced wandering seas of giant, flesh-eating beetles, reanimated skeletons, raiding bandits, and our own checkered pasts along the Burnt Road. I really like The Sundered Land, but I don’t think I teach it very well. Every game I’ve run is very stilted and filled with half-steps. I’ll have to think about ways to address that before I run it again.

 

Thursday evening I ran TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes from the ‘80s. Despite having a full sign-up sheet, only one player showed up. He was keen for a nostalgic trip, so he ran She-Hulk and Wolverine as they defended Four Freedoms Plaza from an onslaught of villains bent on opening the portal to the Negative Zone and unleashing Annihilus on the world.

 

Friday morning was the first session of my first-ever KristaCon event, a three-session game of With Great Power. I had five great players: Joe made The Gold Shadow, a police detective who had taken a supervillain’s darkforce-projecting gauntlets from the evidence locker and was using them to fight organized crime. Amber made Orchid Guide, an escapee from a secret quasi-government laboratory with telekinetic and telepathic powers. Misha made Seraphim, who had been raised by Authurian enthusiasts, and been given feathered, angelic wings by Nimue herself. Unfortunately, she couldn’t fly, only fall with style. Cassie made Omen, a time-slowing alien observer who had broken the non-interference directive when a dangerous alien presence was going to kill millions. She contained that presence in the head of Phil’s character, the Drifter, who was just an everyman thrust into this bizarre world of superheroics. In the first session, they faced the threat of Nightbringer, an alien who wanted to hide Earth from the massive alien Armada. His plan was to force the world back to a 19th-century level of technology to avoid detection. They stopped him, got the team together, and Seraphim learned to fly.

 

After washing out of the pun contest, I took some time in the afternoon. On Friday evening played in the game that so many of my friends rave about: World Wide Wrestling. Joe ran “the Comic Book Wrestling Alliance” where our in-ring personas were comic book characters. I was the main heel, playing Annihilus, Lord of the Negative Zone. Other players played The Toxic Avenger, Catwoman, The Mask, She-Hulk, and Deadman. I ended up kidnapping Lois Lane and transporting the entire ring into the Negative Zone where there were no rules! It was fun, but I don’t feel as though I have the wrestling vocabulary to meaningfully contribute to the wrestling scenes. It felt like trying to tell a joke in a language I didn’t understand. It didn’t help that I wasn’t feeling great on Friday, so maybe it was just that. Regardless, it was a fun game and I’m glad I played.

 

Saturday morning was the second session of the With Great Power KristaCon game. Our heroes faced down the evil Mayfair industries. They were the quasi-governmental evil corporation that had experimented on Orchid Guide. In the aftermath of Nightbringer’s attack, they were trying to increase their manpower by taking over several of the local mobs. We also had great development of the personal lives of these heroes, with Golden Shadow’s secret identity partner being a detective who thought Golden Shadow was behind the crime throughout the city. The personal phase in WGP are so fun, they threaten to consume the entire game. Seraphim’s chat with her patron, Nimue, resulted in the lady of the Fae coming to Omnidelphia, where she initiated a revelry of Bacchanalian proportions. Seraphim agreed to return with her to the lands of faerie to save the city from her influence.

 

I didn’t game Saturday afternoon. Saturday evening, I got check a game off my bucket list: I played no-frills Swords Without Master face-to-face for the first time. I generally start my convention games by going around the table and asking people to introduce themselves and why they chose to sign up for that particular game. This time, Shane, Clark, Christo, and Kirk all gave versions of “I’ve heard great things about this game, but haven’t figured out how to play it.” I got to show them the magic trick that Swords does so very, very well: Taking disparate bits of fiction from multiple people and merge them into a single, unified story such that it seems like they belonged there the whole time. We began with a monolith covered in runes amidst the snowy wastes (https://www.pinterest.com/pin/503629170810087027/). We ended up with an ancient fire god locked inside the mountain, a twisted master trying to dominate his old apprentice, an ill-advised wager, bubbles of summertime tossed on an avalanche, a buff human sacrifice, and roiling trails of smoke that possess people’s bodies. A great session, and everyone walked away impressed by the game. As am I. I really love this game.

 

Sunday morning was the concluding session of the With Great Power KristaCon. Because Misha had to travel, we had written Seraphim out at the end of the previous session. Richard joined us and made The Blur, a social worker who had made a deal with dark powers to save his own life. Together, our heroes faced down the arrival of the alien Armada. Gold Shadow fought back-to-back with her archnemesis who was a crime boss, but at least a human crime boss. Omen started a splinter group within her society of alien observers that takes action as well as study. Orchid Guide crashed a spaceship into the ground with the power of her mind. The Blur and the Drifter faced waves of alien invaders like heroes. It was a great game. I’m very grateful to Joe for suggesting a KristaCon in the first place.

 

It was a great convention! Thanks to all who made it awesome!

Dreamation 2017

Dreamation 2017 was a great time! Thanks so much to Vinny, Avie, and the entire Double Exposure crew for putting on such a fantastic convention. Thanks also to each and every person who ran a game for the Indie Games eXplosion. You brought tons of fun to wintry Morristown. And thanks to everyone who played games, hung out, and just generally made for a great time.

Personally, my convention was defined by still recovering from a nasty illness earlier in the week. My energy level was very low, and I was grateful I was only running two games.

Thursday 8pm was the first of those games. I ran With Great Power for four great players. Matt played Sketch, whose enchanted paintbrush could animate things it drew. Sean played Figment, a long-limbed alien with light powers. John played Keystone, who could change his body into other elements. Max played Ironworks, who built himself power armor out of stuff from a junkyard. Together, they faced the Gun of Damocles, an alien cyborg cowboy who wanted to decrease chaos in the world by purging it of technology. He ended up getting pounded by a hero hitting him with his own robotic horse.

Friday 9am I got to play Kat’s game of temporal hijinks, Time Capers. I played Frank Hyperion, two-fisted scientist who traveled through time by falling from great heights and achieving not terminal velocity, but temporal velocity. Adrian’s time traveler wanted to kill his ancestors so he would never be born. Bruce’s traveler wanted to stop his grandfather’s business from failing. Kirk’s traveler wanted to save his father’s life. Amy’s traveler wanted to recover the second volume of Aristotle’s Poetics. Kat’s traveler wanted to save womankind from men, and thereby save all mankind. We ended up creating ripples like a scientific revolution in ancient Greece and aliens escaping Area 51 and living among Cold War-era America. A very fun time.

Friday 4pm I played Dev’s game Love Commander. It’s a fun game inspired by Mass Effect, where a human commander with an alien crew needs to spend their time wisely to learn more about their crew, which unlocks bonuses for the game. It is quick and clever and a lot of fun.

Friday 8pm I ran With Great Power again. Phredd played Godslayer, an ancient Sumerian hero unwilling brought back to life by a post-modern wizard. Neil played Amok, a sort of living cartoon character. Howard played the Hand of God, a teleporter torn between becoming a superhero and continuing to live in his parents’ basement. Kat played Corona, a young woman who had been chosen as a host for intergalactic space wasps. I played Singularity, who came from the cold darkness of space in a cybernetic containment suit to hunt the space wasps. His hunting technique was to make the Earth a less hospitable environment for the wasps, by killing as many humans upon it as possible.

Saturday 9am I got to have a far more gentle and heart-warming time, as Tony ran Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine for us. I played Trinket, a toy come to life. Richard played a wacky inventor. Albert played a hard-working aspiring restauranteur with a sentient ginger spirit sidekick. John played an old woman whose house was slowly sliding off the side of the city. Kirk played a ninja librarian. It was a delightful session. We hung lanterns, found lost library books, chased runaway carts, wrote advertising jingles, and went to a festival. Lovely game.

Saturday 2pm, despite being at my lowest energy of the con, I played The Bloody-Handed Name of Bronze with Joshua, Aaron and Christo. It was a fast and bloody game, with two heroes facing each other, becoming fast friends, then dying. Joshua’s name-dealer was much at the center of it, and came out in a similar place to where she went it. I didn’t contribute as much as I might have liked, but enjoyed the game thoroughly.

I got a bit of rest Saturday afternoon. Then, at Saturday 8pm, I played Infinite Galaxies. Bill White ran the game, which is essentially Star Wars run through Dungeon World. I played a surly robot. Rich played a battle-hardened veteran. Greg played a literal pirate. Eric played a cryptic psychic. The game itself was okay, Dungeon World often leaves me cold. But the table was a hoot. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.

I got to chat with a handful of people Saturday night and Sunday morning at the booth, which was great. I have stepped away from designing games before. It always leaves me a bit at-ends in these sorts of conversations. But last time I stepped away, I didn’t have something to fill that space in my life, the way that writing is doing currently.

It was great to see everyone! Thanks for a great Dreamation!

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.