GenCon 2015 Wrap-Up
Posted on August 2nd, 2015
- Obtained: Pack O Game, Drinking Quest special map, Skorne Empire, Torchbearer combo pack, Paizo NPC face cards
- Played: Trash Planet, Eclipse Phase (Fate), Dungeon World, Project: Dark, Mind’s Eye Theater: Anarchs
- Ran: Of Dreams and Nightmares
As usual, I went early to get my will call items on Wednesday. I wasn’t able to stick around and do some free Wednesday night events (this time) because I was completing preparations for our Thursday night event.
We got all the materials for our event stashed away, but missed the Evil Hat Productions “State of the Hat" updates. I later found out that Evil Hat has been working on a cool-sounding RPG for the “Dystopian Universe" (of The Resistance, Coup, G54, and One Night Revolution fame). I have and enjoy these games (and art!) so am looking forward to this game.
I spent the first part of the day making it through the Exhibit hall. I got through about 2/3 of it and saw lots of cool stuff.
Pack O Game: this is a tiny little soft case that comes with 8 different games of various styles/mechanics (you can also get them independently). Each game is a small deck of cards (similar in size to the slim/mini version of Moo business cards). I am really looking forward to trying these. I have been trying to simplify my physical “stuff", and am also fond of ultra-portable items. These could be not only fun in general, but great to pack in a travel bag/camping pack.
Timid Monsters: these are amazing! They are small clay sculptures that are affordable, adorable, and just a tiny bit scary. I’m not one to collect geek trinkets, tchotchkes, busts, etc. but wanted most of these. I (later) settled for just one, a cyclopean horned monster named Wedgar. These are so excellent that I want to put together a minis game about what the Timid Monsters do when they are unobserved in your house, or an RPG about a world populated by them and big animals that try to capture them.
Drinking Quest beer-resistant Tyvek-cloth map: this was given to me by the creator, since I had the trilogy edition. It is supposed to be spill proof, so you can play with it and not worry about it.
Iron Kingdoms Unleashed: Skorne Empire: Privateer Press usually has a new Iron Kingdoms book at GenCon, and that was the case, again, this year. Like Eclipse Phase from Posthuman Studios, this is a brilliant setting with excellent writing, art, & layout. Also like Eclipse Phase, it’s a setting whose rules I would never prefer to run. The settings and books are so amazing, however, that I am willing to do my own conversion (which is made easier with things like Fate).
I also decided to get a game in before heading to my own, so I went to Games on Demand. As usual, there were a number of 2- and 4-hour RPGs and LARPs. While we were waiting to pick games, I got to meet the creator of #DBNDB in person and share some ridiculous new material I had heard about "brosé". I selected and played the following:
Trash Planet: This was a ton of fun. In Trash Planet, you are scavenging to survive in a situation where all the rich & powerful have moved away from the polluted planet. Things are messy, mutate-y, and grimsical. The rules are light and include emergent worldbuilding, consequence injection, and failure-at-a-loss.
I drew a wild min-max mix, so I made an equally wild character. KRF7-TP (“Crafttrap"):
- Crafty 5
- Clever 4
- Connected 1
- Cussed 1
Crafttrap is a small robot with an acetylene torch and some shiny rocks. He is totally not obnoxious at all. I promise. Really. He may or not have defeated the non-euclidean trash-swamp monster by removing the algae that had collected on its face. With the torch. When there was lots of methane. Sorry, everyone with skin. High five!
We all had a ton of fun, and I would recommend this as a great pick-up game. The GM invited us to join her online pickup games with our characters and any stuff we had collected and not used (such as my shiny rocks).
Next, I had to get ready to run our first game about the Lucid: Of Dreams and Nightmares. This was an Accidental Cyclops project, and we posted all our introductory material about the game here. We used a stripped-down version of the Blood & Tears rules.
Our room was not as ideal as last year, but, thankfully the hotel and event organizers let us spill into some space outside of our room. We set up two of the dream realms in one room, using PVC and tablecloths to create a wall. The third realm (our “island") was set in the space outside our room.
As with last year, there was a lot of flux on our event count starting at the moment when GenCon Will Call opened. We had one open slot before GenCon started and then 9 dropped & 8 added. We had no generic tickets and 1 no-show, for a total of 27 players (plus our 3 NPCs & 2 Staff).
We saw several really stellar outfits, including some neat thematic ones and a strider that could alter her outfit for each situation.
Our event flow went like this:
- Give people character sheets, imagination tokens, rules sheets, and a faction sheet
- Players read up, choose a name, and add any details they like
- We (re-)introduce the setting, the rules, and the guardians of the three domains
- Characters introduce themselves in numbered order
- Using those numbers, characters spend a bit of time fleshing out their ties based on good and bad history
I won’t share exact stories of what happened during play (because we may use this scenario again), but we had a lot of excellent roleplaying and some great moments. We mostly addressed the LARP problem of “exploratory excursions" by having well-bounded play sets (just the three tightly-defined dream domains). This left the staff a little freer, and left more characters interacting with each other. We received a lot of good feedback after the game, and are looking forward to doing more with this Lucid setting.
If you attended and would like to give us feedback, please send us a message.
With our LARP complete, I felt a lot freer, especially since it felt like a success. I wanted to play more and finish up the dealer hall, which I did. I got to play a couple games.
Eclipse Phase (Fate Beta): One of my GenCon joys and traditions is a yearly Eclipse Phase game. This year’s offering was Delphinium One. I was a robot for my second time at GenCon. This time I was an illegal Artificial General Intelligence on Mars (in the form of an RC sized smuggling truck with grippy pads that could take me up vertical surfaces), on a secret job for a faction-within-a-faction to deal with some existential threats to Transhumanity. These games are always special and really break open the options of what a roleplaying game can be about.
The Fate adaption was good, and mainly included tweaks to the skill list & aspect slot names, as well as the addition of a Morph and Muse. The Morph adds aspect(s), stunt(s), and potentially physical stress box(es). The Muse adds aspect(s), skill enhancement(s), and potentially mental stress box(es). As you’d expect, resleeving into another morph means that consequences can change shape (such as to become psychological trauma, debts, etc.). I think this setup works well. Having a quick ability to build morphs/muses or a list of stats for them (such as pairing them to the recognition cards) will let people pickup and play Eclipse Phase with Fate very easily.
Dungeon World (at Games on Demand): While there were some new things to try, I opted to get some DW in, because I wanted more experience with how others are running it. I may be running this again, soon, so I thought it would be a good refresher. This was a fairly typical “go get the orcs and goblins who are raiding stuff" situation. The best part of this session were the other players at the table, who brought a lot of flavor to the adventure.
I often long for the game to have more social “combat" and exploratory-related adventure, yet the RAW does not support this very well. I am really looking forward to the completion of the Perilous Journeys Kickstarter, which will help to address this space better. DW is still my go-to quick play fantasy game.
If you like Dungeon World, you should also check out these tools that a friend of mine created.
That evening, I also got to meet an out-of-town friend who I play an online game with. He, I, and another of his friends enjoyed excellent drinks and dinner at St. Elmo’s. Ron Swanson, unfortunately, was not there, but we had a great time, regardless.
Saturday, it was back to Games on Demand. I saw someone I recognized from infosec circles, and also some other acquaintences. GoD onboarding was a bit better, this year. We weren’t forbidden from checking out the games ahead of time, and also usually had more opportunity to select a game without being rushed. I was really torn on what to select for my next game, but I couldn’t turn down playing this:
Project:Dark: This was run by the creator, Will Hindmarch. He is an incredible GM & poet, and it is a joy to play this game with him. The game is a “stealth adventure storytelling" game wherein players use a deck of cards & simple character sheet to play. The GM uses maps (if necessary) and dice. There are two wonderfully serendipitous design aspects of this game. First, the number of cards you can use scales with the “stealth level" of your situation. This makes using the cards feel so right for the setting. Second, when trying to accomplish an action, you can best use whatever is “suited" to the task (and this means both as in “appropriate" and the “correct card suits").
I’ve been working on various playing card-based based RPG designs on and off over the years, and none have felt remotely this good. (Granted, I have stronger constraints on mine, such as using 1 deck and not needing extra “stuff" except maybe notecards/memo book and a writing instrument, such that this could be a “impromptu travel card-based RPG".) It really evokes the right feelings as you play.
When I played last year with Will at GenCon, he was testing a publishable module. It was probably the best tabletop session I’d ever played. I came out of it wowed by the game (even more than I had when backing it on Kickstarter), but also nervous that I would not be able to run the game without lots of prep or published scenarios. This year, he was demoing a way of running the game that makes it possible to do precisely that.
We used our skills to obtain introductory details about various theft-worthy items, and made our plan-of-attack. As usual in Dark, we then went through the Gumshoe-inspired casing, analysis, and preparation rounds before popping into action. However, the game allows for the fact that the characters are master thieves, and the players are not, so it allows for flashbacks of preparation. We ended up using our first loot to help get the second, and the second to barter for a third, and the third to help us get info to find the fourth. The fourth, of course, finished in an epic style.
This was, again, a great experience. I now have a better feel for how I could run it without tons of prep or a published module. I am really looking forward to the books, cards, and maps. Everything I have seen is gorgeous, so far, and full of meaning.
In addition to the main setting, there will be information for a couple sci-fi options, which still sound great. I am also considering building a twist for a version using the engine that focuses on a different resource than stealth, such as scarce supplies, spirits, magical/psychic energy, etc.
I got to I picked up a few more things after the event, including the Torchbearer combo (book, screen, and deck) and some more “Face Cards" from Paizo, which I find to be a useful system-neutral play aid. While “gritty dungeon delve" isn’t my favorite genre, I was eager to see Torchbearer’s evolution of the Burning Wheel/Burning Empires/Mouse Guard system, while we wait on Mouse Guard version 2 to be released. One of the great things about these systems is the non-combat conflict systems and the “pick a maneuver and reveal" minigame for handling conflicts.
Oddly, my last event for GenCon was not actually officially part of it. Our local independent troupe for Mind’s Eye Theater Anarchs venue met at an actual theater, nearby, and we had a blast.
Thanks to all of you who helped make this event happen!