While driving back from DDC, I said to my carmate, Joel, that I’d give the con a B. I’m inclined more to a B- now. In case anyone was looking for V:TES stuff, there’s very little.
Friday, I had to get to the con before noon to run my noon game. Ridiculous that there were any noon games as it wasn’t that long ago that local conventions started at 7PM or so on Fridays. There were 16 tabletop RPGs at noon. I picked up Joel a bit before 9AM and we got there 1.5 hours before my targeted time. It was actually quite pleasant. I got checked into the hotel immediately. I had time for a leisurely breakfast.
I went to my game an hour early and somebody came by looking to crash soon after I arrived. I never saw him again. Either he got into another game or he remembered me and wanted nothing to do with my running another game for him. In the end, I had one no show and one crasher, so it worked, and it appeared that noon on a Friday was a reasonable time to schedule 16 tabletop RPGs. I was running an adventure I hope to eventually get published.
It went better than expectations, yet there’s a good reason I’m not a fan of GMing. The whole rest of the con I kept thinking about how things could have gone better. The main thing I would have preferred is fighting out a final fight, but my time management is questionable and we had to leave the room at 6PM, so there wasn’t time. I definitely need to work on making character goals less vague, combats more common, and combats happen earlier in one-shots.
I probably should have tried to play something Friday evening – it would have taken my mind off of my game. Instead, we walked 20 minutes to a local shopping center as we are all quite bored with the nearby offerings at this con. We waited 30-45 minutes for a table, which didn’t bother me a whole lot since I had nothing to do, but it would be something of a theme to the con.
I also got bad heartburn and slept very little, defeating my being done for the day early. In the morning, I checked to see if I got in my 10AM game or the 8AM backup game, tried to sleep a bit more when it was the 10AM but largely failed, and went to my 10AM.
I got there very early, so I talked to the GM for a bit. The system was his homebrew based on a few things he liked. It’s downloadable, as is at least the main game he based it on. The plot was what was highly amusing.
A puppetmaster has a teenage, animated puppet that has gone missing right before his birthday. If he doesn’t make it to his birthday party in time, he loses what life he has. If he does make it, he turns into a real boy.
This was exactly the scenario that I had played in an adventure at Gen Con. Of course, knowing virtually nothing about the real story of Pinocchio until I just looked it up online, I didn’t catch that they were both riffing on the actual story.
Even more coincidental was that both adventures were set in fantasy worlds where the common Tolkien races could be found. Since we created characters for this session, I recreated to the best of my ability the character I played at Gen Con – Grillo the Muslim Turk Goblin. After the session, I asked the GM whether he ever went to Gen Con, but he said he never had.
So, an elf high wire entertainer, a dobbin (hobbit) thief, a human noble, a human musketeer, a dobbin musketeer, and Grillo went looking for Knotty. Knotty proved very popular with the local brothel. His two abductors were bribed and we went to find Darius, The King of Magic. We scoped him out and he didn’t have Knotty, either. We found Xerxes and a back entrance to Lord Montaigne’s residence, where the lord explained that he bought Knotty and sent him with his (infatuated) daughter to be presented to the Sultan of Turkey. We take the lord’s flying carpet, get to the hotel they are at, continue to explain the need to get Knotty back in time or he will be lifeless (and, apparently, sexless), take out a few guards and start flying back. The carpet becomes damaged, so we get stuck. I and another fall 700′ feet into the ocean as we try to get to a fishing boat. The Sultan captures us and lets us go.
It was perfectly fine. One of the players was new to RPGs, but unlike a lot of new players, she was very active and outgoing. The group was humorous. The adventure could have been less linear and harder – a lot of NPCs simply gave us info and helped us. Time had something to do with that, but it seemed like nobody really cared about preventing us from doing what he wanted once we told them what would happen if he didn’t get back.
I had no real interest in Saturday evening games, so I hung out with nothing to do and went for dinner. Sandra found a Chinese restaurant online that was near but questionably walkable, so I encouraged going there but nobody wanted to give up a parking space. Eventually, Misha was willing to drive but wanted to go to Zachary’s for Chicago style pizza. Okay, whatever. As it happened, this Zachary’s was table deficient and we waited an hour. It didn’t bother me much. One problem was that Eric got a thin crust pizza and it was overcooked, not that they seemed to do thin crust all that well to begin with. The pizza I shared was decent and the small was the right amount of food for the two of us.
We got back, I ended up playing some pickup Alien Frontiers. What was funny about this game, which had a lot in common with Alea Iacta Est as a Yahtzee style dice-rolling game where you placed dice, was that I liked it a lot more in the beginning and a lot less at the end. It was obvious where everyone stood at all times and variances in points were small enough that the endgame was a bore of trying to manage two-on-ones (we had three players). The endgame needs some serious work, but the rest seemed okay
Then, Brad, Jeff, and I played V:TES with a guy and his daughter. He had just opened up a bunch of cards and had some decks, hadn’t played the game in a while. Jeff is all thrilled to play Madness of the Bard out of a borrowed deck; the 12 yr.-old gets a couple of VPs. In the second game, I realize my For/Vic anarch deck has no way to oust people.
Sunday, the only game I was trying to get into was at 2PM, so I tried sleeping in.
Eric was willing to give up his parking space, so we hunted for the Chinese place. We hunted a lot. Again, in no particular hurry, I didn’t really care about driving around shopping centers looking for the place. I did have to finally call my mother to do an online search as neither of us had smartphones, and we finally found it. It was closed. We went across the street to another Chinese place. It was bizarre. It was dark. There was lots of seating in multiple rooms. I wondered going in whether it was a fancy place with ridiculous prices. My thought wasn’t weakened when we got a simple foldup menu like fancy places do and opening the menu gave the same sort of limited choice style that fancy restaurants more often do. But, the prices were reasonable. Not good but reasonable. The food was decent, though the portion sizes were modest. Each category had about six choices, so there were enough options to find interesting things. The ambience was just so weird, though. The other group left and we were the only ones there. Halfway in, they turned on one of the lights, making it less dark but still nightclubby. The people were nice, probably because they were new and had no business. We were asked to order some food to go by Jeff still back at the con, the cost of which was excessive for what it was.
Back to gaming, though apparently food was more interesting than gaming at this con. I get into my 2PM game, Torchwood using the Dr. Who system (the new one) with slight modifications to make it deadlier to PCs. We spent the first hour just learning about our characters. We spent the next two hours going through a door.
The opening was that there is a real bar, The Edison, in Los Angeles across from the LAPD Station. Torchwood’s LA facility was underneath The Edison. The LA staff disappeared a few days earlier, the branch going offline. I, Jasper Daly, was pulled out of retirement. Two Torchwood staff, Carter and Helen, came over from Cardiff. Our team lead, Mustafa, came from San Francisco. Our LAPD liaison was Axel. The Edison’s bartender Liz knew a lot about Torchwood, including one of the agents. There was another player …
We spent a ridiculous amount of time futzing around in The Edison, arguing about who would go through the secret door to the facility, who would stay outside, etc. Liz was too eager to go in for Carter’s interests, and this caused a huge problem. The player of Carter was someone who believed that dice cannot change your mind, that dice are only used to resolve actions. The group just wanted to explore the facility after we finally opened it up, but he didn’t want Liz going down, even though the team lead was cool with it.
I had a feeling even beforehand that things would be kind of rough with the personalities at the table. Liz’s player just wanted him to roll dice, making a valid argument that suspicion was already built into a die roll, but saying it in such a way that would only antagonize the guy. Another player tried to argue that this was like a TV show where illogical things happen to move the plot, which was a terrible argument for this sort of player. Another player was of the mindset that, if you don’t want to roll dice, play a LARP, which is also valid but not helpful, though he also argued that in character the team lead had said it was fine, which was a more helpful argument. Assuming anyone actually listened. So many people were talking constantly that only the GM was likely to get anywhere. The GM said that social conflict was part of this game system, so dice-rolling was appropriate. The player bowed out of the game. His wife was also playing. She was new to role-playing. She also left.
Me? I gave up on trying to get a word in. Too many people arguing, and I felt like nothing would convince the guy, anyway. My argument would have been that suspicion that Liz was the enemy was appropriate – my character would be suspicious, too. But, the player was being disingenuous in his arguments. He had made up his mind that she was the enemy, not just had suspicions of it. There was no basis to believe that. Now, I’m fine with dice influencing thinking, but even if I weren’t, his thinking was unrealistic, for all his claims that he was being a true role-player and being in character.
3.5 hours into the game, and the seventh player hadn’t even been introduced. She took over Helen and the group e-hunted the con for another player to get us back to six.
Once the new group got together, we finally did stuff. Investigation. Bomb going off killing our leader … So, it may have been a conceit of the GM’s to show how deadly the game could be, but damage in Dr. Who is incredibly lethal, often one-shot lethal, and the GM took away the Story Point mechanic of reducing damage, which is how Dr. Who characters survive alien weapons. Mustafa came back, well, in a new body, so the party remained functionally intact. We fought a Cyber-Dalek before getting coordinates to the base of the tri-brid human, Dalek, Cyberman forces.
I think I’ll cut short on descriptions of the action to remain “brief”. Jasper survived, transmatting by himself out of the crumbling base, and returned to his retirement without another word to the team. Liz and Axel didn’t. Mustafa got a new body.
We finished 2.5 hours late. Scheduled for 8 hours, finished after 10.5 hours. It didn’t bother me to run long as the last 5 hours was a decent game without player conflict, but everyone was a bit perturbed by the scene and/or the delays.
Monday morning was not ideal as I just wanted to sleep but, my alarm at 6:30AM went off, waking me. We had to get going for Brad’s 8AM Dark Continent game. When I got down there, two people had backed out due to tiredness and Eric, who should have crashed with someone at the con, decided his lack of hotel room for Sunday night meant leaving the con.
So, we only had three players and only one who wasn’t part of the gang. We skipped the outfitting part of the expedition, using the same outfitting we had done in our home run of the adventure. We quickly made it from Adulis to Gondar where our patron wanted us to rescue her boyfriend from Emperor Theodore. The home game only got to Gondar. This group strode into the citadel compound and ran across the Vulture Cult advisor to the crazy emperor. One member was started in on being corrupted by the cult. The other two of us got poisoned. Kevin’s character died.
Easy death seemed oddly common for the con.
I critted my medical check, shot some cocaine into his heart and revived him. His fit after being revived was passed off as epilepsy. We bought some guard disguises and did the “we’ve brought a new prisoner” bit, which led to fighting guards in the night. We broke out a Euro from the dungeon, but it wasn’t our man, though he did tell us where the others had been taken. Jeff showed up to play the new character. I shot him with Coke to get moving and Morphine to take the edge off.
Guards made a move on our caravan, but the influenced PC showed them the nifty statue he got from Vulture dude and we got out of Gondar. On the way to Wenchi (not the one in Ghana, have no idea where this is on a modern map), we are followed by a vulture. We shoot at it, someone besides our group shoots it in the heart – the heart being our preferred location for mayhem. Our guide to Gondar reveals himself as someone who knows about the vulture cult. We recover the body, which turns out to be a cultist with a letter saying to kill all of the prisoners.
Using copious amounts of walnut oil to disguise ourselves as Ethiopians, again, we go to the mountain top fortress of the cult where they are preparing festivities – torturing and eating people. After locating the prisoners, Horace Pocock (not to be confused with the famed Pococks) has had enough of this villainy and directs our Askari escort to open fire on the celebrants. We retreat into the church while Alexander, the American engineer, works with a priest to lower prisoners down the mountain with a winch, Samuels, who we liberated at Gondar goes after the leader who got shot in the groin and can’t get up, and James, the Scot explorer, starts crawling that way too.
After much shooting, including Alexander taking out flying cultists, and jumping down the rope with the priest, leaving our patron’s boyfriend behind, Samuels offs the leader, and we stagger back down the mountain while the horde tries to make sense of what we did.
Failure. Though, we did save three prisoners, so we got a good amount of Renown for the mission. I only hope, when I pass my journals to the children of the priest’s daughter, that future generations will know that Horace Pocock did what he could in the Almighty’s name to smite the abominations.
One last thing about the Dark Continent session: it had a lot of combat. We had more combat than we usually do playing Conan. I find that notable, even if con games might be inclined more towards combat because of more aggressive players.
Did a reasonable amount of stuff, actually got into every game I signed up for, though I think preregging had something to do with that as I’m inclined to believe they favored people who registered for games before the con. Games were good. Food waits didn’t really bother me. By the way, did go to the Chinese place after the con, cheap, good ingredients, not exciting food, no place to sit so ate it at home after dropping off Joel. Why not a higher grade? Guess it’s more a lack of anything really special. I didn’t buy anything. My world wasn’t rocked by a new game, though I did like the Dr. Who mechanics, they have a very strong Buffy/Angel feel, just replacing a d10 with 2d6. I didn’t sleep well at any point. Solid but unspectacular.