Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fan Expo 2012 - The Post Con Recap

Fan Expo happened, and while there was the usual snafus with badges and stuff it was the best run one I've been at, which isn't saying all that much.  While I love the man who runs the gaming section, the convention as a whole has frequently left me feeling that this is the Red Headed Stepchild of the convention. Yeah, sure you're there and yeah it might be a draw but whatever really.

That being said, there was still plenty of good times to be had. The RPG room was full and always jumping.  The Board game area didn't have a moment that I looked in where it wasn't full of people doing stuff. It's good to see it growing.

I did some awesome panels, which I'll probably steal a page out of Malcolm's book and do them one at a time. I did a panel on doing your own game, the state of the industry, and board game design with some awesome people.

However, the games.

I ran one game of Critical!: Go Westerly and another of Geasa.

Geasa was amazing, I was a little nervous because there were some younger players who first asked me, "Okay, so like what level do we start at" which is usually the sign of death. Not that they can't be great players, but when you fall asleep at the table during the creation part of the game ... usually that's a giant flashing neon sign that just says, "Oh shit."

The game set up ended up being a space exploration unit. The explorer, the captain, the medic, the engineer and the science officer all go down to this planet, after some hiccups on the way which caused the explorer to yell at the rest of the crew, putting him on the wrong foot. Eventually they hit the surface of the planet and after one crew member dies exploring a lake they find this fish. With some Fae shenanigans in the way they end up plugging the fish into their engine, which powers the entire ship better than what was already there. Of course, this meant that they needed to control the fish because the captain saw it as his way to owning his ship and being filthy rich, the scientist saw it as her ultimate discovery, the explorer saw fame and fortune, the engineer saw it as an opportunity, and the doctor had a mission to discover some new life.  They killed many people to secure the fish, to the point where they couldn't really trust each other and were waiting for everyone else to make their move to eliminate the competition.

After all, those who control the fish ... controls the universe.

Critical! was our adventure You All Meet In a Tavern and it's always funny to see how different players react to playing this game.

No one killed any kobolds, though the wizard was chomping at the bit to do so.
Angelique managed to kill two Fairies with one blow by throwing them into each other, which then covered the Dwarf with Fairy dust ... so he began to float. They tied a piece of rope around his foot while he was screaming "Nobody drags the dwarf!" at them.

We even had a musical number ... or two. I got the player playing Mabel to write them down because sharing really is caring.

When the first mate
Throws you overboard
To the sharks. (Oh Lord!)
That's caaaaaaalled a mutiny.

When the bilge rats
Try to tie you down,
When you've run aground
That's aaaaaalso a mutiny.

If you hate your crew
And they hate you too
They might hatch a plan
And try to M-U-erder you!

But if you take the time,
To keep your crew in line
With a keelhaul now and then,
You ... will ... be ... fiiiiiiiiin!

Needless to say he convinced Ailee that she needed to take her skeletons, her organ, and her story to the theatres of Westerly. It took some convincing, but it ended up being hilariously awesome.  So, after poking the dwarf balloon a couple of times she made her way, with Mabel, to begin discussing plans for the musical.

Fun times had by all really.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Gen Con 2012 - The Post Con

So ... Gen Con.


Little big this year. I'm late to writing this post so you're well aware that Gen Con this past year scored 41k unique badges.  That's a lot of people, and it kind of felt like it. If you don't know what my schedule kind of is like, I tend to spend most of my time at the Smirk and Dagger booth helping out because they make great games and they're just a phenomenal group of people.

That said when they opened the door to the VIGs (I still hate that name, for some unknown reason) I completely lost track of the time and found myself going, "This is pretty good for a Thursday, excellent pacing for demo time, lots of people wandering about."

Then they opened the doors and I wondered if I had managed to time warp into Saturday. It was huge, tonnes of people everywhere and it was non stop.  However, I'm sure you already know that.

I ended up running four games there, and there were some great moments.

The game of Geasa ended up being about the military during Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the two main plot lines that formed out of it were a Navy SEAL instructor who wanted to come out to his Base Commander Dad, the second was a denied applicant who was looking for revenge and her idiot cousin on the Base.

There was a really great moment too, the phone call between the dad and the son.  It was just priceless.

"Son, your mother told me to call back because I might have been a bit abrupt. What is bothering you?"
"You would like to come over for dinner? We'll make it intimate ... about 12 people."

The other moment when the mom was there to support her son coming out to the dad, and watched him slink away in utter terror. It was heartbreaking.

The Importance of Being Gwendolyn went off swimmingly well.  There was someone who was just happy to be there because she loved the title, and she didn't leave the game disappointed at all.

There was also more cookie mayhem, with all the stomping and crashing in the Run For Your Life Candyman game. I picked up a copy of Advanced Dimensional Green Ninja Educational Preparatory Super Elementary Fortress *breathes in deep* 555. Ports of Call for Bulldogs!  Saw some people, ate some food.

Gen Con, basically.  Not to say that it was perfect, I have heard things about stuff which is more than disconcerting. However, that's GenCon too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

RPG Review Recess - Mythender

Bow before me mortals as I tell you a tale from far beyond, of myths and legends who are keeping you down and oppressing you for their own petty grievances, and their thirst of power!

Tremble with fear as you hear my voice, my loud and epic voice shudder through your bones about a game that should be played when you wish to smash All the Gods, All the Time with the might of your Flaming Sword of High Death and your Flaming Fist Hand Full of Dice! You shall hear the story of the Mythender!

For those who are unaware of what Mythender is, I know I had only heard it told in fables and stories around the RPG table, it is a game that is best described (and oft described by its author Ryan Macklin) as a game where you get to stab Thor in the face, with your Scarred Javelin of The Ancestors or any other pointed object you so wish to stab him with. It is a game about ultimate success, and the price you pay in order to achieve your ultimate success.

What price is that you ask? Well this massive pillar of light with glowing red eyes that float throughout the pillar is not my true form. Indeed I was once a mere mortal before my Mythic Heart was awakened and now find myself closer and closer to Godhood myself, that despised and wretched state that I wish to reverse before I find myself the very Gods I despise with all my Mythic Heart.  If I do, it will fall to my brethren to slay me as soon as they can.

The game itself is not for the faint of heart, or arm. There is a multitude of dice required for it, it is quite simply spelled out for you at the beginning of the book that if you don't want your table covered in dice then this is probably not the game for you. You will be lifting scads of dice and rolling them, watching them bounce across the table only to give you more dice the next time you have to roll them for an action.

That's the very bare bones description of the mechanic.  You roll dice to get more dice which allow you to get more dice, to get more dice until you're rolling so many dice that the table falls under it's majestic weight. Hyperbole? Only a bit, I swear I saw the table buckle as I passed by a game of this during Gen Con.  It was the Mythic Land itself crying out for relief from the awesomeness of the Mythenders that surrounded the table.

But that's what makes this game live up to the billing of being amazing. There's a lot of power in the tactile sense of rolling a huge handful of dice. Here you just do it killing Gods.

Character creation is very template oriented, you pick your background, why you became a Mythender and the Myth you're working towards.  You then create what you look like at every stage, and your three Mythic Weapons which fall into three categories Intrinsic (for things that you are), Artifacts (for things you have), and Companions (for those you have with you). I might have got the exact terminology wrong, but that's because I don't have the book in front of me?

Why don't I have it in front of me? Because it's power has burned itself into my mind. It is an all powerfully entertaining thing to read as well.

Be wary mortal, or you might find your Mythic Heart opening up and you will walk the paths that I have walked towards your very doom.  Especially since he's going to be giving it away for free. A very tempting offer indeed.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fan Expo - 2012 Schedule

Hey folks,

While Gen Con is just around the corner you can't forget that Fan Expo is just around, just around that corner.  Like someone with a club ready to take your money after you deal with the first mugger.

That said, I'll be on a couple of panels and have a game to run, which will be fun.

To be fair, my panels are mostly me going to be sitting there and being very quiet since I'm going to be on some panels with @RobinDLaws and @montejcook, mainly because they use their middle initials in their twitter profiles but also because they're rather large luminaries in the industry.

Here are the panels and the times that they're going to be:

I wrote the narrative backstory of an Orc!, Saturday 4 pm room 715
Reflections on the gaming industry, Saturday  6 pm room  707
Board Game Design, sunday 1 pm room 715

I'm also going to run an undisclosed game of Critical!: Go Westerly at the follow time:

Friday, 3:00 pm room 706

Fun times will be had, and apparently I'm going to be doing a lot of sitting there and saying not much.

UPDATE: note that I'm not on the kickstarter panel and my game is earlier in the day. I think it's at 3:00 pm but I can be wrong at that.  It's just earlier in the afternoon, or whatever the afternoon slot is.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Gen Con 2012 - Schedule

So there's that Gen Con thing. I heard it's pretty popular and stuff. I have games, if you're interested in showing up for them. There is a problem, most of them have kind of sold out. The games in italics have been sold out.

Anyway, here's the list of events.

RPG1230182 You All Meet in a Tavern Thu @ 2:00 PM
Location: JW :: 312 :: 3

RPG1230185 A Cursed Night Thu @ 10:00 PM
Location: JW :: 312 :: 4

RPG1230183 You All Meet in a Tavern Fri @ 2:00 PM
Location: JW :: 312 :: 3

RPG1230184 The Importance of Being Gwendolyn Sat @ 2:00 PM
Location: JW :: 312 :: 1

Saturday, August 4, 2012

RPG Review Recess - curse the darkness

I ended up picking up a game a little while ago called curse the darkness from Play Attention Games.  It had a pretty nifty kickstarter going, but if you missed that they're pretty close on getting the game out.  It was going to be arriving at Gen Con but printer problems being printer problem it's not going to make it.

The game itself springs from a simple premise, what if someone with enough anger and enough power could simply do away with all the things that they felt were the cause of all the world's suffering?  What if someone could use the shadows that have terrified us for ever and show that there really was something to fear?  It is ten years after this did happen, after His voice rang out of the shadows and entire cities fell beneath the powerful grip of his shadowy minions.  He declared that the only rule now was to take care of each other, all other ideology was banned and anyone not following those rules would be met with the only punishment available ... death.

Of course, this is funnily enough an ideology.  Something I'm sure that was ... Oh! AH! *dies*

I'm sorry, the previous reviewer made fun of HIM, and therefore was met with an untimely death.  Which is something you will have to get used to in this game.  Because ultimately it's not really about the individual people.  It's really a game that talks about cultures and societies and how we deal with this kind of stricture.  When you start the game, the gaming group will decide where they're located in the world, how they are following the rules, and how they're breaking them.  When I got to play this at Origins, and I really enjoyed how it gave you a sense of what your community was about and where you were going to end up transgressing.  Making a character is really just putting a few numbers down in your stats and coming up with a keyword that describes something about the character.  It's pretty simple, which is important because that character you just made up is no stronger than the piece of paper it's written on. If you want a game where you take one character and progress them from immaturity to power then you will want to go elsewhere because that won't happen here.  Your characters are made quick, and die faster.

That's okay though, because even in death they do serve a purpose.  There's a mechanic in the game that talks about remembering the falling, and bringing them up to help you through troubling times which is mimics with a memory point system.  Now, when I got to play this game there was someone who really was trying hard to game the system where they would try to bring up anyone no matter what the situation or circumstance, no matter what the relationship they had with that character.  This is not a flaw with the game, that's just going to happen sometimes because there are people who are like that and -- I didn't do anything!  What! *gurgle* *dies*

Okay, I am your third reviewer and let's talk about why there might be some gaming to be had with this game.  The rules themselves are very gameable.  It's kind of somewhat encouraged, particularly when it comes to things like Removal Challenges.

What's a Removal Challenge, well ... let me back up a bit.  The game revolves around two kinds of challenges.  The first is when no one has a chance of being killed.  That one just involves a target number and the current face up card in your applicable stat.  If you have higher, you succeed.  If you have lower, then you fail.  Nothing too traumatic, you just may need a different way to solve a problem.  However, once you've done enough of these Challenges you move onto the Removal Challenge.  That's where the live in death thing happens.  The players get a chance to stack the deck in order to try to get a favourable outcome out of the four available.  You either succeed and live, succeed and die, fail and live or fail and die. Of course your GM is trying to stack the deck against the players, so it's not like everyone isn't busy trying to figure out what's the best way to come out of this in one piece.

I'm not really going to go over how it works here.  This really is one of those games that you kind of have to walk through the steps in order to really get it.  Not that you need the Game Designer there to explain it to you, but after reading it I only understood because I had seen it played out.  It's one of those things that's kind of odd and complicated to explain but kinda really easy to show.  It's like magic trick that you just don't get until you physically hold the cards in your hand and go step by step through the instructions. I mean, no wait it's just illusions ... all in good fun ... I mean AARRRRRRRRRGH! *dies*

Okay, the one other big thing that I think is lacking is mentions of antagonistic play between the characters.  No matter what HE says, there will be moments when you just don't like each other and that's going to come to a head.  There are small things, like getting the ability to fresh (get more cards) for your stats when you shut down a memory conversation, but I'd like a really big section on what happens with being angry with each other.  I would probably like a little bit more of interest in a player when they curse the darkness as well.  A section on things you can do to help fuel that "keeping my head down" or even "being the informant" kind of way.  Something like encouraging players who have cursed the darkness to give points to the GM for when they feel that other players have broke the rules.

The pictures are pretty awesome, but I will say I am disappointed a little bit at the graphitti.  Not that I could do better than what's in there myself, but I was hopping for a little more subtle insertions of it.  Don't ask me how, maybe behind some text, on the sides, bigger, smaller ... just something to break up what I was seeing in the graffiti.

Ultimately, I think curse the darkness is pretty successful at what it does.  It gives you a very different frame work from a lot of different games, and really makes you look at the whole culture you're playing in, rather than just the characters themselves.  There's a lot of tension in the Removal Challenges, and in the way that you get to have HIM randomly show up unannounced to see if the players are breaking the rules.  Of course you ultimately have to decide if you want to keep fighting and light a candle, or just give up and hope not to be notice by cursing the darkness.

There, I survived that.  I guess we should have a funeral for the other reviewers.  Assuming we can find the pieces of them.  If you want the game, the PDF is currently available on DriveThru RPG.

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