While there’s still almost an entire day of Orccon 2011 left, alas, I had to head home. WHAT I great time. It differed a lot for Gateway 2010 (the last convention we attended) in several ways.
Firstly, I was very careful to make sure my schedule wasn’t too busy at Gateway — I only ran one game and then we recorded the podcast at 8pm on Saturday. This did give me a lot of free time to visit with people, meet listeners to the show, check out the exhibitor hall, eat, drink, be merry, etc.
At this most recent con, I threw caution to the wind. I ran two games on Saturday, did the podcast Saturday night and ran a third game with my good friend Bill Roper on Sunday. A full schedule — and a great deal of prep time for the games.
And while my schedule was very hectic, I don’t regret it a bit.
Arrived at the hotel about 5:15pm on Friday. It was cold and rainy. Got all my stuff unloaded, made it to my room and then went down to the bar where I bunch of friends, hosts and listeners were already assembled. I had the pleasure of meeting JiB, who flew in from Alabama, and Veremond, who flew in from Illinois. Great guys and great gamers.
As the night wore on, several folks had to go off to either run or play in 8pm games, and the rest of us kept on drinking and singing until about 1am.
First Game — GURPS 4th Edition Fantasy.
This was a special game for me. As some of you may know, I’ve been running a DnD4E campaign, which I put on hiatus when the party reached Paragon Level. I’m now porting the game over to run in GURPS 4th Edition, as I want a different and dangerous flavor for the next phase of the game, and as many of you may know, GURPS can be deadly.
I used this con game for two things. Firstly, I wanted to make sure I had an understanding of the game balance and flavor of 4th Ed. GURPS in a Fantasy setting for my campaign.
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, there were several plot-threads that the players in my home campaign had completely ignored. Some of these hooks would end up having some pretty significant effects on the storyline and the game world later on. So I determined that the results of the con game would have a direct effect on the future storyline in my home campaign.
A brief synopsis: The party was a group of adventurers who were hired by a merchant named Lothario Finger, as the behest of Xavier Birdstaff (Vizier to Duke Elkis) to rescue the infant child of a noble family that had been taken captive by soldiers from a mysterious city that magically appeared near the city where the party was based.
This was a group of players who were familiar with the GURPS system, and as such, they were a little reluctant to try to solve problems with violence. In fact, during the entire adventure, only twice did someone may a roll to attack. Almost every problem during the adventure was solved with reason and discussion.
There were some tense moments — in the final scene, the party was in the tower where the child was kept. They were surrounded by guards and archers (and a powerful mage). Swords were drawn. We went through one entire round of combat, and all anyone did was hold their actions — waiting to see what would transpire.
In the end, the party discovered (it was actually the PC with the lowest IQ who said, “maybe we’re supposed to rescue an Orc baby?”) the final plot twist. Both the mage and his guards and the party realized that their ends weren’t in conflict.
The mage surrendered the Orc infant (who was the child and only heir to a very powerful Orc chieftain — who was in peace negotiations with Duke Elkis). The infant the mage really need was a human infant of a peasant family (the city had an enchantment on it that required it to have a local inhabitant in the tower, or the city would spin off to another location or plane).
The mage assured the party that the child would live a life of comfort within the city.
The only blood spilled happened when the noblest of the PCs asked the guard captain who the human infant was. He said, “we stumbled upon a peasant family and I told them we required their child. They refused, so I killed them and took the baby.”
The PC impaled the guard in the heart with a thrusting broadsword. Since they were holding the mage hostage at arrow-point, they were able to make their escape.
It was a great group of players — they took the character concepts I’d given them and played them to a tee. I even had the pleasure of having one of my old gaming friends, Chris, at the table. I probably hadn’t seen him if 15 years, but it was just like old times.
Since there were no combats to speak of, the entire session lasted about 2 hours 20 minutes. I’m guessing if they’d taken one or two of the four combats I prepped for, it would have come in just under 4 hours (which was the time allotted).
Second Game — Hero 6th Ed. Fantasy Pulp/Space
aka: Big Blue Monkeys From Outer Space!
When I was prepping this game a few months ago, I came to a realization: Hero System may very well be the best game system for a pulp game. I don’t say this lightly — I’m a big fan of Savage Worlds, which is widely considered to be the go-to system for pulp. But I’ve detailed my opinion about this in a previous post.
Big Blue Monkeys From Outer Space! (BBMOS) is a setting I came up with after Tappy and I were discussing a steam-punk space setting. I think BBMOS is far sillier than what we originally talked about. As I described the setting and how physics work in the BBMOS universe, the players started asking questions.
When I said, “space has both a breathable atmosphere and gravity,” one of the players asked me, “which was does the gravity in space pull?” My answer: “down.” I think it was at this point that the players realized that we weren’t going to let physics get in the way of a fun story.
In this game, I designed the characters with an open rivalry. Three of the PCs were spacers from the US Army Space Corps, led by Captain Zap Zarquon, hero of the Pirate Wars. The other three PCs were spacers from the Royal Astro Froce, led by Space Leftenant Dash Derringer, hero of the Pirate Wars. There was a great deal of good-natured jibes across the table between the American and British spacers. Not as much as there was in the playtest, but I think part of that is the fact that it was a con game.
I’ve noticed that people in con games tend to be pretty focused on solving the mystery, winning the day, coming to the rescue. Players tend to be very goal oriented and they tend to cooperate. Everyone wants the party to succeed.
I think if I run a game like this in the future, I will preface the game with something like, “It’s okay to lose. It’s okay to be wrong. Some times, losing is the funniest thing you can do.”
It was a very fun game. Again, great players, most of whom had never played Hero System before.
I was a little nervous, as this was only the second Hero System game I’d run in probably 20 years. I think I did okay explaining the rules, as the combats increased in pace as the game progressed. I may have even convinced JiB to try out Hero System himself (mwahahaha!).
A Brief Synopsis: The party are the crew of the Corazon del Oro, a dirigible spacecraft from the USASF. A few months ago the supply of delicious and delectable bananas from the plantations of Saturn’s moon, Titan, have ceased. No word has been received from the Big Daddy Starbucks Banana Plantion, though many messages were sent. As the party sets sail, they are waylaid by pirates in the asteroid belt. Once they vanquish the pirates and search their ship, they realize that this is no mere fact-finding mission.
As this was Hero System, and I intentionally used a fusion of the Heroic and Super-Heroic rules, combat wasn’t deadly, but it was very fun. Lots of stun damage and knockback — and very little chance of anyone dying.
The players went at the plot hooks with tenacity. They were able to anticipate and avoid a few traps along the way. They also took the story to a couple places I had not anticipated…
In the end, they were able to unravel the mystery — and keep the bananas flowing.
We had a big crowd for the podcast recording (thank you to everyone who joined us). It ran just over two hours.
Hero System Champions
note to self: don’t run a 9am game when you’ve stayed up until 4am the night before trying to figure out what’s wrong with your recording hard drive.
another note to self: playtest.
Bill and I ran this game — it was one of those con games where you come up with a cool idea that you probably wouldn’t try in a home campaign. The idea was that the party was a group of superheroes. They are debuting their new headquarters. Suddenly something goes terribly wrong and all of the superheroes disappear. Then we hand out the character sheets for the real PCs — the not-so-good sidekicks, who now have to save the day.
Unfortunately, we hit the four-hour limit about 2/3rds through the story.
If we’d had the opportunity to playtest the game, we would have severely cut down the number of scenes.
All that being said, the players were awesome and embraced their characters.
I also have to say, Bill is one of the best GMs when it comes to NPC characterizations. He is fearless and quick. Even after all these years, I sometimes sit in wonder at his ability to create characterizations on the fly.
To Sum Up
It was a great weekend. It was a real pleasure to meet so many listeners. Many of the faces I saw at Gateway2010 are now becoming familiar. I got to share some beers and break bread with many people I’ve never met before, and that was probably the best part.