Breakfast and con meals
Glorious breakfast. I have to say the dorm cafeteria food at the con was pretty nice. As part of the convention cost you get tickets for breakfast and lunch. The tickets are a little restrictive sounding, in that they say you are only allowed to have 1 hot item, and 1 salad bar, and 1 fountain drink, etc. So no, it's not all you can eat. But the food amount that you get is still plenty (more than I could eat at times). And the cafeteria had at least a few stations, so there was always a bit of variety, and the simple standards (like burgers and sandwiches and a pretty decent salad bar).
First game: Ship Lanterns
Ran into Jim Pinto (of postworldgames fame), who I've played with a few times at Strategicon, and I kept in touch with when coming up to the con. He coerced me (without too much resistance) into playing with him, and I likewise coerced Jerry into joining us. We got a few more players. And then we launched into Ship Lanterns, a protocol game.
Now, as far as a description of the protocol system, here is the one from drivethrurpg: The Protocol game series uses vignettes, interrogations, interludes, and ensembles to tell a story. Each story explores disparate characters dealing with adversity and isolation in a dramatic fashion. There are a few mechanical devices, including a deck of cards (as the randomizer which provides story framing and other input), as well as tokens that represent drama points (that are spent by the players).
Ship Lanterns specifically deals with "wish-fulfillment gone awry and set in a Southeast Asian village. Children gather on a bridge to throw cherry blossoms into the water, asking the river spirit (Thuy-Tinh) to grant their wishes. Characters take on the roles of children, dealing with the results of their wishes."
The Protocol system immediately allowed us to define all sorts of relationships between the characters, including lust (which sounds like it could be dangerous when playing children) however all the players really played the shit out of this game and it never got weird (without us wanting it to be weird). Of course it was a Jim game, so it did get dark... one NPC had a coma, and was later murdered by one of us as a sacrifice, a wayward soldier gave a kid his gun, all but one character had sad endings, and the one happy ending involved a kid stepping on a land mine.
This was my second (or third?) time playing a protocol game, and I definitely have a better handle on how the system works. The part which initially confused me (and takes a little time to sink into my skull) is the difference between the different scene types (vignettes, and the others that come in this game). But once you have that down, it rolls well.
If you like narrative driven games, and you haven't gotten to play with Jim, I highly recommend doing so.
Again, food was good. Great salad bar, and I think I had the black bean veggie burger, but with bacon. Delicious. Also, we had a nice big group of folks, and again everyone was easy to mix and talk to. Great crowd.
For the second game on the Saturday they have a special version of The Donut (introduced earlier), called The Lottery. Instead of calling for games, they let all participants place their name tags into a "hat", and then draw them in groups of 4 (or roughly four, depending on the total number of participants). These groups then find a table, and play. What do they play? Well, obviously that's up to the table. You can see how this might go awry, however it seemed to work pretty well.
Not interested in this level of randomness? No problem, there are still sign-up games, and of course you can just grab people you like and go gaming, separately.
But I wanted to give this a try, and ended up with a group that consisted of Lucien (one of the same players from the morning Ship Lanterns game), and two others. One guy mentioned he could run Microscope, and I expressed interest, since I'd never done so.
Second game: Microscope
Have heard about this for a while, but all I knew was that it was a collaborate exercise in world building. Check the Microscope website at Lame Mage Productions for details, but here are a few summarizing statements:
- Mock chronological order.
- Defy time and space.
- Build worlds and destroy them.
That pretty accurately sums up most of the feel of the game. I've played The Quiet Year before, and found this game equally accessible and well structured. There are definitely specific mechanics and rules in place that restrict the way narration and collaboration occur, but specifically to benefit the ability for everyone to share narrative control. You can see how it's been playtested many times by many people to produce a fairly simple structure that yields beautiful exposition.
I won't go into the details of our game, but we decided to explore a sci-fi setting, where magic is introduced and begins to gain in power (however, is incompatible with technology). One "bookend" - the frames between which the game is explored - is the discover of magic, and the other is the "Magical Singularity" where humanity ends, which wasn't defined any further than that, at the outset. In the end we had an eons-long history of empires coming and going, struggles between magic and sci-fi factions, and eventually the discovery of a an alien plant race (that provided the magic through its seed pods). The Magic Singularity? That moment when the alien species combines itself with humanity (hence now they are "singular"), which ends both individual races to produce a galaxy spanning, magic wielding, super-race. Fun!
Dinner was included the first night, on Friday, but the after that it is only breakfast and lunch. So Jerry and I ran into Soren, and took him along with us. The streets were a bit mad, since just north of the University is the local gay district, and what do you know... the Supreme Court made a pleasant ruling that just happened to coincide with the Pride festival! So the streets were busy. We scoped out a local gastro-pub called Quinn's (thanks, Yelp). The beer was very good. And as always love eating with Jerry, because almost every meal is family style.
Third game: One Night Ultimate Werewolf
We returned back for the last official game of the night. Jerry had brought One Night Ultimate Werewolf, a party game not dissimilar to Werewolf (which itself is similar to Mafia, if you know it). A bit of a deductive party game where players take on the side of the villagers, or of the few werewolves who are trying to eat them up. Except instead of taking exponentially long (based on number of players), One Night Ultimate Werewolf can actually be played in a fairly short round.
As opposed to being played over many "nights" (rounds), this version is played in one quick session, and involves everyone (you don't need a dedicated narrator). After 2 or 3 rounds you quickly get it, and yep, I definitely like it much more than the traditional version.
It was definitely what I needed at about this time as well, as my mind and body were a bit fried, and I don't think I could've done an RPG justice.
We didn't play for too long, with many players about in the same shape as us: exhausted. Jerry headed back to sleep, but I stuck around for a little bit. Many folks were either wrapping up games, or playing other small ones. I taught some folks how to play Lost Cities. I ran into Jim, who's game didn't go quite as well as he would've like (read: got to hear him rant for a bit, always fun!), and finally went back to the dorms. It was hot, so shower and sleep, then woke up around 3am to take another shower, and then back to sleep.