Big Bad Con 2016: Friday

Game arrives!

So, I left my Lego box at the cafe in Burbank airport on the way up to the bay area, back on Wednesday morning. Security confiscated it (and of course security is located outside the terminal), and I found out during the boarding process of our plane. Super suckie.

I was stressing on the flight, since I think the game shines with the Lego props, but thought of a few alternatives: maybe Dread it up? Fortunately, the lost-and-found lady at Burbank was dope, and helped me out by Fedex-ing the game box to the hotel. It arrived Friday morning, and I was set to go!


Last year I was impressed by the the con badges at registration. They included your name on the front, and optional twitter tag (or whatever), but also had your scheduled games listed on the back, including times and room numbers. I consistently heard people marveling at that magic. They also give you little buttons based on all sorts of things like if you pledged to the KickStarter (which helped fund private rooms for all games!) and if you are a GM.

They added pronoun stickers, which I think is awesome in being able to get everyone comfortable about gender associations for their conversation partners. And there are always a bottomless well of conversations, in my experience.

And then they took it to the next level: Playbooks. They created little playbooks to gamify social interactions at the con. You could choose one of them from Mage, Explorer, Ambassador, and Rogue, initially. Each of these had some basic principles on the front, and then a list of goals on the back. Whenever you complete one of these, you Mark XP! Mark 5 XP, and level up at the registration desk by getting the button, and choose another playbook. When you completed the 4 basic playbooks, they had advanced playbooks! You can see the Wolf in my image (there was also Little Red), however I was never able to complete those for the button... they included goals such as "clean up a room you see that has been left a mess" and "feed a staff member that is too busy to get food". All very optional, but oh so fun. Even if you didn't really get into it, it was just a brilliantly executed little piece of gamer-love.

Badges, buttons, playsheets, and more!

Badges, buttons, playsheets, and more!

In addition to all that, there are also amazing donation events, such as the Tell Me About Your Character booth, which raises money for Doctors without Borders:

Nathan wants you! Photo by Brian Kwa.

Nathan wants you! Photo by Brian Kwa.

Lunch: Ramen Hiroshi

Andy came out from SF, and drove Dennis and I to Ramen Hiroshi, in the downtown Walnut Creek area. Most restaurants would be a fair walk from the hotel (not really a problem normally, but difficult if you have a limited window between games).

We enjoyed a few bowls of ramen. Their standard Hiroshi ramen was delicious, and even comes with a free little side of Chicken Karaage. Good conversations, and then back...

A brief viewing of Ghost Court

I was walking about, and happened by the room where Ghost Court was in session. Just stuck around to watch one session in play (it happened to be Ross Cowman as a human on the stand), and it was pretty hilarious. I didn't play, but I mention this because it looked quite popular, and it's in KickStarter mode now (see link above), and I regret not having a go. But in all fairness, I was going to start my game...

Ghost Court in session!

Ghost Court in session!

Fallout Shelter RPG

My PbtA hack for the Fallout Shelter phone game, written about elsewhere and in my various blog posts, was first on my list. Originally I was going to run this for normal con-goers, but Sean asked if I could do it for the teen track. April was a non-teen who wanted in, and waited on signing up for this slot, and was therefore able to secure a place. I'm honored she joined us!

  • GM: me!
  • Bayan as Em Peached, the Ex-Overseer
  • Leo as Elizbeth, the Wasteland Explorer
  • Leo's cousin (name?) as Professor Gregor, the Scientist
  • April as Indi-Go (?), the Food Engineer

A good little session. Bayan and Leo were the two 13-year olds, and uber enthusiastic. I was pleasantly surprised with Bayan's unrelenting pun-fest with character names, including his own character, Em Peached Nuca Mer the Immigrant (bonus for getting Nuka in there!), and Bruce Wane the Wasteland Orphan. I regret not talking in a low, growly voice as the orphan, in retrospect. Also, he wore his Vault 111 hoodie, and brought a little man bomb that made explosion sounds. 

In the end, April's Indi-go was able to complete her mission and make it back to her vault. Bayan's Em Peached did get back, starved and dehydrated, and was promptly thrown in prison. The others died horrible deaths. So: success!

Most of my crew! Unfortunately April had already left before picture time. Notice Bayan's "little man" bomb sitting at the bottom left.

Most of my crew! Unfortunately April had already left before picture time. Notice Bayan's "little man" bomb sitting at the bottom left.


I can't remember now, but I did eat. Maybe I'll edit later when memory returns. But I will say that BBC makes it a point to tell con-goers to follow the 3-2-1 rule, and I will reiterate it now:

3-2-1. In the excitement of gaming it is easy to forget some of the basics. The 3-2-1 con rule is a reminder to get a minimum of 3 hours of sleep, 2 meals, and 1 shower each day.


I love signing up for game systems I haven't played, or even heard of. This was one of the latter, and I don't regret it. It was listed with:

You’ve traveled long and far to find it. The last haven this side of the Mississippi. They said it’d be safe. They said it lived up to the name. They said it was perfect. But right now, Paradise just looks like a dump.
War Stories is an RPG all about telling stories and surviving to see another day in an apocalyptic world. Players will take turns sharing a tale of harrowing adventure from their past, all while an impending threat encroaches upon their safety.

The GM was Alexis, who turns out is from LA. (Represent!) Played with Matteo and Brian and one other (name redacted). The setting was about 75 years after the "incident".

I created my character as young Novinski the Wizid, a little wizard / wiz-kid, grown up learning fixing things from her mom. And now orphaned and travelling the wild. What I loved, however, was the "Knacks" in this system... the whole character was defined by a few phrases, and also a list of skills. The list is still in beta mode, but I really dug options such as "Fixing stuff" and "Swindling". Some options have asterix, which implies that they are more complex in this post-apoc world, and therefore more expensive to purchase:

The War Stories character sheet

The War Stories character sheet

The game ran in 2 sections, which I thought was really interesting... an initial round-table, narrative vignette / story-telling part, where we each took turns describing our character in a scene. These scenes also are used by each player to add canon to the story, as desired. This felt very similar to some GM-less games I've played, including those from postworldgames.

After this initial section, we then become a more traditional GM-based game, where Alexis brought us into a scene where all the characters were mostly assumed to know each other (or just get to know each other). It's a little loose, and I think that transition could be a little more structured (e.g. with bond-developing questions you see in PbtA games).

From there it was more of a traditional GM-based RPG, however the mechanics were very narrative friendly, as you could really do anything, however your chances were just remarkably better with skills you had. It sounds like the mechanics are bit in flux with the system, but I actually thought they worked pretty well (d6 for non-proficient rolls, d6+d8 for proficient rolls, requiring a 5+ to succeed, if I remember correctly).

The story itself was fun... no spoilers, but I felt like Alexis did a great job evoking the post-apoc setting. It felt dusty and dirty, and the little village we were a part of felt well fleshed out. I felt the ambiance as wandering through the villages of Fallout and Fallout 2 (but that's me).

Alexis did have music, and I supplied my bluetooth speaker, which I was carrying around, but I don't think the audio itself was that audible. When it was, it didn't add too much to the game.

We did do a good post-wrapup session, but I think I forgot to mention audio feedback. One player mentioned he'd like stats for the characters, but I dissented, saying that many games do stat+skill, and I really liked how this one felt different, and felt like it was in sync with the narrative basis of the game. 

Paradise with Brian, Bill, Mateo, and Alexis.

Paradise with Brian, Bill, Mateo, and Alexis.