The usual: stay over at Howie's place Thursday night. The morning brings a fresh green juice to pump up my body with all the nutrients I'm definitely not going to get at the con.
After the "running of the nerds" for RPG signups, Howie and I find ourselves decently positioned for games.
Fallout Shelter: Finding The Descenders (Fri 2-6pm)
- Lori as Pamela Smith, Wasteland Orphan
- Jim as Franklin Webber, The Immigrant
- Andy as Mike McMahan, Wasteland Explorer
- CA Dave as Ed, Food Engineer
This was my scenario and system built around Fallout Shelter, the phone game. Getting to the room I already had a few alts waiting to play, and lucky them, cause Bob was stuck in traffic (unfortunately for him). That meant that both Andy Salazar and CA Dave joined Jim and Lori Sandoval for this little adventure.
Background: I tried to build a system that both celebrated the resource management and mood of Fallout Shelter, but: role playing. I settled on a Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) hack, but based on Fallout S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats and a d10 (simplifying Fallout Shelter's percentages). Oh ya, and Lego. I play-tested this a week prior, which gave me enough time to refine some props and tighten up some mechanics.
I came into the con hoping the game was ready for prime time, and from the players comments, it didn't disappoint. Of course as the GM you are always looking at the bad, and there is definitely more than a few things I can fix, especially around the scenarios (of which this game can handle many and various).
Here's a clip from the Happy Jacks RPG podcast (live from Orccon) from the next night, with CA Dave and Jim Sandoval talking about the game. I do it partly to brag, but also because it means much to me that people enjoy it so:
Full podcast episode can be found on Happy Jacks RPG Podcast website.
Hell House (Fri 8pm-midnight)
GM: Tyler Spahr
Players: Tomer, Howie, Dimitri, Andy, Nick, and his girlfriend (each playing themselves, roughly)
The description read: Six friends gather at a rental beach house once a year for a private weekend of tabletop gaming. This year they are playing a game for their lives. You are put to the ultimate test of survival with 5 of your closest friends.
This scenario felt very reminiscent of an escape room, where the room is trying very hard to kill you. Everyone came into it ready to play, and the role playing was fun. Tyler has scoped out the house, full of traps and interesting puzzles. The biggest problem was that an escape room relies on visual cues, and although there were some available (pictures and other props), we would get stuck and need to ask for clarifications on views, rooms and layouts.
Some of the really cool parts was that each player had his or her own tower. Additionally, certain game effects would have physical impacts on you as a player. If your eye got poked out, you'd need to wear an eye mask while pulling. A few fingers chopped off? You'd have to wrap those fingers in a gauze and not let them touch the tower. Loved it.
Our general feedback was that the game could benefit from a few more props, including picture / map layouts of the rooms, to better facilitate questions and ensuring all the players were roughly on the same page in regards to the very important physical locations in this game. Talking to Tyler later in the week, he created such props for the next night's game, and to great effect. I would highly recommend checking this out.
Dead World (Sat 9am-1pm)
GM: Sam Carter
- Tomer as Rose ("Thorn"), The Calamity
- Howie as Eave, The Preacher
- Andy as Russel, The ?
Normally I make it a point of playing in Sam's Saturday late night Dread games, having done maybe 5 times in the last few years. This was the first time I've got to play in a game by Sam that wasn't Dread. The system is a PbtA hack for something like the gritty western Deadwood series.
As in most PbtA games, we did a bunch of character and party bonds and definitions at the onset. Eave The Preacher was travelling, and preaching the gospel of Eve. I played Rose, who everyone else called "Thorn", a dour, cool killer. Russel was an ex-slave, and the two of us traveled as hired ons for Eave's traveling road show. We ended up getting mixed up with the local preachers, who didn't take kindly to us, and as it turned out, weren't preachers at all... they were wanted men hiding out in the town. Shit went sideways, but in the end we wrecked shop, and settled down in various ways. Eave, it turned out, was not a male as many thought she was (which is perhaps why her sermons always captured my ear), and I opened a bar called the Tumbleweed Rose, and served up my lovely drink, the Whiskey Thorn (a thick-cut slice of bacon in a shot of whisky).
All in all, the game captured the mood well, and if you want a somewhat pure western game (i.e. not the Deadlands fantastic variety), this suits very well.
Dog Day Afternoon LARP (Sat 2-6pm)
GM: Aaron Vanek (and Kirsten Hageleit)
Players: About 7 of us, including Sasha, Howie, and more
The description read: "Inspired by the classic eponymous movie based on a real NYC bank robbery in August 1972. What was supposed to be a simple job turned into an unforgettable examination of the human condition. No familiarity with the film or the real incident expected."
This was definitely one of the highlights of the con. Aaron and his wife have run LARPs of one sort or another for some time, and this was something Aaron wanted to test out. He basically setup 2 rooms, one as the bank, and one as the police-type room. A phone connected the two. There were effectively 3 factions: The Robbers, The Hostages (bank employees / customers), The Authorities (police / FBI). Him and his wife played all sorts of NPCs, like the media, crank callers, the crowds that gathered that day, the mayor's office, etc. I got to play young Sal, the young partner in crime.
They setup the scene so that it is effectively the start of this real historical event, and then just let it play out. Everyone had certain restrictions: The cops couldn't shoot the robbers if they had hostages. The hostages couldn't overpower the robbers, but could try to escape. In a confrontation between the robbers and the cops, the robbers would lose.
It was fascinating to watch it all play out, and what was excellent was the work done in providing the social and historical background around this situation.
If you are interested in the story, feel free to read the plot (spoilers!) here on Wikipedia. I haven't yet seen the film, but it's on the to-do list.
The Happy Jacks RPG Podcast, LIVE (Sat 8-11pm)
I've been coming to Strategicon for 3 years, in large part due to this podcast, and yet I've never attended their 8pm Saturday live 'casts. I've always wanted to, but Saturday at 8pm is the time for some of the best games, including the likes of Cthulhu and Dread. I didn't quite mean to make this an underhanded insult to the crew, but succeeded immensely!
The podcast was excellent fun, entertaining, and drinky. I got to meet weasel_creature and wife, good salt of the earth. I got to hear people talk shit about my game. Good shit. One more check on the bucket shit list!
Fall of Magic (Sat 11:30pm-1am)
Bob Q as Ellamura, Golem of Ravenhall
Tomer as Caspian, Knight of Stormguard
Howie as Fawn, Swineherd of Barley Town
Sam C as ?
Time for some late night hippie smoking! I had a number of different game, but we settled on Fall of Magic, by Ross Cowman of Heart of the Deernicorn. Fall of Magic is a narrative-heavy game played on a scroll. There are minimal mechanics, and if you are looking for dice and miniatures, you are in the wrong place. If you are looking to play a game with index cards... JACKPOT!
The premise is extremely simple: Magic is dying, and the Magus is dying with it. We travel together to the realm of Umbra where magic was born.
Three of us started the game at Ravenhall, the starting point. The path is a bit of a railroad for the first few locations, as we are just starting to explore our respective characters, as well as the Magus, which everyone can help define. In this game I was the first to grab the Magus, and decided to make it a group of 15 little 2-foot high gnomes that traveled in a group. After a few locations go by, we get to a crossroads. There are more than a few of these in the game, so it definitely has replay-ability just in that respect.
A few scenes in, Sam swung by, having completed his 8pm-midnight game, and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to just insert him into the game mid-flow. My friend Howie had to leave about an hour and half in, and I was also surprised at how easy it would have been to continue the story without him, if we wanted to. However being 1:30am, we decided to call it quits.
It's definitely not a game for everyone, but it's also definitely a game I want to play again and again, with different folks. As with many of these narrative-heavy mechanics-light games, I highly recommend people try them out. This one is a great one for a relaxing mood. Which isn't to say you can't make it narratively brutal!
Picking up Nova (Sun morning)
The morning involved breakfast and then navigating through LA Marathon traffic to get my daughter Nova to the con. We proceeded to swim at the pool for almost 2 hours, and then wandered the halls for a bit. Lunch was a walk up 13 flights of stairs (the elevators sucked), and teaching Nova how to play poker (first regular, then Texas hold 'em).
Fallout Shelter: For Kids! (Sun 5-9pm)
Players: Nova as Coca and Cola; Anakin as Vlad and Sam
Originally we were supposed to be joined by two other kids, but as it turned out, it ended up being just Nova and Anakin. I tweaked the scenario more than bit, to give it a more kid-friendly feel (although it still involved betrayal, vault dwellers imprisoned and some cyborged into evil guardians). All in all though, these two little gamers (respectively 7 and 9 years old), were able to easily handle the mechanics and the story.
One funny thing was having Keith, Anakin's dad - who sat in for the last 30 minutes or so - tell me how great it was that I created this game "for kids". I had to dissuade him of such thoughts, as Friday's game and my prior playtest were quite more intense and horror in style, than kid-friendly. But it was great to see this could be a kid game too!
Monday and out
The next morning was climbing 13 flights again, this time for breakfast. Then some swimming, hanging out with Anakin and family, and a quick look at the auction.
There was also the second Splendor tournament. Unfortunately couldn't play since I was on babysitting duties, but I did take some quick peeks, and it looks like the caliber of play has increased.
I did a quick search for The Mook, but found that his normal Monday morning game had been cancelled due to sick.
And so it ends, until next time...