Strategicon Gateway 2016: Saturday and GoD and Praxis

Saturday and Games on Demand

Games on Demand at Strategicon is basically time and space dedicated for open gaming that specifically explores indie RPGs. This type of thing is done at various conventions, including Gen Con and Origins. See Indie Games on Demand for an example description. My experience with this format was mostly at Go Play NW, in Seattle.

Working with Jim Sandoval (Generalissimo of RPGs at Strategicon), we decided on a one-day roll-out, targeting Saturday only, with scheduled time slots that started 30 minutes after each standard RPG start time. In other words: 9:30am, 2:30pm, and 8:30pm. This allowed for those who found themselves unable to get in a game the ability to get into one of these.

The sign

The sign

Saturday 9:30am: The Quiet Year with Lego (take 2)

There were 3 people total: myself, Ryan from last night's Delta Green game, and Mikal. Mikal actually had a Ravenloft type scenario, but with his own system, that he was prepared to run. I think he wanted to run it in a normal time slot, but was too late in getting it in to the con schedule. Jim gave him this option of running it in GoD.

The three of us converse, and it was decided to go for The Quiet Year. Ryan was excited. I think Mikal a little less so, but open. I broke out the Legos, and we had at it.

In this case we decided on a stranded planet colony. We're a few generations in, and don't really have much idea about the origins. The oldest people, of which there are few, may have been the first colonists. We lack potassium, life weed for food processing, and steel. The only thing in abundance is guava fruit, which we need to be able to breath properly, as otherwise the atmosphere is a bit thin.

We got further than the previous night's game, and actually got through a bit of Autumn. Ryan and I really enjoyed the game. Mikal also dug it, but said he wasn't as into these mechanic-light GM-less games. I know he struggled a bit with the narrative constraints of the system, which I enforce somewhat to stay true to what I believe is the intention of the system: everyone shares equally in the story.

A defunct ship, a greenhouse, lifeweed, students and teacher, a satellite outpost for crazies...

A defunct ship, a greenhouse, lifeweed, students and teacher, a satellite outpost for crazies...

Saturday 1pm: Ten minutes of Kaiju

I almost forgot! After my morning GoD session, I was wandering about and ran into Mouser (aka Patrick) running his Pacific Rim FATE monster mech / kaiju game.

Brian Allred's mech partner had disappeared, so I got to jump into the pilot seat and make some advantages to help the party overthrow the super large kaiju monster thing. Basically, I got to jump in and help with the final fight.

One thing that Patrick has mentioned around this scenario is that it well demonstrates the Fate philosophy of using aspects and advantages with characters that are able to do a bunch of setup, and then take down the big bad in one big wallop.

I am very curious, however, what Patrick would think of Atlas Reckoning, a similar type of setting, but a vastly different game. I got to play it with creator Stras at Go Play NW, and it's still in beta, but I hope to figure it out before next con in February, to run it at Games on Demand if nothing else.

Loved the use of the fold-out  Noteboard  as a grid for these monster mechs! Didn't get a picture of his awesome surface pro + label maker for portable printing of Aspects on demand.

Loved the use of the fold-out Noteboard as a grid for these monster mechs! Didn't get a picture of his awesome surface pro + label maker for portable printing of Aspects on demand.

Jumping into a table of mech madness mid battle. 

Jumping into a table of mech madness mid battle. 

Saturday 2:30pm: Microscope

A bit later, and it was time to run another GoD session. In this case we had a good turnout. About 9 people, all up. After pitching various games, and reviewing the various players' time constraints, we decided on 2 mini-sessions. From 2:30-4pm was a 5-person game of Microscope. Players included Ed (our con's resident Paranoia and Fiasco GM), Dorian Richard, Matt Smith, 

Microscope is a history- and world-building game by Ben Robbins. Some few players had a little experience with Microscope, but most were new. I ran them through the initial game setup, and we ended with:

  • Big picture: "Two space faring races, the Humans and Borents, try to colonize the same planet."(with the focus being the planet, and not other parts of the galaxy)
  • Bookends: "Both races have discovered signal from Sefron VI" and "The planet transforms."
  • Palette (Add): Multiple colonies in space; Lizardmen; Short range / high cost teleportation; Human matriarchy; Lizard telepathy; Human magic is recent and chaotic
  • Palette (Ban): No prior sentient lifeforms on planet; No warp speeds; No general AI; No spells / day (i.e. no Vancian magic tropes)

We built the above setup in starts and spurts, which was great. Everyone was feeling out what they were and weren't comfortable with, and we went 2 rounds with Add and Bans. As the facilitator, I took a light hand and passed after the first round, to allow for their participation.

We started with a focus of "Exploitation of sentients on sentients". Loved it. Leaves so much open for dark times. We got to role play one larger scene, but after completing the first full round, we were about out of time. That said, everyone enjoyed the session, and the feedback was very positive.

I was very happy with one lesson I learned from prior sessions: Make sure to discuss with the group what you plan to write on the card, and then write it down. This allows for some slight revision, and working out the essential parts of what you want. It provides for concise and appropriate phrases on the card.

Ed, Andrea, Dorian and Matt, with history on display

Ed, Andrea, Dorian and Matt, with history on display

Saturday 4:15pm: The Space Skeletons

Now for our second mini-session. Matt, Ed, and Andrea took off, but Dorian stuck around and we were joined by Aaron and Jen. I've gamed with them more than a few times, and specifically my very first time at this con in an epic 7 hour Cthulhu game that holds a dear place in my heart. They brought their two friends Eric and Chris. Because that was 5 players, I decided to be a facilitator / part-time GM for this session of Jason Morningstar's The Skeletons

The premise is that you are the skeletons guarding the tomb, and awaken whenever there are intruders, and deal with them. In my version, we play Space Skeletons, and use Lego instead of paper to draw our map.

Everyone chose their skeleton character sheets, which is itself a fun little exercise. You start by not knowing a thing about yourself, but have a little skeleton to draw upon. Arts and crafts for the win!

Then they collaborated by creating a space ship. I first had everyone build about 8 pieces each, and then once everyone had started creating rooms and computers, we fleshed out the rest. Here was the little piece of space ship we came up with:

A little broken piece of ship in space.

A little broken piece of ship in space.

We had enough time to get through part 1, The Unsealed Tomb, and half of part 2, The Time of Dust. Everyone got a chance to play at choosing the encounter. I played a sort-of-GM, by controlling some aspect of the badies invading the "tomb", but mostly I had them go around in circles each role-playing what their various space people were doing. They were amazingly players, each having cool and unique personalities, and we all did a pretty good job entertaining each other.

I used music specially curated for this session, and this was the first time I got to test out a plan: when it was someone's "turn", I would ask them what intensity of music they wanted: low, medium, or high. I had previously organized the songs as such, so this allowed them some control over the pace of their specifically chosen encounter. I think that worked pretty well and I'll be doing it again.

Everyone had fun. I have even since gotten a message, days later, from Aaron, telling me everyone had a blast. The "thorn" comments were that there wasn't much mechanics to grab on to, you just sort of "won", which is part of the game.

I was worried about the quiet periods, the 1-3 minutes you sit in silence, in between various encounters. We were at a convention and not in our own room. We couldn't turn down the lights. We had other tables there talking. But the music did some work in giving us something close to drown out the background noise, and simply closing eyes and chilling was really cool, and I don't think it was lost on the players despite those issues.

Eric, Chris, Aaron, Jen, Dorian, and space mayhem.

Eric, Chris, Aaron, Jen, Dorian, and space mayhem.

Saturday 8pm: King of Storms (Praxis)

Games on Demand was over for me, and now it was on to Jim Pinto's new Praxis system game: King of Storms. It is described thusly:

In King of Storms, the characters are descendants of the gods and titans who slew one another in a great battle for the heavens 1000 years ago. From their blood rose the scions of power and the minions who would do their bidding. Some were born of gods' blood, noble and perfect. Others were born from titans' blood, twisted and malevolent. A third was born an abomination of the two — half god, half titan: the bloodless gorgons.

The game took a bit to get going. This was partly my friend Howie's fault. He is a gamer who likes to know rules before diving in. I'm the opposite... let me learn by playing, and failing. Unfortunately, the table was mostly people like me, and Howie just needed to know rules, and clarification when something was slightly confusing, and this took everyone out of immersion more than a few times. But there were some really fun epic parts to this game. 

One of the players, Matt, played an excellent sarcastic raven, and he even got a great Ladyhawk joke in. There was some great scenes with some brutal plays, and overall I'm really into the system. It is very mechanics light and heavy on the narrative aspects, but the mechanics matter immensely, and make for a competitive, enjoyable game.

I played The Black Monk, another Praxis system game, at Go Play NW, and despite the player confusion in this one, I really dig the system, and hope to play it with others in the future.

Saturday midnight

There were plans. Great plans. But much flaking, and those plans just fell apart.

But, Howie and I wandered around, and eventually found a few players interested in some Agricola action. I have played the light, family version a few times at home, and Howie had never played. But we dug in. I got to learn how to use the Minor Improvement and Occupation cards, and Howie learned the whole game. Around 4am we finished, and it was good.