Strategicon Gamex 2017 - Saturday

Saturday 9am: Games on Demand and Atlas Reckoning

GM: Me for Atlas Reckoning, Players: James, Erik, Dayler

After breakfast, I make my way down to the Lower Lobby. This space, in the past, was just a thoroughfare between the main gaming hall / dealer rooms / RPGs on level 1 and 2, and the open gaming and organized play in the "dungeon". It was used primarily by the Werewolf and party game crew, until they were moved to other locations. Now it's our little space to run Games on Demand, and is perfectly situated: relatively quiet, but with lots of foot traffic that gets curious seeing my table of indie games.

Games on Demand gets a decent morning turnout, with about 2 tables worth of players. Morgan Ellis runs Inspectres (which I would love to play, but alas...), and I run Atlas Reckoning (AR). 

AR is Stras' work that is basically "Pacific Rim the story game", and still in beta; I've written about it more than a few times (check the old musty tomes...)  Apparently at this point I have a bit of a reputation for running it a little bit different than most. Instead of asking "what city are we defending?" and assuming a Pacific Rim story, I go more open-ended, and follow the players into all sorts of strange lands. Think Evangelion more than Pacific Rim.

I had 3 players, which means I'll be playing and facilitating (you need an even number of players for this game). Erik brings his friend Dayler, who has very little RPG experience, which of course isn't an issue.  We start talking about prospective settings, and before long we have an alternate past. It's the 1910's, and Earth's industrial revolution is starting to endanger the planet. The fey creatures of the world (elves, dwarves, fairies, whatever), which are probably responsible for most of our myths, and normally invisible to human eyes, have decided to defend mother Earth. Humans find cold iron defeats them, putting it in their weapons and bullets, but the fey start creating larger and larger defenders (which are the Behemoth's in this setting). The human response is to make huge coal and oil driven machinery (our Atlases). 

We are humanities last reserve, down in Antarctica (from which much of the ice has melted away). Barely into the setting someone brings up child labor at the time, and that's when things get really dark. Suddenly we have little children as "computers" and labor within our machinery (remember, no proper electronics at the time), and it got gruesome quickly. It wasn't long before we realized how much the "bad guys" we were in this setting.

We dived into the first Engagement (combat) and I decided we'd ratch up the deadly by fighting what should be 3rd sessions monsters. We fought a giant water elemental we called a Poseidon, and a spiky crystal urchin creature. It was a brutal fight, with lots of mech damage, and a bit drawn out, but the players enjoyed it. We didn't have time for the Downtime session, which is the fantastic part of this game where you normally get to explore the feels. However, we did get some flashbacks via trait recovery actions, which gave us a few hints of what that would look like.

I need to learn how to tighten up the speed so I can ensure that the players get both an Engagement and Downtime at a minimum, but at the same time I'm in love with all the interesting scenarios the players have explored when I've variously run this game.

A bonus: I later ran into Dayler (the one who had little RPG experience) and he came up just to say what a fabulous game it was, so that just made me super happy.

Atlas Reckoning... mid battle in a tough fight.

Atlas Reckoning... mid battle in a tough fight.

Saturday 2pm: Games on Demand and The Final Girl

Facilitator: Me; Players: Scooter (aka Martha), Candace, Julian, Paul, Julia

One of the best things about GoD this time around was how many new players we had, who hadn't really heard of these story games or indie RPGs. To wit: A group of kids relatively new to the convention scene showed up and were looking around at my long table (where I set up Fall of Magic and other lovely looking stuffs). I chatted them up, and turns out they were eyeing The Final Girl. A few of their crew and some other stragglers went over to play in Monster of the Week with Bob Quintero running, and another crew joined Brian (aka Weaselcreature) for an Iron Kingdoms scenario that he had brewing.

I decided to facilitate the game, instead of join, as 5 was a pretty good number, and I wanted them to have control of most of the narrative. During game I'd occasionally give examples of ways to role play, or ways to kick things off when they weren't sure or questioning, but otherwise, they mostly took the reigns and ran with it.

We first talked about movies and what sort of thing they were interested in, and before long we had an Eastern European remote village up in the mountains with a gothic cathedral and ruins and an old cemetery. With The Final Girl you decide the killer ahead of time (similar to watching Friday the 13th, or Aliens... you already know who the bad guy is), and they decided to go with demon possession. We discussed this a little bit, and one aspect they were open / interested in exploring was having other characters get possessed and do the killing (which meant the Killer for a specific scene could just start taking over characters temporarily, instead of having an external killer).

They came up with a great cast, including the town wench, the town drunk, the perverted priest, the alter boy (who's name was Sally), a vegan traveler, and many more. Most of the cast was from the village, which I thought worked pretty well. After the intro scenes, First Blood occurred, where all the "boring" characters (aka those that didn't get relationships established) get killed off in one scene. I thought it was great that the traveler, one of the only non-village characters, got killed off. The perverted priest made it far, and was the one who mostly got possessed to perform killings, or at least witnessed them, but in the end it was the town wench and the drunk who survived... and instead of having one final girl, we had the two ladies walk off into the sunset. We even envisioned a great poster for the sequel.

As you get with some of these table, Scooter was a doodler, so it was always fun to also see how her art progressed, and unfortunately I didn't get a shot of her crazy cool unicorn. She also said she may end up doing some character sketches... we'll see if that happens, but if so, I'd definitely post them back here!

The Final Girl

The Final Girl

Saturday 5pm: Bob runs another GoD slot with Dread!

By the time I was done, I knew that I needed a little bit of a break. The last convention I ran a middling session in between 2pm and 8pm, and ended up a bit fried. I had learned my lesson.

But kudos to Bob, who just kept on trucking! Another crew showed up around 5pm, and he ran a small Dread game for two. They were also new to these games, and from the feedback, had a blast. It sounded like a bit of a summer camp gone bad type scenario.

Saturday 7pm: Some Happy Jacks lovin'

During my break, I wandered a bit and did some socializing (always a nice pressure valve). I joined some of the Happy Jacks RPG crew and fans over at the bar for a few drinkies and random chats, and went over to see them setup for their live from the con 8pm podcast.

In retrospect, Bob and I have talked about scheduling GoD, and both being fans of the podcast, have decided that future conventions will have a 10pm - 2am GoD slot, which will allow us to go check out the podcast. I've been dreaming about doing late night gaming and building that critical mass for years.

Happy Jacks crew and fans, including Kimi, Will H, Jason, Weasel, two Tims, Dave, and more! (I'm in there somewhere)

Happy Jacks crew and fans, including Kimi, Will H, Jason, Weasel, two Tims, Dave, and more! (I'm in there somewhere)

Saturday 8pm: Games on Demand and Dread

GM: Me running Dread, Players: Stevie, Courtney, Tawny

Originally I was signed up for an 8pm game run by Sayler where he was doing a Dungeon World and The Sprawl mashup (which sounded amazing), but I ended up running in another GoD slot.

We had enough for three tables, with Morgan running Masks (even though he wanted to play in my Dread game... the sacrifices we make for the people), and Bob running another Monster of the Week session, this time including many of the crew that was in The Final Girl earlier, as well as some of his prior Monster of the Week players.

Me, I had some ladies who had expressed prior interest in GoD, but the timing kept not working... but they returned! And they were very interested in Dread. I ran a space horror adventure somewhat based on the "Only the Food" scenario I've written about earlier. I didn't have a copy of the scenario's questionnaires, so we went with index cards, and ad hoc'd the questions in person.

I also did this lovely thing where I pulled them aside and asked secret questions about each other, and then tied them back to the next person. For example, I asked Courtney (who was playing the Psych officer) what crime one of the other characters had committed, but tried to hide in her record. When I later questioned that player (Tawny), I asked her why she covered that up in her record, and what was the real story behind her police record. It was fun tying all these together, and also bring these situations up in game, where multiple players would get certain connotations. 

We ended up doing a good 3 hour session. And the ladies were very good with their jenga skills. In fact, we had an end coming, and I was certain one of them, in the final moments was about to bite it, but in fact they scraped through... and so we had a happy ending, with all three getting out in escape pods. (Epilogue: They get picked up some time later by a dirty rag-tag crew, with a "Welcome to the revolution..." A story for another time.)

At the top my Dread space crew, bottom left Morgan running Masks, bottom right Bob running Monster of the Week

At the top my Dread space crew, bottom left Morgan running Masks, bottom right Bob running Monster of the Week

I wandered a little to check out some other games running, and ran into Jim Pinto running Black Monk 4. The table included Tobie, Ben Woerner, and a few others, and yes, I was quite jealous. Looked fantastic.

I returned to GoD to perform some cleanup, and found Bob wrapping up his game. We had an excellent little chat with the players, and it was so cool to see how they were amazed that RPGs could be so different than their prior experience of D&D. Information was exchanged and hugs were had. The day ended on a very successful feeling note.