Getting to the West side involved following a pleasant dotted line across the city which included: A few hours working at Tomo Coffee; Hanging out with Howie and Lisa and 1-year old Bei and grandma Kathy, with lots of slam dunks and delicious fish soup; Missing beers with con friends because apparently 10 miles = 1 hour traffic; Loroco Pupusas with Sonia at a newly discovered joint; Late night hot beverages at a churros place with Jeremy and Sonia; Some 3-player Citadels with Howie and Lisa again before the sleepover; Breakfast at Metro Cafe; Early arrival at a con hotel under some crazy construction.
From there it was chit chatting with all the various lovely folks that I've come to see at each of these events. Kurt Potts came with a game to playtest, a game that Chris and I like to call...
Game of Thrown Dice (Friday noon)
So, apparently last Strategicon (6 months ago) Dave Kizzia put out a challenge to have people write a game and bring it, and Kurt took this to heart, and wrote a dice game which he currently calls House Rule: A Game of Throne Acquisition.
The game itself was surprisingly easy and fast, but exuded so much flavor of a type similar to a popular fantasy and HBO series, that we were all duly impressed. We had a full contingent of seven kingdoms, including the rulers Kurt, Kurt Jr, Jason, Kurt Hanna, Dave, Chris, and myself.
The various kingdoms you could play included special powers of types that felt flavored by fantasy kingdom intrigue, and there was a sense of balance in that it felt like there were many ways you could win. There were turns were everyone got to act, and then a moment where a new ruler would be voted on (via dice and support) and victory points distributed for the winner, and any supporting rulers. There was an end game component where walkers (of whatever color) would invade, and if we didn't altogether prepare in some manner, we would all perish and lose. But preparing involves making yourself weaker, so who has time for that noise, right?
All in all, fabulous, and if you told me it was ready to be published, I wouldn't blink and I would purchase a copy. Seriously. The whole game took about an hour, and could be played as a simple board/card game, but could easily be role played in silly or fabulous ways. Kudos to Kurt!
Bedlam Hall (Friday 2-6pm)
I've run a game in the first con slot for the last 4 years or so. This was my first time playing in it in a long time, and it was David Kizzia's Bedlam Hall, run by Christopher Grey. Although I'd backed the Kickstarter and recently received the book, I didn't really know what to expect as I haven't read through it yet.
I showed up to the table, which had a clothing prop at each seat (chef hat, chauffeur hat, so on), and I promptly sat at the maid apron (which I got to wear for the next 4 hours). Four players showed, so we had Chamomile the Maid (me), Agnes the Housekeeper, Hobson the Valet, and Gorely the Chauffeur. The cook and butler weren't chosen (and unfortunately friend Stephanie couldn't make it in time join us), so they became NPCs. This worked out well because the missing cook became a big part of our complication, and the drunk butler became a great foil, as played by the GM.
The game centers around us, as staff, needing to ignore as much weirdness as possible and maintain etiquette and composure around the house, all while Lord and Lady Blackwood and their family act bizarre and horror-ful. Other than the parents, there is 18 year old Matilda who hates Meredith the visiting Hollywood actress cousin, Rubric (14 y.o.) who kept digging for dead uncle Agamemnon so he could join us for dinner, and little Violet (6 y.o.) with her stuffed animals. As in, literally stuffed dead animals, which she would dress up (or have us dress up) and play with. There was grandma Dolores, cursed during a trip to the Nile - so she naturally came back from the dead at some point, and Columbine the sister of the Lady (and mom to Meredith).
We started and just dived into the crazy. The family continually asks for bizarre strangeness, and we just helped the best we could. I can't say we played with all the rules as written, and Chris admitted as much, but it was better than that since we got to feel the real flavor of the game. Chris' characterizations and constant stream of weirdness just fed us with a constant stream of tension and silliness.
I remember a moment when grandma comes back from the dead, chanting in old Egyptian and wielding a ceremonial dagger, stabbing the Valet. The chauffeur walks into the room demanding, "Why are you stabbing grandma?" At which point the Valet, flustered: "Well, she stabbed me first!"
There was also the matter of the missing cook, and us having to prepare dinner without them, and a dead body or two, which of course led to cannibalism cooking, all led by the Chauffeur with his blowtorch. There was Lord Blackwood shooting canons on the grounds, and the car ending up a bit of a useless mess, and green goop from the stove used as a face mask for Lady Blackwood, and then later served as the soup course. All the while a combination of weird and sometimes arcane happenings occurring.
Our session ended a little early, and there were various game mechanics that we didn't do much with, but that's the sort of introduction session that I prefer. I have since started reading the Bedlam Hall book, and it just makes so much sense after this session. Mechanics can be learned easily enough.
Ten Candles (Friday 8pm-1am)
I've run Ten Candles before, and was hoping to do so some more during the winter, but the plague struck and prevented that. This was the second time I got to run this game. I had five players which included Chris (who ran Bedlam Hall and has run 10 Candles once before), Kurt P, Emily, Aaron V, and Grace (who's played in my Golden Sky Stories long ago; glad she can see the other end of the emotional spectrum here).
We discussed a few of the book scenarios to see if any of them sounded interesting, and went with the moon base. For those not familiar, the premise of the game is simple: 10 days ago the world went dark; no sun, no stars, and in this case, from the moon, no Earth. 5 days ago, They came. The only thing we know is that they fear the light. And They are coming for us. You play with 10 candles, and as characters "fail" conflict rolls, scenes end, one by one, extinguishing these candles and plunging us into darkness. This game is tragic horror, as we all will die.
We had a crew consisting of a security officer, a lab researcher, a pilot, a union engineer, and a billionaire tourist. I won't go into the minutia, but just to say that this system is genius. The GM is not allowed to prep coming into it, and doesn't really need to. The players have almost all the narrative authority early on, and so narrate as they will. But as time goes on, the GM gets more and more narrative authority, and things go from bad to worse. We had a generator in need of repair, missing people on the comm links as they were breaking down, an airless room, Jared Dunbar - another survivor - who locked them out, more "friends" (Shannon and Mattais) found on the way to the rocket, a moon surface jaunt, and a successful moon takeoff. All before madness subsumes, and they turn on one another.
Even among the horrors there was a scene where the engineer exasperatingly explained the blood and bodies to the pilot, after a painful episode, which had us all losing our shit, laughing.
The session ended up going just over 5 hours, but it certainly didn't feel like it. Tense as all, and great little ending. I just love what this system does. It may have to become a staple in the convention repertoire.