SGG: Star Crossed and Winterhorn and autumn of the ancients

David and I have been running Story Games Glendale for almost 1.5 years now. It's only fitting we finally get some new blood and some consistent friendlies coming, damnit! And it's only fitting I give it some love here. Because I've been "lazy" at updating. (Note: There is no such thing as Laziness. Thanks, Shane!)

March 20: Star Crossed

On this eve we were joined by Asher (almost a regular, now!) and their friend Aaron, and Todd. I didn't realize it until later, but I had gamed with Todd before when he ran Cat (the RPG where you play... wait for it... a cat) back at a Strategicon a few years back!

We ended up going for Star Crossed, Alex Roberts' two player game of forbidden love (which I got to originally play at Bid Bad Con 2017). Asher and Aaron ended up playing a game of forbidden love between a Drow and a High Elf (cute concept!) and unfortunately I was playing at the same time as facilitating, so probably did them a disservice in that regard. I know I showed an example of play, and David was sort of floating between our tables to watch us, and tried helping them out a few times, but as a note: if you have folks relatively new to story games, maybe a stronger hand holding would do.

On my end of the table I played across from Todd, and we ended up with a scenario where a scientist and a janitor were falling in love as death and nanites and the end of the world were eminent. There were some awkward scenes in the lab, late at night. And a moment outside where we... almost... confessed something. And then it ends in some sadness.

April 3: Winterhorn

David has been wanting to run this at the meetup for a while now. "Chomping at the bit", you could say. He got to play in an online version of the game run by Gerrit for The Gauntlet, so had played once before, and had all the cards and such printed out and ready to go. This particular meetup had the perfect number of 7 players, including some new faces.

Winterhorn is by Jason Morningstar, and is pitched as about how governments degrade and destroy activist groups. By playing law enforcement and intelligence operatives working diligently to demoralize and derail, you’ll learn about the techniques used in the real world in pursuit of these goals.

And that's what we did. It's a "table LARP", which is to say you play completely in character at times, just like a LARP, however around a table in a manner and environment similar to many RPGs. Much like a LARP there are various LARP-style safety tools, debrief sessions, and methods for getting in and out of character, like leaving the table during breaks.

After setup and discussion, you play the game in 3 30-minute scenes where you are in character, a bureaucrat around a table making decisions to dismantle a "dissident" group (that may or may not be what it appears). Everyone has there little secret prejudices, and the way you can uncaringly make decisions that could destroy peoples lives is a bit unnerving (and reminds me of that Twilight Zone episode "Button, Button" in that manner).

Something I truly enjoyed about the game is how certain facilitating roles, such as debrief, time tracking, and managing some of the drawing and other components, are all assigned around the table. The management load is spread out by design. Additionally, breaks are done away from the table, so the table space is reserved for being in character only. The intent is to take these rules of play seriously, to provide a more LARP-like experience, and I can only say: Try to do what it says.


April 17: The Final Girl / Autumn of the Ancients

We had a decent turnout this night, with enough folks to split into two tables. David took some folks and run The Final Girl, a perennial favorite.

I got 3 players and played Autumn of the Ancients, a game based off of Fall of Magic, but in space. (Orccon 2018 writeup here.) You are travelling with the Liminal to find the source of ancient technology, which is dying. My version of this game is printed on index cards, since playing on a large star map on a table at a game convention can be exceedingly difficult to do. 

My index card version of the game was used to great effect, inspired by some ideas discussed in the past, and a suggestion by one of the players, Gene. We started with the initial location (Alpha Station), and then had a few rounds of intermediate locations, chosen at random, which itself was great. When we felt that we were getting ready to wrap up the game, we immediately went to the final location: The Black Hole (which I had placed to the side). This enabled us to play in the melancholy, slow paced way that the game usually plays out, but still tell a comprehensive, satisfying story.

And I got to play a Dralasite! (Bonus) We had some silliness occasionally, but the game was far from gonzo, and played well. There was one time that I did "X-card" another player for tone (he appeared to be getting tired and a little silly and added something that definitely was of the gonzo derailing sort). Otherwise, good session.