I can't remember the last time I felt this little stress going into a game convention. Partly it's because we run 3 times / year, every year, so it's super familiar to me. But even so, I used to get there early to ensure signups in slots I hadn't gotten in games, and normally I run a game in the 2pm Friday slot to kick-off the con.
Not this time. The one game I'd signed up for was 2pm Friday, and I was running later that night. And all Saturday was Games on Demand, and Sunday was kiddo-time. I just strolled right in without a care in the world. It was lovely.
Friday 2pm: Demigods (PbtA)
The first game of the day was Demigods, a playtest by Jason Mills for his PbtA game where you play as one of the half-mortal children of the gods. He's been playtesting for a while now, and specifically has a series of actual plays on the Happy Jacks RPG media empire.
This one-shot was called Ragna-ROCK, described as: This band of Demigods is exactly that, a real band! CharGen will include what kind of band you're in, and how you'll save the music industry. Rock on!
I remember a couple of things about this game:
- The story involved all of us in a band, and eventually having a battle for our supremacy on holing on to the number one spot on the Santa Monica Pier.
- I played the Warrior, a worshiper of a forgotten Babylonian god of dance and war. I was the bands dancer, as well as percusionist, and these two were tied together in performance.
- There were 6 players. Personally, I think that's too much for a PbtA game in general, and this one specifically, due to the many approaches that various players had in the game.
- Jason did a great job running the show and keeping us herded into something that resembled a coherent story, despite various gonzo turns.
- There was some player-based conflict that wasn't particularly fun to deal with.
- The system itself ran pretty smooth, and you could tell it has seen some action in playtest land.
- The system is probably what is now considered a traditional PbtA game, as far mechanics (Roll+Stat, flavorful playbook archtypes, character bonds reminiscent of Apocalypse World or Dungeon World).
- Overall, it was a fun session, but I'd recommend going with a smaller table size in the future, as spotlighting is very difficult on a table this big. Maybe 4 players max?
Friday 8pm: Ten Candles
I've run Ten Candles before at this game convention, and it was a pretty fantastic time. I also hadn't been able to run it for my friend Howie yet, so couldn't wait to see how he'd like it. I had a bunch of great players, including Howie, Ron and Will.
We discussed options around which Module to play (the book comes with many starting scenarios). We went for one of the bonus modules: The Burning Man. Basically, they're members of a commune that's been anticipating and looking forward to the end days, but now that those days are here and They are hunting everyone, the situation isn't as palatable as they'd thought.
The players were great, and the story was still interesting, and the card handed to me was "I have seen Them... masquerade as others", so we had some doppelganger action towards the end of the story.
The problem with the game? Funnily enough, darkness. Ten Candles is to be played in the dark with 10 candles. And I do so with my cheat sheet, since running it by the book is too difficult. However after creating the players had created their characters, I confidently decided I knew what comes next (although hadn't run this in many months). I forgot about one of the main mechanics in the game: Establishing Truths. This is the mechanic where you take turns saying what is true about the world, and also what is happening next, and is a great transition from one scene to the next, often telling us how the world is actively changing and where the characters then find themselves.
Instead, in this game I ended up taking some liberty with pushing the story along and telling them where we were next, and although it worked, it removes some of the players' narrative control that they should have in this game. I realized my mistake a few scenes in, and at that point decided it'd be too disruptive to try and retrofit it. So, that definitely detracted a bit from the game, but overall I felt like it still worked really well.
Live and learn, right?