Saturday 9am: Games on Demand / Misspent Youth
First Games on Demand (GoD) session of the morning my friend Andy was willing to run a Dungeon World scenario called Curse of Terror Island, like with dinosaurs and Wushu, and that immediately grabbed a chunk of the players. Friend Chris pitched Misspent Youth, though, and that grabbed me immediately, as I've had a chance to chat with Rob Bohl many times in the prior year, and hey: Dystopian Sci-fi Punks... hell yeah.
It was just Chris running, with John and I as players. Chris freely admitted that he hadn't run it before and just read through the book the once, so it'd be a bit of test-run, but hell was it a great game. Chris played played The Authority (GM) and brought just the right level of adversarialness... hard-hitting and r, elevant and evil. You wanted to punch all those bad guys they were soooo good. To that end, it was also a very collaboratively driven game, for two reasons: 1. we players played a large part in creating the dystopia and the authority's drives and motivations, and 2. all three of us played super cinematically.
We went for a generation starship which is way past its reserves, being driven mercilessly to find the perfect homeworld by the ship's psychologist Jaji ("98.5% habitable is not good enough, damnit"). She's also the only one capable of using cryosleep without it affecting her sanity (or is she?), and hence the only one which has survived the 100's of years we've been flying. We had our clique, the Chromites, little orphans and punks living in the ships innards, using mechanical hacking to subvert supplies and cause trouble. Some of crew included brothers Ahjo and Buzz, a 12-year old prodigy Tree, and Gloria (supposedly related distantly to Jaji herself). A former Chromite, Siren, was now part of the evil hivemind that are the security network ("the wolves"), and they were on to us.
Our Authority involved traits such as Absolutism, and subverting our Humanity. Systems of control included the ships robots (we decided no true Artificial Intelligence in this setting), and chips in believer's heads (the hivemind; limited number of people and limited telepathy due to technology and resource limitations). Our exploits were that we know the robotic patterns due to our prodigy Tree, and Ahjo using that information to hack the system.
Our end goal was eventually to find a way to put Jaji back to bed, as she decided that she was done with cryostatis, and was the root of all our ills. Lots of great scenes, and great drama, but in the end the Authority won, and we were caught.
I was super impressed with the structure of the games, including the scene types, systems of control, the collaborative nature of world and character and adversary building. Additionally, the conflict resolution mechanics uses a system that's a little bit like Craps, where you roll-and-claim numbers between 2-12. Similarly, the Authority claims numbers as well, however without rolling (as based by the rules). When you hit a number already marked by the Youthful Offenders, you win the conflict. Similarly if you roll a number that the Authority has claimed, you lose. The escalating tension this causes is well placed, and the back-and-forth narration is fun, especially if you're into story games and possibly "writer's room"-style games.
I was immediately inspired to run this game (and in fact did so twice in the following months at our story game meetup and online; links to write-ups to be provided soon).
Robert Bohl has written a pretty amazing game, and even though it feels like there is a high bar to run it if you haven't played very improv-necessary games (such as GM-less games or games like Ten Candles which explicitly tell you as the GM not to prepare), the rules are very supportive and it makes the game very much a conversation. Highly recommended.
Saturday 2pm: Games on Demand / Ten Candles
Normally I'd just be running another GoD game, however Jim and Lori were supposed to be in last night's game, and due to snafu, had to miss it. Jim could provide a private room, and so without further ado I got the two of them, and friends Unique and Keith, to join me for some last minute Ten Candles. Also props to Jim Pinto who was around to take on many other Games on Demand folks for some of his gaming (Praxis, if I'm not mistaken), but it was the one time I almost didn't have GMs to deal with the number of gamers present.
We looked at a few scenarios, and ended up going with Bunker by Brady Tatro (available in the Ten Candles PDF), which reads, "The world is crumbling, but people in power have planned for this possibility. People like you. A massive bunker has been constructed, a bunker capable of saving many from the arrival of Them. It only requires minor modifications to account for constant light production. Of course, it also needs to be determined who will be staying there. How many is too many? Who gets to live? Who must die?"
This was perfect, given we were playing in a literal hotel board room. Unique passed me the card which read "I have seen Them... change size", and so my mite-like creatures that can change size from microscopic to gargantuan were eventually born, to ill effect. Especially when you see someone itching their arm constantly, or see bodies with pieces that have exploded from the inside out, or are driving in a vehicle and crash into a boulder that comes out of nowhere. But of course they didn't know all this until much later.
The one thing that was in great contrast from my prior nights run, is that I remembered to do the Establishing Truths phase, and it was just such a different game because of it. Lesson learned.
The players were great at inter-person conflict, and combined with my hard moves whenever the drama got slow, it worked out for a great story. There was a drive up a mountain road to the bunker door, an accident, a dark tunnel, and finally entry into the safe haven, which was of course already overrun from the inside. A tragic ending, and I was particularly proud of how the game played out. (You can hear Jim talk about it more in the Happy Jacks broadcast linked below, if you want to see my ego grow about 5 times.)
Saturday eve: Happy Jacks RPG Podcast live
After Ten Candles, it was time for a little R&R. Gathered with some friends at the bar (folks from the Happy Jacks RPG contingent as well as fans and friends), ate a bite, drank a beer or two, shooted some shit. Then the traditional 8pm live recording of the podcast, which Kimi was running (Stu was out due to Ren-faire stuff).
Good stuff, getting to hear about various games around the convention that I hadn't seen, and the usual banter and friendliness. It was a little less chaotic than usual (I think alcohol consumption wasn't quite as rampant as it usually is, although I had my fair share of drinks before and during).
You can listen to the live recording of the podcast at Gamex 2018 here.
Saturday 10pm: Best Friends
The final game I played was off-book. Friends Stephanie and Toby came down from Las Vegas, and in addition to running some usual games of theirs, Stephanie wanted to try out Best Friends, a diceless role-playing game by Gregor Hutton about girlfriends, and their drama. We organized the game to help Stephanie do this playtest, and it came about through the Strategicon Games on Demand Slack that I created earlier in the year, so yay for that! (And of course if you are interested in joining, you are welcome to; direct message me through a social media platform of your choice).
I will freely admit I was running on fumes at this point, but I've got strategies for how to do this with minimal game interruptions. For example: Play an absent minded character, or someone who doesn't quite have it together, or is a weirdo. All these come off well when you are already at a lowered brain capacity.
The beginning of the game is really interesting, in that character stats are determined by people basically voting for who they think is smartest, prettiest, coolest, and so on. You tally the votes, and the person who got the most votes for a thing, is the "best" at that thing. But even the prettiest person thinks someone else is prettier than them. It's all very interesting and delicious.
We had Dolories, Eunice, Patty, Beatrice, and Nora, and it was all very small-town USA in the 50's. The game itself was excellent fun, and we had some hilarious scenes. There was red scare drama, and pie contests, and much more, but the best was just our various personalities interacting with each other in all sorts of subversive ways. I'm always impressed when a system so very simple can create such good drama through basic mechanics. Of course it helps that the table consisted of great players.
I think Stephanie was looking to use the system for a game she has in development, and if it goes through, I can't wait to play it.