The short story: I was taking my daughter up to San Jose to visit my parents for 2 weeks, and discovered that GoPlayNW, a table top RPG-based game convention based in Seattle, was going to happen during that middle weekend.
- Free babysitting = GO.
- Friend Jerry from Oregan can make it = GO.
- People on the GoPlayNW forum seem cool = GO.
- Friends to stay with after convention = GO.
All systems launch!
Going to Seattle
Up and at 'em. A 6:30am flight from San Jose to Seattle for the min-max win (minimum price, maximum time at Seattle). Travelling with lots of gear is a pet peeve, but I was planning on running my Lego-based Star Frontiers game, which has lots of moving parts. It was worth it in the end, but meant I had to lug my stuff around for a bit.
It's been 11 years or so since I've been to Seattle. The most obvious difference was the Link light rail. Just $3 for a straight shot into the city during rush hour? A godsend. Doesn't get you to Seattle University (the location of GoPlayNW), but that's only about a mile away from the downtown light rail stations… I mean, you can walk that in like 20 minutes right? Do not be deceived! Seattle, much like SF, has a well deserved reputation for being hilly. If you have luggage, make it easy on yourself. In my case I used a Lyft (aka a smaller Uber), for the first time in my life; my brother works for them and was trying to convince me to take them.
Lyft PROTIP: If you sign up for it, wait until you get to the city of choice, since – as of this writing – you get 3 free $15 rides, however only in the location where you initially sign up. I signed up in San Jose, so couldn't use my freebees here. I had my friend Jerry sign up in Seattle when he got here, and that worked out quite well for us late in the weekend, when we actually needed rids. (You likely won't need any while at the con itself.)
Getting to GoPlayNW
Fortunately, unlike hotel-based cons with hotel check-ins, at GoPlayNW you can "rent" a dorm room for the weekend, and they care very little about check-in times. I was able to get in my room when I arrived there around 11am, and that meant time for a cat nap. Yes, I'm that old.
Jerry took the train up from Oregon, and landed around noon time. He unfortunately didn't heed my advice (which I hadn't quite formulated yet) and walked the mile to the school with his heavy luggage. After a sweaty hug, we settled for a bit, and then headed down to the dorm building lobby, where we slowly started to meet folks that were here for the con.
We immediately were approached by friendlies! This is a theme that would be pretty consistent throughout the weekend: Don't know that person? Say 'hi'. Someone doesn't look included? Include them. It was so unbelievably refreshing and pleasant. And the caliber of gamers was just very high. Lots of people with interesting perspective, experiences, and motivations, all with a heavy love of gaming.
I brought a little collection of board games in case we had downtimes that needed to be managed, and it immediately came in handy with some 2-player Lost Cities, and a few sessions of Splendor.
Because the con was relatively small in scale (about 120 people), it had a very intimate and relaxed feel. There was a "formal" dinner on Friday evening, although there was really not that much "formal" about it, just some yummy eats, and more friendly conversations. Other than how friendly folks were, something that impressed me was that after these great little conversation, I'd then find out that the person was actually someone I was familiar with, or have designed a game I had heard of. This was like a little hippie game nexus! (to borrow the "hippie" game parlance from the Happy Jacks RPG crew and forums).
I'll give a special shout-out to Max (who has posted his write up of GoPlayNW 2015 here), who had a specific goal of welcoming folks who looked new / lost / alone, and have since found inspiration from that for future con attendance.
Dinner over, and time for the first game, in this case one I was running. I had 2 pre-registered players, Jerry and Chris. And that's when I was introduce to The Donut.
Now, some games are setup ahead of time and have a sign-in sheet, similar to other conventions I've been to. However, there were about 20-30 people standing around with no game to play. Interesting. So, The Donut is a little thing they do before a gaming slot runs to solve this problem. Any GM with a sign-up game and missing players comes up, and then they ask for volunteers who want to run games. Effectively it's a "games on demand" type setup, but the GM pitches the game real quick and says how many players, and the organizers try to ensure it looks like there are enough games for the number of lost souls. Then they just let all the folks find their games in a mad-dash of chaos. And it works, beautifully.
Distress on LL928
So, after all that I got Soren and Andy, 2 more players, and we were off to play. This was my first time running my game with some new tweaks (from my initial game build), and I think they definitely worked out to smooth some kinks that I found in prior runs:
- Character creation was all handled in one phase, instead of an initial race/stats/skills phase and then later an equipment phase (which ate some time).
- The story complications (i.e. hidden backgrounds and motivations for each character) were tweaked to be easier to read and use.
- Story complication for Dralasite character was made more palatable.
- All the players are "new" members to the Scrap and Salvage vessel, meaning they are all coming in with little experience in this line of employment, which works better in evoking the theme and feelings that everything is a little out of their depth.
All in all the game went well, and finished about 30 minutes after midnight. That's probably the shortest run of the game I've handled thus far (a total of 4.5 hours). The players seemed happy, and in the end that's all that mattered.
Off to the dorm room, and to find that it was really a hot box, and the windows were completely misleading since they did nothing to bring the slightly cooler air from the outside, in. In the end we probably got about 5 hours of sweaty sleep. It was an unusual warm Seattle week, so if you come on a future GoPlayNW, you probably (maybe) won't have the same issue… at least I hope not.