November 6th, 2012


Big Bad Report

After the fantastic success of last year's Big Bad Con Morgan and I once more made the road trip from Los Angeles to Oakland to sup from the chalice of Bay Area gaming. This time Andrew was already in situ (although got screwed a bit by work) and Colin was in baby-caring mode, but Jesse was able to join us in the car and David met us up there, so a fair number of the LA crew were in attendance. Big Bad Con is currectly a three day con (Friday noon to Sunday afternoon) We drove down on Thursday after Jesse had finished work and drove back on Monday in order to maximise our gaming time.

After good breakfast at Fifth Wheel, Friday's gaming menu began with Anarktica, a steampunk hack of/scenario for Archipelago II (in the GoD room). The system gives a kind of loose structure to the game (essentially it's just a scene-framing mechanic with card draw for success - more in this S-G thread), but this particular session didn't fire for me. I'm not really sure if there was a systemic reason beyond the scenario and players not gelling for me; Sunday's Love in the Time of Seið uses the same system and it rocked.

In the evening I ran a pickup game of The Sprawl for David, Jerry and Matt. I used a new scenario, 'The Boyle Recovery', and it needs some work. The Sprawl itself is working well, and the game was followed by a very productive conversation that will result in a new XP system (in typical AW hack fashion!)

The only game I signed up for before the weekend was The Dirty Half-Dozen, a Dirty Dozen-style bunch of criminals given a chance to win their freedom by undertaking a dangerous mission behind enemy lines. The game used Paul Riddle and John Harper's excellent WWII AW hack, The Regiment (Forum | Begining of an AP rabbit hole). My hardened Commando got to strafe the Nazi Schlosse with a quad MG42, and try to jump a tank in a motorcycle, so I was happy. Great game, both this session and the game itself.

In the afternoon, I ran The Sprawl on the books. I used The Essilor Sterilisation, which I could now probably run in my sleep, but this was the first time the group failed the mission. Practically a TPK as they tried to escape the mess they'd made.

After dinner (an extremely long wait for Indian from across the road) I played Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne, another scene-framing game about a group of medieval characters escorting a witch to her execution, this time with a tightly themed act structure, very evocative characters, and a negotiated conflict resolution system. I played the dishonoured crusader-knight as a "be true to thyself stoic-type" in the battle for the squire's future with the hard-as-nails, death-before-social-dishonour old knight. Daniel Hodges recorded a quick episode for his podcast, Penny Red, immediately afterwards. Our hasty departure from the room we played in to the quite of the next room was apparently bemusing to the group playing out an intense awkward-sex scene (in Jackson Tegu's Silver and White in the room we'd left.

There's also a super-detailed, Sean-Nittner, AP report of the Witch game.

In the morning slot, I played another hack of Archipelago II, this time for Nordic blood opera, Love in the Time of Seið. This game really went off. The system was pretty much the same as Anarktica, but either the setting worked better for me, or the table vibe among the players was better. I suspect the latter. At any rate, I'll be picking this one up.

The last game was My Life with Master, one of the original indie games to come out of The Forge, but one that I hadn't got to play yet. We solved that in spades. I showed David the Master we'd created as he was passing the table, "What the fuck is wrong with you people?" I was going to type it out, but... suffice to say he was kidnappy, mind-controlly, frankensteiny, and eugenicsy.

No gaming. Just breakfast at Cock-a-Doodle Cafe, shopping at Endgame, a couple of beers at The Trappist and a a pizza for the road at Lanesplitter.

Swag included Dominion: Dark Ages, Fastlane and several classic Shadowrun adventures.

Game ideas germinated or developed on the road included Smurfpocalypse World and DungeonHearts.

Papering-over Incompleteness

[This is an archive/reference of some thoughts I had on Twitter late last week.]

I came across a Kickstarter the other day and read this piece of promotional copy: "the mechanics get out of the way, and let the story take center stage."

As I said on Twitter*, This is a warning sign for me, most simply because it implies that the author has learnt nothing from the last 10 years of game development. System matters.

It implies that mechanics are a wall between you and fun that need to be circumvented in some way. Don't do that. If the mechanics are in the way, keep working on your design. Don't move the mechanics out of the way, integrate them!

To the credit of my Twitter peeps, I didn't have to reemphasise the individual nature of this mantra.

* With the ensuing conversations visible on the same page.

Political geek music for voting day: HSAS.