Gateway 2013 Schedule

I'm excited about the lineup for this con. Lots of games I'm excited to run, and lots I'm excited to play!

Friday 2pm: The Lost Temple-City of Xtylos (Dungeon World; Christopher Stone-Bush)
Friday 8pm: The Dark Zone

Saturday 9am: Mission Boston
Saturday 2pm: Either Monster of the Week or Conan Apocalypse World, depending on manual registration.
Saturday 8pm: Bad Publicity (Spelljammer/Fantasy Heroic Roleplaying; Mike Olson) [In the Plate Mail Games sound room]

Sunday 9am: Nothing.
Sunday 2pm: Call Me Brede [In the Plate Mail Games sound room]
Sunday 8pm: Cthulhu Mythos (tremulus; Denys Mordred)

Monday: We'll see.

Gateway 2013 Games

The Dark Zone (The Sprawl; Friday, 8pm, 4 hours, 4 players)

Those in the know call it The Slice because it’s the sharp end of the bleeding edge. The corporations call it the Dark Zone because they don’t enter it, don't control it, can't see inside. You carry the law with you in the Slice. It’s the warm plastic of your gun, the cool metal of your blade, the white hot sear of the names on your tongue: Curtis and Sever. To which do you pledge allegiance? Either will keep you safe from random violence. Both will open doors. Both will close doors too, and both will make you a target.

Yeah. The Slice. That’s where he is, for sure.

The Sprawl is a game of mission-based action in a gritty neon-and-chrome Cyberpunk future. You are the extended assets of vast multinational corporations, operating in the criminal underground, and performing the tasks that those multinationals can’t do, or can’t be seen to, do. Deniable, professional, and ultimately disposable.

Mission Boston (The Regiment; Saturday, 9am, 4 hours, 4 players)

It’s the eve of D-Day. You are all paratroopers in a stick of 3rd Platoon, Baker Company, 1st Batallion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
You will be among the first Americans to face the Nazis in occupied France. Tonight you’ll be jumping out of a transport plane together into Normandy. Your mission is to raise hell inland so that the Germans can’t counterattack against the Allied divisions that will be hitting the beach at dawn.
Each of you is carrying nearly 100 lbs of gear -- some of it is stowed on your person and some of it lugged in a jump bag that dangles beneath you as you drop.
Though you’ve been trained well and your morale is sky-high, this is likely your first combat jump.

The Regiment is a WWII-themed Apocalypse-powered game. You play a squad of soldiers in a combat zone engaging the enemy and doing all that stuff you see in war movies. Think Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers.

Call me Brede (Conquering Corsairs hack of Dungeon World; Sunday, 2pm, 4 hours, 4 players)
You hear stories of monsters in the water
Endless counts of horrific manslaughter
Sailors tell of the beasts of the sea
What they don't say is that the worst one is me.
Sea Monsters, Captain Dan and the Scurvy Crew

Legend tells of the elven corsair Brede's repeated expeditions into the far west and the wealth with which he returned. You didn't pay much heed until you found this map in a cluttered dock-side curiosity shop. "The Sea of Gold and Jade" says the label. If only the tales were more specific regarding the return of Brede's ship as a shattered hulk crawling with zombies...

Call me Brede is set on the Silver Seas of the Conquering Corsairs deck-building game and using a setting-specific hack of Dungeon World. No familiarity of the game or world is required.

The game will be played in a room wired for sound by Plate Mail Games and will feature PMG's awesome background loops.

Go Play NorthWest 2013

At the end of June I was in Seattle for Go Play NorthWest (GPNW), a casual story-game-focused convention. You can read about the consumptive aspects of the convention on Ardens, this post is about the gaming itself.

Friday Night: Mission Boston (The Regiment)
John Aegard (Johnzo) had released this scenario for The Regiment into the wild a few weeks before GPNW. With it's core in World War II, The Regiment really hits me in the nostalgia for a great many teenaged hours poring over WW2 maps and histories. As soon as I saw John was offering Mission Boston at GPNW, I jumped at the chance to play. The game did not disappoint.

I played the Sniper, Cpl. Andy McCaull, a former east coast barber estranged from his wife who views his volunteering for the armed forces as "playing hero". She may have been onto something. Dropping into Normandy and searching for ourmission objectives, McCaull became separated from his spotter and the rest of the squad and was captured while trying to outflank and eliminate a mortar emplacement.

I then took on the role of PFC Merle Misney, the bazooka loader. Out of the frying pan... Misney and the Bazooka operator, PFC Joe Kapowski, were pinned down in a flooded field and cut off from the rest of the squad while out of ammo and with Kapowski himself freaking out. A short scene of yelling, carrying, more yelling and some "get it together man!" slapping, and we had regrouped, but were still out of rockets and isolated. With a German squad approaching and more between us and the Sarge, there was only option. Frontal assault. Actually a series of frontal assaults. Accompanied by fragmentation and gammon grenades. Amazingly we were successful and destroying two squads and seizing a bridge and the local German HQ, but we never managed to link up with the Sarge and the rest of the squad who were last heard assaulting an emtrenched anti-aircraft battery.

Saturday Morning: Sagas of the Icelanders
My previous game of Sagas of the Icelanders was excellent, so I was keen to see how it played with a different group. The result was mixed. I played Hrefna, a Shield-Maiden; daughter of Woden, The Man; pursued by Steingrimmer, an NPC warrior. The other players were Gudren, the Seiðkona (a kind of wise woman) and Kodran, the Wanderer (a playbook for the strange new arrival in town). In order to kick start the three-hour slot, the GM, Jonathan Reiter, had made themed love letters for us to choose from, mine was The Manslayer: I had killed another villager in a drunken brawl which coloured the villagers' opinion of me and gave me access to a male move.

It took a little while for the game to hit its stride. Jonathan had some ideas for initial scenes which was another good idea, but he some may have been a bit forced. I think he had a bit of a preconceived idea about how the Wanderer would play, which Morgan was not on board with and Kodran was a bit absent at the start. But once we got going there were some great scenes. Hrefna's plot focused on Steingrimmer's repeated approached through her father, a vector which did not impress her. She loved her father a great deal, but rankled at taking the proscribed womanly role Steingrimmer seemed to want. This climaxed when it intersected with Woden's plot, which was to expand his lands by expropriating the inheritance of a neighbouring widow. Steingrimmer and Gruden were helping the widow and when they brought legal action against Woden, Hrefna lured Steingrimmer onto his boat and bashed his brains out.

After that, there we a kind of extended epilogue in which we all went a-viking which didn't really work for me. Afterwards Jonathan mentioned a couple of things that he likes to see in Sagas games, which is fine, but he probably should have mentioned earlier so we could focus on those things rather than forcing them or tacking them on awkwardly.

Saturday Afternoon: The Sprawl
In the afternoon, I ran The Sprawl for Jonathan, Morgan, Sean Nittner and Karen Twelves. Jonathan had expressed interest in playing The Reporter, so I ran the game in a similar way to that at the June Game Day: a mission focused on the Reporter's story (investigating Omni Dynamics). In the links phase, the players performed two jobs against the same corporation (Tiaxia) taking that Corporate Clock to 0000, ensuring that agents of that corporation would show up shooting.

Sean has discussed the game in detail.

Saturday Evening: Atomic Robo
I sat in on the donut (which is close to what Kapcon calls the Duckwalk, potential players stand in a circle, GMs stand in a smaller interior circle and pitch, players race to be noticed by the GM when the facilitator says go), but missed out on Johnstone Metzger's Dungeon World game. So I joined Morgan's Atomic Robo game with Logan Bonner, Anastacia Visneski, and someone else I've forgotten the name of.

Last time I played Atomic Robo it was an old version with quite a few rough edges, and while this game started slowly with a character generation bottleneck, it turned into a rollicking good time as Morgan's FATE games invariably do! I particularly loved Anastasia's sleazy interpretation of Robo's seventies phase, and Logan's character and my scientific super-spy ("James, Frederick James. International Man of Science.") smoking and drinking their way around an investigation in a biodome.

Sunday Morning: Netrunner
The next morning nothing appealed at the donut, so despite forgetting my cards, I went to the Netrunner meet-up and played a few games with Sage LaTorra and Derek Guder (although I didn't realise that Derek was a twitter interlocutor of mine until I asked what his twitter handle was at lunch time). I was using Derek's cards in all four games I played, and it was a good chance to try out the basic decks for factions I hadn't used before.

Sunday Afternoon: Undying
This was the second of Paul Riddle's games I played at GPNW (he is also one of the designers of The Regiment) and the second time I'd played Undying. Since last August, Paul has redesigned the game to be diceless. I was initially skeptical, but he was generous enough to run the game twice at GPNW so I had a chance to try it out, and I'm sold. It essentially makes every move a 7-9 result, which the players can choose and spend blood to choose more options. It's very elegant and actually removes a tone of GM workload.

We were playing in a 19th-century Baltimore setting designed by Jason Morningstar in which vampire society dominates the medical schools, professional associations and assorted subsidiary industries. We had a Devil who ran the police morgue, a Wolf who ran the local body-wagon, a Succubus who ran an opium den and me as the Puppet Master who chaired the city's main medical board. The kicker for the game was the murder of the Leige's lover and instead of becoming an investigation of the murder, it rapidly turned into a PvP cover-up/snitch operation when the Wolf tried to keep the fact that the body had turned up at the Succubus' opium den a secret from me so that I wouldn't tell the Leige. It was awesome. As I said last time. This hack gives you everything Vampire's flavour-text promised. Paul is already gathering art, so some form of final publication will be in the works soon, I'd say.

Sunday Evening: Dungeon World
I didn't manage to play DW with Sage and Adam, but I did manage to give Lily the game I'd promised last year sometime, and play out the latest in the adventures of Ben Demon-Slayer.

In this installment, Ben and his companions journeyed to the top of the world to recover a sacred gem lost to the halfling nations, but Ben had to choose whether to return the sacred treasure to his homeland and return strife to the lands, or leave it in the lush gardens atop the icy spire, forgo the glory and leave the halfling lands at peace. My memory of the specifics of the last game of a energetic weekend are fuzzy, but there were lots of cool moments of fighting giant ice trolls, flying guardian spiders, and exploding donuts of magical energy.

Mmm, Dungeon World.

Because I like statistics...

So far I have MCed The Sprawl for 46 people playing 49 different characters in 12 one-shots and 1 mini-campaign.

9 people have played a Hunter.
8 people have played a Infiltrator (one twice)
7 people have played a Hacker (one twice)
6 people have played a Killer (two three times)
6 people have played a Soldier (one twice)
5 people have played a Driver
5 people have played a Pusher
3 people have played a Fixer
0 people have played a Reporter (I've never offered this playbook)
0 people have played a Tech (I've only offered this playbook once or twice)

I don't think this tells me much at this point. The first four playbooks I finished and the only playbooks which have been offered every time were Hunter, Hacker, Killer, Driver. Infiltrator was soon after and Soldier relatively soon after that. Pusher and Fixer are relatively new and Reporter and Tech are very new.

So Infilitrators are perhaps more popular than average (everyone loves ninja/sniper/assassins), while Drivers are less so (no one wants to be the guy who waits in the car).

Big Trek on the Beat

I saw three movies last night:

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
A big dumb action movie in which a group of high school physics dropouts display their knowledge of Star Trek characters and demonstrate how little they care about plot. They lost me at the "cold fusion" bomb, but, in a reversal of the experiences of my of my friends, I liked it more a couple of hours later than I did when I stepped out of the theatre.

The Big Heat (1988)
A cop drama that follows four cops on the hunt for a friend's killer. The Big Heat plays it straight behind Waise Lee's impassive visage before escalating to an explosive finish. The sound editing is bad and the characters sometimes jump confusingly between scenes, but the characters and plot are good.

Tiger on the Beat (1988)
This buddy cop movie (lazy senior cop and enthusiastic rookie) plays it for comedy until the "love" interest is killed, then gets serious. It had many great scenes and Chow Yun-fat is awesome as always. Conan Lee gets the best fight scene at the end; it's totally worth watching for that alone. However, it is the most straight up misogynistic HKA film I've seen. The first such scene in which the cops release a suspect so that Chow Yun-Fat's character can seduce her (for information?) on the department's dime is weird and would be fine on its own. Howver, the scene that stops my buying the DVD of this otherwise great movie has Chow Yun-Fat's character beat the same woman into giving up her criminal ways and she ends up falling for him. Ugh.

Gamex 2013

For various reasons, I'm behind on providing con reports, so this will be brief. I'll try to provide more detail in the comments, as requested.

Friday Afternoon: Board Games
This con ended up being far more boardgame heavy than usual. To be fair, that wouldn't be hard as I usually only play one or two, if that. Over the course of the weekend, I played games of Smash Up, Infiltration, Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre, and King of Tokyo. I played the last at Buckets of Dice last year; it's cool but very simple. Epic Spell Wars is mostly cool because of the ridiculous metal voices the spell names inspire. Smash Up involves taking two preset decks of faction cards and shuffling them together to produce a mash-up of the two, which you then you to fight your opponents and seize locations. I think I played three games of this over the weekend and they were all very different in terms of strategy and gameplay, so it has a lot of replay value. Infiltration is another game set in FFG's Android world. In this one, everyone plays a mechanically identical character breaking into a facility to steal as much paydata as they can and get out alive before the security forces come. Thematically, it's not unlike a boardgame version of mission part of The Sprawl.

I might pick up copies of Smash Up and Infiltration at some point.

Friday Evening: ΚΡΑΤΟΦΑΓΙΑ
Both of my games reinforced how little I enjoy large games at cons; six players is too many. This game about creepy little mutants eating living things for mutant powers could have been freaky and intimate, but it turned out a bit gonzo. I'll run it again with four players.

On Saturday morning I played board games in the Barcon suite and I can't remember what I played in the afternoon...

Saturday Evening: Tonight We Slay a Dragon or Die in the Attempt
Ugh. Again, too many players. Also, never give up GM control to someone you don't know. No brainer, right? Yeah, I'm an optimist. This essentially turned into an okay trad-style adventure against a dragon, but I got the feeling the guy who GMed it wanted to turn it into a "the dragon is good and you're evil" gotcha. Again, I'll run this again with a smaller group and a firmer hand.

Sunday morning was more board games.

Sunday Afternoon: FATE Night's Black Agents
When we playtested Night's Black Agents a year or two ago, we fell in love with the premise (secret agents discover their previous employers were vampires and attempt to bring down their organisation, the awesomely named Conspyramid). The only problem was Gumshoe. I'm not sure what prompted it, but Colin and David started thinking of a FATEcore hack for this kind of cinematic-but-realistic, Jason-Bourne-style, spy thriller game, and it's awesome.

I was Mr Smoke, a handler modeled loosely on George Smiley from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (I've only seen the excellent 2011 movie; highly recommended), and I was running an op in Sarajevo against the conspiracy. The game started with the team under fire from a high-powered rifle as we picked up a scientist with information on the vampire conspiracy. With the scientist badly wounded, we outflanked and eliminated the shooter and evaded the cordon of vampiric agents and police, but our rendezvous point was compromised so we had to separate. Merrick and McIntyre rushed the doctor to a safe house, and when Mr Smoke made contact, he rushed to meet them there, bringing a local doctor he had worked with before. The scientist didn't make it, but we did get the name of the company behind the local vampiric operation, OmniDynamics, an experimental blood-synthesis laboratory. McIntyre found us some names and addresses.

Mr Smoke contacted a local militant group and exchanged a set of British passports for a small bombing campaign. As the militants assassinated the upper management of OmniDynamics, Hetherington and Merrick infiltrated the penthouse condo of the head of the corporation. Hetherington ambushed him in his safe room, but despite his own slightly enhanced vampire blood, was soon engaged in a life-or-death struggle with the partially-vampiric corporate head. Merrick arrived and forced the vampire to flee, but the elevator doors opened to Mr Smoke with a white-phosphorus-loaded shotgun. We threw the vampire's body out the penthouse window into the sun and it exploded before it hit the ground.

This is now a semi-regular game.

Sunday Evening: Dominion Tournament
This was an interesting experience for me, having never played in a Strategicon tournament before. It used every supply once throughout the tournament and I wasn't familiar with many of the cards or combinations I ended up playing with which made it a bit tricky. There were two qualifying rounds and I just missed the cut for the finals, finishing 3/4 in the first game (because I expected aggressive play from my opponents and bought a near-useless moat at the start to get the jump on them) and 2/4 in the second (being pipped by a single point in a high scoring Bishop game by the person who finished just ahead of me in the first game as well! I don't know how the tourney ended, but I hope she did well! She'd only ever played the iPad version before the tournament!) The organisation was a bit rough and the format odd, but I'll probably play again next time.

Gamex 2013

Tonight We Slay a Dragon or Die in the Attempt
(Saturday, 8pm)
Tonight, my friends, we shall slay a dragon. Or else, in the attempt, we shall ourselves be slain. Should we succeed, the tale of our deed will be told in mead-halls and wine-sinks for ever more, and our names will be spoken in tones of reverence and awe. Should we fail, we shall die and so shall our names. But hear this, my boon companions: Live or die, we will have flung the dice of fate, we will have stared in the face of the impossible, we will have lived on the icy edge of death, and we will have been heroes.

This game provides a suggested preset scene structure and several archetypes. The table will create the story, the characters, and perhaps even the rules.

Tonight We Slay a Dragon or Die in the Attempt by Simon Carryer.

(Friday, 8pm)
The crashed ships of the Progonoi pierce the land like teeth of a dead god. The domed cities of the Katoikoi lie squat and empty among them, strewn like droplets of the land’s blood. The air is fetid and deadly, but you’ve learned to breathe it. You’ve learned other things besides. And your swollen glands thirst to know more. In the land of the dead, you eat or you die.

A sick and disturbing mash-up of Dungeon World, Dungeon Planet and Geiger World. Credit to Iosephus Lee, Tim Oliver, Adam Koebel, Jan-Yves Ruzicka and Mat O'Farrell; blame to me.