Tags: wellington


Day of Games

Wellington's annual Games on Demand con, Day of Games, was on Saturday. This time it was in Brooklyn so the food options were better than the usual spot in the business district on a weekend. I even managed to find a market with a couple of decent beer options.

For the first session, I almost played Psi*Run, but a couple of latecomers turned up, so I grabbed a set of Dungeon World character sheets from surrealfish and ran that for four players (all new to DW). I had the players all write down a monster and a location and wove together a quest that saw a wizard, a cleric, a bard and a ranger sneak, run and battle their way through a haunted fungus forest, over a treacherous sea bridge guarded by a manticore to the island lair of a medusa on a quest for knowledge. The game ended with the cleric persuading the medusa to release the bard, select other of her victims, and as much of her treasure as they could carry in exchange for her life. The game was as reliably awesome as usual.

After lunch I played Microscope (which I hadn't played, but was interested in doing so), facilitated by Steve Hickey (whom I had only played with once, years ago). Microscope is Ben Robbins' GM-less and mostly character-less game of epic history (which he talks about it a little in this PAX panel on GMless roleplaying that I just listened to). Essentially, it takes the "lonely fun" of world generation and makes a social experience of it. We played out a history of "humanity moves the stars", a sci-fi future which spanned the age from the discovery of evidence of Jupiter's stellation to humanity's establishment of an intergalactic empire. The three threads that we followed in the 3 hours of play were a cult dedicated to Jupiter, the theme of interstellar mobility, and Robots! This was our tableau (squinting may be required...). I'm keen to try this as a setting generator for a GMed game of something else.

After dinner I ran The Sprawl for Steve, surrealfish, Dan and confusiontempst. We had Ritter was a broke Hunter who had scavenged and saved to but the cybereyes that were now destroying his optic nerves; Grit the company Soldier and team leader, owned by the military tech corporation Therma AG; Zero the Infiltrator, grown, along with her six sisters, in a Nissan-Disney vat; and Kennedy the monofilament-wielding Killer, hunted by Fox-Warner and owned by a underground drug cartel-cum-investment scheme. Their mission was to extract a corporate asset from a semi-secure facility before a corporate counter-espionage arrived to relocate and interrogate him. The run turned a little hairy at the end, and I should have pushed more at the end to make it more skin-of-the-teeth, but it went well anyway. My prep for this one was definitely better than on previous occasions, although I still forgot a bunch of principles. Thus there are many useful things to contemplate and incorporate into the game's procedures. It also got me back into thinking about The Sprawl, after a bit of a lapse.

In the final session (a condensed two hours) surrealfish ran Dungeon World. I played something of a reprise of my regular Elven Fighter from the Glendale game, but in a game with a very silly tone and a PvP ending. The pace was frenetic as surrealfish pushed us through the ideas we'd provided in search of the mythical DRAGON BEARS!

After slaying them, the thief tried to sell us out to a sorceress we'd previously encountered, attempting to blow up the paladin with an explosive chest. The paladin had the last laugh, but then (shades of Get John Carter here) my Fighter was ensorcelled by the sorceress and killed the Paladin before the spell was broken. The game-slash-social contract threatened to go pear-shaped for a little while there, but I think everyone enjoyed themselves in the end.

So that was Day of Games. Great location, pretty good timing (all of my games finished on time, and I'm the four hour advocate!), and great games. Thanks to all my GMs, players and interlocutors!

Kapcon 21, Day 2

Who am I kidding, I only run one game.

I spent all the Sunday sessions camped out in the Games on Demand rooms, so none of these games were on the schedule.

Session 4: The Adventures of Throndar the Barbarian ON THE MOUNTAIN OF FIRE! Dungeon World.
I don’t like to run games with more than four or five players these days. I usually advertise all my games a 4 player games, and will sometime accept a fifth. With that said, I’m not sure exactly how I ended up with six in this game. Despite that, this was right up there with the best Dungeon World games I’ve been involved in thanks in no small part to a table full of excellent players.

When I’m running one off games, I like to get some adventure seeds from the players then craft them into something while the players make their characters. In this case, I gave each player two pieces of paper and had them write a fantastic location on one and a terrible monster on the other. I was going to pick one of each at random, but several of them worked well together, so I used about eight of the suggestions in this game (which I described as the serious suggestions), and shelved the rest (the wacky suggestions) for round six. The resulting adventure was traversing a fetid swamp to reach the lair of a fire demon in a Dragon graveyard atop volcano. Badass, bring it!

The characters were as awesome as the adventure seeds:
  • Walton, Chef to the Tzars, (Dennis) the Fighter who carved up defeated enemies for rations.
  • Fo Thun the Petulant, (Ian) the Wielder of Magicks, Blinder of Lizardmen, Dowser of Fire Demons!
  • Zorica, the Cleric of Zorica, (Rose) having saved the mayor’s daughter now teaming up with a new Throndar the Barbarian and on the hunt for converts...
  • The ever so polite Sir Ptolemy Chumley-Smythe Worthingtonsonness (Svend), Paladin of bloody vengeance.
  • A different Throndar the Barbarian (Nick), with Smoldering eyes, revealing leathers, elaborate tattoos, mighty thews (of course), “strange” piercings and, as it turned out, a penchant for narcolepsy.
  • Melliandre the Elven bard (Sam), gifted with a bewitching voice by Zorica.
Rose and Nick had played Dungeon World before (both in games I had run within the last few weeks).

The adventure began with Walton leading the party through the swamp, secretly in search of a legendary manticore (the culinary equivalent of a box of assorted chocolates), while Melliandre regaled them with the tale of a hero who had soothed a giant bat with music and a particular food and ridden it on a might quest. On the way through the swamp they were ambushed by lizardmen, the leader of whom Throndar messily decapitated. Sir Ptolemy recruited the survivors as bearers, mostly for the sleepy Throndar – berserking is tiring work! On the body of the leader they found a crude map showing a couple of paths, “home” and “pit of death and batshit”. The body of the leader himself was rendered down for rations by Walton.

Continuing to the crossroads marked on the crude map where they camped for the night, resolving to approach the pit of death and batshit in the light of day. During Throndar’s watch, they were ambushed by a large band of lizardmen. The ensuing fight was chaotic: Throndar was off in the swamp berserking amongst a group of lizardmen; Walton picked up his shield-cum-wok from the camp fire and, resisting the heat, threw it at a large lizardman, but the lizardman ducked and the shield sunk into the swamp with a hiss, where it elluded his attempts to recover it; Fo Thun, Melliandre and Zorica all spent most of their time wrestling with lizardmen in the camp while Sir Ptolemy dressed with the air of his bearers and went to their aid. As the dust settled in the camp proper, the still-raging Throndar rushed screaming from the swamp, across the camp, and back into the swamp, pursing a single lizardman with multiple wounds and blinded by Fo Thun who had cast embers into his face with his staff. Squelch.

Amongst the loot was a bag full of big bugs and mushrooms and a magical net. Fo Thun spouted lore and declared that the favoured food of bats was truffles, but that mushrooms would be close enough. Thus they continued to the pit where they battled a fierce manticore while ankle deep in the bones of its previous victims. Despite the attempts of several of the group to ensnare it in the magical net, it was left to the mighty axe of Throndar to slay the beast; the cover of this chapter of Melliandre’s tale would no doubt feature an airborne barbarian leaping at the leonine face of a similarly airborne leaping manticore. Walton butchered the manticore and imagined the feast he would serve to his wealthy patrons back in the city, they searched the bones for gold, finding a Sword of Man Slaying, partially by the misfortune of Throndar having fallen on it during the struggle.

When the giant bats returned, they tamed them with song and mushroom, mounted them and rode them to the dragon graveyard atop the mountain of fire. Needing to summon forth the demon, Melliandre related how demons could usually be summoned forth by offering a virgin, so Sir Ptolemy was tied to a giant dragon skull and Throndar gave forth a might yell of challenge.

In response, a giant shadow appeared in the belching flame and a demonic figure emerged down from the caldera to the graveyard making for the skull, its four arms wreathed in flame. Melliandre spouted lore once more about how fire demons eat their sacrificial meal after they have crushed their enemies, and battle was joined. Throndar ran up a dragon spine and leaped at the demon, hacking off one of its arms while Walton attacked it from below and was thrown repeatedly into a dragons ribcage. Seizing upon an idea, Zorica offered to deflower Sir Ptolemy, but only if he converted to her... religion... Rose rolled a 10+ on her Parley and Svend chose to... mark experience.

By now the demon had seized Throndar in two of its arms and was squeezing him with flame-wreathed claws. Fo Thun had collected waterskins and dowsed the demons legs, extracting a roar of pain, and the removal of the offering disrupted its demonic energies causing an arm to hang limp. Finally, as Melliandre sung a heroic lay, Throndar bit out the throat of the demon.
Aaaaand scene.

That game won Best Single Session, for which I picked a D&D 4e book on undead a book full of Dungeon World ideas. More importantly, at least two of my awesome players received prizes from nominations from that game. When they publish the best of the nominations, I’m sure there’ll be a few from this game.

Nick's writen a description from Throndar's perspective.

Session 5: The Kurosawa Extraction, CyberWorld playtest.
In the second Sunday session, I offered a playtest of Cyberworld, my cyberpunk action/heist hack of Apocalypse World by way of Dungeon World. This was the first time I’d run the game, so I was quite nervous about how it would go, but by and large it went exactly as I’d hoped. I definitely have some things to work on and think about, but the core is solid, which, given it’s a hack, is unsurprising.

The characters were:
  • Quade (James), the Hunter, a scruffy but thoroughly professional Deckard-esque detective, complete with hardboiled voiceovers.
  • Karl Cartman (Richard), the Driver, a camo-wearing chopper pilot with a couple of drones.
  • Max (Rose), the Hacker, with the Avatar of a scrawny 14 year-old redheaded girl and whose real face was never seen.
  • Loulou (Matthew), the Killer, a chromed street samurai with gold and tourquoise spiked hair , a glowing chrome cyberarm and a badass autoshotgun.
The game was a involuntary extraction of a corporate R&D guy. The group made characters, investigated the guy and the information they been given by their employer, Mr Smith, made their plans, and performed the mission all in around 2.5 hours, which is great. The mission largely went according to plan, but while they did attract some corporate heat, it didn’t turn out to be a setup, but there would have been time in a 3 hour session to play it out if anything drastic had gone wrong.

Instead of Hx or Bonds, I’m using Links and a SotC-style background generation system whereby each player describes a job they did and the person to their left describes what role they played in it. It went well, generally resulting in a loosely connected team not optimised for helping each other.

I think the most pressing requirement is more colour in the playbooks to help the players get into the cyber-groove.

Session 6: The Lich King of Ragmatag! Dungeon World.
I vacillated briefly with offering Apocalypse World, as requested by drbunnyhops but as I haven’t yet run it and I was reasonably tired by this point, I opted for Dungeon World again. Sorry drbunnyhops! I’ve since offered AW for round one at Kapcon 2012 (as well as promising a Cyberpunk game (maybe a LARP) for 2021).

The other way I like to generate adventure seeds is have each of the players pitch a “dungeon” then have them choose. Then I flesh it out and add twists while they generate characters. That’s the method I used this time. The ideas were:
  • The abandoned Dwarven mines, now filled with zombie halflings (which is a potentially quite horrifying scenario for a future game)
  • A tower to which the evil lord Varcon has been dragging local villagers for dark purposes!
  • A high church taken over by heretics.
  • A desecrated temple of the god Ragmatag, now home to an evil Lich.
As the retroactively applied name suggests, they chose the Lich. Their characters were:
  • Marcus, Paladin of the Order of the Merciful Lady (Freya).
  • Rudiger the Fighter (Richard), his bloodstained sword the latest and best in a line of weapons he has been rigorously testing.
  • Hur’fulg the Cleric of his most generous lord, Dosan the Bringer (Dale - no, not that one).
  • Robin, the thief who had tricked Marcus into a long-running con whereby she siphoned money intended for orphans to a different set of orphans and who stole prayers from Hur'fulg (Karen).
As character generation ended, I started to feel the previous two sessions of GMing, but as the dice began hit the table I got my second wind. The party journeyed up a river valley to the temple, repelled some bandits, then parleyed with the survivors. Their camp was beset by a disease from the disgusting river fish they had been forced to eat by the recent absence of game. Hur’fulg tried to sure them but the required herbs had all been harvested. While attempting to find them, Marcus and Hur’fulg killed a leopard, hopefully solving at least one of the bandit’s problems.

The next day they ventured into the temple, descending a blasted hole into a room with an incorporeal spirit of some sort which they defeated. Robin died in the battle, but made a bargain with death that she could return to help her companions, but she could never leave the caves beneath the temple. She accepted.

Further into the caves, the found magical traps, locked doors and trapped treasure and finally confronted the Lich in his laboratory. Rudiger and Marcus killed him with relative ease, while Robin found his phylactery and Hur’fulg sanctified the Lich’s now decapitated skull. Rudiger was killed by the explosion as he smashed the warded phylactery, but was recognised by Death as a useful servant and sent back to the mortal plane, elsewhere. Marcus tried to drag Hur’fulg dived into cover but he too was killed and accepted into Dosan’s Market by his most generous lord.

Marcus climbed out of the blasted hole, pouches stuffed with the Lich’s treasure (and some herbs), and hesitantly, Robin followed, apparently escaping the notice of death (defy danger), for now!

So that was Kapcon. Only my second, but much better than my first (2003) at which I was not happy with my game due to under preparation. Now that I have a bunch of games I can run without prep, or that I have run before, that's not an issue. I mainly play indie games for two reasons: I can reliably get an awesome and complete game experience in 2-4 hours, and they tap the creativity of everyone at the table more evenly, not just the GM. This weekend was no exception, so thanks to all my players for bringing so much awesome!

Kapcon Plan

I finalised my schedule for Kapcon last night.

As I noted previously, I'm running my Dungeon World Scenario The Tree of Souls in Session 1 (Saturday Morning). It's full of Christchurch peeps, so that will help spread the word of Dungeon World to Wellington... ;) Fortunately there's another Dungeon World game on offer. Someone with a handle I don't recognise is running the Bloodstone Idol in Session 3 (Saturday Evening); so I'm playing in that, of course! That may push into LARP prep time (I hope it does!) so it's a good thing my costume is likely to be super-ghetto.

Between those two Dungeon World games, I'll be playing in drbunnyhops' White Rabbit, which has been billed as uplifting and soul destroying. Or something. It's a family space opera that turns dark. I'm imagining something like Lost in Space. I'm sure the good doctor will be along to correct me, or not, in good time!

That leaves all Sunday to facilitate in the Games on Demand room, where I will offer a fine selection of badass indie games:
  • Dungeon World!
  • Apocalypse World
  • Monster of the Week
  • Hopefully Cyber World, my own AW/DW Cyberpunk (Shadowrun) hack.
  • Hollowpoint
  • 3:16
  • Maybe Agon
  • Maybe Blowback

This list is also a pretty good guide to what I'll have around for Big Gaming Week.

Weekend of Games

Day of Games last Saturday was the centrepeice to a great weekend. More than that, it bled over into my subsequent week in interesting and awkward ways.

Let's start at the beginning. I arrived in Wellington on Wednesday evening and spent Thursday with surrealfish and prolegomenon before the arrival of k2vsate, javelin_nz and confusiontempst. Thus began the drinking and the Dominion. There was a brief and perhaps ill-advised flirtation with Battlestar Gallactica - a game which certainly fits in my "dedicated strategy games" pile, as opposed to the "casual pick-up pile", as the night required. At any rate, aside from a couple of games of Race for the Galaxy, the weekend was pretty much a sea of Dominion.

So that was Friday as well. Interspersed with the drinking and the Dominion was work on my final Geospatial Analysis project, Facebook madness, and food expeditions.

Day of Games on Saturday, a one day, three session, Games-on-Demand-style convention, was the impetus for this gathering in Wellington, and it began on an awesome note with drbunnyhops' So Cold in Alaska. After hearing fantastic reviews from Kapcon 2011 attendees of this harrowing tale centered on intergenerational cycles of domestic and child abuse, I was very excited to play it, but also forewarned that it might not be run. It was, and it was everything I'd hoped for. I'll discuss the game in a future post as my discussion will deal with wider issues in gaming and it deserves the space.

Alaska prepped me for a day of dark gaming, and in a way, that's what I got, but by comparison, the subsequent Hot War scenario dealing with racially motivated mass murder seemed light. There were four slots and five keen players, so as I'd just read the rulebook and was thinking about writing my own scenario, I quickly whipped up a fifth character for myself. Sophie integrated him well into the game, but given the divergent trajectories of the characters, the game would have probably been better with only four stories to follow. That said, it was a great game, I'm glad I got to play Hot War with it's local cheerleader, and I'm excited to run it in the future. Most immediately at Buckets of Dice.

The final game was Monster of the Week, Mike Sands' Urban Fantasy moster hunting (Buffy/Angel/Supernatural) Apocalypse World hack, again run by Sophie. I'm a sucker for Apocalypse World, and this was a well done hack. It's interesting to see how people unfamiliar with Apocalypse World deal with the style of gaming that the moves produce. It was much slower paced than my previous Apocalypse World experiences, which, admittedly have all been MCed by Colin, and I didn't get a single advance. I think the main driver here might have been the investigative nature of the scenario, but I'm sure the play styles at the table had something to do with it too. The final fight against a band of restless spirits of murdered Irish rail workers ended in a TPK as the three-hour slot came to an end and the rest of the con began to accumulate back in the main room in which we were playing, so it was a fun, high-energy end to the con. Rarely for me (but a strength of the community in Wellington), I was the only guy at the table.

Unfortunately, a day of playing Dominion on the floor had messed with my back something fierce by that point, so I wasn't up to the post-con curry with k2vsate, javelin_nz, who, by the sound of their Harry Potter Slash-fic Fiasco game across the room, were out of Mojitos and much in need of a curry! Instead, I caught a lift to the after-party with mashugenah. It just occured to me that it would have been a great chance to expand the Barcon heresy, but I was too focused on the Whisk(e)y and the good times.

SAGA is going to try to get a pre-Buckets social event together this year, and I hope they can facilitate the kind of comraderie that the Wellington community has.

Thanks to all the GMs, players, designers and others who contributed to a great con and a great weekend!


I just finished a very pleasant and nostalgic trip to Wellington and boy did it turn on the classic wild weather for me. Most of my trip was spent up on the Kapiti Coast. I have discovered on this trip that my sleep is not easily disturbed by babies, so I was unfazed by her late night antics.

My single trip into Wellington proper was the worst day of the lot, heavy driving rain, low cloud, furious wind; good bracing stuff. But also in keeping with my mental image of Wellington, the day was spent in warm coffee shops and restaurants chatting with good friends, so the tempestuous weather outside was simply a backdrop which accentuated the warmth of the various interiors.

As well as my hosts, it was great to catch up with mashugenah, adrexia, xenogram and everyone else I saw all to briefly on the trip. I'm not sure when I'll next be in Wellington for an extended stay, but I look forward to that day.

[I don't have any decent pictures from this trip (the Paraparaumu line's windows are filthy), nor of this sort of day in Wellington.
Instead, here's one from a trip to Titahi Bay in 2007.]


Keep in the Borderlands

I arrived in Wellington on Wednesday and have spent the last couple of days in Paraparaumu. My visit has been a bit stealth this time, as I've been spending time with surrealfish and prolegomenon and their grumpy mini-them. Today I'm heading into the city for my usual coffee/lunch whirlwind.

Kapiti seems very close when you're making a day trip, but much further when considering it a suburb of Wellington. Especially as Wellingtonians flip their lid about getting as far as Johnsonville.

Leaving from/Coming to a city near you

I have an intimidating number of catch-up posts to make...

I wish it had worked out that I could have gone to Wellington earlier in my trip. I'm saying my goodbyes to my Christchurch friends now, and I haven't even got up there yet. What a recipe for an emotional roller-coaster!

It's been a good trip, but it's going to be as hard as ever to leave.

Take a little trip back with Father Tiresias

Today has been Genesis (Phil, not Adam), Hesiod, Iliad, Republican invective, shopping and grilled steak and arugula; now it's Castle. After Dollhouse, it's a bit simple and undemanding, but Fillion is good. ABC really sucks for ads though, especially compared to Fox.

Playing 4e without minis

An AP of the Dream sequence skill challenge I posted the other day.

Espressoholic is closing. That's a shame. I used to go there when I went to Wellington for wargaming cons in the early naughties, then stopped after some mediocre cake experiences in the mid-naughties, but then a couple of visits at Christmas rehabilitated them in my eyes, so this is sad news. However, it's a lease issue, not a financial one, so they may reappear.