Friday, November 16, 2018

U-Con 2018: Post-Convention Recap

This past weekend was my local convention, U-Con, and I thought that I'd offer some post-con analysis.

First off, here was the schedule of games I ran:
Friday, 900-1300: Demon City - Terror in D.C.
Friday, 1400-1800: NGR - A Thousand Dead Babies
Saturday, 900-1300: NGR - Gnomes of Levnec
Saturday, 1400-1800: Mothership - Dead Planet

I also played in a Scooby-Doo LotFP game on Friday night, wherein we had to uncover the secrets of Velma's family during her sister's wedding preparations. That was an immensely enjoyable game, even if the ending had to be a bit rushed due to time. I did meet a cool group of people who are local to the area, so if they're reading this, they should get in touch so we can maybe try to get some local gaming going.

Anyway, more on the games I ran:

Terror in D.C. (Demon City):
Demon City is Zak's upcoming modern-day horror game. The rules are currently available to backers in a barely readable Word document (which is where the awesome Shawn Cheng comes in.) Using this, I devised a simple scenario involving a member of the House of Representatives. Perhaps the highlight of this session was the party hiding out in a Starbucks while staking out the Dunkin' Donuts across the street.

I absolutely love the mechanics, which are dirt-simple. Instead of everyone using their own dice, having the community tarot cards with their pictorial implications led to a greater degree of player buy-in, I feel. My main self-criticism is that I didn't call for many Calm checks (read: sanity rolls), especially when things got especially stressful for the characters.

What I loved about this game was that I made nearly everything about it up on the fly. I had a starting scene and an underlying horror, and the rest developed at the table. Not only does this mean that I'm more confident in improvising entire game sessions, but also that it is possible to improvise a majority of an investigative scenario. This is immensely satisfying.

A Thousand Dead Babies (Neoclassical Geek Revival):
The ultimate in introductory adventures for NGR (see previous blog post), as well as Zzarchov's adventure design style. I was fresh off a playtest of this adventure from earlier in the week, thanks to a group of friends in Lansing who run games every other Monday. I live just far enough away from Lansing that getting up there to see them is rarity, but fortunately they let me run the adventure through once.

This second incarnation of the game absolutely followed none of the path that the first game did. But it was just as awesome. They went the full murderhobo route, and it was a blast nonetheless.

The game introduces the NGR system fairly well. I had already put together a 4-panel GM screen, although I would probably also put together a one-page player handout to explain the basics and refer back to periodically during the session. Despite the system's elegance, there's a lot of things to teach yourself over and over again until it all "clicks." I may work on this project before running future games of NGR for newbies.

The Gnomes of Levnec (Neoclassical Geek Revival):
This is a game I ran last year, although I was using LotFP rules then. This time, I had a bit more experience under my belt, and I was able to take advantage of the NGR system, which lends itself pretty well to this scenario. Last year, there was basically a PCs-vs-the-Mob situation, and I felt like things were going to get out of hand quickly. I did one of the worst things imaginable and basically asked the players not to go off the rails with it. If the same scenario had arisen this time around, I would have been better equipped because of NGR's clear support of social conflict situations.

Like the A Thousand Dead Babies game, this second time through the adventure resulted in almost no overlap between what the two groups of players did. Both were violent, although this one did not end in a TPK. Instead, it was the party that inflicted mass violence on many NPCs

One thing I should note about both of these Zzarchov games is that each group expressed worry that they weren't following the narrative path of the adventure correctly. I then gleefully relayed the fact that the scenario in question was a miniature sandbox full of gunpowder.

Lastly, I only found out after the fact that I had run a game for an occasional online contact, Paul Gorman. Hi, Paul!

Dead Planet (Mothership):
OK, so oddly enough, this one was originally scheduled for 8PM-Midnight. That wasn't gonna happen for a guy who normally wakes up at 5:30AM on weekdays. So, I got this slot moved to 2PM-6PM. But that probably threw some people off, and I didn't get the requested minimum of players. Rather than just dissolve it, though, I was fortunately able to add my players to Bardaree's table in the ConTessa room thanks to her generosity. Likewise, I joined some of my former players from the Gnomes game at Stacy Dellorfano's table to playtest their city crawl project...

The Incompetent Watchmaker (LotFP):
This was my final game and I'm glad that Stacy let me sit in at their table. I will keep the appraisal very brief, but I can tell you that this is shaping up to be a fantastic supplement. Stacy added a number of real-world references from the city of Bern, Switzerland, which gave a good sense of grounding in reality. Meanwhile, the final encounters actually creeped/grossed me out in a way that no one else in RPGs has managed to do. I also really liked the tick-box customization of pregenerated characters (e.g., choose three starting weapons from this list, and so forth.) One of the smoother LotFP games I've played in.

Other Stuff
While I had a blast at the con while I wasn't at the gaming table, I will say that one of the highlights was getting to re-meet Chris Spivey (author of Harlem Unbound) at the bar. (We had met briefly at the ENnies earlier this year). This time we had a bit of a conversation about our U-Con experiences and we got to discuss a few aspects of running and writing RPG material. 10/10 would chat with again.

And now I'm back to my regular gaming routine once again, with my usual dose of post-convention gaming enthusiasm. I think my goals for the near future will be to continue familiarization with all the various aspects of the NGR system, and eventually writing an actual adventure for it. I may start by writing system-specific content on this blog, so keep your eyes peeled.

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