I had a great weekend of gaming at a virtual mini-con ran by Paul Beakley as part of the Indie Game Reading Club. (Patreon him up, yo!) I have a couple of general thoughts, then I’ll do a quick recap of the games I played in.
In order to deal with the usual “people who are around when registration opens get into all the games” problem, Paul asked people to hold their registrations to one or two games in the first day, and then opened the floodgates a bit wider. That worked really well. He also highlighted games that needed more people, which was cool. The latter probably only works if you have a relatively small population of players/games, but that’s maybe a good idea anyhow. Or you could automate it if there was good free event registration software out there? Alas.
Over the course of the weekend, we sort of evolved a practice of posting a thread for each completed game in the Slack. I really dug this because I liked learning a bit about games I wasn’t playing, and I liked seeing what else people I’d played with had been up to. It was great for connections.
I played in four games, which was just about right. By coincidence I had Friday off, so I was able to double up on games there, which was a bit tiring but ultimately fine. I booked myself into evening games on Saturday and Sunday, leaving days free to relax and play World of Warcraft and so on.
Game 1: Jen Kitzman ran the X-Crawl setting for me, Paul, and Neal using a hacked up version of Vagabonds of Dyfed. I signed up for this because I like pro wrestling and I’d always been curious about the system, and I was satisfied on all counts. It ran maybe a little bit slow because we spent a while totaling up tags for each roll; this would probably get quicker with experience but it’s a system that always has some subjective decision making for each roll. The mechanics for fame and audience reaction were totally satisfying, though. We all got to do confessionals to the camera!
Game 2: Under the Glare of a Vengeful Sky is an upcoming climate change game from Wheel Tree Press. Todd Nicholas brought his game to the table and it was amazing. He’s going for a slice of life feel rather than an action-oriented game, and the mechanics really supported that. Plus Emily and Aaron were great to play with. Man, there’s a lot here I wanna talk about! The story we told was so excellent: a group of survivors from a little tourist trap coastal town struggling with decisions about refugees and the rich settlement nearby, and with their own relationships and desires.
The mechanics really support that slice of life style of play despite being very simple. The core mechanic is 2d6 against a target number, but after the roll you can trade points around between people who succeeded and people who failed. This tends to force connections and I think it’s an elegant way to capture assistance in the mechanics. There’s also some good stuff in the character creation rules: nothing terribly new but defining connections then is always nice.
The other thing I loved is the tutorial section. Right after character creation, you do a flashback scene with pre-determined totals on the dice, which allows the GM to demonstrate how the dice mechanics work. This is great; it reminds me of the tutorial in Mentzer’s Dungeons & Dragons. It worked very well for teaching us the rules, and it also let us establish characters a bit because the pre-determined rolls were tuned to make us trade points around and invoke memories.
Oh, and there’s a fun mechanic reminiscent of Ten Candles where the GM keeps pouring water into a glass, and when it overfills, there’s a catastrophe. It’s nicely thematic.
Todd says the game should be out next year, and I’d definitely recommend it.
Game 3: Jason Eley ran his awesome Forged in the Dark game, Copperhead County. The other players were Joe and Jeremiah. In a one-shot this plays pretty close to Blades in the Dark, but I like the Southern crime setting a ton. We went fairly ham with it: the three of us played the Dillard family, an uncle and a brother/sister pair. My character — Uncle Nathan — was a City Councilman, which put us in perfect position to mess up a fundraiser for the MAGA religious fanatic running for county trustee. We never got terribly heavy with the themes but I can see where that might happen in campaign play; really fun session.
Game 4: Mork Borg, run by Jesse Burneko. This was a big group — me, Christopher, Neal, Mark, Jason, and James. This was I think the first time I’ve played anything OSR-like, and I really enjoyed it. I could imagine playing a campaign of this with a good GM, which Jesse is. Poking at the dungeon’s tricks and traps is pretty fun with the right group. We did a dungeon full of blood and weird corvids and puzzles, and through some weird miracle (literally) we all survived, but it was pretty close. Blood magic sucks. Harmug is now a tank.