DundraCon – Part 1 (Friday 2/12/2010)

I was a little frazzled getting ready for DDC. I had totally ripped my game apart and rebuilt it from the ground up two weeks prior and I was tripping a little bit about getting it finished. The result of which, I’ll post in the S7S recap.

I arrived around noon, did the check in thing, commingled with peeps, and then went to lunch with Travis. I forget the name of the restaurant but it was awesome. (Edit: La Ultima was the place. Hella good). I had the chicken sopapillas and will definitely go back next year for the chimichangas as they looked good as well.  We stopped at Walgreen’s to get some pencils for my players and it turns out the cashier was into miniatures painting.  We talked for a couple minutes and she said she would swing by the con.  I never saw here there but that little exchange totally made my day.  It is always awesome to be a game evangelist.

We got back to the Marriott and I did some more meandering and socializing until six when I headed up to room 377 to say “hey” to the players in Travis’ game http://buffaloraven.livejournal.com/216576.html. I was the backup GM if his wife happened to go into labor. It seemed like cutting it very close at the time but now, four days later, we’re still waiting for the little one to arrive, so the fortunes were on his side. Chris and Tracy showed up and, knowing I might be running the game, brought me a salad and drink. What sweethearts! That was really cool. As it turned out I had dinner plans so I save the delectable delights for breakfast the next morning and went downstairs to meet back up with the peeps.

After that I headed out for the same dinner Rich talked about here http://mygamethoughts.livejournal.com/103576.html. We had a really good discussion about player buy-in and agency. What can and can’t you do to their characters? Dinner was a Chicken pesto sandwich. Passable, probably several degrees above con crud but didn’t live up to lunch.

Actual Play – Sailing to the new world

The culmination of the evening was, as it should be, in the bar. Justin, Josh, Mike B, and Kevin W sat down, threw out some game ideas and settled on “In a Wicked PTA”. This was Justin’s mash up of In A Wicked Age and (go figure) PTA. It used the Oracles system to create character and plot seeds and the PTA system for conflict resolution.

The oracles we drew:

  • A stow away hidden aboard, there to recover something from the ship.
  • A cabin boy sees something that shouldn’t have been.
  • An abandoned ship, floating adrift for reasons unknown.
  • A cargo of criminals being transported to work on a plantation in the new world.

From these we opted for two ships, one with a cargo of criminals, captained by Captain Smyth, that found an abandoned ship, commanded by Captain Jeremiah, thought to be a ghost. We also had Elaina, a stow away posing as a cabin boy, there to break her brother Carl free. Selene, the siren who seduced and killed the men of Jeremiah’s ship (the Viper I believe). Finally, Enrique the chain mate of Carl, unrightfully imprisoned for the crime of killing Captain Smyth’s father, a crime he didn’t commit. We had three NPCs as well, Sven the first mate of Smyth’s ship and lover of Elaine. Ricardo, the jailor on the ship and the MF Kraken, there to see to all of our demise. Carl would have been an NPC as well if not for Macklin showing up just as we were going to start, looking and the set up and diving in as Carl, the convict who was determined to make Elaina loose all hope in his salvation.

The game was bitchen. It did a few things that I didn’t expect. The first was creating the kind of shifting alliances you see in a pulp film. Where allies turn to enemies and back again as the waves rock back and forth. I think this was largely possible because we didn’t have a GM and the NPCs that existed were minor. The only one we ever really challenged was the Kraken and that was our first challenge, after that things got much more personal. The other thing I didn’t expect was a natural progression of the supernatural influence. It started (in my mind) with Carl telling Elaina that she would be disappointing mother coming after him. Later Elaina upped it that mother hated him and had cursed him. Then Carl, faced with his old captain, the maybe Ghost Jeremiah, revealed he was the daughter of a siren and a sorcerer. Suddenly I looked at my character’s edges and relationships and they transformed in front of me. “Blending in” used to mean she could pose as a boy, now it was invisibility. “Keys to the ship” previously meant Sven, the first mate, had given her keys to free her brother. Now it meant she could walk through walls. Her connection “A lover on the ship” which was supposed to just mean Sven turned into all of the crew she would allure.

We had a great time and the continual supply of Tokyo Ice Tea as well as a botched but never the less very alcoholic NOT-Tokyo Ice Tea didn’t hurt a thing.

What rocked

  • No prep. It was killer just sitting down and rolling out a great story.
  • No GM. I like GMing when I’m prepared with something to offer. I don’t like going full impromptu. Justin’s mash up made each of us the GM (or narrator, or whatever) for one scene and then we moved round robin passing off narration rights.
  • The conflict system was tense. First we played till a conflict was eminent then we figured out who wanted what and laid down cards face down. Every red card counted as a point, but we did the reveals slowly. Every time someone flipped a card they added a bit to the narrative. This turned out to be very tense at moments.
  • Scenes flowed very well. I was feeling a bit uncertain about framing a scene before it was my turn as I wasn’t sure who I was going to put in it. By the time it came to me though the opportunity was perfect. Enrique and Smyth, who both hated each other hadn’t been on the screen for a while. A great fight with the Kraken smashing the ships had just happened so it seemed the perfect opportunity to put an abandoned blade in front of Enrique, just where the captain could see him and goad him into drawing it.
  • Story stuff mentioned above. Words and things.

What could have improved

  • Not being able to frame your own character into a scene made it difficult to fulfill your own best interests without somewhat hijacking another player’s narration. This worked out okay, it just meant we had to watch out for each other’s best interests and try to drive scenes toward that. The upshot is that we didn’t have a bunch of isolated scenes where the players reflected on their own characters without sharing the spotlight.

After the game was more drinking, but I’m old and retired around 1.