DundraCon – Part 2 (Saturday Morning 2/13/2010)

Saturday morning was not my friend. I’m not a regular drinker and four (five?) ice tea variants were not feeling fantastic in the morning. I rolled out of bed around 8:30 just the same, cleaned up and meandered downstairs.

Chris and Tracy had a 7th Sea game that started at 8, which I wasn’t in, but Travis was, so that was at least three people who I wanted to see. I took the salad C&T had given me the night before and had breakfast in their game room. (Other play reports here: http://buffaloraven.livejournal.com/216915.html and here: http://lyahdan.livejournal.com/104963.html). I had a fun time texting with Travis for a bit and then headed out for my ten o’clock game.

Actual Play – Gilded Fruit, Rotten Core

GM: Justin Evans
System: Castle Falkenstein + jMods [1]

Justin pulled off another killer game. Not like this is a surprise but still worth mentioning. His character sheets are gorgeous. The character connections by way of granting aspects to each other is brilliant (and something I’ve stolen in the past for my Mouse Guard game). The intro act set the backdrop for the game as well as taught the players the basic mechanics. The game itself was full of interesting characters, a fairly straightforward and fun plot and tons of cool mini-games to set the focus on particular events (like the chase or shutting down the machine). If this looks like just a list of how the game was awesome, that is because it was. Justin always inspires me to make my games really focus on their strengths and build up whatever is necessary (props, mechanics/systems, music, player aids, etc) to make those really pop for a player.

As much as I love what he does in games I realized I should stop signing up for his games simply because he’s running them. This is for two reasons. First, I’ve got his number. Although I like to see the man in action, there wasn’t anything remarkable that I hadn’t seen him do in previous games. It’s time to share the wealth a bit. Burning my priority reg slip meant that someone else didn’t get to get in his game (and there were plenty of crashers that tried) and it also means I’m not seeing what some other GM might be doing to make his game awesome. So, just as after a while I stopped signing up for Rich Taylors games, I think it’s time for me to let others fill my seat in Justin’s. My sincere hope is that another GM will take it and be as blow away as I am by Justin’s work.

The second reason is that as much as I love the artifacts of Steampunk (like airships and clockwork engines), I don’t know very much about the setting. While the game was great, I felt out of my element. There were three players: Handsome Jack, David and the gentleman to David’s right (curse DundraCon for not leaving up the sign up information) that just stole the scene. They had the accents down, the cultural expectations, and a good grasp on the pseudo-history of the game. Another player more familiar and invested in the genre would have done better and gotten more out of it.

What rocked

  • See game description. Seriously, all the elements above were killer. A few more should be highlighted though:
  • Confessionals. Each player was rewarded for pausing the game and making a “journal entry”, or a reflection, on what was happening from their character’s perspective. The confessional was taken from Inspecters, but very familiar from any reality TV show.   I love getting character insights into a situation and this is an awesome way to do it.
  • Character sheets. These are both beautiful and easy to read.
  • Difficulty cards. The system isn’t fantastic but it was clarified some by having color coded difficulty cards on the table showing which skills could be used and at what difficulty. It looked like a more elegant version of a 4E skill challenge.

What could have been improved

It’s hard playing the “smart guy” when you’re not really the smart guy in the group. I was going for a good old boy scientist who, thought smart, usually just pulled levers and poked buttons to see what they would do. There was some mild comedy when I used Fisticuffs in place of Tinkering on one problem.  Justin rolled with it pretty well and I got to tell the clacker later that the device was “a bit dented for reasons unknown”, which I enjoyed. Still, I didn’t feel like I had a particularly advanced mind.

I don’t think I know what a normal game of Castle Falkenstein would look like. This is not knock on Justin, I’m sure everything he did improved the game, but there were enough changes I really doubt I can give the system a fair shake either way.