GenCon – Part 11 (Sunday Morning – Afternoon, 8/16/2009)

Sunday morning was not my friend. It took me a while to drag myself out of bed, but I was glad I did. Stumbling down the elevator I was really happy that Games on Demand being hosted in our hotel (the Omni).

Dogs in the Vineyard

I sat at the “I want to game” table for a while. Since I didn’t get there at 10, most of the games were already going but there were a few stragglers hanging out trying to put something together. I offered up Penny for my Thoughts as something I would run/facilitate. I contemplated Mouse Guard but just didn’t have the energy to lug all my gear downstairs. In retrospect I probably should have done it to give the pedagogy of play some more testing and exposure, but alas, I was not disappointed with the outcome.

Tony Lower-Basch had just finished up a game of Misery Bubblegum and swept in to our rescue. He offered to run Dogs in the Vineyard for us and we jumped at the opportunity. We had two players that were pretty familiar with DitV and one that was being introduced for the first time. Collectively I think we gave him a pretty good feel for the game. The characters were cool enough that I think they are worth mention.

  • Sister Submit – A female Dog (which the player declared was decidedly rare) who end the game with “Do what you know is right”: 4d10
  • Brother Abednego – A slow speaking dog who survived the fire that killed his brother. Despite the miracles around him he resisted submitting himself completely to the King of Life.
  • Virgil Smith – A sickly boy from the east who believed was born from the womb of the devil herself. Virgil hated women, which made a great contrast for Sister Submit.

What rocked

Due to time we only had one accomplishment scene, done for the new player. His stake was proving that his fate was his own choice. And he won! It was a killer trial of climbing a mountain in the rain, building a fire from next to nothing and fending off wolves with a stick of wood that burned all night long! It was awesome.

Tony’s town was beautiful. We started, as somewhat seasoned players, expecting loads of conflict but found that at nearly every turn the townspeople gave. They were simple people who had made some mistakes, but they’d done them for the right reason. In the end deciding what to do had nothing to do with right or wrong, but with compassion and our best vision for the town. Most of the conflicts actually happened between the Dogs, which is exactly where I wanted them.

As this is a town Tony will run again I don’t want to give too many details, but his depiction of the NPCs, specifically the daughter Judith and the grandfather Zeke were just spot on. He brought an undeniable humanity to the game that I really relished.

What could have been improved

My character was not nearly nuanced enough to do well in this town. He was a storm, when the town needed a rain. The game was still fun, but I found that Virgil kept missing the deeper meanings of what was going on because he was such a strict, and frankly misogynistic, Dog. While that did spark some great conflict with Sister Submit, in retrospect I would have played a character that was more torn by the situation.

Thou art but a Warrior

From the Tasty Bacon Website: Thou Art But A Warrior is a game in which you play members of the orders of Muslim Knights sworn to defend Islamic Spain at the beginning of the Crusades.

I missed this in my previous recap. On Saturday when I was walking the Dealers Room, I stopped at Pirate Jenny, a collaboration of female game designers hocking their wares and demoing their games at GenCon. The booth was super cool, all of the ladies were really happy to talk about their games, podcasting, other booths or just what was going on at the con. One game I missed picking up, and in retrospect have no idea why I didn’t pick it up as it only cost $1 was “Bitch”, which stood out because it came with a pin that would say something like “Such a Bitch”. From the report on their website it sounds like the booth did great, which I’m really happy about. Here are the Jennies:

Anna Kreider (second from the right), talked to me for a bit when I stopped by, asked what my interests were and it just so happened that Muslim life during the Crusades is something I’m really keen on. Actually that interest spread throughout medieval Islam, but the Crusades are no exception. So Anna wrote this game called Thou Art but a Warrior, a supplement for Polaris, and I was instantly excited. Okay… truth told it’s not that hard to get me excited about games, but that takes nothing away from my interest in this one.

We played short demo game. I was Faruq, son of the Emir. Anna played the Infidels, which in this case was the Emir’s bodyguard. And get this Emily Care Boss, yeah the Emily Care Boss played Omar, my squire.

The scene starts with Omar running frantically into my chambers chased by the bodyguard and his retinue. Omar begs that I defend him as the bodyguard claims he has just murdered my father, the Emir.

I demand to see my father’s body and upon inspection declare that it was not Omar’s blade that killed him but one of the guards. My squire was innocent! Claiming me a conspirer in my own father’s death the bodyguard sent his men upon us.

I believe I started the conflict by cutting down the first guard, who had clearly betrayed me and my father… but only if Omar suffered a grievous wound in the battle… but only if he did so saving me from the bodyguards blade… but only if the court was left divided, some accepting me as the rightful heir, other’s believing I conspired in my father murder. Fricking Awesome!

What rocked

The setting for Thou Art but a Warrior brings with it an authenticity due to its real world historical roots, but that setting isn’t daunting. While yes, I have interest in medieval Spain, I don’t have any reflexive knowledge of the time or place. In some settings that can really paralyze players as they want to do what is “appropriate”. L5R is a big culprit here, causing a lot of players to pause because they simply don’t know what they should do, or getting so wrapped up in what is culturally acceptable that they forget their characters are heroes and meant to break the mold. I digress. The point was that even though the setting was evocative, I felt no inhibitions about how I should respond to the situation at hand. My squire was challenged, I will defend him. My father is dead, I will shoulder his duty. My guards hate me, I will suffer their scorn lest I divide the people further. Was any of this scripted or what I should do? I haven’t a clue, it’s just what felt right. Having agency in a setting that is already well defined is awesome.

Anna built in a pacing mechanic to the system. Because we only did a 15 minute demo, we didn’t see it in effect, but I could tell immediately what it did. The pacing track ensured that our personal stories would reflect the overall inevitable outcome of the crusades. Just like Zombie Cinema this gave not only a good guideline for how scenes should be framed, but also how conflicts need to be resolved. Early on, the people of Islam are triumphant and sure. By the end no effort they make, however valiant, will prevail over the infidels.

Anna and Emily were awesome. Yeah, this shouldn’t technically count for a review of the game, but their energy and enthusiasm for the game sold me on it as much as the concept itself. Thanks Anna and Emily.

What could have been improved

The one thing I walked away wondering is how I would sell the game to my group. I think because Anna’s pitch to me was so brief, something along the lines of: “Have you played Polaris, if so this is-” “Yeah, I’ll check it out.” I probably should have been a little more reserved so that I could hear all of her introduction before jumping into the game.

Next up… the end bits of the con including last minute shopping and drinks at the Pullman.

2 thoughts on “GenCon – Part 11 (Sunday Morning – Afternoon, 8/16/2009)”

  1. But only if…
    Are you going to run Thou Art But a Warrior at the October 3 Endgame minicon? Or Mouseguard since you have all those props? Or both!

    And you see the drawback to a large number of props, which is that they have
    to be hauled around, which limits their usefulness for pickup gaming. I still like them for teaching purposes, though!

    1. You ask too much…

      I will definately run Mouseguard again and now that you mention it Thou Art But a Warrior would probably make an awesome con game as well. As for the October 3, sadly Chris has an awesome knack for picking weekends that my wife works (which understandably is 50% of of them, but still I’m sad his times and mine rarely seem to match up).

      Though… since I’m not doing Pacificon, I might get away with dropping the kids off with my sister Friday night… hmmm. Let me get back to you on this Carl.

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