Gencon – Part 6 (Friday Morning, 8/14/2009)

D20 Crowd Surfing

This is what the crowd in front of the dealers room looks like at 9:50 AM

This is what the crowd looks like when someone throws an inflatable d20 in the air.

Okay, it looks better than that… definitely more alive, but my iphone’s camera has no flash, zoom or shutter speed to speak of, so as far as action shots go, that’s the best I could do.

It was fun times, that was until one of the GenCon staff members plucked the d20 out of the air with a firm reprimand of “Who does this belong to?” Luckily the awkward silence was broken by the doors to the dealers room opening and everyone ignoring said GenCon staff member. I’m sure he doing his job, preventing people from getting hurt, thankless as that job is.

Dealer’s Room

We had to be quick, as True Dungeon was starting in 45 minutes. I stopped by the Burning Wheel booth again to try and meet Luke Crane. I failed at this but did see Brennan, Paul, and Joe who all looked a little weary from lack of sleep but were still friendly as ever. Speaking of friendly, this very sweet booth babe was kind enough to kick my butt at rock-paper-scissors:

Meeting Luke

And just as I was about to leave I saw Luke walking through the crowd and chased him down to the Burning Wheel booth. I was really exited to hear what I he had to say about all my work on Mouse Guard. I hoped to wow him with the props I made and my techniques for subtly introducing setting, mechanics and situation. 2nd Strike. He was very reasonable when he told me he thought it wasn’t needed. I gave him some examples of how I thought it improved game play and he pointed out the ways he thought it detracted from the game.

It was kind of a heartbreak for me, because for the life of me I couldn’t sell him even so far as to look at the work I’d done. It’s a major pain the ass to haul a 44” x 22” foam board map through the airport, even if it folds in half. It sat in my room, alongside the chess pieces, mentor and obstacles cards, laminated skill sheets, dice colored by cloak, custom fate/persona tokens, hard plastic character sheet tents with custom traits, and of all things leather pouch of chuck-e-cheese coins, pointlessly brought to the con.

In retrospect I’m not sure what I expected to happen. Luke has made it clear in the past that his games work as is and generally suffer from tampering rather than benefit.

True Dungeon: Five Aspects

The True Dungeon session at 10:50 made for a good reason to cut off my discussion with Luke. Without anything to actually show him, I was at a loss and felt myself backpedaling. We ended on an up note talking about The Gift and what players got out of playing it, as well as what I got out of running it as a GM.

Then it was a the mad dash to the Marriott, to arrive on time for Five Aspects. Zach and Justin we’re already checked in and equipped with character sheets, Rogue and Paladin respectively. I had weaseled a +1 Darkwood staff off one of the guys we played the mini quest with (Thanks again for that Quinn) and so I was exited to see that the Druid was still available. Some of the more experienced players warned me that Druids have to remember the names of a bunch of leaves. While this seemed somewhat daunting I decided that I was up to the task and did not regret it.

Our first room was a training room. We had 12 minutes to practices our trade. The cleric studied prayer beads, the bard arcane symbols, and myself the identity of leaves. The other more martial characters practiced combat and Speedball our rogue practiced disarming traps. All in all this was pretty cool.

When the buzzer went off a forest dryad came to meet us and sequester our aid. Yeah, baby! Who’s happy to be a druid now! The dryad told us that a powerful mage needed us to rescue a medallion of protection in order to fend of Smoke the dragon. Dungeon adventuring hook #14 for the win.

We proceeded through traps, mortal combat and puzzles. Mostly to get our butts kicked and limp out of the dungeon, but with treasure in hand.

What rocked

The class specific abilities were awesome. Zach had a blast picking locks, climbing through corridors and sneak attacking ogres. I was felt really cool busting out my knowledge of Hickory, Maple, Oak and other leaves and using that for some powerful spells. I did pay as much attention to how the fighter-y classes worked but I assumed they had some equally interesting bits.

Great swag. I can totally see how doing True Dungeon would be addictive. You get goodies like masterwork thieves tools, magical lutes, and greater mistletoe. Afterwards there is a whole trading and collecting element that you can essentially play outside of the normal game. The system is engineered to reward players on several lives.

Interaction. The NPCs, the scenery and the props are all great. As a big fan of creating the environment, I really appreciate all the work they put into creating a tangible setting.

What could have improved

Some of the GMs were clearly less than excited. They had been running people through the same module for a while and we wary. Or maybe they were just having a bad day, or just not into acting in a way befitting of the mood. Either way, their lack of excitement and encouragement dragged things down in some rooms.

This is not a LARP. This is the Anti-LARP. There is no role-playing. Just don’t look for it. You can find it in other places. A few japes about druids getting busy in the forest with the dryads is as far as you are going to get. Manage you’re expectations wisely.

Playing with experienced players once again took some of the novelty from the game. This time I really can’t fault them, they weren’t pushy or trying to hot the spotlight, they just knew what to expect and that made the experience less novel and more mundane for me. Nothing really to do about that except if you happen to have a large enough group that you can fill up an entire slot (6-10 players I think) with your friends.

The puzzles were really hard and lacked context. I had no idea going in whether these puzzles would require logic, real world knowledge, or Dungeons & Dragons specific lore. Sadly the clues did little to clarify this. What ended up happening was that we were punished for guessing wrong so severely than in at least one case we gave up because the punishment for giving up was less than the punishment for waiting for the clock to wind down. This was disappointing and frustrating. The experienced players we were with said these were the toughest puzzles they had seen, so that was some consolation.

Next up… afternoon seminars. More John, Robin and Luke.

11 thoughts on “Gencon – Part 6 (Friday Morning, 8/14/2009)”

    1. With all due respect to Luke, remember that it isn’t “his” game anymore, it’s yours, and if it works for you, then that’s all that matter. I understand the deflation you felt, but it’s no biggie. It isn’t Luke being an ass or anything, just a clash of “his” game vs. “yours” and well, at your table, “yours” wins. 😉

      1. While it sounds like Mr. Crane could have been more gracious (I wasn’t there, so I don’t want to flame him), this point is very well taken. It doesn’t matter whether the game’s creator approves; it matters that the game’s players approve.

        A chef might object to your tweaks of her recipe in a cookbook, but so what? At the end of the day, you’re the one who’s making and eating it, and your happiness counts for more at the table.

        1. Thank you for the encouragement.

          Actually Luke was very gracious. It felt like this was something that struck very close to home (I was very worried that I would come off as saying “This is how you should be running MG”) and he was very professional the entire time.

          I felt like an artist holding their portfolio and itching to open in up in front of an art director, but he just can’t sell himself enough make that happen. I’m bummed that I didn’t get a chance to show off my work, but the disappointment is really in my own lack of a pitch.

          That said, I personally still think I’ve got a good thing going and will keep using it, now with a slightly keener eye out for how it could lead players astray from the core game.

          1. Wow… um. Damn… I wish I had a chance to play some part in this, but I don’t think I did. Maybe in some part of Luke’s head what I said made an impression, and it would be awesome if I did.

            Thanks for thinking of me and pointing it out.

      2. Thanks Daniel.

        I should clarify though. Although I wasn’t pitching it to him like “Luke, can I get Archaia press and BWHQ to start producing my tools as a Mouse Guard project” I definitely was putting forward the idea that these learning tools (or some refined version of them) could be useful to most gamers playing Mouse Guard. So I think I was in the grey area between what I do in my personal game and how the game itself is published.

        That said, what I took from the conversation was exactly your sentiment. This didn’t excite Luke as I hoped it would, but I’ll still use the process when I’m teaching games at a con or to new players in my game.

        Also, Luke was throughout polite and reasonable. We actually had a really positive conversation at the end. My frustration was being disappointed that he didn’t like my idea, not his demeanor.

        1. Let me also clarify, though I’ve never talked to Luke, I know from the experience of many others that he would have been polite in this conversation. So the comment was not about demeanor. I know he’s professional. The rest stands. 🙂

  1. Your encounter with Luke sounds quite familiar to me too. Our group, one member in particular, came up with some tools we strongly felt improved the experience. Luke was notably uninterested in supporting them and clearly felt they were a distraction. To be fair, he’s perfectly gracious about this, but is definitely not a person to say he likes something when he doesn’t.

    On the other hand, being a props fan, your props sound way cool!

    1. Thanks… should have shown them to you! Short of turning back the clock, I’m planning to arrange a nice place to take pictures of all the props so I can put up a nice post detailing them. Some are just “oh this is cool” while I think others were really instrumental in teaching the game. It’s not as good as the real thing, but it will be good to have a record of the pieces.

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