Sunday was a day of both frustration and fun. I ultimately tried to pack too much into one day and ended up jacking things up because of it. More below.
Sunday 9:00 AM
I had already gotten up, walked about some and eaten breakfast and was ready for action. Justin and I recorded the opening for what will be Narrative Control 33. Of note, last night while editing I corrupted all the data, thank god I wasn’t using the original but still, it was three hours of lost work. We also did some promos for Masterplan, which were a lot of fun, I hope Ryan digs them.
Sunday 10:00 AM –ish
Shaun and Kristin rolled in and we recorded an episode on secrets. Overall even though it went long I really liked the show, I thought we covered A LOT of ground. Here’s a link to the show: http://www.narrativecontrol.com/index.php?post_id=484697
After some confusion about who would play, when they could make it, and where we would play, Shaun, Kirstin, Justin, Greg (Skippy) and I ended up back in our room to play test Justin’s Schauermärchen game. Here is where I started trying to do too much. We were playing game that was supposed to run five to five and half hours and I had a Mouse Guard game I really wanted to play in three. Also, my wife was arriving with the kids and would need help moving kids and luggage. Also, my mom showed up and I had to deliver said kids and luggage. Also, I didn’t get into the Mouse Guard game but was hoping to take Kevan’s spot as he got in but was going to be re-running his Mutant City Blues game but I couldn’t get a hold of him till just before 3:30. Also, I was trying to get in touch with someone to get them a Good Omens dice bag as a prize and I knew they were going to leave. Also, as Justin’s game was wrapping up I was trying to stick around for the feedback, but that failed and ended up just making me run later. Also, when I went to the Mouse Guard game room I was in the wrong room and when I figured it out the GM turned out to be another person who has a Good Omens Swag card so rather than just run out I had to let her sift through my piles of swag for a prize. Also, when in finally arrived in the game, the room was packed, and I didn’t have the composure to just pretend I was Kevan (especially as I didn’t know how either Kevan or Brian, the GM would feel about that).
So, defeated and feeling like I frustrated by wife and disappointed the people in Justin’s Schauermärchen game, I came back to our room, collapsed and tried to give Justin some constructive feedback.
The game was creepy. We’re playing parents with missing children in a fairytale nightmare. It touched a chord with me for sure.
The opening warm ups were very smooth. He managed to integrate them all into the theme of a nightmare.
Character creation and setup was great. Stickers for the win!
The player energy and interactions were great. A personal favorite line of mine (my character was a plastic surgeon and a womanizer) “Women, you can’t live with them and you can’t cut off all the bits you don’t like to make them the woman you want.” My favorite line, ironically not said in response to that was “Dan [my character], you’re an asshole” [End Scene].
Justin’s narratives are always top notch. He has a powerful vocabulary that serves him very well when describing creepy scenes and his expressions really deliver the mood well. Whereas I’m usually very excited and therefore my energy doesn’t stand out, Justin has a lot of flexibility between his usual laid back attitude to pulse pounding action or creepy suspense.
The hounds! The hounds were awesome. If you play, definitely confront one of them. You’re character will be sad, but you’ll trip out on em.
What could have been improved
The game would have been much better served with a system like Don’t Rest Your Head, Trail of Cthuhlu, Dread, or even Wushu. One thing we lacked was fear of our surrounding. It’s horror it should be creepy and it just wasn’t. The mechanics never really lead us to believe our characters were in danger until the final fight. I voluntarily got wounded just to see how the game would play out if I was loose more conflicts than winning. The fear and hope mechanics were novel but not compelling. Also the narration (done in blocks) was awkward for all of us (players and GM).
My character was a straight up jerk. So much so that I didn’t like playing him. He didn’t have to be that way, I just made some bad choices and could ever really recover from them. Note to self: Don’t play a womanizing bastard if you want to feel good about yourself. The players, rightfully so, did not lament in my character’s loss.
My constant distractions of phone calls and trips to the car and delivering swag really took me away from the game too much. I worsened my experience and probably that of the others. I was actually happy in the end that I didn’t get in Mouse Guard as it let me participate in the feedback session which I think is really important.
Sunday 5:00 PM
The wife and I headed out for a nice dinner together at El Torito. Food was great and the drinks were fun. It was nice seeing her but I could tell that a weekend of driving all around (she had been visiting her sister on Friday and Saturday and had to drive like mad) had worn her out, poor bear.
Sunday 6:00 PM
With some time before the 8:00 game I came to Alexis for my volunteer duties. I hadn’t realized that I need to run 6 hours (my Burning Wheel game was only 4) so I owed her time. Suffice to say she was kind and put me to work I was happy to do.
Sunday 8:00 PM
I got into Todd’s second game, Whitfield vs. the Swarm. Here’s a funny bit. I was so excited to get in a game of Todd’s that I didn’t even read the game description. The way it was titled, I assumed it was a game set around a court case. HOW WRONG WAS I. First thing he says is “post apocalyptic action pulp”. Now we are talking. The game was a blast, but like his Buried Secrets game, he’s running it again at Gen Con so I’m not giving out any spoilers (or at least any that you wouldn’t find out in the first five minutes of playing).
I played Maggie Rodriquez, this tough girl who’s parents died and she lived alone. A scout and at home with nature she hunted for food and provided the settlement of Whitfield with supplies she could find, food she could spare and advance warning if cannibals were roving through. This time however, her scouting mission came back with the worst news of all. After 8 years of hiding from the bugs, they had finally found Whitfield, and we, a band of 14-15 year old kids had to do something about it!
Todd’s presentation of an alien enemy was great. Complex , but utterly alien to us. The threat was persistent throughout the game, which was great. It kept the tension high.
We had some excellent players. In particular Patrick who played Chris the “utterly useless” kid who totally saved the day in the end, Noam who played Gary the bully who had a heart of gold and Michelle who played Beth the would-be doctor strangely connected to the back-story. I really loved our interactions; Patrick one the day several times with his well timed antics. My favorite line of mine: “When Chris starts screaming. THAT’S the signal!” As for the others, they had a some great ones, the Pastor’s son’s sermons in particular were fantastic.
Tons of wire-fu action. When Todd mentioned the game would be pulpy I immediately knew I wanted a character that could do some ass whopping, and while Maggie was by no means the most deadly of the group, she had enough spunk and know how to be lots of fun. As far as I could tell every player had a character they really enjoyed.
Balls to the wall Gary did it. He charged the swarm of bugs, managed to wade through them and faced off against a warrior. And then got his butt whooped. Just the same it was a blast to watch him try.
Our ending. Two Words. Kick Ass!
What could have been improved
The system (Hollowed Earth Expedition), unlike Unknown Armies is utterly un-remarkable. It’s sufficient, I suppose but in no way aided the story. Being able to accumulate “style” dice by following our flaws and motivation was cool, but that certainly isn’t something unique to the system. I think the game would have been better served with FATE, Wushu, or possibly Prime Time Adventures.
We had some confusion of two players trying to act at the same time and the fiction getting somewhat confusing. Todd navigated through it just fine but I did notice one player appearing frustrated as he didn’t feel his actions were being acknowledged at first. I think in the end it worked fine but it’s a good rule to remember as players not to step on each other’s fun.
It was late in the con and my attention was waning so I wasn’t really on the ball the entire time. Still had a blast but didn’t give it my all.
Here’s a picture of the group (sorry for the bad lighting):
Sunday Midnight and on
After a quick check in with my lady to find out she just wanted to sleep I cruised around with Shaun, Kristin and a buddy of theirs (Adam?). We tried to rope Justin into a Dread game but he wasn’t feeling it. After an hour or so of hanging out with the LARPers and drinking, nobody was really feeling it. Apparently Justin’s game was the best, so we deconstructed that some and then made Devon feel really bad about bailing on it.
After the drinking I headed up the Atrium, bumped into Alex, Matt E. and Sarah and we talked about his Deadlands game, apparently it was awesome as well. Good gaming all around. Finally about 2AM or so I headed up and tried to fall asleep, thoughts kept me awake however and I had nightmares. Not sure what they were related to in particular but on Monday morning it was tough getting up.