Actual Play – Big Bad Outreach at UVA (9/29/2017)

GMs: Ezra Denney, Colin Fahrion, Beth Daggert, Matt Klein, Karen Twelves, and Sean Nittner
Players: The kids at University Village at Albany (UVA)
System: Paranoia, D&D 5E, Ghost Lines, Parsley Games, and Ghost Court

It was a lot to wrangle but we did it. We ran five games for the kids at UVA… and we had a blast.

Pizza, games, kids, adults. A few ringers but mostly kids who had were playing for the first time… and oddly had requested larps! How cool.

Matts game ended up not firing off, but it worked out great as we needed someone to keep track in Action Castle!

We’re excited to do this again next year!

Here’s pics from the event:

Actual Play – Big Bad Online with Stras Acimovic (9/14/2018)

Atlas ReckoningGM: Stras Acimovic
Players: Jayson “JIB” Tryon, Harry Morris, Shaun Hayworth, and Sean Nittner
System: Atlas Reckoning

Here was a game Stras ran for Big Bad Con as part of the Big Bad Online GM pledge in our 2017 Kickstarter. Thanks Stras!

Yes, I did the kill steal…again. Showboat? Yeah, pretty much.




Atlas Reckoning in Air

Actual Play – #Feminism with Big Bad Con Guests (6/5/2017)

Facilitator: Alex Roberts
Players: Laura Simpson, Hakan Seyalioglu, and Sean Nittner
System: #Feminism nano games

In joint celebration of the Pelgrane Press re-release of #Feminism, of the Big Bad Con 2017 Kickstarter, and of the Actual Play Twitch channel, Alex and I organized a game (or a few games of) #Feminism! Thanks to Laura and Hakan for signing up!

We played: 

  • Mentioning the Unmentionables: Dances with Vulvas (a fun warm up game that gets you really used to saying the word “vulva”)
  • 6016 (the utopian game set in 6016 where students study history from 4,000 years ago with only a soap opera as source material)
  • First Date (never mind the wage gap, let’s ruin this first date justifying the orgasm gap)
  • A Friend in Need (how we respond to street harassment, and then how people respond to that response!)
  • Lipstick (Sophia is uncomfortable both with and without lipstick on)

#Feminism on Air

What Rocked

Getting to play these awesome games with awesome people!

Promoting rad stuff!

Tackling some things that put us all out of our comfort zones and doing so mindfully and respectfully.

What could have improved

Some folks in chat weren’t prepared for the content that came up, so I think we could have done better at setting expectations in the beginning.

Some folks on YouTube objected to us playing #Feminism games. It’s unsurprising but still unfortunate that some of our audience doesn’t appreciate these games.


Actual Play – News Channel Six (4/15/2017)

Players: February Keeney, Matthew Klein, and Sean Nittner
System: Fiasco
Playset: News Channel Six

The Big Bad Con board of directors meeting for the month of April has commenced. Minutes for the meeting as follows.

Roll Call: Board Members in Attendance

Megyn Beckerdale, trophy wife of Howard Beckerdale, owner of News Channel Six, and political climber (Megyn, not Howard). The new station anchor, much to Howard’s son Glenn’s dismay. (Played vapidly by M. Klein).

Alison Glasslighter, a film buff with an incredible eye but no desire to on screen herself. The News Action Six camera operator with an restraining order filed against her, or by her, we’re not quite sure yet. (Played earnestly by Febz).

Glenn Beckerdale, the heir apparent to News Channel Six, at least until Megyn with a fucking “y” showed up. Bitter rivals with Action News Eleven and trying to patch things up with Alison and his father. (Played ineptly by Snit).

Meeting Minutes

Here’s our meeting notes


Megyn got what she deserved. A divorce from Howard and fired from the station. Alison became station manager and the best thing she did was facilitate the merger between Action News Eleven and News Channel Six. Glenn got advice on a “career arc” (and ongoing joke throughout the game) from the much more attractive and successful ANE Anchor Robert.

Meeting Adjourned

That was a delight playing with Matt and Febz. It was the first game we had all played together. It was also the first time I played Fiasco in four years, so it was great to get a refresher.

We had some confusion about who had a retraining order out on who, but it all worked out in the end. Some of my favorite moments:

  • Glenn not quite getting up the courage to propose to Alison and then everyone jumping out from the condom demonstrator to yell “Congratulations”.
  • Allison blocking Megyn’s shot so she was standing right next to the raging river we were reporting on, and then fell into the water behind her.
  • Howard having a stroke while he was telling Glenn how to be a “real man”. Okay, stroke’s aren’t funny, but Howard was a real shit heel.
  • Megyn thinking she had Robert completely framed for assault and then finding out there were cameras recording it all.
  • Allison creating indie films, only to keep having them rejected.
  • On a meta level, the glee and good-nature “thanks fucker” we had when giving each other bad outcomes. So many smiles.

Room for improvement

As mentioned we had a few things (like the restraining order) that we waffled on a bit not sure how they came to pass or who filed it against who. We worked it out but it did involve a bit of retconnig.

February pointed during one scene that Matt had both opened the scene and set both of our character’s agendas, which was encroaching a bit on our own agency and direction. We had a short but super productive discussion about boundaries of narration and a month later when playing a totally different game (yeah, this AP report is really late), I spotted the same thing happening and was able to draw from his discussion to address it, which was great!

Actual Play – Daddy’s BMW (10/16/2016)

Facilitator: Jason Morningstar
Players: Jason Morningstar, Nathan Black, Kristin Firth, Karen Twelves, and Sean Nittner
System: Daddy’s BMW (adaptation from Daddy’s Cadillac)

Thank you Jason for bringing a 90 minute game to the table so I could get a chance to play a game at Big Bad Con!

Daddy’s [Insert Car Brand Here] is a short tabletop game about a group of friends who went to school together five years ago and haven’t stayed in touch since. They are all getting back together to out to a bar and find out what happens to them, and what has happened.

A few interesting rules about the game:

  • You only have autonomy about your characters present, everyone else gets to say what they were like or what happened to them in the past.
  • Each player is dealt one trump card that allows them to absolutely do something that cannot be countermanded by another player.
  • Each player has a secret which they should play towards getting out.

The game offers a series of scene prompts (driving to the bar, at the bar, etc) along with a few other character that players can play out as we see folks mingle with the locals.

Together we told the story of Randall (Rando) who could never get over pining for Felicia (Filly), who was broke and trying to keep her fashion model NYC life together. Along with John Thomas who had everything handed to him on silver platter and couldn’t see his own privledge, Rebecca who was the only one that was married among us, but her husband had been cheating on her, and Marta, who was living life to the fullest because she couldn’t cope with the fact that she had been diagnosed with lymphoma.

The people were flawed and sometimes predictable sometimes not. Marta wanted Rando who was obsessed with Filly, who was never into him and in fact incredibly embarrassed about the one time the did hook up. The night ended with Rando and Rebecca hooking up in Marta’s dad’s car,  Marta sobbing into to the half undressed John Thomas’s shoulder, and Filly feeling alone, which wasn’t unusual.

We had a final epilogue, which was a tiny snipped of what we did later to connect with each other on social media or otherwise. Rando posted a tweet of some kids in the parking lot working themselves up to sneaking into the bar with the caption “Look at these assholes.” Rebecca went back to her husband and never spoke of the night with Rando with him or anyone else. Marta texted John Thomas a purple heart, and he sent her back two. Filly’s mom emailed on her behalf. Filly had left her phone and wallet in the car, and could they please be shipped back to her and here was a venmo payment to cover the shipping cost.


What Rocked

Telling a story in 90 min is amazing. I love any game that can jump right in and deliver like that.

It was great, as always, getting a chance to game with Nathan and Karen and Kristin and Jason. I love all these people.

The game was melancholy but not sad. Though our characters weren’t happy but neither did I feel like we were trying to grind them down or make them suffer, it was just the life of normal people trying to reconnect and not quite being able to.

The random NPC prompts were great for making the world feel alive without tasking anyone at the table to make up a new character themselves.

The retelling of prom night was amazing. Cut scenes between Filly telling Marta how embarrassing and awful it was to Rando telling John Thomas how life-changing and amazing it was. Oh, wow, that was so good.

Rebecca’s make over. It wasn’t the Hollywood version but between her dress being turned into a skirt and several shots, we got to see a whole different side of Rebecca!

What could have improved

As is often the case with a nebulous shared fiction, it did take us some time to suss out what was going on. Early on Jason gave me an offer about “after everything Becky did for you, you treat her like that? she saved you!” and while I didn’t reject it, I just wasn’t sure in the moment what it was that she had done. Did she keep me from falling off a cliff or warn be about dating a jerk. It took some time to to work out those open loops and I’m not sure we got all of them, but we certainly had plenty wrapped up by the end.

Actual Play – Everyone’s a Suspect (10/17/2015)

Everyones-a-SuspectGM: Kristin Firth
Players: Matt Gaston, Sean Nittner, Jackson Tegu, Lali Cheshire, and Laurel Halbany
System: Everyone’s A Suspect

Kristin’s storytelling game of “who done it” is so much fun.

The game starts with all of the players collectively answering questions surrounding a murder. The year, the location, other events in the area, the victim, the PCs relationship to the victim, and how the victim died.

We created a small town near the mountains in 1971. Freedom Chase owned a small movie theater and was found dead in her employee’s car at 5AM one morning. We played her employee, her landlord, her son, her guru, and her on again, off again boyfriend.

In play the goal is to frame scenes that make your character looks suspicions. At the end of a full round of scenes each player has a pool of dice ranging from d4 to d20 and they assign them in order of who they thought looked the most suspicious that round. There aren’t enough dice for everyone, and you can give someone more than one, so an even distribution of dice is highly unlikely, as is desired!

Once the dice are assigned they are rolled and a running tally is kept. At the end of the game the player with the highest suspicion get the first choice to pick if their character was in fact the murdered. All the way down the line until someone does, and the rest of the players reveal how their characters were innocent (at least of the murder in question).

In our game we had a lot of things going on. The guru with her own secret files on everyone, the theater employee who had been making armature adult films with Freedom, the rebellions son who wanted someone punished, the boyfriend who turned out to be an absentee father, and the landlord whose own husband died of cancer (or perhaps just of the cold) during the course of the investigation.

In terms of procedure the format is very much like fiasco (4 acts with an epilogue at the end) but the mood and tenor of the game was at least in our case, much more serous.

What Rocked

Emotionally this game was a bit of a roller coaster for me. I started playing a character who was free loving and all about experiencing life and realized later he was a dead beat dad who showed up years later trying to reclaim his past without any thought of his son. That was rough terrain for me and I was really glad I was playing with such a compassionate group of people I love. I used the x-card in the form of “okay, that was really intense and awesome, but let’s not push that one any farther.” and everyone respected that and was awesome about it!

On a mechanical level, the game did genre emulation very well. My character looked extremely suspicious in the first act but by the third scene it was clear to everyone I was the red herring. Matt’s character, however, looked dubious throughout, but had one open thread he was able to use in the end, so it made total sense why and how he did it. Good stuff there!

What could have improved

We had a hard time fitting everything into two hours and since there was another game scheduled right after ours we had to wrap it up. Kristin said that other games had finished in under two hours, which I believe, as we were really chewing up the scenery!

Actual Play – Big Bad Gauntlet (10/17/2015)

Big-Bad-Gauntlet_02GMs: Kasi Jammeh, Sophie Lagacé, Bry Hitchcock, and John Kim
Agents: Eric Zim, Bruce Harlick, Shaun Hayworth, Brian Williams
Audience*: June Garcia, Charles Chung, Ashley Richter, Mike Murray, Adam Fox, Rob Harrell
Players*: Ken Gribble, John Cornell, Kevin Murphy, Rachel Tevlin, Gennaro Kukonu, Johnathan Wright, Mike McFarland, Joe Sondow, Michael Kwan, Jennifer Blight, Duane Padilla, Justin Padilla, Randy Lubin, Mario Cole, Shantih Moriarty, and Jon Edwards
Adversaries: Lali Cheshire and Sean Nittner
System: Fate Accelerated (modified Fate Economy)

* The audience and players lists are based off the online sign ups for Big Bad Con, however, those often change at the con itself, so I’m not sure if these lists are entirely accurate.

Wow, that was crazy. Four games, each of them connected, and each of them threatened by a central pair of adversaries.

Rather than go into all the details of how it worked, here is the basic description of the event, here’s the instructions sent to the GMs, and to the Agents.

What rocked

We hosted a co-op four game event with a central adversary (by the end adversaries!) and our marginalized factions overthrew them!

At the end we had an nearly hour long debrief and got at ton of good feedback for how to improve the event for next year.

A healthy host of folks said they had a great time.

Our agents were stalwart emissaries that backed my every… oh wait, never mind, the Monkey King turned on me and joined the faction. I guess that is a win as well!

We did it all in 4 hours. Though it was challenging, that was a huge improvement over BBGM in six hours in the past.

What could have improved

We accidentally allowed an audience member the ability to completely cut off one faction from it’s goal. That was a compel we should not have taken, as it was a pretty big bummer for one table to find out the Moon Princess was no more.

We had some pretty strict rules about the Fate economy that were circumvented by two tables and that put those tables at a stark advantage over the other tables. By the end of the game that meant one table was blowing through our challenges without batting an eye and the other ones were really struggling with them. This is definitely something we’ll address next time going over the modified economy with the GMs just prior to game.

There was a big of a frantic rush to get started and work on the goals ASAP which meant a few players who weren’t familiar with Fate were playing catch up. Just like we’re going to sit down with the GMs, next time we’ll also have a Fate 101 for the players before it kicks off.

Having 30+ people in that room got WARM. Next year we’re going to take the Forum Room for this! Yeah, it means displacing larps but we just couldn’t breathe in there. Either that or reduce ourselves down to three games.

Actual Play – Ghost Court, Alameda County (10/16/2015)

ghost_court_logo_01 (1)GM: Sean Nittner and others
Players: Others, living and dead
System: Ghost Court

Tagline: Ghost court is a game about ghosts, and people, and all the dumb ways that ghosts and people can’t get along.

The fact that I was not only playing in a game, but running a game at Big Bad Con says two things:

  1. The support I’ve gotten from our staff has been amazing. It was fantastic to host a con where so many thing went so well all on their own. Even when something went wrong (a finger smooshed, a table broken, a room left in disarray) the response was calm, cool, and collected. We did great!
  2. The game is ridiculously easy to run. And Ghost Court is. I mean, it’s so easy to run that halfway through the game Oscar Simmons caught me in the hall and asked “aren’t you in a game right now?” My response was “I’m running a game right now.” Pretty gosh darn awesome!

For folks who weren’t there to experience the hilarity, Ghost Court is a larp that emulates daytime court TV. People’s Court, Judge Judy, etc. It does so by giving two people a single card with their case (as plaintiff and defendant) and giving them each a minute to please their case before the judge, clerk, and bailiff. Because the cases are so masterfully written and because people know the parts to play, the whole thing fits together wonderfully.

Oh, and some of us are dead, and some of us are not. All the more fun to be had.

What rocked

I was a pretty good judge. People laughed. I got some good ghost puns in the mix. Overall, a solid B+ judge. Jennifer Miller, however, she was just amazing. She channeled the self assurance and moral authority of the best judges out there and delivered her sentences with sass. She was Judge Judy DisIncarnate!

I got to be judge, bailiff, audience member, and plaintiff. Not bad for a single session! I even had to be escorted out of the court for disorderly conduct, and that’s when I was the bailiff!

What could have improved

I wasn’t sure exactly when to end the game. I think we got through about 15 cases before we were all tuckered out. I opted to have one more case with Jennifer (judge Alex Miller presiding) and called that the end. Seemed like as good a way as any to wrap it up.

As soon as this game is out, I know a half dozen living and dead who will be snatching it up!

Actual Play – Big Bad Gauntlet [Playtest] (9/27/2015)

Big-Bad-Gauntlet_02Participants (in various roles): Lali Cheshire, Karen Twelves, J Li, Ezra Denney, Tom Vallejos, Colin Fahrion, Eric Zim, Brian Williams, Sophie Lagacé, Edmund Metheny, and Sean Nittner.
System: Fate Accelerated (in pieces)

Big Bad Gauntlet designed by Lali Cheshire.

After many slack conversations, emails, phone calls, google docs reviews, and much tinkering, we got together to try out a playtest of the Big Bad Gauntlet for Big Bad Con.

The playtest was vastly informative. As we had it structured the GM/Leaders were really a first among equals and the Agents, coming to them with challenges were the actual authority/GM. We were using a PTA style resolution system with decks of Fate Cards. It felt like it had a lot of promise but when we started breaking down the structure of play, it became pretty apparent that this was only working because our players and GMs were doing their best to keep it working.

After a lot of discussion we decided to go with a more traditional model of GMs running their own games but having a very limited fate point economy (and what fate points they did have went away when used) that could be supplemented by bribes from the Agent and help from the Audience.

We walked out ready to have more slack conversations, emails discussions, and start some new google docs!

A note for future games: A hand of Fate cards, where each player secretly puts one card face down into a pot, works in effect a lot like the crisis mechanics in BSG. It didn’t end up being utilized for this, but I really like the idea of using this more in the future.

Actual Play – Secret Mystery Game (10/19/2014)

torchbearer-rpgGM: Luke Crane
Players: Matt Glover, Shaun Hayworth, Matt Troedson, and Sean Nittner
System: Torchbearer-ish (USCMC)

Edit (1/6/2015): Now that is been released. The game we were playtesting was the US Colonial Marine Corpse 

Recorded for posterity sake. Luke playtested a new game with us at Big Bad Con that was fucking awesome. We can’t say anything about it so instead I’ll talk about the people.

Shaun brain vs. Luke brain. We had a conflict that lasted three rounds (9 actions) and Luke and Shaun (the conflict captain) scripted the identical action NINE TIMES! I’ve never seen it before. And there were some pretty furious debating on our side to come to it. What the hell could Luke be thinking? What cues in the fiction would he take to spin off of? Note, it’s not exactly good strategy to script identical to your opponent. Feint for instance (which was scripted) really tips the scales if you can manage to get it against a Defend or against you if your opponent scripts Attack. It’s just remarkable to me that we scripted identically!

I know Luke runs games for pretty diverse groups (like say, a bunch of the staff at Kickstater) so I’ve been curious about his GMing style for a while. What does he do to engage new players? How does he teach the rules? Does he use funny voices for his NPCs? Here’s what I found in the session we played. Luke’s style is pretty conventional. He doesn’t jump up on the table and shout at his players or use multimedia slideshow presentations during game. What shines is his experience and comfort with the system. He’s got reflexive knowledge not just of the rules but of how to employ them. For instance when should you call for a test or a conflict, what skill and obstacle for a challenge, how to best pick compromise results. etc. He’s also a high energy, enthusiastic GM. He was excited about the game, and excited about showing it to us.

Matts and S[h,e]a[u,-]ns. It was pretty cool getting to game with these guys. We’re all Torchbearer and BW fans and most of us have played together before. Our characters weren’t at each other’s throats but there was some fun friction when I told Shaun to do a stupid, stupid thing and he, with all respect, told me just how stupid it was. Good times!

I learned something that I didn’t pick up from the text of Torchbearer. You don’t share your goals with the group (or the GM) until the end of the session. There is a mention to this on page 107 under the New Goals header but I hadn’t picked up on it before, “At the end of the session, you’ll review your Goal.”

Thoughts on the game

It will probably still be a while before any news about this game isn’t NDA but here’s four happy dudes playing it!