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[Origins 2005] Pirates, Zombies, and Rats. What a weekend.

Started by Eric Provost, July 06, 2005, 06:12:12 PM

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Eric Provost

Lisa and I managed to squeeze the time and money to go to Origins for Wednesday thru Saturday.  Unfortunately we had to drive back home on Sunday and missed out on that day.  But that's ok.  We still packed a month of gaming into three and a half days.

My intention in hitting Origins was to ferret out as many indie games as possible to play while I was there.  That didn't work out quite how I'd planed.

On the first day, Wednesday, we stood in the two-hour long line to register and hand over our money, and got a little goodie bag from WizKids.  It had a bunch of little handouts.  Free packs of cards from games I'll never play, a HeroClix of a baseball player (didn't even look closely at it... but I did imagine using it to fight the Hulk...), and the one handout that ended up taking over our weekend.  A pack each of The Pirates of the Spanish Main.  Pirates, plus Collectable, plus Model Building, plus Miniatures Combat.  Oh, and there's everything you need to play in a single pack.  We got hooked.  Lisa spent half a day intercepting people who just got their goodie bags and asking if they were intending to play the game, then offering them a buck or two for their packs.  

WTF does that have to do with RPGing?  Not a damned thing.  Except to explain why we didn't do as much RPing as I'd originally planned.  Damned Pirates took over my brain.  I'm still hoping to find the WizKids dude Frank at GenCon.  I so want a rematch.

So, besides Indie games, Lisa and I were hoping to catch hold of a game store owner we knew pretty well while we were living in Utah.  Cthulhu Bob.  Everyone knew Chtulhu Bob.  He drove an old caddy with 'CTHULHU' on the licence plate.  Bob was there from the beginning of CoC, knew all about it, and ran a pretty good Participationist game.  We played with him once at a con in Utah.  Now, we both remembered him saying that he always hit Origins to see what was new out there.  So, we decided to look up the list of GMs presenting CoC games.  Lo, there was ChthulhuBob on the list.  We immediately signed up for "Post Mortem", a two-hour CoC game for 6 players.  When we show up to the game we find out that it's a different Cthulhu Bob!  How many Cthulhu Bobs can there be?

So, we've paid our $1.50 each so we're not giving up on the game, right?  Bob starts right out by handing us each a small stack of paper.  A disclaimer telling us that he's not going to pull any punches with his RPing and that the game might end up R-Rated, our character sheets, and a page with a bit of background for each of us.  The background he gives us details how we know and what we know about each of the other characters, sets up a couple rivalries between characters, and gives us each the same goal.  The deceased had a really valuable diamond and you want it.

Once we're done reading our handouts Bob gives us some heavy-handed set-up dialogue.  We're all at the viewing of the body in some basement mortuary in NYC.  Just as the mortician (a PC) is wrapping up his speech about the deceased there's a small earthquake that kills the lights and blocks the exits.  Well, my background read that I believed that the guy swallowed this diamond.  My background also read that I was part of a Dark Order and that I have access to a Create Zombie spell that takes two rounds to complete.  Guess what I did when the lights went out?  That's right, I ran up to the coffin to get the swallower of the diamond to walk out with me.

It was only the first round of declared actions, but Bob's method of running the game became very clear very fast.

Me:  I wanna sneak my way through the shadows up to the casket without being noticed.
Bob:  There's too much light from the emergency lights for you to do that.
Me *internal monologue*:  I have a 90% Sneak and an 80% Hide and I can't make my way to the casket unnoticed ten seconds after an earthquake?

I didn't object.  How could I?  I'd run my games just like he did for years.  Besides, I could tell already that Lisa and I had been given an extra helping of Protagonism over and above the other players.

And that's where the real problem, quite possibly the only real problem of the game came from.  Lisa and I were opposing magical orders.  We got to say pithy things to each other, wave swordcanes about, and threaten each other with magic.  Everyone else pretty much just got to run in terror from my zombie.  The guy playing Julius, the mortician, seemed to have the smallest helping of protagonism of all.  He appeared to be the only one who didn't know anything about the diamond (so he couldn't possibly have any interest in retrieving it) and he didn't seem to have any kind of relationship with anyone else in the game.  The other three got to be the brother of the dead, a criminal who knew the dead, and a cop who's there to arrest the criminal for what the dead did.

I think that was really it.  The relationships.  Lisa and I were over-the-top with each other, because we had a nice built-in rivalry going on.  Neither of us really worked as well with the other players because we had limited time to come up with a working relationship with the other players and their characters.  I noticed that Lisa did team up with one of the other girls playing there.  It's also interesting to note that the girl she teamed up with we'd been chatting a bit with before the game.  So, it would appear that the brief IRL relationship that Lisa forged transferred quickly into an in-game relationship.  And that in-game relationship helped Lisa and the other girl enjoy the game a bit more.  At least, they appeared to me to be enjoying the game more than the others.

Then there was Luke's game.  20 people playing Burning Wheel.  

Warning:  Spoiler.  If you have even a slight intention of playing Luke's 20-person game at GenCon, or any other time, then avoid everything after here.

I was looking forward to it all night.  Then, stupid me, I lost track of time, forgot how to read time, and Lisa and I got to the game 40 minutes late.  When we got there the action was already in progress.  So, we jumped right in.  Kudos to Luke for knowing which groups to throw us into to get our brains working fast.  Maybe it could have been better, but fuck, there were 20 people for him and Thor to organize!  

So, we quickly find out that we're all playing Rat/Mouse people and we're hungry.  I got a really kewl NIMH feeling off of the whole thing.  Well, I get drop into the scne where the Diggers are.  The Diggers are trying to dig a hole into a warehouse to obtain cheese.  Well, we had our orders to dig from one rat and suddenly we get orders to stop from another one.  What do we do?  We dig while no one's looking and deny digging when someone is looking.  The other two guys I was playing with in this scene were all over it.  I was still reading my character sheet and trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

Five minutes later, instead of finding a warehouse full of cheese, we find water.  Lots of it.  Whoosh!  We're washed down into the common area of the nest, where the memorable statement of the night is made;  "The cheese is Water!!!"

Before we know it there's this huge debate going on, focusing on three different central figures.  One says that we need to work harder, stop the water, and keep looking for cheese.  Another says that the nest is dead, we need to abandon the nest and go to the feild where it's safer.  A third says, let's let the nest dry out and come back tomorrow.  Luke and Thor have the two polar ends of the argument make their case to the group.  Then, each of us either had to sit back and see what happens, or pick a side, stepping up to make our case quickly.  It was all very dramatic and nifty.  

As I recall, after the side that proposed abandoning the next made a dramatic exit, the dice told us all that a compromise would be reached.  I believe the compromise ended up being that we would stay long enough to fix the next, then we would leave.  Seemed like an odd compromise to me, based more on the semantics of the argument than on the intent of the conflict, but hey, I was along for the ride at that point.

In the next scene we were back to work trying to bail out all the water that had collected in the nest, but more was coming in all the time.  As I was formulating a plot to sabotage the machinery and blame the character who I didn't care for (by way of pre-arranged background), Lisa sneaks up and whallops the leader of the Abandonment party on the back of the head and proceeds to plan to plug the hole where the water was coming in with his body.  He managed to eek out of the sack and put rocks in his place to fool her.  What resulted was a nice bloody feud between a fractured society of rats.   I was hoping that my sabotage of the machinery and my blame of a particular rat would bring more friction and more fractures to the society, but unfortunatly, by the time my plan went into effect, a great deal of resolution came about, effectively ending the story line.  The poor rat who was seriously injured by the falling machinery was really just a footnote to a story already resolved.

We had a blast.  

Here's to hoping that we get in even more indie gaming at GenCon.

Our thanks to Luke and Thor for that game.  

-Eric (and Lisa)

Marhault

The Burning Wheel game was fantastic.  I was only there for the first half or so, so thanks for filling me in on how it all ended up.  I was one of the rats who told you to stop digging, and, while I commend your ingenious solution to the conflicting orders, still can't help saying "I told you so."

Mike Holmes

QuoteAs I recall, after the side that proposed abandoning the next made a dramatic exit, the dice told us all that a compromise would be reached. I believe the compromise ended up being that we would stay long enough to fix the next, then we would leave. Seemed like an odd compromise to me, based more on the semantics of the argument than on the intent of the conflict, but hey, I was along for the ride at that point.
I was the mysterious wanderer priest who wanted to take everyone to the fields. The compromise was to fix the hole, then go to the field to wait for the warren to dry, and then come back later. Basically what the Visionary brother of the Mastermind (who was my main opposition) wanted to happen, plus the Mastermind's desire to fix the hole first.

I believe that both the Mastermind and myself had no intention of sticking to the agreement.

QuoteAs I was formulating a plot to sabotage the machinery and blame the character who I didn't care for (by way of pre-arranged background), Lisa sneaks up and whallops the leader of the Abandonment party on the back of the head and proceeds to plan to plug the hole where the water was coming in with his body.
Yep, as I said, that was me. Lisa played a superlative kidnapper rat, and I enjoyed getting knocked out thoroughly. :-)

QuoteWhat resulted was a nice bloody feud between a fractured society of rats. I was hoping that my sabotage of the machinery and my blame of a particular rat would bring more friction and more fractures to the society, but unfortunatly, by the time my plan went into effect, a great deal of resolution came about, effectively ending the story line.
I was wondering who was responsible for that! Cool to find out.

I won't fill in the rest of the story, because it's pretty central and I think that people who have read what Eric has so far can still get some good play out of it. Needless to say, however, the infighting was terrific, and a good time was had by all. It should be mentioned that for the most part the concflicts that were occuring were using the nifty BW social conflict rules, and the only reason that my walkout worked in the first place is that I outmaneuvered the other players using the scripting (pretty nefarious thing to do since I knew the system and they didn't really). Showing how much fun these rules really are. Had a blast playing with them as well in Luke's scenario "The Gift" the night previous. Nothing as fun as getting the Elves drunk on nog!

Good stuff Luke! And in addition to Thor's helping out, it should also be noted that Dro helped out too, shifting back and forth between playing and running.

Mike
Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.

Luke

Eric, thanks so much for your very charitable review of the Roden game at Origins. In my opinion, it was chaos, and it could have run smoother.

You weren't the only players to arrive late, and said late arrivals just added to the madness. I don't usually allow latecomers in, but I really wanted as many players as possible. We had 17 in the end, I think.

If you get the chance, play Heist again with us. It's different every time. Even if you've played it before, there's a lot of different possibilities with the various characters.

As for your scheme, there were two things working against you (and me). First, there was a queue of conflicts ahead of yours that had to be resolved before I could rightly toss yours in. Second, I just didn't know what to do with it. My instincts told me to hold it back until there was some fragile peace, and then use your sabotage to turn up the heat again. I was honestly surprised that folks didn't take the bait on that one. The Brain could have easily been outed as the scheming manipulator he really was if only someone accused him!

Anyway, I'm rambling. It was a great game, lots of fun and i want to play it again!
-L

Eric Provost

Heh.  How could we not review it favorably?  We had a fuckin' blast!

And Mike easily deserved top billing for his RP of the Outsider.  Hell, I threw in with him on the issues most of the time just because I dug the character!  

Ya know, I think it would be a real blast to play that again.  Even with the same character.  I'd love to try to manipulate everyone into greater chaos and bloodshed right from the word go.

And then take their stuff.

-Eric

Mike Holmes

Thanks for the kind words.

Luke, I don't know how you can expect anything other than chaos trying to run more than 15 players at once using RPG rules. LARPS have a hard enough time allowing players to do most of their own resolution.

A big problem with the whole set-up is that just a few people seem to get to hog the spotlight, because there can only be a few overall conflicts that get resolved in public. I felt guilty that my character gave me the authority to grab the limelight more than once, and other's characters seemed to just be spear carriers. That's not a fair characterization - all of the characters had good goals and such. But there's some definite disparity.

Not sure how to solve this. One thing is to let the game run longer. I know it seemed longer (eveerybody commented), but it was only 2 hours of play. I'd delay having the big conflicts come to a head, and perhaps have some less "global" contests. For example, you could say that anyone who wanted to make a speech to convince people could try to gather people at the table, and then resolve things with people there - with any players not wanting to attend just staying away. This would streamline some of the contests, too.

But some sort of metagame like that for triggering mechanics would be good organization.

The one other comment that I have is to give the backgrounds on a separate sheet. I know it's some coallating, and it's easier to have one sheet per player, but there was just too much jammed into the space available on the one sheet.

In fact, what would be cool is to make some laminated cards or something easy to carry around that have the character's backgrounds on one side, and beliefs on the other. Also, with the backgrounds, more bullet point presentation and such would be good. A great way to spur play in these situations is to bullet goals. That makes them very clear to players (some responded that they weren't sure what their character was supposed to be up to).

Just some thoughts.

Mike
Member of Indie Netgaming
-Get your indie game fix online.

Eric Provost

I was thinking of that problem.  The mass quantity of people with few spotlights.  

So... what if...

You started things off by organizing people into smaller groups of conflict.  Once those smaller bits of conflict were resolved then you reorganize into slightly larger groups to resolve a couple different conflicts.  Repeat until we've got that same situation with two spotlights and two sides to one conflict for the whole group.  Then, after that's resolved, break apart again into small groups and repeat.

It would likely take lots more orginization to start, but I think it would allow things to work out a little more...interestingly.

For example;

If the opening scene had the Leaders dividing the Planners and the Fighters and the Diggers and the Schemers into sub-groups to deal with their own problems, then each of those 3-4 person groups could have a small conflict of their own.  Maybe the Leaders are arguing over the best plan of action, the Diggers are arguing over who's orders to follow, the Fighers over if they should fight some enemy, and if so, which one, and the Schemers are.... well... you get the idea.  :D  

Then, let the resolution of that first set of conflicts set the orginization for the second set.  Maybe the Leaders discover that the Schemers are up to something and try to seperate them in the next round.  Maybe the Schemers are working with the Fighters to threaten the Diggers and the Diggers are arguing with the Planners over who's fault it is that great amounts of tasteless liquid cheese is threatening to flood the entire nest.

And so on and so forth.  

I'm not sure I can wrap my head around the dynamics that it would take to prepare like this, but does that sound like a feasable operation?  It seems to me that it would be all about making the relationships as explosive as possible right now.

Like, my character was all about my stuff is my stuff and nobody has the right to take it away from me.  But... did anyone have a belief that would lead them to try to take my stuff?  Maybe it was because we came to the game late, but I never heard from the Brain and I was never threatened by Pinky.  

The game inspired me to what I'm working on for my What I Learned game that I'm trying to put together.  If Character A wants items 1, 2, and 3 to happen and Character B wants items 4, 5, and 6 to happen, then I wanna make sure that items 1 and 4 (for example) are incompatable.  Both characters can't have everything they want and they'll have to deal with each other about it.  And while I'm at it, I'm going to make sure that Character C has a potential goal that conflicts with something that A and B want too.  I want every character to be in conflict with every other character and see how it turns out.

But then, I'm writing for 6 players, not 20.  But even in a 20-player game, not everyone has to be in conflict with everyone else.  If each player is in conflict with at least 3 other players, and it's orchestrated into a nice web, then by degrees of seperation, everyone will still be in conflict with everyone else.

-Eric