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Post Con Observations
Topic: Post Con Observations (Read 706 times)
Post Con Observations
May 28, 2002, 11:43:10 AM »
Well, the last time I mentioned my local con I accidently seriously offended someone with an off-the-cuff flippant remark that really wasn't meant to be taken all that seriously. So, I'm going to try to word this post a little better but please bare in mind that all of this wholey represents my limited experiences and single-data point observations.
First, a bit of background. I attended this con twice when I was about 15 or so and I've attended it since then twice only in the last year. When I was 15 I loved this con because it was the place where I could try out all the weird games I'd never heard of: Paranoia, Villains & Vigilantes, Toon, Teenagers From Outer Space, Cyberpunk, Chill, many homebrews and so on were all standard bill of fare. You always had to show up early to get in line to sign up for the game you wanted because they all filled up so fast because there were so many people there.
So you can imagine my surprise when ten years later I come to the con and discover, to my disappointment, that attendance as VASTLY declined and the game list really just consists of D&D, Call of Cthulhu and a smattering of GURPS games. Even White Wolf games are fairly underrepresented consisting mostly of midnight LARPS. The two MAJOR execptions are:
1) Special events AEG runs to show case their games, 7th Sea, L5R, Spycraft most of which run outside the normal con schedule (i.e. standard games start at 2:30, their games start at 4:30).
2) An In Nomine 'Tournament' which seems to be largely run and played by a group of people who already know each other and perhaps play together on a regular basis. This is just speculation, however, based on my sideline observations of their interactions.
And among all of this, there's me, who signed up to run three sessions of InSpectres. I seemed to have been cursed this con by a serious administrative screw up. First of all, my events weren't listed in the con program even thought I had sent in my entries before the program printing deadline. This was, in my opinion, a major blow against me since I was kind of hoping my description of the game would atract players. To make matters worse, two out of my three sessions the event corridinators forgot to put out sign-up sheets for it. The first time this happened I just bumped the event up to the next slot. The second time this happened I caught it early enough that they just put a sheet out late but the bulk of attendees had already gone by.
Perhaps the most interesting observation out of all this was the exchange I kept having every time I went to complain. It went like this:
Me: "Hi, it seems the event I'm supposed to running isn't listed."
Coordinator: "Oh? What game?"
Coordinator: "Yes, but what game?"
Me: "Erm, InSpectres."
Coordinator: "Yes, Yes, but what game system? GURPS, D&D, etc, etc."
Me: "It's called InSpectres, it has it's own system."
I had this exact exchange twice, with two different event coordinators, the two times they forgot to list my event.
Anyway, on to actual play.
My first session didn't have anyone sign up to play. However, there was a Vampire LARP that didn't get enough players and so it dispersed and I managed to snag two players from those who were hunting around for anything to play at all.
It was in this session that I finally found a use for that opening interview portion of play that I was never really comfortable with. I used it to extract a bunch of 'everyday' stressers from the players and then worked those stressers into the game to cause all kinds of problems tangential to the case at hand.
For example, I started this session with a 'potential investor interview.' I did this through the persona of a lawyer who was interviewing on the behalf of his employer. When I asked, 'Tell me, from a business standpoint, what's the worst thing you have to deal with on a daily basis?' The player responded, "All the lawyers." I wrote this down. Then, the first time the players caused any property damage (by driving their car through a convenience store) I had a lawyer show up with a pending law suit by the store's owner. This technique works strikingly well and really helps to keep things focused on that 'everyday working joe' element that's so important to making InSpectres work.
For those of you keeping score: The game centered around Hyper-Intelligent Killer Milk.
The second session I ran, I had four players and this is the session where they remembered to put a sign up sheet out on time. This was also by far the best InSpectres session I have ever run. Highlights included, the players all getting turned into wargaming minitures, one player getting turned into a talking weasel, all the players having their sexes reversed and back again, one player falling in love with his homebrew rocket launcher, that player's wife getting extremely jealous, the homebrew rocket launchers eventually transformation into a real woman, and the running appearance of the original client in several compromising and embarrasing situations.
All of this mayhem was being caused by a voodoo priestest in game, and mainly through the wild use of confessionals by the players. I definitely noticed a kind of 'one uping' effect going on among the players as they tried to put their characters in the most absured situations they could think of.
The third session didn't go off at all, as I had no players. This is the session where my sign up sheet got put out late and I was way too tired to have the game bumped up to the next time slot.
There are a few more experiences I had at the con that I want to share but I think I'll come back to those in a bit. For now I'll let this post stand. I hope it was insightful.
Post Con Observations
Reply #1 on:
May 28, 2002, 03:23:39 PM »
Alright, so here's the second experience at my local con I wanted to share with you because I think it ties into all sorts of topics that are thrown around The Forge at various times.
I got an opportunity to speak at some length with Patrick Kapera (sp?) the principle designer of AEG's d20 game Spycraft. Now, as most of you know I do not like the d20 system because of it's general focus on tactical gamism and more specifically because of the number crunching nightmare that ensures if you try to play the game properly. However, with the production of Spycraft my view has slightly changed.
I've come to find myself agreeing more and more with Jared Sorensen in that mechanics alone, do not a game make. That is the d20 System is not a game, it's an engine. By that logic it is rather unfair of me to say that I do not like the d20 System because I do not know yet the full extent of what kinds of games can be made to run on the d20 Engine. So, I try to say more often, I do not like D&D because D&D IS a complete game and I do not like playing it. Most other d20 'games' that have come out have just been D&D with the serial numbers filed off and the tropes converted from fantasy to say, western.
Spycraft however, is different. It's a genuine ground up designed game built to run on the d20 engine.
When I found out that the designer was at the con I specifically sought him out because I wanted to ask him about some design elements that I thought were contradictory.
A) The game's mission/video game like elements including mission by mission equipment budgeting, elements of the XP system based on meeting concretely defined mission objectives, and a campaign planning system that yeilds a well balanced linear progression of minions, henchman and villains.
seemed to contradict with
B) The game's massive amount of (controlled) director stance built into various class abilities and other game mechanics. The inclusion of 7th Sea style backgrounds. And the fact that the campaign planning system yeilds an interconnected criminal network that seems like you'd have to do a lot of constraining/railroading to keep it focused on the linear progression it is ALSO supposed to produce.
When I asked Patrick about these conflicting game play elements he gave me an answer that even he admits isn't very satisfactory because it boiled down to this: He hopes that the game provides enough tools that the GM can pick the kind of campaign he'd like to run and smooth out the contradictions himself. He did give me some very usuable tips about how to use the existing rules to facilitate either game play style and I'd like to draw attention to the fact that there really are only TWO play structures here interfering as opposed to some of the train wrecks on the market that instruct the GM to, 'do whatever he wants.'
Anyway, I found out that Patrick was running intro games as the con so I signed up for one. I was disappointed. But I wasn't disappointed because I didn't have fun. I actually had a LOT of fun, particularly when the group realized we'd been set up and the whole mission was a trap and things were about to get ugly really fast. I was disappointed because this little intro game wouldn't have sold me the game. If I hadn't have bought and read Spycraft on my own this game would not have earned my respect for the game I feel it deserves after having read it.
Why? Because the adventure wasn't designed to sell you the GAME, it was designed to sell you the genre. The really NEAT things the Spycraft game does were completely downplayed in favor of trying to show off why it's fun to play spies. It's like the game was geared towards trying to show D&D players how they can have a good time without being mages and casting fireballs to kill weird monsters. As far as the system went there were NO uses of the system that differ from the base d20 rules for D&D. Infact we were given incomplete character to 'simplify' things. There was a definite attempt to sell the color and try and downplay the system, even though the system is so solidly designed!
The chase rules in Spycraft are really interesting. Why were there no chases in this demo?
The recommended playstructure of Spycraft is very concretely defined (like InSpectres) why did this demo adventure not adhere to it?
Why was there no opportunity to use the interesting computer hacking rules?
Why did our character's not have Backgrounds that played a role in the game?
Anyone ever play in demo/intro games like this and had a similar experience?
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