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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 126 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Driftwood Mini-Con: [b]Three games![/b] (long)  (Read 3702 times)
Jake Norwood
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« on: July 28, 2002, 11:06:16 AM »

Yesterday I managed to take a day off work and put together a gaming group for a really mini mini game convention. We played from 3pm until 2am, with a 45 minute break between each game. We played Call of Cthulu (BRP version), InSpectres (v. 2.0) and Sorcerer. More on each below.

I ran all three games. The players were:
Earta, my wife, who's trying very hard to become a "narrativist" gamer, because that's when she has the most fun.
Eli, an ARMAteer out here who games with us regularly, and who has never been really anywhere on the GNS chart, but told me that he was interested in trying Narrativist decision making.
Ryan, a writer of amatur fiction, and new to the group.
Buzzy, a quasi-montana-redneck with gamist tendencies.

My goal in using these three games was to really bash my players into thinking in terms of (buzzwords follow) protagonsim, proactivism, narrativism, and a more aggressive approach to Director Stance and taking advantage of OCC information for the sake of story. They all agreed to the experiment eagerly.

First Game: Call of Cthulu (BRP version) about 4.5 hours.
I wanted a really grisly one-shot (all these games were intended more or less as one shots, because when there's "no tomorrow" players become less concerned about making story-oriented decisions like dying or going insane) that featured Cultists, a Mythos tome, and an unspeakable horror of some sort.

We played 1920s centered around Miskatonic University (Arkham Mass.). Earta and Eli were students (Music History and Mid-eastern archeology, respectively), Buzzy was an independently wealthy Jazz musician, and Ryan was a young Journalism proffessor with "field experience" as a journalist specializing in Chicago Mafia stories. The action took place in the Miskatonic U. Library, Earta's apartament, Buzzy's house, an abandoned house down the street, a farm-field, and "Jameson's Cafe," which served alcohol after hours.

In short a bunch of pitchfork-wielding farmer/cultists were summoning the "sleeping worm beneath the earth" (a Shoggoth). The summoning required the "blood of wheat" (Brandy) and the "blood of men." Due to a heavy emphasis on prohibition, both the mafia and the police were generously involved throughout.

The action included a car chase in a model A that ended in the river, Buzzy being captured by cultists to be the Shoggoth's first meal, lots of murdered Mafia and Police (for the Blood Requirment) and stolen Booze (for the brandy requirement), Buzzy's house torn apart by winged terrors (Byakhee), a burning cropfield, and the successful summoning (then banishing) of a Shoggoth.

Buzzy died screaming as the second meal of the Shoggoth (the first was the head cultist, who Eli shot from a distance with his last bullet). Eli went indefinitely insane (and had allready spent the bulk of the game mumbling, twitching, or curled up in the fetal postion as the result of varioius temporary insanities) after successfully casting the spell that the Earta and Ryan both failed (thrusting them into Temp. insanity). They made friends with the Mafia, who helped by gunning down terrorists.

Thoughts: I like the BRP system, although I'm not so sure that the skill set is best for the CoC atomosphere. It seemed still very based on squad-style D&D-modeled play. Despite that we got around it and it never really got in the way. Combat was near minimal, but the game was extremely intense regardless (as a side note, the use of--ugh--hit points injured the fear-facture of combat, making it anti-climatic in several situations). Insanity rolls made everying a lot of fun, with both the intensity of the rolling and the role-playing of the individual disorders. Great sim-play supporting a story.

I think that CoC accomplished my goal of getting my players our of the box they'd been in, and into a satisfying Narrativist mode. Even the gamist was very happy despite his death, and wants his next character to be one of the Mafia guys (he wants a Thompson SMG, I think...).

Second Game: InSpectres about 1.5 hours
This is a group favorite, and the second time we've played it seriously. This, as all InSpectres games seem to be, was a one-shot, but simultaneously an extention of the same franchise and several of the same characters. Earta was a german psychologist, leader of the group, and intent on including "monsters" into her clientelle (Earta is a psychologist IRL, which made this all the more fun to watch). Buzzy and Eli were mid-life-crisis burnouts for the Auto and plumbing industries respectively. Ryan was our "wierd agent," a Vampire (a note: weird agents are a must for InSpectres. They add sooo much).

Our franchise is built in an old auto-repair shop in downtown Chicago. All the characters had thick Chicago accents exept the psychologist and the 200-year-old vampire. As everyone but the vampire was allready part of the franchise, his was the only "entry interview." It was conducted with the player lying on the couch and Earta sitting next to him having a patient-psychologist interview, where we learn that the Vampire is very depressed and needs meaning in life. She decides to pull a few strings and get him on the InSpectres night-shift.

The "job" was a 7-die affair (short, but we only wanted about an hour and a half session). A duchess in Scotland had a haunted hotel and flew the PCs out in a concorde, where she demanded they solve the mystery of wailing and rattling chains.

The most memorable moments came from confessionals and die-roll failures. By the end we had a giant squid named Fluffy living under the floors, over thrity mini-squid babies that were all chained up (hence the rattling of chains), and a nymphomaniac she-ghost named Princess that seduced Ralph/Buzzy (the auto mechanic) who turned out to be the source of all that late-night moaning. The old butler was responsible for all of it, though, as he was raising the squid and getting it on with Princess regularly. The climax (no pun intended) featured a dead Fluffy, sucked dry by our now-less-depressed Vampire, thirty very frightened mini-squids (shaking in the corners and running from the chair-wielding psychologist that hit everything but the squidlettes), a dead butler, the plumber turning out to have been a college football hero, and a stow-away ghost named Princess in Buzzy's luggage.

Thoughts:This was infinitely more successful than the first time I ran InSpectres, probably due to better definitions of how confessionals work and how much power the dice actually give (I learned a TON watching Jared and the lot play at Origins). We did the confessionals on a separate chair as well, and really acted out the interview at the beginning, complete with a IRL phonecall (executed from a cell phone in another room) to the Psychologist saying that the Chicago office needed a replaced for Fred, who had been turned to "goo" on the last job. The players completely took control this time, and as GM all I had to do was supply bangs and play NPCs. I still think it would be hard for me personally to run more than 2 hours of InSpectres, but under 2 hours is a blast. The game astounded Ryan, our new player, who had never seen anything like it, and was very excited afterwards.

Third (and last) Game: Sorcerer about 2.5 hours
First off, this game intimidates the hell out of me.
We ran the Lincoln High 15th Reunion Demo, which I had the pleasure of playing in at Origins. It was uber-facinating to see how differently the same characters can be played by different people.

Most of you are aware of the storyline and characters involved (if not, go down to the Adept Press forum and check this demo out), so I won't repeat much here.

Buzzy played Mack unconvincingly, but well enough.
Ryan played Lee very convincingly, but sim-like and with little push for the story.
Eli played Peggy-Rose, and struggled with it a bit, but he did push the story forward and had a visibly good time. He was the only one to lose his demon, which he didn't get back until the climax.
Earta played Diana with a great deal of zest and gusto, and really shined throughout.

This breakdown mirrors my initial assessments of the players, at the beginning of this post. In the end, Earta and Eli have turned out to be growing and happy narrativists. Ryan is still a bit simmy, and Buzzy's a bit Game-y, but they all like the story building aspect of narrativism, and are improving and having more fun every time we play.

Thoughts: My major struggles were that despite the fact that I've read Sorcerer almost twice, I struggled with using all of the rules right or at all. I'll get it, and I've seen it work, but I'm going to re-read now that I've actually run a session (my first time, as I said). I found the beginning of the scenario to be wonderful, and Martin had Eli and Earta wierded out to no extent--really creepy. Earta was so attached to her demon that she really looked afraid to lose it. The climax seemed to work okay for the players, but I felt that it fizzled out a lot, and it's something that I'm going to have to work on. It reminded me of old D&D climaxes, which seem to crumble when it's supposed to be the coolest part. Despite all of the everyone had a good time, and it will be easy to convince them to play Sorcerer again. Earta particularly enjoyed it.

Conclusion
First, I highly reccomend doing this sort of thing with your group, especially if you're feeling in a rut. Do it with half normal players, half new guys. Tell everyone that this is non-commital and that no one that comes is invited to the next one automatically. Tell them that these are one-shots, and set up a definite social contract at the beginning of play concerning expectations and intended results.

I'm going to repeat this mini-mini-con again, with more players and more games. I'm going to emphasize one-shots, and later I'll emphasise one-shot mentality, which allows for better storytelling IMO. And we'll play all 3 games again.

I enjoyed CoC the most, InSpectres second, and Sorcerer third. Those are narrow margins, and probably partially due to fatigue (although Earta and I were both so pumped about the games afterwards that we couldn't sleep). Sorcerer, as far as I can tell, has the most potential for long-term play and really massive stories, but will also take more work than the others.

Anyway, I'm lovin' gaming all over again.

Jake
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"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." -R.E. Howard The Tower of the Elephant
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2002, 11:24:42 AM »

Hey there,

Something seems to have happened to Jake at Origins. He seems to be enjoying it, but it really is strange to see someone go quite this gonzo.

I'm really working hard on clarifying the Endgame Guidelines for the Sorcerer Reunion Demo, which seems to be the hardest thing to internalize for new GMs. We can pick up that discussion in the Sorc forum, though, 'cause I'd rather stick with the more general picture here.

The general picture - and I really hope people are seeing it with me - is that running great games with a few friends, consistently, is a perfectly acceptable expectation. There's no need to accept second best (occasional off-nights are fine, that's not what I mean).

I'd like to see a lot of these li'l mini-cons, everywhere. I'd like to see them be a default mode of play. That's what I've tried to do with the DePaul campus club, and I think it's worked - every Tuesday, effectively, is a mini-con for two to four games, for five to ten people.

Best,
Ron
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2002, 11:45:16 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hey there,

Something seems to have happened to Jake at Origins. He seems to be enjoying it, but it really is strange to see someone go quite this gonzo.


Gonzo?!? You're just jealous!

;-D

Jake
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"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." -R.E. Howard The Tower of the Elephant
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Jason L Blair
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« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2002, 01:51:07 PM »

First:
Woah, I like all three of those games. The con sounds like a blast. I would love to do one.

Do you think it would have been better to do a two-day FriendsCon, where people stay the night and you just spend the weekend gaming? Would you even consider something like this?


Second:
I'm imagining Jake as Dr. Gonzo and Ron as Raoul Duke in "Fear and Loathing in Milwaukee - A Savage Journey to the Belly of the American Game."

We were somewhere around Milwaukee on the edge of Lake Michigan when the games began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a bit narrativist; maybe we should play...." And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge d10s, all swooping and rolling and botching around the car, which was going about ten miles an hour with the trunk open. And a voice was screaming: "Holy Jesus! I am the Maze Controller!"

Then it was quiet again. My GameMaster had taken his shirt off and was pouring Mountain Dew on his chest, to facilitate the paling process. "What the hell are you yelling about?" he muttered, staring up at the sun with his eyes closed and covered with high-prescription eyeglasses. "Never mind," I said. "It's your turn to drive." I hit the brakes and aimed the Big Green Toad toward the shoulder of the highway. No point mentioning those dice, I thought. The poor bastard will roll them soon enough.
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Jason L Blair
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Jake Norwood
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« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2002, 01:55:06 PM »

Quote from: Jason L Blair

Do you think it would have been better to do a two-day FriendsCon, where people stay the night and you just spend the weekend gaming? Would you even consider something like this?


Yeah, it's a great idea, actually, and I'd do it if work allowed. As it was I had to take a day off to do this, but I'd been clocking in some extra hours and figured that I badly needed a return to gaming, as I hadn't really run anthing other than a Riddle demo since Origins.

Jake
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"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing." -R.E. Howard The Tower of the Elephant
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Zak Arntson
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« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2002, 08:32:16 PM »

Quote from: Jake Norwood
First Game: Call of Cthulu (BRP version)
--SNIP--
Thoughts: I like the BRP system, although I'm not so sure that the skill set is best for the CoC atomosphere. It seemed still very based on squad-style D&D-modeled play.
--SNIP--


We had the same issue with d20 Cthulhu. The rules push you towards a "what skills do I have" and "what is my Dex score" rather than "wow, that's freaking creepy." That's why I wrote Chthonian, which should be sharewared very soon.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
The general picture - and I really hope people are seeing it with me - is that running great games with a few friends, consistently, is a perfectly acceptable expectation. There's no need to accept second best (occasional off-nights are fine, that's not what I mean).


I can't second this one enough. I've got a great group and makes a million worlds of difference (comparing to the numerous so-so and awful groups I've had). Off-nights happen, but I'd advise talking with the group as to _why_ it was an off-night.
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