SaturdayFor my Saturday I had scheduled an array of playtests, all games currently being designed by people I love. I started with (Abyssal), a game Forged in the Dark by my friends and colleagues Ash Cheshire and Edward Turner. The premise:
Whenever humans build cities, they create shadows… hidden, dark places beneath the surface, where creatures that aren’t human gather. Some might call them monsters, and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong. But you? You don’t belong to the surface or the shadows. You are in-between… cursed, or infected, or bitten but not yet turned. You stand at the edge of the abyss. Will you hold on to your humanity at all costs, or will you embrace the change that is happening to you?It was cool to be the first outside group ever to playtest this. There were three settings to explore: Paris, 1793; London, 1888; or Las Vegas, 1971, and the players were asked to pick. Because it was the least familiar, we chose Paris, 1793:
The Revolution has come, and it seems that freedom is built on lots and lots of dead bodies. The city is stuffed with restless spirits, but some people are happy: in laboratories where strange experiments reanimate human corpses, and in the catacombs below where hungry, horrible creatures are getting plenty to eat.I played Athena the Reanimate, trying to figure out who she really was. The other characters were Sylvain the Cultist (played by Karma), trying to convert Paris to the Sun-God; Soleil the Ghoulish from a family of undertakers (played by Matt), who wanted her older sister to accept her; Gabriel Basseau the Mentalist and former priest (played by Alon), who wanted to bring Paris back to God; and Genevieve the Ghost-friend (played by Lilah), who wanted to find her lost brother. The players had cheerfully set up a tangled web of connections among their characters, and I would LOVE to play a mini-series based on this setup. The playtest feedback also seemed useful to Ash and Edward, so that was cool. Here is my character sheet and Karma’s portrait of her character Sylvain.
* * *After another lunch in my hotel room, I went to the second playtest of the day, Catherine Ramen’s Paris is Burning! , which uses her own system Red Carnations on a Black Grave, inspired by Montségur 1244. The setting was the 1871 Commune de Paris. What was very cool about our group was that everyone had great interest in the history, politics, philosophy, and drama of the setting. Several of us dressed in red or wore red scarves; Daniel Klein, Catherine Ramen and I sang L’Internationale—Daniel in German, Catherine and I in French. (Yeah, I still know it forty years after learning it for a high school play.) Everyone played two characters, one of which would die a sad death and the other who would go on to live a sad life. Catherine had done a good job of priming the role-playing pump by creating twelve Communard profiles, mostly based on real individuals, full of drama and story hooks. We had a bloody good time…
* * *After another short nap in my room, I had dinner in the hotel restaurant with Sandy, Eric, and Anne. The service was slow because the hotel staff gets overwhelmed at peak times but since my next game was in the adjacent lounge I did not worry. This third game was a live-action role-playing (LARP) game designed by Nathan Black, The Regulars, something which felt like Cheers plus Fiasco plus Big Bad World. Every night at the bar, the Regulars get prompt cards about their problems of the day and try to help one another deal with them. A “night” is about 20 minutes from admission to last call, then everybody gets out and we move to another night. I like that it keeps us having to move and switching conversation partners. That evening, however, was a little more complicated that usual: Nathan is Big Bad Con’s Community Coordinator so he was called away just before the game. He turned to his roommate, the valiant Steven, gave him a stack of cards and a handful of notes, and begged him to run the game in his place. It was the first time anyone but Nathan ran it—talk about playtest! Steven was a champ and rose to the occasion. Sure, he got a few things wrong because they were not clear from the notes, but the game worked out anyway. Nathan rejoined us part-way through the evening as a player, and at debrief he clarified some of the rules we had missed. There were some fantastic people in the group and it was a privilege to see them in action. (Fun fact: one of the reasons I started role-playing over thirty years ago was that I loved theatre and improv and wanted to see good acting from up close.) It was not yet midnight when I went back to my room but I’m old and I went to bed.