Big Bad Con is the best! – Part 3

Program, badge, buttons

Sunday Supers

(This is my continued recap of my weekend at Big Bad Con.)

I had once again gone to bed well after midnight and thinking about what my husband Edmund had to miss by going home to give the cats their medication every night. He was running the second instance of “The League of Extraordinary Felines: 1954” in the morning, but I had signed up for a different game because I thought Edmund’s scenario was the same one I had played two or three times.

I knew Edmund was hoping to see me in his game, I knew  I was going to have fun playing a cat again, so I used the online to cancel my signup for the other game (which really sounded awesome, by the way, but that’s Big Bad Con for you: too many awesome games.) I was really glad that, thanks to the online system, the GM would know I had dropped and someone else would be able to sign up to take my spot.

I got up even blurrier than the morning before—where is the gamer resilience of yesteryear?—but I packed my bags for later checkout and went to Starbucks to grab coffee since a 20-oz Starbucks latte was only 35¢ more than a 12-oz. drip coffee downstairs! To be virtuous, I also got us some fruit salads for breakfast, then made my way to the game room.

“The League of Extraordinary Felines: 1854” was a new adventure featuring last year’s characters, using the Mutants & Masterminds 3rd. ed. system (Green Ronin Publishing.) Our group was composed of Kendra, playing Pluto, master of the mystical arts; Sarah, playing Dinah the fairy cat; Christine (not the same Christine as Saturday) playing Ta Miu the master of eternal life and time; Xander, playing Mr. Twitchett the gadgeteer and tinkerer; and me, playing Growltiger the brick.

It’s the fourth time Edmund runs this setup at a convention and so far, no one has ever signed up because of the system; at best, people remember playing it at some point, but all say that they signed up because they wanted to play a cat! As usual, we had a lot of fun. We investigated murder most foul, faced giant Sumatra rats, then confronted the immense Ratzilla! Growltiger was formidable against minion rats, and Ratzilla was defeated thanks to the combined cleverness of Mr. Twitchett and the rest of the team.

After the cat game we grabbed a couple of burgers and fries from the hotel restaurant (they are quite good and I nominate this as the best value for the dollar on the menu), and headed for the last game of the weekend. Edmund and our friend Adi were signed up but I had been unable to snag a spot in time. I was hoping to crash the game, but I saw mid-morning that one player had just dropped so I immediately contacted the host! So that’s another thumbs-up for all-online signups.

 

Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne

The game was Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne (Pompey Crew Design), a GM-less story game where a witch convicted of bringing the plague is taken to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, where a harsh ritual will be performed to cleanse her.

Our party included all six characters in the playset: our host Gretchen Burneko as Ham the Romani guide; Justin as the demanding Sir Hayden; Edmund as the somber Sir Thorne; Alyssa as Brother Armand, wrestling with his faith and conscience; Adi as the witch; and me as Berrick, Sir Hayden’s squire (yes, I kept thinking “Baldrick.”)

It was an intense game and everyone gave great role-playing performances, particularly Adi who was a most splendid, unsettling, and heart-wrenching witch.

The game and the weekend were over all too soon; we said our goodbyes and headed home, tired but pleased with our time at Big Bad Con.

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Big Bad Con is the best! – Part 2

(This is my continued recap of my weekend at Big Bad Con.)

Saturday Switcheroo

I woke up and showered groggily. Edmund got to the hotel to set up for the first instance of his Mutants & Masterminds game, “The League of Extraordinary Felines – 1854.” I went to get us coffee at the ad-hoc counter near the Big Bad Con registration desk ($4.00 for drip coffee… I know BBC offers free coffee but I was too groggy to find it!) and new buttons for completing playbooks in Big Bad World.

After taking his coffee and button to Edmund, I went to the Teens Room where my friend Christine’ Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game was scheduled. I so wanted to play this game! the premise was awesome: set after the events of Captain America: Civil War, you are trying to break the Avengers from their cells on the Raft, the mobile supermax prison. And Christine is a great GM. But unfortunately, she only had two players show up and that was just too few for the adventure to work.

Christine and I decided to go pick up boarding passes for Games on Demand, so we could at least play together. We ended up in Brian Williams’ game of Juggernaut (Bully Pulpit Games.) Brian played the bureaucratic Mr. Brasseau, Aaron was the visionary Dr. Takahashi, Ian play the detached Dr. Dörflinger, Tom played the shadowy Simms, Christine played the earnest Dr. Chandrakar, and I was the results-minded Major Van Der Meer. And of course Juggernaut was always right.

Christine and I met with folk, including my husband Edmund, Christine’s husband Alan, and our friend Adi, when we took a break for lunch. We were hurrying to get back to Games on Demand for the next time block and restaurant service was slow. Amidst the hustle and bustle thanks to the large number of people trying to sign up for GoD, we were unable to get Adi, Christine, Edmund, and I seated at the same game. Christine and Edmund decided to go home (Christine to her adorable three-year-old, Edmund to our elderly cats), and Adi and I landed in a game of Dungeon World (Sage Kobold Productions.)

Our party was composed of Simon, playing Thalian the elven fighter; Adi, playing Kaylin Moravis the elven ranger; William, playing Jez the vulpine (kitsune– or anthropomorphic fox-like) bard; [Name Withheld], playing Rikrakrok the gnome wizard; and me, playing Lynniel Bonebreaker the barbarian.

The game was run by Arthur Berman, a first-time visitor to Big Bad Con. I thought he was a great GM: considerate, clear, smart, quick to think on his feet, and well-versed about his game. I hope he will come back to Big Bad Con! He had a a difficult player to deal with but handled it well. [Name Withheld] was creative and enthusiastic but turned out to be uninterested in listening to anyone but himself. He did not play well with others.

[Name Withheld], this note is for you: I know this was your first time playing a game Powered by the Apocalypse, and I also suspect you’re pretty young (but I’m not good at guessing age.) You are smart and have a lot of fun ideas, and I hope you soon learn to listen to other people around the table—and not just in games, either. You will have much more fun and make friends when you start bouncing these ideas with others, and make others shine in the game as much you want to shine yourself.

In the mean time, my barbarian ended collapsing the cursed temple onto Rikrakrok the gnome wizard’s head and mine, rather than let its mojo fall into an enemy’s hands. I met Death and was turned into a paladin of Order!

After the game I said goodbye to Adi, who was going to have dinner with her husband and adorable kid, and went to my room for a nap before the game I was running from 8pm to midnight. I ordered room service so I could get dinner while reviewing my game notes.

Then I went to the scheduled room and ran Alas for the Awful Sea (Storybrewers Roleplaying) for three wonderful players: Manuel, who played Luther the old sea dog; Jacob, who played Captain Zacharias Nielsen; and Ariel, who played Mrs. Pleasance Houston, a merchant. I will post a detailed game summary later, but in short the game went well; I had a blast and I think the players enjoyed it too.

Tomorrow: Sunday Supers!

Big Bad Con is the best! – Part 1

A recap of my time at Big Bad Con this weekend.

Friday Frenzy

As staff, I had spent much time earlier in the week seeing to last-minute changes, especially finding replacement game masters willing to run replacement games for cancelled events, as well as preparing the games I was scheduled to run and assembling stuff to bring. On Friday morning I had planned to finish packing my bags and, with my husband, heading over to the convention hotel in Walnut Creek as early as possible.

Because of the California wildfires on top of the usual complement of inevitable but sad surprises for a number of people (illnesses, financial disasters, etc.), we had another wave of GM cancellations on Friday morning, so I scrambled to  notify players and fill a few last replacement games, but I am sorry to say I was not able to get to the ones that came in after 10:30am. Edmund and I scrambled to finish packing, grab sandwiches we ate on the road, and get to the convention for noon. I was stressed and tired and afraid I had forgotten some important task.

But walking in meant immediately running into a lot of wonderful people, most of which I see only online and at game conventions. Everyone looked excited and happy. I felt welcomed, reassured. While I checked in at the front desk, Edmund got our badges at Registration. The staff of the Walnut Creek Marriott had our room ready so we dropped our luggage and headed for our shift as Games on Demand GMs.

Of the four 2-hour games I offered, we ended up playing Tara Zuber’s Fate World Loose Threads for the whole time. I will recap the game in a separate post, but it was tons of fun.

We grabbed some dinner from the hotel restaurant’s buffet, chilling with friends, then Edmund had to leave. Normally, one of us would have made the round-trip home (45 minutes each way) to feed the cats once a day. Unfortunately, one of our cats (Ubaid the Destroyer of Stuff) was diagnosed with thyroid disorder a couple of weeks before, following quick and substantial weight loss. He’s now on methimazole every 12 hours and we’re trying to get him to gain weight. It made more sense to go home at night, and return in the morning. Since I was on staff, Edmund volunteered to do the daily round-trip and ended up missing much of the convention, which was a real shame. When Ubaid’s condition is stabilized, this will hopefully not be needed anymore.

After dinner, I played in Tracy Barnett’s first playtest of very early concepts for Fate of Karthun (part of the stretch goals for Karthun: Lands of Conflict.) We had a full table, six players. We were sent by the Underwatch of Narhal to investigate the theft of the Black Cabinet! I played Kistkatsa, a Lizardfolk bard who reminded me of my beloved T’skrang bard in Earthdawn. I enjoyed the character’s combination of flamboyance and powerful support for other party members.

The key thing in Karthun is that there is no such thing as a small adventure. Even when things start as small as retrieving a stolen piece of furniture, things are guaranteed to become epic—next thing you know, you find yourself sealing a breech between universes! Thank you to Tracy, Jim, Oscar, Eric, Tom and Yann for a fun evening with great roleplay.

It was double fun for me, since I’m also the Evil Hat project manager for the creation of this GM guide. It’s always exciting to see a project take shape. [Note: Karthun is Brian Patterson’s brainchild, used in his webcomic d20 Monkey.]

I crawled to bed after midnight, trying to figure out why I had all these aches after merely sitting at a table to game most of the day.

Tomorrow: Saturday Switcheroo!

Big Bad Con signups: More to do

The first phase game of signups for Big Bad Con 2017 opened at noon today. That means that everyone can register for two scheduled games, plus any number of quota-exempt events, usually the larger events.

As is now customary when Big Bad Con opens the floodgate to game signups, the team was monitoring the server for response and signs of failure. Since its inception in 2011, Big Bad Con’s game offerings and attendance have increased steadily; in the early years, signup time became a sort of self-inflicted DDoS attack. Every year there is increased effort to do better and limit the chances of server failure as well as booking collisions, when extremely popular events become overbooked.

This year I got a lodge seat to see the process handled by Big Bad Wolf Sean Nittner and Back-end/App Developer Jeremy Tidwell (Webmaster/Front-end Developer Colin Fahrion was on a plane at the time). They had secured extra computing power for the expected onslaught, and we had more registered guests than ever at this point.

We did have about 15 to 20 overbookings for a handful of events that filled up quickly, particularly the big four-table event of Night Witches. I had managed to snag a spot, but as staff I cancelled out to let someone else enjoy it when I saw how coveted the tickets were. (To be honest, if I had had the logistics available, I would have had this event run by four women and have given priority to women and non-binary players. But I don’t know how I would have managed it.)

We contacted the victims of overbooking to apologize and let them know they could book something else, all within the first few minutes of signups.

What Now?

Next Saturday, September 23 at noon (Pacific time), everyone gets access to two more games in their quota. And in two weeks, on Saturday September 30 at noon, quotas will be lifted; in addition, games in the Teens room will now be accessible to all. The signups are rolled out gradually like this to give a chance to everyone to get into games that appeal to them, not just to the people who were available for a short and specific period.

In the mean time, if you booked your two quota events: remember that there are several events that will not count against your booking quota. These are mostly larger events (usually for 10 attendees or more) such as:

Micro-games and party games such as:

Of course there will also be drop-in events at the convention, such as:

Huzzah for the Awful Sea!

Woot! The last book I needed for Big Bad Con has arrived: Alas for the Awful Sea, from Storybrewers Roleplaying, arrived today! It’s a marvel of understated elegance.

The Watch: Game Setup

So yesterday I spoke about our game of The Watch. This was our kickoff, where we got to create characters, clans, and even our great enemy, the Shadow, in its broad strokes. Edmund, Dani and I had all played in Bryanna’s playtest games last year but Fish was new to the setting.

I felt much more relaxed about a friendly series set up for love of the game than I did about the playtest. I love playtesting and I try to give useful, constructive feedback, but I tend to tackle it as a more goal-oriented, must-meet-scope-and-deadline task than regular games. Yesterday I felt free to explore the setting and work on the detail of character relationships, unpressed by deadlines.

Gaming via VoIP has its technological and emotional drawbacks, but it does let you assemble the most wonderful gaming groups that could not possibly meet face-to-face, and it allows the use of nifty tools in real time.

For example, in our online games we usually prepare a Google Drive folder or other sharing point, and collectively take game notes during the game. Yesterday was no exception. You can also look for images of people, places, and objects right when they’re mentioned. Our GM Bryanna is very proficient with Roll20 and sets up great sites with backdrops, maps, character tokens, counters, card decks, etc.

We opened with a discussion of everyone’s comfort level with varying levels of darkness, violence, etc., and the use of the X-card, followed by a brief tour of the game’s themes and tone, and the Roll20 tools.

We then discussed the Shadow, our Sauron-equivalent, and basically what we’d like to punch in the face the most for this . From the options available, we picked:

What the Shadow Is :
Reality Warping
Terror Inducing

What the Shadow Wants :
Pervert the land and all its creatures
Submission without resistance

What the Shadow Does :
Turn women into objects
Crush autonomy and grind down the willful

The Shadow’s Servants:
Men twisted into unnatural creatures of war
Cogs in a devastating machinery of war

The Shadow’s Moves
 Terrify its opposition
 Attack en masse
 Eliminate support
 Make you doubt yourselves
 Snuff out ambitions and dreams
 Corrupt memories into twisted facsimiles

We made four characters:

  • Otac the Bear, our Corporal; from Clan Toltho, known for their crafts folk and farmers (Fish); and three Wardens:
  • Reule the Spider; from Clan Dothas, known for their mystics (Edmund);
  • Papho the Lioness; from Clan Richti, known for their nomads (Dani); and
  • Teyka the Wolf; from Clan Molthas, known for their rugged mountain folk (me).

We asked each other questions and established our characters’ relationships, generating a good deal of setting seeds in the process. Here is a relationship map I made today on Google Draw with what we generated yesterday; there is actually much more detail in our campaign notes, but I like visual tools. Relationships can be edited on the fly.

We then fleshed out our clans, and discovered more secrets, ties, and rifts! I think this is shaping up to be The Lord of the Rings + The Black Company + Fury Road.


Credits: Cover of The Watch by Claudia Cangini. Relationship map’s background image CC-BY-3.0 by David “Deevad” Revoy, obtained from Wikimedia Commons. Picture of Otak is actually of Photo of We’wha, a Zuni Lhamana,CC-BY-3.0 Wikimedia Commons. Picture of Reule is actually model Nicola Griffin, demo’ing the Winter 2015 collection for Caterina Wills Jewelry. Picture of Papho is actually of a Hawaiian woman with face tattoos, Getty Images. Picture of Teyka is actually of actress Zhang Jingchu in “Jade Warrior,” 2006. Picture of Miri is actually of a Tibetan girl, copyright Adele Stoulilova 2010. No copyright challenge intended.

Gaming Because Global Warming

We’re having a record-breaking heatwave here. It’s really alarming for all the people who don’t have air conditioning, by the way, especially the poor and elderly.

We don’t have air conditioning either but we have a mother-in-law unit that was built in the back of the garage and faces north, never getting direct sunshine though it has a good deal of natural light. This is the coolest part of the house, by quite a bit—and it serves as our gaming lair as well as occasional guest room.

We were left no choice but to retreat there and play games. We huddled around the Chromebook and played The Watch (Anna Kreider and Andrew Medeiros) on Roll20, with GM Bryanna and players Fish, Dani, and us. We’re at the very beginning of our campaign but we’ve already cooked up some really nice links and potential; conflicts between our characters and clans. Lots of proper drama in the wings.

And last night and tonight, we once more took to adventuring in Gloomhaven, making our way through the sinister sewers (completed Scenarios #18 and #23).

 

Ahoy, Matey! She’s a Witch!

I was just talking about Tortuga 1667 and Salem 1692 a couple of days ago. And they arrived with today’s mail! Here are some unboxing photos.

Tortuga 1667

Salem 1692

RPG a Day: Anticipation

31. What’s an awesome thing you anticipate for gaming in 2018?

I usually have no idea what’s going to be most amazing in gaming that year until I stumble on it. That’s OK, I enjoy the surprise. But even as I realize that the best part of my gaming experiences will continue to surprise me, there are a few things I look forward to.

First, a passel of projects I’m managing for Evil Hat Productions will likely hit the shelves in 2018 (fingers crossed.) I have high hopes for several of the new Fate Toolkits, and a few gems I can’t wait for you to see.

Second, I really look forward to Cam Banks’ Cortex Prime (Magic Vacuum Design Studio). I especially hope that it will have tools to lighten the game-master’s load and make it easier to improvise in response to players’ actions.

Finally, I have been keeping an eye on Nahual, Miguel Angel Espinoza and Edgar Clément’s upcoming game Powered by the Apocalypse. Nahual is a Mexican role-playing game set on the universe created by comic book artist Clément, started in the graphic novel Operación Bolivar. I really hope we can see its release in 2018.

#RPGaDay2017

RPG a Day: Mashups

30. What is an RPG genre-mashup you really enjoyed?

Today’s question was “What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?” but I rephrased it to my liking so I would have an excuse to mention a few of my favourites.

  • Godlike (Hobgoblynn Press): World War II + gritty superheroes.
  • Motobushido (Alliterated Games): Post-apocalyptic biker gangs + ronin code of honour.
  • Roma Imperious (HinterWelt Enterprises): Victorious Roman Empire + magic.
  • Threadbare RPG (Stephanie Bryant): Toys + punk aesthetics + brokenness.
  • TORG: All the genres, colliding.
  • X-Crawl (Pandahead Publishing/Goodman Games): Dungeon-crawling as a televised extreme sporting event.

#RPGaDay2017