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!

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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.

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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.

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Big Bad Con games – Expanded

An updated version of my game offerings for Big Bad Con, October 13-15. Let’s see if you can guess what my theme is…

Scheduled Events

Alas for the Awful Sea

A role-playing game created by Australians Hayley Gordon and Veronica Hendro at Storybrewers Roleplaying, thanks to a successful Kickstarter funding campaign.

The premise: It’s the 19th century and unnatural storms forced your vessel to seek refuge in a poor, troubled little coastal town. Expect intrigue, desperation, betrayal, and supernatural mysteries. The game system is a mean, unforgiving, stripped-down Powered by the Apocalypse.

You can see my game blurb in the schedule  here.

Tortuga 1667

Another successful Kickstarter baby, a card/board game created by Travis and Holly Hancock at Facade Games.

The premise: Two pirate ships, one Spanish galleon, and Tortuga Island between them. Treasure, mutineers, and divided loyalties. Up to nine players vie for the gold amid shifting alliances and tides in this social deduction game.

You can see my game blurb in the schedule here.

Salem 1692

Another social deduction card game from Travis and Holly Hancock at Facade Games. Because the Tortuga 1667 Kickstarter campaign was so successful, Facade games was able to launch a new printing of this game that has already been a success in the last couple of years.

The premise: Up to 12 people play witch hunters and inhabitants of Salem, Massachusetts, who must find the witches before being accused themselves! Much fun, paranoia, and religious extremism will be had by all.

You can see my game blurb in the schedule here.

Games On Demand

To the Temple of Doom! To Defeat the Ancient Evil!

A no-prep, mini-roleplaying game by Hayley Gordon and Veronica Hendro at Storybrewers Roleplaying, which they offer free for download.

I submitted this as part of the line-up I want to offer at Games on Demand. Participating game-masters each offer a choice of two or more games for walk-in players, typically run in two-hour time blocks.

The premise: Play archaeologists portrayed in the vein of action movies like the Indiana  Jones series, The Mummy, etc. An ancient evil stirs, waking deep within the bowels of an untouched temple.  An evil that will end the world as we know it. Only you and your fellow archeologists can examine the clues, unravel the mysteries, and uncover the method to subdue this terrible threat.  It’s reportedly very rare to finish a game without a few characters dead or at least cursed…

Loose Threads: A Fate World of Adventure

A lovely adventure for Fate Core by Tara Zuber, published by Evil Hat Productions. I was lucky enough to try it when Tara playtested it and I greatly enjoyed it. Now I’m offering it for Games on Demand.

The premise: You play a secondary character from a fairy tale, one that was forgotten by the heroes of the tale but has since managed to make a life for themselves helping others avoid being the collateral damage of a happy ending.  You and the rest of your Company break curses, retrieve stolen keepsakes and lost children, and chase ogres away.

The Quiet Year

A meditative, map-based story game by Avery Alder (Buried Without Ceremony).

The premise: You define the struggles of a post-apocalyptic community, and attempt to build something good within their quiet year. Every decision and every action is set against a backdrop of dwindling time and rising concern.

The game is played using a deck of cards – each of the 52 cards corresponds to a week during the quiet year. Each card triggers certain events – bringing bad news, good omens, project delays and sudden changes in luck. At the end of the quiet year, the Frost Shepherds will come, ending the game.

At the Stroke of Midnight

In 2015, Meguey created a series of eight seasonal wishing and fortune-telling games to see her patrons through the year; this was the final game in the series. It seems like a good subject for October!

The premise: The sun sinks in the sky, bringing long shadows and a wisp of cool air. In a handful of hours it will be midnight. The veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is growing thinner with each passing moment. At midnight it will open, and those who are able to stand unshaken before the Beloved Dead will be allowed a boon. You and your friends set out for the graveyard, each eager to meet the Beloved Dead and ask a favor from those who have gone before.

The game is played with dice and looking for patterns, Yahtzee-style, that will allow you to influence the story.

 

 

RPG a Day: Kickstarters

29. What’s an RPG Kickstarter you have backed that was very well run?

Uh, I don’t know how qualified I am to say when a Kickstarter campaign is well run or not. After a few bad experiences at the beginning, most of the campaigns I have backed have delivered the products they promised. KS saw fit to label me a “super backer”, which clearly means that I spend too much on new games, so I’m guessing that as long as backers pay a little attention to what they sign up for, they will rarely be disappointed.

That said, yes, Evil Hat Productions has been the tightest, promptest to deliver on my list. Atlas Games, Vigilance Press, Modiphius, Pelgrane Press, Green Ronin Publishing, and Magpie Games have also run solid campaigns and fully delivered on promises.

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RPG a Day: Treasure

24. Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.

I confess, I don’t know many publishers who only use the pay-what-you-want (PWYW) model. However, I know that all of Evil Hat Publishing’s PWYW offerings are high-quality books they would certainly be in their rights to charge good money for. In fact, I think all their products are under-priced. (Disclaimer: I write and do project management for Evil Hat as a freelancer.)

Then there are the periodic Bundle of Holding offers for ebook collections. You get stunning value for PWYW bundles, and if you pay more than the threshold price for that bundle, you unlock even more goodness. It’s a great place to round your game collection without busting either your budget or your shelves. I’d say all publishers who agree to release a bundle that way are deliberately under-charging.

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RPG a Day: Lay it all out, baby

23. What’s an RPG item that has a jaw-dropping layout?

My favourite RPG layout is the one created by Dale Horstman for War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus (Evil Hat), but I admit I am a tad biased. So I will say instead the layout that Daniel Solis created for his delightful game Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple (Evil Hat). The layout makes avery step of the game so clear, it’s a pleasure to play. It makes it easy to grasp the rules of the game either when reading in advance to learn the game or in the middle of play.

Shout-outs for Sarah Robinson’s work on Numenéra (Monte Cook), Michael Chaney’s on Owl Hoot Trail (Pelgrane Press), and Hal Mangold’s on Blue Rose (Green Ronin), all gorgeous books.

I’d also like to drop a word here for well-designed official character sheets, such as those for Night Witches (Bully Pulpit Games), The Lost Age (Leiker Games), Atomic Robo RPG (Evil Hat), Golden Sky Stories (Starline Publishing), and even Numenéra, despite the fact that the latter is a little distracting.

A final shout-out for the design of an accessory, the Deck of Fate (Evil Hat Productions, graphic design by Fred Hicks, IIRC.) I love how it packs a lot of usable information without looking cluttered.

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RPG a Day: Systems in my toolbox

 

15. What is an awesome RPG you enjoy adapting?

Ah well, I keep mentioning these names but in terms of flexibility, my favourite systems are Fate Accelerated (Evil Hat Productions), HeroQuest (Moon Design/Issaries/Chaosium) and PDQ (Atomic Sock Monkey Press). They are easy to adapt, easy to explain, and easy to run.

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RPG a Day: ‘Til Death Do Us Part

14. What is an awesome RPG for open-ended campaign play?

This is sort of the opposite of the Day 9 question. Most RPGs work for this, unless they are specifically designed for short play. What really matters is how engaged everyone at the table is, and whether you’re tracking what has gone on from episode to episode so dangling plot threads and interesting NPCs can be reincorporated in play, making the GM’s life easier (the adventures write themselves) and the players’ actions more important (they impact the game world.)

That said, some games make it particularly easy for me, because the mechanics are light enough that statting more NPCs and creating new locations and plots does not create a burden on the GM. I particularly like games based on Fate Accelerated (like War of Ashes or Dresden Files Accelerated), PDQ (like Truth & Justice, Jaws of the Six Serpents, or The Zorcerer of Zo), or Heroquest (like Mythic Russia or of course Glorantha.) Some (not all) games Powered by the Apocalypse work well for this style of play, like Dungeon World or Monster of the Week.

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RPG a Day: Beautiful Inside

12. Which RPG item has awesomely inspiring interior art?

I love good RPG art, but I know my tastes aren’t necessarily those of the majority of gamers. For example, I prefer pencil or ink line art and sketches to painterly renderings, and watercolours to airbrush work. But let me pick a few recent examples of interior art I love. To even out the playing field, I will exclude games based on licensed properties. To narrow that field, I will also select from recently published games, and I will pick items that I feel have been underappreciated.

Atlantis: The Second Age (Khepera Publishing)

Continue reading “RPG a Day: Beautiful Inside”