Initially I had not signed up for anything on Sunday morning because I feared con exhaustion might set in by then. But I woke up in plenty of time to make the 9AM games so I grabbed a free coffee at the registration table and signed up for Brian Vo’s “It Makes A Village,” which sounded like Dungeon World meets The Quiet Year. Spoiler alert: it was.
Our characters were:
Tenrissa the gnome artificer and tinkerer (played by Joey);
Matais the human fighter and village carpenter (played by Matt);
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Silverstone the elf bard who lived above the bakery (played by Summer);
Odd Ev the human thief, secret Santa to the village, who did odd jobs (played by Jim); and
Ysolde the human mage and would-be schoolmistress (played by me).
For 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?
On Friday morning I was scheduled to run a shift at Games on Demand from 9AM to 1PM. Although GoD shifts are all four-hour time blocks, GMs are encouraged to run two-hour games twice because this is useful to attendees who have just a bit of time between events.
I was offering the same two-hour games as last year: Avery Alder’s The Quiet Year and Meguey Baker’s At the Stroke of Midnight. It was a treat for me to get to run both: the first group chose to venture in a graveyard at midnight to get a boon from a departed loved one, and the second to follow a community’s preparation for the expected winter hardships. Both groups of players totally “got” the spirit of the games. Continue reading “My Big Bad Con 2018: Part 2”→
Last weekend was the eighth edition of Big Bad Con. I have had the privilege of attending every single instance and even to be part of the staff for the last few ones. It’s my very favourite weekend of the year, my Christmas.
In the last 25 years I have worked for many other conventions (organized events, volunteered, or been on staff) and attended many more, but Big Bad Con is different. It launched in 2011 with a mission to build community among tabletop and live-action role-players. Within a few years, this expanded to mean more: to make the community welcoming to all and particularly to marginalized, vulnerable, under-represented groups. Here are a few of the practical steps taken: Continue reading “My Big Bad Con 2018: Part 1”→
Yesterday I got a chance to play Avery Alder’s Dream Askew (Buried Without Ceremony) for the first time. We tried a playtest of the new edition for which a Kickstarter funding campaign was ending today (you can still pre-order through the page afterwards.) The book is going to contain two takes on the system:
Dream Askew proper, where you play members of a queer enclave in a post-apocalypse setting (written by Avery);
Dream Apart, where you play inhabitants of a Jewish shtetl in a fantastical-historical Eastern Europe (written by Benjamin Rosenbaum).
Both make me want to play, and I hope to have a chance to try Dream Apart soon. The art looks wonderful for both settings, and amazing contributors have been added through stretch goals. I expect the final result to be a delight.
In addition to the playtest materials available on her website, Avery was also kind enough to share a draft of the “How to Play” chapter for our playtest. I love how caring, generous and thoughtful Avery’s writing is. The chapter provides advice for the play environment and behaviours, not just the mechanical aspects. Continue reading “Playtest: Dream Askew”→
particularly as presented in the Dark Heresy role-playing game from Fantasy Flight Games/Ulisses Spiele, and
borrowing the random tables from my husband’s Fiasco 40K playset for, well, Fiasco.
Why? Because on the one hand I don’t enjoy the native system for Dark Heresy, it’s just not my cup of tea; and on the other, we have a bazillion WH40K miniatures which were handy to demonstrate the miniatures rules for Fate from War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus.
I had four players, including my husband Edmund. The other three players (the very nice Gregg, Thomas, and Jon) were new faces to us and to each other. Edmund is well-versed in both the WH40K universe and in the Fate rules I was using, of course. However, the other players had minimal knowledge of either setting or mechanics. Their role-playing background was primarily from games like D&D or GURPS, and were there to learn about the Fate system. Continue reading “Play Report: Fate of the Inquisitor”→
I did not have a good weekend. On Friday night after eating lightly, I started feeling the same abdominal pain I had felt in November from appendicitis. At the time, I was treated with antibiotics but warned that in 40% of cases treated this way, patients eventually still have to have an appendectomy. Hey, people buy lottery tickets for much worse odds! But this time, it had to go. I didn’t wait, I asked Edmund to take me to the Emergency Room where I was admitted, prepped (I’m currently on blood thinners so that means bringing my coagulation rate down), and operated on. Hurray for laparoscopy and highly skilled medical teams!
I was discharged today (Tuesday) and I had a collection of Kickstarter deliveries waiting for me:
We saw Black Panther and it was even better than I had hoped. It’s now a strong contender for best Marvel movie ever, and therefore, for best superhero movie ever.
Visuals and special effects: 5. The most gorgeous eye-candy delight Marvel Studios have ever brought us. In scale and poise it holds its own against Asgard, and is much more joyous and colourful. Every visual choice was very carefully made. The tribes of Wakanda feel very different yet true and (mostly) unified.
Soundtrack: 4. Good mix of pop, traditional, and orchestral music.
Writing: 4.5. I have very few quibbles; the main one is that some characters I would really have liked to see again appear to have died the Final Death. But the dialogue is fun and smart, and the pace is good. Also, reflections on insular and and nationalist attitudes well-suited for our times, by a film-maker who cut his teeth on current events.
Casting: 5. There was not one actor I didn’t love, the choices were excellent all around. The characters’ personalities shone brightly and the lines were well delivered.
Direction: 4.5. Superb attention to detail and sense of an overarching vision. Ryan Coogler assembles the funny, dramatic, sad, tense, and absurd moments into a lifelike tapestry. I really enjoy the glances that characters exchange, the little non-verbal moments. Some exposition, but really not that much considering the amount of material the movie brings in, and well handled.
Editing: 4.5. Tight. Even the slower or more solemn moments did not feel like self-indulgence.
Superheroics: 4.5. The only problem is that the Black Panther suit is, well, black and can be a little hard to follow in the action. But the fights were definitely larger than life.
Diversity: 4.9. As the meme says, they even had two Tolkien white guys (Andy “Gollum” Serkis as Ulyses Klaue/Klaw, and Martin “Bilbo” Freeman as Agent Everett Ross.) Gender, orientation, and ability diversity not really showcased.
Feminism: 5. It passes the Bechdel test as well as the Strong Female Protagonist benchmark. Female characters have their own agendas and goals, their own opnions and methods. You can’t swing a dead panther in this movie without hitting a cool female character doing cool stuff.
The Edward S. Curtis Award for Anthropological Detail goes to Ryan Coogler and the set design team for the futuristic Wakandan buildings in the style of the Songhai and Aksum empires.
My take on it: who says intersectional social justice is dour? This is the bomb!
This weekend I ran a short adventure of the game Threadbare via VoIP for three of my friends, and I think we all had a good time. Designed and published by Stephanie Bryant, the game’s production was funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016, and is now available on DriveThruRPG.
Threadbare is a stitchpunk role-playing game set in a broken world populated by broken toys. Your character starts out as a Mekka (a hard-shelled, plastic or metal toy), a Sock (a single sock, often thought to have been lost in the laundry), or a Softie (a soft-filled toy).
This game is about repairing things that are broken. From the characters, their stuff, their vehicles, even the world itself—everything is damaged in some way. The players’ job is to fix it.
We only had about three hours to play so we created characters and I ran the very shortest introduction adventure offered in the book, called “Furry Road.” But since all Threadbare adventures are designed as mad-lids, the replay value is high, and this intro game dovetails easily into further adventures.
Here are the characters (images created by the respective players), and the opponents they met:
The ACTION FIGURES
Cookie Furryosa (played by Bryanna) was a bossy but relatable bright pink muppet-type with one Minion eye and a purple sash. Somewhat grumpy yet always ready with a fun story. (Also, Bryanna gave her an awesome voice.)
Shadow’s Keep (played by Fish) was a Bunch of Little Guys, specifically a set of D&D miniatures, including three goblins (one was named Carl), two goblin wolf riders, one goblin sorcerer, a rogue, a sorceress, a gnome illusionist, a dwarven fighter, an elven bow user and a fairy dragon.
Dream Car (played by Edmund) was a former Barbie Dream Car Jeep. She had been the subject of a horrible teen goth punk home art project when her owner became an angsty teen and was now painted in a bad attempt at “Dia de Los Muertos” art with slogans like “Fuck the Police” and “Eat Your Parents.” Barbie and Ken’s plastic heads adorned her front bumper and she had plastic spikes and various “Mad Max” additions. She didn’t really understand what happened and still mostly thought of herself as a fun, cute, pink roadster that could be loved by children and have fun adventures.
The ACTION FIGURES (opposing the heroes) took themselves very seriously. In the picture, back row from left to right: Clarence, Donatello, Merle, Barnaby, and Stu. Front row: Pluto.
(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.
Map of London
“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.
Mutants & Masterminds 3rd ed.
Our cats face giant rats!
Dinah, our cait sidhe, can fly!
Fighting gato a ratto
M&M3e: Rat droppings just got real!
Growltiger ain’t afraid of no rat…
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.
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.