Once again, Mike and I do a post-mortem after Strategicon weekend! This was one of the best gaming weekends for me at a convention– every RPG I played was exceptional, and the worst/most disappointing one I played was actually the one I ran (Threadbare… still a work in progress!)
On Friday, Mike ran 2 sessions of Pathfinder Society, getting those out of the way, while I met up with some friends in the evening. Mike had the uncommon and pleasant experience of getting a table of mostly role-players for his first session, so he rewarded their creativity and social skills and was very pleasantly surprised. Second session was typical for PFS, so a table of murderhoboes.
The LAX Hilton is just a few miles from the beach, so on Saturday morning, we went for a run/walk on the beach. I outran the zombies, and Mike got re-energized by walking near the ocean. It was overcast, but in the 60’s. A great day for running around outdoors.
Mike participated in the We Are Dead demo, said the setup was quick, with a small board and while there’s a PvP goal, there is also a “play against the board” mechanic to make it interesting.
We saw a 5-minute demo of a game where you flip over letters to form words. The game was quick, required manual dexterity, but seemed kind of fun and would be entertaining as a casual style game.
In the afternoon, I ran my Threadbare playtest and found even more problems with my game. Great feedback from my playtesters, though, so I’ll keep working on it.
Mike played an Apocalypse World hack called Spirit of 77– it was basically the Love Boat with AW rules. He said this was the best RPG he played at the convention, with We Are Dead being the best game overall.
We headed out to a Mexican restaurant for dinner, which was delicious.
When we got back, I crashed for “just a few minutes” and woke up 15 minutes late for Atomic Robo with Mike Olson. He was kind and let me in– more importantly, Jim Sandoval (the RPG coordinator for Strategicon) was a gentleman and a scholar and gave up his seat.
In the Atomic Robo game, we were all ace pilots in what turned out to be the plot of the Rocketeer. Robo was not present in the session, and Mike was playtesting some dogfight rules for aerial combat. I thought they worked pretty well, and he had some interesting methods for resolving a dogfight, followed by the application of damage. The story was good– a great mix of mystery and swashbuckling (in the skies!) and so forth. We explored all the mechanics in Atomic Robo and Fate, which Mike was excited about because that rarely happens in such a short game.
About my only critique on this one was that we had 5 players, and 4 of them were ace pilots. There wasn’t enough differentiation among the pilots’ skills– everyone has Fly at 4, for example, and everyone is good a social skills. In a game where everyone is the same, differences become very important.
Mike, meanwhile, was playing Inverse World, which didn’t go super well for his group. He said there was a lot of DM narrating, not enough player narration, and the GM spent too much time going over the setting. However, the GM was very open to and inviting of feedback, which Mike’s highly respected.
Mike also thinks the Captain is overpowered, since the crew grants a +1 at all times. Personally, I don’t think the crew is supposed to be with the PCs at all times, but it’s a valid critique if the GM isn’t paying close attention.
On Sunday, Mike spent more time on his own– needed an introvert’s day, I think. We both participated in Paint & Take; I painted a mini I bought at the dealer room, and Mike did a goblin he picked up.
I played Apocalypse World at 2 PM with Brian Poe as GM, and it. Was. Awesome!!! We had a hardholder (the Captain; our hardhold was a beached battleship), a Skinner (me), and a Brainer, and with only 3 players and all socially-oriented PCs, we ended up with a group that had no reason to leave the hardhold and seek out trouble, so all our troubles came to us (or were engineered by us!) We explored some interesting rules adaptations (how do sex moves work in a threesome?) and triggered a change in the captain (guilt over being intimate with the Skinner while one of his trusted lieutenants was being murdered) which, if we’d had a second session of the game, I would have definitely enjoyed exploring more.
Finally, on Sunday night I played Tribe 8 with Josh Roby and his crew of gamers using the Smallville rules*. This wasn’t really on the schedule, but we appropriated a space and ordered pizza and had a less formal game night (Bar Con, their typical social night at the con, was cancelled, so this was a good second option). Tribe 8 is a very disturbing setting, and the game played out in a manner which surprised us and ended, at 2 in the morning, with my character sacrificing her life to save one of our enemies. There were some things about the characters that were broken– mine had a very powerful effect that could silence a PC with no dice rolled, for example, and there are So. Many. Dice! in Smallville/Cortex. But for a system that is basically about friends, enemies, and frenemies, the session actually worked pretty well.
On Monday, we did our last pass through the Dealer Room, played a hand of Tentacle Bento, and playtested a game about cartographic symbols.
Purchases this weekend: Hand Maid May anime set (4 DVD set), the miniature, a minion necklace (Despicable Me), a deck box, Dungeon Roll as a gift for Mike, and Red November, which we had played in February and enjoyed.
*Which, Josh apparently wrote… as one does…. because the best thing about Strategicon is that it’s pretty much Ground Zero for the West Coast Indie RPG designer community, and one of the main reasons I keep going back.