GameStorm 14The annual gamefest was, for me, chock full of good times once again. This year I GM'd two Savage Worlds games, both using the Agents of Oblivion setting from Reality Blurs. I played in a few other Savage Worlds games, a PathFinder game and a game set in the Dresden Files universe.
And I got an upgraded hotel room, too.
Details follow for the interested, but no pictures this year... Cuz I was lazy.
Savage Worlds - Troll HunterI saw the mockumentary 'Trollhunter' this year and it inspired this game. The party is a group of secret agents in the organization called Oblivion. Armed with some magic and spy gear, the agents are dropped into Norway under the guise of investigating wild bear attacks. The bears are a ruse that the Norwegian government is using to mask the reality - Trolls. Early in the first encounter their guide, Hans the Trollhunter, gets killed. This leaves the agents with a lot of unknowns and equipment they need to figure out. The gist of the game is a new evil has shown up and scaring the Trolls enough for them to start encountering (and killing) people. I set up 3 Troll encounters, each a little nastier than the previous one. Due to time constraints, I opted out of the third Troll encounter. For the second encounter, the group meets a native shaman who is looking for the same thing the agents are, but he knows where an ancient temple where they may find the answers. The cave does provide two magical rituals to aid the agents in their quest, although one of the stone tablets is broken, and the missing piece is in the Trollhunter's trailer. The finale was a dragonesque creature that is made up of thousands of human bodies. Every protuberance ends in a human face, including tentacles. It summons minions and has fear-based attacks, as well as physical attacks. The party manages to kill the creature, and it shatters into a thousand bodies. About 10 minutes after the beast's death, the bodies start wriggling, trying to reform into the creature. The missing tablet piece needs to be researched quickly, and in time, the creature manifests again, forcing the agents into another battle with it. They manage to get it down again, and the second ritual stops the beast. At least for the next 1,000 years or so.
Self Critique: I did some dumb things - I set up the minis and map oriented towards myself, and in some discussion with other players and GMs, this probably wasn't the best scenario for a Con. All of the characters were 'fish-out-of-water' and I let my excitement for the plot / story override my balance of characters and game. Still, the players all had fun, and liked my use of props (especially when I dumped about 100 minis on the table as the massive beast shattered into 1,000 corpses).
Hotel RoomI use my Hilton points every year for a free hotel room, and I usually get an upgraded room. This year was pretty cool - I got the Presidential Suite. It was epic, and I even moved one of my games up there for a quieter game. The Con has two RPG game rooms with 6 tables in each room - my room was bigger than one of the RPG rooms, easily. And it had a guest bathroom. That's how big it was.
Savage Worlds - SuperherosMy buddy Ron ran a game using the Super Powers Companion and we all played superheros. Set in the early 1940s, our superhero group is called the Justice Eye. One of our ex-members, the Lightning Bug, seems to be the new evil in town. The game opens with us meeting with the city officials about four recent suicides that are very suspicious, all of them in the last 24 hours. Each person was a high-level executive at a record company. The meeting is brought to an abrupt end when an attack occurs on the building. Minions swarm the area outside the building but we manage to thwart a kidnapping. We fought robots, stopped a missile attack, and shut down a rocket ship escape (heading to the moon). It was a good game.
Critique: The end was odd; we stopped a Rocket from taking off, and the main bad guy was trapped on the moon. The enemy was defeated by the government using technology rather than a bad-guy face off. It was a little unexpected; the game was very exciting and fun.
Call of Cthulhu - "15 minute rule"I really want to try the Call of Cthulhu system. "The Man", A. Scott Glancy was running several throughout the weekend, and I scheduled this one. It was supposed to start at 9:00 am; at 9:15 am, there was still no GM, so I used my "15 minute rule" and found something else. I guess he showed up 5 minutes after I left, but by then I was a Russian fighting off Nazis in Weird War II...
Savage Worlds - Weird War IIJohn McNichol was running this. He was a player I'd played with before in other games, particularly a short-lived Serenity campaign a few years back. This game was fun: we fought off some Nazis, met some locals, and helped them out. Turns out the 'lights' on the hill was a buried alien ship, complete with psionic Greys and a robot guardian. We reunited a Mother and a Son (although the Mother had apparently been gone for almost 70 years, so there was an odd age difference), killed the kidnapping, probing aliens and got our truck back to working order. Oh, and the political leader of our party didn't make it out alive. Seems that the Aliens and he both had telekinetic powers, and that wasn't good. At least that's our story, and we're sticking to it.
Critique: A great game, good plot, and engaging gameplay. As a proponent for Savage Worlds I was biting my tongue at some rule calls, but John ran the game well and kept it simple - which is important for everyone in order to have fun. I am not sure if he was using older rules (he did have a Savage Worlds hardcover original book in hand) or if he house-ruled stuff, but there were particulars that were not in the current rule set. I didn't mind them, but when GMs use different rules for games, players may become confused about the Savage Worlds system.
Fate System - Dresden FilesThis was a game Meran and I both wanted to play, and it was the only Dresden Files game on the docket, so we signed up. Our characters were all normal people, no mystical powers what-so-ever, but we had experienced odd occurrences. My character was kind of a Batman, named "Meganinja" - a rich kid who wants to start up a gang of heroes to clean up the streets of Portland. We headed off into the night to investigate missing teens around NE Alberta Street. We get attacked by some teens and figure out that they have been entranced somehow. In what seems like a rescue in a graveyard, we meet a lady named Leah. She points us into a mausoleum where we meet Necromantica, who is raising zombies; she disappears with them. We're invited to a party by her, and meet a man named Morgan who tells us to go home. We don't heed his warning. Instead, we head into a labyrinth to look for Necromantica and her party. We encounter and kill three zombies, find a few prize items, and eventually find Morgan again, unconscious and chained up. We cannot help him, so we continue on to find Necromantica, raising another undead, this time a very powerful creature. We fight it as best as we can, when Morgan comes in and kills the thing.
Critique: I still don't care for the Fate system, Dresden or otherwise. The concept of Aspects and using them is too abstract for me. Maybe that just means I suck at creative role playing, but in both Fate games I've played (Dresden this year and Spirit of the Century last year), the Aspects were the driving force of the game, and I just don't get them. As far as the game play, the game was good, up until the Labyrinth. I felt this was unnecessarily long and winding, cutting into the dramatic end scene significantly.
Horror Rules - The Dwellers BeneathI was an observer for this game; I showed up 30 minutes late. Last year, Meran and I met Chris Weedin through a panel, and I wanted to play in one of his games. Alas, this one was full and all his others conflicted with my other games. I watched as a monster from the depths of the sea ravaged an old oil platform, now a science research station, by jumping from brain to brain of the staff. The game ended with me not being the only observer, but there were nine others as well. All of the players were excellent, and the humor was high. ("No Oregano? That's going to ruin the pancakes tomorrow!")
Critique: I couldn't play, so obviously this was the glaring flaw in the game.
Savage Worlds - Bullet ExtractionThis game was sent to me from Reality Blurs, written by Ed Wetterman. The game was written using the beta rule set, so I had to update the characters a bit. With the game, I got handouts and train car maps. I also suggested we play in my big ass hotel room so that it'd be a little quieter. After I convinced them that they really did want the Hacker as part of the team, we got started. This game has a strong time element; when the mission starts, they have 5 minutes to grab a briefcase from an enemy agent on the train. Each game minute is a timed 15 minute segment in real time. The sixth minute is for the team to get extracted off of the top of the train. There is also an option for planting a double agent - which I did. I talked to a player ahead of time, and gave him the information. Unfortunately, his character was incapacitated during the mission and so we couldn't do the big reveal. Also unfortunately, I mistimed the game and when our slot ended at noon, everyone had another game to go to, we weren't done; we were on minute 4 of 5 (6 really) which means it would have taken 30 more minutes to finish the game. The players all said they had a great time regardless of this. I have to say I believe them because there were a lot of great comments as they were leaving.
Self Critique: Time management was the main problem. I built the slot for 3 hours, and I knew the game should last 2. I still went over 30 minutes, which is a 90 minute screw-up. This was a well designed game and every member of the team was useful.
Pathfinder - Way of the WickedThis was probably the most talked about game at the Con - at least with everyone I interacted with. The game used Dwarven Forge bits, and a lot of them. He had two layers separated with plexiglass. A lot of setup for him, but a heck of a set of props. The game was a group of evil characters in prison, three days from execution. We had to work together to get out, which was amusing to have evil characters forced to work together. It was a good game, and at the end of the game, the GM rated us with a B+ based on our performance. This was also my first Pathfinder game, even though I played a lot of D&D 3.5, PathFinder is essentially the same system, with some tweaks.
Critique: We were prisoners and our character sheets were empty of equipment. As we gained equipment it would have been nice to get stats of the weapons and armor as we acquired it. Especially when we acquired our 'Gifts'. As we were breaking out, our various deities gave us critical equipment; the GM described it with great flourish, but we didn't get stats. Other than that, which is more of a rules knowledge gap, the game was a fun one!
DebriefingThis was my first Con to run RPGs for. I learned a LOT. Running games at a Con is a different beast than running them for your weekly group. One good thing I did before in prep was player aids. I got a lot of good comments and thanks for providing good player aids. The best ones were the cards that described every spell, edge, hindrance and other items that need a paragraph of text to explain. Instead of handing the book around and everyone trying to figure out their character's special stuff, it was already there in front of them, on 2.5" x 3.5" cards. This was something I found from 'Trigger' on the Reality Blurs forums.
In preparation for the Con, I joined the Savage Worlds Explorer's Society, and now I get to promote Savage Worlds. Next year, GameStorm may have a Savage Saturday Night!