Perchance to Dreamation 2006

26Jan06

Last weekend was Dreamatioin, Double Exposure’s winter convention. I’ve been going to between 4 and 6 conventions a year for about 8 years now. I’ve been to GenCon 7 times. I had more fun at Dreamation 2006 than any other convention ever. No contest.

Sure, it was a ball, what did I do?

Friday

We got off to a late start.

I had originally hoped that maybe I could play in Brennan’s 9am Mountain Witch game, but the preceding week had been so crammed with overtime and convention prep, that I was just pulling my character sheets out of the printer at 9. We didn’t get on the road until nearly 11. Then, an accursed lunch at Panera forced me to seek out gas station rest rooms on the drive there. We arrived 20 minutes before my first game. And what a game it was!

With Great Power…“They Came From Beyond…” – Take One

With character sheets less than six hours old, I ran my new convention event. It’s about the end of the world … and the end of the Story Arc. Y’see, I’d gotten tired of never getting to the end of a Story Arc at a con. So, my brilliant wife says to me “Why don’t you write a scenario just focused on the end of the Story Arc?” Now you see why I’m such a lucky man.

So, end of the Story Arc + some “alien invasion”-themed crossover with TonyLB’s Capes = Goodness of Apocalyptic proportions! I’ve been watching Galactica avidly for months now, I’d rented Speilbergs War of the Worlds as research. I was prepped an ready to send the world into the dustbin of history!

I’m at the table (once I finally got one), with four players: Alexander (Iskander), Luke (abzu), a fellow named Jon that I’ve played with at previous DE events, and someone whose name I’ve completely forgotten. I explain the setup, how we’re going to imagine that the end-of-the-world story as a four-issue limited series. But, our Reader has only found issues 3 & 4 in the back issue bin, so that’s the story we’re going to tell. Then I hand out the characters. I love the reaction I get when I put the first character sheet on the table. I say “Ladies and gentlemen, The President of the United States.” Eight eyeballs pop out of their sockets. I still got it.

The session goes pretty well up until the end. There’s an AP-analysis post in there, so I’ll get to that when I post it on the Forge. Suffice it to say, Alexander’s telepath becomes an OverMind to an alien race, North America gets nuked, but the world is saved.

PTA “Life on Mars”

I haven’t signed up for anything, but Judd’s running PTA. You know, PTA? The Game I Cannot Get To Work Right? And it’s Judd, so I know it’s going to be awesome, if I can only get in. Well, he’s got six folks signed up, so I circle the table like a vulture until I see that only four have showed up and I can sit down and play. The others are Rob Bowell, Jeff of Kryos, Luke’s buddy Andy, and Rich from Perfect Score. As always with PTA, it starts off slow. Judd asks us what we don’t want to see, I say “superheroes.” We go round and round and someone (I think it was Andy) suggests Lost crossed with The West Wing. I’m thinking “two great tastes I know nothing about,” but everyone’s perked up a little, so we go with it.

We take the internal politicking and the “doing an important job” bit from The West Wing and mix in the mystery and isolation to get a show called “Life on Mars” about the mission to terraform the Red Planet. We decide we’re going to be an international mission and rattle off six countries that are likely candidates. Once all five of us have all chosen our country, no one’s picked China. I think it’s Rob who says “That doesn’t make any sense. How could they leave out China?” And then the idea hits the table: “What if that’s the mystery? Why are the Chinese left out?” BAM! Real-world problem (five people, but six countries) become game-world drama (Where are the Chinese?).

Jeff recorded the whole session, so I won’t go into so many details. We ended up doing the season opener, where my Russian Geologist had a screen presence of 1, but I still had loads of fun. On my turn, I suggested a scene for Rob’s Spotlight character, where he’s talking to himself about whether he’s going to drink before an important flight. In order to show it visually, we have blue-lit/Earth version of him talking with the red-lit/Mars version. He decides not to drink. After they re-merge, we see he was talking to the dog the whole time.

It was a very good time. I’m not sure that it’s given me any better insight into how to run PTA, except perhaps to not run it with people prone to not be creatively invested.

I’m in bed a few minutes after midnight. Big day tomorrow.

Saturday

Ran into Emily at breakfast and chatted. She and Kat had had an amazing BtI game the night before. I love it when people tell me how cool my wife is!

I desperately want to get into Ben’s 9am Polaris game, but it’s full. Curse him and his three-players-plus-me game!

It’s all good, though. I spend the morning slot chatting with folks. Talking logos and GenCon stuff and RL stuff with Luke. Talking pitches and sales with Nathan. Talking editing with Thor. Even talking a little about R.I.P. with Thor and then with Jenn Rodgers.

I eat a relaxed, overpriced lunch w/ Michele & Kat, then lug their EverLARP downstairs for them. I’ve left myself open for the afternoon to prep for the party. I’m nervous as anything.

Y’see, I’ve always been leery of the word “party.” It’s always been something that other people do. But, I’ve committed myself, so I will make a party happen. I’ll do it focusing on the one aspect of parteis I can identify with: FOOD.

So I spend the afternoon reheating the With Great Chili…, prepping the cheese & veggies, making sure everybody knows where it’s at. I recruit folks to help me carry everything, and when I walk into the room … my God, it’s full of stars! There’s wall-to-wall people! They’re all here for the party that I’m throwing.

Wow.

Good thing I’m armed with the best chili I’ve ever tasted.

Seven minutes later, everyone’s fed and happy and I’m scraping a measly half-ladel-full together to bring down to Tony who’s been steadfastly guarding our books and our cash. I don’t know how he stays at the booth so long. I’m just glad that he does. I relieve him and wait for 8pm to roll around.

With Great Power…“They Came From Beyond…” – Take Two

This time I’ve got five players, and what an all-star lineup it is: Thor, Clinton, Joshua Newman, Ben, and Larry (who’s designing his own game called WEGS. My summary of his summary: “Old Skool Dungeon-crawling, but Fun!” He actually made me want to play, and I used to hate dungeon-crawls). In this one, we’ve got all five characters in play. Clinton’s the president, Joshua’s his (soon-to-be ex-)wife. And play is great! My favorite bit is that in the final (and only) conflict, Joshua set it up that he would be fighting the aliens with every Speedster trick in the book, but that his Stakes were “convincing the President that he still loves me.” That’s the kind of stuff I wrote this game for.

This game also engendered perhaps the coolest comment I got all weekend. The next morning, Clinton said “I couldn’t make heads or tails of the Preview edition. So I didn’t know what to expect when I sat down. When I got the character sheet, and it just has these four boxes on it, I’m thinkin’ ‘Okay, we’ll narrate some stuff and throw some cards around.’ But then when I saw how it worked. Oh man, there’s a lot of strategy in there! Wow!” Comin’ from Clinton, that means a lot.

We wrap it up at 11:30. We’ve only gotten through one enrichment for each player, plus one conflict scene. With five players, it just takes too long. But, they take over the alien Hive Mind at the cost of life of Professor Phase (played by Larry). And the First Couple get back together, although the Silver Speedster ends up making a better President than her hubby.

And then, it’s midnight…

My Life with Master

People have told me I have a reputation when it comes to this game. I’ve got to salute Rob for running it with me at the table. I’d be nervous running it for Paul. I did my best to be a good minion. I must have done pretty well, as my character ended up hanging himself.

But that’s getting ahead of things. Our four players were myself, Alexander, Danae (who had never played an RPG before that day), and Elizabeth (whom I demoed WGP for earlier in the day). We created a beautiful, Byronic Master who wanted to place implants in the Townspeople so that, when the time was right, he could turn them all into his zombiefied army. What does he want with a zombiefied army? To present it as a gift to the local countess in exchange for her title and her hand in marriage, of course. Lots of work for us minions.

Alexander’s minion was our fetch-and-carry man. Slow-talking, brooding, and unspeakably ugly. Danae’s minion could convince anyone of anything, unless it was true. She put people back in their lives after they’d been through “the treatment.” Elizabeth’s minion was a psychic surgeon who was deeply in lust with the Master. Raising an army needed lots of logistics, so my minion, Augustus, could remember every detail about everything, except people he cared about. I loved working in forgetfulness as a way of showing the other players that he was coming to care for these particular townsfolk.

The Critical There were a lot of commands and rolls that were minion v. minion. It’s a tactic I’m not fond of, since it doesn’t really breed resentment for the Master. Yes, he’s making me act against the other people at the table, but I’m not nearly as creatively invested in them as I am in my own Connections. Plus, it makes endgame harder to attain since it pushes up Weariness or S-L. Also, Rob’s Master transformed from Brain to Beast between Master creation and play, even though Alexander had specifically requested no Beast. And I prefer to let the minions set up most of their own scene–it gives the player emotional stake in the outcome.

The Impressive Rob did give us lots of colorful description. Both he & Elizabeth seized the minion-Master flirtation thing and ran with it. It was good to see those sparks. Tying rolls really, really suck. Which makes the bonus dice that much more important. I also learned how great Horror Revealeds can be. I had the first one, and I described a wife being beaten and cut by her husband, who had undergone the Master’s “process.” After that, I needed her as a Connection. Rob, very wisely, ordered one of the other minions to kidnap her immediately.

I’m glad I played. I would love to play again. I’m not sure when I’ll sit on the other side of the catharsis again, but I think I’ll be a better Master for it. (actually, I promised Keith I’d run for him at GenCon)

It was 4:18am when my head hit the pillow. My alarm went off at 7:30.

Sunday

Sunday started with a screw-up. I’d told everybody that the panel was running from 9am to 1pm. Turns out it was 11am to 1pm. Everybody was up at 9 for nothing. Before they could lynch me, though, the mighty Sons of Kryos saved the day by doing their interviews with designers. And they wanted to talk to me.

I should have been nervous. I don’t talk much. Really. Drives my wife nuts. But, I was running on 3 hours sleep so I didn’t have the energy to be nervous. Jeff threw me nice, friendly softballs and Judd hammered me with stingers, and I just kept talking. Next thing I knew, it was twenty minutes later and we were done. Now, the podcast may show that I actually sounded like an idiot, but I felt really good about the interview. It was downright fun.

Then, the guys from The Perfect Score interviewed me on tape. I’m sure it looks lousy. That, plus they asked me “What is your greatest gaming moment EVAR?” and I completely froze. Twenty-plus years of gaming fled my brain and I was left listening to myself sweat. It took me five minutes to scrape together a little scrap to give them. Ah well. It was fun, even so.

Once 11 finally rolled around, it was time for the panel. I wasn’t sure what Luke was gonna do. He’s done publishing panels in the past, but he and Jared did their “three questions” game design seminar thing. It was a great, high-energy session with loads of game design brilliance all over the place. We heard pitches from Russell about a hitman game, Brennan about the First People in the SouthWest, Kevin’s Mob Justice, some idea I competely didn’t understand about pragmatism, Shawn’s Uni-inspired game that’s already done, Joshua’s Absinthe.

Oh, if anyone knows how to get in touch with Kevin who’s working on Mob Justice, my Brilliant Wife had the awesomest idea after we got home. There was talk of setting a timer for the negotiating phase, and hiding it. Better yet is to hide it inside a coffee can, and have that coffee can be the talking stick for the council meeting. You can only make an argument if you’re holding the can, but whoever’s holding it when it goes off is the one who loses somebody.

Anyway, that’s it except for the farewells.

Like I said at the beginnig, Best Con Ever.

PS: Coming This Weekend: WGP actual play and How To Run Your Own Indie RPG Explosion.

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12 Responses to “Perchance to Dreamation 2006”

  1. Michael,
    Sorry I missed your call today. More on this when we talk this weekend.
    Having you in my P.T.A. game was a pleasure; I have never been so thrilled to be stood up by three gamers.
    Your scene with Rob, with his PC arguing with himself was just brilliant and I am really excited that I got it on tape.
    If you’d care to put what you wrote into a Forge AP, I’d certainly respond to it as would Rob and probably Andy.
    I am glad that you had fun doing the interview with us; we had fun doing them and they all came out really well. Wow, Jeff and I really bad cop/good copped ya, huh? I am sure you didn’t sound like an idiot. Everyone who has ever interviewed with us felt like they were babbling. Those interviews were at the perfect time; the Sunday morning exhausted rawness will make for a great and relaxed interview.
    Talk to you soon,
    Judd

    • The interview was great, Michael. I really enjoyed hearing about the post-Dreamation ’05 car-ride, and Kat’s suggestion. It made total sense and I finally recognised where I had seen that satisfying pattern of play before when playing With Great Power… with you.
      I am very much looking forward to your AP on the first “They Came from Beyond!” session with Luke, John, Alex and me. I started writing one, but events have slightly overtaken me this week!

  2. Your wife is cool.
    Are you guys going to be at Gencon Indy this year?

  3. 5 Anonymous

    Sons of Kryos
    Your interview on Sons of Kryos was great. Hearing you talk about With Great Power made me really interested in the game. (Heck, it’s how I found your site & blog – from the Sons of Kryos links.)
    – Mike

    • Re: Sons of Kryos
      Hi, Mike!
      Glad you liked the interview. I just listened to it this morning and yeah, I actually do sound coherent. As Jeff & Judd said, it was really early and we were all really tired and I didn’t recall real clearly how I’d come across.
      Thanks for checking out With Great Power… If you’ve got any questions, post ’em on the forum or e-mail me!


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