Monday, August 19, 2013

Gen Con 2013: The Games I Ran

I ran two different game systems this year and was glad of it. In previous years it's been three or more. It's certainly possible but it's easier, at least for me, when I only have to split my attention between a few game systems. Even better, of the eight games I ran, only one of them was not The One Ring.

That one was Keltia. Last year one of the games I ran was Yggdrasill. Keltia is the tales of the Celts and the original ad mentioned King Arthur. Maybe something like Cornwell's Warlord trilogy? The later is Vikings. It uses a d10 system and isn't that bad but some of the layout in terms of where everything is and some of the rules are a little wonky.

The fun thing about Keltia is that there was no book this year. Thankfully it uses the same rule set as Yggrasill so when I finally figured out that there would be no PDF even of a pre-release, I hunkered down.

The game allowed an assorted group to hunt down rumors of dark magics and fight against the supernatural. It was a fairly straightforward romp which was great compared to last year's Yggdrasill game which ran over the four hour limit for me on both games which for my games, if anyone's played in one, is rare. Like super rare. But it appeared everyone had a good time.

The One Ring on the other hand, is one I'm a bit more familiar with as I've run it before and its crunch level isn't that bad. The only bad thing about it is it's what I call "fiddy". There are all sorts of little things to take into account. Did you meet your target number? Did your roll an edge? Did you remember to roll your battle dice at the start of the combat? Did you note your starting fatigue?

The other 'problem' with the One Ring is that it's not really designed for a con game. You see characters have an attribute Hope. Players can spend them like action points but doing so makes them more vulnerable to being miserable which leads them to have bouts of madness. Chances of that happening in a one shot game? Possible if there are a ton of things dishing out shadow points but not too likely.

There are also other elements, like recovery in sanctuaries after the 'adventure' is over but again, not something that's probably going to get hit too often in a con game.

The adventure, The Wind From the South I think, was fairly straight forward. It involved several combats against a variety of enemies. With the two separate journey checks, there was opportunity for more potential misery to be heaped on the players. The best thing? The open ending where the players have a HUGE variety of things they can do. You see they must rescue a daughter of Rohan from some rogue Woodsmen who seek her cursed magic right to fight against the forces of Dol Ghuldur.

I can't recall every instance but...

In one campaign, one of the players who was playing a Woodman of a similar background challenged the chieftain to single combat. The elf sang to bolster his spirits and reduce the Hate score of the villain. The player took a good beating but with some excellent rolls on his part and the elf's part, the chieftain broke down in tears at the foot of the Fellowship realizing that his dream of opposing the 'Master' with such a meager item of magic was doomed from the start.

In another one, the players did a fighting retreat which wound up with a few of the players again taking a fair beating but managing to fight their way out with the Rohan Rider and the ring which they purified of evil.

In another, the players caused a distraction in the main hall by starting a brawl while their other comrades searched for the woman of Rohan.

In another, the players caused a distraction by singing and creating a festival mood. The men of the fort, while 'evil' so to speak, weren't at open war with the Woodmen and there were two woodman who just immediately joined into the dinner and began eating and roaring and role played it out till they were singing and doing tests to make the nose louder while the 'bard', a giant Beoring, started a 'wave' of people shouting and smashing cups against tables.

I try to be ready with the rules and had hand written a few pages of notes. In most instances it didn't matter or they weren't needed. For example, I mentioned the whole battle dice check at the start of combat? Yeah, I probably forgot that more often then not.

The good thing though, was I continued to learn from the players. Last year someone showed me how to put together a quick chart to visualize the character's stances for combat and I brought some miniatures along with me to throw into that chart so the players could easily see how they were arranged not in line order or anything, but what rolls they needed to hit or be hit.

This year was pretty good on my side and I hope my voice, which I started to lose on the first day after the first game but never fully lost, wasn't too bad When I ran, I asked every group if there were things they wanted to see or things I might want to incorporate for the next group I had to run and either they were all shy, and trust me, most of them didn't seem the type, or they had a good time. I'm hoping it's the later.

Personally, I haven't run into any 'real' problems with gamers. I keep hearing horror stories about it but its all been good for me. I hate to say it, but I think a lot of those problem players are in the D&D or Pathfinder camps. Not necessarily because those games draw those people, but because those are the most popular games.

When I ask if people were playing the One Ring, the almost universal answer was no. It wasn't because they didn't want to, it was because "this is D&D town". I know where they're coming from but at the same time, I know where the people who only want to play D&D are coming from. It's like an old familiar boot you can wear whenever.

There were a lot of great moments in the game. In one failed Journey test, the players could either take some automatic fatigue or test for poisoned water in Mirkwood. One of the woodman boasted of how everything at his pond was alright and then rolled the Eye of Sauron so of course was poisoned while everyone else was fine. The player did a good job of doing the whole poisoned stick too so that made it even better as some of the other people were like, "Man, he must've drank all of the poison because I feel fine!"

I did learn that gamers apparently don't like to be up at 8:00 AM though. Both my Saturday and Sunday games at that time slot were cancelled due to no-shows. It would be AWESOME if Gen Con could have a Check In App or something where people could see how open a game is. I say this because all of the games I ran were in the system, sold out. I think I had one game where all the tickets I collected were for that event and every other game I had some generics. If people could check an app and see that "Hey, there's still room here", these games might be able to be filled at a better ratio. Maybe something like Foursquare but for games run? Scan the specific tickets and it sends out 'alerts'?

Anyway, what did everyone else play or run? I was hoping to get in some games myself, and this may sound stupid, but when I realized my voice was going, I decided against it. Cubicle 7 was awesome enough to bring me down to run games and people signed up for them and they deserve "the full Kushner" so to speak, not some half mute guy waving his arms franticly in the air to indicate damage.