BIG BAD CON 2014 – Part I (Friday)


Once again this year Sophie and I attended Big Bad Con, and I thought I would give a brief recap (in three parts)

FRIDAY AFTERNOON GoD DUTY:  Puppetland and Fiasco.

I love Games on Demand.  It is a far, far better concept than plain old vanilla open gaming, and one that I think every gaming convention in the known universe should adapt because it just bloody well works.  Particularly for conventions like BBC, where regular game registration is done ahead of time via the internet, and the whole schedule is filled up within 5 minutes of registration opening, assuring that there are plenty of games available for people who didn’t happen to have that particular 5-minute time slot in their lives empty enough to spend it hitting “refresh” 10,000 times.  Games are ready in advance, there are signs up, and people just need to walk into the room and take a quick glance at what’s available.

Genius.

I have this strange proclivity for wanting to run little-known, unusual, or out-of-print game systems at conventions.  Part of this is contrariness, and part of it I attribute to seeing endless lists of D&D games at previous conventions and wanting to give convention goers a choice.  So for Games on Demand I brought four games – Puppetland, Omega Zone, my own Brotherhood of the Rail, and a couple of Fiasco playsets as a safety net.

I’ll be mentioning this a lot during the next few posts, but I have to say that BBC players are fantastic!  I love them!  I sat at the table, some players sat down, and away we went like a whirlwind.  My group of players decided to tackle Puppetland, and they were good!  I had one player who had only been roleplaying a few months, but it didn’t matter – the enthusiasm and creativity bubbling around the table took on a life of its own immediately.  I was riding a tiger, hanging on for dear life just to keep the plot up to the characters and having the time of my life!

For those of you who don’t know it, Puppetland is a purely narrative game – what you say is what you say.  Players speak in the first person (“I throw the candy at the nutcracker!”) and the GM in the third person (“Huggins flung the hard candy at the Nutcracker, smashing it’s wooden jaw!”)  It took a little practice, but everyone picked up their narrative manner quickly and in short order the group had crossed the Lake of Milk and Cookies, rescued an endangered puppet from the Nutcrackers, been betrayed by the pirate Captain Ruddypants, defeated him and convinced him to help them, snuck into Puppetown, defeated two of Punch’s boys, and rescued the pirate puppet crew of the Good Ship Rootbeer Float!  Wowee!

After that breathtaking game we tackled the “Dragonslayers”.  I only had one player who had ever played Fiasco before, so the game followed the predictable “new player” trajectory, with players being a bit tentative at first while they tried to figure the system out in the first act, and then – having figured it out the second round of Act I – going at the game premise like bloodthirsty cannibals during Act II.  We had brilliant scenes like one character running off with the treasure, pursued by one of the dwarves, and dropping coins behind him that the miserly dwarf was compelled to stop and pick up…  followed closely by the scene in which a party of low level adventurers intercepted the trail of coins and began following, increasing in level every time they picked up some more money.  The game ended in the predictable way – with one character being eaten by the cannibalistic purple lizard men, another one being mugged by the party of adventurerers with a wand of level draining and being reduced to first level again, one character retiring from adventuring as a drunken, broken husk, and the “quiet” player making off with the vast majority of the gold and success.  Win once again!

During this time Sophie was off running a game of Atomic Robo.  I’ll link to that once she has her tale written up.

FRIDAY EVENING:  Everway, the game I was afraid of

I was apprehensive about my Everway game, that I was running on Friday evening.  Not sure exactly why it was Everway that I chose to be fretful about, but it appears to be in my nature to have to fret about something, and I suppose it was better that I fretted about Everway than the game I was going to run on Sunday afternoon, so at least I could get the fretting out of the way early.

Everway is another one of those very narrative games, and I had planned on making it super narrative by limiting the use of card deck resolution to times that seemed highly dramatically appropriate.  I also decided to go more sandboxy than I usually do in a convention game, so instead of writing a bunch of notes up, I pulled some cards that I liked out of the deck, strung a few of them together into the idea for a plot (along with a quick draw from the tarot deck), put some others aside for visuals and for some minor encounters to throw in if the pace of the game dragged and I needed to throw in something exciting, and just trusted to my players to do the rest

And they did.  And it was glorious to watch. to facilitate, to be a part of.

This was my one “serious” game of the weekend, and took the form of an investigation.  And investigations always get a bit pokey at some point or another.  But it was Friday – everyone was enthusiastic enough and had sufficiently high energy to carry the game over the less dramatically thrilling part.  The players gave good thought to problems, worked through some ethical dilemmas, rescued a child, assisted the Unity Mages, defeated the Thieves of Essence, won the Unity Rose, and were off to defeat Alurax (well, that last is definitely a story for another day).

FRIDAY NIGHT:  The Hotel Room

We had a hotel room at the convention for the first time this year, and it was quite nice – large, comfy bed, little tiny refrigerator, and most importantly it was not a 40 minute drive away in the middle of the night.  Convention experience – plus 1,000 points!

FRIDAY:  Lessons Learned

Once again I learned the lesson of really being a fan of your players, and saying “yes” to them.  I’m going to save my prime example of this until tomorrow so I don’t beat on it endlessly, but there were a couple of times that I had a choice between saying “no” to a player and sticking with the system and rules, or saying “yes” and letting the player do something kickass, and I was well served by saying “yes.”

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