Monthly Archives: October 2015

Big Bad Con: Day 3


Game #4:  GoD Duty

This year I signed up for two tours of GoD (Games on Demand) duty at Big Bad Con, but only got one slot.  Which was sad in a way – I wanted to run two slots obviously – but great because a) the time I wasn’t running was the time I went to feed the cats, and b) it allowed me to focus more.  There was, however, a bit of confusion regarding which games I was offering for GoD duty.  Initially my two GoD duty submissions were:

  1. Motobushido or Omegazone
  2. Motobushido or Gaian Reach

When I was told I only had one slot, I went for Motobushido/Omegazone because Omegazone was easier for me to prep for than Gaian Reach.  Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication, Sean Nittner never got the word of which of the two I had chosen, so he printed up two GoD announcements for me.  I, of course, had left Gaian Reach at home, despite my desire to run it, because I couldn’t think of a time when it would be possible.  So when my first two players sat down at the table, guess what they wanted to play?

Yep.

But that was OK – they were good players and part of the tribe, so they understood when I explained, and decided that they would play Omegazone instead.

Game:  Omegazone

System:  FATE Accelerated

GM:  Edmund Metheny

One of the nice things about Omega Zone is that character creation is quick and easy – deal a few cards, write down a few stunts, and you’re done!  This makes it a perfect game for GoD duty.  Our game centered around two denizens of the Omegazone being hired by the Guardians of the Reach to transport a recently salvaged Kreenian power source down the 405 in a heavily armored post-apocalypse style truck (formerly from Al’s Premium Meats).  The Guardians could not perform the task themselves because they had their hands full dealing with an incursion of psychic floating heads.*  It was pretty much a plot on rails – guardrails in this case – but still fun.  The party battled Kreen, cannibal bikers, goblin cultists of the Burger King, and Big Tony’s ape men.  The players were nice and the game was fun, but really there wasn’t much to tell about it.  I had a good time.  I hope they did too.

Registration and Takedown

Starting at 2:00 pm I had duty at the registration desk.  This is every bit the thrilling adventure that you would expect on the last day of the convention.  Mostly it was answering questions about where to get parking validated and making sure no one ran off with the cash box.  Sophie was running another FATE of Agaptus game, but to tell the truth I didn’t mind missing it.  I felt like I owed the convention some hours after my rather poor showing at setup, so I was pleased to be able to help out.  Starting at 4:00 I worked on takedown, packing up boxes and lugging things around and shoving them into cars and such.  Every once in awhile I swung by Sophie’s game, and they all seemed to be having a good time, but mostly I said goodbye to people and helped pack the convention away until next year.  Once Sophie’s game ended at a little after 7:00 pm, we said our last goodbyes and headed home.

General Impressions

Big Bad Con is the best.  You should go to it.

There are other conventions that are bigger, there are other conventions that do more.  If you want to do miniatures gaming this isn’t the convention for you.  But for pure, unadulterated, full-bore roleplaying there is no convention I have attended that can match it.  Not even close.  The amount of talent enclosed in a small space – both GMs and players – is awe inspiring.  You WILL have a good time if you come to this convention to roleplay.

Except for the unfortunate and entirely self-inflicted illness on Friday, I was very happy with my level of participation at the convention this year.  I would have liked to run one more Games on Demand session, but I think it is great that it filled up.  My Motobushido game was a bit hindered by my being under the weather, and I didn’t think my GoD game quite came up to the high standards of BBC, but my Juggernaut and Free Hunters games were things of beauty and I am quite proud to have been part of them.  Registration and takedown both gave me an opportunity to see parts of the convention that I hadn’t seen before, and playtesting for the Big Bad GM was interesting (and made me a bit wistful that I couldn’t attend the actual event – but feline chronic pancreatitis just isn’t one of those things you can ignore if you actually like your cat).

A big “Thank You” to all members of the Big Bad Con staff for doing a fantastic job again this year!

 

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*One of the players had been in a previous Omegazone game in which I had used the psychic floating heads to showcase the downright weirdness of the Omegazone, so I riffed off the previous game.

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Big Bad Con: Day 2


Game #3:  Juggernaut

System:  Juggernaut (LARP)

GM:  Edmund Metheny

I haven’t done very many LARPs, and I have run even fewer.  There was an unfortunate Tekumel LARP way back when and a couple of others that didn’t end well thanks to player monkeyshines.  But when I read Jason Morningstar’s Juggernaut I was sufficiently impressed that I decided to try it again  It looked easy and it looked fun, and those were two words I was trying to apply a lot to my games at this convention.

It was a thing of beauty.  Really.  It was the high point of the convention for me.  Afterwards I would describe it as being as if professional actors had come into the room and put on a play just for me.  I felt privileged to be the facilitator for such a talented group.

It didn’t seem that way initially.  Early in the game we had an injury, with one of the players getting her finger smooshed in a drawer.  It was the sort of silly accident that can happen any time to any group of LARPers, but of course it put a damper on things.  I took the injured player off to Registration and let the powers that be know what had happened, then headed back thinking that this would surely spoil things.  But it didn’t.  The remaining players were magnificent.

The main premise of Juggernaut is that you have invented a computer that can predict the future.  The mechanic for this is in the form of a deck of numbered cards, which unfold the plot as you draw them.  Once you draw a card it becomes your narrative responsibility to make sure that whatever is on the card comes true, no matter how far fetched.  The players did a good job of this, but it was at the end that they became completely amazing.  With around 4 cards left in the deck, we were getting close to the end, and I noticed that some of the drawn cards had not been fulfilled yet.  As facilitator I was trying to think of how I should handle this – should I try to force the issue?  Should I stop play and remind people?  Should I just shrug it off because people were having fun?  (Answer:  yes, that!).  But in the end I didn’t have to because my players – my beautiful, wonderful, brilliant players, saw the problem and completely in game and in character came up with a solution!  Under the pretense of trying to determine whether Juggernaut could indeed accurately predict the future, they gathered all the cards they had drawn and sorted them into three piles – cards representing predictions that had come true (ie cards that they had resolved), cards representing predictions that were for a future date and so could not be determined to be true or false, and cards that made predictions that had not yet come true (ie cards that they had not yet resolved).  They then proceeded, still in game and in character, to resolve them all brilliantly!  It really was a pleasure to watch.

If you are reading this and were a player in that game, you have my sincere thanks and compliments on your performance.  It was something that I will remember in years to come.  And if you are the player who got a smooshed finger, I hope you are ok!*

Interlude, with cats

I now had a tough choice to make.  I really wanted to go watch or participate in this year’s Big Bad GM event, since Sophie was involved in planning and was one of the GMs and I had helped with the playtest.  But Phantom needed his meds, and the round trip schedule would be very tight.  In the end I decided that it was too tight and instead of trying to rush there and back again I took a more leisurely approach.  This turned out to be a good idea because traffic in both directions was bad.  I left at 2:00 pm and didn’t get back until almost 7:00 pm.  But it was nice to see the cats.

Game #4  Free Hunters:  Six Days Over Stalingrad

System:  Night Witches Homebrew

GM:  Edmund Metheny

This was my big moment at the convention – the alpha playtest of my hack of Night Witches focusing on the women of the predominantly male 437th (and later the 296th) Fighter Regiments.  These regiments flew over Stalingrad, and some of the women (notably Lydia Litvyak and Yekaterina Budanova) would become the only female aces of World War II.  My goal for this particular playtest was to get a feel for how the mechanics I had written for fighter combat in the Apocalypse World setting worked, and to learn where they were rough and needed some polish.

Once again all my players were top notch.  They took to testing out the system with gusto.  Soon there were planes plunging out of the sky willy nilly, pilots dying horribly, and all manner of carnage.  In between missions the women struggled to get their Yak-1’s back under their control (and not get stuck flying the crappy LaGG-3s that the male pilots were using).

I was very pleased with the game, as well as with the feedback I received afterwards.  They identified some areas that were rough, some places where I need to explain things better, and some modifications that need to be made to the character sheets.  I look forward to incorporating their suggestions and trying out another playtest.

Buoyed by my success, I went to bed.

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*I saw the player with the smooshed finger a couple of times during the convention, and was relieved to see her in good spirits.  I would have been crestfallen indeed if that accident had ruined the convention for her, and I am glad her injury, though certainly painful, was not more serious.

Big Bad Con: Prologue


Welcome to Big Bad Con – BLARF!

Here is my yearly report on  Big Bad Con, the premier roleplaying event of the Bay Area and possibly the world!

I love Big Bad Con.  Its an incredible experience for a roleplayer.  I await it every year in much the same way that small children look forward to Christmas.  Celesticon is good.  Dragonflight is good.  Kublacon is good (so I have heard, haven’t been there yet), Pacificon is…  Pacificon has some lovely people who attend and some wonderful people on staff and, oh never mind.  The POINT is that Big Bad Con is far and away the best.  It has the best planning, the best design, and attracts the best GMs and the best players of any convention I have ever attended.  It gives the sort of experience that roleplayers have always wished their conventions would give them but could never quite achieve because they were lumped in with the tabletop gamers and the miniatures gamers and the eurogamers.*  But Big Bad Con is just for us.  Plus, Big Bad Con is socially conscious – donating to both local food banks and Doctors Without Borders.  I think this is a great idea, and am continually surprised that more conventions don’t do this.

So once again I was all giddy and excited as the date grew closer!

But…

…before getting into Big Bad Con proper, I need to talk a bit about the day before Big Bad Con.  I often get pre-game jitters, but before this Big Bad Con I had them bad.  I am not sure why.  Partially I am sure that it was due to the problems I had with my Apocalypse Pony game a couple of years back.  Partially it was because I had filled my schedule pretty full this year in an attempt to get as many buttons as possible.  So I was nervous.

I was also up very late trying to get everything together.  I had stuff to print and files to sort and cards to find and stuff to pack and dice to select and all that sort of thing that you do before conventions.  And of course this meant that I was up until around 2:00 am.

Originally I was supposed to be at the convention at 10:00 am to help with set-up.  But at the last minute Sophie got tapped to do a CostCo run for the convention.  CostCo opens at 10:00 am, and since I was riding in the same car as Sophie, this meant that I was going to be late – very late.   On the one hand I told myself that I shouldn’t worry about this because if the convention gurus decided they needed the CostCo run more than they needed me moving boxes, well, they knew what they were doing.  On the other hand it was my first time working with the staff coordinator and I wasn’t keen on having to write to tell him I was going to be late.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because I am laying the groundwork to explain my mistake.

Knowing that we were heading for CostCo, knowing that we were in a bit of a rush, running on little sleep and a lot of anxiety, I did something I knew I shouldn’t do.  I took my morning meds on an empty stomach.  I rationalized that we were going to CostCo, and I could get food there.  But what happened instead is that I couldn’t stomach the thought of CostCo hot dogs and so decided to wait until after the CostCo run when we would get something for the road.  Then I compounded my error by thinking that burritos were a good choice, then discovering I really couldn’t eat one in the car without getting drenched in salsa, and so holding off until we got to the convention.

So of course by the time we got to the convention I was horribly, horribly ill.  And it was absolutely my own damned fault.

So about the first thing I did when arriving at Big Bad Con this year was throw up in the parking lot.  Anyone observing me must have thought I was some sort of drunk – not an auspicious start to the convention.  What was worse was that throwing up did not make me feel immediately better.  It DID mean that I started to gradually improve, and eating part of my carne asada burrito also helped, but throughout Friday I was in the process of going from feeling horrible to feeling merely wrung out.  Bear this in mind when I talk about Friday.

And with that somewhat unpleasant introduction, off we go!

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*And at some conventions consigned to a hallway far away from where the rest of the convention is occurring.  Not mentioning names here.  Just expostulating.

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Big Bad Con: Day 1


So here I was at Big Bad Con – my favorite gaming event of the year.  I had just thrown up in the parking lot, my ears were ringing, my stomach barely in check, my cheeks were burning from embarrassment, and in a minute I was going to have to sneak by a horde of gamers smelling like barf in the hope that I could get to the bathroom and rinse my  mouth out before I had to actually talk to someone.

For me this was absolutely the sort of introduction that would make me get back into the car, go home, and text Sophie to tell her that I would pick her up at BART and Sean to tell him I was sick and needed to cancel my events.  Which was close enough to being true that it would fly, but not REALLY true in that I knew what was wrong with me and I knew that it would get better and I knew I would be fine by tomorrow as long as I didn’t do something stupid again.

But here’s the thing – I did not do that.  I made the decision that I was going to tough it out, and stay at the convention.  Because Big Bad Con is that sort of magical place.  The sort of place where even a guy like me, embarrassed and sick, feels like he’s with his tribe, and that they will take care of him in their own weird, wonderful way.   The sort of place to feel at home, even if I can’t remember the names of people I have seen gaming before and I feel crappy and my ears are ringing. Because my tribe is cool like that – they’re the sort of tribe that watches for signs of weakness and trouble not so that they can abandon or prey upon the unfortunates, but to buoy them up and support them.  That’s my tribe.*

So I went in, cleaned up, ate my burrito, and got ready for my first game of the convention.

GAME 1:  Ice, Ice Baby!

SYSTEM:  FATE of Agaptus

GM:  Sophie Lagace

Sophie’s FATE of Agaptus game was out and boy was the book ever beautiful!  Its a work that she has every right to be extremely proud of.  I had been helping some with the writing and the playtesting, and had signed up for or been promised a space in several convention games over the last couple of years while it was in design.  However, in many of those cases I had decided at the last minute to give up my space in order to accommodate another player figuring that I would have an opportunity later.  Consequently, though I had GMed the game quite a bit, I had not played the game all that often, and of the games I had played, two of them hadn’t been in the setting.  Well not this time, I said to myself.  The game was playtested, proofread, and published – it was a done deal.  And THIS time I was going to play!  And I was going to play my character – Kuri!  I had mercilessly browbeat poor Sophie until she agreed to let me play him, taking full advantage for once of being the GM’s spouse.  And now, here I was at game time – sick, dizzy, tired, and wanting little more than to go to sleep for a few hours.

“HEE”!

But I had a great time anyway.  The guy who played Iva (Kuri’s mother) really got into the spirit of the thing, and all the other players did their characters really well.  It all started off with a bar fight (or rather a mugging in a dark alley following a bar fight) between us and members of the Vidaar pirate crew of a rival captain of Ulf.  We discovered that rival was off to a secret island where he expected to get a great treasure.  Of course, being the good Player Characters we were, we gave chase, pursuing him to his secret island.  In the meantime our resident priest, Schmoe, got us all into trouble by rolling “++++” on an attempt to contact the gods, a roll I termed “catastrophic success”, which brought the eye of Agaptus** down on us and almost sunk our ship.  When we finally made it to the island, we discovered that the Vidaar pirates knew of a secret cave (what kind of pirate adventure would it be without a secret cave) in which was hidden a whole big chunk of Murmadon rock.  Sadly, we ran out of time at this point, and didn’t get to battle the huge nest of Kuld that was in the secret cavern worshiping said Murmadon rock, but I know the battle would have been epic, and Kuri would have been supremely annoying both to the Kuld and to his mother.

I came out of the game still not feeling 100% but much better, and pleased with the idea that I had managed to get through the entire game a) without actually attacking anyone (I put all my efforts into creating advantages, like a dutiful child) and b) without any in-character statement except “HEE!” and “Grrrrrrr!”

After the game we went back to our room, and I prepped for my first game while Sophie went and got me knishes.

Game #2:  Sword and Static

System:  Motobushido

GM:  Edmund Metheny

By this time I was feeling a lot better, but was still wrung out and a bit queasy.  Because of this I think I didn’t bring quite the energy and enthusiasm to the game that it and the players deserved.  Big Bad Con sets a very high bar for GMing, and I admit to feeling self-conscious when I think about not measuring up.  At any other convention I would have felt that my game was very successful.  At Big Bad I thought it was pretty run-of-the-mill.

The players were all quite good and enthusiastic.  We had the Taicho, the Migi Ude, the Kusawaki, and the Hahaoya in play, and the scenario was one I had run previously.  We did go through the First Founding and a discussion of the war.  This was the first time anyone introduced mutations or mutant powers into the game – the Kusawake had perfect night vision and the Taicho could see the future.  Everyone came up with ties to Green Village – the Taicho had to kill the village guard because he was getting old, the Kusawake was a sex addict who had to be kept away from the local brothel, the Migi Ude had a fortune in gold buried in the area that on one else knew about, and the Hahaoya had a sister who disapproved of his Motobushi lifestyle.  The pack drove out the thugs who had taken residence in the town and then confronted their foes the War Pigs who had come under a flag of truce ostensibly to honor the ancestor of their great enemy (this was true – I decided that I would play it totally straight to see what happened.  As I suspected the PCs provided sufficient treachery that the War Pigs needed none).  Probably the most interesting twist in the game came when the Taicho saw two futures ahead – one in which he and the Taicho of the War Pigs died, and one where both of them lived.  It was the future where both died that was the better of the two, so the Taicho set out to slay his rival.  However, the duel didn’t go his way, and the head of the War Pigs won (barely) and spared both their lives.  The Kusawaki was eaten by radioactive coyotes, but came back as a vengeful ghost.  In the end both Taichos lost their positions in their respective packs and formed a new pack together, while the Kusawaki took to the roads as a vengeful spirit until such time as both the Taichos would betray one another and die.  The Hahaoya became the new Taicho supported by the Migi Ude and the remains of their pack and the War Pigs joined together.

All in all the game was, IMHO, a good one.  And although I felt my own GMing wasn’t quite up to what I knew it could be, I was happy nonetheless because I think overall the players had a good time.

Then I went to bed.

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*A Hillfolk game in which your tribe is a bunch of gamers in a large hotel for a convention would be awesome.

**Or Akka-Maas if you prefer.  Or maybe it was just a coincidence.  Hee!

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Free Hunters: Aircraft of the Eastern Front


Yak-1

Yak-1.  Primary fighter aircraft used during this time period, it was phasing out the inferior LaGG-3.  Considered roughly equivalent to the German Bf-109.

LaGG-3

LaGG-3.  Most modern Soviet fighter at the start of the war, but inferior to the Bf-109.  Still in use in some front line units, but being phased out in favor of the Yak-1 and Lend/Lease P-39 Aircobras.

Bf-109

Bf-109.  Front line German fighter.  Roughly equivalent to the Yak-1.  Russians call it the “Thin Boy”.

Focke-Wulf_Fw_190_050602-F-1234P-005

FW-190.  Top German fighter, but available only in limited numbers.  Superior in just about every way imaginable to the Yak-1, and almost always flown by the Luftwaffe’s top pilots.  Russians call it the “Fat Boy”.

Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-363-2258-11,_Flugzeug_Junkers_Ju_88 Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-343-0694-21,_Belgien-Frankreich,_Flugzeug_Heinkel_He_111

Junkers 88, Heinkel 111 – German Medium Bombers.  Prime targets for Free Hunters, but dangerous in groups.

Free Hunters: Character Sheets


Yak-1

The Four

This weekend at Big Bad Con I am going to be running my first session of Free Hunters, a hack of Night Witches.  Like Night Witches, it is a game about women pilots in World War II.  But Free Hunters focuses on a small number of women assigned to a men’s regiment.  It is a more intimate story than Night Witches, focusing on some specific people in a specific place and time.  It is also more focused in terms of time, covering only late 1942 through mid 1943.  This was a pivotal time for Soviet aviation, as they sought to wrest dominance of the skies from the Luftwaffe.  When the series opens the Germans have near total control of the skies.  Less than a year later, at the battle of Kursk, Soviet aviation absorbs the last major blows of the Germans and establishes air superiority on the Eastern front once and for all.

By the time this happens, every single one of the major characters I use in Free Hunters are dead.

Here are the characters I am using for Free Hunters.  These are of course drafts, and will likely change after the initial playtest.

Alexi 1

Katya 1

Lydia1

Maria

Raisa 1

Mikhail 1

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