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.
*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.