GenCon 2010 – Aftermath

So, home and dry. Clothes are washing, TV shows are transferring to the AppleTV, basic groceries bought and put away, and the bed calling out to me.

As usual, the conversation on the 20-hour drive home with Clint ranged far and wide over a number of topics, but kept circling back to gaming. He had a good show, too, and stories made the time pass fairly quickly.

Was it a good show? Well I had a lot of fun. I always do, with Scott and Jarred. And Gwen and Brian. And Greg. And Shane and John and Kevin and James. And seeing Ken Hite and Robin Laws and having them say nice things about my blog. And the good food. And the Fiasco game.

But I’m tired, now, and need my sleep. Back to work tomorrow.

Goodnight, GenCon. Goodnight, everybody.

GenCon 2010 – Day Four

Okay. The WordPress iPad app just ate my post (Ctrl+Z doesn’t do what I thought it would), and I’m too tired to redo it all. Here are the highlights:

  • We’re in Rochelle, Illinois on the way home.
  • Didn’t play Fiasco last night, though the Arc Dream guys did. They used the suburbia playset, and said the game played like American Beauty as written and directed by David Lynch. Three dead out of six, two in prison, and one broken in mind and spirit.
  • Caught a glimpse of Wil Wheaton, but no more than that.
  • Tracked down a copy of Remember Tomorrow, which looks pretty good.
  • Got a new shirt from Sigh Co. I like it.
  • Decided not to get Smallville – I’m never going to run it, and it didn’t look like it offered enough loot able stuff.
  • Decided to pick up the Savage Worlds Space:1889 book. It looks fun.
  • That’s it. Now to bed. Have to be up early in the morning.

GenCon 2010 – Day Three

Note: This is not the only update for today. Check below for my post about Fiasco, if you’re interested in how that game plays. And you really should be interested.

Anyway, very tired today after the late night last night playing Fiasco. Picked up some Cthulhu playing cards and poker chips from Dagon Industries, had lunch with Greg Stolze – always good conversation – and dinner with Scott, Jarred, Gwen, and Brian.

Tons of very cool costumes today, including a pair of slave Leias that I saw posing with a tall and imposing Darth Vader. I love GenCon.

I had another invitation to play Fiasco with the folks from Arc Dream – after our game, everyone went out and got a copy – but really, I need to sleep. Tomorrow is the beginning of the drive back to Winnipeg, and I’m going to need to be rested.

That’s it for now. Next post tomorrow, from Rochelle.

Fiasco: A Mutual Problem

Stayed up way too late last night getting into trouble. Some of the Arc Dream folks and I decided to get together after the Ennies to give Fiasco a try.

As came up at the game table as we were explaining the game to those who hadn’t read it, Fiasco is essentially the Coen Brothers/Guy Ritchie rpg. It’s a game, as the cover says, of powerful needs and poor impulse control. The whole experience is geared toward creating interlocking connections to tell a story where things spiral out of control and everything ends badly in a most entertaining manner.

One of the core elements of playing Fiasco is what they call a playset. These are lists of options for relationships, objects, locations, and needs relevant to a specific setting. Each of the four categories is broken din into six general types, and each general type is broken down into six specific elements. So, you have 36 relationship options, 36 location options, etc.

You get four playsets in the book, and each GenCon copy came with one extra play set in a separate booklet, and apparently there are more on the Bully Pulpit Games website. There are also rules for creating your own in the book.

Elements are added in turn to the game semi-randomly. You roll a huge mitful of dice – four for each player, and people take it in turns to take a die from the rolled pile and buy an item from the playset, building a network of relationships and details to serve as the framework for the story you tell. Only after you get the framework of the situation fleshed out to you decide who your characters are, based on the relationships you’ve built.

So, in our game we wound up with:

  • Frank Dodd, a corrupt, divorced police officer
  • K. C. Montana, a war hero seeking to uncover the corruption in the city
  • Martin Thornton, studio owner, Frank’s patron, and K. C.’s father-in-law
  • Max Shirley, bookstore owner and sparring partner of his war buddy, K. C.
  • Margaret Phelps, Frank’s ex-wife, and Max’s employee

Game play runs in a series of scenes that players create in turns. Players can choose either to establish the scene, in which case the rest of the players decide whether the outcome is positive or negative, or to resolve the scene, choosing positive or negative outcomes themselves, while the rest of the players set the scene.

After each character gets two focus scenes, the first act ends, and the group introduces a couple of complications that really make things go south. Another round of two focus scenes per character, and the second act ends.

Now, if you’ve been using the details created in the set-up phase, things will have degenerated massively by this point, probably to the destruction of at least one or two of the characters. In our game, a love square had formed around Margaret, with Max and Frank intensely jealous of (married) K. C. and his attentions. Frank kept trying to win her back, and Max went to Thornton to report that K. C. was cheating on Thornton’s daughter (“We have a mutual problem…”). Frank and K. C., after initially trying to kill each other, (Max to Frank: “We have a mutual problem…”) wound up uniting to bring down Thornton after Max’s betrayal was revealed. Frank wound up shooting Thornton, Margaret got a little knocked around, and K. C.’s gun was found at the scene of the shooting.

So, as play progresses through the scenes, characters accumulate dice: black dice for negative outcomes, white dice for positive ones. When the second act is over, it’s time for the aftermath. Each player rolls the dice for his or her character to see, basically, how screwed he or she is. The wrap-up is then narrated in turn as a montage by each player, describing how each character meets his or her come-uppance.

For our group, only Margaret came out ahead, moving to San Francisco to start a new life. Thornton was dead, and Montana had become what he hated most, taking over his father-in-law’s businesses, both legitimate and otherwise. Frank was a broken shell of a man, firmly under Montana’s thumb, and Max… Max wound up pretty much back where he started, hiring a new attractive clerk for his store.

From start to finish, the game took about two to two-and-a-half hours. It ran very smoothly, and all the rules were easy to understand. I was the only one who had read the entire book, so I acted as facilitator, as well as playing Margaret – the game doesn’t have a GM. Easy to pick up, minimal prep, and fast to play. It was a hoot.

Now, as I was starting to explain the rules to the others, it was pointed out to me that the author, Jason Morningstar, was sitting at the table behind us playing AD&D. When we finished our game, we rudely interrupted his to tell him how much we had enjoyed Fiasco, and he was very gracious.

So, good game. Pick it up.

**Edit** I was wrong. It was actually Steve Segedy, not Jason Morningstar, whom we accosted at two in the morning while he was playing AD&D. Still, he was very gracious with a bunch of late-night fanboys, and also forgiving of my misidentification of him. It was late, and I didn’t read his badge – one of the players pointed to him and said, “It’s his game,” and I leaped to entirely the wrong conclusion. So, sorry about that, Steve. No hard feelings?

GenCon 2010 – Day Two

Day two done, at least the dealer room portion. Arc Dream got their shipment of Targets of Opportunity, the new Delta Green hardcover, so there was a lot of traffic there today.

I did a little more wandering today, and tracked down the Sigh Co. booth to say hello to Gwen and Brian. Have to make my way back there before the show is over to pick up a new shirt or two, maybe a hoodie.

I also caved and bought a copy of Skulduggery, the new game by Robin Laws from Pelgrane Press. Got a chance to tell Robin how much we’re enjoying playing Armitage Files, and he said some very kind things about this blog, so that was very flattering.

There’s a new RPG coming out of Columbia that caught my eye when one of the Arc Dream folks picked it up yesterday. It’s called Eoris, and is absolutely gorgeous. It has a rich, somewhat Final Fantasy style look, and a very interesting backstory and world. Science fantasy with strong themes of moral, ethical, and spiritual questioning. Unfortunately, they were sold out, and the preorder offer they had didn’t extend to Canada, so I’m going to have to wait and order it from their website when they get back home.

Also spent some time lurking around the Geek Chic area, drooling over the premium gaming tables. In addition to the Sultan, which I saw previously at GenCon, they’ve greatly expanded the line, including a coffee-table-sized offering (The Hoplite) and a massive dining table/gaming table (The Vizier). Gorgeous stuff. They’re on my list for when I win the lottery.

Tonight, after the Ennies, some of the Arc Dream folks and I are going to get together to give Fiasco a try. I read the game last night, and it looks like a lot of fun, so I picked up the black and white dice I’d need, along with some index cards and a marker, and we’re going to give it a whirl if the awards don’t run too late. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Now, I’m going down to the lobby wifi to post this, then going foraging for food. Next update tomorrow.

GenCon 2010 – Day One

So, back in the hotel after the first day at GenCon. Things were a little hectic this morning, what with having to finish the set-up of the booth, but overall, a good day. I know sales were up for both Pagan and Dagon, which is always nice.

I managed to grab a copy of Lurker on the Threshold, the new Arkham Horror supplement, and had a chance to take a look at the new Investigator minis they’ve made for the game. They’re very nice, but I’m probably not going to pick them up this con. They’re easily worth the $4.00 each that Fantasy Flight is charging, but there are 48 of them, so it gets pretty pricey pretty fast.

I also managed to snag print copies of Legends of Anglerre and Icons from the Cubicle 7 folks on the other side of the island from us. While I was waiting to pay, I got to see a few glimpses of things they’ve got coming down the pipeline – they had a TV screen showing a slideshow of upcoming highlights. These include the Laundry RPG, based on the stories by Charles Stross, and, surprisingly to me, a new Lord of the Rings RPG.

From the good people at IPR, I bought Hamlet’s Hit Points and Fiasco, both of which look very interesting. I think that’s where I’m going to start my reading tonight.

To my disappointment, WorldWorks did not have the TerraClips stuff that I was hoping to buy. They were very apologetic, saying that the print quality of the sets that they had had made was not up to their standards. This is both good news and bad news, of course; good, in that they’re taking the product seriously enough to strive for quality, bad, in that I couldn’t buy them at the con.

I also caught a glimpse of the Smallville RPG from MWP. It looks very nice, and I have heard that they’ve done very interesting things with the Cortex system to make it handle superpowers. I may have to pick a copy up, along with a print copy of the Leverage RPG Quick-Start Job.

I’m also far more intrigued than I thought I’d be by Skullduggery, coming out of Pelgrane Press. I overheard Robin Laws talking about it to another customer at the Pelgrane booth, and it sounds like a lot of fun. I may have to check it out, after all.

Still without a working 3G connection. My friend Michael sent me an e-mail saying that I need to connect the iPad to iTunes and download a different carrier file, but without my laptop with me, it’s not going to happen. Oh, well. I’ll know for next time, and I’ll still have the micro-sim. Thanks for the info, Michael!

One last note, on a personal highlight for me: Ken Hite came by the booth and said that he’d been enjoying my blog, and especially what I had done with Chaugnar Faugn in the Monument Creek scenario in the Armitage Files game I’m running. Always nice to hear, especially from someone like Ken Hite.

So, that’s about it for today. Going to post this, then see about getting some food. Next update tomorrow evening.

GenCon 2010: Arrival

I’ve made it to GenCon, and checked into the hotel. Good trip down; always good conversation and music with Clint as my co-pilot. Both Jarred from Dagon Industries and Scott from Pagan Publishing have been delayed, so I’m the first of our little troupe to make it in.

Indianapolis is really a lovely city – at least, the parts of it I see on these trips, which is mainly the downtown area. Interesting architecture, nice people, lots of good restaurants nearby, and the movie theatre by the convention centre is running a double feature of Wrath of Khan and Search For Spock tonight and tomorrow night for $10. They know how to get the GenCon crowd in!

On the downside, there is no wifi in my hotel room. Free wifi in the lobby, but that’s all the way down in the lobby. I picked up an AT&T micro-sim for my iPad, but it keeps telling me there’s no service, so I can’t even try to connect to set up the data plan. I’m going to tinker with some things to see if I can make it work, but I’m guessing that there will be no joy. Dunno what’s wrong. That means that no Tweeting from the convention floor, but I’ll still try and post once a day to the blog.

Right now, I’m taking a half-hour to relax in the room before I head across the street to see if I can pick up my badge and get into the dealer’s room to set up. It’s pretty hot here today, and ungodly humid, and the convention centre never turns on the AC for the set-up, so it’s not a fun job. Especially because I’m going to be at least starting it alone, trying to get as much done as I can before 6:00, which is when they kick us all out until morning. Jarred should show up by about 4:00 or so, so then that’ll help, but Scott’s not making it in until 8:00, which means he won’t get into the dealer’s room until tomorrow.

Anyway, just a reminder, we’re at booth #315, Pagan Publishing and Dagon Industries sharing with Arc Dream and Cubicle 7. Stop by and say hello if you’re at the con.

GenCon Bound – 2010

So, tomorrow morning, quite early, my buddy Clint and I embark on our 11th trip down to GenCon together. It’s a long drive from Winnipeg to Indianapolis – usually about twenty hours – so we do it over two days, with an overnight stop at Rochelle, Illinois, because we like to bypass Chicago.

I’ve been putting together a list of stuff I want to look for at the convention:

I’m also going to be trying to blog a little more regularly down there, using the iPad in the evenings. In fact, if I manage to get my hands on an AT&T micro-sim and the prepaid Visa thing works, I may be Tweeting from the dealer’s room during the day. But I don’t want to promise that.

Today is full-on prep for the trip, with a chance of going to see Inception this afternoon if all the plans come together. I’m about 2/3 of the way packed, with the last of the laundry going in the dryer, waiting for the stores to open (it’s a long weekend in Manitoba) to pick up a few things. The fish-feeding instructions are done, the health insurance bought, the car all ready, the TripTik in the glove compartment. Still to do: pick up some drinks for the trip, make some sandwiches, burn some music CDs for the twenty-hour drive, and some last touches of housework – I hate coming home to housework and laundry waiting for me.

If you’re at the show, I’ll be doing booth-weasel duty for Pagan Publishing and Dagon Industries at booth #315. Come on by and say hello.