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Next was a playtest of Sarah Richardson‘s Velvet Glove, a Powered By the Apocalypse game about teenage girl gangs.

It’s a concept ripe for great characters, great conflict, and great stories. And this theme and the mechanics of the apocalypse engine really have potential to work well together.

Sarah warned us before hand that the game was going to explore sexual themes and contain overt sexuality. Everyone at the table was comfortable with that so we proceeded.

We built the setting and character dynamics through some very good leading questions. I’m not sure if that was codified in the rules or not, but I hope it is because it really made some good story.

The setting was an unnamed 1970’s California city. Our gang were impoverished suburban teenagers who stole things from better neighborhoods and sold them the slightly more impoverished students in our high school.

I played the Gearhead and purposefully designed a character that was not overtly sexual. I knew I would be awkward roleplaying those scenes so I wanted to play a character that was awkward in that area as well.

Our story involved getting ready for an upcoming street race near the beach: making some cash, getting a car, and running afoul of other gangs.

The game worked well, but I think that was mostly because Sarah knew how to keep it flowing and everyone was really into the setting, characters and story. The engagement of the mechanics was almost secondary.

Our session only touched upon what moves were available. For example, there is a stat called Angst, which is like mental/social damage taken during certain moves. It would have been interesting to see what that brought to the game but it never triggered.

The moves as written didn’t bring our budding sexuality into the game as much as I expected. As the GM, Sarah pushed to get players to engage that sexual side of the story. Maybe that is something that is written into the rules, or maybe it was a part of the game that she was working on play-testing. Whatever the case, I’m curious to see how that aspect of the story is handled in the final version.

Overall, knowing this was a play-test, I really liked the concept and style and I’m excited to have a game forthcoming where we can explore those stories. I went in thinking we would play out Switchblade Sisters and I got exactly what I wanted, with potential for much much more.

 

toon

So I’ve played Toon before, but I never realized how it was supposed to be played until I experienced a session run by GM Greg Barry.

My god, this was so much fun! It was probably the most fun I had during the entire convention.

GM Barry was a pro. He knew the system and knew the style. In Toon, everyone plays cartoon characters. To that end the rules tell you to “Act before you think.”

The last time I played it ended up being a fun gonzo time. This time, though, GM Barry ran it so fast and intense that I was literally on the edge of my seat. And he never even sat down.

The game started out with Barry acting out the part of a Gorilla pizza-shop owner who tells us that whoever can deliver a stack of pizzas to their destination first will get 100 smackaroos.

From that point on, it was non-stop super fast round robin actions as we all competed to be the first character to deliver the pizzas.

GM Barry would point to you when it was your turn. You would recap where we were and say what you were were doing. The recap was important because things were moving so fast. GM Barry would then tell you what to roll and you would roll and see what happened. The whole process maybe took 20 seconds per person and then the next person immediately went.

There wasn’t a break for even a second until the scenario was over. GM Barry was on point the whole time, really making the theme of the game shine-through with his descriptions and making great use of his random cartoon tables.

The players were great, too. Everyone got into it and really made the game shine. When it was over we all applauded and then slumped back into our chairs, spent. I don’t even know how long it lasted. It could have been an hour, or three. It was that crazy.

Then we took a short break, and did the whole thing again with another scenario! This one was about finding a groom at a hotel who had run away before the wedding.

I’ll never play Toon any other way again. And if GM Barry is ever running a session, I’ll be first in line to join.

 

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The last game I’ll cover is Seven Minutes in Hell written and facilitated by Doug Levandowski and soon to be published by 9th Level Games.

“Middle school parties are the BEST! Hang out with your friends, have some snacks, play spin the bottle, summon a demon from the nether regions from whence all evil comes – yay! Players will take on the role of middle schoolers animosities with and loyalties to other players as well as secret objectives. The game uses a spin-the-bottle (without the kissing) resolution mechanic. Near the end of the game, one of the characters will be possessed by a demon – but to start, you’ll just enjoy the party!”

We played with a good crowd of seven people. To set up, we all agreed on where and when our middle-school party was going to be held at, and why there weren’t any parents around. (A closed down 1980’s summer camp late one night after school.)

Then, we created connections between us. One player would spin the bottle and whomever it was pointing to would be their friend. They would have a short scene talking about the upcoming party and then they would more clearly define their relationship (Best friends, next door neighbors, team mates, etc.)

The same thing would happen again, except this time they would be enemies. Once completed, everyone had two friends, two enemies, and two people who were neutral. We then each wrote down a secret objective that we wanted to complete during our party.

Then, we dove into free role-play from the time people started arriving at the party to the time someone accidentally became possessed by a succubus.

Whenever someone tried to do something that might not have worked, they spun the bottle. If it landed on a friend, it was a success. If it landed on an enemy, it was a failure. Nuetral’s were so-so successes. Whomever the bottle landed on would describe the scene.

Once a certain number of failure’s were spun, the game entered the “7 minutes in hell” phase, where one player was given an objective based on what accidental horror had happened to them. In our game, the girl who accidentally became possessed by the succubus had to make out with a certain number of people to win. No one else knew that, though. We just knew she was acting strangely.

That whole phase takes place in real-time. 7 minutes of a frantic climax. Afterwards, we each had an epilogue and revealed if we met our hidden objective or not.

What really made the game interested was how easily we fell into that 7th grade world of cliques, embarrassments, petty squabbles and crushes. It was awkward at first, trying to figure out how to get things moving with just free role-play to guide us, but it slowly started to click.

I remember the turning point, too. My popular 7th grade boy was dared to go into the closet with his friend, the girl next door. At that point, Doug, who was just facilitating, piped up and asked the group how much of a LARP did we want to make this. If we wanted to, we could get up and reposition ourselves and walk around the room and do other things our characters would be doing in real life.

We all agreed to go for it, so we pretended the corner behind the curtain was a closet. From that moment on, everyone was standing up, walking around. Changing seats. Having multiple scenes going at once. It was as if the ice had broken for the group, and it really elevated the second half of the game.

Now that I know how the game works I’m very eager to play it again. Doug designed something very fun and interesting and I look forward to bringing it to my group when it’s available. They are going to love it.

Inspirational Photo

August 9, 2016

Inspirational

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DexCon 19 has come to a close and I’ve recovered enough to write about the experience.

This is my second Double Exposure event, the first being Dreamation earlier this year in the exact same location. (The Morristown NJ Hyatt). The first thing I felt when I arrived at Dreamation convention was confusion. It was hard to find registration and events and I wasn’t exactly sure how things were organized.

That, in my opinion, is the only issue with these conventions. They aren’t easy for newcomers. The website lacks clear information, and there is nowhere easy to get info in the convention itself.

Of course, everyone I asked was very friendly and was able to fill in most, if not all, of the blanks. DexCon being my second Double Exposure convention, I was able to navigate it much more comfortably. Still, I did learn a few new things.

For example, I found out (after being there for two days) that you are able to rent board games from the board game room. Who knew?

So even though things went very smoothly this time around, I can’t shake the feeling that I missed out on more opportunities that I didn’t even know existed.

Having said that, if you are interesting in role playing, board gaming, LARPing or anything in between, this is a GREAT convention. Lots of gaming, great people, and an accepting atmosphere. I urge you to attend and see for yourself how much of a great time you can have.

Those are my overall impressions. But how was the gaming, you ask? Read below to find reviews of the sessions and systems I played over the four day period.

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There was a scheduling mishap for my first event and the GM had to move the game from our private room into the LARP room, saying he needed to pull double duty and run a LARP at the same time. I was very worried about that, but the LARP never happened to so we mostly had his full attention.

I was drawn to Fortune’s Fool because of the tarot deck mechanic. I thought it would be an interesting way to resolve conflicts and create story. Unfortunately, that was a missed opportunity. Essentially this games uses the deck as a success/failure randomizer. It didn’t really add any storytelling opportunities to the game.

The book did have problematic subject matter but the GM wisely choose to steer clear of it. If you read the book you’ll see that, and I quote our GM “The brown people are always the bad guys”. And certain skills are better depending on what gender you are. Women are good at cooking for example.

How old is this game? You might think it was written in the 70’s or 80’s. But no, it was made in 2010.

It’s too bad, because the setting was interesting. It’s a noble court intrique swashbuckling stuff but with elves and dwarves and other fantasy races.

I played a human ex-pirate. I probably hit the “I’m of noble birth so I’m better than you” a bit too hard while playing. I hope that didn’t offend anyone. The other players were a peasant goblin dancer and a Dwarven doctor. The latter was played by Meghan Dornbrock from the Modifier podcast. Sadly, I didn’t recognize her until I was looking at my podcasts later, so I didn’t get a chance to say in person I liked the show

We were all part of an elvish princess’s entourage. The story kicked off with her announcing to us that she was pregnant. That was odd, because none of us expected it, and even odder because Elves can’t get pregnant. The princess wanted to get to the coast to take a ship to safety and it was our job to get her there.

The GM was pretty good, although he wallowed a lot in the intricate details of travel. That bogged down the game a bit, but we got to a satisfactory conclusion: getting the princess safely away and finding out she wasn’t really pregnant at all. It was just a ruse on her part to draw out her enemies.

Although the game was a bit of a let-down, the experience was still a fun one. A good start to the convention!

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I had heard of this game and always wanted to try it. It was a surprising choice for Wil Wheaton’s upcoming Tabletop season, but it had some indie traction before then.

Designed by Robert Bohl, the conceit is that you play a group of teens in a “dystopian sci-fi game that’s all about friendship, standing up for yourself, and changing the world.”

Punks fighting authority! It’s a cool idea. The GM was Bill White from the Virtual Play podcast. He did a really good job facilitating. The only issue was that he tended to take over player narration. He knew it was an issue though, and kept correcting himself when he noticed he went too far. Otherwise, he did a great job keeping the game moving, pushing the story forward, and driving the characters toward more and more despicable acts.

That is the name of the game. You start out as young idealistic teens looking to fight the system. But as the world beats you down your ideals become twisted versions of themselves and your ideology become more and more polluted. Can you break the system before it breaks you?

We played pre-gen characters in the standard intro scenario. It was basically Hunger Games. We were teenagers drafted into a Battle Royal-style game that was used to keep the public under control. The scenario was unsurprising, which did hold the game down a bit. But it was necessary to play the default scenario to get the whole thing done in a single session.

We were able to personalize the scenario a bit by changing some of the traits of the world, the authority, the NPCs, and our characters. That helped make it bit more unique.

Gameplay involves a series of scenes that are set by GM and the players. In each scene, the authority is trying to beat down the players somehow, and the players have a goal that pushes back against the authority.

Here is my favorite part: The GM narrates what is happening and how the authority is moving towards their goal for that scene. The GM then says “Who will stand up?!?”

One player yells “I will!” grabs, the dice, and rolls. There is a cool little die mechanic that determines success, failure, or ultimate success. Depending on the roll the player gets to narrate and the scene continues. She or he may have come about their success honorably, or maybe she or he had to become a little more corrupt to get what they wanted.

My character’s aggressive nature ended up turning darkly violent the more and more I tried to fight back. The game fosters a great dynamic. We tried very hard to maintain our cool but as a group we all ended up dying except for one character who won the games, became a tool for the government and eventually earned an official political position of her own. It was a great arc.

I look forward to playing it again with a different scenario, and maybe tightening up the narration rules a bit. Giving every player an action chip to spend when they act (a la Goblin Quest), and a narration chip to spend when they set the scene, will help make sure everyone gets a turn.

Overall, it was a great experience. I’m glad I was able to attend.

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I wasn’t quite sure what to expect for this one. The game was listed as having 3D terrain, which I wasn’t too happy about. That spells “rail-roading combat-centric game” in my opinion.

But the setting was so intriquing that I thought we should give it a go. You play cats who go on adventures. What could be bad about that?

Eight players showed up, which is a lot for an RPG. The table had a few building outlines on it with some shrubberies and things. It was soon explained to us that this was the neighborhood we were playing in.

The GM then gave us a selection of little cat statues to pick from, and we were explained the system.

The system is almost non-existant. We were able to pick what “class” of cat we were. A catcrobat, a dreamer, a twofootologist, a scrapper, etc. And we were told we were a group of local cats in a small suburb.

The problem was that none of the classes had any mechanical effect. The conflict resolution system was, without fail: roll 2d6. A 3 or higher on one die gives you one success. We would just tell the GM one or two successes and he would narrate the outcome. It’s a shame, because I see great potential in the setting. Especially after having read Beasts of Burden.

The game opened with the Dreamer cat having a weird dream about death, destruction, smoke and dogs. It clearly foreshadowed something sinister coming to our little suburb.

We knew that a new family was moving in, and they had a cat. So we decided to talk to that cat to see what he knew. That led us on a journey to the local pound to rescue the new cat’s sibling.

Unfortunately, it was a kill shelter, and we were too late. So what are cats like us supposed to do? We rigged the furnace to explode and managed to get a car moving, driving it into a fence and filling it with alcohol bottles to frame a human for the crime.

It had a satisfying conclusion, but getting there was a little slow. The main problem was that the GM really had a specific story to tell and specific solutions to the challenges in mind. When confronted with a locked door for example, he would have every Twofootologist cat roll, count up the successes, say we had enough, and then tell us how to open the door.

Then he would have the Catcrobat roll to turn the knob and the Scrapper cats roll to push the door. Nothing felt earned because if we didn’t roll the arbitrary number of successes we failed and just tried again. If we came up with a different solution we were gently pushed back towards the written one.

I think there is a lot of potential to be had with this concept, and I can’t help but feel there was more to the game than I experienced.

I did enjoy myself. It was fun playing a cat and trying to see the world through feline eyes. I’m going to check out the full rules to see how it should be played, and if it doesn’t get any better than this I’ll just wait for the inevitable Apocalypse World hack.

Come back for Part two of my Dexcon Recap! Velvet Glove, Serial Homicide Unit, and Toon!

 

Weirdbook #32 is out today. In its pages is a new tale by me called The Howard Family Tradition. I quite like this one, and the magazine looks great, so I’m happy to recommend it to you.

The story is about a family tradition that has its roots in a terrifying event.

Click the cover image below to check it out, and please feel free to let me know what you think in the comments.

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Estate is a game designed to tell the story of a family through the objects they have left behind. It was originally designed for 2016’s 200 Word RPG Challenge at Technical Grimoire.

I was pleased that it was chosen as a finalist. Judge Jacqueline Bryk, had this to say about it:

“A quiet, domestic little game with a great set of themes.
Estate has an elegant ruleset, great flow, and potential for very
emotional, involved sessions.”

You can purchase the original version in a great PDF collection that contains every entry from both the RPG and Supplement categories.

I took the original and expanded it for clarity, as well as to flesh out a few concepts. That version is available for free right here! And at one page, it’s still very short.

Click below for the PDF.Estate

Let me know what you think in the comments.

 

 


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