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.
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!
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.
Call of Catthulhu
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!