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.
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.
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.