Coordinating a Game Day

UPDATE: Goshen Game Day 2013 is scheduled

I’m exploring what it would take to get an RPG Game Day coordinated in my hometown. The demographics slant very heavily towards board games, but I know several are lapsed RPGers or RPG-curious people – and RPGs being a somewhat private hobby, I’m sure there are those out there that would surprise me.

I’ve helped get 2 somewhat large Board Game day events coordinated several years ago, though those were amongst friends – albeit 30 or so friends.

Currently, my suspicion is that I would want at least 3 GMs for this first attempt at a game day, and perhaps as many as 5 GMs. Looking at some longer running game days, it appears that they have two 4-hour slots at their game days.

Does it make sense to scrounge up GMs first and then coordinate a date? Or do you think people prefer a date that they can pencil in? And I really don’t want to step on the toes of the fledgeling South Bend Games Day – I can’t make it to the first iteration, but hopefully this will continue.

Facilities? There are two that rise to the top, one is a 4 season city park facility, the other is a banquet hall. The banquet hall has a better location, namely near the downtown which is actually quite vibrant, but the cost could be prohibitive. It is possible another option may emerge.

Food? Assuming the price is right, the downtown venue would be ideal for food. Goshen has some truly fantastic restaurants in the compact 3 block area. And maybe with a bit of leg work, I could get some “use that day” coupon arrangements with them.

And as far as recovering costs for facilities, do you view them as a sunk cost? Or do you charge an entrance fee? Or charge per game played?

Does it make sense to keep the scope limited to RPGs? Or are there those who would come if there were board and card games.

Has anyone had experience with coordinating a Game Day in a not so urban area – horror stories? My hometown, Goshen, is 30K, Elkhart is 50K, we are about 40 minutes from Warsaw 14K, South Bend 100K, and Mishawaka 50K. The area is much more analogous to a large suburbs.

Any and all advice would be appreciated.

So GM Burnout has Happened

As I am waiting for my gaming group to arrive for our Sunday afternoon game session, I realized that I’m somewhere in the early stags of GM burnout. I can’t bring myself to prepare even the slightest bit of an adventure for this evening – I’ve instead read through Google+ RPG posts and downloaded my copy of Marvel Heroic: Civil War Event Book.

But don’t get me wrong, if someone offered up a game that they would run, I’d jump in immediately.

How did I get here? Since March of this year, our gaming schedule has been extremely erratic – Schedules: the Game Killer. There have been vacations, youth group meetings, failed quorum, minor illness, visiting relatives, and I’m sure something else.

Couple an erratic schedule with attempts to play/run two games on alternating weeks, and consistency falls apart. An interesting observation is that I have a difficult time preparing between sessions.

It was extremely refreshing to go to GenCon 2012 and get in a few games with new faces. To see how they play, to interact, and to show a bit of how we play at our game table in small town Indiana.

I’ve gamed with Matt since 1988 – our gaming relationship can vote, drink, buy cigarettes, and soon rent a car without restriction. And don’t get me wrong, I love gaming with Matt, but there is something about stepping beyond my normal group of players that is energizing.

And I’m not trying to recapture the energy of GenCon, but instead would settle for a game that we can regularly play. Perhaps we should look into a GM-less game – but Fiasco with a 12-year-old? Maybe. And perhaps I need to put on hiatus the idea of a long running campaign – perhaps a three session campaign.

And ever gnawing at the back of my brain is the trauma to my vision and ideal of “growing up gamer”…my now 4-year-old divorce and the ensuing sharing of parenting time. Two of my gaming group members – my son and daughter – live with mom half of the time. This necessitates two separate games on alternating weekends.

Since high school, gaming has been a weekly event. We would often not game on Thanksgiving and during Piggly – one of Matt’s family holidays – but otherwise, the dice were always out at least once a week.

Where Does All of this Leave Me?

With 15 minutes until an indeterminate number of RPGers show up, I’m introspecting. I’m hoping that my group will arrive, but don’t know what we will do if everyone is here. I suppose there is always Dominion or Eminent Domain.

I’m hopeful that everyone will show up so we can discuss our next game. And set some expectations. And maybe, with a little bit of luck, whip out some dice and roll up a character.

Cthulhu Dark – GenCon 2012 Edition

Cthulhu Dark GenCon 2012

Cthulhu Dark GenCon 2012

Having wrapped up a Dungeon World session and concurrently facilitating two games of Fiasco for Games on Demand, I was ready for playing a game. Fortunately, Terry Romero was recruiting players to join in a session of Graham Walmsley‘s Cthulhu Dark. Stras Acimovic, Ryan Roth, myself, and a native Indianapolis GenCon volunteer with a penchant for 1930s history – her name eludes me.

This was the first Cthulhu RPG that I had played. There was a session or two where a D&D campaign villain had a god of knowledge named Nyarlathotep, but I hardly think that counts.

Bare Metal Cthulhu

Graham Walmsley groks the intersection of Cthulhu and gaming. He even wrote the book on it – Stealing Cthulhu (of which I IndieGoGo-ed). His wonderfully concise Cthulhu Dark distills several important concepts that I believe are integral to a Cthulhu game: Insanity, Investigative success, and you can’t beat the creatures of the Mythos.

The insanity mechanic simultaneously creates an impending sense of doom, a resource you can risk, and a means of abating disaster. But the cold truth is, sanity is fleeting.

The investigative mechanic is simple. If you roll the dice, you will succeed, but the degree of success is uncertain. You can risk your sanity, but that is a precious resource.

And you can’t beat the mythos. No matter the weapons at your disposal, the mythos can kill you if it chooses. But more likely, you will be its play thing.

The game is elegant and simple. A game that so adeptly models the desired play of a Cthulhu scenario.

On to the Con

Our characters were in motion, with common cause. Son, childhood friend, rival, and current friend. Each thrown into a bizarre scenario. Unprepared for what came.

I’ll spare you the gory details, but I will add my observation. Having played several games of Fiasco I found myself ready to embrace catastrophe for my character. In fact, my character made a bee line to Insanity 4 while the others maintained their sanity.

As the scenario played out, I worked hard to determine when my character would be lucid and when his insanity would manifest. Terry kept moving things forward even though I was seeking a bit of self-destruction for my character.

The scenes that stuck out were the paired scenes. First was Stras’ character still technically more sane than my character puffing at pipe on a cliff’s edge. My character approached to calm the doctor down.

Then, as my character slipped further to insanity, I took a cue and had my character puff on a pipe to calm. Stras then reversed our roles from previous scenes, providing succor.

Early on, I decided I was going to write session notes, and use my normal handwriting for moments of lucidity and ever degrading handwriting as the insanity took hold. I now have an artifact that I can keep in memory of a great Cthulhu session in which my character didn’t escape.

Unrelated but Useful

If you are a pen and paper and not on Google+ consider joining, as there are LOTS of us interacting. You may need to do some work up front, but I can assure you there are lots of conversations going on.

Dungeon World – GenCon 2012 Edition

I was slated to be a Games on Demand GM for 12 hours at GenCon and a host for 4 hours. After some quick reconsideration, I ended up hosting far more than GMing. I did, however, manage to facilitate several games of Fiasco – and sometimes two games at once – as well as run one game of Dungeon World.

But this isn’t about the game of Dungeon World I ran; Though I will take a moment to thank Jason Morningstar for providing a fantastic 2 hour adventure to run. And I’ll give a shout out to Clark Valentine‘s pit slave “nameless”, for escaping and carrying on the religion of those who had fallen. And to Nick Garcia, David Morford and the two gentlemen who had to duck out early (glad to hear you weren’t sick just coping with the overheating room).

Instead, this blog post is about an impromptu after hours Games on Demand adventure run by Jim Crocker. After hosting 5 transitions at Games on Demand, I was exhausted, but didn’t want to slink back to my hotel room. Joining me at the table as players was Lizzie Stark, Travis Scott, Morgan Ellis, Mark Diaz Truman, Marissa Kelly, Derrick Kapchinsky, and myself.

Before I go on, how did it happen that I was so privileged to play with this fantastic group of players, many of whom were GMs at Games on Demand?

  • I stuck around Games on Demand well past closing time.
  • Blearily I went and got dinner with the GMs from the food trucks
  • I laughed over some absurd gaming nerdgasms – a vinaigrette-based conflict resolution and other things that may result in my eternal damnation.
  • I built on existing conversations, not seeking verbal one-upsmanship
  • I then shambled along as everyone sought to keep the good times rolling.
  • When several vocal players voiced that they wanted to play Dungeon World, I sought out the playbooks

It’s a really simple recipe – engage and facilitate. But that is somewhat beside the point.

Funniest Session of My Life

Prior to GenCon, I maintained that my favorite gaming sessions were Diaspora character creation sessions, the “Irv the Mole” one-shot, and the first session where I gamed with Jaron – not because Jaron rocks, which he does, but because the session was a well laid plan that unraveled and was still doggedly adhered to – a Fiasco if ever there was one.

I can now add “That Dungeon World game I played until 4am at GenCon on Sunday morning.”

Why did it rock? Because the players all went gonzo and the GM let it happen while keeping things moving – Bless you Jim Crocker for your patience as it was your patience that allowed the absurd to shine through. Not only was Jim patient as we unwound and flexed our inner absurd, but he kept asking questions and folding those answers back into the game.

For example:

Why was the human settlement nestled into an old abandoned dwarf mine? Because the climate was terrible in the region.

Why was the climate terrible? Because Marissa’s character introduction involved her bursting into the tavern with snow whipping around her.

Why did Marissa narrate such a grand entrance? Because the first character introduction by Morgan was “bard turned up to 11” and things continued throughout all introductions – though mine was weak sauce as I was a skulking thief.

During this session, there were three players (Morgan, Travis, and Derrick) who were consistently pushing the comedic envelope. But Jim masterfully took their shenanigans in stride and rolled the narrative into the game.

We created our world together building upon each other’s assertions, there was an internal consistency.

  • Dwarven stone graffiti was much like an editor’s red pen, but instead of pen a chisel were used, attempting to correct perceived imperfections.
  • Dwarven healing magic was a painful experience.
  • Elven ale served at human establishments is the PBR of elven beer craft.
  • The bard’s “Arcane Music” was instead theatrical stage directions…as per Kenneth Branagh directing and starring in a Shakespearean play.
  • Dwarf culture is “Every single minor imperfection bitched about endlessly.”

Certainly there were other assertions, but it was late, and I was doing everything in my power to remain engaged in the game as the clock slipped towards 4am.

This was an eye-opening experience for me as players were cleaving quite close to Graham Walmsley’s “Play Unsafe” advice – always say “Yes and…” to build on another player’s assertion. Jim expertly kept things rolling by issuing a constant barrage of questions, as if he demanded a ritualized sacrifice of answers to proceed.

And it sounds as though my GenCon experience with Dungeon World wasn’t a unique experience – JJ Lanza and his boys (whom I had the privilege of gaming with at GenCon) also experienced the magic of Dungeon World and its barrage of questions.

And for those curious, I did play Dungeon World at GenCon 2011 and also had a great time. This time, however, things went to 11. Thank you to all who played as I will certainly cherish this game, and crib procedures and ideas from this game for years to come.

Next years goal? To play Dungeon World with Nykki and Matt Boersma.

May Not Haved Played A Lot of Games at GenCon…

But I had a blast. Instead of playing a published game, I opted to play a whole lot of the the Games on Demand LARP. The rules were somewhat simple – though I think the current Host move When you facilitate a transition may need some tweaking .  If I’m not mistaken the rules for the LARP are in early Alpha stage…I know they were changing during GenCon.

The Rules

  • The Games on Demand LARP ran continuous for 12 hours on Thursday, Friday, and Saturdary; and 4 hours on Sunday.
  • There are three classes of characters in the Games on Demand LARP – Host, GM, and Player. A handful of subclasses emerged throughout the LARP, more on that later.
  • New GMs and Hosts arrive every 2 hours, on the evens, and many played for 4 or more hours straight. Many of the GMs and Hosts were previously scheduled.
  • New Players arrived every 2 hours, on the evens, though some spent an hour or more in the Player generation line.
  • The GM provides an ideally short list of games that they are passionate, excited and well prepared to run.
  • The GM demands that the Host find Players to play in one of the GM‘s games.
  • The Host negotiates and sells the games to the Players.
  • There were some slots that were already locked in via the scheduling system…you know kind of like when your bot takes damage in RoboRally.
  • Some Players arrived with generic tickets for any time. Yet there were a subclass of Players that had tickets for a specific time slot, though not for a specific game as per the locked via the scheduling system.
  • The Host role was a bit different. A Host was responsible for matching Players and GMs while recording what the GMs were excited to run, what table they were running at, and what the elevator pitches were for the GMs games of choice.
  • Some Players ended up offering to subclass into GM as they grabbed the When you facilitate Fiasco move.
  • Some people showed up, not on schedule, and offered to be GM for a slot or two

Session Reports

I spent most of my time involved with the Games on Demand LARP, though I was very mindful of my hunger and hydration levels. I drank lots of water and ate lots of snacks.s

For Thursday, my frist slot was as Player in a Fiasco game (Dragon Slayers playset). I then was GM for a game of Dungeon World (using one of Jason Morningstar‘s adventures). And my final slot, I took was a GM with the Facilitate Two Games of Fiasco subclass. This was crazy interesting, but I believe things went off well.

For Friday, my first and second slot was as a GM for Fiasco. As my second slot wrapped up early, I grabbed a Host playbook and began LARPing. It was kind of a jolting transition, but I think I pulled it off.  For the last slot, I ended up as a Player in a Cthulhu Dark game.

Saturday, having tasted the power of the Host class, I went all in – I actually think this class may be broken as the Host has such power over the GM and Player classes. I ended up playing Host for 5 of the six slots. During one of those slots, an interesting subclass emerged Host as I selected the When you facilitate Fiasco move from the GM playbook.

Sunday, I was spent and skipped out on the Games on Demand LARP. I would’ve been up for more had I not stayed up way too late continuing the LARP back at the hotel – more on that in a later post.

Observations

Having played lots of Host role, I can say that most of the Players that remained in the line ended up getting paired up with a GM. Lots of the Players ended up playing games that were pitched to them by the GM on the spot – Mongolian Goat Rodeo, School Daze, Spark, GxB, and a whole bunch of other games as well.

One crazy GM facilitated a 6 vs. 6 game of the Marvel Heroic RPG using the Civil War characters. I didn’t hear the detailed results of that game, but I can assure you that the 12 Players had a unique experience for that slot.

The Players may not have known what the game was before hand, but the Players that I encountered afterwards had a great time.

Several of the games that were played at Games on Demand were run by the GMs that created the game. That is someone passionate and prepared for their role as GM!

As Host I recall only one disgruntled Player, with a scheduled generic ticket, walking away from Games on Demand, upset that there were no openings for games she wanted to play. While I had empathy for her plight, I didn’t have sympathy, because there were still  2 GMs looking for a Player – and one of them was Fiasco.

To be fair to her, she did have a time-scheduled ticket that should’ve meant she got to go to the head of the Player generation line and therefore get to pick her GM earlier. At the time, however, I was unaware of the time-scheduled tickets, so I wasn’t separating the Player generation line. This was quickly corrected.

The Alpha version of the rules creaked and groaned under the explosive growth of the number of people involved.  Last year, there were 7 tables in a remote corner of a GenCon hotel with what I believe to have been ample overflow room.  This year, there were 12 tables one floor directly above the exhibit hall, with erratic overflow options.

For a small volunteer army of GMs and Hosts, I believe we managed to facilitate a lot of people having fun playing games that may have been new to them. I know the room was always charged with excitement.

Wampus County Honorable Mention

My “An Arrival Entirely Unexpected” post won an honorable mention from the Wampus County Summer Competition. I quickly generated my list, but it sounds like Gustle poured some heart and soul into his entry.

I’m looking forward to seeing the compiled results. There are an awful lot of potentially inspiring entries that are going to be compiled by Erik Jensen.

As part of my winnings, I get to “commission” a multi-column d100 random table. I’ve settled on one of two possible options: a random game name and victory condition generator or a random pithy curse generator.

I’m sure there could be all kinds of fantastic tables that Erik could create, but I feel adding a table that is not part of the existing range of options would be the best. I have no need for a home grown table, as I’ve rarely consulted them.

But maybe, just maybe, I’ll make that ugly Gamemaster notebook with its odd collection of print outs as a reference.  Or worse, I’ll write up some web-based shareable random table generator.

Follow-Up to First Play – Marvel Heroic Role-Playing Game

Today, I’m taking the day off to run all kinds of before school errands – school starts August 10th for my family. So I’ve got a bit of time to write a follow-up.

Last night, Aidan and I played a quick run through of the  Marvel Heroic Role-Playing Game (MHRPG). Later that night, as I was perusing Facebook, I saw a post by my son asking who would win in the fight below:

Who Would Win?

Who Would Win in the Marvel vs DC?

Clearly the game had struck a cord in Aidan’s teenage brain. I found the game to be very impressive. After writing up the blog post, I went back to the book to read more of what could be done.

My focus was on the Plot Points (PP) and Doom Pool. As it turns out, Thor armed with Plot Points is a terrifying power to behold. Had I recalled the rules, Spawn’s telepathic ambush of Thor for a d10 mental stress would’ve been converted by Thor to a d10 physical stress. With the Second Wind SFX, Thor can much more easily handle a d10 physical stress.

And as I was re-reading the rules, I marvel at the Doom Pool and Plot Point interaction. The physical presence of the Doom Pool and Plot Points at the game table, along with the dice assigned for assets, complications, and stress; creates a narrative map of the current game situation.

During an action scene, a quick glance at the table revealed a lot of information. As the Watcher, I could quickly glance at my Doom Pool and at Aidan’s Plot Point chips and see he held a distinct advantage. Those quick points of reference were useful in my mental planning for what came next.

This morning, as I made my way downstairs, Aidan (a teenager) was already up at 8am. Strange how he’s a morning person. Almost immediately he asked if we could continue our game from last night.

So I guess that is another “+1” for the Marvel Heroic Role-Playing Game. The players want to go another round!