To wrap-up my Dreamation2016:
Evening: Doomsday (The Core) a boffer/ secrets an powers style larp
Morning: 1000 Arrows -- an Wuxia inspired Apocalypse World long con
Afternoon: Paranoia -- the new tabletop edition
Evening: SHIELD -- a boffer/ secrets and powers style larp set in the Marvel universe
Morning: 1000 Arrows -- session two of the long con
Afternoon: In Residency -- the classic American Freeform larp about artists in residence at a retreat colony.
Evening: Continuum: Roleplaying in The Yet -- a tabletop RPG about timetravel
Morning: 1000 Arrows -- session three of the long con
So, this con taught me more lessons about how to attend these events. I now know how important it is to read thoroughly the written pitch for games when signing up, and that sacrificing this in order to get one's schedule in as fast as possible is not ideal. Even though I missed getting in on a couple larps and tabletops I was very attracted to, it is important to be content with my 3rd and 4th picks. It's important because those are probably going to be what I get into, which is the case with this con.
I'm satisfied with all the games I played. Some were outside my wheelhouse, and one wasn't my jam at all, but I'm glad for each experience. I feel the highs and lows juxtapose each other very nicely, and I really do think it's fine and good to take risks and challenges.
I don't know how to balance time at these conventions. There's only so many slots, but I need time to enjoy a good meal. I also need my rest and sleep. I simply can't function without sitting quietly for a while to recharge and a solid 7-8 hours of sleep. At least, I know I can go a little while with reducing my sleep time. However, that's borrowing time from the future that my body is going to force me to payback... I might have to drop a Friday or Saturday slot in future cons in order to create this space for rest and sleep.
So, war stories? I'm not going to go into detail for anything, just give my surface impressions with a little detail. If anyone reads this and wonders something about any particular game, I"m happy to respond here and give more.
Doomsday was a surprise. I could not have expected to find myself in a boffer larp on my first evening in Morristown. Nor could I have expected to have such a good time. When I learned what I signed up for I simply told myself to embrace it completely and let it take me, and I'm glad I did.
The larp was missing elements that I'm used to: warmups and guidelines on how the scenes would go, out of character moments to pace the narrative, and an actual debrief. That said, I enjoyed playing Captain Spaceguy (Cpt. Dutch Stryker) who quickly became Malcolm Reynolds. The larp was in a fun tone, and didn't go gonzo, but it was very chaotic and high octane--with lots of shouting and violence. Still, I had some cool RP moments between several characters. The larp moved fast and kept a steady pace. I had fun and would play in one of these again as a Thursday opener for future cons.
1000 Arrows was lucky for me. I didn't read the pitch enough, and was hesitant to commit to all three sessions. However, as soon as the game began I knew I needed to get into the third session and be there for all three. I coincidently happened to be watching the old martial arts movies on netflix the past few weeks, and I was really tickled that the player beside me literally had a move on his character sheet called the 36th Chamber, a movie I had watched just last week!
I had crazy fun playing Marshal Li, leader of the Chinese army coming to liberate Korea from Japanese invasion. My PC was very focused on military strategy and mostly had moves related to troops and army stuff. I initially was worried that I wouldn't be able to get into drama with my fellow players, but that wasn't much of a concern it turned out.
The Honour and Shame mechanic (which I didn't really understand until the end of the third session, still worked well to provide ways to push drama, allegiances, vengeance, and heartbreak.) My PC had a wonderful peak moment near the climactic end of the game, when he had converted to Taoism, wholly thought his trusted physician had been working for his interests these long three sessions, all to learn he had revealed himself as an agent of hell and a betrayer of all humanity!
The game had a great mechanic to represent the PC's heartbreak, and in epilogue Marshal Li (who had been Renegade Li for a short time) made a lonely slow march back to China, he won every battle but lost the war (at least, like the true military genius was was, he had saved the lives of most of his men.) Whether he kept his position on return to the Forbidden City is unknown. With Korea in the hands of a fortifying Japanese and Mongol alliance, things look bleak for China's interests in Korea... at least the Dragon Kind was defeated... but Marshal Li gains no glory for that... Super fun!!
Paranoia was weird. I effectively won the game. I didn't die once.... like I said. Weird. The GM ran the game well. He had a great Friend Computer persona.
I'm going to give my impression of the system, which as far as I'm concerned revealed to me that something is misunderstood. Paranoia is a game that parodies RPGs. It calls out negative and unhealthy experiences in the trad playstyle, so.... is the new game parodying the trad/ narrative playstyle hybrid-- like Numenera, for example? I don't think this game is ready for release and the designers need to get together and think about what Paranoia is... it is NOT a classic game in a unique setting, like at all. Paranoia is a game that parodies exactly that. Anything else is going to fail and this new Paranoia might have missed the mark.
So... let's get to the weird: First, I was not given a pregen... weird. rather we engaged the new system's chargen, which I understand is designed to build some kind of enmity between players, and how passing sheets around, letting players pick and alter each other's stats is supposed to be challenging trad player autonomy. But I didn't find it worked very well. The numbers and math was surprisingly emphasized as relevant in terms of suggesting the game wants me to be interested in the numbers, but this is Paranoia... who fucking cares? what is being parodied here? The dice system and numbered stats is in your face in chargen but is unimportant and greatly overshadowed by the card mechanics that is the real fun and meat of play.
However, the cards are bizarre. There are times when initiative is determined by a bluffing game with players claiming the weight of the action being used, yet not all cards have weights and it doesn't really matter who goes first all that much, since secret notes are being passed to the GM anyway... so, the initiative mechanic is pointless (interesting, but ultimately not as interesting as inter-party conflict WHICH IS WHAT THE GAME IS ABOUT) Some cards give narrative control to the players (WHICH IS CRAZY WEIRD for PARANOIA) and again, I don't know what is being parodied.
My PC didn't get a secret society or secret mission against another player, and I don't think this is the GM's fault. I think the game told the GM that this is fine and how it should be. So, my first note to the GM was saying I completely revealed all to INTSEC so I could at least be able to do some kind of behind the scenes sneaky stuff. I also had to engage the Service Sector side of the fluff my own, which was echoed by another player in the know... so, that was fun.
Play proceeded as normal for Paranoia, half the players had played some version of Paranoia before and got the game, which I KNOW SAVED THIS GAME.
Now, I did have fun. Paranoia is fun and we played Paranoia despite the design of the new edition. I don't know what more to say. The dice mechanics need to be either dropped or reconfigured somehow. The card mechanic needs to be either changed to give totalitarian control back to the GM, or embrace this element and design to parody narrative story games... I can't say if this is possible... It was just the weirdest game of Paranoia ever.
Friday night I played SHIELD. This larp was not ready to be run. I don't really understand this playstyle's culture, and maybe alpha playtesting a 25-50 player larp is normal, but I gave this game more of my time than I think it deserved, and should have bailed earlier. I was unable to engage the game, the plot, the mechanics, or affect or impact the narrative or fellow players in any way.
I still hammed up my pregen character: a brooding scared special snowflake character who would stand in the corner, but I thought fuck that and pushed that noise into being my inner dark self and created a character with bravado and brash to cover up his fear. This led to some interesting dynamics in that he just moved around doing the job enough for his paycheck, having a laugh, until he had to face the dark and torturing side of the agency. Once that happened, I was done. I thought others were having fun around me, and I don't know.... maybe I just don't know how to engage this type of large boffer larp... hard to say.
In Residency was wonderful. Inspiring design. I went into the larp feeling sick and was worried I would have to bail, but I began to feel better as the game went on. I think the meditation mechanics actually helped me feel better. The times of silence and the loveliness of my fellow players and facilitator... It was just a great time. :)
The Continuum was amazing! I almost bailed on this game, as I took it as a 3rd pick just because I've read this a long time ago and knew it was an impossible game to run. However, Chris Adams, one of the designers ran it, and he was stellar.
It really felt like Chris was an actual Time Traveller and he had designed this game to create situations where he would be able to teach people how to time travel. The game became a partial larp for me for this reason. Chris handled the math and the calculation in his head for the most part, so I don't know if I could run this... BUT I"M GOING TO TRY!!!
I really think this game deserves a larp. Maybe I have to write it... I don’t' know....
That's pretty much the gaming part of my con. I wish I got to interact and hangout much much more with my fellow con goers. I must be missing out on so much, because I can't stay up late. My eyes burn after midnight and if I don't get enough sleep I have trouble loosening up and connecting to people. Dreamation is filled with lovely people I want to become closer to. I"m looking forward to Metatopia in the fall. Too bad it's so far away. Love to everyone who went to Dreamation!!!