So this Saturday past I attended Confusion 8 a relaxed one day roleplaying ‘con. For various reasons I had offered to run 2 games, which I initially had cause to regret. First, I somehow managed to get sick on Friday night; I had a fever and only managed a handful of sleep hours. Also, the weather on Saturday morning was not exactly hospitable. Just to top things off I was having a lot of trouble getting my head around Castle Bravo, and felt woefully unprepared for it.
However, I had pledged to run games and take Fright Night registrations, and was still capable of functioning, albeit with diminished capacity, so I braved the rain and headed to the ‘con for the first round where I was to run Mutants and Masterminds.
Round One – Running the Proteus Plot
This is a fairly straightforward published scenario with a neat twist. To keep things interesting I had made some additions to put a lot of focus on the characters, which are created using templates and some randomly assigned elements, then fleshed out a little using some light collaborative method. It’s a bit challenging because I really ask each player to work with me and flesh out some initial scenes, requiring some up-front engagement and creativity - A big ask first thing in the morning.
As it happened, I had the maximum load of 6 players sign up for the game, which wasn’t ideal for this style of game and in light of my diminished capacity. On the plus side they were all talented and experienced players with love for the genre. On the downside, the collaborative hero creation process was a little rocky for some, but I did find that we got a cast of really great characters who really added more interest and depth to a simple plot. The Supers created included:
- The Spirit of Justice, a billionaire body-builder with a troubled marriage
- The Crown Prince, an elderly dad with a utility belt of 1980's gadgets
- Rain, a wealthy party girl turned dark avenger with a predilection for gun violence
- Crisis, a time travelling bad-ass loner with electricity powers and a stray cat
- Edge, a psychic investigator with a crummy day job and a rocket powered skateboard
- Beast/Simon, a man and monster fused together with a helping of anger issues
It was, for me, the fun romp that I had envisaged and I think every player got some decent spotlight time, and had a measure of fun. I don’t know if it hit everyone’s buttons, as there wasn’t a huge amount of investigation, combat, relationships or grand ideas, which I know some people really dig. I was fading a little toward the end, so was not really able to push for an epic cinematic ending of the type I think supers ‘con outings deserve, but all things considered, it was a fun game for me.
Round Two – Playing Apocalypse World
I missed out on the signup having chatted to people, then trying to take more notes for Castle Bravo while I ate lunch, so I arrived in Apocalypse World by default. On the plus side Mike (the GM) was really enthusiastic about the game and setting, and there a number experienced veteran players at the table who I enjoy gaming with.
I was nominated to be the Hard Holder, which was the gang leader in a Mad Max (2) style world. Accordingly I modeled my character, Calibre, after Lord Humungus, and took a fairly brutal approach to gang management theory. Unfortunately the dice betrayed me at several crucial moments, my captive escaped, some of my bodyguards tried to kill me, my ruse to uncover traitors failed and during an epic battle my gang turned on me and handed me over to the enemy gang and I was seriously injured (okay I can actually only blame one of those on the dice).
Thus, Calibre spent the later stages of the game confined to a hospital bed, being tended and often sedated by our ‘Angel’ or medic when she disagreed with my ideas. In all fairness, the real roleplaying hammer fell on Mash’s character Spice, who was the hottest guy in our gang, and also the unlikely vehicle of our salvation from a more monstrous foe.
It was a really fun game, despite my characters incapacitation, and I must give kudos to Mike for a great setup and execution while also allowing us an effective ‘sandbox’ approach to the game. The only real downside was that one of our number played a character that was really very creepy, even by Mad Max standards and was effectively ostracized by our characters, effectively cutting him out of the main action. I felt even worse when my character executed his character at the end for a perceived assassination attempt.
Also, my Calibre voice, really tore up my throat in a way that left me concerned about whether I’d be able to last out Castle Bravo.
Round Three – Running Castle Bravo
As I have alluded to, I was concerned about making sure I understood this scenario adequately. It is written as a series of increasingly bizarre events leading to an epic crisis point. This is set against nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll during the 1950’s. It was also my first experience at running Trail of Cthulhu (although I had previously run other GUMSHOE games). I had a full house again (6 players) which again, was not really ideal for the mood and pacing of the scenario – but them’s the breaks in the big show.
It was also the last slot of the ‘con, and a late one at that. We kicked off close to 6pm and I could see many of the players were wilting fast.
Overall, it went surprisingly well from my perspective (perhaps because I had so much anxiety about the detail). I think I managed to convey the creepy and bizarre against a backdrop of ever more dire circumstances. Most of my efforts were centered around the major NPC, which worked out fairly well. Despite their tiredness the players all engaged with the elements well, and worked with me to really push things along - particular kudos to Henry one of the few unfamiliar faces at the table who engaged really well with the plot and his PC.
On the downside, because this is a ‘purist’ scenario the players are left without the real opportunity for ‘victory’ and really have to settle for a much less decisive outcome. Also some of the more important information that is imparted to the players at the beginning didn’t really come out until the end, which meant I had to push things along in a more direct way than I’d prefer. Whether or not it’s reasonable to expect the PC’s to dump this info in a single scene, as envisaged by the scenario, is perhaps more of a question. Also providing some real detail and ambiance to the setting of the aircraft carrier was something I don’t think I really executed well.
In either event we made it without anyone falling asleep, or me losing my voice entirely, so I’ll call it a win.