Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Kapcon 22 - Part Two

Continued from Part One

Round Four -The Shadow Over Kafiristan
This was my first experience with the Laundry and the work of Charlie Stross.  Some of the characters seemed to have a lot of information to absorb – not me.  According to the briefing my character thought the entire mission to Afghanistan was a bad idea and wanted to get the team home safely.  To accomplish this he had some good interpersonal skills and a sidearm.  Okay, seems challenging, but perhaps this is the kind of challenging you might expect a fictional character in the Laundry to be able to accomplish.
I was a little concerned at having an agenda which was opposed to the entire mission.  I assumed to balance my opposition, either the initial mission would rapidly be changed, or other characters would have opposite agendas, setting the scene for character conflict.  The setting became a major element of the game, the same characters on their home turf would have been a different experience entirely, but in the backwoods of Afghanistan the language difficulties, cultural considerations and constant threat did work to fixate the players less on what their characters should know, and more on what they could know. 

There was a good and interesting story behind the game and Malcolm did a fine job of running it.   He did comment after the game he had made a major error by not starting the game in-media-res and I can see what he meant.  When things started to go wrong, my character doggedly tried to extract as many of the team as he could, as per his motivations, and ignored the major final encounter – something that might not have happened had the scenario begun as Malcolm originally intended.   As I had no authority over the other characters, fortunately most of them ignored me and continued to explore, and so the full plot was revealed. 

I enjoyed the game, and thought my fellow players did an excellent job with their characters.  There was nothing in my experience of this scenario that seemed like it wouldn’t have been perfectly at home in a Delta Green setting, but then I don’t know what access the other characters had to magic and whatnot.  A fun time overall, but I felt like I probably should have ignored my character brief in order to enjoy it to get the most out of it.

Round 5 - Price Slash
Price Slash can be a tricky scenario - Mash has dubbed it the weakest EPOCH scenario to date.  It’s certainly as detailed as Fever Pitch is simple.  Because I wrote it, I have obvious trouble being objective.  However, I believe that If run properly it should deliver you a movie experience reminiscent of elements found in movies like Saw, Devil, Hunger or Unknown.  What I learned at Kapcon, however, is that it’s not a good first-time EPOCH scenario. 

I had 6 players, one of whom had experienced EPOCH previously.  Their characters were great, but only 4 of them really interacted with each other in any significant way.  Part of the conceit of a locked box scenario is that the characters are forced together to an extent (rather than having a pre-established relationship), and ideally use this opportunity interact with one another to create interesting stories and flashbacks.  
Price Slash allows for individual development before bringing the characters together, and I think that this weaving of stories forces the characters to choose between engaging with each other, or largely ignoring each other.  Regrettably half my group chose the latter course, which naturally had a consequence in the ballot and play of cards. There are tools in the scenario which should provoke some engagement, precisely because of this risk, but these proved largely ineffective.

The characters that did weave their stories together were particularly memorable.  A young man cursed with Lycanthropy was responsible for the death of several of the other characters loved ones, a killer of serial killers calmly navigated the horror bumping off other characters while chatting happily with a valley girl, while Ruth had the distinction of creating Simon-Paul Christian, the most despicable character that I’ve yet facilitated in EPOCH.  These dark twists provoked a number of player initiated challenges – which were actually pretty great

Unfortunately, I feel like I didn’t do a great job for the other characters, who fell by the wayside, more from story neglect, then being claimed as victims of the horror.  It could just be that I wasn’t in top form facilitating this game.  Either way, I think I’ll be editing Price Slash to recommend it for experienced EPOCH players. 

Round 6 - Kapcon Summer Slam II
This game continued my tradition of running a Piledrivers and Powerbombs scenario in the informal sixth round of Kapcon.  I love the system – it’s very simple and free flowing, and allows for total hilarity.  There’s nothing quite like mocking professional wrestling, which itself, mocks the mainstream media.  Unfortunately I hadn’t actually re-read the rules since last Kapcon, so there was a bit of stopping and starting as  I checked a couple of elementary things.

I had thought of taking 6, 8 or 10 players and setting the wrestlers up to be each others nemesis.  However, despite having 8 players, the consensus in the room seemed to be that everyone wanted to create both a hero and a nemesis – leaving me with 16 professional wrestling characters to wrangle!

Sure enough, the game delivered the entertaining and hilarious experience I’d hoped.  The nemesis characters despicably used a training montage while the star characters connected with each other, meaning that there was a slight power imbalance which left a villain ultimately victorious – but the play of cards was tense and entertaining affair.  I think each year I learn a few more tricks for running this game better, so hopefully next year it will be better again.
So that was Kapcon 22.  I had a great time, and the organisation was first rate.  Every round ran on time, and I had no problems with player (or GM) wrangling.  I wasn’t called on for surge protection, possibly because numbers were down a little this year, and all the GMs showed up.  I heard a lot of great feedback about EPOCH and most people seemed to have a great time playing the EPOCH games on offer.  I was particularly pleased to see Igor voted the first-equal highest scoring GM in a single round with Red Gold.


  1. Bear in mind that Price Slash has a pretty high bar when compared to some of the others. It's probably the easiest structurally (I can easily imagine someone running truly amok trying to wrangle Sunshine Falls for the first time...) but that also makes it the least interesting in a lot of ways.

  2. I think EPOCH mirrors the cinematic experience so well it suffers from its limitations too. If you model a scenario on a particular set of movies, the fans of those movies will like it the most. Personally I never liked movies like Saw, so its not surprising to me that I didn't enjoy it as much as your other scenarios.