Monday, January 21, 2013

Kapcon 22 - Part One

Last weekend I attended Kapcon 22, which features a wide array of tabletop, on demand and LARP games.  This year I had agreed to run EPOCH for 3 rounds, including the informal late-night round, as well as running my light hearted professional wrestling game in the final round, and participating in a panel discussion on game publishing.  That left me with 2 rounds to play games, if I wasn’t needed for surge protection.

Several other GM’s had brought EPOCH scenarios to run at Kapcon (all of which I hope to publish in due course).  To try and help generate some player interest Grant and I had made sure there were a large number of posters spread around the ‘con.  I also added the infamous EPOCH bodycount score, to track character eliminations round-by-round and I brought a few other materials like dark tablecloths and system overview sheets. 

Round 1 - Precinct ‘77 
This was the second installment in Marcus’ 70’s cop TV show game.  The premise is simple – you are police detectives in Empire City with the characters representing era stereotypes and being partnered up.  The game is a sandbox, with the PC’s supplied a large list of informants and then determining how they will investigate several linked crimes.  I had fun playing this game, and thought the freedom of the setup was great. 

There was, probably, too much information for me to easily absorb up-front, which meant the start was a little slow.  I think that this game would benefit from a pre-credits action start (a car-chase or similar) where the characters learn the system and start defining their characters a little, before commencing the investigation phase and consulting their files. 

With only 4 players, and a sandbox setup, I also think that there is a risk that energy levels across the game might be a little uneven.  More players means less screen time for each, but also should also help even out the energy across the game.   I think Precinct ’77 is a solid game, and I hope to see another instalment at future ‘cons. 

Round 2 - Fever Pitch 
Fever Pitch is a very simple and flexible EPOCH scenario, but the strength of the scenario really depends on working to build the characters and their relationships in the first tension phase.  I had a full allotment of 6 players for this game, only one of whom had played EPOCH before.  I used the Colleagues relationship group as I think it’s a good fit for Fever Pitch, and the characters invariably ended up resembling a more extreme cast of the Office – which was awesome. 

We spent nearly 1.5 hours on the first tension phase, and I was very pleased with the office dynamic, which was suitably dysfunctional.  All of the characters were memorable, from Jan-Yves panicked office manager to Andy Mac’s closet survivalist, to Jonathan’s mellow hippie to Steph’s peppy girl who was sleeping with the CEO.

The highlight for me came when it was revealed that Anna’s up-and-coming saleswoman was actually an undercover government agent who had abandoned her assignment out of love for the dweeby office support worker, played by Ants.  Unfortunately Ants’ character suffered terrible deep fryer burns to the face, and was run over and killed soon thereafter, making it a tragic love story.  Jonathan’s final twist that his unbelievably laid-back character was actual a member of a doomsday cult added a nice final touch to the game.  Great fun! 

Round 3 - Getting Your Game Published Panel Discussion 
This was a useful and enjoyable discussion on the subject.  Attendance was light with panellists outnumbering  audience, and so it moved into more of a round table discussion covering issues from motivations, writing, editing, illustrating and promoting your game, scenario  or LARP.  I did my best to highlight my experiences to date, although at one point I was accused of being a shill for DriveThruRPG, so perhaps using a single channel for sales has coloured my perceptions somewhat. 

There was a general feeling that NZ games and game writers should be more active in supporting one another, but it was not clear what vehicle might be suitable, or what value this would add.  While I did feel that it was a good use of time, I doubt I’d give up an entire round of gaming to participate in such a discussion again.  To that end I’ve suggested that there be some shorter panel discussions between the gaming rounds in future to increase attendance. 

Round 3.5 - EPOCH After Dark 
There were initially some concerns about scheduling for this round, as it seems that many people didn’t bother filling in a selection form on the basis that the previous 3.5 rounds have been fairly informal.  It is a hard balance to strike as it’s important not to draw people out of the Flagship LARP, but it would be nice to be  a bit more organised so the GM’s can be prepared.

As it turned out there were 5 folks who were keen to play EPOCH, some old hands at the game, like Mash, Liam and Marcus, plus recent EPOCH converts including James and Theo.  At the last minute Freya was also convinced to join the game, and so we embarked on the first playtest of my EPOCH Sci-Fi scenario Hard Time.

The scenario casts the characters as prisoners sharing living arrangements on the new, high-tech prison facility the Albert Reiss which currently orbits Phobos, a moon of Mars.  The paint was still wet on the scenario as I’d only completed the first draft on Friday and so some of the scenes revealed the need for a little more thought to establish detail and logic.

As I’d hoped the players created a wide range of criminals, from Liam’s very scary cannibal (so scary he was zeroed twice in the first challenge round) to art thieves, con-men and the victims of far worse crimes.  The scenario seemed to have the right level of tension, distrust and drama.  Things came to a head in a final player-initiated conflict which led to the abrupt and shocking murder of Marcus’ character who was only a few feet from freedom.  A great ending, and a very fun game.

 To be continued... 

Previous Kapcon Reports:


  1. It can take a year or two for ideas to stick. I expect that the use of game selection forms for round 3.5 (or round 4 as it should be called) will be better next year.

  2. I deliberately didn't fill out a round 3.5 selection form because I wanted to see what my friends were doing. If there hadn't been a game like your EPOCH game with people I knew and liked, I probably would have gone home instead, saving my new-people energy for more gaming on Day 2.

  3. That's cool too :) Over time though, I expect to see those groups of friends enter their forms enmasse, much like they do for other rounds. The upside overtime will also be that GMs are less likely to enter games in round 3.5 and be disappointed by people not turning up.