Monday, June 3, 2013

Buckets of Dice 2013

This weekend I attended my first ever Buckets of Dice, a roleplaying and boardgaming convention held in Christchurch, New Zealand.  I had been wanting to get down to Buckets for a while, but this year, the opportunity to combine a trip to the ‘con with family commitments and also showcase EPOCH, was too good to pass up.

The organisers were also nice enough to list me as a ‘special guest’ and promote both my EPOCH scenarios and have me facilitate a panel discussion on game publishing.

I understand the ‘con attracted around 50 registrations, although that included both board-gamers and roleplayers.  Initially it proved a little tricky to find the venue, nestled amongst the sprawling University of Canterbury campus, but thankfully there were many chalk arrows which helped guide me to the right place.  The people I spoke to before, during and after the ‘con were all very friendly, and made me feel very welcome, and it was good to see, and catch-up with some familiar faces from Kapcon.

Round 1 – EPOCH: Hard Time
I initially pitched 4 EPOCH scenarios before the ‘con, and brought the full catalogue and offered the players the choice of any scenario they wanted.  After some discussion the popular vote was for science fiction, and Hard Time was the preferred option.  Some interesting characters were generated, although many of the characters on this run began as hackers – however, as the game went on the characters became more involved with the fiction until they determined that two of them had been responsible for Project LAZARUS, which had unleashed the source of the horror on all the prisoners. 

I love it when players do this kind of thing through flashbacks because I think it really enhances the mesh between character and scenario, while bringing in new ideas and fresh twists.  Of particular note in this run was one character played the Hero twice (through taking back a second Hero/Zero card after winning a ballot) so ultimately doomed their character to elimination in the last challenge through selfless sacrifice.

Panel on Game Publishing
Much like the discussion that took place at Kapcon, this was a round-table discussion about lessons, pitfalls and opportunities involved in self-publishing role playing games.  Attendance was light, but there was some clear interest, and enthusiasm for exploring the new opportunities that the current market offers.

Round 2 – The Company
I signed up for this game as it was one of the few with free spaces following round 1.  The game used Apocalypse World (which seemed to be extremely popular with con-goers – almost all the other games on offer used AW or an AW hack).  However, there was a neat science fiction twist – the game was set on Pluto in a highly bureaucratic civilisation which imposes crippling taxes on its people (the setting was borrowed from a 1977 Dr Who story called The Sun Makers).  I played a skinner called Dodge and spent most of my time trying to keep the other characters from coming to blows, while seeking some escape from the tedium of a system which charged a daily breathing tax.

We spent a fair bit of time on trying to acquire the finer things – probably half an hour trying to leverage enough funding to purchase an apple, before delving into who was really pulling the strings of the company.  The scenario ended with a bang when we confronted the inhuman villain behind the scenes and ignored his warnings, pressing a button which doomed the entire civilisation.  It was a fun time, although I think Apocalypse World wasn’t an easy mesh with the aims of the scenario.  Given the complexity and detail of the setting, I think pre-generated characters with embedded knowledge and agenda might have provided stronger direction to fulfil the GM’s vision for this scenario.  Equally, an investigative system like BRP or Gumshoe might have better supported the characters attempts to find clues and interact with the Company hierarchy. That said, I had fun and really enjoyed the other players take on their characters.

Round 3 – EPOCH: Hard Time
I was ready to run almost anything, except Hard Time again.  However, on day 2 when I put it to the players they were again keen on science fiction, and had heard good things about the run of Hard Time from the day before – so away we went!  This run had some characters who took really different directions, leading to some rich flashbacks and some intense in-character confrontations.  There was a Prison Break style story, with one character being sent to rescue another inmate, only to discover at a crucial moment that the other character was an android replacement… 

Another of the characters was a space pirate, previously abducted by aliens, while yet another was a clone who had rejected his corporation-specified genetic programming.  This character led to many trailer worthy moments including his memorable refrain: “How can this fu*king sh*t get any fu*king worse?” Really, really great fun, with another suitable epic ending. 

Overall I really enjoyed my time at Buckets of Dice, and if the opportunity presented, I’d definitely go again.  I also enjoyed introducing EPOCH to new players and seeing how folks interacted with the game in their own ways.


  1. Did The Company use Apocalypse World itself (including playbooks) or was it an apocalypse-powered game? Who ran it?

  2. Yes, Apocalypse World and associated playbooks. Mutu ran the game.