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.