Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Kapcon 23 - Part Two

I arrived on Sunday morning ready for day 2 of Kapcon, refreshed and ready for more!

Round 5: Silent Night
The Kapcon organisers had scheduled me to run a session of EPOCH in Round 5 on Sunday morning using the blurb for Road Trip, but when the players arrived I found that one of them had played in Road Trip during round 1 on Saturday, so I hastily suggested we play Silent Night instead.

As Silent Night is a Christmas scenario I suggested it might be nice for the characters to
play a family group.  In short order the characters created a memorable, if highly dysfunctional, modern family.  Conflicts swiftly resolved around Frank (played by Tigger), owner of an organic food store, who had recently married Molly (played by Sam). 

Unfortunately, Frank’s enthusiasm for healthy living wasn’t shared by the family and both his daughter Evie (played by Maggie) and step-son Darrian (played by Nicholas) thought Frank disingenuous.  This was exacerbated by Frank's insistence they use their 'Journey Journals' and formal family meetings to resolve conflict.  The inter-family conflict was so intense that nobody had much time for family-friend, poor asthmatic Victor (played by Nick C) who had been sent away for a Christmas break because his mother was dying of cancer.

My favourite scene in this game was when the family decided to ram a police barricade.  As bullets flew all around them, teenage Darrian who had been arguing with Frank for the whole scenario wrapped his arms around his step-father and shielded his body from harm, whispering a plea for Frank to look after his mother.

Round 6: Quintessence
You may recall that I had previously registered to play Incident at Talos in round 6. However, the GM facilitating that game was away and the game had been cancelled.  Casting around for another option in the break between rounds, there were few games with any player spaces to pick from, and none that appealed to me. 

I also saw that Home Front, Andy’s EPOCH scenario of Dad’s Army meets the Twilight Zone, did not have enough sign-ups and had also been cancelled.  But during the break I observed several people approach the desk and asked if they could play Home Front.  The organisers had cancelled the game, and were not accepting sign-ups for it, so as a work-around they suggested that it be offered in the Games on Demand room.

I was pretty keen to help people play some EPOCH if they wanted to, and Andrew agreed to pitch the game in G.O.D. to see if there was any interest.  I volunteered to play in order to help with the numbers, and we were able to round up 4 others, including the venerable Sophie.  As both Sophie and I had played Home Front, Andy offered Quintessence (published in Frontier of Fear), his sci-fi scenario about corporate marines intercepting a spaceship that has been missing for 100 years.

Having both playtested and edited this scenario, I was fairly familiar with the plot, so I determined to create a character that would take no part in leading the action or in making any decisions.  I had been dealt the cards War Scarred, Cautious and the traits of Idealistic and Romantic.  So I created Neil, a marine who had suffered hideous injuries when he accidentally dropped a grenade amongst his fellow marines, killing several of them.  Clearly traumatised by this error, Neil lacked confidence and was extremely accident prone, to the point where he was almost a liability to the other marines.  This allowed the other characters to unite in their disdain of Neil’s professional abilities, while ensuring that he was not consulted on major decisions, which fulfilled my objectives in not spoiling the scenario.

Sophie had established during the initial scenes that her character was a doctor, and that her father was a General.  I decided it would be neat to use this detail as part of Neil’s story, so over several tension phases I used flashbacks to show how Neil had been imprisoned following his grenade accident, and then been summoned by the general and ordered to protect his daughter and follow her like a shadow.  In preparing for the mission, Neil had been given to the General’s files concerning his daughter and watched hours of home movies until he had fallen in love with the General's daughter, although this was a secret he hadn’t revealed (I had noted it on my secret card at the beginning of the game). 

In the tense scenes of the final climax, I revealed that the General had turned Neil into a human bomb, placing explosives in his cybernetic replacement organs which were detonated when his daughters life was in jeopardy.  I was, however, denied an attempt to actually play a second Hero card, as Neil was Zeroed, and thus eliminated without further heroism.

I enjoyed the game and I think Quintessence generated some really interesting characters, whose end scenes were poignant.

Prize Giving
Before the main Kapcon prize giving I gave out a couple of EPOCH awards [you can read the details here] to recognise some of the excellent character play over the weekend, and thank everyone who had played in an EPOCH scenario.

Reflecting on the weekend; player numbers in each round seemed to be considerably more volatile than in past years.  My evidence for this is limited to the games for which I collected stats (the EPOCH scenarios of which 2 were cancelled due to lack of numbers and 2 were run at short notice – several ran with just 4 players, but the majority had 5 or 6 players). This effect may be due to an over-saturation of EPOCH, or it may have been a more ‘con-wide phenomenon.  In either event, it’s unlikely I will be offering EPOCH to the same extent in the future.

No mention was made of Con-fusion or Day of Games one-day-conventions, leading me to conclude that the NZ tabletop convention calendar has shrunk as the LARP calendar has expanded.

Increasingly Kapcon feels to me like 2 or 3 separate ‘cons held at the same venue (if you include Games on Demand) with some level of interaction, but not a lot.  This isn’t new – a similar thing used to happen with D&D and the Harn folk.  Now, as then, Kapcon organisers have made it clear that they are happy to let things evolve holistically, and often say that “people will vote with their feet”.

I agree that it is important to let people do the things that they enjoy most, but I also think that failing to take a more strategic or proactive perspective may also lead to unintended consequences which are extremely difficult to reverse.

However, I also accept that change is inevitable – Kapcon already bears little resemblance to what it was 10 years ago and it’s likely that in the future it will be greatly different to the current event.

Reports of Kapcon's Past
Kapcon 22 - Part One and Part Two
Kapcon 21 - Part One and Part Two
Kapcon 20 - Part One and Part Two

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