Sunday, May 31, 2015

Buckets of Dice 2015

This weekend I attended Buckets of Dice, a roleplaying convention held in Christchurch, New Zealand.  This was my second time attending - I previously attended in 2013, and this year I was keen to offer attendees a chance to play my new game Wicked Lies & Alibis as well as Harvest,  an EPOCH scenario from The Experiment Continues.

Attendance at Buckets has increased significantly since 2013, with more than 90 folks attending this year, playing in tabletop RPGS, the two large LARPs, the Grand Strategy and board game offerings.  I only attended 3 rounds this year due to other commitments.

In terms of organisation, my impression was that the size of Buckets has now outstripped their current  arrangements (for example people had to ask an organiser which games they had been allocated, creating an unnecessary bottleneck and workload, and scoring and nominations were not in rooms, nor were there rubbish bins in rooms) but the 'con also had some other great innovations - a code of conduct printed in the schedule booklet, free fruit for all attendees, and an attendee pack which included a notebook and pencil for all important note taking!

Round One - A Night to Remember
I had pre-registered and selected 4 picks of games I wanted to play, however the organiser had apparently not received this, so I hadn't been allocated a first round game. There were just two first-round games not full so I picked one at random to play; A Night to Remember which used Urban Shadows (a supernatural/political hack of Apocalypse World).

As a side note, when I attended Buckets in 2013 I noted just how popular the Apocalypse World hacks are with Cantabrians - this enthusiasm seems undiminished two years on, with a great many AW hacks on offer at Buckets including a mega-dungeon (world).

I was playing a mortal, Lewis, who hustled on the streets selling replica handbags, while also dealing in information about the supernatural events in the city. As it turned out the game was to be a largely political summit with the players each representing a faction and negotiating with one another and several NPCs to try and broker a peace in amongst the supernatural factions.  Lewis was not the best choice for this setup, as the game soon became a standoff between the demon-affiliated character and the others (which included an angel, hunter and ghost). 

Although I was less than convinced about the execution of the main activity of the game (player negotiation across the table without any specific information or knowledge to enable this to be a good reflection of the character aims) the game did reach a suitably dramatic and definitive conclusion in line with the GMs expectations.

Round Two - Wicked Lies & Alibis
I had a group of enthusiastic players for this game, and they did a great job of bringing the complex cast they created to life. They selected High Stakes as they liked the premise of a murder mystery aboard a Zeppelin, so began a tale of intrigue and deceit. 

The cast included Ge-Ge a beautiful actress and her secret lover Reginald (a banker who was financing the fascist movement in Brazil).  Karen a French politician who was secretly married to Father Willard, a catholic priest, while also having an affair with Amelia Jones, a German film director.  As you might imagine with such a group of suspects, accusations mounted swiftly, while there were also plentiful alibis provided by those engaged in romantic entanglements.  Ultimately, it turned out the Ge-Ge had dispatched the victim in a fit of rage, and she was arrested - taking the opportunity to pose for photos from the gathered press before being led away.

We completed the game in  two hours and as there were still two hours remaining in the round I gave the players the option of playing a second case, or getting an early dinner and having time to get ready for the flagship LARP.  They wanted to play again, so this time we played A Knight in the Maze, a classic British country-house murder.

Clearly in the swing of things, the players wasted no time getting stuck in; the cast for this case included Lady Matilda who was having an affair with Helmut the German gardener.  Helmut's sister, Victoria a textile industrialist (who was adopted at birth and raised in Britain) was also present along with Elizabeth, a young and recently impoverished woman who was cousin to the victim, and Dr. Weston a Texan medical doctor with a love for guns.  After a tense series of exchanges and revelations it was revealed the Dr. Weston was the murderer, and in his riveting confession he outlined how Sir Richard (the victim) had wronged his momma back in the U.S. and richly deserved the justice had had administered.

It went very well, and I think the players had a good time (several purchased copies of the game afterwards) - I know I had a lot of fun.

Round Four- Harvest
I didn't attend the LARP, and the next morning I found that had four players for this EPOCH scenario (the fifth being a no-show following a late night at the LARP).  They swiftly created compelling stories for their characters, an unlikely group of friends; Wylie a wild party animal in High School had nearly died in an OD and reformed his life, while Frank and James had kept their high school rivalry alive with James a semi-professional athlete, and Frank a competitive body-builder.  Finally Andrea, a shy and bookish member of the group, clearly had feelings for Frank, and it was revealed this had ultimately led to a shocking murder prior to the scenario beginning.

The game went very well with the characters experiencing a series of unsettling events at the seaside town of Hudson's Point in the lead-up to a harvest festival.  The escalating tension finally erupted, and only Frank and Andrea made it out alive, the tragic sacrifices of their friends enabling them to  achieve a total victory and ultimately a happy ending.

Overall I had a great time at Buckets, it's a neat 'con and well worth attending; as tabletop events diminish in Wellington and Auckland, Buckets is rapidly becoming a major RPG event and one of the few NZ events with a good range of tabletop offerings.