30 July, 2017

EttinCon Debrief (Part 3)

The last session of the day was the first session where +Leah Wenman and I took part in separate games. During the first session I ran, while she played...during the second session, we both played. Session 3 saw me running "The Law", while she played a freeform dinner party game based on Jane Austen novels, appropriately called "Pride and Prejudice".

Session 3: The Law
There's a notion in many parts of the roleplaying community where a game is better if it has more players. I can understand how a convention organiser might believe this, more butts on seats means more cashflow...thankfully EttinCon isn't like this, but I can see in certain other conventions how this might be considered the case. The thing is that I've seen many people gloating on social media groups about "how great a GM they are because of how many people they have in their games". I know that I haven't always been immune to this idea, I used to love having regular games with up to 10 players in them, occasionally getting more...I'd similarly enjoy blowing apart the traditional convention structure of 5-player teams to offer sessions with 7-8 players, often knowing I could adequately amuse such a group for a 3-hour timeslot. But looking back on my years (decades) of running games at conventions, some of the most fun and memorable games have played to the other end of the spectrum. Quality not quantity.

I don't know if this is really true, some people enjoy small games, some people enjoy large games. What's probably more to the point is knowing what specific players like, and how best to accommodate a game to their preferences and playing style. Long story short... I don't see a lack of players as a bad thing, but more as a chance to tell more personal stories in a more intimate setting.

I had 2 players for "The Law", for a session scheduled to handle 4-6 players. I asked the players if they wanted to continue, or if we should fold our session into one of the other games of the night. They were still enthusiastic, and I said that basically since it's a game based on Judge Dredd, and since he usually works alone or with one or two other key agents, it probably fits the genre better to gave a lower player count. Besides, the recent Karl Urban movie within the setting had Dredd and Anderson...2 characters... we'd be fine.

Of the 9 pre-gens I'd written up, we ended up with a socially suave and sophisticated black man named Carter, and a whip-smart psychic female with mutant blood named Isaacs. Both field agents.

I set our sector to Yellow status, an average difficulty for our first public run, and to test the way investigations are handled I added a minor investigation into the mix. This meant rolling 2d6 to determine how many tokens were applied to the investigation (and thus how many successes would be necessary to solve the case)... I rolled two sixes. It was going to be a tricky one.

I have designed "The Law" to work as a mix of random encounter crime clean-up, and narratively based investigation. In this case, I picked two random agents from those not chosen...these agents were designated as possibly corrupt, or possibly being framed for corruption by someone else.

Without one of the combat oriented characters being chosen, things went far less violently than I thought they might, instead agents gained allies, persuaded people to do things that they probably shouldn't have done, read rights to people and judged them, shooting them down or applying violent force occasionally when arrests were resisted. Mysterious happenings occured, and gradually our agents pushed toward an answer.

Since it was the last session of the convention, we had to finish on time. So things probably ended more rushed than I would have liked, but generally it all worked.

...and it worked well enough that one of my two players bought one of my proof copies of the game, So that's always a bonus (Thankyou, Aby Shiels).

A few changes might come through in the next iteration of the rules, and maybe a few clarifications in the upcoming Dispatch/GM guide, but this week we'll definitely see the coregame rules made available as a pdf through the standard channels.
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