25 February, 2018

EttinCon Summer 2018

Another EttinCon has come and gone.

Every time it is run, it keeps getting bigger, but the rate of expansion seems to be slowing down a bit. I suspect it has now hit its peak size, it might grow or shrink a little next time.

Unlike previous occasions, this event was not held in Katoomba, it was instead held further up the Blue Mountains in Blackheath.

A bigger more open venue in the Community Centre up there, but whether this was a good thing, I'm undecided. It still felt like the organisers were trying to cram too much in with tightly packed tables, and the noisy echoes of the hall didn't make table-talk easy, especially when I'd normally walk around the table to more easily address players who were focal points of the game at any particular time.

Three sessions across one day, I ran in the morning, with a scheduled game of Steve Dee's Relics in the evening, and a free afternoon where I hoped I could slot into an empty spot of whatever caught my eye.

My session of The Law ran as well as I expected. Neither mutants nor psychic powers throw out the balance of the game. I didn't have any "named" antagonists during the setting, which basically meant that I didn't roll a die at any stage during the three-hour session. All pacing came through the manipulation of tokens in the investigation pool and the sector status pool. This included a couple of failed rolls that led to the pools increasing, despite a general trend of working through the pools over the game.

It was an interesting mix of players, including an old acquaintance from con days long past (Benj Davis), a couple of players who've participated in recent EttinCon games that I've run, and initially two new players, but one guy was watching, thpught it looked like fun and asked if he could come in partway through the game as the team's "backup".

I'll give a full critique of this session in my next post. Generally it went smoothly, except for the earlier mentioned noise in the hall and inability to walk around the table.

Next, food break before trying to pick up a spare game.

Looking at the schedule, there was a Fiasco game called "Holy Uncontrollable Chaos, Batman!" which had no players. I asked around to see if it would be running, because a Batman Fiasco game would have been right up my alley. I found a con organiser, he didn't know, but rang the GM on his mobile. The GM was at his table waiting for players, in full Joker make-up. I spent half an hour waiting with him and trying to round up some players. Eventually we decided to call it off, and I started looking for something else to do...

...ten minutes later I see that the GM has picked up a bunch of players amd has started without me. That was disappointing. Especially since most other game sessions had begun more than half an hour earlier.

Instead I did a round of speed painting. A basic range of paints, a Reaper Bones figure, an hour to do what you can...

...here's my result.

I'm happy with her.

There was still more time before the night session, so I painted a second figure.

Then dinner.

The night session of Relics was something I'd been looking forward to. I've been following the project for a year or so, and have spoken with Steve about the game's art. Naturally I wanted to see how the game actually ran. I knew all of the other players on the table, one I had good experiences with (David Jacobs), one was my wife Leah, and the other two were a couple I had known from conventions many years ago (but whose names I've forgotten). This latter pair were remembered because she is the only person I have ever had walk out on a convention game I've run. She was one of those players who couldn't handle being out of the spotlight for very long, unless the current spotlight player was setting something up for her. I knew this wouldn't be a fair appraisal of Steve's game, and Leah and I nearly walked away there and then. But I really wanted to see how it went.

Character veneration during a session is always a risk. Sometimes it pays off, when you've got someone on the table who needs to be the centre of attention it's much harder to see that pay off. I can understand why we wemt through the process, it's a part of the collaborative world-building of the game, but it all felt a bit long as a percentage of the session length. At the end of the character creation I had a vague idea of my character, but still not really a good idea of what they could do, or where to take them. It all felt a bit like a slightly more structured version of "A Penny for my Thoughts" with characters created by each other as much as they're defined by the player, then the story tales this further. Flashbacks and memories provided by other playerx build the characters as the narrative unfolds.

I like the idea in Relics that all characters need to be within two flashback scenes of each other, but with each character only beginning with two flashback/skills, a few of us felt a bit adrift...trying to either find a purpose or work out a way to gain agency for ourselves within the story. For a demo game, I'd have produced characters at least partly built, and offer a range of memory prompts with linked skills that will be useful in the scenario. These can still be applied by the players to each other's characters, but it might give a bit more drive to the characters in the right direction. It felt like it was almost there, and it might have just been a loaded situation with the other players, but it wasn't quite right yet.

After the con, a few of us walked to the pub to do "post con drinks". The aim here was to get the people who design games together to discuss how we can help each other, provide feedback, or generally offer support. We need more of these.   

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