Archive for June, 2005

June 29, 2005: 9:19 pm: Cons

Here are the TBR 2005 reports that I’ve seen so far. If you know of any others, please let me know in comments.





: 9:07 pm: Cons

This past weekend was The Black Road 2005, our annual Ambercon-like convention held near Boston. It was another good year, despite attendance being a bit lower than it was in 2004, and everything seemed to go pretty smoothly. I’m sure the fact that none of the con committee members were suffering from broken bones or the plague (unlike last year) helped with that.

Here’s my report on the games I played/GMed:

Slot 1: From the Ashes
GM: Kris Kunkel)

This game used Amberkind, the GM’s Amber-oriented version of Vincent “Lumpley” Baker’s Otherkind, as the system for a scenario that involved a group of younger Amber royals and nobles heading off to a Shadow on one of those diplomatic missions that always seem to get someone (or several someones) killed. The Amberkind system seemed to work out pretty well, though we didn’t push it all that hard.

My character, Alexander, got himself beat up while looking for guns to bring along on the trip, but ended up with a few crates of carbines. Then, once on the mission itself, he decided to kill one of the two contenders for the Shadow’s throne, in hopes that an unborn child who might be his son would be able to ascend to the throne when he came of age. This is the sort of plan that sons of Caine tend to come up with. Overall, it was a fun game, and a fine way to start the con.

Slot 2: Dogs in the Circle
GM: Bryant Durrell)

Bryant ended up getting sent to Europe on business, so rather than playing Dogs, I spent most of the evening working on the game I was going to be running the next morning.

Slot 3: The Mountain of the Sorcerer-King
GM: me

I think this one deserves its own in-depth post, so for now I’ll just say that the game went fairly well, though it could have gone better. Still, all of the players seemed to enjoy themselves.

Slot 4: Le Cygne: Ghost Ship
GMs: Ginger Stampley & Michael Croft

This latest installment in the adventures of Le Cygne saw us drift through a red fog to a scary little island where a demented necromancer lived. Fortunately, the brave bosun (Skate, played by me) was able to guide the crew safely through the danger, mainly by paying attention to the ship’s owner and ignoring the acting Captain. I was definitely more “on” for this adventure than I had been for the previous one (which ran at ACUS), and I had a darned good time.

Slot 5: The Puppies of Tijuana
GM: me

This was a sequel of sorts to Nine Losers in Akron, the kill puppies for satan game that I ran at both TBR 2004 and ACUS 2005. I don’t think that it ended up going as well as either session of the first game did, as the PCs spent more time screwing with each other than they did either killing small animals or paying attention to what passed for a plot, but most of the players seemed to have a pretty good time. Things that I as a GM could have done better on included being more prepared for the session, more evenly dividing my attention among the players, and paying more attention to what a couple of the players were trying to accomplish. I’m sure having less players might have helped with those last two issues, but I managed fine with a group of equal size at the ACUS session of Nine Losers, so I’m not sure exactly what was going on with me.

Overall, it was definitely an enjoyable con for me, and it was nice to meet some new people (Carolyn and Brian), see all of those folks that I generally only get to see at Ambercons, and spend more time with those people I’m lucky enough to see more often. I’m definitely looking forward to next year’s TBR.

June 20, 2005: 10:58 pm: Miscellaneous

I’ve recently started reading a few new gaming blogs, so I thought I’d point out that they’d been added to the “Blog links” section of the sidebar.

This Is My Blog — Ben Lehman’s blog for talking about game theory and design.

Shining Dodecahedron — Jay Loomis’ views on role-playing and games in general.

Random Encounters — Random RPG materials, speculations, and blather from Bradley “Brand” Robins.

Yudhishthira’s Dice — A place where Brand Robins talks about game design and theory as a companion page to Random Encounters.

June 19, 2005: 10:54 pm: Cons

Ambercon North 2005 has been officially cancelled, but ACN should be back in 2006. Here’s the announcement that was sent out today (by me, actually):

We know that many of you who attend Ambercon North need to make your vacation and travel plans well in advance, so we thought it was time to make things official.

There will be no ACN 2005.

As most of you know, we had issues with the Town Inn last year that have made it an unacceptable venue for the con. However, finding a replacement hotel in metro Toronto hasn’t been easy, and even with the added help of some local volunteers (thanks Matt and Liz!), we haven’t yet managed to find a location that we think will work out well for us. The current currency exchange rate has made our hotel search even more difficult, given how many of the people attending the con come from the U.S. side of the border.

The good news is that we are still planning on having an Ambercon North in 2006, and we’re hoping that the added time will allow us to find a venue that we can all be happy with for years to come.

Our thanks to all of you who have supported ACN in the past. We’ll definitely miss seeing you all in Toronto this fall.

June 12, 2005: 10:31 pm: Game theory (or close enough)

Tucked into one of Ben Lehman’s recent posts about bricolage is this bit that I totally agree with:

And why am I opposed to [freeform] consensus, personally?

Not all consensus has to be like this, btw. This is just talking about the consensus games that I have played in, personally. I would love to hear anecdotes to the contrary, particularly with explanations of the social situation and techniques.

You know how everyone has this image in their head about how the game is going to go? People get really attached to those images. In the absence of systematic elements to tear them away from their initial conception, they will stick to it and fight tooth and nail.

I think that a lot of consensus gaming is devoted to allowing all the players to keep the illusion that they can get their whole story into the game. This can be done as long as nothing is really ever used; nothing happens in the game. Thus, the games tend to be a whole lot of nothing. If someone suggests that something dramatic happen — something that will redefine and change the game and its direction — everyone generally clamps down on that person: they are a threat to maintaining your own little story in your head!

The thing is that, universally, everyone is happier when stories have things that happen, and have resolution. The story in your head is not nearly as cool as the story that would come out in play.

This is a dead-on description of how things went in a pbem game I was in for a short time, and how things have apparently gone for the long months since I left. There’s no real conflict, nothing really ever happens, and the characters just talk around and around in circles. I, personally, don’t see how a total lack of story is fun.

June 2, 2005: 11:09 pm: Game theory (or close enough)

Vincent has an excellent new post up on his blog about immersion:

Some of you think that I’m saying or about to say something like this: “our intent focus on immersion has blinded us to other, just as fun ways to play.” And you’re already responding: “maybe so, Vincent, but immersion is my favorite, and those other ways to play may be just as much fun but I don’t like them as much.” Wrong!

See, that buys into the stupidbad false dichotomy. Let it go. What I’m really saying and about to say is this:

Our shared misunderstanding of what makes immersion happen has parched our experience. WE CAN HAVE IT ALL. Our big monkey brains are fully capable of having immersion and those other kinds of fun all at the same time.

I think this is a really important point. I know people whose main reason for gaming is to immerse themselves in their character, and I think they often buy into the idea that game systems usually interfere with that. I don’t think that it’s at all hard to see why they might have come to that conclusion, as dealing with the intricacies of some of the more popular (and complex) RPG systems, like D&D, Champions or GURPS, can all too easily pull you back to a place where you’re letting go of the character in order to deal with the numbers. That doesn’t mean that rules or dice need to get in the way of immersion though, it just means that some rules have a tendency to do so.

So, go read what Vincent has to say, and take the time to go through the comments too, as some good discussion seems to already be starting there.