It’s now been a week and a half since the end of The Black Road 2006, so I figured it was about time I got a con report posted. This was my first year as con chair, and things seemed to go pretty smoothly, so I was able to concentrate on enjoying the gaming.

Slot 1: On the Job
GM: Jack Gulick

A mysterious patient named Carl Corey (aka Corwin of Amber) has escaped from a private hospital, and it’s up to the local branch of InSpectres to figure out what happened.

The game was set in 1970, the same time as the events that start off Zelazny’s Amber series, so we skipped most of the dot com era business culture when setting up our franchise. The cast of characters included a retired secret agent (my PC), a former circus performer, an absent-minded professor, the professor’s niece/assistant, and a woman who was based on a character from a BBC spy show I’d never seen.

It was everyone’s first time playing InSpectres, and we had a fun time, but I don’t think it was quite what I was expecting from reading either the rules or actual play reports. No one ever actually used the confessional, and our game generally didn’t involve the level of player authorial control that I’d thought it would. Of course, I didn’t step up myself, and it’s not like I had a bad time, so I’m not actually complaining.

Slot 2: The Shab-al-Hiri Roach
GM: me

Ever since the first playtest reports appeared on The Forge, I’d been looking forward to The Shab-al-Hiri Roach. I bought my copy of the game as soon as it was released, and TBR was the first chance I had to play.

I had six players for this one (including myself), and though none of them had played The Roach before, all of them had played other indie games (such as Dogs, MLWM, PTA and The Mountain Witch). Character creation went smoothly enough, with half of the PCs ending up in the History department, and some of the characters started things out with relationships that promised some interesting scenes. We set a few boundaries (such as no non-consensual sex and no children appearing in any scene), and we were off.

Things started off a bit slowly, as we all got a feel for the rules, but having two of the characters get Roached with their first cards made it feel like we got right into the thick of things. This ended up being the sort of Roach game with plenty of drinking, debating and politicking, and not a lot of over-the-top bloodshed and overt horror. I didn’t think it was a problem, but I’ve gotten the impression from reading about other people’s games that only having one or two deaths is the exception. Instead there was a lot of talk of grants and position, one philandering husband (whose wife was another PC), and far too much subtext and golf talk. Because of time constraints we only played four of the six Events, but that seemed to be plenty for everyone, as having so many players meant we could get a lot of scenes into each Event.

The dice were cold for a couple of players (including me), and the cards didn’t help, so we were out of the running fairly early on in things, at least as far as winning went. Neither of us purposely took the Roach because of this, and in fact everyone in the game who ended up Roached did so because of a card. Both of the characters who were enslaved at the start of the first event managed to shed their Roach during the game, and they ended up with the two highest reputations. I guess it should come as no surprise that the best way to win is to Roach up early and then be fortunate enough to get rid of the Roach before the game ends. There was actually a possibility that the second place player could have overtaken the first place player during the last Event, but that would have required a conspiracy among all of the other players that didn’t really make sense for the characters, and we decided that would be a little too close to jerk-like play.

So, that was our game, light on details. I could go on and on about some of the fun things that happened during play, but instead I’ll just say that there were plenty of great moments and each and every player contributed to making them happen. I think The Shab-al-Hiri Roach is a real winner of a game, and I’m glad it lived up to my high expectations.

Slot 3: Dogs in the Vineyard
GM: Bryant Durrell

This was my second time playing Dogs in the Vineyard, and it definitely had a different tone than the other game had. This time around none of the three Watchdogs ever drew their gun (or any other weapon), but we managed to lose one Dog as a result of fallout from a ceremony and nearly lost another. Still, we saved the town from sin, as the King of Life intended, and Dogs is still quite awesome.

Slot 4: Soul of the City
GM: Carolyn Lachance

I’d played using the Nobilis system once before, at Ambercon North, in a game that was set in Amber. Soul of the City instead used the actual Nobilis setting, which is….well, confusing. There’s a lot going on, and I found much of it to be hard to absorb, both as my character and as a player. This meant that, despite Carolyn having done a fine job of explaining the mechanics of the game, I spent much of my time feeling rather lost and just tagging along with the players whose Nobilis experience meant they had a clue. I was left thinking that the setting might just be too overwhelming to be used effectively in a con setting where there are going to be Nobilis neophytes playing. Having said that, I also think that I didn’t do a very good job of being responsible for my own fun, and it wasn’t actually a bad way to spend a slot. I just made rather poor use of the interesting character that the GM had created for me.

Slot 5: Fortune’s Fool: The Ebony Hand
GM: me

There were pirates. Yar! There were zeppelins, which are always a good thing. There were mad scientists, talking gorillas, and lightning guns. There was much buckling of swashes. There was also a poorly used diceless system that the GM (meaning me) probably won’t use if he runs a sequel to this game next year. A couple of the players (Bryant and Jack) suggested trying Feng Shui instead, which strikes me as a good idea. Still, everyone seemed to have fun, and that’s the important thing.

So, that was my con. My thanks to everyone who helped out, whether they were on the con committee, ran a game, or just came and shared a good time with us.