Monday, 28 February 2011

d101 Con

I've just returned from the d101 "convention" in Matlock, Derbyshire. It's not really a con in any meaningful sense, just a group of people renting out a cottage to do some gaming for a weekend. It was a pretty enjoyable weekend away, and it seems to have been popular enough with those who could attend that we may do it again next year, possibly renting out a second cottage to allow a larger group of players. My thanks go to Newt Newport for arranging it, but my main purpose for posting here is to ruminate on the games we played.

We started off with Action Castle, which, is basically a fun party game for those old enough to remember 1980s computer RPGs. This means we are all now "King of Action Castle"! Cool...

Being too tired from travelling to do anything more taxing on the Friday evening, we kicked off the RPing proper on Saturday morning with Savage Worlds. I've played this once before, but the game is a flexible one not tied to any particular genre, so it's not surprising that the experience was very different. That time, the setting was the old Captain Scarlet TV series, but this time it was a rather more serious sci-fi setting, with distinct Travelleresque overtones. I gather that d101 is planning to release this as a more formal setting at some point, possibly using the easy-to-obtain Savage Worlds license. The setting was a crumbling interstellar empire, with various different factions vying for control, including mad cyborgs and sinister telepaths.

Because the Captain Scarlet game obviously used characters from the TV series, those were all pre-gens, but this time we all made our own characters up on the day. Considering that few of us had any experience with character generation in this system, this seemed a remarkably quick and painless process, which suggests that Savage Worlds would be a good system for use at conventions where you don't want pre-gens. In general, its a pretty simple system, and plays quickly, and has fairly straightforward mechanics, perhaps with something of an emphasis on pulp style excitement. Here for example, is the character I came up with:

Lady Corinia

Agility: d6                    Guts d4                        Psionic Background d8
Strength: d4               Healing d6                  Psionic Resistance d4
Vigour: d4                    Investigation d8
Smarts: d8                   Notice d6
Spirit: d8                      Shooting d4

Psionic Powers: Obscure, Stun, Pyrokinesis
Edges: Mentalist, Rich, Alertness
Drawbacks: All Thumbs

Weapons: Engraved laser derringer (carried in handbag)

...which was enough to give me a reasonable overview of the character, without over-complicating things, or making it seem all overly generalised and simplistic.

In the afternoon, time for a game of HeroQuest, using the Call of Cthulhu setting. Obviously, I'm very familiar with both the system and the setting, although I've never seen the two used together before. In this instance, it seemed to work very well, with, for example, lingering penalties being used to reflect the inevitable loss of sanity that accrues as one continues investigating. The scenario, created by Newt, had the wonderfully appropriate title of "Normal for Norfolk" (unfortunately, if you're not British, the meaning of this reference may not be obvious). Since it was set in the 1970s, and the PCs were all members of the Flying Squad, the inspiration we ended up using was, perhaps, inevitable... Our characters were perhaps, not entirely serious, and we never really got to the end of the scenario, but I won't give out any more details, in case d101 should choose to publish it some day. At any rate, this was my character:

DC Bob Bawdsey

Drive Like a Lunatic  18       Boozing                 13
Shooters              13       Hate Scroats            13
Ignore Procedure      18       Plant Evidence          13
Streetwise            13       Blag Way Out of Trouble 15  
Boxing                13       Look Hard               4M

The actions of our DS (another PC) perhaps got a bit too extreme towards the end, but, being a con game, that was easy enough for me to ignore.

On the Sunday, there was only time for a single game of Burning Wheel, using the introductory scenario from the rulebook. Burning Wheel was once recommended to me (I won't say by who) as a flexible, rules lite, modern system with plenty of options for different ways of resolving things. Most of that seems true, but what would make anyone think it's "rules lite" is beyond me. Indeed, in an age where RPGs seem to be getting simpler, it has to be one of the more complex new systems on the market - although there are plenty of older ones of similar complexity. It's fun enough to play in, especially as a one-off, and it does seem to be very good at describing characters and fleshing them out, but its way too complex and detailed for me to want to ever GM it. I've run a version of GURPS in the past, but that was stripped down so far, that I consider it an entirely new system. Still, even that was more than I'd be happy with today, so while I have no doubt that Burning Wheel is very good at what it does, as a GM, it's not my cup of tea.

But, as a player, I had no problem with it, and it seemed to work fairly smoothly. I certainly had fun with the pre-gen character, who was a somewhat snooty and sinister sorceress. The scenario worked well, and it was an enjoyable game. I'm certainly glad to have tried it, and I wouldn't object to playing it again - so long as I don't have to run it!

The rest of the time was spent relaxing, chatting, watching old movies, etc. making it all a pretty enjoyable weekend, mostly with gamers that I haven't played with much before. Since this was a d101 event, I'll also add a brief update on Book of Glorious Joy: about two thirds of the interior artwork is in (and more came in over the weekend), all of which looks pretty cool. Things are stepping up, and I don't think its going to be too much longer now.

On similar lines, there should be further updates to my unofficial Jonatela material soon - the next one is quite large, which is why its taken longer than usual for it to appear. And, for my ponderings on mammalian biology, there's Synapsida, which has been updated fairly regularly of late. I'm not fully happy with all of the latest posts there, but its something I'm learning as I go along, and I think its getting better.

Just possibly, most likely if I can get something to run put together, I might attend Concrete Cow 11, but no promises there. As for cons later in the year... well, we'll see.