And so my giant Origins 2015 debrief. For whatever reason it’s been tough to find the time to just sit down and type all this up, so it’s almost 2 weeks late. Needless to say, I had a pretty amazing time. Much like last year I spent all my time around Games on Demand, except this year I was able to run a couple games, which was pretty great.
I got in Wednesday afternoon and took some time to get my badge and get settled in. Mostly just killed time in preparation for ALL THE GAMING I WAS ABOUT TO DO.
Thursday morning I ran/facilitated a game of Durance. This was my 3rd time playing (2nd time facilitating). I definitely feel like I’m getting the hang of it. I tried to push people to ask direct, evocative questions and though it was tough at times it was definitely worth it in the end. Ended up being a pretty brutal session with plenty of deaths. And through the course of the game there were 3 different Governers! But by the end things felt a little more stable for the colony. Here’s hoping.
In the afternoon I got to play in Cartel, a game-in-progress by Mark Diaz Truman. A Powered by the Apocalypse game that centers around being in a Mexican cartel. It was pretty amazing. Mark did some really awesome info dump at the top of the session to give some context to the real-world situation of Mexican government and the cartels. It was pretty fascinating. The playbooks were all really compelling and the moves really informed the world a lot. I’m really excited to see how the game turns out.
For the evening slot I decided I didn’t really want to facilitate Durance twice in the same day, so I marked it off my Games on Demand menu leaving Misspent Youth, which is one of my favorite games to play. I’ve had a hard time getting a lot of interest in it at con games, but luckily I was able to attract 3 people, which suited me just fine! The Authority was a megacorp security firm sort of place. Like Blackwater or something. The Youthful Offenders were part of an underground newspaper collective. The session went pretty well. We were able to create the Authority, Youthful Offenders, and play through all 7 scenes in around 7 scenes. The highlight, for me, was getting them real pissed off about some over-the-top corporal punishment, so the YOs marched down to deal with the teacher that was doling it out. I called for the conflict with an objective of the YOs killing the teacher that was punishing another student. They kinda took a step back realizing how nasty the situation could be come. It was a great moment.
Friday morning started off with Masks of the Mummy Kings, a new game by Nathan Paoletta. It’s a game about Sword & Sorcery tomb robbing. Takes a lot of inspiration from Epidiah Ravichol’s Swords Without Master. So if you’re a fan of that at all, you’ll almost certainly enjoy Masks of the Mummy Kings. The main mechanic is that each character is wearing a two-part mask. Each mask gives different abilities and helps determine how you’ll interact with the world. Gameplay is almost entirely narrative. To have any sort of narrative control you have to have action tokens, which you mostly earn by describing your character “slipping and failing”, i.e. trying and failing to accomplish anything. So, describe your character being in danger and failing and you’ll get action tokens which you can then use to have a real effect on the world. There’s mechanics for switching masks and getting treasure and all that good stuff, of course. Really a lot of fun and a good way to stretch your creative muscles.
Friday afternoon was Night’s Black Agents, which was described to me as Jason Bourne fights vampires. Kinda hard to say no to that pitch. It was also my first time ever trying out a Gumshoe system. There were definitely some things I enjoyed, especially some abstracted mechanics like preparedness, which would let you roll for stuff after the fact. Or connections which you could use to create an asset of some sort to use. But, overall, it just didn’t do a whole lot for me. I feel like maybe there was some more stuff under the hood that I wasn’t really seeing, but it’s hard to say for sure. I think one thing that was weird was that on the one hand failure didn’t really have a lot of teeth. There didn’t seem to be any real consequence other than “nope, you don’t get what you were going after.” But on the other hand, failure usually wasn’t a total road block. So failure could keep things moving, but there didn’t really feel like there was any real consequence to failing. And, without being more familiar with the game, I don’t know if that was just the style of the GM or how the game is designed to operate.
Friday night I got into a re-skinned/hacked version of Kagematsu. So, instead of taking place in Japan it took place in Regency-era England. Kagematsu is something I’ve been wanting to play for a while, so I’m really happy I finally got to play in it. And I feel like it was easier for me to get into this setting than the default. So, instead of a Ronin coming to a village that women in the village are trying to get to protect it’s a well-to-do rakish young lord that ladies are trying to get to marry. I really liked the reskinned affection/desperation moves compared to the original. They really fit the setting and definitely pushed play in a specific direction.
Saturday morning I played a game called Mesopotamians. The blurb said the players were all undead Sumerian gods that had been resurrected in current times and have now formed a rock band. It’s pretty hard to pass up on a premise like that. It turns out it’s based entirely on the song The Mesopotamians by They Might Be Giants. It was a very silly, very light game. It was written as part of a game design contest to write a 2-page game based on a song and is available as part of the Indie Mixtape: Volume 1. The mechanics were fun which were based around a set of 4 dice (originally d6s) that could be traded out with dice that players have. Then in the end have to be spend on 4 effects: 3 goals that are in play (ours were defeating the sorceress that raised us from the dead, making money, and getting worshipers) and whatever a specific conflict was about.
In the afternoon I played in 2 different LARPs: The Tribunal, and Damned Love. The Tribunal is inspired a bit by the prisoner’s dilemma. The set up is being in a hardcore militaristic regime. Two soldiers are being accused of stealing bread and all the players know they didn’t do it. But if they’re convicted, they’re killed. And the players are soon to be questioned, one at a time. Do you lie and say you know something you don’t to save them? Point the finger at someone else? It’s really interesting. All the characters are named after animals, and share a number of traits with their name sake. I had the misfortune of being Private Peacock who likes to be the center of attention. I almost asked for a replacement character, because being the center of attention is 100% not in my wheel house. But I saw it as a challenge so I went for it. I could definitely have done better (especially since my voice was failing), but a few people said they liked the way I portrayed Peacock, so I’ll take it. I’d definitely like to play again. I’d love to get my head around some of the other characters.
Damned Love, which most of you have seen me talk about a little bit is a 3-player LARP about consent, love, and rejection. This one is going to get its own post (coming soon). Short version is I absolutely loved it and it was definitely the most intense game I’ve ever been a part of.
After Damned Love I wasn’t sure if I was up for actually playing another game, but one of the games offered in the evening slot was Laser Kittens. I figured that’d be nice and light, so I gave it a shot. The premise is.. you guessed it, you’re all kittens. And in this world kittens all have laser eyes with special abilities that they have some, but very little, control over. The premise and set up was fun. The game itself wasn’t terribly fulfilling. Mechanics were all based around cards. Black cards being good, red being bad. There’s some scene-setting building which didn’t seem terribly necessary, but they were going for a gm-less/gm-full game. I think taking turns setting scenes would have been just as good. Overall it was cute and silly and kinda fun, but not terribly fulfilling.
For the last official game slot of Origins I got into a game of Polaris, which has been something I’ve been wanting to try for a while. It’s kind of intimidating. I’ve read the game and parts of it are a little obtuse and it was hard to picture how all the pieces would fit together in an actual game. Luckily, the guy that facilitated the game had a really awesome procedure for introducing the game, getting our heads in the right space for it, and introducing mechanics at a measured space. Mechanics are almost completely ritual phrases that you use to negotiate what happens in the story. Very occasionally a die comes out for one reason or another. It’s a game with a very definite tragic arc for the characters, which is a huge draw for me. As well as the rituals of play, which I always find really fun and fascinating. I’m really, really glad I got to play this finally. It would be really awesome to play a short campaign of it and see what continued play looks like.
All told I participated in every single official Games on Demand Slot, plus one after-Origins game, for 11 slots total. 2 of those I ran a game in, so I played in 9 slots. One slot included 2 games, so that works out to 10 games actually played (the 10th game was Zombie Cinema, which I’ve played enough of I didn’t bother writing anything up about it), 9 of which I had never played in before. Not bad at all!
Also, I spent a little time in the vendor hall, but didn’t buy anything. I mostly used it as an excuse to walk a bit and kill time.
When I go to a con, I GO TO GAME.