Virtuacon is upon us! I felt a bit silly skipping out on a coworker’s baby shower because “I’d be at a virtual convention”. I guess it’s the current day geek’s equivalent of going on an intergalactic cruise in your office, but that doesn’t make it any less fun!
Jan and me held the tavern open, which was an easy job. Everything seemed to run a lot smoother than the previous (and first!) time around. I ran a small fox hunt which required us to make pictures like the one up there. We never finished the challenge, but it was a lot of fun anyway. There was also a very meaty pub quiz that sounded great. Of course we also played some games!
Andrea ran us a game of Silent Memories, a Dread hack/scenario filled with paranoia and uncertainty. You all wake up without memories in a tense situation and have to work together to get out. Actions will require jenga blocks and those will trigger memories for you. Memories that might make you realise the people you are working with are not your friends at all! Great fun!
I liked it better than Lacuna (which feels like a similar game) because you end up puzzling together your own identity and your relationships with the other characters. I started off fairly worried about the others’ physical well-being (figuring I might be the medic) but then I found sergeant’s dog tags in my pocket. That made me take charge of the team, which was fun! I was willing to sacrifice it all for my team, but of course we fell apart rather rapidly as things heated up. A tragic side note was that mine and Jonna’s character had a romantic relationships, but a third character was the only one who remembered it.
Andrea made two very smart changes to the game. She changed the jenga tower to a dice roll system to cater to online play. And she gave characters that died (it is Dread, after all) the option to come back as another encountered character. The bastards would usually pick our enemies, of course!
Monsters and other Childish Things
My second game was Monsters and Childish Things run by Shawn McCarthy. After all the nice things Jonna said about Shawn’s game last year, I really wanted to get into this one! Plus, his choice of game wasn’t bad either! We played it with Wouter on the RPGGeek meet and it was already fun and twisted there. It’d be great to see the ‘twisted-factor’ be turned up a notch by both the Candlewick Manor module and Shawn himself.
Greetings, children. Welcome to Candlewick Manor, your new home. Thanks to the generosity of Dr. Candlewick himself, you have been spared the privilege of being sent to work in the coal mines, and he assures me you will be well cared for here.
We created characters in advance. I rather like the character creation in this module, bear with me as I go into detail. You need to
- Some up with a very awkward multi-syllabled name
- Assign some stats to some obvious kids-skills
- Choose what makes your orphan so monstrous, and what kind of power it gives her
- and choose echoes: fragments of memory, sensory impressions, objects of fascination, or recurring motifs in an orphan’s life that can get called on and explored in play.
FEET 3 (locations 1-2) [P.E., Kicking, Dodging]
GUTS 3 (locations 3-6) [Wind, Courage 2, Wrestling]
HANDS 2 (locations 7-8) [Shop, Punching, Blocking]
BRAINS 4 (location 9) [Outthink 2, Remember 2, Notice 2]
FACE 3 (location 10) [Charm 2, Putdown, Connive 2]
Seraphina is a smart coward. Her right eye is milky white, blind, and kind of oozy. Through it she can see people’s emotions and mesmerize
The strong smell of cheap cologne – 3d
A murder of crows – 2d
Someone singing a lullaby while crying – 3d
Barefoot in the snow – 2d
And so we four entered Candlewick manor, a creepy gothic place with no end of subtle and less subtle horrors. It reminded me of Lemony Snicket, of course, but also of the excellent Locke and Key comic series. We ran into a few ambiguous adults that might be nice, might not be so nice. But the creepiness of the house soon took over and brought the horror.
We explored the house, developed a very child-like shared perception of reality focused on excursions, ponies, adventure and finding a place where we can finally be safe. We didn’t shy away from the abused children theme and a few of the scenes (‘getting a bedtime story’) were really poignant because of it.
The story was already great, but getting to use and expand upon your echoes was awesome. I didn’t really have any preconceived idea of where my echoes would go, but in game they found a place easily. The someone singing a lullaby while crying was my mom (who I suspected to have a drug addiction of some kind). The smell of cheap cologne was the scent of my step-dad as he went out for his weekly drinking bout where he would inevitably come back angry and abusive. Barefoot in the snow was the day the men in suits lifted me from the bed and took me away from my house forever without even letting me change.
Our game ended kind of open ended. Well, we like to think it did – we probably just died horribly and were made into soup. It definitely seemed the kind of game that would do really well in a short or medium length campaign. Such a shame this game wasn’t online!
I was a little bummed not to have a game on sunday. Fortunately for me, a lot of games had a little bit of player attrition, so with a bit of luck and patience you can easily jump into a game. Jan, Jason Hanks and me jumped into a game of The Strange run by William Nabors.
The Strange is a hack of Numenera and is like the Stargate/Delta green to Numenera’s Planescape. It works pretty well because you have more motivation to go and investigate these strange other worlds and artifacts. We started by investigating a hotel in a kind of mundane way, and ended up in Arden for a more magical fantasy time. I played the stereotypical quirky scientist only interested in physics and citations, which made for great comedy relief, and kind of useful as well.
I was on a panel!
Conventions mean panels, in the American tradition anyway. We were happy spectators last year, but this year Jan and me (eventually) agreed to join in! It’s kind of weird for us. I mean, you come to a convention to game, right? Not to listen to yourself talk about games.
But the panels were filling up with the usual panel people, and I suddenly felt it was more important to have actual RPGGeeks on, and not just super experts. And even more important to have women on so, you know, why not?
I talked on this panel about GM’ing techniques and tricks with a lot of scary professional people (and Cat Tobin, who is a non-scary professional person). It was pretty interesting!
In the meantime, Jan, Alex and Andrea did really well on a panel about Playing against type that was very fun to watch!
I ran a panel!!
Of course we had to have a panel to celebrate Jonna and Andrea’s achievement of playing 53+ games (and counting) in one year! I offered to run it. I wasn’t very stressed because it’d be just the two of us. We had a fun and relaxed girls chat where Jonna and Andrea happily went over the games they’re played and enjoyed. Pretty cool, it was short and sweet and the RPGGeeks enjoyed it
Secret post-virtuacon game
A bunch of us had taken the monday off to recover after the convention. It’s hard to go cold turkey, though, so we ended up in a game! Keith and Dave took us on an old school trip with Dungeon Crawl Classics. I don’t think I’ve ever played anything THAT old school. I mean, I got to disbelieve something! I also spent three rounds out of the fight because I couldn’t make my will save. And my dog died!
It was really fun to sit down, play a relaxed game and joke around after the con! This should totally be a tradition, you guys.