Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Con Game Preparation IV: A Dirty World - Bucknell 13, Delaware 7

A Dirty World is the one Dollar original I'm running. I had actually had plans to run a second original design, a pulp era game, but frankly it was coming in a bit long to really run at a con, and I was hesitant to cut it down as just too perfect. So I'll torture my group with it at an unspecified future date. Let's just say Dinosaurs, World War II era Japanese super-soldier experiments, zombies, and chimera were just too much awesome for one four hour session. But that's a topic for another post or two. :)

A few weeks ago I reviewed A Dirty World, go read it if you need a refresher on what the game is like. The beauty of the one-roll engine, in any flavor I've seen, is that it's an easy game to teach. I taught it to my current group in the space of about ten minutes. This makes it basically ideal for a convention game, where time is at a premium, and one would rather not spend the first hour of a four hour block teaching game rules.

The biggest reason for creating a game for A Dirty World is that I truly love film noir. I've got a sizable collection of films from the era, as well as later films that really seem steeped in the atmospherics of it. The trouble is, I tend to let my id run wild in creating such games.

My first original scenario was a sordid tale in the depression era South involving white slavery, bigamy, murder, and blackmail. If Bucknell 13, Delaware 7 is any indication, I was just getting started.

It's an ambitious scenario. The players can interact with a good dozen and a half NPCs (though I suspect several of them the players may never meet directly, some of whom are red herrings, some of whom are vital to the plot, and all of whom are pretty much horribly messed up human beings. The PCs themselves are a mess. Every one of them is horribly flawed, most of them are pretty well despicable, and in some cases, the possibility of character conflict is almost inevitable.

In other words, it's one of my Dirty World games.

Con Game Preparation III: Darwin's World-The High Road to Hell.

Next Up, I'll talk about preparation for the High Road to Hell.

Darwin's World is a third-party campaign setting for d20 Modern, WotC's venerable, out of print Modern line using the OGL. Fortunately, while the d20 Modern print books are long since out of print (though they can still be had second hand rather readily), the Modern SRD is still available for the asking, and a nice PDF of the MSRD rules can be had free from Darwin's World's publisher, RPG Objects. Darwin's World is simply the best d20 post-apocalyptic setting out there, with a broad range of support, and a very plausible, post-nuclear setting.

The High Road to Hell is another published adventure. My responsibilities here have mainly extended to building serviceable pregenerated characters, drawing up maps, and getting things ready to run. I've still got a few maps to do, but that should be finished by tomorrow afternoon. High Road to Hell is basically a wilderness adventure where the PCs are attempting to catch up to and rescue some kidnapping victims while racing the clock to do it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Con Game Preparation II: Call of Cthulhu/Delta Green - The Last Equation

I actually started writing a one-shot for this one...and will finish it one day, but I decided instead to run the excellent short adventure for Delta Green, The Last Equation.

For those unfamiliar with Delta Green, it was a setting originally published about a year prior to the start of the X-Files. It basically takes UFO and Paranormal mythology in a different direction than X-Files, adds a revamped and updated for the present look at the Cthulhu Mythos, throws it in the blender with contemporary UFO and Paranormal mythologies, and hits frappe.

There are several elements that make a good Call of Cthulhu game. First, the menace needs to be one that can't easily be comprehended by the players. Second, it needs to have an ancient, murky origin. Third, there has to be a real, palpable sense that players can die from this threat, even if they do everything perfectly. The Last Equation fits these molds perfectly and like most great horror tales, the monster isn't half as dangerous to the characters as the characters themselves are.

My work on the game consisted mostly in generating pregenerated characters. I'm using the excellent HeroLab (with the Call of Cthulhu data files suitably modified for Delta Green), and generated 10 characters...out of those, the players will choose six. Due to a precondition of the game, there's a very likely chance some of these character may or may not be played based on the game instructions. Depending on the characters the players select, this could be a very different game.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Con Game Preparation I: Star Wars Saga Edition-The Betrayal of Darth Revan

Betrayal of Darth Revan is a game I've tried to get on the table for a couple of years now. It's a WotC RPGA module that was created for GenCon 2008 (timed to coincide with the release of the Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide for Saga Edition). For those familiar with the Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU), that is the novels, comics, video games, etc. set in the Star Wars universe, the module takes place not long before the start of 2002's Knights of the Old Republic video game and is a key part of an event that appears in a couple of cut scenes from the game.

It's a fabulous adventure that was released by the RPGA when they ended support for the Saga line. It combines a little of everything that makes the Old Republic era great in the first place, Jedi vs. Sith, lots of aliens, space battles, ground battles, the works. I've never run or played it before, but I've read it and can't wait to put it on the table.

The fortunate thing about this one is I've got very little prep to do. Print the maps, create my usual hints one-page to give neophytes a primer on the rules system, print the character sheets and the adventure text, and study the adventure in depth.

As for what led me to choose it? I figured, with the release of the MMO, that there might be renewed interest in the Old Republic era, and that this would be a good, easy to do tie-in to the game. It also acts as a pretty good overview of the system, and looks like a rollicking good time.

Con Game Preparation

After watching one of my long-running campaigns come to a screeching halt a couple of weeks ago, I've devoted the last two weekends to preparation of four one-shot adventures for the upcoming 2012 Phoenix Vul-Con.

Although I've certainly done it numerous times over the years, preparing for convention games is a unique experience. When I run games for my regular gaming groups, I've got a reasonable idea of what may fire up my players (though this can vary at times), and if nothing else, I can always ask.

Obviously, there is no feedback loop in time to do any good with a player group at a session. You can playtest it with your regular group (unless some of those folks want to play it at the con, but that's about it) for length, but even that is a different experience than it will be for first-time players who don't know you as a GM, in most cases won't know the game system, and likely don't even know each other.

So what does a conscientious GM do? In my case, I've created (or chosen, in the case of the couple of pre-made adventures I'm running) games that I think I can run successfully, and would enjoy playing in as a player.

In the coming days, I'll discuss the four adventures I'm running, and comments on each of them (spoiler free, of course), on why I chose them, and the things I think they bring to a con game.