Convention Report: DC Game Day 2009

trexDC Game Day V was held October 24th and 25th, and Geek’s Dream Girl and I were there. It was a bit different than the game conventions I usually go to: it was held in a section of an office building in downtown DC, and it was 4 sessions of RPGs (2 per day). No open gaming, no pick-up games- it was all scheduled ahead of time.

We were there both days, having made sure to be ready when sign-ups opened to grab the games we really wanted (and even then, ended up having to scramble to pick other games.) Here’s what we played, and a short write-up of each.

Time & Temp: Miss Him, Miss Him, Miss Him

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One of the games that immediately grabbed my eye was Time & Temp, a new (and as far as I can tell, still unreleased) time travel RPG by the creator of Dread. Those two things were enough to hook me right there: I love time travel, and I love the rules of Dread. Then the only available session by the time I got to it was run by Kevin “Piratecat” Kulp (ENWorld Moderator, MC of the last two Ennie Awards, and most importantly, poster of one of the most awesome session recaps of his campaign) which sealed the deal for sure.

The concept behind Time & Temp is that you work for a corporation that runs trips back in time. However, important people disturb the flow of time, so they only send back the least important people they can: Temps. Before the game, we were asked to fill out our “resume” as character creation. I came up with an incompetent software engineer obsessed with the movie Hackers who was recruited out of time right before the dot-com boom. E came up with a musician that turned out to be too good to be a temp, so she changed her concept to street musician.

The system was neat, though more “gamey” than you might expect after character generation is so simple, since you begin to fill out a sudoku-like grid of numbers that you’ve rolled during the course of the game. Place your numbers well, and you get temporal harmonies that allow you to pull “Bill & Ted”-style time travel feats (“I’ll just go back and leave the keys here!”) Roll or place poorly, paradox happens and the universe begins to unravel. If this happens enough, everybody loses. (We were only one unlucky roll away from this happening.)

The scenario, adapted from an older time travel RPG, involved a menial task to retrieve a Commodore 64 cooling fan from Radio Shack… which then proved difficult when the party found out that World War 3 had broken out due to time paradox. The solution, which involved The Beatles, drugs, and more time travel, leading me to declare it to be Andy Looney’s ideal game.

I really enjoyed it, though going into it I was predisposed to liking it. The scenario was fun, the GM was great (he used all of his various British accents), and the other players were fun (one PC was Dr. Zaius from Planet of the Apes, leading to a lot of hilarity and brachiation.) I enjoyed the system, though I could see it being streamlined a bit, as some of the paradox mechanics never came up. Also more examples would help, like it wasn’t always clear what the difference between “setting an effect” and “setting the effort” was. Generally, though, if you’re OK with playing Jenga to resolve things during your RPG, you’re going to be OK with messing with a grid of numbers.

Deadlands (Savage Worlds): Trouble at Table Rock

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Post Con Carolinas, I’ve been having a hankering for some more Savage Worlds, and it’s been a long while since I’ve played anything Western. Thus we registered for a Deadlands scenario run by Matthew Cutter (brand manager for Deadlands at PEG), and chose our pregen characters. I was Dr. August Chillingsworth, Scientist Extraordinaire, and E was Carrie Bellweather, the Rodeo Queen.

After a short recap of the Savage Worlds rules, we were off, getting the group posse together to investigate a group of cattle being killed by strange beasts. After being ambushed by some banditos (and having a conversation with them where I got to use most of my character’s hindrances), we followed the trail into Table Rock, and some botched rolls convinced us that it was “injuns” and not strange, terrible lizards, even after seeing evidence to the contrary. The finale? We fought a T-Rex (and one of our party members turned out to be a vengeance-seeking zombie), so what more could you ask for?

I continue to enjoy Savage Worlds for convention games and am impressed by its versatility in genres and situations. However, I still have the feeling that I probably wouldn’t want to play it in a long term campaign. I also formulated my own theory of one-shots: if it’s important on the character sheet, it should probably come up during the game. I was happy I got to show off and play each of my character’s mental disadvantages, but disappointed that I did not get to perform any acts of Mad Science.

D&D 4e: The Caprian Foreign Legion Goes to Tea

Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition Logo

Did I mention that Piratecat writes epic recaps of his 4e campaign? Yeah, so getting into one of his 4e games was my top priority.

Thanks to the awesomeness that is driving into DC, we were late both days, and so by the time we arrived everyone had already claimed characters. Fortunately, the two left fit us quite well (and were both Rogues.) I grabbed “Tusker”, a half-orc ruthless ruffian rogue (a build I would probably never play myself) and E grabbed a Goblin Rogue who was multiclassed into Druid who could shapeshift into a giant rat.

The scenario cast us all as members of a forgotten military unit, the first RPG game I have played that used the “French Foreign Legion” trope, which seems obvious to use in retrospect. As you might expect, we were unlikely heroes cast into a situation that only we could handle in our own special way.

I’m hoping that if you read this blog you know about the 4e system by now, but what I enjoyed here was a 4e adventure being run as a convention one-shot (and not part of a delve, living game, campaign, etc.) Each of the characters had connections and opinions of each other, as well as roleplaying advice. This is definitely a technique I plan to use when I start running some 4e games at conventions… and would love to see used more often.

Lady Blackbird: Adventures in the Wild Blue Yonder

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This we jumped into knowing almost nothing about it. And I know it’s based on an existing system, but I couldn’t tell you what it was! What I can tell you is that the adventure is downloadable for free and it’s a steampunky/science fiction adventure featuring a cast of colorful characters. I played the captain of the good ship Owl, E played a stowaway on the ship.

After taking on a mysterious passenger, the Owl was captured by a ship that bore some semblance to an Imperial Star Destroyer. We worked on the classic breakout to get back to the ship and escape, with some game mechanic-induced flashbacks all the while.

The style of the game was definitively “story game”, with Tom “Madwabbit” serving more as a facilitator then GM, and making sure that everyone was getting their spotlight time. I had fun, though I thought more control of story could have been given over to the players, despite there being at least one player who was clearly in a more “D&D-style” mindset for playing. I believe the adventure is only the first in an upcoming series, so I look forward to playing the next installment… I like playing the Captain!

Lessons Learned

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  • It IS possible to attend an RPG convention and play all games with primarily people I don’t know and not have any bad games or bad GMs!
  • Be sure to check with the GM at a convention game to make sure he or she is cool with Twittering during the game or other similar activities that might take your attention away. It might work for some groups, but be distracting for others.
  • When I play a one-shot game with pre-generated characters, I want to use everything important on my character sheet during the course of the game.
  • It’s never a good idea to drive to DC, no matter what time of day it is.
  • People who I like online I tend to like in person, and people who I dislike online I tend to dislike in person.
  • According to a TPS report filed, Shia LeBouf is part ape.
  • DC Game Day is a lot of fun, and I look forward to going again next year.
About Dave

Dave "The Game" Chalker is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Critical Hits. Since 2005, he has been bringing readers game news and advice, as well as editing nearly everything published here. He is the designer of the Origins Award-winning Get Bit!, a freelance designer and developer, son of a science fiction author, and a Master of Arts. He lives in MD with e, the Geek's Dream Girl.

Comments

  1. I had fun meeting you and getting to play with you both – for me the best part of gamedays are meeting new people and getting to hang out with old friends!

  2. Lisa, it was great meeting and playing with you too, even though you did shoot Dr. Chillingsworth in the back! :)

  3. Baha Baydar says:

    (pedantry)The C64 didn’t have any cooling fans.(/pedantry)

    Nice write up otherwise. Sounds like some really interesting and fun games.

  4. Heh, maybe in the alternate timeline we were in, they needed cooling fans.

  5. Heh, well, I admit I was shocked when three hours into the game I found out I was actually DEAD and wanted my party dead too…

    ():-)

  6. Great report, jealous that you got to play with Piratecat. Curious about what that little memo with the rudimentary manners training was from.

  7. Invite me up next time, Dave!

  8. “When I play a one-shot game with pre-generated characters, I want to use everything important on my character sheet during the course of the game.”

    This is so smart, and makes so much sense, I can’t believe I’ve never heard anyone say this before.

    I’m totally stealing your theory for use in my future dungeon delves.

    (And I’m finally checking out Savage Worlds, thanks to this post, because people have been telling me for years that I should play it.)

  9. Lady Blackbird’s system is a mashup of several story game systems, but it’s its own thing. It’s a standalone system-plus-scenario. The author, John Harper, has a couple of other similar standalone modules free on his website.

  10. Noumenon: It was from Time & Temp. We got incident reports when things went wrong in the past.

    Wil: Steal away! I’m hoping to use that to write some more tips for putting together one shot games. And Savage Worlds is a total steal for $9.99, and highly recommend jumping into a game of it at the next gaming con you’re at.

    Selene: Thanks for that. I know our GM put together a 6th character for the game, so I’ll have to find out what system he did that in.

  11. Caesar Slaad says:

    I’m trying to place which player at Lady Blackbird was “too D&D”, and wondering self consciously if that was me. (eep.) Well, in the case it was, I’ll say “don’t judge me”. Harumph.

    Re: “if it’s important on the character sheet, it should probably come up during the game.” The thing to be cautious about as a con/gameday GM is that you don’t REQUIRE something that only that character that nobody decided to play can use (or that the player of said character fails to do.) There certainly should be opportunities for all characters to strut their stuff.

  12. As the GM for the Lady Blackbird game that Dave played in, I threw in a sixth character in order to get more people a chance to play, as the game-in-the-box (so to speak) called for only five. My character creation used the stuff that John Harper threw into the LB PDF as expansion material, and was more or less created by extrapolating from how the other five characters were created.

    In re: allowing more player options to create and run wild, sure, as that’s exactly what LB is all about. I felt that this particular session was running into some creative blockage, which may or may not have been a wrong analysis on my part, or was likely because it was the last session of an incredibly high energy-packed weekend in which we were all kinda exhausted. ;)

  13. Always Metro into DC. Pretty much everywhere downtown is within walking distance of a station, and the outlying stations generally are easy to park at on a weekend. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually driven in the District.

    I’m bummed I didn’t make it to GameDay. My group ended up scheduling our monthly D&D game for the same weekend.
    .-= Lugh´s last blog ..“The Lost Symbol” Review =-.

  14. I’m a little late to the table about commenting on this — but let me just say that it was a delight having you and GDG in my games. You poor SOB, you suffered the indignity of me running Time & Temp for the first time. Even so, I had a tremendous amount of fun and learned enough that it now runs quite a bit smoother. Same thing for the 4e one-shot; I’ve polished a skill-challenge-based flying carpet chase for the end that turns out to work fairly well.

    In any event, thanks for both the great fun and the kind words.

    – Kevin