On Saturday, I went to the first convention of 2018 for me, Spaghetti ConJunction. Rather than a full fledged thing with trade floors and what have you, this is more of an RPG day. It was set up twice last year. It’s in Birmingham, my home and in (what I consider) walking distance, and it’s at Geek Retreat, where I run monthly promotional games, so it’s a not a thing I am going to miss.
Whereas the last one in October 2017 was very quiet, and Jan 2017 was pretty busy, this January’s was even busier. There were about 50 players! When I saw them, I was very hopeful of getting some new faces for Psychic Cactus Games.
So, when I came to Spaghetti Conjunction last year, I came as an indie designer with an almost released game wanting to promote. It didn’t go quite as planned, since I only got one game out of the four I offered (though the one game I got to run was fantastic, allowed me to introduce two new players to the game, and I got to play in three different games of incredibly high calibre).
So on Saturday I turned up as an indie game designer with a recently released game (I Love the Corps and a game which I am preparing for Kickstarter development (Is It a Plane!?)… but, I wasn’t really coming expecting to get to do that.
I was coming with fun over promotion in mind… fortunately I got both!
AM Game- Is It a Plane!?
For those who do not know about it yet, it’s a comic book RPG where you draw (in a very limited, time sensitive manner) in place of dice rolls to dictate what your Protagonist’s actions are. The GM (having being given only limited verbal cues from roleplay before action began) then has to interpret what *they* think is going on in the story (as can players who either have an Out of Action character, or want to have their character bow out for story reasons), so they can have greater control over what happens next.
This was a big thing for me, since this is only the second time I have taken IIAP to a convention, after running a taster at ConPulsion last year. Much development has occurred since then, and whereas that was a 2 hour session, this was a 4 hour slot. However, the only pregen oneshot I had ready was the one I designed for 2 hours.
I kept with the main story, “The Christmas Crisis.” But where in the original run of the game, I started with describing a Christmas scene, and then the villain appeared on the monitor and telling the players there were bombs in their presents, ready to detonate if the heroes left the HQ, (so the villains could rampage on Christmas Day stealing what they wanted), this time, I played it differently. I let them draw panels for their Christmas prep, let them do a front cover which had a flaming tree (and cued them to take actions to put that detail in the game), and though the villain monologued, he just told them he had left them presents. This allowed for a lower build to the game, let the players investigate and then let them have more control over what was a more detailed story. Because of this, it was determined that the villains had already made their thefts, and the game when in a much more appropriate 2 issue arc direction, as we had the classic ‘find the villain’s HQ and have a showdown.”
I should also mention that the heroes, villains and settings were all based on concepts the 3 and 4 years olds I used to work with as a nursery worker came up with…
* Accidentally detonated a series of bombs when the character with laser beams eyes decided to burn a hole into a present to take a look at what Christmas presents their arch-nemesis had left them…
* Added a story element where Father Christmas has been tied to a railway track… even though the trains weren’t running. (Christmas Day.)
* Showed that a superhero sentient lorry (Super Lorry) might own his own toy shop for merchandising purposes.
* Proved that said sentient lorry was energy efficient and battery powered in order to teach the children about caring for the environment
* Tracked the villains to their lair by the trail of glitter they left behind from stealing Christmas decorations.
* Dictated that the villain’s lair had a really obvious label on the side dictating that it was not a villainous lair.
* Decided that the local volcano I had set up to be the possible villainous lair location was not only that (the building being on the slope), but made it a very sad, living volcano, via the medium of drawing a sad face. Cue Mount Sadness, the volcano that erupts if it gets extremely upset.
* Turned Super Lorry falling from great heights into a continual theme, along with continually using panels to Make Things Worse (only to then save the day, in true super hero style).
* Bricks turning himself into an armoured suit around a villain, in order to weaponise his Super Fish-Breath.
* Keeping a character Out of Action for several Pages just to be… DRAMATIC!
* Replacing the ability to create weapons with the ability to create Christmas cheer after a dramatic revival, replacement (box) head and spur of the moment conversion to Christianity….
* Adding the element that the army of Rampaging Evil Toys had a “Good to Evil” switch… and which allowed me to keep turning it back to Evil till the players stopped me…
* The identity crisis of Bricks as he was forcibly turned invisible and believed he was being removed from existence… until another hero accidentally running up him (after turning into steps) caused him to realise his solidity, and then use the invisibility to his advantage.
* They taught a sad volcano the meaning of Christmas and brought it joy and presents (after setting the Evil Toy army permanently to Good.)
* They deliberately let the Master Villain get away.
PM- I Love the Corps “Collision”
In the afternoon I ran a mission I have been running at some cons for about 2 years now, Collision.
It’s a bit of a weird one. Sometimes it is massively exploratory with high psych damage and little combat. Sometimes very high combat, sometimes very low. Sometimes no-one dies, mostly a few people die. I have very much designed the game to be modular based on how the players want to play the game, as their abilities shape a scene, and they get a limited amount of totals. This was definitely the case here.
This version was high exploratory and psychological, where the action game once and right at the end (as the players were too busy building a story that left their characters as out of intel and completely unprepared as possible) and everyone died. Everyone.
Normally, the game proper opens with the marines in their dropship bay as another cruiser collides with it, tearing through the bay and wiping out most of the infantry before their eyes… but because they were wasting valuable time in-character, they were stuck in the hyper-lift when this happened…
This created a different story to usual runs. I was rather happy with it, though.
* The power cut out, so the lift plunges… saved by Boomerang’s (the engineer’s) Grease Monkey total to find the emergency stop.
*Cue Caber (the medic) already Losing It in the first beat of the first scene, convinced that opening the lift would expose them to vacuum (as they knew that something had impacted the ship, but were out of comm range of the bridge without power, and utterly lacking intel). The lift shaft was fine.
* When the Friendly scout opens the airlock out of the lift shaft… to discover that area *is* exposed to vacuum. However, this was only because a player dramatic edited that way with a Glory Point, in order to force the story in the direction they wanted to go… which I made pretty clear was the hard way…
* The triumph of Caber as he finds he was right after all (kinda), saves the scout just in time, and snaps out of his moment of trauma.
* The long (and until the dramatic editing, unnecessary) climb up the lift shaft, as the continued idiocy of the electronics expert, Shiv, continues to drive the Sergeant towards madness… (trying to use the welding torch of an engineering kit in zero-g as a booster, rather just use his Freakin’ Ninja to climb up… I do let players try what they want to try… doesn’t mean they have a chance in hell of succeeding if it’s needlessly ridiculous)… inflicting psychological damage on other marines via repeated incompetence!
* Several examples of this continued until the offending marine blew off his own hand…
* Turns out that Shiv is a Dupe (android) and the Sarge, who hates him already, hates androids, and starts Losing It..
* Cue Caber getting in the way of the Sarge nearly taking an action that could turn off the Dupe permanently.
* The hand-exploding incident is all the idea of the sniper, Bayonet, asking for a ‘distraction’, as they have decided they would rather sneak ahead down the pitch black, utterly silent corridor, empty of personnel (all killed in the dropship bay), all by herself, whilst having no idea what has happened to the ship…. Of course she was ordered to the back, being a sniper…
* Due to the mayhem caused by Shiv, Bayonet and Ax (the scour) head off (which the scout was of course ordered to), the Sarge then being assuaged by the medic to calm down and head on whilst the medic holds onto the electronics guy, the squad gets very much dramatically split up, travelling half a mile long corridor, lit only by helmet lights, heading into a totally unknown situation (they were attempting to reach the power core to restore power, which was just in the next ship section.)
* Bayonet is taught the hard way that being the long range weapons expert and so far ahead of the others that they are out of sight is really bad when you’re at the airlock to the next section, watch it forced opens, and swarms of tiny robotic aliens swarm through the small gap.
* The realisation that the officers quarters doors are all locked since the officers are all dead, there’s no power and absolutely no cover from an alien so small that it is mostly hidden by darkness… resulting in a Glory Point for there to be a door that malfunctions and doesn’t close properly. Bayonet grabs the scout and hauls them inside…. of course, due to the Glory Point, the door doesn’t close, and the Hostiles are verrry small.
* Bayonet seal foams the door… against Hostiles that have since been seen drilling their way out of formerly human bodies. As they drill through the foam. Cue the first two horrible deaths of the game as the swarm floods into the room.
* The Sarge has been barrelling down the corridor, since Bayonet and Ax have been screaming down their comms, but other than yelling about ‘spiders’ has pretty much nothing to do on… and being a Friendly (no dice rolls) and Sentry Duty zero… runs right into the Hostile. Horrible flesh drilling death number 3.
* Meanwhile, Caber tries to hurl himself down the corridor in zero-g. Shiv is helping propel them both along, adding additional momentum… until he decides he wants to stop on top of Boomerang’s first planted turret… escaping the medic’s grip, as he continues down the corridor with nothing to stop him…
* Shiv continues to make things worse by doing things his character sucks at or actions that are ridiculously hard and have high penalties as he hooks up a power source he made designed to power a bomb he never built to power the turret, which wrecks it. As the engineer stares in abject horror.
* Shiv finally realises that his actions have effectively doomed everyone, and so starts malfunctioning (Losing It) and attempts to kill himself… and in theme, continually fails to do. Then he decides he is going to try and save everyone… opposing his trauma, this gives him a greater penalty, so he fails that to…
* Boomerang sets up his two turrets, as the three ‘dead’ marines walk into sight… covered in robotic spiders, converting their bodies into organic factories to create more converters. The turrets fire.. but confusing friend and foe as the same, they keep stopping and starting, firing, but not enough to damage enough of the dozens of creatures attached to each former marine.
* The Dupe floats into the turret range of fire by accident and is ripped to shreds.
* As the carpet of his enemies approach, the engineer detonates the contact mines on his back… classic.
* The one man, gigantic armour-clad bullet that is Caber sails over a crowd of converted people, spewing converters out of their mouths up at him, as he deflects them with his mag-shield, heroically sailing over them, sailing down a crawl tunnel, as his visor and chest plate grind against it, sparks flying everywhere as he screams.. and then gravity hits as he enters a ship section with functional artificial gravity…
* He was tough enough to possibly survive… but no. The medic’s player decided to Glory Point to simply dictate his manner of death… into a giant fan.
I had three players for “Is It a Plane!?” and four for ILTC. None of my IIAP players had played any of my games before, and only one of them did I know. Two of them left me their e-mails for further information about the game.
For ILTC, had two new players (one who I knew a little) and two regulars who play my games at GR. Both new players left their e-mails (I have offered to give discount codes for the PDFs/books for those who play at conventions.)
This is definitely a positive start to the year. I still have a long way to go before sales for ILTC become notable, but I just have to keep plugging and hope it will spread.