I am sending this communications package all the way from Canada! (It’s Labour Day, a public holiday, and I am staying with friends, so catching up on a bit of business stuff whilst they are still asleep.)
So on Friday to Saturday, I was doing ILTC promo at Fan Expo (my second overseas con). Whereas GenCon is ALL about tabletop gaming, Fan Expo is more for all kinds of nerddom. There is a Gaming part of it, but it is mostly videogames. There was a board game room, and two (albeit, quite large) role play rooms. I will admit, I wasn’t feeling overwhelmingly confident about it beforehand: I only received confirmation of my games a week before flying (I am used to knowing this months in advance), it was a sign-up sheet based system like with small British gaming cons (and I was up against many established systems, and I know how that usually goes for the New Guy… usually with having to miss a game slot or two, and I had paid a lot of money to get there), my sign-up sheet was blank when I arrived and my games were not even listed as I Love the Corps in the brochure (instead they were listed by the scenario name, meaning the few who might have heard of it would not know to find me unless they came to the table).
FORTUNATELY, my expectations were smashed pretty quickly…
For this weekend, I was running my Pandora’s Box scenario… many, many times.
Game 1 (2-6)
So, I registered my worries that I had no players an hour before my game. Then, twenty minutes before… still no players. So, Kate, the organiser of the RPGs, got me to give her a game spiel, and she managed to get me two players very quickly. I assured them I could run a good game even with two, and it could involve the entire squad, as Friendlies only have predetermined static ability totals and never roll dice. They were intrigued by this, and deliberately picked the two ranking NCOs, Mag-Train and Laser. They not only RPed giving orders to the rest of the squad to make use of them, they even used ability totals to give them situational bonuses and increased their competence.
They were doing fantastically well, and I said so. And then ten minutes later, they got three of their four Friendlies killed in one single beat. Oops. Still, the game went down very well, despite a highly involved action scene (they player actions were really quick, but they had four Friendlies to coordinate, and I had a variety of Hostiles, so I was worried about the time it seemed to be taking). My worries were for nought, as the 4 hour game only took 3 hours, and I got to do the kind of action scene I have never done before, which felt more than a little X-Com. The two players were highly enthusiastic, and the guy said he’d send a friend who was coming on Saturday to play.
The early finish gave me a bit more time to chat with people before the next game, and I had quite a few people came over who seemed interested in the game after seeing me GM.
Game 2 (7-11)
The Game Room was RAMMED. I had a full group of six. I even had Kate come in to check that I could take six players (I always do, but their sign-up sheets only had 5 slots) and was aware of this way beforehand.
It was a pretty great game. It did took a little while for the some of the players to warm-up, but once they did, it was delightful chaos. They were very complimentary about the scenes and beats system. I had another GM play who seemed to be really into it. Things were going terrifyingly enough that he spent a Glory Point to dramatically edit the action scene so they could escape… meaning he ended the scene compromised and dying, and I still had an hour to go. It was the first time I got to use a contingency plan forever in place and never used in about the eight times I have run this game… as Missile got replaced… by the ‘other’ Missile…
Cue a fabulous ending where the marines escape onto an unknown planet, two of them died horribly, one turned on the others, one runs away and THEN dies and the other ends the game alone and totally lost…
Game 3 (11-1)
I was a bit concerned initially about being able to do a decent, satisfying run of Pandora’s Box in two hours. But then, I did a 3 hour game with 2 players and I had 3 players for the 2 hour slot… I warned the group at the start that the story might not finish, and to consider it a demo, which they were fine with. And managed to finish the story neatly in two hours after all.
The game was mostly narrative scene, and the players focused on learning as much of the story as they can, and the action scenes were brief blips of awesome in-between the beats of the narrative scene. There was another satisfied group and the resident lady was particularly interested and wanting to GM it for her gaming group. WOO!
Gaming by Storm (2-6)
Originally, I had 5 hours until my next game. I was saying to one of the volunteers about how the day time seemed quieter, presumably due to most people going to the exhibitions in the day and gaming in the evening. And then he said ‘oh, that’s why we have Gaming by Storm’….
So here’s how Gaming by Storm works. Four 1 hour game slots. A room swarming with GMs and empty tables. On the hour, the door opens and geeks swarm in. Like a carnival hawker, you see who you can entice to your table. Then, you run a game. On the hour, the bell rings. The gamers in the room either swap tables, or they leave. And then the doors open and more nerds flood in. Rinse and repeat till the four hours are over (you can GM only some of the slots, but I decided to do the whole hog, for more outreach).
I decided to just run my normal four hour version of Pandora’s Box, split into four segments. I think the other games had it easier. I had to explain an entirely new setting, ruleset AND ongoing storyline, with only an hour to do this and run a decent demo, losing a few minutes for player gathering time. I apologised for zooming through the explanations, but a lot of people told me I did it well.
I had 3 three player groups and 1 two player group. Realising I wasn’t going to need all six marines, the ones that were Friendlies got slowly bumped off over the games, leaving three of the six standing by the time the last three sat down. It was a particularly destructive run.
I was thanked multiple times for jumping in last minute. Apparently, they would have been turning people away without me. It was definitely a GMing challenge, but it was fun, and showed me how versatile ILTC is.
I don’t think it was everyone’s cup of tea (hard to tell in an hour), but a lot of business cards went out, so I consider that a success for the majority. One of the players even came back in the evening to play the full game…
Game 4 (7-11)
I had five players for this, including another GM, 3 people who had all been to GenCon (but hadn’t played the game then, but seemed to be really looking forward to it), the return player from earlier (who loved and chose the same character) and a guy actually in the military who (somewhat appropriately) took on the squad leader, Mag-Train Maddocks…
This game was just freakin’ epic. These guys did not mess around. They started an action scene whilst not in armour and took down three armoured enemies with their own weapons. The main action scene (when they had full Load-Outs) got a lot more brutal though, and even though they took down more of their enemy, there was a lot of injuries, and they ended Glory Pointing their way out, once they knew who they were up against…
It looked like an ending when all the players were going to survive. But then, the marine with the Merciful Defining Trait and Weakness decided it would be better for everyone to die…
In the final scene, we had one grunt Freaking Out, THREE Losing It (all of three who died, one from suicide and one killing the other), the Freaking Out marine murder the surviving Losing It marine for their own murder… and the Sergeant getting his arms blown off (neutralised and resistant, so surviving) to stop the suicide being mass euthanasia… a swift and brutal ending that ended with two survivors and an amazing line…
Suffice to say, it went well. Well enough that Kate had to split us up from our post-game enthusiastic ranting, cos she wanted to go home.
A stonking success. I had 27 players. That’s four MORE than Gen-Con. 18 hours of GMing, same as Gen-Con. Gave out 26 business cards… that wasn’t to every player (gave out some to interested people I ended up talking to them), but it was most of them. At Gen Con, I had only 2 female players across six games. At Fan Expo, with my four main games, I had 1-2 female players a game and I had at least one during Gaming by Storm. The organisers must have been pleased with me, since they seemed surprised that I wasn’t coming back on Sunday (admittedly they hadn’t given me any game slots. But then, they’d given me the four slots volunteers usually get… if I can go again, I will see if I can push to get more, since I am promoting.) They were even trying to persuade me to come to their dedicated gaming con in March.
Despite my worry at the sign-up sheet system, it was much better organised than my usual experience of it, and they really put in the effort to get me players. There was also an hour gap in between games, like at the UK Games Expo, and unlike Gen-Con, and so I found it to be much better organised. Gen-Con was still ace and that is my priority to get back to, but this trip was at least as successful, if not more, and didn’t bring me any of the initial stress Gen-Con did. Hopefully I will be able to do both next year. Soon we will see how things go when the books release.
My next cons will be on the smaller side.. CONCRETE COW, in Milton Keynes, in September, Spaghetti ConJunction (Birmingham) in October and to finish, Dragonmeet (London) cin December.
Commander Chris, signing off.