My brother, Omphalos, asked me to write a report about my experiences at GenCon this year, as there are quite a few gamers and other people interested in gaming on the site. Always happy to contribute to content on this site, I readily agreed.
I'm going to do this in fits and spurts, as that's how my faulty memory works.
The place where I spent a lot of time at the con was at the Forge booth. The Forge is a web site that is devoted to discussions of game design, mostly in the 'Indie' RPG scene (i.e. games that are not affiliated with a major game design house). These small, unique games are what I am most attracted to in the hobby, and I know a few of the designers who made games sold there.
The Forge is associated with Indie Press Revolutions They were offering 10-15 minute demos of the games sold there, generally run by the authors of the games themselves, so you could a) get a taste of what each game was like before buying, and b) see how it was intended to be run by the designer. This was a TON of fun, and I managed to get in a lot of them during the con. Here's a list of notable highlights.
- Sons of Liberty: A steampunk alternate history game about the American Revolution. "In defence of the troops at Valley Forge by British Zeppelin ParaAssault, John Adams dons his Clockwork Power Armor." Boo yah!
Zombie Cinema: An interesting hybrid of RPG, board game and card game from Finland. It's a very fast-paced game based on Romero zombie flicks, so most people interested in playing already know the tropes. This is a very satisfying, quick and altogether fun little game.
Spirit of the Century: I demoed this even though I already own it and have played extensive campaigns of it. Yes, it's that awesome. Two-fisted 1930's pulp action in a world where those born on the first day of the Century are imbued with mystical powers. It's like an old radio serial come to life. The demo was given by Leonard Balsera, one of the authors of the book, who made it come to life.
Spione: A story game about hard boiled spies in East Berlin from the 40s to the 70s. It uses ordinary playing cards in an interesting and so far unique method to dictate the outcome of conflicts. Also, you play both the spies and the handlers of the spies, on both sides. It was influenced by and had the feel of early Le Carre, specifically "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold." The demo was given by the Author, Ron Edwards, who also wrote Sorcerer, one of the first indie RPGs.
Dirty Secrets: Cops and Robbers with secrets to hide. It uses 'liar's dice' as the conflict resolution engine, complete with dice cups and bluffing. It's like the TV series 'The Shield', set in your own home town.
The Zantabulous Zorceror of Zo: Play your favorite characters from Fairy Tales! In this one, I played the protagonist from 'Where the Wild Things Are', complete with magic tiger suit. I had to help Fairy Princess Peach get her magic wand back from the mean old Dragon's cave on the other side of the Enchanted Forest! Oh no! It was run by the author, Chad Underkoffler, using his PDQ system.
I got the opportunity to play Lacuna in the GoD room, which I had been looking forward to for months. The game's central conceit is that some shadowy, evil corporation has discovered in a deep cave, a world that is comprised of the thoughs of every person in the world. If someone somewhere is thinking of something, it shows up in this world. The more people that think about it, the stronger its presence is.
The players are agents hired by the company to enter a trance state and plumb this world for secrets. Naturally, the corporation also has its own agenda that it doesn't share with its employees, who are frequently unwilling patsies in the shenanigans. The most interesting thing about this game is the 'heart rate' mechanic. Since you are really just a projected consciousness from an inert body, everything you do in the dream world increases your body's heart rate. As you roll dice (higher numbers winning), the results are added up and added to your heart rate. Yes, successes make your heart beat faster than failures, so you want to ration your conflicts. As an additional complication, once your heart rate hits an 'optimal' range of 100-120, you can throw in as many dice as you want to a conflict. This increases your chance fo success dramatically, but each die you add will also make your heart beat faster. Naturally, once your heart goes above 160 BPM, you start taking damage. Yikes. A blast!
After hours at GenCon, I got the opportunity to help playtest some new games that haven't hit the market yet. The notable entries are:
- Mythender: By Ryan Macklin. In the dark ages, the world is full of myths, legends and old gods. You are the mighty ones who kill them. Want to stab Thor in the face with a broadsword and steal Mjnolnir? This is the game for you!
Pirates of the Seven Skies: By Chad Underkoffler. Swashbuckling and piracy in a world where flying sky galleons fight for control of floating island nations! Boarding actions! Decks swamped with blood! All thousands of feet in the air in wooden sky ships!