IndieCon is a new and slowly growing little convention right in the south of England, ostensibly catering to small press publishers, but open to anyone and any game really – although the emphasis is on new games, independent concerns and trying different things. Sometimes using Jenga or magnetic fish as a resolution mechanic…

It was a cold and rainy night when I took the AK express to IndieCon, ill winds cutting the slatey skies. The powers of fickle fate meant that our journey took twice as long as the Oracle Google predicted, but Friday evening (with the March 2010 issue if his magazine put to bed) Kenners and I rocked up at Naish to find a convention site sparsely populated compared to Conception, but all the better for it. We caught up with a few people and marvelled at the monkey-toed ability of Indie Pete to use rubberised feet to move blocks in Jenga and I brought the trash talk as requested. Commiserations to sausage-fingers for knocking the tower over.

It appeared that a good time was being had so far at the Con and we looked at the mass of already filled sign-up sheets and wondered what on earth we’d play or run. There was a massive collection of things from the unheard of, to more familiar and cutting edge, to distinctly trad. I’d turned up distinctly hippy and unprepared as it seemed appropriate, but was itching for a plan and structure. Seeing little available I put up a Savage Pirates game for the afternoon, made sure I was in D&H for the evening and in the morning stumbled blindly into a Hyperlite game.

Although I feel a cad for saying it, I must be honest and reveal that the morning session was not really for me. It was great to meet the urbane and extremely pleasant Tim from Sceaptune games, who was very welcoming, knew his stuff and did his best to ensure everyone was involved and having fun. Regrettably I found the game to lack pace (for me) and was frustrated by the mechanics, as the rules didn’t allow for Called Shots, Going Wild, or other things I now come to expect being a Savage Worlds monkey. Maybe I’ve been spoiled? Well worth speaking to Tim though and trying out his games for yourself, while I’m glad I tried it (that’s what the Con is all about right?), not one for me unfortunately. Never-the-less there were definitely some highlights, not least of which being the sergeant’s (Dunc’s) embracing of my blame on the hapless Dupree, who turned out to be the cause of (literally) all the world’s problems.

The afternoon game of Savage and the latest instalment of Tight Purse Harvey saw me back in more comfortable territory. It was amusing to see Captain Harvey’s reaction to Old Pete (played by Indie Pete – life imitates art) trying to usurp his position. The session got lost in the middle, with an unscheduled stop at a convent to hang all the nuns and cut their hearts out, we got got back on track after the Mother Superior informed Pete that they weren’t interested, thanks all the same, and a Fast, Furious, Fun session was had. Everyone got involved with memorable moments for all characters including treachery, garlic sausage, dancing monkeys and a zombie parrot. Hats off to the players and Tick VG.

That evening the abnormally vocal Mick Red served up his Duty & Honour game. I’ve been wanting to try this for some time and figured someone who’d got a military background and isn’t backward about coming forward was the way to go. I was given the commanding officer and had to try and keep in line an increasingly boisterous and slovenly unit who liked nothing better than to steal, gamble and wench, even under the very noses of the French Hussars. I think the system worked fine, with just a note to ensure narration is not over-done before you see the result of the cards, just to keep things clipping along. Duelling worked well, personal agendas dropping in a not wholey dissimilar way to Hot War (which is a Good Thing) and there was a nice array of things going on. I’d personally go a bit trad if I ran it for any length of time, and have a GM making up the main missions and leaving the challenges a surprise to be revealed as the story progressed, although no doubt the dirty hippies disagree, I’m sure it could work either way.

Mick ran a solid and enjoyable game, everyone got involved and Kudos to the fine roleplaying from; Indie Pete who eventually bent to my will, Jake de Milio who just wouldn’t obey orders (or shut up), salt of the earth, man of the people Cryptkeeper, throat slitter Elaine and last but by no means least, it was a genuine joy to see the wonder and excitement in first-timer Jeanette as the game progressed – only started playing this weekend? Awesome. First gaming experience at a hippy con, got to love it. Tick VG.

We played Munchhausen in the evening after the game and shortly after the oxygen-starved Jeanette was ousted as French I was in the fortunate position of being able to second a minion in the unmasking of the clearly garlic-reeking Elaine. Her cries of this being unfair are obviously the lies of a desperate spy! Interpretive dance, singing, poetry, this was truly a dirty left-field hippy indie con.

Sunday morning I’d decided to run Delta Green using the Hot War (http://www.contestedground.co.uk/) engine. BRP is such a nothing system, I’ve tried Unknown Armies which was fine until intra-character conflict comes off, but HW seems built to handle everything conspiracy-based Cthulhu is all about. While ignoring all my own advice about being comfortable with a system and testing out your scenarios, I hit the ground running with an untested game (backup scenario in the bag) and the very first run of the game system at a Con. But then again, this is IndieCon. Damn hippies wouldn’t notice…

I was fortunate enough to have two people in the game who new HW well and so the session fairly clipped along. In the first half an hour or so I was suffering from the all-too prevalent Cthulhu GM affliction of drip feeding info. Then I remembered the advice from the book and started pushing thing out, harder and harder, rubbing agendas in people’s faces. This worked a treat, the game really took off and before you knew it the players were roleplaying to the hilt and 15 minutes didn’t go by without someone staring open mouthed or saying to another player WTF? It paced out well and led to satisfying conclusion. Good content from all the players again and thanks to the inimitable Mr Dorward for helping out on the odd rule interpretation or suggestion. Tick VG.

Bravely (foolishly?) I ran the scenario again straight after – this time for people with little or no contact to the system – or even play style of PVP. I’m going to have to contemplate this one as I think I may have been Weak. The second scenario came out of the bag as the first one ended with Mick Red putting a Black & Decker through someone’s skull and another character was wondering which leg to shoot himself in to convince the guv’nor they’d been in a fire fight when a lie got out of control. There were some genuinely cool moments and seeing Mick in moral anguish is always pleasing… ;)

Think I might have dropped the ball on this one, so apologies to the players if they felt a bit left at sea or unsure what to do. Flushed with success from the morning it seemed a simple game to run, but that was with people who had buy-in to help out those who hadn’t played this way before. I tried to offer up some advice and examples but might not have been strong enough to explain with clarity. Its my first go at hippy stuff though, so I’ll reflect on both games and work out what I can do better. Similarly, I’ll probably write up the DG/HW combo at some point and see what lessons can be learned there. Scott and I pondered a Runequest Hot War game with humour, so keep your eyes peeled for that too… :O

There was some genuinely great moments in the double bill though, so thanks to the players for bearing with me and giving it a shot, with any luck they got something out of it too.

In the evening most people seemed to be off, with the most popular game being “go to cubicle 7’s chalet and watch Doctor Who”. Hardcore until the death though, Mr Dorward was running an Unknown Armies and I got my name down. Worrying stuff as always, I did feel a little lost a couple of times, but all the players stepped up and got into it. I almost, almost managed to send Kenners insane by slitting my own throat (2% away from success), but in the end all I got was the sweet release of death. I think we agreed that the UA system can fall down in PVP a little, but on the whole it didn’t detract from the session too much. Masterfully run as always by Scott, with a fantastic hair-raising opening sequence and very ably played by a good set of players who embraced the characters. Thanks to everyone involved Kenners, Dave and Jon? Sorry if I got that wrong, I’m crap with names and frazzled after a great weekend! Tick VG.

Over all Indie Con was well worth the arduous trek. Karen (Mrs Organiser) was the pinnacle of calm assurance, helpfulness and pleasantry, and of course the usual Conception helpers who’s stepped up were equally full or good humour, eagerness to help and agreeable conversation. It was like Conception in many ways, but a lot more spacious and laid back. A few more people and games will help build this convention, but I wouldn’t want it to grow too much if that makes sense? Events like this and Furnace are were its at for good gaming in my opinion.

I’m struggling to think of things that didn’t really work for me. Games might be an issue. I turned up late on Friday, so I can’t complain about there not being too much to do on the Saturday for me, but Sunday seemed really sparse, with very few people stepping up and some shamefully departing after just one slot, even though they lived within an hour of the venue. Real life gets in the way, but for those at the con, it would be nice to see more on offer.

Traders were good and varied. Raffle giving away lots of free stuff was cool, even if I didn’t win anything, it was worth it for Stokémon getting Omnifray Lite, which I know he’s desired for some time. It was a little odd at this time that while Organiser Chris was trying to promote the game and give kudos for improving it, the designer piped up seemingly insistent that the game was definitely not improved, just different? Odd sales tactic there…

Good convention – I’d like to go back. Not sure about making it to both this and Conception every year though, especially with Continuum being next year too. I’d definitely recommend this for the indie-curious and also recommend and encourage others to take along whatever game they’ve got and like and feel comfortable running as there’s only so much hippy one man can take, and breaking it up with something more traditional every now and then is a Good Thing.

Well done to the organisers, thanks to my GM’s, applause to my players (and apologies if something didn’t quite sing for you), tearful salute to the helpers and delightful assistants. A friendly and accessible con, full of good quality people and games. What more do you want? Apart from go-go girls.

Tick VG.

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