For me DM started with a stopover at Lemur’s house on the Friday, and boy was I disturbed to note the picture of geese in the spare room, worrying that he might be subconsciously brainwashing me into playing Mouseguard the following day. I need not have feared…
Train down was fine, tubes not as disrupted as you’d think, and McDonalds full of weirdos. Notably, those from Pompey who were here for DM! Entry in was quick and painless – whether this was better organised than previously I’m unsure as I was at the back, but everyone was in fairly sharpish, although numbers did seem a little down.
Not much time to do anything before the start of gaming, aside from getting abuse for not running anything off one delegate. It’s a fair cop – I’ve only run 18 con games this year – in my mind’s eye I cast my vision to the avuncular figures of Dorward and Mullen shaking their heads in kindly rebuke, and one day dream to attain their work rate. For now though, it was Duty & Honour with an edgy looking Mick Red. It was ably run though by our generous host and may even on this evidence now make it onto my list of things to run at Conception.
Top session, thanks to everyone involved. The ever keen Netski was horrified by early events during the raping and pillaging of Badajoz, and then more so when she realised the full implication of this precedent later in the session… Always good to see new players getting stuck in too. Purpledragonwitch seemed incapable of keeping her breasts fettered, much to the dismay of the French and our esteemed artificer was keen to remind Mick of the rules – even though he’d never played the game before. Although not used to player narration and was as far outside his comfort zone as Chi Chi on a roller coaster, a good effort came from that corner too (sorry, didn’t catch your forum moniker). Lemur did a top job as the officer and G2 was the inimitable pun-machine we’ve grown to love. I got to “have” my man and send him to his doom. Personal Mission: Success.
“Playing games with wine is good” – Sexy Lemur
“I’m not just going to bend over” / “This is the best moment of my life” – Netski
“See those D&D gamers? It looks like a $%&£ing Cadfael convention” – Mick the Red
“Beef Wellington” – G2 aka The Bull Brandy Bomber
The Trade Hall had everything I needed and I got to say hello to the Triple Ace Games mob. Would have been nice to see them running some punchy 2-hour Savage games in front of their stall. Maybe the Smart Party will make then an offer next time, if they haven’t got the dice to back it up. Chessex robbed me with their pretty things, Q Workshop had a massive stall of dice, but they’re all but incomprehensible so that even someone as easy to part from their cash as me was struggling to buy anything. The Hippies on the CE stall seemed to be doing well which is nice to see from home grown talent, and indeed the hall itself always seemed to have plenty of people in it.
While I went to sort some gamey business out I got the gang to sign me up for “something good”. The jury is still out on who made the final decision, but we got to try something different at least. We sat down for Corporation, and I think its fair to say the whole thing wasn’t our kind of game – but I’ll try to offer some suggestions of what I’d like to see, as opposed to what I got, so that there’s some possibility it might prove constructive for GMs of the future:
[*]Ideas you have as GM that you think are cool, the players may not. Don’t spend too much time describing lots of things in detail, when you’re getting blank looks.
[*]A briefing lasting 20 minutes isn’t a briefing, it’s a longing. A longing to get on with the game.
[*]Don’t stick religiously to your version of events and deny all reasonable attempts to do something different, edgy, or otherwise interesting.
[*]If you want players to get from point A to point B, don’t make this reliant on a skill roll. Then get the players to keep rolling until someone eventually passes. Especially when there’s a mechanic for getting rerolls, but you don’t bother with that.
[*]If someone makes a skill roll by a lot, don’t then palm them off with incomplete information or tell them virtually nothing.
[*]Don’t feel the need to describe things exclusively in metric dimensions at the expense of flavour.
[*]Having to spend 6 rounds running down a corridor to get to a baddie is really dull. Skip to the end.
[*]If the dénouement relies on recalibrating a laser rifle to bypass a force field, let the player with the laser rifle know he can do this. And that his sniper rifle is a laser rifle. And give the sniper the “sniper” mastery rather than a mastery in machine pistols and not letting him swap.
[*]Asking for a marching order when it makes no difference is silly. So is working out how far from the drop point everyone lands, when it has no impact on the game.
[*]Give players results of their actions, when they ask questions give complete answers, don’t make simple things hard work.
[*]Mysterious baddies who can’t be killed and disappear with no way of doing anything about it are gee-ay-why.
[*]Turning on the lights in a room shouldn’t be arduous.
[*]Long pauses looking wistful are for period costume dramas, not punchy futuristic games.
[*]If your players are acting a bit silly check they’re okay with the game etc.
[*]Have at least one comfort break in your game.
[*]If the players are *really* struggling to find out what to do next, skip to it. No one is having fun trying to work out what your one perfect solution is. Especially if this involves rolling the same skill repeatedly.
[*]Don’t have A1-Omega priority alerts that send PCs to their barracks to chill out for a bit.
[*]If the mission is going to involve messing around in the dark at least twice, give the PCs some way of seeing in the dark.
[*]Don’t blind your players with esoteric reference, after arcane device. Throw in some cool words and stuff, but keep it at least vaguely accessible.
[*]You’re not there to try and beat the players, or look smug when they’ve fallen for one of your plans, or keep them off balance by not telling them much. You’re there to bring the Win.
The game was not helped by being squashed in on the main floor, so it was really loud, people kept knocking into me on the way past and the ever insistent tanoy got really tired. Given that there were spare tables up stairs, and how spacious and much nicer it was downstairs, I’d like to see a better plan for game table distribution next time.
On the plus side, we did get to see the Rocket Dance (three different moves depending on calibre) and a couple of quotes into the bargain:
“I’m jacking off” – G2
“Goody goody gum drops” – Netski (when getting to use a nuke)
Regrettably I didn’t get any time to speak to a whole host of people I’d normally have done, including the hippies on the CE stand, the ex-KoK, and many many others, so apologies if I didn’t get to say hello. There were too many people I missed, but such is the nature of one-day cons. I really wanted to take a look at Umlaüt, did manage to get the last copies of Hellfrost in the country for my bezzie mate and somehow spend over thirty quid on dice I don’t need.
Afterwards there was some debriefing (in the conversational sense) with some fine Gentlemen in a nearby pub – most of which seemed to not consider moving outside London for cons, but we tried our best to convince them to broaden their horizons. I championed Furnace, as Elaine seemed more keen on promoting other people’s cons until she remembered who she was… Tales of IndiePete’s Mouseguard also made me wish I’d spent the afternoon up to my knees in War Goose [HONK], but you can’t have everything.
Overall, it was a Win, worth going for the day out, but over in a flash and you never get to do everything you want. Hopefully the organisers will take better care of the promotion for next year and we can see the numbers back to happier levels.