GenCon 1996

GenCon was another good time for me. I saw most every one of the people I wanted to see, did some serious gaming, both as GM and as player, and got caught up on all of the current game releases.

Running Events at GenCon
Or, the Ups and Downs of Being a GM

One of my pleasures is to run events at GenCon. However, the past few years has shown a marked decline in what might be considered “off” events: events for game systems that aren’t widely played and single session events in even popular gaming systems. The number of events seem the same but I wonder if the number of people playing card games is or isn’t affecting the RP gaming field.

Anyway, last year I was to run three events. One was cancelled when no one showed up, and the other two had poor preregistration and finally were run with generic tickets. This year I was only going to run two events: a Champions game based on Disney’s Gargoyles TV show, and a Mage: the Ascension game.

Champions: “The Power of Love”

The Champions game involved the old legend of the Queen of Faerie kidnapping a mortal and taking them to Faerie; if their lover could prevent it, the victim was free. Since Titania (and Oberon) is a character in the series, the mother of the wife of a major character, I thought it appropriate to use this. Titania took Fox, her daughter, plus the gargoyle Demona and MacBeth (yes, the historical individual: he and Demona are linked and cannot die except at each other’s hand). Fox’s true love, David Xanatos (Jonathan Frakes’ character, and he looks like Frakes), discovered that something was wrong when Fox appeared to him in a mirror pleading for help. The same happened to Goliath (the leader of the gargoyles and former lover of Demona) and detective Elisa Maza (MacBeth). They were the three who were considered the “true loves” even though all three had good reason to be doubtful of the connection.

The plot takes a sidetrip to Faerie, where they must obtain the Water of Vision from the scrying pool, in order to be able to see past the glamour that Oberon has placed around his court, as this is Midsummer and he is conducting a Royal Progress through Central Park, after watching a “Shakespeare in the Park” production of “The Tempest” starring a popular TV and Shakespearean actor. The quest actually involves three quests, for three of the other gargoyles, so they would get their share of the spotlight.

Once back in the mortal realm, the gargoyles and Elisa and Xanatos have to discover their true loves: the three Wierd Sisters have transformed them into hawks and are carrying them. In order to rescue them Goliath, Elisa, and Xanatos have to discover which hawk is the correct one, then capture and hold their true love through a series of shapechanges (three, actually). It is Oberon’s decree that no one should interfere but the Sisters have an old grudge against the gargoyles and try anyway. That will cost them, which is the whole reason Titania arranged the plot in the first place.

I had one person show up for the game, but that is hardly enough, so I cancelled it and spent the rest of Friday afternoon prowling the dealer’s room.

Mage: “To Serve and Protect”

The Mage game on Saturday started with 1 player, then two and three. The last to come said that the developer of Changeling was giving a cemonstration game and had over twenty people show up for six slots: I went over and announced my game and was able to fill out the six players I prepared for. Oh frabjuous day!

This event was based on a dream I had a couple of years ago, one Sunday evening after working too long at Marcon. It originally was a short story I had written about a gaming character I was developing and concerned Marcon’s GOH the next year, Katherine Kurtz. The character was a vampire who had studied hypnosis for most of her life and unlife and knew Milton Erickson: Katherine has studied Ericksonian hypnosis, so the character would have had an interest in meeting Katherine. Besides, there are some definite parallels between vampires in WW’s games and the Deryni, especially the period when the Deryni were hunted as demonspawn.

The scenario had six young mages, all from different traditions, collected together to protect a potential Celestial Chorus Mage, a writer named Caroline Knight: she had written several fantasy novels integrating Hermetic and Gnostic magick. However, it was suspected that other malevolent powers would try to recruit her.

The event went well, as the players got into character very fast. One went around a monastery (the mustering place) and tried to find someone to seduce for the night, while another raided the kitchen and tried to create tacos (without much success: he had to OD on black pepper as that was the only pepper he could find.)

The next day they went to the con and explored. One of the red herrings was a Changeling Unseelie Pooka: he turned into an Irish Setter, which was causing the Cult of Ecstacy mage fits because she was allergic to dogs. Another was a Changeling Unseelie Sidhe, who practiced the art of Ravaging (stealing the glamour from mortals: it has serious side effects on the victims) and was there to suck up as much glamour as she could from the filkers. One of the red herrings they didn’t see was the vampire character who had started the whole scenario rolling in my mind two years ago, alas.

The real threat was a pair of Marauders, a woman who wanted to re-establish the Mythic Age and thought a writer of medieval fantasies who was a potential Mage (not to mention a former member of the SCA) would be able to help her out, and her companion, Matthew Jittlov, the Wizard of Space and Time! (A slight parody and homage to Mike Jittlov.) At the end, they tried “blinking” out with Caroline but were prevented at the last moment by one of the players: the Paradox backlash caused a huge explosion of air that was written off as a gas main explosion which forced the con to shut down. Caroline was protected and the players won. And a good time was had by all.

Highlander LARP

Unfortunately that wasn’t the case of the live action game I participated in that night. Note I said participated in, not played in. I really can’t say I played in it because I did very little playing of a character.

This was to be a live action game based on the Highlander TV / movie series. The players picked either Immortals, Watchers, or Hunters. Random groups were brought to a desert island and told to find the Millenium Crystals by a disembodied voice that called itself “Kalis”. If we found him the crystals we would be allowed to leave.

The people running this game ran a spy game at the Safehouse last year. The game system used “Rationale Cards” that players could use to explain a wayout of a situation. One card bought something obvious like a bullet proof vest; two cards bought something unexpected, like a flesh-colored vest (from when the GM remarked that the light jacket couldn’t conceal a standard vest); and a third card got something outrageous (at the Safehouse game, if anyone wanted to use a third card, they had to preface their description with the words “Would you believe…?”

I only had the chance to use one card, when I noticed an insane mercenary with a machine gun hiding behind the curtain. I was deciding whether to flee or attack him when he pushed aside the curtain and shot at me. It took one card to rewrite the scene so that I pushed aside the curtain first and pushed the gun aside. Then another player swung a machette at the gunman and he fled. BTW: all Immortals had to spend 2 cards out of their original hand of 10 just to be Immortal; I could have spent 2 cards right then and become Immortal, too, but I decided against it. I also had a couple of other cards (from the Highlander CCG) that I could have played but I didn’t think to.

Anyway, the game had a lot of problems. To start with, they had at least double (if not more) the number of people they could handle. Secondly they had little space in which to run the game. Thirdly, people were thrown together with no justification to staying together, so people were wandering around the playing area almost at random, which made it hard for the GMs to do much
of anything. Finally after two hours (I think they realized that the whole thing was a mess and stopped it early) they pulled a deux ex machina to finish the game.

About the only fun I had was in discovering I could approximate a good Scottish / Irish accent, so much so that I had people asking me to repeat myself.

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