Last weekend it was once more unto the breach for a Strategicon convention, and once more I had an uber-fun time! The con was Gateway 2014, and I was really looking forward to a little get-away with friends, games, and more games.
I generally get to the conventions in time for the first gaming slot on Friday afternoon, leave after the first slot on Monday morning, and don’t play on Saturday nights or anything that starts after midnight… so this leaves me a grand total of eight slots at every convention to fill with gaming goodness (two on Friday, two on Saturday, three on Sunday, and one on Monday).
Recently, I’ve been running my games on both Friday and Monday to sort of “book-end” the weekend (and give me a chance to play in other people’s games on Saturday and Sunday), but we had decided to leave earlier than usual on Monday, so I only slotted myself for Friday. Instead of filling all the remaining seven slots, I only signed up for five other games… and then one of those got rescheduled to a time when I couldn’t make it; and then I bowed out of one because I was exhausted, so I basically ran one game and played in three.
These are their stories. <Law> Dun Dunn </and Order>
Note: there may be spoilers below for some of the games I played in. Be careful if you are a regular Strategicon attendee and might play them in the future!
This post was just too short to cut into two, so it is a bit long. Here is a simple “Table of Contents” if you want to click to specific games.
- Some Bunny Needs You (Friday 2pm-6pm, GURPS: Bunnies & Burrows)
- Blood Feud (Saturday 9am-1pm, Vampire: the Masquerade)
- The Rediscovered Country (Saturday 2pm-6pm, Crimson Skies)
- City of Stars (Sunday 9am-1pm, Savage Worlds)
- Some Bunny Needs You, Redux (Sunday 2pm-6pm, GURPS: Bunnies & Burrows)
Some Bunny Needs You
Slot: Friday, 2pm – 6pm
Dice mechanic: 3d6, roll below target number
I am a huge fan of Watership Down, both the book and the animated movie, and I am also a huge fan of the Bunnies & Burrows RPG, inspired by the same, one of the first non-D&D games from way back. Many years ago, I think around ’97, I was fortunate enough to play in a B&B game run by Steffan O’Sullivan, the fine fellow who wrote the GURPS: Bunnies & Burrows adaptation for 3rd Edition (and who also created and released freely to the internet the Fudge RPG, eventually giving us the joy of Fate Core). He was completely charming, graciously autographed my book, and ran a wonderful version of the adventure “The Herbmaster’s Plea,” from the back of GURPS: Bunnies & Burrows.
So when I was trying to decide what to run for this con (on the last day of registration, a few hours before deadline!), I thought that adventure would be great fun– and it was. And such a great table, too!
The players and their characters were:
- Brighteyes, Hoplite diplomat of great wisdom (Gina)
- Ripper, Hoplite skirmisher of great toughness (Lisa — complete with flashing bunny ears!)
- Sage, Hoplite healer of great skill (Bill)
- Oakroot, Owsla defender of great strength (JiB)
- Clover, Owsla defender of great agility (Dave)
- Lightning, Owsla defender of great speed (Tyler)
I was delighted to find that at least one player had never played GURPS before, which always makes the game that much more awesome to run. Originally envisioned as a four-player game, I was glad I brought enough pre-gens for six, since that’s how many players I corralled.
We were in one of the main RPG rooms, “D” I think, but it was still so early that there were only two or three other games going on at the same time.
In “The Herbmaster’s Plea,” an older Maverick rabbit named Rosin finds himself caught in a farmer’s trap, and he pays a nearby blackbird (with berries, of course!) to fly away and tell the first rabbits he sees of his plight. Those first rabbits are the PCs, and they (usually) set off on an adventure to find the farm and rescue Rosin. It is a very well-written adventure: it lays out the area, points of interest, and possible encounters/enemies along the way, but doesn’t lay down rules for what will happen, when. It just explains where things are and what kinds of things the NPCs might do, then lets the GM and the players experience the story from that.
The very first encounter set the tone of the game when Oakroot, confronted with a hawk circling overhead and then diving to attack, refused to scamper away and instead chose to fight back. He juked left, the hawk swooped right and crashed into the ground. Oakroot jumped on a wing and bit into it, quickly followed by the other bunnies, and before the hawk could even wrap its tiny brain around what was happening, it had been defeated and killed. The other birds in the nearby trees began to chatter excitedly among themselves, particularly after Oakroot took the hawk’s skull and wore it as a helmet for the rest of the game.
Ah, players. I do love the surprises they throw. 🙂
After that was a fox the rabbits evaded, and then a large pack of mongooses. Between the tale of the group’s victory over the hawk already reaching them, and Brighteyes pulling off some kung-fu epic diplomacy, not only did the mongooses agree to grant the bunnies safe passage through the woods — they actually carried them on their backs to the edge of the farm!
The PCs unleashed chaos on that farm, outsmarting the dog, sending the chickens into a frenzy, and even rendering the farmer’s young daughter unconscious (this is the herbalist’s “Does this root smell like chlorophorm to you?” maneuver).
The bunnies returned to their burrow with the now-rescued Rosin, a huge cache of truffles, and the glory of all their conquests. No doubt, tales would be told of their grand adventure for generations to come!
This was a marvelous start to the weekend, and all the players seemed to enjoy themselves as much as I did (which was a lot).
EDIT: I just realized, I have this awesome game recap written by “Clover”! Thanks, Dave!
I wasn’t able to take the night off before the con, so I had basically stayed awake all day Thursday to finish prepping the game, got 4 hours of sleep, worked the overnight shift, then headed straight to the hotel and ran my game. Needless to say, once “Some Bunny Needs You” was over I was absolutely exhausted, so I removed my name from the game I had pre-regged for (“The Legacy of Oleander Falls”) and passed out for the night.
Slot: Saturday, 9am – 1pm
System: Vampire: the Masquerade
My Character: Lucius (Nosferatu vampire)
GM: Louis, from the always-awesome Dead Gamers Society
Dice mechanic: d10 dice pool, roll high
Saturday started off with a bang with this game set in White Wolf’s original World of Darkness. This is the third game in this ongoing series I have played Lucius in, and it’s been very cool to have a sort of campaign going on from con to con with the same character (without the weight of “official” conformity I sometimes feel in other persistent con games).
We spent a bit at the beginning quickly making (or remaking, in my case) our own characters, and eventually settled on the following vamps:
- Lucius, Nosferatu (me)
- Tessa, Brujah (Kaitlyn)
- Mikael, Gangrel (Kevin)
The three of us formed a coterie of fringe-dwelling Camarilla, invited to a meeting by the leader of the Sabbat vampires in San Francisco. We agreed to find an old compatriot of his, and to present him with a gift from a sealed steamer trunk, in exchange for a better feeding ground in the city and the protection of the Sabbat. There was creeping through old graveyards, breaking into mausoleums, some combat, and the surprise of what was in the trunk (turned out — the head and staked torso of the current Camarilla Prince of the city! Oopsie!)
I always have a good time at Dead Gamers Society games generally, and at Louis’s table specifically. At first I thought having only three players total would feel a little “light,” but it was actually kind of nice to have such a small, tight-knit party. Looking forward to the next chapter at OrcCon 2015!
I think we were in room “B” this time, but there were ‘only’ four or five other games going on. It got a bit loud at times and hard to hear the GM, but overall it was adequate. Grabbed a quick hot dog lunch and headed for…
The Rediscovered Country (Crimson Skies)
I admit it… sometimes, I just don’t take very good notes of a game, often because I’m distracted by The Fun (or a passing squirrel). This was one of those times, so while I remember that the other players included Mike (I think? A different Mike, not the GM) and Gina as the pilot and tail-gunner of their own independent plane, and Morgan and Jim as my fellow members of the Hollywood Knights air crew, I don’t remember their character’s names.
There were daring dogfights, frantic fisticuffs, and murky mysteries aplenty as we adventured our way through the speakeasies and skyscrapers of New York City. Fun group, great GM, and the perfect system for this kind of cinematic, by-the-seat-of-your-pants story, Fate Core’s Atomic Robo. (Hell, I even got a free comic book! Looks like a great series.)
The Crimson Skies universe is an entertaining and interesting one, full of airships, battles in the skies, and over-the-top villainy of all stripes. For years and years, I knew it only through the PC game (which is one of my absolute favorite flight sims, behind only the X-Wing franchise)… then, one day, I discovered there were books, and games, and maps, and miniatures, and all sorts of crazy stuff! I must explore further.
Yet again, room “D,” but this time it was full. And hot, and muggy. And… aromatic (and not just because of the one scofflaw in a herd of 70+ people vaping at the next table). The game was great, but the environment made it really, really challenging to stay focused.
After the game, a stank-cleansing neti pot, and a bit of dinner, I got together with one of my monthly gaming groups in a private room, a pirate-y Pathfinder game GMed by JiB, and we happily whiled away a few hours in port. I may have been more tired than I thought, though, as at one point I blinked too long and opened my eyes to complete silence and every other player (a rogue’s crew you would be jealous of) staring at me with amusement and pity. Sorry, guys! 🙂
City of Stars
Ooh, two steam-/dieselpunk games in two days!
Had yet another great table (I’m getting spoiled!), though I didn’t write down character names again. As I recall, we had:
- A dashing and brave Major (Anthony)
- A curious and compassionate Staff Sergeant (Katie)
- A tough and loyal Sergeant (me)
- A skilled and curious Doctor (Bill)
- A cryptic and bold Political Officer (Lisa)
- A mysterious and brave Indigenous Alien (Michael)
We were an airship crew on Mars, protecting the interests of Her Majesty by keeping the supply of star metal flowing and the other colonies out of our affairs. After a string of mechanical sabotage and local wildlife attacks at an important mining outpost, we were sent to investigate the problems and put an end to them. Many airship battles, rocket packs, tribal elders, giant drakes, and shifty glances later, we discovered the mine contained an entire hidden city, and that the local alien population had a lot more going on than we thought!
Or, I should say, that’s what “they” discovered. My character never did figure out the truth about what was going on, but being told by the Major that it was important to keep it secret was enough for Hugh to aid and abet the crew’s misrepresentation of the facts to the Crown. Another game that could easily continue to a fun sequel!
The game included a lot of background music, setting-specific ambient noises, sound effects and such, so we were able to play in one of the smaller rooms upstairs, all to ourselves, and it was glorious. Even once the Sunday morning organ music and singing from one of the local church groups began just a few doors down, it was still better than the loud, hot, feta-smelling rooms packed to SRO downstairs.
Originally, I had a game scheduled for Sunday at 2pm (Louis’s “Beltaine Tales”), but that game had been rescheduled for Saturday night, so I had nowhere to be. During a break from “City of Stars,” Katie had asked if I were running “Some Bunny Needs You” again that weekend because she’s a huge fan of the setting, and her friend really enjoyed the game on Friday. I said I could run it again at 2pm, but doubted we’d be able to get a full table at such short notice.
Three minutes and a few texts later, she had already lined up a full table! This included three players who had already played it on Friday, which was very flattering. Ultimately, Bill and Lisa gave up their seats to two others who hadn’t played it yet — thanks, you guys! That was very cool of you!
Some Bunny Needs You, Redux
Slot: Sunday, 2pm – 6pm
Dice mechanic: 3d6, roll below target number
I was excited that so many players wanted in on this game, and I had just as much fun as the first time.
Characters and their players this time around were:
- Brighteyes, Hoplite diplomat of great wisdom (Katie)
- Ripper, Hoplite skirmisher of great toughness (Kurt)
- Sage, Hoplite healer of great skill (Erin)
- Oakroot, Owsla defender of great strength (Tyler)
- Clover, Owsla defender of great agility (Joe)
- Lightning, Owsla defender of great speed (Michael)
The game began much the same way, and this time the group even chose to avoid the hawk at the clearing rather than confront it. This led me to believe these bunnies were a little less blood-mad and homicidal.
I was so wrong.
They hopped into the woods to get to the farm and avoided the fox living there, much as the first group had (though their bunny theories on how foxes “only ever travel West and cannot turn around” were fantastic), but there was a small snag when Ripper addressed the leader of the mongooses. “What deal can we make for your assistance, mongooses? For there is an injured rabbit caught in a trap at the farm, and we must–“.
Even as he realized his slip of the tongue, all the mongooses froze as one, cocked their heads… and immediately bolted for the farm and a tasty, wounded bunny. Now it was a foot race! The mongooses did get to the outskirts of the farm a bit ahead of the PCs, but luckily were too cowardly to get close because of the dog tied to the doghouse in the center. The bunnies mustered their courage, found the tool shed where the trapped rabbit had been taken, and were busting him out just as the farmer headed for the shed with his shotgun.
This is where things took a turn for the Crazy-Awesome-Cool.
Oakroot risked his life to bite the farmer on the ankle, hoping to distract him from shooting at the other bunnies. He rolled max damage. When the farmer yelped and reflexively hopped on one foot, Lightning charged with his special “head butt” attack to the other ankle, and rolled enough damage to hear the crack of the joint fracturing. The farmer went down to the ground, hard, while other bunnies finished him off, released the chickens as a distraction, and ultimately escaped the farm with the (somewhat terrified and confused) bunny they had come to save, named Rosin.
Rosin quickly rewarded the PCs with hidden berries and truffles before hopping away nervously. The bunny heroes returned to their home warren much as the first group had, to the accolades and glory of having survived an adventure so epic it would be told and retold forever. So much fun!
Now, I do have a confession. If you think it is strange that a group of bunny rabbits — even if they are heroes, even if there are six of them — could kill a grown man… well, it is. See, in the chaos and joy of the battle at the farm, I forgot that bunnies have two very different damage scores, one for targets under 50 pounds, and another (much smaller) for targets larger than 50 pounds. Like humans. Please don’t judge GURPS for my oversight — the rules do not say that, yes, a bunny can fracture a man’s ankle by running into it! 🙂
There was a time when this would have actually bothered me… but that time has long since passed. The players had a great time, I had a great time, we all laughed and whooped and rolled dice and went down in history as the greatest bunnies to have ever lived. In the face of that, I could not possibly care any less that I made a rules error along the way. (Though I know this is not the case for everyone… that’s what Comments are for.)
As if I wasn’t already stoked enough after running two totally fun games, I then found out that this was not only Erin’s first GURPS game… but her first RPG ever! Talk about the cherry on top! What an awesome way to end an awesome con.
After that I had some dinner with friends, puttered around my room (watched Ghost Rider on TV!), and got a totally refreshing night’s sleep before packing up and heading home Monday morning.
Gateway 2014 was an absolutely great weekend for me. I ran some super fun games, played some super fun games, and had enough down time that when I got home I actually felt rested instead of exhausted.
Now begins the long, dark night, the six-month break until the next Strategicon in February 2015! Hope to see you there.