Smiths do Seven Hills

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Seven Hills is a new roleplaying convention, to be held in Sheffield, the Rome of the north, on the 26th and 27th of April 2014.

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Smiths do Seven Hills

Postby Neil Smith » 9:46pm on 18 Apr 16

We're back from an excellent Seven Hills. My first time at this con, but my second time at the Garrison. It was also Eloise's first weekend residential con.

We arrived late on the Friday evening, with just enough time for a quick chat (and a pint or two). The Garrison was it's usual maze of twisty passages, all alike, so excellent for putting on lots of games.

We'd managed to pre-book all the slots, so no need for any queueing, though that all seemed to go very smoothly. Pre-booking did highlight one problem with the con: we had even longer to wallow in our "buyer's remorse," as every slot had several games we wanted to play. The game line up at the con was extremely strong, so all GMs there, please pat yourselves on the backs for such great game proposals.

The games
There was some uncertainty going into slot 1 as I was down as reserve GM. Being slot 1, no-one could know before 10.00am if I would be needed to step in. Luckily for me, I think all the scheduled GMs were there, and there were more games on offer than players to fill them, so everyone was able to get into a scheduled game. That left Eloise and me free to dive into Paul Baldowski's Lone Wolf game. This was a game with a heavy "Elements" theme, that had us sailing to a Lost World type island, populated by Hands of Glory and undead water balloons, and ended with my paladin PC giving divine aid to a nasty rat-man with a small knife and a bad attitude. Lots of fun all round!

Slot 2 was down in the Dungeon for Neil Gow's Korra game. Lots of fun anime shennanigans, with misunderstood walruses, nefarious villains, and a showdown in an abandoned warehouse in Republic City. This was the game I enjoyed the least of the weekend, which was entirely down to me: I hadn't seen any Korra before, and I chose the wrong character type to play. I've now fixed the first problem and will endeavour not to make the second mistake again. Everyone else at the table had a really great time, and I think it was Eloise's favourite game of the weekend.

Slot 3 was me running Blades in the Dark. Being entirely lazy, I'd done absolutely zero prep for it beyond half-generating some PCs for people, aiming to just use the standard starting situation from the book and then follow the PCs around for the rest of the session. Their first "job" turned into a delightfully violent mess as, in AW terms, the PCs only ever rolled 6- and all their flashback scenes just made things worse. For their second job, they only rolled AW 10+, so it was a bit of an anticlimax at the table: the job just went down smooth as silk. (More thoughts on this approach to con games at the end.)

Slot 4 in the morning was Tenra Bansho Zero, with slightly more prep but still no plot. All the players dived into the scenery chewing with aplomb and soon the aiki chits were flying across the table as the characters were pledging their allegiance and betraying their superiors left, right, and centre. All the Tenra OTT powers came out in the final battle and we left the game with the occupied land of Rinden on the verge of a new and peaceful future. With hindsight and faster moving on pitching games, I should have asked for this to be in one of the longer slots. But I didn't, and we left the game with the players wanting more; always a good place to end.

Slot 5 was Gareth Dean's Anima: Beyond Fantasy, the game with stupidly high numbers for skills and hit points. I spent the game just being vastly superior, dahling, while we delved into the bowels of a ship/dungeon to rescue a giant who was our ticket to sanctuary in the New World. Gareth did an excellent job summarising what seemed like a vast, complex, and crunchy rules set behind a few numbers on a character sheet and some deft handling.

The reflection
A couple of things to reflect on from the weekend.

It was quite obvious to me that it's been a long time since I've GMed a con game. I've lost the knack of putting together a situation that will lead to a tight and satisfying conclusion in a three hour slot. I think the two games I ran were solid opening sessions for ongoing campaigns rather than stand-alone con games. I'll need to do much more planning for future cons, with less reliance on me riffing off the players' contributions. I also need to keep a better eye on how many players can satisfyingly fit in a character-heavy con game; I think the Tenra game would have gone much better with four players than six. Much room for improvement!

Eloise had a really good time at the con. Without exception, everyone treated her with the same respect as anyone else there and no-one batted an eyelid at her presence, or questioned any contribution she made in a game. She was quite definitely just another player and just another con-goer. That's exactly what I was hoping for, so thank you all for making her feel extremely welcome.

Finally, thanks to Graham and Paul for organising the con. From this punter's point of view, everything went perfectly smoothly. Special thanks to Paul for allowing Eloise to sign up for games with me, which allowed her to choose what she wanted to play beforehand. I think that help a lot in allowing her to have a really good time.
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Re: Smiths do Seven Hills

Postby ncmreynolds » 10:51pm on 18 Apr 16

Neil Smith wrote:I've lost the knack of putting together a situation that will lead to a tight and satisfying conclusion in a three hour slot. I think the two games I ran were solid opening sessions for ongoing campaigns rather than stand-alone con games.


I have to say I wasn't surprised or disappointed when Blades in the Dark went a bit like this. By design the game's about medium term play and we made characters + gang at the table. Which increases investment in them but robs you of play time.

You could have mashed it about a bit, created the characters in advance and set up a more detailed scenario with clear plotline but then it wouldn't really be run-as-written BitD. I got exactly what I wanted from it, which was a RAW taster of the game.
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Re: Smiths do Seven Hills

Postby Steven » 6:44am on 19 Apr 16

Yes, what Nick said. Your Blades game gave me exactly what I was looking for.




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Re: Smiths do Seven Hills

Postby simonpaulburley » 7:57am on 19 Apr 16

You TRIED to give us a bang-up climax but I bottled it. (Something I actively tried to make amends for in my very next game.)
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Re: Smiths do Seven Hills

Postby Neil Smith » 11:00am on 19 Apr 16

simonpaulburley wrote:You TRIED to give us a bang-up climax but I bottled it. (Something I actively tried to make amends for in my very next game.)

Sorry, I don't accept that. I gave you a choice, you made a strong statement for your character. That had consequences for everyone else. That's the most I can ask for with that style of game.

It's just that I think that style of game doesn't really fit into a con game slot, where I think a tighter grip over story and pacing will give everyone a better time, even if that greater control wouldn't be tenable in a longer-term format.

But thanks, everyone, for the kinds words about the Blades game. It seems the players had a better impression of the session than I did!
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Re: Smiths do Seven Hills

Postby nclarke » 11:13am on 19 Apr 16

Talking of Blades games, I've run it several times at cons and the best you can do is give players an idea of the flavour because a lot of the good stuff about the setting and system only comes out with a longer multi-session game where the crew can develop. I could run it a multi-slot game over three slots but that's a time commitment that some players may not wish to make however awesome the game may be.

Yes, you can do a score that is focussed and have 'pregens' with most of the choices already filled out to speed up the start of the game but that can lose a lot of the whole setting up a crew part of the game with the choices about who are friends and who are enemies.
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Re: Smiths do Seven Hills

Postby Newt » 11:25am on 19 Apr 16

Maximum thanks for the Tenra game.

I'm still not convinced it is something that I run as a con game, despite my rather giddy proclimations in the post-game-glow. I'd probably have to run a successful run at home first. But I enjoyed it imensely, and unlike someother games I could tell you six stories about each of the characters, that came out of that game.
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Re: Smiths do Seven Hills

Postby Steven » 2:49pm on 19 Apr 16

I think you're right that there is a broader question on whether there is anything that can be done to make these indie play-to-find-out games consistently deliver the satisfying rounded out con game experience. There's an interesting discussion to be had there.


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Re: Smiths do Seven Hills

Postby ncmreynolds » 1:00pm on 20 Apr 16

Steven wrote:I think you're right that there is a broader question on whether there is anything that can be done to make these indie play-to-find-out games consistently deliver the satisfying rounded out con game experience.


I have run Blood & Water a fair bit and I find squeezing anything more than a 'taster' into a con slot very hard. You can do a story focused on one or two characters' story threads but the other two won't get much of a look in unless you're way better than me at juggling things.
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Re: Smiths do Seven Hills

Postby First Age » 6:24pm on 21 Apr 16

Neil Smith wrote:Eloise had a really good time at the con. Without exception, everyone treated her with the same respect as anyone else there and no-one batted an eyelid at her presence, or questioned any contribution she made in a game. She was quite definitely just another player and just another con-goer. That's exactly what I was hoping for, so thank you all for making her feel extremely welcome.


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Re: Smiths do Seven Hills

Postby Neil Gow » 6:51pm on 21 Apr 16

Neil Smith wrote:Slot 2 was down in the Dungeon for Neil Gow's Korra game...... This was the game I enjoyed the least of the weekend, which was entirely down to me: I hadn't seen any Korra before, and I chose the wrong character type to play. I've now fixed the first problem and will endeavour not to make the second mistake again. Everyone else at the table had a really great time, and I think it was Eloise's favourite game of the weekend.


That's a real shame, and also a great awesome in the same passage. Sorry you didn't get lots from the game. I didn't realise quite how ... limited ...the Peasant was compared to some of the other playbooks. I thought your characterisation of being swept along at the rally was inspired. You might not have seen any Korra but you had the antics absolutely spot on.

I'm thrilled however that Eloise enjoyed the game. Her enthusiasm for the cartoon was infectious at the table, as was her rather frisky firebender compared to Tim's mellow and ditsy airbender. Please extend my thanks to her for a great game.

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Re: Smiths do Seven Hills

Postby Neil Smith » 7:08pm on 21 Apr 16

Neil Gow wrote:That's a real shame, and also a great awesome in the same passage. Sorry you didn't get lots from the game. I didn't realise quite how ... limited ...the Peasant was compared to some of the other playbooks. I thought your characterisation of being swept along at the rally was inspired. You might not have seen any Korra but you had the antics absolutely spot on.

The problem was entirely at my end of the table, and nothing to do with you or your GMing. Anyway, I've watched some Korra since, and it's really good. And we now know the Peasant is a playbook that may need some careful handling, so that's a good result.

As an aside, the Oath and Respect parts of that system seem like interesting and distinct parts of it. On the one hand, it would be nice to showcase them more in the scenario. On the other, that's almost impossible when you're doing character generation at the table, as players won't be able to invent them quickly enough or be able to readily point their Oaths at each other or bits of the plot.

Anyway, it was a good game. I'm glad I played it.
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Re: Smiths do Seven Hills

Postby PaulBaldowski » 8:24am on 22 Apr 16

First Age wrote:
Neil Smith wrote:Eloise had a really good time at the con. Without exception, everyone treated her with the same respect as anyone else there and no-one batted an eyelid at her presence, or questioned any contribution she made in a game. She was quite definitely just another player and just another con-goer. That's exactly what I was hoping for, so thank you all for making her feel extremely welcome.


The feedback that I am most proud of. Tremendous.

This goes for me too. Eloise was great in the Lone Wolf game - and good to see someone keeping to the classic RPG tradition of drawing your own character portrait. Great fun when she split the barrel of the valuable brandy and used it to create flaming arrows, much to the chagrin of Alex's "legitimate sea captain".
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Re: Smiths do Seven Hills

Postby Neil Smith » 10:48am on 24 Apr 16

Thanks for the comments, folks. Eloise was chuffed.
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Re: Smiths do Seven Hills

Postby dr_mitch » 11:40am on 24 Apr 16

First Age wrote:
Neil Smith wrote:Eloise had a really good time at the con. Without exception, everyone treated her with the same respect as anyone else there and no-one batted an eyelid at her presence, or questioned any contribution she made in a game. She was quite definitely just another player and just another con-goer. That's exactly what I was hoping for, so thank you all for making her feel extremely welcome.


The feedback that I am most proud of. Tremendous.


That goes for me too.
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