My Indiecon Experience

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A convention for independent RPG publishers.

Re: My Indiecon Experience

Postby shalinoth » 2:05pm on 23 Nov 08

Mick all-but ordered me to write something up about IndieCon to show my support. But having read this thread it seems 100% likely to go ahead again next year. And if I'm in England then I'm pretty sure I'll be there! It was a really good experience, but strange as it sounds I probably played a higher concentration of Indie games at my last Conception than I did here :P At Conception I played several games of Dead of Night as I had fallen completely in love with it. Many many thanks for that fact go to Scott who ran them with horrifying flair!

My first comment then is a regret, that I didn't get to play any of Scott's games this time around.

But on the upside I met (met again? Too many lovely new faces at the last Conception) Clare, who ran an amazing tongue-in-cheek indie approach to a trad game. It gradually became evident that our little children characters wandering around this scary big fantasy fairytale forest were in fact... miniaturised D&D classes. of a sort. Really fun experience, but I fear our players took things in a weirder direction than even the author intended.

First game of the con was Poison, on the first night. I think Graham ran that on the spur of the moment at Mick's request, and he was imaginative, passionate, and above all fair. I had an amazing time generating my character to work alongside Clare's twisted surgeon, but eventually bumped her off and surpassed her as the ship's physician, and by the end of it as the 'fleet' physician. But it was verymuch the taking part that counted in this game. It could go a fair number of directions, despite the same setting each time, but the player interactions are what makes it so fun. And the players of course :D

The rest of these games aren't in any order. The whole thing was a bit of a rum-fuelled blur (Thanks Mick...)

OmniFray! I was both scared and impressed with the accuracy of the Author/DM's memory of his own books. He has this whole WORLD mapped out in his brain, tables and all. It made for a very enjoyable, believable landscape. There was diversity in culture, politics, race and social structure. The whole thing was incredibly crunchy though, sometimes amusingly so. I rolled on a table to determine which STD I almost contracted while 'gathering information' from the local tavern wench. Much to my relief, I wasn't infected with "Pale Rot" - despite my enthusiastic acrobatics throughout that night. In hindsight, I should have called a Fate-To-Black well before that point... But it was a good game, and I am especially fond of the completely open-ended initiative system, as I think Max was. Acting on relative time intervals based on your varying capabilities was so refreshingly realistic, in my opinion anyway. Also, after digging your way through a million stats and feats the ACTUAL conflict-resolution percentile system was much to my liking. I would however have tested the game with a LOT less feats and options for the players. We were swamped mate, by the intimidating rulebooks and by the plethora of options. Temporary fate points, I was told I had 1058. With a.. Fate Margin (?) of 166. From the Dm's tone I was under the impression this was something I was supposed to be delighted by. But when he said that HE is the one to spend these, not us, I just had to scratch my head for a minute. There was a feeling of Dm-versus-Us, and when the Dm knows his system inside out, and he's the one spending OUR fate points... well maybe I missed some vital point here while reading my character sheet as he explained it.

At the end of the session, I was pleased with the experience of it and while I think some of the mechanical complexities such as initiative and percentile conflict-resolutions should be kept, others should be seriously reduced. This game has the markings of a new D&D, but it's gotten lost in its own obsessive number crunching, grinding down every eventuality into a rule. You don't have to do that, there's nothing wrong with judgement. If the case is that you don't trust another DM to run your games without giving them a billion strictly documented eventualities then you need to take yourself back to the reason you started the project in the first place. You've made an amazing world, it could be a 5-book Bestseller series with the right editing and a lucky break with a publisher. But as an RPG it has room for improvement. Most of which involves removing, not adding - A difficult thing for any designer who loves their work.

Right, Omnifray praise/rant over with (Sorry that went on so long. But it reflects the biblically proportioned rulebooks).

Max's SLA Industries Game: Awesome! He ran it gritty and hard but fair, with a completely open mind to the player's whims. I was Warren, an Ebon, a magically inclined race in this gritty cyberpunk dystopian world. Having played Shadowrun religiously for about a year now I'm surprised I'd never heard of this system. I can see myself easily getting to like it. The inter-party dynamics were well established by the who's who handout we all got, telling us how we may feel towards the other PCs. That's part of the reason Alex's Landston works so well, in my opinion. She has heaps of that going on, and it really makes the difference between a dice rolling session and a good proper roleplay session. Thanks Max for running it, and for letting me indulge my character's obsession with secrecy by joining that Shadowy secret service Organisation while the others stood around and shot eachother to hell in the final scene :)

Dead of Night: Andrew ran YET ANOTHER brilliant game of his own well-crafted system. The play-off between table tension and personal fate is almost Flawless. You'd think having played about 6 or 7 games of Dead of Night at Conception I'd know exactly what to expect and have a few bones to pick with the mechanics, but I can't think of anything really. The DM has a lot of room for narrative redirection, as do the players. And really at the end of the day it's all about what makes for the best narrative outcome, regardless of the victors. As was already said, many of us died more than once. The game setting itself was lovely. The isolation was irrefutable from the offset, being out on a lonely oil rig over the Christmas holidays in gale-force winds and torrential rains. Very moody! :D Some might say that this is a 'convenient' thing for the DM but this game is all about the clichés, as you'll see in the list of horror-movie Do's and For-God-Sake-Don'ts. But it's up to each individual table whether they go with the clichés or break the mould, and that's what I love about all of Andrews games. They are highly narrative driven. Everyone is co-author in the collaborative fiction. Everyone gets their say. And very very bad things happen to munchkins when that foreboding tension dice in the middle of the table slowly creeps up on you. That kind of karma is so satisfying, even when it's used against your own characters. Refreshingly unforgiving :D

Don't Rest Your Head: Grant ran one of the most immersive horror games I've ever been in, and that's saying a lot considering for about 6 months our Pompey Crew ran nothing but Cthulhu, Kult and Unknown Armies. When we sat down and found out we were playing alongside a first-time roleplayer, I gave Ian a worried look. Oh great, he'll be meta-gaming the hell out of this. But no! After he got the idea that we weren't always in the same room or privy to the same information, the guy was pretty damn impressive. It was a wonderful experience, and the DM made the world feel entirely open, like a sandbox. But this wasn't totally off the rails, and when it was needed he offered a breadcrumb trail back on track. The concept of the game itself was along the lines of Kult or Constantine, with a "mad world" intersecting with our own, perceivable by some combination of madness and insomnia. The mechanics were lovely. After a head-scratching minute or two looking at the three different coloured D6's we were throwing around, it soon became a really smooth game of risk. You'd sacrifice your ability in Fight or Flight and the possibility of acting out your madness, in order to get extra conflict dice to your cause. But what really made this a wonderful experience was the DM. He ran it with such charismatic flair it was hard not to be drawn in. I think that whilst our first-time player was given a 'strange' game to start out on, he was given the perfect opportunity to see how a game could and should be Run. Nice one Grant.

My last game of the convention was another of Grants, the Living PathFinder on Sunday morning. I guess you could say I was sold on it the night before, for reasons stated above :) But in truth I've been researching Pathfinder for the last month or so, since I'm about to play a campaign or two of it online with some friends. There's not much I can say right now about the system. Essentially... It's D&D 3.75. I played a game of 4th Ed which was so refreshingly aware of is own fate as a strategy battlemap game. 4th Ed felt like Dungeons and Dragons, with a lovely simplified At-Will feel to it, cleaned up and minimised to welcome new players into the genre. And if it does that? Then Excellent... the rp gaming sector could do with more attention. However what 4th Ed certainly isnt - though this is in my very minimal experience - is a roleplaying environment. Granted, the less clunky ruleset and the yummy at-will spells allow for more attention to story. I've just yet to see that personally. I'm not making any judgements yet though, because my Pathfinder game was a delight. Again, this was in great part due to Grant's DMing of it. He articulated the NPCs brilliantly, and even the bloody combat had a cinematic attractiveness to it! I've never seen a five-foot-step so elegantly defined :D And I didn't feel like a complete pratt yelling my God's retribution across the table at the evil miniatures. I think my cleric's enthusiasm was a pleasant surprise for those attending :-P Our evil Chelaxian Sorcerer said something along the lines of "oooh nice, proper cleric" which I had to laugh at.

Serenrae's Redemption awaits you, sinners! *Smite Smite*

A lovely con, and a must-do for both indie-fans and trad gamers alike. There is a sufficient amount of trad-like rulesets at this convention to keep even the most crunchy munchkin happy, whilst letting them dabble in the world of low-die safe in the assurance that the bar is only a five-foot-step away :lol:

~Shalinoth / Stephen Plummer.
With a herd of elephants you may storm the walls of many a castle, but with one diseased rat you can kill every man inside.

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Re: My Indiecon Experience

Postby DigitalMage » 11:58am on 24 Nov 08

shalinoth wrote:Don't Rest Your Head: Grant ran one of the most immersive horror games I've ever been in[...] we were playing alongside a first-time roleplayer [...] the guy was pretty damn impressive. It was a wonderful experience, and the DM made the world feel entirely open, like a sandbox. But this wasn't totally off the rails, and when it was needed he offered a breadcrumb trail back on track.

Thank you indeed for the high praise. I too absolutely loved running the game, I like that sort of weird stuff. And I too was impressed by the first timer's roleplaying - in fact everyone was on form for that game. It was actually the first time I had ever run DRYH (I had played a game using the system but a different setting at Continuum GMed by w00h00) so I was especially happy with the result.

I will likely run the same game at Conception, and look to write more scenarios for it for next year as well. The thing I like about the game is that once you have created the characters the majority of the prep has been done - sort of like a freeform. Also the Mad City setting means I don't have to explain why anything happens the way it does and the "breadcrumb trail" if needed can be pretty bloody obvious :)

shalinoth wrote:My last game of the convention was another of Grants, the Living PathFinder on Sunday morning. I guess you could say I was sold on it the night before, for reasons stated above :) But in truth I've been researching Pathfinder for the last month or so, since I'm about to play a campaign or two of it online with some friends. There's not much I can say right now about the system. Essentially... It's D&D 3.75.

I am glad you liked the scenario. I was happy with the game, but was annoyed with myself for not getting it completed in the 4 hours I aimed for. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to dry run this with my local group beforehand. But fear not I have learnt from the experience and know of things I need to do better next time, e.g. although it was nice to have everyone be able to tweak the pre-gens, it did take up some time, next time pre-gens will be fully completed.

Also just to clarify for those not familiar with Pathfinder. Paizo is indeed creating a "3.75" version of D&D called the Pathfinder RPG. It is currently in open Beta playtesting and the PDF is free from the website. However the Pathfinder Society organised play campaign is currently in Season Zero and is using the D&D3.5 rules. Next year when the Pathfinder RPG is released in its final version, Season One of the PFS will move to use the PF RPG. This seems a little confusing but Paizo did not want to use a ruleset that was still in play test for the living campaign - iron out the wrinkles in the ruleset and the organised play campaign seperately and then next year bring them together.

Anyway, thanks once again for the praise - that is exactly why I roleplay and GM.
R Grant Erswell
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