Big Bad Con 2014 Report

This was the fourth year of this Bay Area gaming convention, organized by Sean Nittner, located at the Oakland Airport Hilton. All of the scheduled games were RPGs (including larps), but there were a number of of card games and board games being played in the open gaming area - though no miniature games that I saw. There was a dealer's area that consisted only of End Game Oakland with space to play their games. Signups were handled in advance over the web on a first-come first-served basis.

         Some scheduled RPGs were in conference rooms, while many were in private rooms.

Fires of Emsi

Fri: 7PM - 1AM
GM: J Li
System: Caldera (freeform LARP)

This was an emotional dramatic game about characters in a fantasy world revisiting the ruins of their former city. I played a beggar, former courtesan. I believe the character was written as gender-neutral, sort of, but I played him as a man. The written character was split into two sides, representing the present and the past 13 year ago. The beginning was like:

Aslan, Beggar in Attaniyah (age 37)

Aslan, Courtesan (age 24)

I don't recall the details of the scenes, except I recall a romantic scene with Devon's character - I think Zabdad, the General.

The Play's the Thing

Sat: 9AM - 3PM
GM: John Kim
System: The Play's the Thing
Description: Play this storytelling game about actors who rewrite the Shakespearean roles they've been given. We will collectively create actors (with types like the Lead, the Ham, or the Ingenue); then bid on the parts for a play we choose in a play like Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, or a Midsummer Night's Dream. Everyone plays their parts, while dealing with everyone's changes made to the story. There is an economy of story points, along with Parts, Plots, and Props that actors collect - and dice to roll if we disagree over an edit.

For this run, we did Much Ado About Nothing. With characters:

Unfortunately, I did not take good notes on our run, but I do remember having a great time - as I generally do with a good group of players and The Play's the Thing.

Imperial Lockup

Sat: 4PM - 10PM
GM: Jarys Maragopoulos, Ken Smith, Melissa Devlin
System: "GM Fiat" / Custom Larp
Description: It is our duty to inform you that Local Imperial Authority has reviewed your case and has determined your guilt/further compliance. Your property will be confiscated and you will be given a cell you will be housed in an overcrowded cell block with other criminals. Your further processing will be as prompt as local bureaucratic conditions allow. Prisoners caught with secrets or contraband will be punished severely.

This was a Star Wars larp set in an imperial prison. I will remember this larp in particular for an early scene that went against usual larp protocol, but I also think went well. We were all prisoners, and I played a tough prison gang leader, Thessic Corse. There was a conflict system that was written in with spendable resources (like action points or plot points), though I don't remember the details - but it was newish to most players. There were some 16 players in the larp, and towards the start of the game most were gathered around chatting. Our gang of three stalked in, and I announced that we were in charge of this block, and anyone who worked with us was welcome, and anyone who didn't like it would suffer.

Unsurprisingly, someone spoke up against this. At that point, I immediately initiated a conflict against that individual - and in blind draw, I spent all of my resources for the game into one devastating attack - plus a one-use power. He was knocked down and took a fatal wound. This is the classic prison scene of a beat-down.

In meta-game sociality, though, it is usually considered really bad form to make an all-out attack on one player at the start of a larp. It's also often considered tactically a bad idea to spend all your tokens at the start. However, in this case, everyone took one look at what happened and accepted that our gang was in charge (at least for a time). I also got a lot of people who said that they like that action. It really established genre and flavor of this as a prison with a pecking order of fear and violence. It brought everyone into character, and established a different social structure.

To be clear, my character description started with: "You used to be the baddest pirate in the sector. The 'Cruel Correlian' they called you. Well, you're STILL the baddest, prison won't change that." My one-use powers were Intimidation (block other powers), Punish (which inflicts a fatal wound), Titan of Strength (damage the environment), Pain's a Good Teacher (prevent power use for five minutes), Oath (fulfill an oath to restore a power), and Vengeance (take vengeance to restore a power).

Over the remainder of the larp, of course, the real enemy was the Empire instead of each other - and we had to learn to work together. And I don't remember the details of how that worked out, but I recall it was more interesting coming from the start of us being at each other's throats in the beginning.

My Life With Master

Sun: 10AM - 2PM
GM: John Kim
System: My Life With Master

Pixie Peacekeepers

Sun: 3PM - 5PM
GM: Tess Aquarium and Colin Fahrion
System: Manic Pixie Dream Girl/Guy LARP
Description: A war has broken out between the Cats and the Bunnies! Boffer swords in hand and full of adorable rage they boff and bap each other senseless! The battle has gotten so intense as of late that they are even allowing head shots to pass without penalty! There is only one force that can put an end to this violence — a Sparkling! It’s up to the Manic Pixies to come together and summon their Sparkle magic so that the Cats and Bunnies can once again become friends!

Prophecy of the Starry Skies

Sun: 6PM - 8PM
GM: Isabel Malonzo, Li-Chi Young, Greer Hauptman, and Zeb Dezern of Truth Sans Justice
System: (Custom Larp)
Description: Prophecy of the Starry Skies is a comedy of manners based loosely on Meiji and Edo era period dramas with a heavy dash of alchemical elemental magic and theocratic rule. Written for and placed 3rd in the Intercon 2014 Iron GM contest.

This was a very detailed game. The character sheet was even a booklet of 20 half-size pages. I played Honda Rokurou, the Divine Majesty, imperial ruler of this land, the Country of Sun and Sky. There were no stats in the system, but I had six bullet-pointed goals and eight powers with a short paragraph on each. Of course, as emperor, there was a lot of politics to be done. Also in the booklet were three pages on the ritual to be conducted, background on the country and metaphysics, along with a half-page each on trade and the military.

I did not take good notes after the game. I vaguely recall that I worked mostly as an arbitrator aloof from the workings of others, but I hope I played my role well.


In all, a terrific con and one that I will continue to attend in the future.