DundraCon 2013

         DunDraCon is in my area, but San Ramon is a longer trek for me than Pacificon and KublaCon. I'd been previously three times, but this was first time that I'd been running events. I was drawn in last year by the larp crowd, and was looking forward to getting a full 16 players for my pulp villains larp (which I did).

         I went for Friday evening, all of Saturday, and Sunday day. In general, I think organization was quite good. I heard actually that there is a higher percentage of people getting into the games they want at DunDraCon than at KublaCon. The events that I attended were:

To Boldly Go

Friday 6 PM in 508 for 6 hours
GM Troupe: Avjean
Type: LARP
System: GM Fiat
Players: 16
Provided: All characters provided by GM
LARP Experience: Useful
Game Content: Mainstream
Genre: Star Trek / 70s SciFi

Captain's log: Stardate 40247.3
At the edge of the Alpha Quadrant, we've picked up a distress beacon coming from a nearby M-Class planet. We initially proceeded with a routine rescue response until our science officer discovered it was not only a beacon of Starfleet design, but it was 17 years old! Could it be? The lost away team of the USS Krofft? We would have to send out just the away team that Starfleet has waited 17 years for...and bring those people home!
A Star Trek/70s SciFi LARP for 16 people.

This was a fun, very campy and chaotic larp. I played a red-shirted ensign aboard the U.S.S. Moffat, part of the away team sent to respond to the distress beacon of the long-lost U.S.S. Krofft. The two main character groups were the crew of the Moffat and the long-marooned crew of the Krofft, based on various Star Trek characters - but other characters also drew from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Barbarella, Futurama, and others.

         As a red-shirted ensign, my character was in despair of the Curse that he would die if sent down on an away mission - which was a funny bit to play out. There were a lot of pieces and links like this, such as my character lacking a sense of touch, and idolizing the blind engineer. Kudos to all the players - but especially to the player of Barbarella, the short-pants space pirate captain, and the two bloodsucking aliens.

         The game did take some time to get going, and used GM Fiat for a system. With two GMs for 16 players, the ratio was not bad - but when there are many strange powers and possible secrets, it had the familiar problem of waiting around for a GM to handle things.

Guns and Glamour

Saturday 10 AM in 377 for 4 hours
GM: John Kim
Type: RPG
System: Guns and Glamour
Edition: playtest
Players: 6
Provided: Characters created for game
Rules Knowledge: Beginners Welcome
Game Content: Mature Themes

Play redcaps, trolls, pixies, and other faerie immigrants to 1920s Chicago, where mobster violence threatens Jazz Age ambitions. This is a playtest of a new Noir genre hack of Monsterhearts and Apocalypse World, currently being written by Mickey Schulz. A civil war in the summerlands ended with faeries of all sorts escaping as refugees to southern Wisconsin in 1922. As waves of immigrants on the bottom rung of society often do, many fae turned to organized crime. Characters could include a goblin moll, pixie bootlegger, redcap bartender, or various other newcomers to gangland Chi-town.

This is an adult game that includes dark sides of both gangster life and faery myth. Rules will be explained and characters created in the session.

This was my playtest of a draft version of an RPG under development by Mickey Schulz. The setting is 1920s Chicago with the addition of recent Fae refugees from a war in the Summerlands. In genre, this mashes up gangster stereotypes and fae stereotypes. The rules are derived from Monsterhearts and Apocalypse World. The players and their characters were:

Unlike the games it is based on, character creation has a mix-and-match aspect, where the player picks one option for bloodline and one option for profession. This creates opportunity to play more to type (Red Cap hitman) or against type (Troll moll). These players chose moderately - not too type-cast, but not too far outside of type. What struck me about their setup was that they were all professional around booze, and from questions they answered it was clear that they pictured themselves as relatively high-end and mobbed up.

         Ayla ran a high-class speakeasy called "The Red Door". She was supplied by booklegger Fluffy (specializing in Canadian whisky) and rum-runner Pervical (specializing in a fine brandy sold as "Le Chat Blanc"). Guido was her lieutenant, while Rori made pickups and especially deliveries of Capone's cut. Loam worked for Capone, making sure that the neighborhood stayed in his pocket.

         This was entirely too stable and happy a setup, so I thought quickly and came up with major trouble to throw their way. The gist was that the New York mob wanted to import some Fae prostitutes and soldiers - and were making a deal with Capone to arrange it. This amounted to trafficking in sentient beings and was sure to irk them, and to cap it off -- Capone had arranged to get a cold iron gun and bullets to keep complainers in line.

         I feel like it was a little awkward when I was tried to immediately jump from character creation of well-off shady types - and had to go into throwing them big trouble. However, that soon smoothed out. Highlights: Ayla rolling snake-eyes at a crucial time and falling in love with New York gangster Primo who had come for the trafficking; NPC "Pops" the tough turn-coat pixie who sold out his own kind; Gido's perfect Italian gangster affectation; and them all coming together to make the deal sour.

Mutant Saga Volume V: Russia

Saturday 7 PM in Salon AB for 6 hours
GM Troupe: Joe Parzanese
Type: LARP
System: GM Fiat
Players: 40
Provided: All characters provided by GM
LARP Experience: Useful
Game Content: Mature Themes

Back in the 1940's, mutants appeared in the world. Some became super heroes, some super villains. They lived, they fought, they loved, they hated. Then in 2011, alien ships appeared over Geneva, Switzerland and the world was changed forever. Now in 2030, the final fate of our characters will finally be decided.

This was the 7th in a series of 5 larps, as the organizers put it. It was quite big by my standards - I think there were actually 42 parts in the end, although two players left shortly after the start. The stand-out part from my perspective was that I was playing a unique three-foot tall alien with a distinctly muppet-like appearance in the middle of a big crowd of heroes and fighting aliends. The plot was that there were peace talks for the first time in a 19-year-long conflict with invading aliens. My character was the mediator - a member of a neutral alien race that was acting basically like an embedded reporter with the invading fleet.

         I loved hamming it up as the tiny little alien striving to be taken seriously - and mostly succeeding. I tried to shrink in my personal space as much as possible, and often got on my knees to talk to people. I thought that the peace treaty plot was quite good, along with a number of other plots that I wasn't involved in. There was a larger plot, though, that overshadowed most of the others - because the whole universe was threatened by time travel disruptions. In the end, the universe was destroyed by just the wrong people using their powers at the advice of a secret madman.

         It had the classic problem of a GM fiat combined with a lot of unusual powers, which meant that people had to either improvise or wait around for GMs to resolve. One interesting role that I played was that in-character, I went around telling everyone to keep their voices down so as not to disrupt the negotiations. This also served a good meta-game purpose because it made it easier to hear in general if the players kept their voices down. (It was played in a large salon room, but with 40 players was getting loud enough it was hard to hear across a table.)

Shadow Centurions Assemble

Sunday 11 AM in 570 for 6 hours
GM/Troupe: John Kim
Type: LARP
System: Homebrew
Players: 16
Provided: All characters provided by GM
LARP Experience: Beginners Welcome
Game Content: Mainstream
Genre: Pulp
Costume Suggestions: See character list

A larp set in the 1930s of the pulps - loosely based on the tabletop RPG, Spirit of the Century. The characters are real villains of the pulps and close approximations. The setting is an uncharted island in the South Seas, where the host, Doctor Methuselah, has called together three groups of other world-reknown villains: one headed by Fu Manchu; one headed by Gorilla Khan, Conqueror Ape; and one headed by the Ruler of the Secret Incan Empire.

This is campy as pulp always is, and is appropriate for young teens and up, but is not a pure comedy game.

cf. www.darkshire.net/jhkim/rpg/spiritofthecentury/shadowslarp/

This was my third time successfully running this larp - I had run twice the previous year at KublaCon (May 2012) and GenCon Indy (August 2012). I had been slated to run it at Pacificon in September 2012, but despite having nearly full sign-up, less than half the players turned up. Both previous times I only had 11 or 12 players, so there were significant parts missing. I was hoping for a full set of players this time and I got them. I also created two new characters to replace earlier ones: Sobito the Witch Doctor and Lai Choi San the Dragon Lady. The players and their characters were:

It was generally an fine group. I generally do casting by player consensus, whereas in other local larps it is typical for the organizers to assign roles. In this case, in retrospect I think that I should have had a little more information on the nature of the characters - like the Shifting Forest system of marking goal-oriented vs emotion-oriented, dark vs. light, and simple vs. complex.

         I will shortly be releasing the full larp details online, but the rough plot is that the magical mega-villain Doctor Methuselah has invited three groups to his South Seas island, where he intends for them to try them out and decide on one to give his Eternity Equation - adding to their power and presumably making them an ally. The minimalist system is that each character has two talents that always work automatically - which works well for larger-than-life pulp characters.

This run of the game had a high body count compared to the others:

In the end, Doctor Methuselah had the three surviving leaders vote - and Shiwon Khan voted for Incan Prince Huallpa, and after some thinking, André Matsoua agreed. However, Methuselah decided to give the equation to Matsoua instead - as he was clearly a team player and he was nervous about Huallpa's alien connections. I think everyone had fun, and I think it also made people think about the original pulps.

         A number of players strayed from their original goals which was good and interesting in general, but that contributed to Fu Manchu being killed and The Shadow being captured early. I am considering a rule that players should check with me when they change goals, so I can adjust things if necessary. Also, in terms of players, it was a little uncomfortable to have everyone gunning for a young teenage first-time larper, who was playing The Shadow. To some extent it worked OK by playing to genre, so the players chose to lock him up instead of killing him, even after he escaped. It is a pulp villain flaw, after all, that they never kill the hero when he is captured.


I had a great time, and I resolve to come to DunDraCon regularly.


John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Thu Feb 21 20:56:45 2013