DundraCon 2016

         This was my fifth time to DunDraCon. I didn't run events, and played entirely LARPs, going with my son on Saturday. (He played one narrative tabletop game, Dread, set on a space station.) The events that I attended were:


A Seance to Remember

Friday 1PM for 4 hours
GM: Gamer Geekus
Type: LARP
System: GM Fiat
Players: 12
LARP Experience: Beginners Welcome
Game Content: Mature Themes
Genre: Horror/Suspense
Costume Suggestions: 1930ish clothes if you have them. Costuming is not required.
Sir Reginald Pryce invites you to his home for a seance with the illustrious medium, Madame Belladonna. Contact with the great beyond is guaranteed. This evening is not for the feint of heart.

This was a mostly social event more than horror, with horror and suspense themes more in the background. The players and their characters included:

There was supernatural stuff that happened, though with some interesting twists. The seance was a fake, but three ghosts possessed bodies to come to the event - searching for a way to make their possession permanent.

I played a black sheep of a rich family who had been cut off, and turned to crime to keep him in money. He secretly accepted money from Sir Reginald to bring Doris to the party and help restore him to her good graces. The first half of the game, I played my secret close and mostly acted really nice and like a true believer and amateur psychic, hoping to successfully get Sir Reginald and my cousin back together, and get in on the scam with Madam Belladonna.

Then the spirits showed up, looking for a magical amulet. Using my criminal ways, I pick-pocketed the amulet - but it was observable by the other players even though the characters didn't notice. This caused some tension, and following what I perceived as cues from the GMs, I "found" the amulet and returned it. After that, I was looser with my secrets.

This came to a nice ending for me. I talked with Lily, and admitted that I still had some gambling problems - and she said that she was willing to help. I replied, "Great. I just need a little until next Tuesday, when I can pay you back." - which naturally left her nonplussed, as she intended to help quit gambling rather than giving me money. Then Doris came by and said that she was getting back together with Sir Reginald. Lily was outraged, and I played at also being outraged - but then I caved and said that if he hurt her again I would tear into him. Then suddenly Lily put two and two together, and accused me of taking money from Sir Reginald to get them back together. Doris looked shocked and hurt, and then the game end was called. It was a very satisfying ending even though I lost.

It used a rule system with nine attributes similar to White Wolf's Storyteller system with values from 5 to 15, but resolution was by GM fiat including values. There were also skills that ranged from mechanically specific (i.e. after 5 minutes conversation, impose a "suggestion" that lasts 10 minutes) to more open-ended ("a variety of criminal skills such as but not limited to pick-pocketing, lock-picking or conning someone").


172 Transylvania Polygnostic University Fundraiser

Friday 6 PM in 508 for 6 hours
GM Troupe: Dreams of Deirdre
Type: LARP
System: L.A.R.P.S. System
Players: 25
LARP Experience: Useful
Game Content: Mainstream
Genre: Steampunk
Costume Suggestions: Steampunk
A game based in the world of Girl Genius, and taking place one week before the events of that series. The Transylvania Polygnostic University is holding a fundraiser in the small mountain town of Alpenwine. A night of fun and SCIENCE! for all the invited guests.
Website: www.dreamsofdeirdre.org/events/index.html#girlgeniuis

This was a comedic larp based on Phil and Kara Foglio's Girl Genius comic. I didn't take notes on who was playing which, but these are players and characters I remember:

The plot was that we were all at a university fundraiser - with people divided into university representatives (mostly professors), and alumni who were potential donors - split into a few groups. I was part of a group of three, two royals kicked out of their homelands by invading Sparks, who were recruiting special individuals for the campaign to re-take their homes. I was their bodyguard.

It was a low-status role that I tried to mostly stick to, following orders for the most part - and dutifully protecting them at the expense of my own health. However, I did start a mildly rebellious effort with implemented plot of my own.

In principle, besides the passive goal of being bodyguard, one of my goals was finding spies. However, I didn't pursue that very effectively. In principle, I had a talent that could be used for this, but it was mechanically involved. So instead, I role-played my low Mental score and pursued spies ineffectively ("Are you a spy?") as well as generally acting foolish and uneducated. The high point of the game, though, and a turning point was after the botanist explained about her plant-woman Audrey Snapdragon including her fire-breathing and thorns.

Sgt Muller: A most impressive creation, professor. Most impressive. What is her status?
Botanist: Status? What do you mean?
Sgt Muller: Is she married?

At this, of course, everyone burst out laughing. I went ahead with attempting awkward courtship which didn't go anywhere, but I soon took of her invented cause which was clank/construct solidarity. So soon I was talking to various people about signing the solidarity agreement, and trying to talk my employers into being "union-friendly employers" - which I assured them would get a bunch of clanks and constructs to work for them. This even turned out to be fairly true.

The main plot had to do with various traps that the absent host had set up to make things interesting, and our often misguided attempts to fix them. Those took some time, and among those I was playing with, this main plot worked mostly as pacing for the individual character plots.

This used the small-press L.A.R.P.S. system by the organizers. Which uses three stats (with possible specialties) and rock-paper-scissors for conflicts. I also had a stack of nine ability/item cards, explaining different skills and items, with 2-5 sentences each.


Over My Dead Body

Saturday 10 AM in 508 for 6 hours
GM Troupe: Team Woodbury
Type: LARP
System: GM Fiat
Players: 18
LARP Experience: Useful
Game Content: Mainstream
Genre: Clue meets Oscar
Costume Suggestions: Modern
Mr. Boddy, a notorious criminal mastermind, is dead, but he's not ready to rest yet. He's left his estate and criminal enterprises to a rogue's gallery of criminals, and invited them all to the Continental Hotel for a chance at their share of the bounty. The hotel is neutral ground for assassins, thieves, spies, and other malcontents from across the layers of the criminal underworld. In theory, nothing should be exchanged, save for words. It's the perfect gathering place, given the strong restrictions on interpersonal violence, but Mr. Boddy was always one to see if he could get others to break the rules for him. The will is one last twist of that knife.
You have been invited to the reading of the will that details how his belongings and interests will be distributed. The dearly departed has added a complication: You all must agree to the details of the will in order for the assets to be distributed. If you cannot agree you are free to negotiate a new distribution of assets that are amenable to all parties. Getting out of this alive, with your interests well-provided for, should be an amusing challenge. But you're not going to let Mr. Boddy get your goat again.
Humor and hilarity guaranteed; dash of treachery optional.

This was another comedic larp, where the characters were all drawn from modern action movies and series. The characters would have heard of each other and the modern world, but it wasn't fourth wall breaking - i.e. they didn't know the media or that they were characters from there. The players and characters included:

The plot was in principle driven by a trading game. Each player was left something in Mr. Boddy's will, but not the thing they were hoping for. And it seemed like it was set up so that there were no two-way acceptable trades. However, I quickly

I played an evil psychiatrist from the television series Eureka, and there were two patients among the other PCs (as well as Mr. Boddy being my former patient). The original character was female, and unscrupulously seduced targets to get what she wanted (as well as occasional violence). I gender-swapped the character to be male, mainly for simplifying explanations - and because I expected the femme-fatale "Cougar" ability wasn't going to work well with this social group for me.

The event was good fun. I had two good short scenes talking with my patients among those there, talking them through their psychological issues. Within about an hour I identified a three-way trade that would leave me and the two other parties satisfied, though it took a little longer to finalize that. There was a fight where an assassin was killed, but she knocked Dr. Horrible off the balcony as she was being killed. He just barely survived the fall using a jar of wonderflonium, and made it back in time for the check-in with the lawyer.

It ended with a very satisfying denouement. As Dr. Horrible ran up from his misadventure, we came to the second check-in. By this point, everyone had worked out deals to their satisfaction - except for Gordon Gecko. We reviewed that unless everyone at the room was satisfied, no one would get anything, but if Gecko died, then everyone would get this stuff. At this point, Marcella took out the gun Martin had given her and promptly shot him dead. Gru's minions came out to take away the body, and the game was over.

This was more two hours before the alloted time, but there had been a lot of intense play and everyone seemed quite satisfied. (A slight postscript, the minions worked on secretly reviving Gecko, and I ostensibly helped due to being a doctor - but I secretly mostly impeded them and took samples of the tech they were using to help Dr. Horrible with his Project Penny.)

A fun and satisfying comedy game. The rules were mostly GM fiat, though characters had a descriptive list of abilities and items. (Mine were Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, MD, Cougar, Hacker, and Pharma.) The character did make me reflect on how to handle having femme fatale types in a larp. I had a character of that sort in my Film Noir / Voudoun larp the previous year, and it is tricky both for the player and for those around them, since the sexuality can be uncomfortable regardless of cross-gender play. Probably I'll avoid it or modify the concept more in the future.


Workshop: Crafting Good RPG Scenarios

Saturday 2:00 PM in 334 for 4 hours
Presenter(s): Becky Thomas, Steve Kani
Type: Seminar
Work through the design process for RPG scenarios with the staff of The Roleplay Workshop. We’ll cover the process step by step including: We will provide guidance and feedback during the workshop. Beginner and experienced Game Masters welcome. You’ll leave the workshop with a critiqued and edited game scenario!
The Roleplay Workshop has been running games for youth (ages 12 - 18) and adults for nearly 30 years. We create good games for a living!

This was a workshop / seminar with about a dozen people. They core of it was adapting some screenwriting theories to RPGs - specifically The Nine-Act Structure by David Siegel. They also referenced Hamlet's Hit Points by Robin Laws as a useful reference.

The first principle is to generally have two goals - an initial goal, and then a twist that forces the protagonists to pursue a different goal. This was then elaborated into having a nine-act structure for the adventure and/or campaign as a whole. Each of the dozen people or so came up with a premise (a "what if"), and then a nine-act structure for turning that into an adventure or campaign. These were numbered and had a diagram for the balance between good fortune and bad fortune. The starting example was the premise "alligators in the sewers". This could lead to objectives like save someone, or clean out the sewers. It was commented that this was linear, but they suggested that the best modules get players to think that the pre-planned plot were all their own ideas. A common problem, they suggested, was losing sight of the goals and instead becoming stuck on particular ways of achieving the goals.

I started with the premise of my current Dungeons & Dragons campaign - "dragons conquer the surface of the world". Following the nine-act structure with suggestions, this lead to:

    0) Someone Toils Late Into the Night: the dragon cult summons evil to the world
    1) Start With an Image: what looks like a nearby flock of birds turns out to be an army of dragons on the horizon
    2) Something Bad Happens: dragonborn go berserk, dragons take over
    3) Meet the Hero and the Opposition: the heroes collect survivors from the town and seek shelter
    4) Commitment: ally with survivors to find a safe place
    5) Go for the Wrong Goal: fight their way into dungeons and establish a stronghold
    6) The Reversal: several options, including find a way to save the world or find another world,
       but went with "find a Hollow Earth"
    7) Go for the New Goal: migrate humanity to the Hollow Earth
    8) Wrap It Up: get humanity to agree ... Brave New World 

This is obviously a pretty epic overarching story, and could use many adventures along the way. Noted feedback on this: A question about what place chromatic dragons have in the new world. Suggestions to keep up pressure so that finding a safe place is a relief - making the safe place more of a valid goal rather than an anticlimax.

There was also some good discussion of the difference between screenplay writing and RPG game-mastering. Allowing for different kinds of preparation - (1) plotting such as this; (2) creating background/obstacles/goals; (3) planning the implementation.

I was interested to note that they felt that for convention events, 4 hours is barely enough to have story at all. In contrast, for my son and I, we typically only play in tabletop events that are 4 hours, with some exceptions. My experience has been that longer events often don't have more story, but rather have long fight scenes, puzzles, and other sidetracks.


Beyond Enemy Lines

Saturday 6 PM in Salon B for 8 hours
GM Troupe: Gamer Geekus
Type: LARP
System: GM Fiat
Players: 20
LARP Experience: Beginners Welcome
Game Content: Mainstream
Genre: 1950s Military
Costume Suggestions: Military and civilian clothing
At 4 o'clock in the morning, on Sunday June 25th 1950, armed forces from North Korea commenced an unprovoked assault against the territory of Republic of Korea along the 38th Parallel in the Ong Jin, Ke Sung, and Cheung Ch On sectors. Hidden in secret bunkers, moving by night, a small group of military men and civilians make their best effort to decipher the enemy's strategy and survive the ordeal. As bombs fall around them, can they turn the tide from their isolation or are they doomed to endure world shattering events beyond their control?
Website: www.facebook.com/gamergeekus

I was expecting a very serious game from the introduction, when the game as played was an interesting mix of some very serious bits, along with some wacky genre bits like a jetpack and robot. The premise - not mentioned in the description - is that there was an artifact in an archeological dig being lead by American academics just on the border, and almost half of the characters were civilians (mostly American) related to the dig. The players and their characters included:

As it turned out, I was instrumental in throwing the plot into a major loop. The deal was that there were two sets of American civilians - the original archeological team, and then a second team. Partly because of a missing/un-cast player character, the second team didn't have anyone establishing their credentials. Further, they were acting super suspicious - mostly because they did, in fact, have a host of secrets. The military were trying to coordinate on how to deal with the missing artifact, and hints that it might be alien and have the potential for earth-shattering destruction.

My character was ostensibly an upstanding politician who supported capitalism, but was secretly a die-hard communist sympathizer. As such, I secretly hated the Americans, as did the Korean military commander. Given suspicious civilian activity, we determined that we would arrest them and question them to find out what was going on. We quietly consulted with both the American military and the American ambassador, and they agreed to go along with it. Our plan was to arrest them one by one and watch their reactions to the others, and they would either come forward or reveal some of their secrets. However, the American inventor (with a jetpack) refused to be arrested. We asked multiple times for him to come along quietly, and he kept saying no. Then in exasperation, he asked "What are you going to do, shoot me in the back of the head?" and the Korean commander (who was xenophobic and disliked Americans) answered "Maybe."

At that point, he activated a force field the shocked away attempts to grab him, and the military drew their guns and fired on him to no effect. The American private came to his aid against orders (because he had his secret powers as well), and after a complex struggle, it ended up with me together with the inventor and the not-really-American soldier inside the force field. The soldier held a gun to my head and demanded I stand down, and I stood my ground and said that they were in Korea, and if they wanted to attack the Korean government they could kill me, but we would not be intimidated. And he shot me in the head, killing me instantly (because he was actually an alien who didn't like ).

As far as I know, this was all in-character. As a communist, I got what I wanted - because an American soldier publicly killing a South Korean politician is pure gold for the communist cause in the South. The soldier was secretly loyal to his own bosses and didn't like any Earthlings as I understand it.

That turned the whole intended plot on its end. There was chaos for a while as everyone turned against each other - and the GMs eventually had us put out with knock-out gas, to wake up tied up and have a final whodunnit-type big reveal. I took one of the few missing PCs - the ultra-American Captain John Freedom, and got to have a monologue where I questioned people and got a few position statements and answers. There was some last-minute negotiation between sides, and then we called the end of game.


Luck Be A Lady Tonight; Changeling Fortunes

Sunday 11 AM in Salon AB for 6 hours
GM Troupe: Team Volaré
Type: LARP
System: L.A.R.P.S. System
Players: 30
Variations: Some GM Fiat
LARP Experience: Useful
Game Content: Mature Themes
Genre: Changeling the Dreaming
Costume Suggestions: Any 1960's or variation thereof
1966, Las Vegas is a city of lights, where dreams of fortune and fun abound. In the last years of the Interregnum the city is an oasis of Glamour, and it is coveted by all the Fey. The place to be is the VIP Rellik lounge; its magical portal is located in The Sands Casino and owned and operated by its proprietor; Mr. Honk. This is where the Fey and other members of the supernatural come to relax, laugh, and tempt fate and luck, but tonight those forces will be put to the test. Please join us for a Changeling inspired game. A Team Volaré production.

This was an adaptation of Changeling: The Dreaming set in 1960s Las Vegas. It was a big event with almost all of the 30 characters cast I think, and almost (?) everyone was cast. The players and their characters that I recall included:

The tricky thing about this was that there were both humans and fae present, and the fae had to hide their activities and pretend like it was just another normal night at the lounge. There was negotiation over magical stuff between Mr. Honk and a contingent of local indians, and a negotiation over casino expansion among Mr Honk with some businessmen and mobsters, and then there were various personal activities going on. So there was a lot of secret negotiation and a few uses of powers.

A big part of what I was doing was control - keeping humans in the dark, directing attention elsewhere except for the few principles on the negotiation, and acting as if it was just a usual night. It felt a little uncomfortable for me, because that could be seen as keeping the game more boring for many players. I ran two rounds of actual poker, and then another round later in the evening - where I managed to keep most people at the table even as there were some screams from the other room. In many games, there are characters who are on the fringes, kept away from most of the action - and it would be good if more characters could be pulled in.

Kudos especially to Wendy's two a capella performances of appropriate songs that kept everyone.


Pick-Up LARP: The Woods

This was a pick-up larp, since there were a number of people (including myself) who didn't get into any games for Sunday evening. After going out to dinner, we had four people and we looked through the "Larp Library" of different pick-up games. We decided on "The Woods" by Danielle Goudeau - which has four player parts but also a GM role. I had read through it before and volunteeered to be GM. It took a while for us to get a fifth player. We first got Oliver by going up to a party room, but then he was called that someone had dropped out of the scheduled larp. Then we ran into Melanie as we were going up to find someone else. So the players and their characters were:

We played it outside by the hotel fire pit by the pool - totally appropriate for the game. There were two people by the fire when we got there, but then one left and we asked the other and he was fine with us playing there. There was noise from people playing in the pool, but it wasn't too loud. Zev and Melanie answered questions and decided they were big brother off to make his fortune in the city, and little sister running away from an arranged marriage. Rachel and Rebecca took a little longer, but eventually came up with their conflict over the Stern Woodswoman's ex-lover who had left, and their secret motives.

We then went into character, and then shifted into the in-character storytelling that is a core of the game. The whole thing took between 1 and 2 hours from pick-up to finish. I think we all liked it. If I had any suggestions, it would be maybe some more suggestions or menu-like choices for the characters to help the player give them strong drive. I felt the players here did pretty well to give the characters strong drives that shone through in their stories, but it's a point that needs emphasis.


Conclusion

DunDraCon has been less of my primary among the local conventions, but I'm getting into it more. I haven't run a larp here ever, and only a few tabletop games. Next year, I'm thinking I'll run something and get more into it.

 


John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Thu Feb 21 20:56:45 2016