End Game July 2007 Mini-Con Report

         This was the sixth "mini-convention" organized at a game store in Oakland, called "End Game".

         There were originally 14 events scheduled in three time slots of four hours each (10AM-2PM, 3PM-7PM, and 8PM to midnight). However, at least two were cancelled. This time, my games were Dogs in the Vineyard, Dog Eat Dog, and Spirit of the Century (which I GMed). I had originally planned to run a game of Truth & Justice in the morning slot, but I didn't have players signed up I played Dogs instead (which had an open spot). I went there with my friend Martine, who was visiting the U.S. from Norway (and whom I met at Knutepunkt 2005).


Dogs in the Vineyard

Dogs in the Vineyard

         This was a straightforward run of Dogs in the Vineyard, game-mastered by Carl Rigney -- who has been running Dogs games forever and whom I'd played with several times before.

A courting gone wrong leads to shooting and it's up to the Dogs to put things right and save the community from its thirst for vengeance. Roleplay God's Watchdogs protecting the faithful in a West that never was. Mercy, Judgement. Life, Death. They're all in your strong hands. System will be taught, beginners welcome.

         We set out creating characters as per the rules. The players and their character concepts were:

Of the players, Craig had never played before but the others among us had -- though we were used to different styles of play. We then went into the accomplishment phase.

By the time we finished character creation and accomplishments, it was 2 hours into the 4 hour time slot. Thus, there wasn't a lot of time for the town. Carl outlined the basic characters in the town for us out of character -- drawing a diagram of the basic relationships. We then picked who we would have relationships to.

We played through coming to town and deal with their problems. Without going into too much detail, there was conflict over Sarah Weaver -- the beautiful daughter of a rich man whom all the town wanted to marry. Her brother got into a fight with one of her suitors, and he was shot. Our introduction to this was encountering the lynch mob pursuing the shooter, Daniel. In the process of the adventure, there were only three conflicts that went to dice:

In the end, they accepted my suggestion that Sarah Weaver should go to Bridal Falls City, and we gave a sermon at Simon Weaver's funeral rebuking everyone's pride without specifying particular people at fault. By unanimous agreement, we left Daniel's fate to the Territorial Authority when he comes by -- expecting that he will probably be let off since as far as we can tell it was accidental manslaughter. Lastly, Sr. Isolde privately told her would-be fiance Hank that it was over between them.

Dog Eat Dog

         This was a semi-GM-less game being organized by the author, Liam Burk. A draft form was available last year from this Forge thread (Aug '06). It is a game about colonialism, particularly reflecting Pacific islands where the colonials had overwhelming power. Any player describes the results of her characters actions, but there is one Occupation player who has the power to judge how tokens are awarded and trump to win in conflicts. After each scene that Occupation is in, the natives create a new rule which they gain tokens for if they follow it in later scenes. The description in the program was:

Dog Eat Dog is a game of colonialism and its consequences. It takes place on one of the hundreds of small islands in the Pacific Ocean. One player plays the Occupation, made up of a hugely powerful and capable military, an occupation government primarily composed of native quislings, and whatever jaded tourists and shrewd businessmen are willing to come to a not yet quite pacified territory. All the other players play individual Natives, who lived a more or less peaceful and uneventful life until the Occupation showed up. The game begins when the war ends.

         There were six players -- Liam sat out and simply advised while everyone else played. First, we went around the table and each player added one fact about the natives. Then we went around and each player added one fact about the Occupation. This became rather pulpy, partly because of me: I specified "They make a poison which has no cure" about the natives, and I think "They enjoy torturing people with electric shocks" about the Occupation. The natives (the LP'PMAJW) were a superstitious, matriarchal society who worshiped a volcano god. The Occupation (the Krimean Empire) were setting up a base for their flying battlewagons. We then determined the colonial player, and the other players made up their characters. Going around the table, we had:

         We then played out nine or ten scenes, passing tokens between us after any scene involving the colonial power. With each scene we added a rule. We got into an initial clash, but after that most of the natives were plotting in secret how to poison the Occupation. My character turned out to be a weasely sort who sucked up to both sides. I followed all the rules we made and collected a lot of tokens, but also tried to follow the orders of the women in our matriarchal society. The rules that we ended up with at the end of the game were:

  1. The LP'PMAJW are inferior to the Krimeans. (This is the one starting rule mandated by the system.)
  2. Visible children are for sale.
  3. Men do stupid things around women.
  4. Deal directly with underlings.
  5. Use covert tactics.
  6. Burn all bridges.

         Coming up with rules and judging them was key to the game. The process was a little fuzzy at this stage of the game development, but it seems like it has potential. The idea is that the natives are supposed to learn lessons from each encounter with the Occupation, and then everyone is judged based on those lessons.

         In the end, this definitely had the feeling of a playtest where we focused on the rules and issues with them -- but it lead to some interesting discussion and interactions.

Spirit of Serenity

         This was a sci-fi scenario in the universe of Firefly/Serenity, using the Spirit of the Century system -- game-mastered by myself. I had pre-generated PCs, which I had created for my first try-out of the SotC system with my own group. I then ran an off-the-cuff game of this at Go Play NorthWest. After that, I re-thought my scenario a bit before running it here. The event description was:

A scenario set in the Firefly/Serenity universe using the Spirit of the Century rules. The Companion's Guild operates an armed enforcer ship, The Coronado, that watches out for guild interests in the outer planets. However, the crew of that ship are about to get more than they bargained for as their past catches up with them. This is much in the spirit of the Old West inspirations for Firefly.

The pre-generated characters are all available on my Spirit of Serenity page along with reports on my prior runs. The context of prostitution set a lot of the tone for the game. Compared to prior runs, I used the system a lot more. In particular, I was much more attentive to offering compels for character Aspects. My main notes sheet includes a long list of everyone's Aspects along with some pointers on possible compels. I was running using the faster version of conflicts, where each hit takes out a number of boxes.



         I was slightly disappointed that I didn't get to run my Truth & Justice game, but all of the games that I did play were good fun. In the future I might organize better about how I'm going to get lunch and dinner. Also, the games and information weren't posted until fairly soon before the event -- but that's mostly a problem of publicity that GMs and participants should help with.


John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Fri Mar 30 12:11:41 2012