Saturday, January 25, 2014

[OrcCon 2014] Cowboys and Dinosaurs

Pictured, from left to right: Sparks Nevada and a lunatic.
Ah, late January, a time when a middle-aged SoCal gamer's mind turns to thoughts of OrcCon and the games to be run and played there. This middle-aged SoCal gamer will be running three games over the course of President's Day Weekend (aka Valentine's Day Weekend... awkward...), which is what this post is about.

I know lately I've been doing breakdowns of all the Fate games being run at these conventions, but it's been a long day and I just wanna get this one out. I will say this: There are 10 eleven such games at OrcCon, including the three below.)

Friday night at 8:00 and Sunday afternoon at 2:00 are playtests of the Sparks Nevada Adventure Game (working title -- maybe the Sparks Nevada Thrilling Adventure Game?). Why not call it Sparks Nevada: The Roleplaying Game? I dunno. I kinda like "adventure game." I seem to recall it was out there in the '80s, but never really caught on as a term, which is too bad, I think. I like how it tells you what the game's going to be about: adventure! I mean, yeah, it's about playing roles too, but if you were to ask me "Do you want to go on an adventure?" vs. "Do you want to play a role?" I'm pretty sure I'd take you up on the former faster than I would on the latter. Plus, it feels like a natural derivation of "The Thrilling Adventure Hour."

Anyway, I digress. Here's the blurb:

Kids! Shine your astro-spurs and don your robot fists! It's time to playtest the Sparks Nevada Adventure Game! Based on the wildly popular Thrilling Adventure Hour, the Sparks Nevada Adventure Game uses a greatly altered and simplified version of Fate Core that emphasizes character interaction and big dramatic moments. Newcomers to Sparks Nevada and/or Fate welcome!

I'm... not entirely sure what the premise is yet, but for some reason I'd like to make use of K of the Cosmos, if I can get the voice down. Oh yes -- owing to the audiocentric nature of the Thrilling Adventure HourSparks Nevada is one of those games that really benefits from getting the voices down, which makes it an unnatural fit for me, but whatever. I'd also kinda like to make it Valentine's Day themed, but y'know, President's Day might be just as good. Sparks and Croach fight Lincoln and Washington for reasons that only make sense to K? And hey, wasn't there a Star Trek kinda like that? This idea's sounding better all the time.

More on OrcCon after the jump.

That was the jump! Did you enjoy it?

Sunday morning at 9:00, which you may know better as "the best time to not run a game at a convention," I'll be running an Atomic Robo scenario I'm calling Bring Me the Head of Dr. Dinosaur. It was prompted by the thought that if Dr. Dinosaur is a spectacularly failed genetic engineering experiment, then -- well, the blurb explains it pretty well, I think:

You were elite agents of a secretive government agency, genetically engineered to be the best of the best. But 14 years ago, the black sheep of your group, a psychotic with the delusional belief that he's a velociraptor named H'ssssk, slaughtered your creators and set off on a worldwide chaos spree. Tesladyne wants to imprison him. Majestic 12 wants to study him. But you? You just want revenge.

So it's that game, the one where the PCs are non-insane versions of Dr. Dinosaur, more or less, and both Tesladyne and Majestic 12 are the badguys. It'll take place after volume 8, which just concluded this past week. For those among you who are sticklers for canon, this means we will be operating without a net. I mean, obviously I know what goes on in volume 9, to a certain extent, on account of how special I am, but we'll be ignoring that for secrecy reasons, and also because I honestly don't know that much.

Pre-reg opens today at noon PST, so get on that. I want full games, people! There may be a little tiny cool surprise at one or more of those games, if you're a dedicated fan of the thing that one of those games is based on, but I promise nothing.

In related news, there may be some exciting related news soonish, so keep checking the blog. Or y'know what? I'll just let you know via Twitter. Yeah, that's better. Saves you checking the blog in vain.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

[Fate] Happy New Year Three Days Ago

Hey, so 2013 was a pretty great year, right? The kinda year people make lists about.

But let's not dwell on the past. Let's dwell on the future. What does it hold? What does 2014 have in store for us? More on that right after we dwell on the past a little bit. And then I swear, it's future-stuff all the way.

A couple weeks ago Thrilling Fate got another playtest, specifically to try out a couple changes that cropped up as a result of the last playtest (which, as you may recall, was awesome).

The major one had to do with cues, the roleplaying-prod mechanic. I'm trying to standardize cues for all PCs so it's easier not just to make characters, but to make quick comparisons between them. In my last post, I talked about how I'd given them categories (a proactive mannerism, a reactive response, two connections with other PCs, and a big dramatic cue that only happens once an episode). Every PC has a potential connection with every other PC, as shown on their character sheet, but not all of them are in play in a given episode.

I'd planned to use the connections to establish ties between PCs by having each player name another PC and say something about them, something to setup the current episode. I was thinking it'd be stuff like "What did they reveal to you yesterday?" or "How did they recently disappoint you?" We'd start with Sparks -- "When last we left our hero..." -- who would pick someone, and those two players would have a connection with one another for that episode. Then it'd be the second player's turn, and we'd continue until everyone had two connections (so it'd loop back around to Sparks with the last player).

Trouble is, that requires a certain degree of familiarity with those characters, and as it happened, Will Huggins, playing Sparks, didn't really know anything about Sparks Nevada at all beyond the theme song. Neither did Jim Waters, playing Cactoid Jim. (Gina Ricker and Jason Tryon are both relatively recent converts to the Thrilling Adventure Hour, so they had good handles on their PCs -- Red and Croach, respectively. And Gina did a spot-on accent for Red, I gotta say.)

So we went with Plan B, which was this: Everyone circles their connection with Sparks, then picks one other connection with another PC. Cross the rest; they're not relevant in this episode. (Sparks circles his connection with Croach.) This proved to be a great alternative, and resulted in a lot of what I'd call "mechanically productive" player interaction. More than last time, even.

The other change I wanted to test out didn't actually get any actual "testing," unfortunately. I changed troubles to be more straightforward and more reflective of how the show usually goes. Now it's this: You have three trouble slots, each with two check boxes. If an attack against you is a success, write down a trouble and check one box. If it's a thrilling success (success of 5+), check two boxes. If you ever check a fourth box, you're defeated. No more tracking damage.

The intent is to let, say, Sparks intimidate a guy to give them a trouble, then, when that troubled badguy decides to get violent anyway, he guns them down fair and square. (Most NPCs won't have as many trouble slots as the PCs do.) It feels like it could use an escalation mechanic, but man, that really seems too fiddly and involved for what the rest of this Fate variant is trying to do (which is, basically, not be fiddly or all that mechanically involved).

Fun-wise, fun was had. Once again, the PCs seemed to have been written well enough that even players who weren't familiar with the source material were able to help create an authentic-feeling episode of play. Since then, I believe Will and Jim have both subscribed to the podcast and have plans to attend at least one show at Largo, so once again, Acker and Blacker, I have created new fans for you. You're welcome.

Planning on playtesting against on January 19th, again at Game Empire in Pasadena, assuming I can think up another scenario and stat up some new PCs for it. Whatever it is, it'll have the Troubleshooter, Mercy Laredo, and, like, Gene Peeples as PCs. (For some reason, I want to do something featuring K of the Cosmos. As an NPC, of course.) I can't believe how many of these game days I've attended lately. (Two.)

I'm also going to run at least one session of Sparks Nevada at OrcCon in February, plus Atomic Robo. I have this Robo scenario in mind that sounds like a lot of fun, but I have no real idea how to do it just yet. The premise is that the PCs are some sort of genetically engineered elite agents created by someone or other. (So... not Action Scientists at all.) They're running a mission in the service of their creators, but upon their return to Taravai Island they're shocked to discover everyone's dead. Everyone, that is, except one of their own, a fellow "experiment" deemed too unstable for field work and scheduled for destruction, now missing and presumed responsible. And the PCs want only one thing: revenge. Bring Me the Head of Dr. Dinosaur. Coming soon to... well, OrcCon, like I said.

After that in 2014? ARRPG's impending release, continued work on Shadow of the Century, my bit for a Tian Xia stretch goal... and who knows, maybe even something that doesn't use Fate! Stranger things have happened. Not to me personally, but y'know. You hear things.