RinCon 2018

RinCon 2018

MadJay Brown and I got back from our “good” Arizona gaming con last night. It was so much better this year than last! But it was also weird in its differences.

The big change was the Indie Arcade, which was RinCon’s take on a Games on Demand-type space: set time slots (4 hours), with games being pitched live before each slot by four or five facilitators. Live pitches are, for me, so much better than written pitches although it’s pretty time consuming, 15-ish minutes each slot.

It was great to have indie/story game space at this con for the first time. It was also in a basement with minimal signage, with advocates occasionally going to the other floors to spread the word. Not well signed, iffy marketing, and it still drew a solid crowd every time it was offered. And not just to the committed hippies: plenty of indie-curious conventional-game players came down and sat for at least one game.

As a committed hippie gamer, I kind of felt like a Morlock down in the depths of the Tucson Sheraton. Very little interaction with the rest of the con (that’s mostly a positive), no real sense of the rest of the activities going down. The little space we were in (three tables’ worth) was en route to the space where the roundtables and talks were being presented, so I feel like it wasn’t quite as invisible as I’m making it out to be. Folks who were already predisposed to attend talks are probably also folks who might be receptive to trying out a hippie game. Maybe I’m wrong about that. Dunno.

Had some terrific talks with the Indie Arcade organizers about things we might try next time around, and everyone seemed enthusiastic and receptive to the idea. My cynical old gamer brain thinks there will be some mild pushback if we ask for more space or visibility, out of fear of displacement of conventional games. I felt a similar small discomfort at an invitational con I did earlier this year when I pitched Inheritance, some uncertainty about having larpy things in an event put on by folks who are larp-averse. No idea how it’ll actually shake out, but fingers crossed we can continue to stake out space, time and mind share.

I didn’t pack as much into my days as I might when I’ve driven or flown a great distance, but all the gaming I did do was capital g Good:

  • Ran Scum and Villainy Friday evening, because I was dumb and didn’t realize they’d moved the con start time to Friday at noon, and missed the 2pm pitch for which I was scheduled. Scum for five! All but one of whom had never played it or Blades in the Dark. Went really smooth, I’m feeling confident in my pitch and explanation, I think it was a satisfying one-shot.

  • Missed out on the 9am pitch Saturday morning, so Jay and I wandered around and stumbled into a game of Wasteland Express Delivery Service, a board game. Nice guy running it, a pleasant way to pass the morning until lunch. It was fine.

  • Offered/facilitated The King is Dead for a table of five (photo below). This is the second time I ran it, and Katherine Fackrell had also played before. It was huge to have had a little experience, because it was so fucking good the second time around. This may be my favorite of Vincent Baker’s games, which is saying a lot given his body of work. We had a conventional-play guy get talked into joining us, so it wasn’t even a full table of committed hippies.

I want to talk a little more about The King is Dead.

The first time my home group played, we were trying to figure out what the game did and how it did it. And it was fun, no doubt, but I felt like there was enough underlying structure to it that you could play the game more hard-nosed and competitively. So that was my approach this time around, to really contemplate the games I asked for with an eye toward building my hand for the Coronation at the end. The game changes a bunch when you play hard nosed: the stakes feel more real, more intense. I was also sensitive to good drama, so when I played a Sword to Sword game with Katherine, it was super great to feel real tension around trying to keep the swordfight flirty and not deadly. Like, we didn’t agree to that vibe at all beforehand, and it felt like a real risk to put myself at her character’s mercy.

The game was full of moments like that for me, and it was super satisfying. It was even satisfying sitting back and watching the FNGs start a war with each other. The experienced players, having built strong positions, had literally no motivation at all to get our hands dirty, and watched with grim satisfaction as they gutted each other. But the War minigame is super fun anyway, and like with the rest of the games there’s always stuff for the audience/non-players to do.

There’s a thing I did the first time that isn’t formally in the RAW but it’s really good: write down the big fictional positioning details of what spools out of the Intrigue and Muster and War games. I’d put big index cards with summaries out there, and I think it was useful to keep the game grounded, make the events feel a bit more “real” so the game didn’t devolve to a pure card game.

Anyway, totally my highlight. Super great. I’d run it any time as a con game.

  • Played in Jason Corley’s Masks game. It was the second time I’ve played, and I’m feeling super jazzed about running it for my home table at some point. I’m so curious about campaign play! I played a new playbook, The Star, and made him a wholesome all-American social media personality. Very satisfying, to the point where I had to expend some energy putting the brakes on my own spotlight time so I wouldn’t just bask in it. We had a young player new to games like this (and probably roleplaying in general) and her energy and excitement was tangible. Top marks, very fun.
  • Sunday, Jay and I slept past the first slot and then discovered to our dismay that there was no Sunday afternoon Arcade slot. Boo! My fault, totally, because I’m allergic to scheduling. Every con is a gamble but the only time it’s not worked out for me, really, was last year’s RinCon. At every other event, including this year’s RinCon, there’s been some accommodation for the scheduling-averse. Personally I really enjoy the sense of discovery, but I have to accept that sometimes you just wander the desert and discover nothing but rocks and cactus and Savage Worlds and Gumshoe.

Anyway, I’ve come off this RinCon feeling more optimistic and energized than ever about the local indie gaming scene. Networked and ran into more local folks than I realized were into this stuff. We’re a thousand points of light surrounded by darkness, and now it’s just a matter of bringing folks together more often I think. I’m working out the details of a local Meetup that Jonathan Perrine and I have been futzing over for months. It’s gonna happen.

0 thoughts on “RinCon 2018”

  1. I really enjoyed our Sword to Sword game, Paul Beakley! I remember going “Ugh, I should definitely kill her while I have the chance”, but thought it was ultimately more fun to have our doomed one-sided romance play out!

  2. Great report! I’m eager to get TKID to a table soon, and this makes it sound like it might really sing with my very weird home table, too.

    We’re actually playing Masks ongoing right now, and it’s great fun. I feel like some of the players are wrestling with the dynamics of Influence a lot, and the fact that you can just use your powers whenever, and it’s not always “unleashing” and sometimes it isn’t a move at all, but it’s coming along and we’re all hitting those high notes.

    It’s also a game that I think would benefit a lot from a more formalized spotlight management system. Our GM is really good about it, but it would be a huge asset to be able to tell one of our group “hey, it’s not your turn.”

    Some time during the past few years, my core group, the guys I’ve been gaming with for a almost 20 years, has fallen apart a bit due to scheduling, kids, etc., and the gaps have been filled in by another pre-existing group with a VERY different play style, and I’m really still struggling with adapting. They are much more tolerant of characters who refuse the call to adventure, or who stir up shit within the group without any particular dramatic or systemic goal in mind, and it gets frustrating.

    (Two sessions ago, we literally had two different players Provoke one character, and he took a condition to refuse the provocation both times. He would have just stood there and let the team verbally beat him into the ground rather than do the thing that benefited the team. It was bad enough that we talked to the GM about it after, saying “hey if we’re going to have another 40-minutes-of-real-time experience trying to convince D to actually participate in the game, can you just hand-wave and fast-forward past it?”)

    Anyway, sorry to threadcrap, that was not my intent.

    TLDR: I really like Masks!

  3. Aaron Griffin oh jeez, utterly vital. They had time to noodle on their game options, read the little House writeups in the back, all that. And how do you do the call-and-response games without both sides having the lists to work with?

    The books aren’t that big and it took me maybe 30ish minutes to double-side them, assemble, fold and staple. I’m looking forward to having the formally printed books and am deeply regretting not getting Venn Wylde’s card decks during the Kickstarter. My biggest KS regret so far!

  4. Derrick Kapchinsky hopefully not an outlier. The Indie RPG Arcade program was specifically implemented for us, and it worked. And the folks organizing it are receptive to input. I am confident it will get much better over time.

    If I had a beef at all with this year’s con it was that we were so isolated from the rest of the event. It wasn’t quite a Shadow Con, you know, where you pay your money but you’re there to play private games with your inner circle in your own suites. But it was a smidge deserted-island-y.

  5. Paul Beakley I was actually asking if last year was an outlier. I’m guessing from your expectations of how the Indie arcade will be going forward, that it probably was. = D

  6. Paul Beakley I’d love to hear at some point how you start things out when facilitating The King is Dead as a con game. I’ve taught it a few times with mixed success.

  7. Paul Beakley we are already considering more tables for the Arcade. SAGA/RinCon are committed to this branch of the RPG scene, so we will do our best to make it happen.

  8. Larry Lade TusCon still exists, and does have a gaming room, though it has dwindled in RPG presence over the years. I met my spouse at a TusCon Vampire LARP. 🙂

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