My last game of the convention was finally pulling together a table for Space Wurm vs. Moonicorn. I learned some stuff! And screwed a couple things up.
1) My little laminated handouts for the various fronts you need in SWvM are a terrible idea. It was pretty obvious once the initial handouts took place, where Space Wurm picks a couple to control, picks a couple to remove from play, and everyone else picks one to be connected to. There’s way way too much detail without enough context, everyone’s noses went down into the sheets, and what is normally a raucous, dynamic effort turned into a very long slog. It was already on the (very) long side of setup-is-play, but isolating everyone’s brains was a bad scene. I miiiiight rejigger them to be much smaller, or I might use what I’ve already got in a different way, or I might toss the setting collaboration out the window and just hand them out, completed, and work from a prepped setup.
What I noticed was missing was that, when I ran the one-shot last time, I was reading from the questions right out of the book. And by golly I was absolutely directing and facilitating and trimming as I went. Even though I thought it’d be useful to decentralize that effort, very clearly everyone wanted to do everything and there was no ad hoc editing. So that’s the worst part. Maybe the solution is to create little handouts that exist to simplify the GM’s hands-on process.
2) Five is too many for a one-shot of SWvM. Now I know. Four is perfect, particularly if I can cut the setup time in half somehow.
3) For both the one-shot and the campaign, I’d encourage the Space Wurm player to take direct action earlier even if it’s for entirely stylistic reasons. The playbook has cool authorial stuff, but it’s also hands-off and uncertain. That’s no good when the best part of SWvM is putting SW and M in the same space.
4) And, damn it, I’d totally spaced that A Thing you do in SWvM is to explicitly highlight exactly what the danger is you’re facing. Just forgot. The elaborate multicolored, multi-layered s-map didn’t provide much visual guidance as a result. Le sad.
So that was our game. Not my best event but not a catastrophe either.
As far as the con itself goes, my only debrief is that something must be done about tabling small press story/indie style games. It’s been a tough con for me in the past on those grounds, but only this year did I finally nail down the problem: everyone wants to run but nobody wants to play. What’s weirder than that is that there’s no good procedure for taking, say, the eight indie nerds who all are running something in a slot, figuring out winners and losers, and putting the indie-friendly folks into functional tables. The Sunday a.m. slot hand, gosh, maybe eight folks offering indiegames. Not a reason in the world that couldn’t have been compiled down to 2 working tables. Instead, you had even the Big Deal Names (Jason Corley, Mark Diaz Truman, Jonathan Perrine, singularly experienced, running two Epyllion tables, how does he not fill either of them? ) wandering around with nothing to do.
I can only speculate as to what’s going on. There’s probably more than one person who feels like I do, who doesn’t really trust that sitting at any old table is gonna be an okay way to spend the next four hours. There are probably sincerely eager folks who are just very excited to run their favorite thing. But there’s this missing…something. I think at least part of that something is that when the RPG muster facilitators start sitting loose people at tables, the first tables to get filled are, you know. Savage Worlds and Deadlands and the mainstreamy stuff. The indie nerds don’t want that, and then there’s nobody left to fill their tables, and then they all just sort of evaporate. I’d love to help hash out a better solution next year.
There’s also something wrong with the preregistration. I looked at the printed books for all the games, and in every case the descriptions were often at best a couple sentences. I could get no sense of what many, maybe most, of the offerings actually were. And I feel like a fairly well educated gamer. I glanced very briefly at the online registration and ended up so bewildered that I didn’t bother. And it turns out that, just like in previous years, there are no good solutions at hand for uncommitted indie players who want to play indie games — again the critical mass problem. How do you choose which of eight empty tables to sit at?
Either a NewMexicon-style pitch session or a Games on Demand style staffed room are two possible solutions. I’m sure there are other solutions.
Hm…otherwise, you know, pretty good con. Always nice to see my Tucsonian and New Messican friends. Got in a round of 7th Sea and the next iteration of Zombie World. Mostly MadJay Brown and I got to bed at a reasonable time and ate out a lot.