Kingdom of Nothing at Chicago Gameday 49

On Saturday I played Kingdom of Nothing with Aaron Griffin, Tim Jensen, and John at Chicago Gameday 49.

tl;dr — I had fun, but IMO the game needs work.

In Kingdom of Nothing you play a homeless person who has forgotten the tragic event that put them on the streets, and who battles against the Nothing, a mysterious force that plagues street people. “Normal” people don’t seem to notice you, except when you’re asleep (“Ugh, another bum on a park bench”). A big focus of the game is trying to discover the character’s forgotten past and why they ended up where they did.

The resolution system involves putting coins of various denominations into a cup and then throwing them; every head is a success, and you need enough successes to meet or beat a target number. You get help from other players by literally jingling the cup and asking for change. Nice.

We did character generation together and then played a slightly accelerated session. One thing to note is that your PC’s secret past is created by the other players; you’re the only one who doesn’t know what it is.

Aaron was the GM. I played “Jacknife,” a seemingly homeless vet with a opioid addiction who’s “Light” (i.e., their goal) was to just find a job. Tim played “Cave Dave,” who did street murals and lived in a drainage tunnel. John was “the Collector”, a bag-man who grabbed everything and spent every dime he could get playing the lottery.

Through various scenes (there is an economy for who frames scenes and what kind), we discovered that Jacknife’s wife left him when he was diagnosed with cancer, the Collector was a college professor who gambled away all of his child’s college fund, and Cave Dave was an artist who’d had someone take credit for his art and leave him penniless.

First off, let me say that, for me, the game completely avoided misery tourism. The chargen process evoked in me a lot of sympathy for the poor souls we were creating; at no point did I take their plight lightly, or find them amusing, or feel any contempt. I give the game — and Aaron — a lot of credit for this.

Also, Aaron’s props were great. Our character sheets were cardboard signs the like of which homeless people tend to carry. It was a nice physical reminder of the very real problem that was the inspiration for the game.

But…

…and let me say that Aaron did a great job with the game, all of the players did their damndest; we had a great group.

But I think the game itself needs work.

The main issue for me is that the “secret past” and “the Nothing” parts of the game seem orthogonal. The Nothing — which may be a real supernatural entity or just your PC’s hallucinations — thwart you, but you only get “XP” for pursuing your secret. The Nothing scenes we had seemed more like fight-y encounters that simply delayed learning more about the secrets. (You also have to “earn” the ability to do scenes that get closer to your secrets, and the means to do so felt a little opaque to me. E.g., we had no trouble winning most of the conflicts we faced, but the scene currency points were very hard to come by.)

Plus, your secret is unknown to you, yet you are the one framing scenes that ostensibly help you work towards discovering your secret. I honestly couldn’t really reconcile how this was supposed to work. Not to mention, I’m not a big fan of secrets in games.

Added to all of this is that chargen is relatively involved — PCs have stats, skills, burdens, a Light (goal), an Echo (evocative signature color), Plot points, Hope points, and Stuff — and the expectation is that you’ll play for multiple sessions. Personally, I don’t really see the appeal of this concept — cool though it is — as a campaign game. I feel like the themes of the game would be much more powerful in a less weighty game that aimed to provide a complete arc in a single session.

Now, keep in mind that I have not read the rules, and this was just a one-shot, so who knows what bits of the game I am missing. That said, it nonetheless felt over-complicated and under-focused to me.

I’d love to see a simplified version of this game — ideally GM-less — where the focus was either street people battling the Nothing that is trying to eradicate them in the midst of a society that doesn’t care or homeless people trying to remember and regain their lost lives. Mixing the two feel self-defeating to me, as each detracts for the other.

That said, it was great to play a game with Aaron again, as we just met at Forge Midwest earlier this year despite interacting here on the Plus for some time. Let’s play some more, man!

#ChicagoGameday #ChicagoGameday49

Dialect at Chicago Gameday 49

On Saturday I played Dialect with Joe Beason, Willow Palecek, Tim Jensen, and Dave Michalak at Chicago Gameday 49.

tl;dr — I had overlooked this game when it was Kickstarting, but now I am totally sold.

The game is focused on discovering the language/jargon created by an isolated community and seeing what happens to that community and its language as it marches toward its demise. We played out a commune — “Home,” we called it — of anarcho-hippies who headed to Montana after Reagan took office in the ‘80s.

Willow and Dave played two of the founders: Bobby, a procurer-of-anything, and Virgil, a Timothy Leary type who was the creator of the community’s custom drugs. Tim and I were younger members, people who had been kids when he commune was founded but were now adults: Thoreau, an idealistic hopeful, and Joad (a.k.a. Jesus) a hard-line, self-proclaimed protector of the commune. Joe was a young woman, this first child born in the commune (and Virgil’s granddaughter), named Song; she began as a zealot, but eventually morphed into one of the most practical of all of us.

The arc of the community was the eventual creeping in of outsiders who would ultimately turn our commune into a Burning Man knockoff.

Play involves a deck of cards with various prompts that ask for both a word and the scene in which we feature it. As the game progresses through the “ages” of the community, the cards ask you to redefine or re-contextualize the existing words and reflect that in the story of the community.

Some of the words we created included: “turnpal,” meaning that despite the nonexistence of private property in the commune, this particular thing was “mine” for right now; “downtime,” a period of two weeks, which was roughly the span between Virgil’s batches of new drugs; “coming home,” i.e., a child being born; “brainsick,” meaning people who were questioning the ethos of the community; and “fortifying the perimeter,” i.e., when Joad would kill or injure outsiders to keep them away from the community.

All of the characters managed to live past the end of the community, ending up in old folk’s homes or just living normal lives back int he world, except for Joad, who was literally shot dead at the Downtime Festival (the only legacy of Home) after threatening all of the attendees and calling them fucking poseurs.

I really loved this game, and everyone at the table was totally “on”for the session. Dave’s portrayal of Virgil was particularly moving for me. The whole concept of telling a community’s story via it’s specialized language really resonated with me. It reminded me of games like Kingdom, but the added lens of the language-building prompts added a whole other level that I didn’t know I was missing.

I cannot recommend this game enough. I’m gonna go buy a copy right now!

#ChicagoGameday #ChicagoGameday49

Chicago Gameday 48 was this past weekend and it was damn good! Best one for me in a while. Between meals with dear friends, I played two games.

Genesys
Josh Rasey ran the generic version of FFG’s “narrative dice” engine for me, Willow Palecek, Jason Ambrose, Linnea, and Nikitas. It was a pretty straight-forward “wake up in a body bag and shoot your way to the scientists who messed with your memory” cyberpunk scenario, and I had a blast. Josh had a great mystery behind the whole thing that was fun to slowly uncover, and all the players got into the beer-n-pretzels spirit of the game (and I mean that has the highest compliment).

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the Genesys system. I had signed up mostly to play a game with Josh, as I never seem to game with him at Gameday. Cyberpunk is not really my jam, and FFG’s custom dice always seemed like a scam to me. By the end of the game, I was half ready to head out to the store and buy the core book and some FFG dice.

Assembling the dice pools and then interpreting the results reminded me a bit of Cortex, and the basic building blocks of the PCs felt like d20 Modern — a winning combination for me. I also love the idea that positive and negative factors on a roll manifest as literal dice instead of modifiers to track and calculate. And passing Boost and whatever the bad dice are called to other PCs and NPCs was a great way to roll (literally) the results of one pool into another.

The only downside I saw was that the GM still had to roll dice as well. I feel like there has to be a way to keep all die rolls player-facing and just use Good/Bad dice to reflect whatever the GM is doing.

I also really loved the idea of Strain as both a type of damage and a resource that could be spent to take action. It reminded me a lot of END in Champions and I am a big fan of END in Champions.

So, yeah, I’m not going to buy any Edge of the Empire books anytime soon, but I would totally play Genesys again.

The Sword, The Crown, and The Unspeakable Power

In the afternoon slot, Todd Nicholas ran SCUP (as it is called) for me, Willow, Shari Corey, and Tim Jensen. For those not familiar, this is a PbtA game focused on GoT-style intrigue that Todd Kickstarted recently.

We played a beast-controlling court sorcerer (me), a Dothraki warrior-princess (Willow), an emperor’s right-hand (Tim), and the Empress herself (Shari) in a Thundarr-like setting. The Emperor is getting old and weak, so, hey, it’s time to start jockeying for who gets to usurp him.

I had a great time and can say that the game totally delivers on what it claims on the tin. All of the sex, violence, and skullduggery felt just like an arc of GoT. The basic moves are very similar to what’s in ApWo, but then everything else builds on that foundation to drive towards heavy throne-on-throne action.

If you backed this, then look forward to good times; if you didn’t, then may the gods have mercy on your soul.

As you can tell, I had a great Gameday, probably the best that I’ve had in a few years. Not running anything and just showing up to play may have had something to do with this, and wonderful games with wonderful people certainly helped.

The only downside was that there was a non-Gameday table of Napoleonic wargamers wedged in the middle of our play space and merciful Zeus but were they a big bag of dicks. Old, loud, white dudes with no respect for personal space or personal volume. Out in the store, one of them even effectively started making fun of a guy for buying a copy of Mouse Guard. These hoary, crusted grognards were ridiculously privileged and ridiculously out of touch.

(Aside: there have been wargamers in our midst before — BattleTech and other, newer games — and I can tell you that they are oblivious dickheads 80% of the time. [The other 20% of the time they are the local all-women wargamer group, who are ridiculously courteous and helpful.] These guys were just particularly bad.)

Anyway, time to start thinking about the next Gameday…

#ChicagoGameday #ChicagoGameday48

Player sign-up for Chicago Gameday 45 starts tonight @ 7 p.m.

Just a reminder that players can start grabbing seats in our events starting tonight at 7:00 p.m. CST on Warhorn. Games available include:

13th Age
Bubbegumshoe
Chubbo’s Marvelous Wish-Granitng Engine
Dawn Patrol
Dungeon World
Fading Suns
Firefly
Masks
Mutant: Genlab Alpha
Paranoia
Shinobigami
Star Wars: Edge of the Empire
The Quiet Year
The Skeletons

…as well as a few systems in play-test — lend these designers a hand!

Chicago Gameday 45 will be held on Saturday, October 29th, starting at 9:30 a.m. at Games Plus in Mt. Prospect, IL — or join us for breakfast at 8:00 a.m. across the street at Le Peep.

#chicagogameday   #chicagogameday45  

https://warhorn.net/events/chicago-gameday-45/schedule/2016/10/29

Player sign-up for Chicago Gameday 45 starts tonight @ 7 p.m.

Just a reminder that players can start grabbing seats in our events starting tonight at 7:00 p.m. CST on Warhorn. Games available include:

13th Age
Bubbegumshoe
Chubbo’s Marvelous Wish-Granitng Engine
Dawn Patrol
Fading Suns
Firefly
Masks
Mutant: Genlab Alpha
Paranoia
Shinobigami
Star Wars: Edge of the Empire
The Quiet Year
The Skeletons

…as well as a few systems in play-test — lend these designers a hand!

Chicago Gameday 45 will be held on Saturday, October 29th, starting at 9:30 a.m. at Games Plus in Mt. Prospect, IL — or join us for breakfast at 8:00 a.m. across the street at Le Peep.

#chicagogameday   #chicagogameday45  

https://warhorn.net/events/chicago-gameday-45/schedule/2016/10/29

Submit an event for Chicago Gameday 45!

I get it, we’re starting really early this time around. I just want to give volunteer GMs as much notice as possible to a) clear their schedules and 2) work up their events.

So, if you’d like to run/facilitate an event for Gameday 45, fill out our event submission form:

EVENT SUBMISSION FORM
http://goo.gl/forms/yrO4zudipF0zKt4y2

If you need some guidance on submitting an event, take a look at our helpful event submission guide in the Notes section of our FB page: https://www.facebook.com/notes/chicago-gameday/submitting-an-event-for-gameday/1085252314878542

Chicago Gameday is happening on Oct 29, starting at 9:30 a.m.

#chicagogameday   #chicagogameday45

So much gaming this weekend: E.V.E. 0, The Clay That Woke, and D&D 5e tl;dr — E.V.E. 0 was frustrating, fun, and full of promise; The Clay That Woke was challenging and awesome, and I really need to read the book, assemble my tokens, and play it some more; my D&D 5e group continues to be awesome and D&D 5e is still maybe the best edition of the game I’ve played yet. Not only did Chicago Gameday 44 happen this weekend, but since MadJay Brown was in town, I also got in a session of our sporadic D&D 5e campaign. Other than a good night’s sleep, I was gaming pretty much from 9:30 a.m. Saturday to 3:00 p.m. Sunday. I.e., my wife is awesome. First up was E.V.E. 0, a game in early development from Dave Michalak that I played with him, Willow Palecek and Tim, a newcomer to Gameday. The basic is premise is that all the characters are from a clutch of bioengineered explorers — cloned sisters — dropped in crechecraft on some random planet. The game starts as you are “born” and have to figure out what equipment survived the landing and what’s the nature of your mission. Play starts with the group making up possible enhancements/mutations, tossing them into a hat (as it were) and randomly drawing a few for each PC. We collectively decided that our baseline form was a blue-skinned, mohawked Scarlett Jonhanson. My sister ended up with fur, telepathy, and web-spinners. We became aware of a mission beacon beckoning us across the landscape, and then I diverted in order to rescue a lost sister who’d awoken before the rest of us and was subsequently captured by natives. The game was definitely rough, and we did a healthy de-brief at the end of the session. The big takeaway was that Dave had this cool loyalty chart that plotted a given PCs allegiance along a mission/sister axis and… some other axis that I forget. We all agreed that that chart should be the core resolution system, rather than a task/ability system Dave used for most of the game. Accomplishing physical tasks proved less interesting to us than questions like: “What does it mean that we just ate one of the sisters who failed to hatch?” In all, I loved the core concept of the game and hope to see Dave either develop it into the loyalty chart game, or else embrace the “mutants explore a planet” task-y angle and adapt it to an existing system. Next I got chance to play The Clay That Woke with Tim Koppang, Tim from above, Matt, and Nikita. The initial setup had two of us working for a master that used his harem of wives to birth a horde of children that he abused and sacrificed for his own spiritual needs, and so, within the first five minutes of the game I was joyously deep in Heavy Shit™ and was looking at the tenets of Silence thinking, “So… this is a list of rules I am going to violate almost immediately”. By mid-point in the session I had murdered the master and was running berserk into the jungle — and Tim being Tim, of course — accidentally goring a child en route. My counterpart in the master’s house, Nikita, took the opposite track and did his utmost to adhere to Silence no matter what. What’s great is that this had part of me angry at him — “How can you stand by and do nothing about this?” — and part of me filled with deep respect — “Dude, you are hardcore.” We had some difficulties with the Krater of Lots. At first it was really confusing that the icons on the tokens were different from the icons on the result sheet; it took some time for us to translate them, and even then sometimes they were — to my old eyes — similar enough that I had to study them for a bit to tell one from another. I think since we also didn’t really grok the strategy, a lot of our results were either one of the last options on the list, or else no result and we defaulted to foreshadowing. I feel like actually reading the dang book and having handled the tokens for one play-through will solve a lot of this, though. It was mostly that all of us save Tim were flying blind, totally new to the game. Overall, though, the session completely renewed my interest in TCTW. I would really like to get a run of 3-6 sessions of this under my belt. Tim adeptly primed the session for one-shot-ness, but I could see how a lot of the issues addressed by the game would fare better given time to develop, not to mention the characters gaining some of the tokens that can only be earned through play. And thus endeth Gameday on Saturday. Sunday started bright and early with pancakes at home and then D&D 5e at 10:00 a.m. with my Sunday crew: Jenn Martin, Julianna Aldredge, Geoff Raye, Dave Michalak, newcomer Tamora, and our DM MadJay Brown. We played for about five hours, though a good chunk of the beginning was spent catching up everyone and figuring out a plan of action. There was much talky-talk at first, and I made use of my paladin’s noble background and their bond to establish that my mother, a baroness, had essentially been charged by the duke to take possession of the lands in which we currently found ourselves, and thus not only was I high-ranked in the local temple, but I was also essentially the ranking political figure in the area. I threw my mother’s influence around in an attempt to buy a mercenary company away from one of our enemies, to limited success. And then we went into a dungeon and fought a death knight summoned by a Deck of Many Things. Good times! There were definitely moments when I was flashing back to my 3e days, as the battle with the death knight involved a certain amount of standing toe-to-toe and whittling down hit points, not to mentioned players stalled on their turns figuring out rules and bonuses, but I attribute both of these phenomena to our general rustiness with the system. After the game I realized that I could stand to compile a personal combat sheet for my paladin, one that outlines all his possible options in a combat round, as it’s staggering the amount of choice available to him despite being just 5th level and owning no magic items. And to Jay’s credit, the fight both involved multiple objectives and could have been avoided depending on how our initial scouting of the scene had gone, which to me is good D&D. The religious and fighting types in the group got to be valorous, the sneaky types to be sneaky, and the arcane types to be inscrutable. 5e continues to impress me. There’s definitely still the tactical/resource bits at which 3e excelled, but the backgrounds/bonds/flaws add a dimension of mechanical support to the talky-talk that I think the game has always been sorely lacking, yet in implementation is remarkably unobtrusive. I only wish that alignment had the same kind of teeth. If only the XP mechanics were better, I’d say that — at least as a player — 5e is the best D&D. So, lots of gaming this weekend. Which is good, since it’ll likely be months before I game face-to-face again. And the fact that I played, rather than ran, has me feeling recharged rather than drained, which is a nice change for me. I could really get used to this whole thing where you let other people do the heavy lifting and just show up to play with pencil and dice in hand. #claytalk   #chicagogameday   #chicagogameday44   #dnd   #5e]]>

So much gaming this weekend: E.V.E. 0, The Clay That Woke, and D&D 5e

tl;dr — E.V.E. 0 was frustrating, fun, and full of promise; The Clay That Woke was challenging and awesome, and I really need to read the book, assemble my tokens, and play it some more; my D&D 5e group continues to be awesome and D&D 5e is still maybe the best edition of the game I’ve played yet.

Not only did Chicago Gameday 44 happen this weekend, but since MadJay Brown was in town, I also got in a session of our sporadic D&D 5e campaign. Other than a good night’s sleep, I was gaming pretty much from 9:30 a.m. Saturday to 3:00 p.m. Sunday. I.e., my wife is awesome.

First up was E.V.E. 0, a game in early development from Dave Michalak that I played with him, Willow Palecek and Tim, a newcomer to Gameday. The basic is premise is that all the characters are from a clutch of bioengineered explorers — cloned sisters — dropped in crechecraft on some random planet. The game starts as you are “born” and have to figure out what equipment survived the landing and what’s the nature of your mission. Play starts with the group making up possible enhancements/mutations, tossing them into a hat (as it were) and randomly drawing a few for each PC. We collectively decided that our baseline form was a blue-skinned, mohawked Scarlett Jonhanson. My sister ended up with fur, telepathy, and web-spinners. We became aware of a mission beacon beckoning us across the landscape, and then I diverted in order to rescue a lost sister who’d awoken before the rest of us and was subsequently captured by natives.

The game was definitely rough, and we did a healthy de-brief at the end of the session. The big takeaway was that Dave had this cool loyalty chart that plotted a given PCs allegiance along a mission/sister axis and… some other axis that I forget. We all agreed that that chart should be the core resolution system, rather than a task/ability system Dave used for most of the game. Accomplishing physical tasks proved less interesting to us than questions like: “What does it mean that we just ate one of the sisters who failed to hatch?”

In all, I loved the core concept of the game and hope to see Dave either develop it into the loyalty chart game, or else embrace the “mutants explore a planet” task-y angle and adapt it to an existing system.

Next I got chance to play The Clay That Woke with Tim Koppang, Tim from above, Matt, and Nikita. The initial setup had two of us working for a master that used his harem of wives to birth a horde of children that he abused and sacrificed for his own spiritual needs, and so, within the first five minutes of the game I was joyously deep in Heavy Shit™ and was looking at the tenets of Silence thinking, “So… this is a list of rules I am going to violate almost immediately”. By mid-point in the session I had murdered the master and was running berserk into the jungle — and Tim being Tim, of course — accidentally goring a child en route.

My counterpart in the master’s house, Nikita, took the opposite track and did his utmost to adhere to Silence no matter what. What’s great is that this had part of me angry at him — “How can you stand by and do nothing about this?” — and part of me filled with deep respect — “Dude, you are hardcore.”

We had some difficulties with the Krater of Lots. At first it was really confusing that the icons on the tokens were different from the icons on the result sheet; it took some time for us to translate them, and even then sometimes they were — to my old eyes — similar enough that I had to study them for a bit to tell one from another. I think since we also didn’t really grok the strategy, a lot of our results were either one of the last options on the list, or else no result and we defaulted to foreshadowing. I feel like actually reading the dang book and having handled the tokens for one play-through will solve a lot of this, though. It was mostly that all of us save Tim were flying blind, totally new to the game.

Overall, though, the session completely renewed my interest in TCTW. I would really like to get a run of 3-6 sessions of this under my belt. Tim adeptly primed the session for one-shot-ness, but I could see how a lot of the issues addressed by the game would fare better given time to develop, not to mention the characters gaining some of the tokens that can only be earned through play.

And thus endeth Gameday on Saturday.

Sunday started bright and early with pancakes at home and then D&D 5e at 10:00 a.m. with my Sunday crew: Jenn Martin, Julianna Aldredge, Geoff Raye, Dave Michalak, newcomer Tamora, and our DM MadJay Brown. We played for about five hours, though a good chunk of the beginning was spent catching up everyone and figuring out a plan of action. There was much talky-talk at first, and I made use of my paladin’s noble background and their bond to establish that my mother, a baroness, had essentially been charged by the duke to take possession of the lands in which we currently found ourselves, and thus not only was I high-ranked in the local temple, but I was also essentially the ranking political figure in the area. I threw my mother’s influence around in an attempt to buy a mercenary company away from one of our enemies, to limited success.

And then we went into a dungeon and fought a death knight summoned by a Deck of Many Things. Good times!

There were definitely moments when I was flashing back to my 3e days, as the battle with the death knight involved a certain amount of standing toe-to-toe and whittling down hit points, not to mentioned players stalled on their turns figuring out rules and bonuses, but I attribute both of these phenomena to our general rustiness with the system. After the game I realized that I could stand to compile a personal combat sheet for my paladin, one that outlines all his possible options in a combat round, as it’s staggering the amount of choice available to him despite being just 5th level and owning no magic items.

And to Jay’s credit, the fight both involved multiple objectives and could have been avoided depending on how our initial scouting of the scene had gone, which to me is good D&D. The religious and fighting types in the group got to be valorous, the sneaky types to be sneaky, and the arcane types to be inscrutable.

5e continues to impress me. There’s definitely still the tactical/resource bits at which 3e excelled, but the backgrounds/bonds/flaws add a dimension of mechanical support to the talky-talk that I think the game has always been sorely lacking, yet in implementation is remarkably unobtrusive. I only wish that alignment had the same kind of teeth. If only the XP mechanics were better, I’d say that — at least as a player — 5e is the best D&D.

So, lots of gaming this weekend. Which is good, since it’ll likely be months before I game face-to-face again. And the fact that I played, rather than ran, has me feeling recharged rather than drained, which is a nice change for me. I could really get used to this whole thing where you let other people do the heavy lifting and just show up to play with pencil and dice in hand.

#claytalk   #chicagogameday   #chicagogameday44   #dnd   #5e