Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Origins: GoD, TftL & Anxiety

Games on Demand at Origins has always been great. This year it transformed to awesome. The cattle-call line-up system of previous years made things painful at times. It worked but required folks to get there an hour or more early. Games on Demand pushes people to try new games, but if you’ve been in line for 90 minutes, not getting a game you know & want created grumpy folks. This year they shifted to the Boarding Pass system used at Gen Con.

Attendees show up at most a half hour early to get a pass with a letter. When the session begins, the hosts draw random letters. When you letter’s drawn, you go up to make your pick.

It worked even better here than at GC. Some of that comes from how Origins sets things up: four hour slots with solid good breaks between. Gen Con doesn’t really have breaks. Combined that with overlapping two-hour slots and you have a logistical PITA. A two hour game’s going to lose about ten minutes at the start and you’ll want to wrap it ten minutes early to let people get to their next event. So you end up with more like 90 minutes

The Origins organizers did an amazing job this year. Despite the challenges of GAMA (not giving info on advance ticket sales, not providing LARP space quickly), it ran like clockwork. They’d gone with a shorter period for GM recruitment which had worried me. The initial list looked slim, but the end result worked. Every session I saw had just enough seats for those who showed up. They had few games not go off and I only heard of one or two people not being able to get in. They scheduled excellently, giving the GMs gaps between sessions. So awesome.

Once again I took the table-tents Rich and I designed. They’re postcards which can be folded to present your character’s name and record who you played. On the reverse side we have tasteful adverts for Age of Ravens and The Gauntlet network of podcasts. They went over well and the GoD crew nicely allowed us to put those out again.

I had only one problem, something I’ve seen before. Both Games on Demand Origins & Gen Con make an effort to be inclusive and provide tools to handle table problems. There’s a list of participation rules on the table as well as an X-Card. They do an all-hands meeting where they talk about these and the importance of explaining and using them at the table. That’s awesome. I always mention the X-Card in my opening spiel and stress its importance to Games on Demand. I check in to make sure everyone knows how it works and usually give an example.

Three times now I’ve played with game designers who ignore this. They don’t bother. Two of those three times I would most definitely have X-Card’ed shit at the table, especially the rapey crap present at a table with my wife and niece. It bugs me because there’s a social contract: you want to run at Games on Demand, we have minimal standards established. If you don’t want to use those, that’s cool, but maybe you should be running somewhere else? I don’t know. It bugs me. Anyway. A little thing.

As I posted before, I took Magic, Inc (my game) and Tales from the Loop as my two picks. For back-up I’d brought The Veil and Before the Storm. As Rich predicted, TftL got picked the first three times. It’s a sexy and new game, plus it didn’t seem to be run anywhere else at the con. In fact, Modiphus had no presence whatsoever so you couldn’t find copies or it or any of the other excellent Free League Games. That’s dumb. I’d expected they’d have at least made arrangements for an attending vendor to have them.

When it came time for my fourth session, I crossed out Tales from my menu. I still wanted to leave players a choice, so I offered The Veil…which of course got picked. On the one hand I dug it and it gave me a chance to try out the revised Veil playbooks I’d done. On the other, I’d have loved to show off Magic, Inc and Action Cards. I’d put a lot of work into that. I’ll have to remember that for next year: be bold.

I loved Tales from the Loop at the table. I learned more about how to frame and run it each session. Every table was awesome—my first session I ran for Christopher Sniezak (Misdirected Mark), Pete Petrusha (designer of Dreamchaser), Nikki Lewandowski, Tom Flanagan (Knights of the Night), and a fifth player (whose name I didn’t get because I’m a terrible person). Each of the three tables handled the scenario differently. I’m going to write up a larger post about Tales, so I’ll hold off on much detail. The Veil also went well. I need to make a couple of changes to the playbooks. In particular they shouldn’t be double-sided. Rich pointed that out to me. I may make the main sheet landscape on a legal-sized sheet and put the moves letter sheet with portrait orientation. That will help separate them.

I only played one session this year, Atomic Robo with Mike Olson. Sherri played that with me as well. I run Fate very different from him. I’d only run it, never played it with someone else GMing. I love Fate, at least the way I handle things. The differences struck me: an emphasis on the economy, resource tracking, slowing down to check rules specifics. I had a good time and Olson had an amazing frame for the adventure. Overall it made me more confident about the way I run Fate. Sherri played Familiars of Terra (great game, weak table); Tales from the Loop; Atomic Robo; and The Veil. Her game of the show was a session of Velvet Glove with Brendan Conway (Masks) as the MC and Rich Rogers, Jason Cox & one other as her fellow gang members.

For anyone who has anxiety about running online rpgs, I want to tell you something. I've talked a little on the blog about my anxiety issues. They’re serious enough that I medicate to keep from freaking out. Having Sherri around makes things easier. She keeps track of my level of panic. Despite that I've run at Games on Demand Origins and Gen Con the last several years. Before that I demo'd at cons for Eden Studios. I enjoyed that, but I had to force myself to. Inevitably the two hours leading up to a session were a nerve-wracking crack-up time. I'd pray my event wouldn't go off. Even at Origins 2016, with both Sherri and Rich in my corner, I still had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. At GoD Gen Con last year, I ran back and hid in my room between sessions. I played only once and that was because I really wanted to see Anna Krieder run.

This year…nothing. I’d lost the terror. I fretted, as I always do, because I'm naturally a fretter. But no fear. No panic, No impostor syndrome. Just the hope I’d have a cool table and they'd dig it. I ran four games and hosted an additional slot. I had a great time.

I know why. It's because I've been running so many online games for The Gauntlet Hangouts. That exercise, that practice, has eased my worry and anxiety. I run online two-three times a week, rain or shine. It's made me a better GM and a calmer convention gamer.  Some of that comes from the act of doing it and some from having a consistently excellent, supportive, and enthusiastic pool of players. It won't work for everyone, but it has for me and it’s made me even more grateful for everyone here.

If you’re nervous about running online: do it. Find a solid community which shares your gaming interests and run games. It’s purely anecdotal, but it’s made my life better.

I talked with many amazing people and missed many others. It was the best con I’ve been to. If you went to Origins, how was it? 

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