Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hyphen-Con VI Debrief and... So On

Hola, amigos! I know it's been a while since I rapped at ya, but you wouldn't believe what I've been going through lately. First of all, I lent Ron the Festiva for a beer run last week, but he got pulled over on account of a busted tail light. I'd totally forgotten about it. I'm not even sure I knew about it in the first place, since it's in the rear and I never see it back there. I don't know how it's legal to give a guy a ticket for something he can't even see, but that's the pigs for you. Anyhow, turns out the vehicle registration expired two years ago because I never got around to renewing it during the Christmas rush of '08 when I working at the tree lot, and that plus a few bogus unpaid parking tickets meant they impounded the old girl right then and there. I had fifty bucks' worth of scrap metal in the back seat, too. That's the last time I ever let Ron drive stoned.

No, seriously, none of that happened. I'm just a Jim Anchower fan, that's all.

Last weekend was Hyphen-Con VI (Believe the Hyph!) in San Diego, which was, as always, a good time. I ran Leftovers in the evening slot (6-ish to question mark) for five players, and what with one thing and another the PCs ended up being Denise Richards, Neve Campbell, Steve Irwin, Neil Patrick Harris, and, for some wonderful reason, James Garner. (Desmond unwittingly named his character Denise Richards without realizing who Denise Richards is, then it spun out of/into control from there.) The plot involved raiding a Humanist encampment for guns, ammo, and anything else the PCs could lay their hands on. The action culminated in confusion, blood, and lots of gunfire, so... success!

The combats in the Humanists' compound raised an interesting point: The players would much rather fight Horrors than humans. Why? Because you can't stick a human arm on yourself to heal your injuries, that's why. S'kinda funny. Nothing objectionable or problematic -- it just amuses me.

Another thing that came up: Hudson (playing Steve Irwin, the party's token d12 Human Nature guy) noted that Bonds with Allies don't necessarily have to be positive, and asked why anyone would want to take a Bond with another PC that wasn't. My response was, basically, "because roleplaying!" That's a perfectly cromulant reason, but cromulance without mechanical backing bugs me.

So I was thinking of instituting a slight change: Taking a negative Bond gives you +1 step to that Bond's die. This reinforces the idea of the dysfunction of the post-Horrors world extending even into personal relationships. The benefit of a bigger die is balanced somewhat by the lessened utility of the Bond -- but I guarantee you that if you had a negative Bond with a fellow PC, you'd find ways to use it. Also, I'd guess that those with Grafts would be more likely to take at least one negative Bond; the bigger die size and the lessened utility are actually beneficial there, in a way, because you'd probably just burn it with a Graft-related roll rather than use it as a Bond on its own. That may be a problem, but I'm still mulling it over.

Anyway, it was a good time, and the three new players liked the system, the setting, and their characters (we did chargen at the table), so I don't think I could ask for anything more than that. Hudson stretched the system a bit by taking a pet dog as a Contact, which sort of challenged the whole notion of how Contacts are used (e.g., in general, Contacts don't travel with you anywhere) but also amply demonstrated that the system is flexible enough to handle something like that with ease.

Another great moment for the system was when Hudson (again with that guy!) wanted to use Resourceful to try to lay his hands on a map of the area, which ended up giving him a d4 Map Tool (hey, MapTools!). Anytime he did something that might benefit from having a map, he got to add another d4 to his pool. This came into play most prominently when they were negotiating with Grafter gangleader DJ Beastly to get his support in their assault on the Humanists (which the Grafters might want to do anyway, since they and the Humanists are sort of natural enemies). Steve Irwin threw that map down on the table and said, "Here's a map to the nearest Humanist camp," which let Hudson add a d4 to the party's pool for their Friendly roll. Good stuff -- a nice non-standard use of a Tool. Similarly, Neil Patrick Harris (the party's resident doctor and evil scientist) gave the Grafters a couple home-made smoke grenades to sweeten the deal, which meant another d10 for the pool.

The next day, I met with my layout artist to sort through some outstanding layout and art issues. I've given up on trying to make a finished product available on by Gamex (Memorial Day Weekend). I'd rather we all got to do a good job instead of forcing us all to do a fast one. I have no doubt that Leftovers will be a beautiful, well-designed book. I keep telling people I want the layout to be better than the game itself, so even if the game is poorly received by the public, they'll have to admit that it's at least a good-looking book.

In other news, I'm shifting gears for this Simian Circle d10-based contest. The initial idea I had is simply bigger than a 20-page mini-game, and I want to give it all the room it needs. Plus, I love the dice mechanic, and it's something I'd rather develop independent of any other artificial constraints. So in its place, I think I'll finish up [CLASSIFIED]. It has a lot more potential as an anthology game than Last Resort does (that's the name -- Last Resort), in that it requires virtually no setting for it to be understood by the average gamer. It has a cool resolution mechanic of its own (IMO, anyway) and a bit of retro charm without straying too far into high-crunch territory.

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