March 2nd, 2010


Dreamation 2010!

This report is about a week late, but better late than never. I attended the Dreamation convention in Morristown, NJ from February 19 through 21. As always, Dreamation was a lot of fun, and is quite the destination if you are interested in indie role-playing games. Lots of designers from the Atlantic coast and New England come to Dreamation every year, and there were plenty of great games to choose from. 

As I often find at conventions, I only got to play the games I was running myself. I ran two sessions of How We Came to Live Here, a playtest session of FATE Edition Bulldogs!, and a session of Spirit of the Century using Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel Tarzan at the Earth’s Core as inspiration. The rest of the time found my either manning the IPR booth or wrangling my two kids who also attended. The kids hit mostly the LARPs at the con, and by all accounts had a wonderful time.

In my games, How We Came to Live Here delivered high drama in the folklore style, as usual. The first session was with a group of experience HWCTLH players, including Dave Cleaver and Phil and Rachel Walton. That worked out well, with players really digging into their character’s goals and resentments, which ended about like you’d expect. I had fairly low energy that night, for whatever reason, but the game was still a great deal of fun.

The Saturday night session was pretty crazy. I had set up a four-player slot, since HWCTLH can take a maximum of 5 players. A week before the con, the convention staff e-mailed me to let me know that 14 people were trying to enroll for this session. I didn’t want to turn that many people away, so I told them to enroll 10 people and I would facilitate two simultaneous games. In the end, 9 players showed up. I sat in as a player in one game, and the other ran without me with five players. Luckily, one of my ashcan playesters, Buddha, was there and he knew the rules well enough that he didn’t need my help apart from a few questions on the second table. We had two really excellent games, and everyone told me they had a good time. 

How We Came to Live Here is probably the most solid original design I’ve ever come up with. It delivers every time, even when I’m not involved. I’m pretty pleased.

The Bulldogs! playtest went well, and I was lucky enough to have Rob Donoghue, one of the Spirit of the Century developers, sitting in. A couple of other FATE veterans, Matt Weber and Ryan Macklin, also participated. The remaining players were relatively new to the FATE system, so it was a good cross-section for a playtest. We have a fun game, but probably not as much testing as could be done. I always have some trouble with convention playtests. I feel an obligation at a con game to deliver a good time to the players, and that is not always the best thing to do to put the rules through their paces. I think I’d rather default on the side of fun, though, and save the painful rules bashing for private sessions. We did hash out some great rules for the commerce system and discussed the space combat rules. 

The last game I ran was an homage to my favorite pulp writer, Edgar Rice Burroughs. My grandfather had a nearly complete collection of ERB first editions and as a pre-teen I devoured the entire collection in a few years. The scenario, Tarzan at the Earth’s Core, had characters from the novel and I used the threats in the book for the adventure. We had an excellent time, and I think using real pulps to inspire your Spirit game is a great idea.