Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The To-Do List...

... is pretty freaking huge. Here's what's on the docket:

1) Start my diet. I started exercising today, but I need to get to eating right.

2) Figure out what I'm going to run for KublaCon. Right now, the choices I'm either most interested or are the deepest in terms of pre-production are:
  • Golden Gate (Call of Cthulhu) - a noir game of corrupt cops set around the Golden Gate International Exposition of 1939, involving a ritual murder aboard a Key System train passing over the Bay Bridge near Treasure Island.
  • Götterdämmerung (Call of Cthulhu/Delta Green) - As Berlin falls to the Soviets, the Karotechia attempts to preserve the Third Reich through the Dreamlands, and an OSS/Delta Green team is sent in to stop them.
  • Safety Not Guaranteed (Call of Cthulhu) - "WANTED: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 322, Oakview, CA 93022. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before."
  • To Live and Die in the Magic Kingdom (Don't Rest Your Head, or Call of Cthulhu) - A degenerate group of Disney character impersonators must survive when the Magic Kingdom becomes a very bad place.
3) Begin working on Our Darkest Hour again.
  • Rewrite the rough draft of the OSS/Delta Green chapter that I submitted last year.
  • Organize my notes so I can create rough drafts for the Karotechia, Black Dragon Society, SMERSH, and PISCES chapters (in that order).
  • Read my half-finished copy of The Last Hero, a biography of Wild Bill Donovan by Anthony Cave Brown (so I can read the new biography of Donovan that just came out).
4) Begin working on something for P Division (the section of the Office of Naval Intelligence that executed the raid on Innsmouth and would turn into Delta Green during the Second World War). I talked about The Black Chamber (a once-proposed book by Chaosium on espionage in the '20s for Call of Cthulhu) with Charlie Krank during his seminar at DunDraCon, and Ken Hite might be working on something like this for Trail of Cthulhu. I'd like to get something substantial together by KublaCon to show both of them (assuming Hite will be at KC this year).

5) Edit my version of the Vietnam scenario based on the disastrous Cambodian operation that resulted in the deactivation of Delta Green in 1970. I promised the files on this for a gamer buddy by the next Endgame Minicon, and I'm thinking that I'd like to run it again myself to playtest some new combat optional rules.

Writing all that down made it feel much less huge. I should do this more often.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

DunDraCon 2011

[long time no blog...]

DDC was a real blast this year. There's still the depressing odor (both metaphorically and literally speaking) of the grognard hanging over it, but the games were all enjoyable if not legendary.

Breakfast on Pluto (Eclipse Phase)
Yesterday was February 2011, and you were a college student, trying to score beer money for the three-day weekend. Now it's ten years after the Fall, and you're having breakfast on Pluto...
This was a hot tranny mess of a game, which was appropriate considering the source of the game's title. The characters were modern-day college students that had their minds digitally copied by proto-sleeving technology, with that data ultimately being collected in the age of Eclipse Phase by a fringe "Judeo-Christian-Islamic-Scientological" monastic order based on the Omega Point theories of Frank Tipler. The college students were resurrected at the order's central archives on Pluto by a member of the Order working for egonappers who needed similar brainwaves to pull off an elaborate egonapping of the college students' future selves, all powerful gerontocrats intending to complete a synergistic hive-mind communication technology called CONSENSUS that would be the next step in transhumanity but ultimately fail, dooming the interlocked humanity to widespread economic, political, and psychological meltdown. The characters faced an Exurgent virus among the animatronic robots (the Order had sold out and was turning the place into a nostalgia theme park, and the egonapper-hired monk had come to believe that the Omega Point would be realized through releasing the virus), then (some) got saved by the egonappers, informed of the plan, jacked a farcasting crew on Nova Vegas (my idea for what Las Vegas becomes on Mars, basically Space Reno), and barely completed their plan to egonap the gerontocrats while a neotenic Lost PC gave his genetic mother (one of the gerontocrats) a hysterectomy by Wasp Knife, a Slyph PC went insane and bashed another gerontocrat into goo then collapsed due to mental trauma and was taken advantage of by a delta-forked imbecile mercenary (that he had previously dosed with Hither) in a closet... good times. Unfortunately, in the course of my prepping the game I forgot to learn the rules or develop a proper plot outline. People had fun, no doubt about that, but it was more about being goofy than playing the game. This is the third (maybe even fourth) game in a row I've come away dissatisfied with my GM'ing performance, and I don't think it's a coincidence that those games were all either new systems for me or based on pre-written material. I need to get back to my comfort zone, which means I'll probably be running something like a prop-heavy game of Call of Cthulhu set during the Second World War for Kublacon.

The Flying Misfits (Godlike)
With the formation of the Talent Operations Groups, Section 2 also formed a handful of TOGs specifically made up of flight-capable Talents, hyperskilled pilots and aircrew, and certain specialized Talents whose abilities could support air operations...
A great game by a solid GM that was well-versed in the game mechanics, and had prepared a beautiful set-up of maps, personnel folders, and plane miniatures. Although it was a pretty slim plot (we flew out of our airfield, blew up their airfield and harbor, and returned home), that set-up was so complete and well-executed, and the other players were all so into and fully role-playing their characters, that it was a really nice game. I played a Goldberg Engineer responsible for keeping his experimental plane aloft but not actually flying it or using any of its weapons. It initially sounded like one of the boring roles in Battlestations, but the ability to create all kinds of on-the-spot gadgets to improve the efficiency of the plane made it interesting.

(Altered) Resonance
(Call of Cthulhu)
A cabin in a desolate forest. Snow encrusts your boots. Someone screaming in German. A sullen wind moans outside. You can't remember what your mission is. You can't remember anything. Something's gone terribly wrong...
I'm totally stealing a bunch of the way this game was run. The music, which consisted of dark ambient beats mixed with weather sounds and the occasionally creepy touch (like Nazi marching music), was extremely effective. The game started in media res, so was jarring from the get-go. And the rest was just well-executed, which I won't say more about to avoid spoiling anyone who plays it at a later con.

There was a strange moment where the rules for burst fire against multiple targets came up, which was just your regular rules question that the GM quickly and efficiently adjudicated. What made it strange was that I should be fully versed in that particular subject, not just because I've run CoC many times but also because I've discussed just that very rule previously on forums. Yet I couldn't for the life of me remember it correctly in the heat of the game. Between this and my spotty rules-work on running Eclipse Phase, I thinking I'm getting early Alzheimers limited specifically to remembering game rules.

On the Eve of the Election (Call of Cthulhu)
People's Candidate Eve McClusky, of the Pointe District, has been reported missing by friends and family prior to important mid-term elections for city council. The police have no leads, City Hall is calling for an investigation, and the press smells a cover-up. Is it murder or something else? Investigators must delve in to the mystery facing one of the city's favorite daughters, before time runs out.
I've often wondered what a truly Lovecraftian CoC game would be like. Rather than (often artificial) notions about characters being unarmed or incompetent, I think it should include rambling descriptions of architecture inconsequential to the plot. While there weren't any gambrel roofs in this game, the GM had set up a whole lot of detail in this investigative saga about a missing politician and the corrupt powers that would rather see her remain missing. All that detail meant that the GM's city felt like a real place, but it also slowed the pace of the game down to a crawl, made worse by the fact that there were eight players in the game and we were encouraged to split up. I (and half of the players) spent a whole two hours doing nothing but eating con pizza while I waited for my character to do something as the other investigated one site. But it was fun, mostly because we just laughed our ass off at each other's absurdities, both in and out of character.

I didn't get into any of my choices for an afternoon game, and there wasn't anything on the schedule I wanted to play in the evening. I took the opportunity to attend the Chaosium seminar (and later made what I thought would be minor post on the subject but has now been plastered on the front page of, where I kinda sorta broached the subject of my taking up the moribund Black Chamber project.

There was a Pendragon game on Monday that I could have driven back for, but I decided I'd rather spend the day relaxing with my wife. Like I said, DDC was solid this year, even though I only played in three games besides the game I ran.