19 January 2009

Kapcon 2009 Report

So, this year I was a leading conspirator in Kapcon's second games on demand event. We had a bigger team of facilitators, with last year's team (me, Steve Hickey, Morgan Davie and Malcolm Craig) joined by Aaron Caskey, Simon Carryer and Gregor Hutton. Everything went a bit more smoothly, with the benefit of having done it all once before, and overall I felt that the room had a more relaxed atmosphere.

The main thing was getting games played - I have numbers for the first five rounds, where we seem to have got 40 people through the room. In fact the games played is somewhat higher than this would imply, because with 7 of us facilitators, we all got to join in games a fair bit too. I think we had four or five games run per round, and a good selection too. Highly requested this year were 3:16, Mouse Guard, and Best Friends. I guess having Mr Hutton present may have accounted for some of that.

As facilitators, we'd made a specific decision to reduce the number of games we each offered and focus on fewer games that we were more excited to run. In the end we each had 4-8, I think. As one of those at the higher end of that range, I think that next year I'm going to aim for no more than 5-6 to offer. More focus, I think, means more enthusiasm when pitching and running.

Anyway, for some specific games...

Round one I ran a game of Mouse Guard. We played the 'deliever the mail' scenario from the book, minus one character, and had a great time. The main mission went relatively smoothly and we had time to do a follow up GM/player turn in which they dealt with the mouse Loretta and her story that had come up after their encounter with the raven and losing some of the mail. A good time was had by all, and I think that session might have sold the game to one of the players who wanted to try it out. I like this game - as GM, the rules really help build the story up as you play.

Round two, I got to play a game of 3:16 run by Gregor. I played a quiet, possibly psycho trooper in what turned out to be a squad of misfits. We almost immediately got pulled off active service due to a variety of screwups and the sarge got caught in Catch-22 by his superior officer. Eventually we got shipped to a trooper R&R brothel planet to work as MPs, which went as badly as might be expected, as we stumbled upon alien inflitrators up to no good. Our attempts to deal with them were hindered by (1) our decision that some innocent alien clams were the enemy and (2) the sargent being infected and mind controlled by a Gongaran ooze. Despite all this, we managed to wipe all the bastards out through the panicked use of lots of strength flashbacks. Take that, disgusting groin oozes! A fun, albeit absolutely disgusting game. Be glad I have left out the details of the Gongaran life cycle.

Round four, was a game of Geiger Counter. We built a science fiction film "New Eden", in which the menace was the breakdown of a utopian Star Trek-type alliance due to the danger of new ideas. Our setting was a frontier base where an alien diplomatic mission was taking place. The overall plot was that some paranoid or possibly just cautious faction in the alliance determined that the alien influence would destablize society, so attempted to destroy the contact at the source. Our characters were people on the base attempting to either escape or deal with either the 'cauterization' faction or the 'new ideas' faction. The aliens also took some part, although their motivations were 'escape from crazy humans' once everything began falling apart. The game went well, with some strong potential survivor characters and some great scenes. I felt that the pacing went as it should, and that Geiger Counter once again shone as a game for this sort of story. Two survivors, one infected with 'new ideas' and both leaving room for a sequel.

Round five was a game of The Shab-al-Hiri Roach which went very well. I had a couple of players who were, I think, new to the style of game (GM-less, one shot) but they were both experienced LARPers, and they soon got into the swing of things. We had a fairly low body count game, but plenty of social sniping and heckling people's formal speeches. Due to a combination of players who were a couple and fortuitous Roach commands, there was also a pretty funny scandalous BDSM affair between their two characters. My own character had a very satisfying arc, in which I pushed him to bring the crazy (he was Roach-possessed from the beginning) but he threw it off before the end, and I had him give up his stuffy university life to become a musician and a better person, having reformed from those dark days of 1919 at Pemberton College. I think that might be the first happy ending I have had for a Roach character!

So, four out of four good games. In each I felt like the intended effect of "introduce people to something they are interested in but might not have given a go otherwise" was met, and wholly or mostly the secondary objective of "and they liked it too". There was also generally a more sociable and fun vibe in the games on demand room this year, which was good. Plus, thanks to Malcolm, we had arranged to have a few games to give away as spot prizes (on a 'you get one entry each time you play, and we draw names out at random' process). It was really cool to be able to give some free stuff to some of the people who had come and joined us during the con.

Comments are welcome. Otherwise, see you all next year!


matt said...

Awesome write-up. I had much fun with the whole GoD experience!

I thought during the voting for games process you could nominate different tables as being particular games, put the max number of players on a piece of paper on each table, place a few A4 pieces of paper on the floor randomly, and tell everyone:

"The floor is lava! You can only step on the magic floating squares. You have thirty seconds to reach the safety of a game tabkle OR YOU DIE!!!"

The Gamester At Large said...

Can you explain how the whole imaginary lava thing would help, please, Matt? I'm not really seeing it.

Anonymous said...

The comment was made to me that some people were very interested in purchasing some of the games they played (or some of the games people had designed and were there to sign). Do you think there would be any place in the con for having the shameless shilling... I mean having copies of the games available for purchase?

matt said...

Ah, you want *helpful* suggestions then. In that case I got nothing :-)

I guess I've been on a few outdoor ed trips with Y9 classes, and they often use lava-floor exercises as ice-breakers. Of course, they usually have ropes to swing on too...

Jinerviet said...

Hiya, Juliet here (Hester in the Roach game). Thanks heaps for running GoD! I had no idea there'd be so many interesting games, I wish I'd had a chance to play more/realised sooner. I thought the GM-less aspect of it was quite neat. And as for the experienced LARPers comment- that's true for me, but definitely not for Thom. Before Kapcon, he'd only NPCed one LARP and played D&D for a month a year ago.

The Gamester At Large said...


Having some of the games for sale would be nice, but we are focused on providing a play experience at games on demand Kapcon, and the overheads and extra organisation that running a shop too would incur have so far meant that the topic has not even been broached. Perhaps next year I will ask Malcolm to have some copies of his games to sell, but I think that shipping them to NZ is pretty expensive even for him.


Glad you had fun, that was a great game of the Roach! Sorry for the mistake about experience, blame my faulty memory of things said quickly at the beginning of the session.


I am sure that I can use the lava suggestion at some point, useful or not.

Karen said...

Games on Demand was a highlight of Kapcon for me, both last year and this year! (though this year I had other options too, which was nice!)

Anonymous said...

I have no comment except that my word verification is "fuggile".

Sounds like a cross between futile and fragile.