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Author Topic: GenCon, GNS and the Games I Played  (Read 3983 times)
Andrew Cooper
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Posts: 724


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« on: August 22, 2005, 11:27:18 AM »

Greetings fellow Forgites,

GenCon was a blast.  I met lots of Forgites and found every one of them to be excellent folks.  If you haven't ever been to GenCon and hung around the Forge group, I highly recommend it.  I will definately be there next year.  But before this become and rambling thread about GenCon coolness, let me get to the point.

One of the reasons I have found Theory, GNS and Actual Play threads here on the Forge to be so important to me and my hobby is that it has allowed me to enjoy a variety of play that I never was able to before.  That might seem odd to some.  Either you like a certain style of play or you don't, right?  I'm not so certain that's true anymore.  I'm going to write some brief Actual Play of events I participated in at GenCon and I'll try to make my point afterwards.

D&D 3.5e Dungeon Crawl

I got in a D&D game on Friday.  After reading the short description, showing up, and listening to the DM give his little spiel about the game I figured I was in for a good, old-fashioned dungeon crawl with predominantly Gamist interest at the table.  The DM talked about solving puzzles, using good tactics and not pulling his punches.  He indicated that he'd be rolling the dice out in front of us so that no fudging either way could occur.  He went on about effective use of our resources being important for  finishing the module successfully.  I watched the other players at the table and they seemed to be really into this too.

I don't know much about the other players but here's what I did know.  Two of them had played 1st and 2nd Edition AD&D but didn't know much about 3.5ed.  They chose a Barbarian and a Bard.  The 3rd player was very familiar with 3.5 ed and wanted to play the Rogue/Cleric.  This all suited me fine.  Since we seemed to be in a really Gamist oriented event I wanted the character with the most options anyways, so I took the Sorcerer.

My assessment of the primary CA involved seemed to be born out as the game progressed.  There were lots of puzzles, traps and difficult tactical situations.  Every time someone used a resource efficiently the other players and the GM would reward the player with praise.  "That spell really saved the party, nicely played!" or "You figured that puzzle out faster than most of the other groups, good job!" were the typical kinds of talk going on.  The rewards being handed out were purely social standing. Players were gambling with their egos at stake (in a very friendly manner though).  The game was pure Gamism with the competition between the players and the DM dialed up really high.

I had a lot of fun.

Vampire: The Masquerade

Totally different session.  I arrived and 2 other players showed up.  The session could handle 6 but no one else arrived so we went with 3.  It didn't make any difference.  Once again I listened to the Storyteller give his introduction to the adventure and I listened to the conversation around the table by the players.  It was all about the Vampire setting and how cool the World of Darkness was.  I don't remember all the conversation but I do remember thinking to myself that this had all the trappings of a really Sim oriented session.

Sure enough, I was right.  The whole session was pure Participationism and Sim.  We all were there to experience being Vampires in the World of Darkness.  We, as players, let the ST tell his story and we provided all sorts of cool color in the telling.  Nothing we did was going to really affect the outcome of the module.  Our job was to help the ST make getting from beginning to end as interesting and cool as possible.

I must comment that the ST was superb.  He had a real flare for dropping into character with different NPCs.  His discriptions and interlude scenes were entertaining and well done.  And even if he didn't realized what he was doing had a name, he was probably the best ST at aggressive and interesting scene framing I'd come across.  He handled the game just like a movie.  He skipped the stupid stuff in the middle and went from Scene A to Scene B to Scene C with great skill.  He was good and doing cut scenes from character to character within largers Scenes too.  He made sure every player got to add cool color to the session and that no one got left out.

I enjoyed myself.

Capes

Capes was the best game I played all weekend.  As a disclaimer, when I was making plans to go to GenCon I wanted to try out Capes while I was there.  Personally, I didn't think I'd really like it but I wanted to give it a shot.  I'd read too much about it to not try it out at that point.  Boy was I wrong.  I love the game.  It's really awesome.  I played 2 full-length sessions, one with Eric and one with Tony.  Both were very, very good.

When I sat down at the table, I had the expectation (from reading and participating in threads here) that Capes was a strong Narrative game.  After playing, I'm not so sure that it isn't a true Hybrid, supporting Gamist and Narrativist with equal ease and even at the same time.  But that conversation is for another thread. 

Regardless, each game had at least 2 other players at the table besides me that had never played the game before this Convention.  The games ran flawlessly.  After 30 minutes of play, all the major questions about the system were answered and things always took off.  It was great.  I can't really comment on the GM because we were all GMs.  I don't really know what else to say about the game except that it was different from anything I'd played before and I had an absolute blast.

Final Observations

Back to the point I was making at the very beginning of this post.  A few years ago, I would have been disappointed with at least two of these games and only enjoyed one of them.  Why?  Because I would have thought they weren't being played right.  Not knowing about Creative Agenda and differing ways to approach role-playing, I would have plopped my ass down to play expecting everyone to have the same goals for the game as I did. It wouldn't have been pretty.

After being here a while, I was able to watch and listen to the other players at the table and make an educated guess at what they wanted in the game.  At that point, I simply altered my expectations and goals to come somewhere near their own.  Competitive Gamism?  Sure, I can do that.  High-Concept Sim?  I can do that too.  It doesn't matter.  I was able to enjoy the contributions of all the players in all the games and was able to contribute to everyone else's enjoyment because I knew what kinds of things to give and what to expect in return.  Before, I'd have just been dissappointed.

So, thanks Ron, Clinton, Mike, Tony and all the others here that have participated in conversations with my over the last year and a half.  You've helped me gain an appreciation for whole segments of my hobby that I thought were just messed up before.  And because of it, I enjoyed myself at GenCon.










Go buy Capes.... right now....   it's cool.


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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2005, 11:57:23 AM »

I was able to enjoy the contributions of all the players in all the games and was able to contribute to everyone else's enjoyment because I knew what kinds of things to give and what to expect in return.
Yep. When people talk about the positive effects of understanding CA, this is, to me, one of the most important. Knowing that all CAs can be fun if played coherently, and not trying to impose your own agenda when you know that nobody else is there to play that way. You and everyone else have more fun.

Mike
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Yokiboy
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« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2005, 12:11:36 PM »

That's a really cool post Andrew, and what a great attitude to take to each game.

TTFN,

Yoki
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Yokiboy
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« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2005, 12:13:24 PM »

I can't find how to edit my post, but I will definitely include Capes in my next big bundle of indies. I have some friends that I think would love that type of game.

TTFN,

Yoki
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rafial
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Posts: 594


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« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2005, 01:46:10 PM »

Just have to chime in with a big "heck yeah!" in response to this post.  I've had exactly the same experience of being able to identify CA up front and adjust to it, especially in Con games.  Also, it always leaves you with the option of gracefully withdrawing if you realize the dominant CA at the table is going to be one you are just not in the mood for at the moment.
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