[Dreamation 2008] Questers of the Middle Realms

Started by Clinton R. Nixon, February 02, 2008, 04:25:29 AM

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Clinton R. Nixon

I ran Tim Gray's Questers of the Middle Realms at Dreamation 2008 last weekend, and have been looking forward to having time to talk about it.

It's stressful walking into a convention, planning to run a game you've never run before, but that was the point for me: I think this is a great game that doesn't get a ton of play, and I'd been wanting to get a chance to play it. I really lucked out in that I got to meet a lot of new people and see some familiar faces at the same time.

If you're not familiar with Questers, it's light-hearted fantasy, and it walks an interesting line. It's not slapstick, and you can play it straight. It's funnier when you play it straight, actually. Our characters didn't disappoint. We had orc chefs and human lancers and hobling thieves and clerics and haughty elves. Their first conflict was a snowball/sled fight with some young elf toughs.

Questers kind of requires some prep, so I'd brought an adventure I made about an election farce. I was worried it was too big coming in, and that ended up being interesting, in that I tried to make it too big, but it was pretty simple.

So here's the techniques I used, as Questers, while good, just gives you the same old GM advice. I had a list of NPCs and what they wanted. Each wanted three things. I didn't have stats for them: I used the TSOY suggestion of writing down whatever makes sense when you need it, but stick with what you wrote. The adventure was a whodunnit, but I didn't decide before-hand. Instead, I meant to make the bad guy whoever the players/characters decided he or she was.

I kind of screwed that last part up, instead stringing them along. It's one of two places the game sagged: it felt like an endless string of clues as they got bounced around, even though there weren't any pre-made clues. I was rusty on this convention game stuff, I guess.

The other saggy part was the last conflict. We had a giant group conflict between the characters. As Chad Underkoffler noticed at Dreamation, the PDQ system (which is the core mechanic of Questers) isn't great at PvP conflict. It worked, but we ended up stopping the conflict and changing to an improvised competitive roll before the conflict became too long. Very extended conflicts in games can lead to creativity fatigue, especially when it's about promoting people in an election.

The really hot parts were the way abilities get damaged in conflict, the Story Hooks (which I didn't get to use enough, but were good) and Fate Points. This stuff was all very good, and I'd like to play more and get to see more of it in action.

My point for discussion is this: what other techniques are there for good convention game running? I mentioned starting halfway through the adventure in Mel's Agon thread, which I wish I'd done.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Ian Charvill

Hi Clinton

This is a little bit speculative, because I don't do Cons.

One thing that works well with Questers is to take an old fashioned DnD adventure, the kind with boxed texts, and a canned setup.  Have the players make characters of the kind Questers tends to provoke, then run the adventure straight, as it were.  Read the boxed texts, go through the process of the adventure.  What happens is you start to get incongruence between on the one hand the prose of the boxed text and the sometimes surreal gamist challenges and on the other hand the oddball characters, the oddball gods the players can create on the fly and so on.  The abilities of the players to bend qualities to fit the situation, to take damage in odd ways, and through the gods to bend the situation to fit the characters, deflates the challenge and it kind of gives a freedom to start to comment on the core absurdity of the situation itself.

I suspect if you set that situation up with a group of players who are familiar with the tropes of DnD, especially people who maybe have frustrating experiences of certain kinds of DnD play in Conventions, I think that sets up people with sufficient space to start to exercise some creativity, to engage with the material and to have some fun with it and about it.

Ian Charvill