So, I spent the weekend near Christchurch, at the Hoburne Naish holiday village toward Barton-on-Sea participating in the annual Indiecon event. Despite the best efforts of the rain and 50 miles per hour speed limits on the way down, and continued rain on and off throughout the weekend, I had a good time. I shared a chalet with excellent company and I managed to run four games. I also spent a little time helping out on the All Rolled Up stand.
I had only planned to run three games, but an administrative error meant that my first and second game got duplicated. For those 5 people who missed a game early on Saturday, I hope you found alternate arrangements. I had already headed back to my chalet, with players in tow, before the duplicate got called.
This was a session of Night’s Black Laundry, using a variant of the Gaean Reach Gumshoe rules using Laundry modified Night’s Black Agents character sheets and the Legacy Code mission from Unconventional Diplomacy.
The adventure itself ran within time by curtailing the end sequence, but the story telling ran well. I had a mix of players, some less familiar with the background of The Laundry. I provided a potted history, but might well benefit from writing out a précis of some form. “It’s like James Bond but with squid-headed monsters from the dawn of time intend on consuming the planet,” might suffice.
After much running around after the session, with several text messages within it telling me something had gone awry, I managed to coordinate to run one afternoon session and then repeat it for the duplicate sign-up group in the evening – mainly members of my own chalet.
Alas, I didn’t feel the afternoon session went as well as I’d hoped. These events often involve people staying up to the wee hours and the table lacked energy. At the same time, my attempt to run with the 214 system and my Classic-verging-on-Straight approach to PARANOIA adventures meant this wasn’t the zany laser-sizzling antics of the West End days.
I definitely launched in with some expectation of familiarity across the table with the PARANOIA background – and that was silly of me. Never assume. I had feedback that despite a bit of confusion on the rules the session went well enough – so, I’ll take that as consolation for my own feelings.
The evening session – after a great mutton and veg dinner – went a bit better, running the same adventure and using the same system. I couldn’t get the teamwork element of the mechanics to flow, but the adventure itself went well and ended with the team fairly intact and only a few post-debriefing executions.
One key achievement of the evening came from a single players efforts to stay out of the action and accumulate copious notes on the misdeeds of colleagues. It occurred to me, while in the shower the next day, that my game system needed to have a means to get people to indulge in teamwork AND erase their sins in the process by making others look less capable. I needed that character hiding behind the vending machine scribbling notes to come out, help the team, and still win the pyrrhic victory in the debriefing.
Characters previously accumulated Incriminating Evidence when another player helped them succeed IF that original player had used a card to improve their chances of success. It wasn’t enough to get team members to spend their pool points.
The solution: they all START with Incriminating Evidence. I established in the background for the game that they have plenty to be guilty about. So, if I give them 5-points of Incriminating Evidence at the start of the game and a player character can only lose a point by aiding in a challenge spending their own points they have a reason to help. You make yourself look better at the expense of the person who initially failed their roll and come out smelling of roses.
In a one-off con game, success comes by ending the session with the least number of Incriminating Evidence tokens in your pool. I still have to ponder the significance of emptying your pool in a long term game.
The next morning, I managed to miss the start of roll call for the early game – which meant my game dropped to the bottom of the pile. By the time I arrived I found my 5-player signups had dwindled to 3 players – but, that might well have been for the best. The gaming area had quite a background noise level the previous day and with a lot of people around the table it required much shouting on my part to get any information across.
With new Incriminating Evidence mechanic in place, my session of The Dee Sanction went very well indeed. It ran to exactly 3-hours in length and ended with the character coming out victorious and Queen Elizabeth saved. The players provided good feedback – and specifically picked out the Incriminating Evidence mechanic as a good way to foster the counter economy and general teamwork.
I could see they had an interesting time unravelling the investigative conundrum as well. The adventure ran a little differently to the previous occasion at my local gaming group, partially due to their valuable feedback and also due to a different tact from the Indiecon team.
Come the end of the day, we lingered for the raffle and then bid farewells to one and all. A great event, in spite of the disappointing weather, and looking forward to returning.