I put a lot of thought into the games I run at conventions, this is my chance to meet some new players, and hopefully, entertain and be entertained. Three of my games had very definite structures:
An Infinivaders game (a Cartoon Action Hour setting by John Wick). The setting was outside my wheelhouse, but I appreciated being pushed to become more knowledgeable, and I came up with fun scenario involving two teams of PCs, each PC having a polar opposite. I wanted to create some tension “Working together, putting aside differences, we can be victorious” was the awesome jingle we came up with. My plot involved the Colossus of Rhodes, the people of Rome being given back their mighty kingdom, the shield Ancile, Apollo’s bow, as well as Cthulhu. There was a lot there. I like to be prepared. I like to deliver a standalone experience in the time allotted. The session closed with the samurai committing seppuku before the ninja could off him. A little bit dark for a 1980s cartoon perhaps, but that’s why we play the game, to see what happens. PCs fought, some came together, some had incredibly powerful and out-of-control abilities, and we all enjoyed sugary cereal on a Saturday morning.
Another Cartoon Action Hour game was next, this time of my own design; the Wu-Tang Clan as a 1980s cartoon! I wanted to offer a game that would be unique, even at a place like GenCon. None of my players had much knowledge of the Wu, but boy-oh-boy was it a fun time. When your session ends with the Almigty Yeezus and his witch-bride Kimye being defeated so that their baby could be saved, because “Wu-Tang is for the Children!” you know something went right!
Retrostar playtest required less prep, as the game is designed to be a far more improvisational. All the players seemed to really enjoy Galactic Run, my Convoy meets Smokey and The Bandit in space series!
For my CCVF games, players make characters at the table, and then we just go from there. I pick some villains, we have a fight so they can see how the mechanics work, the premise is they are on a reality TV show, so lots of producer–led shenanigans and false drama, but every time I run this “scenario,” awesome, memorable stuff happens, always driven by the players. Last year, it was one of the Heroes deciding he had a complicated romantic history with one of the villains. That threw everyone for a loop, and made it even more memorable. This year, one character decided he was the bumbling son of a Superman and Wonder-woman equivalent power couple, and that allowed me to use that to make that story personal and memorable and unique.
Enough about me, honestly, I don’t want you to think I am patting myself on the back. I do have a point here. I like creating snapshot games, a stand-alone session that delivers everything a game should- action, drama, humor (if applicable), danger, suspense, and surprises. When dealing with a 4 hour block of time, this requires some prep, but it is worth it. In my head-canon, all of this stuff happened. Last year’s America’s Next Super Team and this year’s team exist in the same universe.
I ran a CAH game last year: Ace Agents (Head of the Class meets Mission Impossible), one of my players showed up for several of my games this year. I like making that connection. He seems to be a big fan of Spectrum products, so I think he was most interested in playing those games. My friend Neal, who I have gamed with at two ConBusts, also showed up to play some CCVF, bringing along a friend. Also awesome.
As happens, post-game, one player and I got to chatting, he is very much an old-school gamer, runs 6 hour sessions of AD&D (1e) at GenCon, as he wants to get into some serious role-playing, and this is his system of choice. Even when things go awry, as one of his sessions did, he likes to enjoy the extended amount of time, and let things develop.
There is a group of gamers out there who enjoy long-con games, games with multiple sessions that take play over a convention weekend, having a beginning, middle, and end. This idea is great, but is not that new to me, nor is it that new to many GMs, some just approach it in different ways.
Saturday morning, I am in a room about as far from the convention center as one can be. I am there early, I have cereal on the table, offer it up to another table of gamers, who are extremely grateful, I doze a bit, and as I am finishing up my preparations, overhear another table (there were 4 in this particular room, only 2 of which had games going), I hear some familiar lingo, some familiar character names. When there is a break in the action, I walk over and talk to the GM. It turns out he has been running the same group of characters at GenCon for many, many years, advancing their story each year. My hat is off to Bob Karcher. I may try and get in on his game next year, if time allows. And, if you want an immersive old school AD&D experience, look out for Misa Bakracevski!