Saturday, May 21st, 2011
I didn't sleep all that well the night after CanGames, Day 1, due to the sciatica and the pain and my endeavours of the day before. Since both spross and I wanted to check out the Marketplace, and since I wasn't going to be able to see much of it as I was running most of Saturday after 2:00 pm and again on Sunday, I had arranged with spross that we would go to the convention for around 10:30 pm or so, so since I was already up by 7:00 am, I started drafting the journal entry about the first day of the convention, got some of the gaming stuff ready for the day that I had forgotten about the night before, and made breakfast around 8:00 am and took my daily pills and the medication for the pain. Not that it did much this day, as I was really hurting. I decided to pack an extra dose of the Robaxacet with me, just in case I needed it later in the day. (Glad I did this, as it turned out.) I figured that it was going to be a long day, what with running two sessions of the Primeval RPG back-to-back during the afternoon and evening, and with the pain I was in, well...
spross arrived at my place around 10:00 am, and we headed out for the convention with the gear packed and all. We stopped off at the same Subway as we had the day before, and picked up some lunch. For some reason, other folks who had parked at the restaurant had parked poorly, shutting spross's car in, and he had a fun job of squeezing out of the parking space there. When we arrived at the CanGames venue, the Rideau Curling Club, spross was able to park the car *incredibly* close to the convention, literally across the street from the entrance to the Curling club building! Fabulous! Saved wear and tear on him, in terms of carrying my gaming stuff and his stuff (as he was running Mekton Zeta that night) into the gaming venue. We dumped the stuff we had with us down in a pair of lockers once more (but I retained the pillow and a bottle of water), and then headed upstairs for the convention.
As this was Saturday late morning, the convention was already hopping, with lots of gaming going on and stuff was quite noisy. I checked to see what was going on with my two Primeval rpg sessions for the day, and found that I still only had three players in each of the games. Not a good start, I thought, but things change. spross and I headed into the curling sheet area, where most of the miniature games and some other stuff was going on, since that was how to get to the Marketplace. As we were going through, I saw that a game of Dominant Species was being played, and went over to watch, as I'd been intrigued by the write-up about the game I'd read in the CanGames booklet, though I'd heard earlier from someone that the game had received mixed reviews. That didn't stop me, and I'm glad it didn't. The game play was going on, and I loved what I saw, though I didn't have too much time to talk to the fellow who was hosting the game. He told me that a second printing of the game had been done, and that I might be able to find it in the Marketplace.
In the Marketplace itself, I was somewhat disappointed. Partially because it didn't seem like there would be a lot that interested me, but moreso due to the fact that my physical limitations would keep me from looking around in detail at stuff. And there was the fact that I hadn't sold any of the stuff that I had wanted to as yet, but it was still early of course. I immediately found a couple of different vendors that were selling Dominant Species, priced about $20 apart, and arranged to buy the copy of the game that one dealer had (supporting the local store) on Sunday, as I wasn't sure about financing the cost of the game; Dominant Species is a beautiful board game, but it's hellishly expensive (or seemed so to me, at any rate, at the time). The other thing that I was looking for were copies of the 2nd Edition game materials for the Blue Planet RPG published by the folks at Fantasy Flight Games. I managed to find copies of the GM and Player books at the CanGames booth (more on that in a minute), and picked those up, but by that time I was in a serious amount of pain (I'd been walking around for close to an hour, something I shouldn't have done). I told spross that I was going back out to the convention lobby to sit with my cushion and relax, and left him there to wander around. I stopped by the table with the Dominant Species game going on, and watched for another five minutes or so, and then barely made it to the convention lobby and sat down with a chair and my cushion. Heaven! Thank Goddess for that cushion! Saved me more than once during the convention. At one point, spross came out to see me, and said that he had found three of the other hardcover books for Blue Planet at one of the other booths. Since they were reasonably priced, I gave him the money for the books, and just stayed put, hoping that the pain would go away, or at least be reduced so that I could function again. Chatted with a few people, and some time passed before spross came back with the books. Since it was close to lunch time, as I had to be prepared to set up for the Primeval game and recruit players for it, spross dropped off the Blue Planet stuff in the locker, and then brought up the Subway sandwiches, water, and the like, and then went back down and got the gaming stuff for me. Since the table I was running at was still occupied (the guy there, I learned later, was doing a playtest), we sat at an unoccupied table and ate our food.
One of the things that struck me about the Marketplace and the CanGames booth was that the prices there were absurd on some of the stuff that I saw. I appreciate that the dealers who come to CanGames want to make money, but you have to keep your prices reasonable in the process, although there are bargains to be had as well. And it's suppoosed to be a buyer's market, or perhaps I'm wrong about this. While I had priced the Tekumel stuff that I was selling at the CanGames booth reasonably, especially for stuff that was rare and hard to find, there were folks selling stuff in the $40 to $50 ranges, something that they wouldn't get (on which I was proven correct). The real problem in the Marketplace is that it is very, very small. No more than a handful of dealers every year, although there was an interesting vendor this year, Verdigris Grove, who sell all manner of steamfae trinkets, artwork, and other stuff that was lovely. If I'd had a girfriend right now, I would have bought her something. I nearly bought a custom-made dice bag this year, but didn't like the large ones that they carried. May well order a custom-made smaller one at some point.
After spross and I finished eating lunch, I finished prepping for my run of the Primeval rpg scenario for the afternoon, and then headed to the sign-up tables as people started milling and crowding around during the 1:30-2:00 pm period so as to sign up for games that still had spaces. I noticed immediately that two more people had filled the sheet, giving me a total of 5 players, and it was pretty easy to recruit a sixth player on the spot, since I was wearing my "Anomaly Research Centre (ARC)" t-shirt. :) spross went off to play in a game (I found out near supper time that it was tashiro's Fox Magic scenario, "The Iron Samurai". (Hopefully he'll post something about it on his blog). Once all the players arrived at the table, I started the game.
The scenario that I ran for Primeval, "A Woodland Adventure", is the adventure that will be appearing in the rulebook under a slightly different name. I decided to have the players portray the central characters from Series 1 of the tv show - Nick Cutter, Stephen Hart, Abby Maitland, Connor Temple, Claudia Brown, and Captain Tom Ryan - as I wanted them to rely on their wits and each other, rather than the technology such as the Anomaly detectors, etc. that were developed during Series 2 onwards. Furthermore, I tweaked the stats of the characters slightly to suit them better in my opinion. One of the things I managed to do before the convention is to get a copy of what I hope is the cover for the roleplaying game, and since I was using the DW: AiTaS GM Screen, clipped the copy onto the screen to give the players a good idea of what the game (hopefully) looks like. I learned that with the exception of one of the players at the table, most of the folks playing the game (all male) had never seen the series or had only seen an episode or two. While I loved that I had attracted newbies to the game, I worried that this might affect the portrayal of the characters, and in that regard I was proven right. While the players did a good job talking to various characters and NPCs during the course of the adventure, they lacked the experience of having seen the tv series and knowing the characters to the extent that it showed in their portrayals of most of the characters (though there were a couple of exceptions). After going through an explanation of the game rules and explaining some more about the tv series and the like, I started the adventure with them.
While I'm not going to go into detail about the scenario for obvious reasons, since it will be run at all kinds of game conventions and the like in the near future, I'll discuss some of the elements here. Bear in mind there are a few SPOILER WARNINGS here.
First off, the character portrayals. The fellow playing Nick Cutter just didn't have the leadership qualities for the role, and played it very tentatively. Thus, the Tom Ryan player took over command of the group rather easily, and given that the Ryan player was quite forceful to begin with, this came down to polarising the game somewhat. He did, however, play Nick somewhat well in regard to the science elements, and that was good to see. The gent playing Claudia Brown did a pretty good job with her, but was somewhat intimidated by his job of having to keep the exposure of the Anomalies down to a minimum at best, especially when Ryan insisted on taking five soldiers with him into a rural English village setting! The guy playing Stephen Hart, Doug, was the only one who had seen a good deal of the series, and he did a good job playing Stephen, being in character, and doing the wilderness stuff that Stephen is so good at. He also tried his best to interact and work well with Nick Cutter, but the player seemed to be having very little of that. The two fellows playing Connor Temple and Abby Maitland didn't really bring across the relationship between the two, even though I'd put it down on the sheet, although both played the Connor and Abby personality aspects (Connor's geekiness and Abby's nature loving) quite well. The fellow playing Captain Tom Ryan was...how do I put this? SteveA was highly amusing as Tom Ryan at times, as he played the military somewhat campily and pretty gung-ho (especially when his soldiers started dying), and had down some of the dialogue and mannerisms of some of the typical British soldiers that one sees in UK television programmes. In many respects, he did an admirable job of the military man, and I had fun watching him go through his actions and sequences, especially with the soldiers/minions reporting on the various player characters' actions.
There weren't a lot of moments that stood out for me in this game, though the game was quite entertaining, but there were exceptions. After the initial bit of the opening of the scenario and bringing the characters together at the Home Office, once the player characters arrived in the village, they didn't work together at all for about 2-1/2 hours. They definitely suffered from this, and the cohesiveness of the group was divided. Both the Claudia player and the Captain Ryan player got totally frustrated at this lack of communication. During the sequence with the irate townsfolk, Abby and Connor dealt with the problem by taking them down to the local pub for drinks, with the plan to get some information out of them. Connor ended up handling this alone, as Abby ditched him!, leaving him out to dry, so to speak. Connor got drunk at the pub, passed out, and woke to find his trousers had been taken. However, he did get the information on the beastie (or so the group thought) that he was looking for. The players taking on the roles of Nick and Captain Ryan were affected by the spores, and suffered from hallucinations. Nick ran off into the woods, panicking after seeing nightmarish versions of the last beastie that he and the team had faced. Tom Ryan ended up going through the Anomaly, and came back with his weapon in hand, freaking out. The Claudia player managed to talk him down using her Convince, and he gave her the gun in exchange for a beer! Both players did a great job playing the hallucinatory period, and managed to make it very convincing. Playing Stephen Hart, Doug got seriously annoyed at SteveA's portrayal of Captain Ryan, where Ryan had his five soldiers keep tabs on the rest of the player characters, reporting in every so often via their walkie-talkies. At one point, Stephen took him to task for shadowing his character while they were trying to sneak around at the edge of the woods.
When the game ended around 6:00 pm, the players told me that they had enjoyed the game quite a bit. Several of them expressed an interest in watching more of the tv series, and were looking forward to the game actually coming out. All of the players agreed that the game mechanics for Primeval are excellent and definitely fit the simulation of the tv series, and that the combat system is very nice, very fast, and quite deadly. I made my decision about the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers, and got names and e-mail addresses for them, since they'll be getting prizes from the folks at Cubicle 7.
Once the game was over and spross came back from the game he had played in, I was hurting pretty badly. We decided to leave all the gaming stuff at the table, since I only had about an hour before the second running of Primeval for the day, and went upstairs to grab supper at the Curling club cafeteria. I managed to take two more Robaxacet with my diabetes meds before we ate, and we settled down on the middle floor to eat, as I needed to get away from the table downstairs for a while. I had the hot dog platter with a salad with Greek dressing, and it was as bland as the meal I'd eaten on Friday night, but I was just exhausted and in serious pain by this time. The food helped wash the pills down. By the time spross and I finished dinner, it was time to get ready for the second Primeval game, and he had to get set up for his game of Mekton Zeta.
I finished cleaning up the gaming table and getting all the materials ready for play once more, with a fresh batch of character sheets for the players, by which time the sign-up sheet had been put out on one of the tables used for this purpose. I was gratified to see that I had all six player slots filled, two additional pre-registrations among them, and so I was able to return to the table and wait for the players to show up for the game. The second Primeval scenario of the day was a home-grown adventure called "Peril Beneath the Streets", and is set in the London Underground after the player characters are called in to investigate the deaths of several London Transit workers. The scenario has a couple of sub-plots that I won't go into here, and is quite creepy with the feel that I've going in terms of describing the abandoned tube station and all that. Oh, and there are dinosaurs and Anomalies. (Yes, that was plural.) Once again, I used the central characters from Series 1 of the tv show - Nick Cutter, Stephen Hart, Abby Maitland, Connor Temple, Claudia Brown, and Captain Tom Ryan - as I wanted them to rely on their wits and each other, rather than the technology such as the Anomaly detectors, etc. that were developed during Series 3. Furthermore, I tweaked the stats of the characters slightly to suit them better in my opinion.
Once all the players were accounted for, I was taken by surprise by the fact that the there were four (!!) female players and only two male players. This made for an interesting time to be sure, as I had to keep reminding myself that the older lady was playing Captain Ryan, and the woman my own age was taking on the role of Stephen Hart! Things worked out really well, as it turned out, since with the exception of the fellow playing Nick Cutter, all the players had some degree of familiarity with the tv series. For the benefit of the two players who had seen little or none of the tv show, I went into a bit more detail about the series insofar as these characters were concerned, and some of the basic premises (same as I had earlier in the day), and this seemed to help the two players in question a good deal.
Some player and character observations, I suppose, should be next. First off, as mentioned, the player with Nick Cutter was relatively new to the series, but he actually did a terrific job playing Nick and made the game enjoyable and interesting with his interpretation of Cutter, taking charge when he needed to and doing the scientific stuff. He was a little bit hesitant at times, and didn't play as well off Claudia and Connor as he might have, but still did a good job for the most part. The young woman playing Abby really did a fabulous job getting into character, and she played Abby to a "T". She had the character of Abby down pat, and played her somewhat flamboyantly and gave it her all, expressing distaste at Tom Ryan's constant desire to kill things (notably dinosaurs), but she really tried to engage Connor and succeeded to some extent. The fellow playing Connor Temple wasn't all that active in the game, and didn't do some of the research that he should have that Connor is known for in the series (notably about the British Museum Station and the London Transit Authority stuff), but as this didn't cost the group at all, it worked out fine. He did play off Abby when the opportunity presented itself, but it was more along the lines of the puppy love aspects of the relationship. The lady playing Stephen Hart did a fine job in the early going of the adventure, and took charge of the tracking and the like in the tunnels, as well as made solid decisions about the tranquiliser weapons to take in consultation with Nick and Abby. However, the player became a bit bloodthirsty at the end, tranquilising the uninjured troodon twice, so they could keep it docile. She did a great job with Stephen as well, and worked well with Abby's player. The girl who played Claudia Brown was a player that I've had at my table for at least the last two years at CanGames in various games. She did an excellent job playing the character, played her Story Points well for help when she needed it, got into the "keep the Anomalies secret" aspect of the game well, and managed to engage Nick Cutter a few times. Finally, the older female player in the role of Captain Tom Ryan did a great job, as she understood Ryan's role on the team all too well. She played the military man with the obligation of protecting the professor and his team to the hilt, and did a marvellous job of interacting with the other characters when she had to, but took the job seriously. She had a solid relationship with Nick Cutter, relented when Claudia convinced her not to take a squad of men with her, and otherwise played Captain Ryan to the hilt. Additionally, Ryan's player had some of the worst dice rolling I've ever seen at a convention. She was almost overcome by a group of compsognathus, attacking as a pack, but was able to get the hell away in time. Still, she rolled with the punches of the dice rolls, and took them in stride with a good sense of humour, especially when she saw that I wasn't about to let the dice rolls kill her character.
The moments that stand out in this game are too numerous to mention, it was such a good game. Ryan running from the compys, screaming for help at the top of his lungs... Abby hearing the screams from the transit workers who had gone off to the disabled train, and charging straight down the tube tunnel heedless of the danger... The party's realisation that they were up against compys, possibly fifty or more of them... The players' creeped out reactions when I was running them in the tunnels, with shadows, dripping noises, the smell of ozone, and the dark... I could go on and on about this. Suffice it to say, the game was so much fun to run, that when we broke for the 5-minute break at the half-way point, I finally realised how much my back and leg were killing me.
On the other hand, the sad thing was that the group didn't get overly creative at times and needed prodding (using the Story Points mechanic), but the folks playing Cutter, Abby (and Connor, once) came up with some good ideas from time to time. That said, Connor never really did any research and nor did the other player characters suggest it to him, and the party found themselves woefully unprepared for what they found in the tunnels of course. That said, there was an interesting hook in the adventure (a dead Roman Legionnaire) that I may use as a hook for another adventure for next year... They glommed onto that right away, and wondered how the Legionnaire had got there.
After the game, the players told me that they had really enjoyed the game, felt that it fit the Primeval tv series quite well, and that the game mechanics were excellent and suited a roleplaying game based on the series. They found the game mechanics to be quite simple and easy to learn, and several players were disappointed to know that the game won't be out for a bit yet. One of the things they really liked was the ominous, creepy feeling I gave them in terms of the abandoned tube station, and the dark tunnels and eerie manner in which torchlight reflected everywhere. I had an excellent time running the game, and it was one of the best games I've run at conventions in the last ten years or so.
Some time around 11:00 pm or so, spross came by the table, having finished running his game, and waited around while I finished up with the players after the game ended. We started talking about Doctor Who of all things, probably because I was using the GM Screen for the Cubicle 7 version of the game (though I had printed out a copy of what is hopefully the cover of the Primeval game and pinned it to the DW Screen to show them what it looked like). The discussion centred around which shows to start with. While most of the younger kids thought that starting with Eccleston would be best, the older folks like me thought that starting with the First Doctor, William Hartnell, was a better choice. hehe
After packing up the stuff with spross's help, he grabbed the stuff we needed and we took off from the convention for the car. The walk was about two to three blocks, not far, but the pain was pretty bad by this time and I hadn't been able to take any more meds. We discussed the plans for the next day, and figured we should go in to the convention around the same time on Sunday, since we both had games to run. With everything back in the car, the trip to my house was uneventful. spross unloaded the car, and after he had done so, we went inside where I basically collapsed for ten minutes in the kitchen after he had taken off for home. I ate a bit of fish and some yogurt, took some pain meds, and crashed for the night. By that time, it was close to 12:30 am.
And that's the Saturday at CanGames. Hope folks enjoyed this convention day report despite the length. Should have expected it, since I had two games that I ran to cover in this one. Not riveting stuff, I know, but what the heck. Sunday's report will be covered in one of the next posts.