27 August 2012

A Confession about GenCon

This year, as Nykki mentioned in her previous post, we decided relatively last-minute to be GMs at Games on Demand through Indie Games Explosion.. Thursday night, I got there late because I was being chauffeur for our youngest, missing my scheduled block. I helped at the table for about an hour and then ran a session of Hollowpoint at 8.

The next day, we got there for our 10 am sessions after running the youngest back to daycare. There's a line already out the door by the time we're there. I sorted out our prep materials when I heard Nykki calling over to me asking if I'm up for running Dungeon World. I said sure, as apparently there were already multiple tables for it filling up. I grabbed my materials and head over to my assigned table, diving right into a game. I ended up running it for the rest of my sessions at GenCon.

I loved how easily Dungeon World runs. I have played and run Dungeons and Dragons since high school in its various incarnations (2nd ed, Skills and Powers, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, Pathfinder). I have a lot of experience in the genre, which I'm sure helped me out. Even so, the system and its inclusion of the players in the creation of the world really opened up new ways of playing. I have become enamored. That said, I have something of a confession to make.

Before my 10 am Friday session at GenCon, I had never run or played in a Dungeon World game.

Even finding the system is a bit of a set of random circumstances. It all started from Nykki's Kickstarter trawling. To be fair, I don't think she just randomly searched for Kickstarters to back, yet there have been a number of them that I have no idea how she found. Sometime in the last year or so, we backed Monsterhearts. It's a RPG/story game about monsters in high school using the system from Apocalypse World. I think it was the setting that got us to back Monsterhearts, originally. The Kickstarter had finished, we'd gotten the softcover, and it was put up on the shelf with other small-publisher RPGs, likely to be read when one of us had the time.

I am a PhD student. This leaves me with virtually no time for extra reading during the fall and spring semesters, but my summers are far less structured. At some point this summer, I decided to take a break from academic reading and pulled down some of the games. It took one read through of Monsterhearts and I was sold on the system. The group character gen, the far more spontaneous GM'ing, the ability for players to interact with the world in ways not done in D&D/Pathfinder; all of these fascinated me. However, we don't exactly have a very regular gaming group, so play-testing was likely not very likely. I put it on the list of games to run at the annual New Year's gaming party we go to, which is where we usually break in small-publisher systems.

Meanwhile, several of the gamers in my G+ stream had been pushing this Kickstarter for Dungeon World. All I had seen on it was that it was "old school style and modern rules," but hadn't really explored what this "modern system" was. After I had read the Monsterhearts book and poked around a bit with the Apocalypse World site, one of these Dungeon World posts wandered by and something clicked in my head. I went poking around the Dungeon World site. Oh, it's that system, my brain thought. Boom. Kickstartered. And I started trolling the Dungeon World forums (discovering the dozens of different hacks out there).

I had no idea how many games I might be called upon to run at GenCon, so I started prepping something in every system I had that wasn't 4.0 or Pathfinder: Hollowpoint, Homcidal Transients, Hollow Earth, Monsterhearts. Dungeon World was on the list I planned to prep, but I didn't have much of a scenario in mind (which is OK, since the book tells me not to prep too much for the first session). But I still hadn't played it or Monsterhearts.

One night, the week before GenCon, our online weekly group offered to hold off on running our actual Pathfinder Adventure Path and I could run something. We ended up with Monsterhearts. I got them through character creation and about an hour or so of them role-playing home room before it was time for several of us to go to bed, due to it being Thursday night. But, I had a lot of good feedback on teaching the system and character creation (mostly: pre-gen them), so I thought I had a handle on the game/system.

And then it was GenCon.

The players were all awesome. The groups worked well together. The biggest problem I ran into was keeping track of 6 players when there were 11 other tables running in the same room. (Which means that the biggest problem was the success of Games on Demand, so I'm not really complaining here.) There was such demand for Dungeon World that I would finish one game and I'd have a new table waiting in the wings. The system drew the players in very early in and there was very minimal need to explain the rules. The players very quickly got interested in what was going on, which in turn got me even more invested in the game. I'm glad I could get some exposure for this great game out into the gaming world. I am very pleased with the game and am eagerly awaiting the actual finalized book/pdf to show up.

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