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Go Play Northwest 2010

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Last weekend was the most awesome gaming gathering on the West Coast, Go Play Northwest. Starting Friday evening with the feast (with desserts by the amazing Shannon Riddle), I played or ran something in every slot except Sunday morning. How’d it go? Here’s some thoughts:

Friday Evening - Old Mesilla: Got things started off right with my Lady Blackbird hack (anyone who hasn’t heard the term before: a hack is modifying a ruleset to fit another use). The players really brought it, and I was happy to see two characters that hadn’t generated much interest before get some play. Particularly notable was some great play by the players playing father/son characters who had some great scenes. I’ll be posting the rules when I get it cleaned up a little bit more.

Saturday Morning - Apocalypse D&D: Tony Dowler’s mashup of Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World and old-school Dungeons and Dragons. The group was a little large, but the rules are really tight and we had a great time delving into the Purple Wyrm Graveyard. I played a wizard, who was incredibly fun to play thanks to some really smart decisions on Tony’s part. I have some thoughts on other improvements, but I was so psyched by how much fun it was that I offered to run it (since Tony had more players than he could handle). Tony was cool (as usual) and gave me as much material as he had handy, plus the Purple Wyrm Graveyard notes, so I added that to my repertoire for the weekend.

Saturday Afternoon 1 - Mars Colony: This is Tim Koppang’s new two player game. I like the idea of a two player RPG that’s not about romance, but this kind of fell flat for Dev and myself. A lot of the scenes seemed forced. The game’s all about a failing colony on Mars and the person sent to fix it up, but Dev and I never really found the point. Solving major problems (radiation, labor disputes, etc.) with a half-baked plan and some dice wasn’t too satisfying, and trying to find personal drama in the midsts of it didn’t quite work. Still, an interesting game, and I know a lot of people loved it.

Saturday Afternoon 2 - Apocalypse D&D: Thanks to a random draw from a hat I ended up grouped up with Jackson Tegu, Ben Robbins, Johnstone, and one guy who’s name I don’t remember. We decided what to play by drawing from a hat from the stuff we were ready to run, and ended up with AD&D. It was, far and away, the funniest game I’ve played in a while. Everything from Jackson using an item to summon rats which he presumed he could command, only to have them attack him, to Johnstone’s wizard’s repeated spell failures leading to vomiting (his ‘prismatic spray’). I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a while, that group of people needs to get together more often.

Saturday Evening - Old Mesilla: Another run of my own game, this time with all five player characters in action. This is where my nasty tendency to speed up each time I run the same game became obvious, as we plowed through the scenario at breakneck speed. The players were the Canadian contingent to GPNW, and they wanted to play together as a group. Since I had something that they could all play together I offered to run OM, and it clicked pretty well. Due to how people grabbed characters, one of the key PC-to-PC relationships ended up being pretty much ignored. Not having that element hurt the game, but I was glad to see it could still work. What I didn’t see coming was that, when all the characters are being played by people (i.e. they’re not NPCs), a lot of conflicts tend to come to a head very quickly. It was a little ridiculous how big a showdown the game ended with, but hey, like Adam said: at least he got to curse Billy the Kid with his dying breath.

Sunday Afternoon - Mouse Guard: Probably the least awesome game I ran (one of the players said that I’m being too hard on myself about it, but I’m still not happy with how I handled it). A number of factors really interfered with the quality of the game: the room was loud, the players didn’t know each other at all, everyone was tired. Still, a decent introduction to the rules, and it gave me some time running MG, which I haven’t had much of. Still learning from this one.

Sunday Evening - Apocalypse D&D: In retrospect, I maybe should have called it quits by this point, but hey, it’s a con. My tendency to speed up games I’ve run before collided with the players happening upon the shortest route through the dungeon to make the game very brief, and it never quite took off as much as the previous time I ran it. On the up side, Paul was part of that game, and gaming with him is always fun, and one of the players, Kiera, had never played D&D before, so Tony’s hack was her first old-school dungeon crawling experience.

What Went Right

Right games - The stuff I prepped and brought appealed to a lot of people, and was a lot of fun for me: Old Mesilla, Mouse Guard, AD&D, The Sword. I’ll try to do the same for future cons.

Right people - I met a lot of really cool folks, and felt pretty at-home with people in general. Next time I try to meet more cool people, cause I’m sure they were there.

What Went Wrong

Pacing - Not of the con as a whole, but of my games. I already knew I tended to rush things, but it just got stupid quick by the end. Need to keep an eye on that.

Oh man, there are so many more details I could dive into on all of these. It was an amazing experience, with lots of great games. I definitely missed out on a few things, in particular Jonathan Walton’s Danger sXool (think New X-Men) Mouse Guard hack and some of the various Freemarket games that happened. Still, it’s hard to have regrets when I played in and ran some of the most fun games in recent memory (which sets the bar pretty high). Can’t wait for next year, but at least I have GenCon and PAX to tide me over.

Special thanks to everyone I played with, I only remember half your names, but if you’ve got any thoughts on anything I ran, or you’re just in the Seattle area and want to hang out, shoot me an email: sage at latorra dot org.

Sage LaTorra is a game designer and engineering manager at Google. You may know him from Dungeon World.

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