This weekend I found myself running a couple of very long
sessions to see if the theory on playing games with people when timescales
weren’t an issue and the group could be allowed to take things at their own
pace rather than being rushed along to make the scenario within a shorter
timescale makes any difference to the general dynamic of play itself. The original plan was to have several GM’s
running several different scenarios to get a range of opinions from both GM’s
and players, but given the short notice at which we ended up arranging things,
we ended up with only two games running.
The normal problem with convention games is that both GM’s and players
are limited with time and have to do the game with both random players and no
prior knowledge of the GM in question.
It’s been something I’ve debated at length on a number of forums. The format currently used by most conventions
is three to four hour slots, a little overlap between slots to let people
recharge briefly between games, and between three and six slots in a day
depending on the type of convention and whether it supports games in the
evening. My thought was that for more
experienced players, they already have an idea on the sort of game that they
want to play and they’ve probably had a few people that they’ve played games
with that they wouldn’t mind playing with again. For a lot of these players, the idea behind a
convention where they have to go play shorter games with random people doesn’t
appeal anywhere near as much as the promise of a longer game with people they
know to be players who match their own style.
So it was on Friday night that I travelled down to Stoke to run the
first game, a purpose designed scenario based on the Cthulhu Rising setting and
using 6th edition Cthulhu rules.
The players (pictured here) from left to right, were Harriet, Martin,
Louis, Josh, Martin, and Mary Ann, they play D&D together on a reasonably
regular basis and have a good time doing it, but once a year, they want to take
a break from the swords and sorcery and have a go on a game where they know the
GM works hard on the scenario, but they don’t play with him often enough that
they’ve figured out all the tricks he has.
The scenario was a straightforward investigation into a mining station
located on Titan that went dark without warning. The players were taking the
part of a corporate liaison to the System Police who had been seconded to work
on one of the system patrols as it went around the solar system. The players had fifteen days of game time
while their ship was on the way to the station, they managed to establish that
the mining station had gone dark two days before they reported it as a concern,
and that in the week running up to the station going dark, they’d found massive
caches of precious metals that would significantly increase the profit share of
all those working down there, leading to the station requesting all additional
personnel to come down and help mine the resources. Transmissions from Titan two had ceased when
the characters were still even days out, and there were no other transmissions
coming out of it.
|Yes, we were playing in low light at the time of the photo...|
When they got there, they managed to board the ship and found that
everything was deactivated, no life pods launched and no sign of the crew, no
visible damage to the ship. They made contact with Titan one to find that the
administrator of the colony was waiting for their call, having thought they’d
been left there when Titan Two went dark.
This didn’t go down well with any of the party (particularly as at least
two of the players are known paranoids when it comes to games, as this GM well
knows...), so they stayed in the vicinity of the bridge trying to find out what
was going on. Something in the computer
systems on the station took control of the Lander in which they had got to the
station and caused it to detach, leaving the players with the unsavoury options
of either trying to use one of the life pods to go down to the planet below, or
taking a spacewalk back to the main ship.
In the end, they decided to abandon the station and head back to their
Well, most of them did anyway...
Two of them decided to try and take some of the precious ores that were
mined below from the cargo hold, at which point they found out what was really
going on in the station, and while those two were doing that, the others were
making their way back to the ship. At
the point at which the two who had snuck off made their return to the ship, the
rest of the party made the decision that they may have been compromised and
merrily blew them away.
|Guess who got shot, Guess who did the shooting...|
So effectively, they came, they went to the bridge, they find out
things had gone wrong and they left...
This took six hours to do...
Because along the way, they talked, they checked things, they went over
everything twice, they made sure they’d gone up and down every possible option
that they could, and when they figured they were out of their depth, they
left. Along the way, they made jokes,
they argued amongst themselves, they did what all good groups do, they played and for all the mortal danger
their characters were in, they never let that get in the way of having fun...
And at one in the morning, I made the two hour trip back to Barnsley
across the Snake Pass, a journey more dangerous than any of the one’s I’d just
described, particularly with an a**hole truck driver who clearly didn’t know
the road very well and thought that the best way to get through a fog loaded
pass was to stay within three feet of me at all times...
But still, on to the Sunday, and the second group of the experiment –
From left to right, Sue, Jude, Phil, Mark, Jade, Graham, and John, ranging in
experience from a few years to more than three decades.
Most of them didn’t know what the scenario
was going to be, with only Phil being a newcomer to the group. We thought to try out the new Mindjammer, and
had spent the evening previous making the characters to fit to the scenario
(which as you’ll see from the accompanying review, took the best part of three
hours to do), and then early on Sunday morning, following breakfast (images
enclosed so there’s no suggestion that we weren’t eating Gamer approved food),
we got started on play around 10:00.
|The Bacon required a separate pan and the bread was too big to fit on camera...|
The scenario was a simple one, someone had got in touch with the
paladin type of the group to say that they were the avatar for a commonality
warship in low orbit of the planet that had been recently separated from its
ship and couldn’t re-establish contact. Given that the setting for the scenario
was a very closely packed and somewhat lawless block of flats similar to
Kowloon Walled City (complete with maps from the same), the only way around the
problem was to get the Avatar to the central uplink of the city block, but the
avatar had been seen in other areas and the technology of the avatar could
fetch a high price to those who were in a position to offer it to others. The
players were slightly divided on the subject of what to do with the avatar, some
thinking that it would be better to trade it in for enough money to get out of
the slums, others only intent on helping a soul in trouble.
|This is my cunning disguise...|
The way to the uplink tower was blocked by a number of gangs, and
travelling with a piece of cutting edge nanotechnology that has the curiosity
of a small child causes its own brand of problems, particularly when it finds something
else to look at and doesn’t want to be persuaded otherwise. They had less than
a mile between them and the uplink and found along the way that the gangs that
made up the ruling part of the city block were all working for the same
masters, but that the wars that were orchestrated between them all were there
as a way to keep the population down, they also found that the Avatar they were
trying to get to the uplink wasn’t actually the Avatar of the ship but a copy
that had been programmed to try and stop the original Avatar, leading to a
crisis of conscience between the party over which of the Avatars to help.
|No players were eaten in the playing of this game...|
In all, the scenario required that the characters travel less than a
mile and make the equivalent of a phone call, but they too took more than six
hours to get the job done.
The reasons were similar, along the way, they were busy discussing the
various options, they liked that there wasn’t a straight line between the two
points and at no point were the whole group in agreement on what needed to be
done (or more importantly, what the end result they wanted for their individual
characters needed to be), some made mistakes and the group laughed with them,
rather than at them, and above all, everyone was having fun. The atmosphere in the scenario changed when
they realised that the Avatar that they’d been supporting wasn’t the one that
was supposed to be running the warship, and then they had to make the choice as
to what to do. There were moments of
heated discussion, moments of downright argument and at least two points where
I thought PVP was going to occur, but they got through it all and we rounded it
off with them all wondering what to do next.
In all, two games with people who knew what to expect from the other
players around the table, and trusted that the GM knew them well enough to know
when to step in and when to keep out of it. No time constraints on the games,
so no pressure on the GM to step things up when the players were getting
themselves tied in knots with what was going on. No concern that the characters would need to
be available for the week following, meaning that the players in question were
quite willing to give up their character if it was dramatically appropriate to
the storyline and letting everyone play a lot closer to the ideal that they
wanted to, rather than having to be cautious in case a beloved character met an
All in all, a great success, the only negatives that I’ve found from
this were that the whole idea of the convention was a spur of the moment thing,
so even though we had sufficient space to run several games in the house, we
only ended up running one each time, and that between all the other convention
related duties I’ve got, I didn’t have time enough to put together all the big
props and details that I like to have when I’m running games.
Beyond that, not a displeased person amongst the players, and for me as
GM, most satisfying that I had a bunch of players wanting to come back next
year for another go.
I’ve got a few people who are helping me put something together and
there’ll be an announcement early in the New Year as to where and when the next
Long Con will be. For those new to gaming
in general, you may want to go to a few regular conventions first, get some
idea of the players out there and the GM’s that run the sort of game you’re
into. It’s not to say that you can’t
come along, but this was a very different experience from normal convention
gaming for all concerned. In both cases, if felt like one of the weekend games
that we all used to have time for all those years ago, before work and family
reduced our schedules to “Busy” and “Busier”, and at the end of both games, we
all realised how much we’d missed having those games in our lives.
So, Experiment over, and the
question that I’d posed at the beginning was “Is there a need for conventions
like this?” The answer?
It’s going to be England sometime in the middle of next year, but if
you’re interested, let us know and we’ll keep you updated...