29 May 2018

CanGames 2018, or, How I Spent a Long Weekend Inside, Again

CanGames has come and gone for another year.  How better to spend a long weekend in May than gaming it away?  There was mayhem, explosions, political commentary, gunfights, and all other sorts of fun.  Details after the jump.

I missed the first slot of the weekend due to work.  I like getting paid, so I worked the afternoon.  That still left the evening slot.  I hadn't pre-registered for anything and just wanted to see what was available, which turned out to be an RPG scenario based on the Dead Space video game using the All Flesh Must Be Eaten RPG.  This was a blast.  A small group of specialists exploring a derelict mining ship filled with alien zombies, what could go wrong?  The First Officer was the first to be injured as a stray shot removed his arm.  The Pilot got infected with the alien zombie virus, but my character, Doctor Calvin Hobbes, xeno-biologist, was fine with that once we found a medical bay.

The friendly fire continued when trying to restart the centrifuge to provide power to the derelict; the Space Marine took several hits.  But with power back, the internal trams came back online.  Get on, go to hydroponics to rescue some crew, go to the bridge, set the self-destruct and escape.  Simple plan.  Except, the tram had unwanted passengers and dealing with them derailed the tram and the plan.  A large alien zombie attacked and someone thought a grenade would be a good way to deal with it.  Murphy struck, though.  The grenade fell into the middle of the group.  Mist Antimatter Grenade was no one's friend.  The First Officer lost the rest of his limbs. becoming Torso Boy; the Space Marine died outright.  Everyone else survived thanks to personal forcefields, which soaked the blast.  The rest of the Marine's grenades were good after the blast except for two, a thermal detonator and a fragmentation grenade.  Dr. Hobbes' forcefield gave up and the doctor died, as did the Pilot, the First Officer, and the Marine's commanding officer, who also had grenades.  His antimatter grenade also detonated.  The few survivors lost extremities; there was no way that they'd be able to walk.  But, the alien zombie died in all the explosions, so there was some good.  This was the first friendly fire total party kill I was involved in, and I wasn't responsible.

I pre-registered for one game this weekend and bought a token to use if there was another game I wanted to get in on.  After having a look at the schedule, I found two I wanted to sign up for.  One was "Where Are the Nulcear Wessels?", a TimeWatch session.  The other was 5 Across the Heart, a playtest of a magical girls RPG.  A second token was bought and I signed up for both.  But, that still left Saturday morning, Headspace, presented by the Ottawa Story Gamers group.

Headspace is a Powered by the Apocalypse game, where players and GMs work together to build the scenario.  There are six roles to choose from, but there were only three players.  In Headspace, characters are connected through cybernetics, allowing skills to be shared, but if a skill isn't available because a role isn't around, things get interesting.  I played the tech, part hacker, part mechanic, with two drones and a large ego.  I gave the tech Crimson, after the notorious software pirate, Gavin Capacitor, the Crimson Binome.  Character creation is quick, though because of the shared experiences, the process requires players to work together.  The result was a personal mission to take down a corporate exec who masterminded a plan to create genetically engineered soldiers, including one of the PCs, who was threatening another PC's close friend.  At the end, I worked in my character's regret - not stopping the exec when I had the chance - just before forcing her personal aircraft to strike the building where her results were.  I wasn't expecting the regret to come in, but when everything started pointing at her, it just made sense.

My only pre-registered game, High Plains Samurai, another story game.  The setting is a post-apocalyptic world that has advanced to about the 1930s, allowing for gunslingers, samurai, ninja, mobsters, warlords, steampunk, and anything that the players might want.  I played a pre-generated character, Mauser, a bounty hunter who always gets his quarry.  Every character had a special ability except him; the others had telekinesis, ice control, and invisibility.  Mauser's abilities were untapped, so he had a bump in vitality, which became useful in the massive showdown against Dollface.  When asked to describe the characters, I just said that Mauser looked like a young Lee van Cleef.  Turns out, the illustration on the character sheet was described to the artist by the game's creator as "Lee van Cleef and Denzel Washington had a child."  We tracked her to her saloon in a town where business was untouchable - no fighting when the establishment was open.  So we closed it.  Then the chaos began!

Qi powers got used, swords cut, ice flew, and Mauser came out shooting.  Dollface has a henchman, a dog heavy, and lackeys to be dealt with, and dealt with them we did.  Gunning down the lackeys coming out of the kitchen resulted in a nice fire starting.  One that kept burning during the battle.  Dollface tried to escape through the flames; Mauser just followed.  Turns out, in systems where GMs can challenge or compel a character on a flaw, such as in Fate, I tend to short-circuit things.  Obsessive?  Why sure, my character will persist on following, even into a fiery blaze that makes Hell look like a bonfire.  Sure, I will make any roll needed to do so because, hey, fire and survival mechanisms, but I'm choosing the danger.

That aside, the confrontation in the continues, with Dollface finally dealing with her persistant pursuers.  Twin Colt .45s to the chest hurt, especially when they knock Mauser on to the stove, which is the source of the fire.  That didn't stop him.  Take a breath through a handkerchief because of the smoke, walk away from the stove with longcoat on fire, then fan the hammer on his six-shooter, and Mauser gave as good as he got.  Dollface eventually missed her target, sending a sword into a gasline, meaning we had to either end the fight or get blown up.  Darius, he of the invisibility. appeared and tossed two knives coated with paralytic poison into Dollface, stopping her.  Mauser grabbed her and the ice lady grabbed Darius, all of us getting out before the explosion.  It would have been magnificent on the silver screen.

"Where Are the Nuclear Wessels?", a TimeWatch session.  The Soviet Union tested a 100 kiloton nuke in 1958, three years early and twice the size it should have been.  The mission: find out why this happened and make sure the proper history occurs.  The team consisted of a caveman, a cybernetically enhanced Russian, a psychic velociraptor, and me, a T-1000.  Our first stop was at the base the bomber and testing was based out of, but we missed the plane by a few hours.  Stopping the bomber, though, wouldn't have fixed the time line.  We found our ambitious scientist and start working back in his timeline to figure out what happened.  The scientist wasn't the one who worked on the original Soviet weapon, so tracing him was one of many plans we could have used.

The velociraptor, though, met Dmitri, an unassuming NPC who she took a shine to.  She started mentioning key phrases, in part to create Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure-style temporal fun.  Dmitri wasn't important to the overall flow of history, but he made the adventure personal, at least for the raptor.

We head back to the scientist's days as a grad student in Tbilisi during World War II.  We discover that he had been evacuated from his home due to the Nazi invasion and dug further.  The scientist had been on a hospital ship that had been torpedoed in the prime timeline but survived in the changed line.  Worse, the hospital ship, the Armenia was carrying anywhere between 5000 and 7000 evacuees.  Other details we found included the destruction of the Nazi torpedo plane by anti-aircraft fire.

This was a morality challenge.  Could we let 5000-7000 people die when the ship sinks?  The real attack left only eight survivors.  On the flip side, how many more people would die because the Cold War accelerated with the Soviets being on par with or stronger than the Americans in nuclear weapons?  The needs of the many or the needs of the immediate?  Being a T-1000 killer robot made the calculus easy, and the others agreed.

We travel to the ship and meld in with the evacuees.  We search for obvious anti-aircraft guns and find none.  As the time of the attack approached, we spot the problem, a pair of time-travelling cockroaches who want their post-nuclear exchange wasteland future instead of the proper timeline.  One has a high-tech crossbow with a rocket bolt that would destroy the Nazi aircraft.  It's a fight, but we take both down.  Before leaving, though, because we could not find any real record of the scientist after the evacuation, I make an offer to him.  He's bright.  "Come with me if you want to live."

The last day of the con.  I could only make it to one game due to a baby shower for friends, and I did want to wish them the best with their upcoming little one.  I didn't have to worry about making sure I could get into the game; I used a token to register in advance.  Handy to do when looking at the as accurate as possible game schedule.

I like magical girls.  They're a different approach to superhero tropes.  They don't have the baggage of superhero comics and often aren't ashamed of what they're doing.  The session was a playtest for 5 Across the Heart, inspired by a number of magical girls series from Sailor Moon to RWBY.  Mechanically, there are ideas from Exalted, but workable*.

We spent the first hour of the session creating the magical girls and the setting, which isn't too bad considering that it was a new system for all the players.  We wound up with magical girls in Berlin of 1903 - sisters who were pauper princesses, both with some control over shadow; an athletic aristocrat; an English exchange student, also an aristocrat; and my PC, a working-class girl who has studied Karl Marx, the Communist of the group.  I hesitated taking Socialism as a trait, but when I took that plunge, Lightbringer Hannah came together.  For her magical weapon, I took a hammer, though she was better off as support and magic than melee.

We picked up after a nightly foray against the forces of evil and the magical girls try to return to their dorms at the Kaiser Wilhelm School for Wayward Girls.  Wait, that sounds familiar...  Fighting evil is easy.  Getting past Frau Bartleby, that's something else.  We get in, but the next morning, she has a security company, Foul und Söhne, put in bars to prevent a break-in, or a break-out.  Thinking fast, we magical girls check on the workers, trying to distract them and, in my case, trying to get them to rise up and through off the chains of their capitalist oppressor.  Yes, I went all in here.  Hannah's catchphrase was "To each according to need!"  But the workers weren't normal.  Their hearts were replaced with a clockwork device.  We did manage to create a hole in the security so we could get out, and get out we did.

Following the workers, we find the offices of Foul und Söhne and break in.  If the name wasn't enough evidence, we found proof that the company was under the thumb of the villains.  We leave and track the works to the King Wilhelm Abandoned Warehouse, near the King Wilhelm Park.  Yes, we ran a running gag right into the ground.  The minions were easily dealt with; magical grils are always good at fighting them.  The monster of the week was another question.  He jumped into his truck, which transformed into a steampunk robot.  The fight was on.  Magic, weapons, shields, everything we had we poured into the monster, who punched as hard as he took.  In the end, we were victorious as the the monster got according to his need.

Then came the hard part, sneaking back into the school.  When we de-transformed, we were still soot-covered because of how we got into Foul und Söhne, the chimney.  We get back to our dorms and dive under the blankets just before Frau Bartleby, the true evil in our world, comes to wake us up.

Mechanically, it's inspired by Exalted, but works closer to Legends of the Five Rings with a roll/keep system.  Roll a number of d8s based on attribute and stunting, keep the highest number of them according to how it ties into a personal value, and try to beat a difficulty number.  Transformed, magical girls roll more and keep more dice, which makes sense.  Motes of friendship can be spent to power abilities, getting more dice or allowing for spells.  I should have figured out some way of gaining more motes; my magical costume allowed me to transfer motes to others, but I didn't have a quick way to recover my own motes.  Still, it was a playtest and we hit a few snags that the GM and creator was happy to see.  She also enjoyed the idea of the setting.

Thus endeth CanGames 2018.  I had fun.  It was good to get out during the long weekend.  There was mayhem.  There was drama.  There was bull-headed stubborness.  There was even limbless torsos!  What more can you ask for?

* This is probably something to expand on in its own post.  My experience with Exalted has left me frustrated with the system.  I find the game really needs to be playtested and edited, despite having tried the first two editions.

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