What I learned GMing at GenCon

Gen Con 2016 was my first time GMing at a convention and I have a few thoughts on it.

First, if anyone likes GMing, likes doing it at conventions, and likes the Eclipse Phase system, I seriously recommend GMing for Posthuman Studios. The number of hours you'd need to GM for your badge to be paid for is reasonable and, if you'd rather GM less, their pay per hour is pretty good. Also, I got to go to a coffee hour with three of the Studio's folks so they could pick their GMs’ brains on what worked and what didn't. Really nice guys. AND you get to see/read some scenarios before they're offered for sale to the public.

Second, apparently stage fright isn't just for public speeches. I had two sessions and was nervous as heck before both. The first makes sense to me. I have yet to find a session prep methodology that gets me to feeling like I know what I'm doing (fellow GMs, please, leave your methods in the comments, I need ideas). I guess I'm developing some improv skills off of it. But I'd have thought after playing in the same scenario last year and running a session once, I wouldn't have those nervous butterflies before the second session this con. Nope. Still just as nervous. Well. After accounting for how tired I was. Last day of the con and all.

I think this partially has to do with not having a great memory for details and Eclipse Phase being a fairly rules crunchy system. Partially to due with being an introvert about to be in charge of herding 5-7 people I’ve never met before. And it being on me to make the game fun for them.

I had two bunches of good folks playing though. Having watched a bit of partner and a friend play in a Pathfinder game, I could have ended up with dudebros or folks who'd want to make me being female a thing. I think Eclipse Phase’s politics, which it proudly wears on its sleeve, are going to filter some of those folks out. But still, having a good group, including folks just cross-playing gender with no comment, was nice.  Although I would have liked to have seen more than one other lady at the table (out of twelve people).

My take away is that while I can GM at conventions, I'd rather play. Especially to check out new systems, see if they're for me. I'm just more comfortable GMing for folks I know or in more narrative systems I know better (*cough*Red Markets*cough*). Spontaneously deciding to run a game of Red Markets worked out better than I had any right to hope – good confluence of having a large block of time available, a channel to announce on to find players, folks who know the system already (despite the purpose of the scenario I ran to playtest introducing new players to the system), having written the scenario in the first place, and only going over the player rules for Red Markers once in beta and three times as an editor.

So yeah. I can GM. I will GM for Technical Difficulties, because equal share of the load and all. But, I would rather play.

Still going to be GMing a session of Eclipse Phase AND Red Markets at WashingCon on September 10th and 11th. As will the partner. 

Gen Con Report

So Gen Con!

(Yes, I moved over the weekend. No, the new apartment is not in anyway put together. Yes, it resembles a shaken snow globe of stuff everywhere. Nope, not thinking about that right now.)

Gen Con was awesome. I hung out with friends we only see at Gen Con (played SmashUp, Hello My Name Is..., Brewin' USA, and Paperback over a couple of nights), went to several panels, talked on one, played in a live-action puzzle game, and ran two sessions of Dog Star. 

Dog Star is a scenario in the Eclipse Phase RPG. The tag line for this one is 'Doom Metal Laser Whales in a dungeon crawl on the surface of a Sun.' Yes, the characters are in the bodies of whales adapted to live on the surface of a sun who need to go investigate a space installation floating in the corona of a sun. It's awesome and I am looking forward to running this scenario for my gaming group, Technical Difficulties. (Also, if you're in the DC area, the partner is going to be running it at WashingCon 2!)

Running this scenario at GenCon is actually why I'm willing to talk about GenCon on a Monday, my Writing blog post day. This was the first convention I've run gaming sessions at and I thought I'd talk a little about the parallels I see with writing.

A few weeks before Gen Con, I got the scenario from Post Human Studios, the folks who publish Eclipse Phase. The scenario is (to my mind) a lot like the background development material you develop for a writing project. You've got the relevant world building material (or in this case, pointers to the parts of the vast amount of world building that are specifically relevant to the scenario). You've got your character bible, i.e. the character sheets. You've got the antagonists and their motivations. You've got the inciting incident and background material on it. You've got the outline of the action you expect to happen (i.e. what would happen before the characters come along and throw a monkey wrench in your plans). And you've got some expected resolutions. And then you read through it all, let it seep into your head, and sit down to execute the story. In this case, run the game.

The two sessions I ran, there were 6 players and seven available characters, so I had a slightly different mix of characters between sessions. And the interaction / comfort level between folks at the table was a bit different from game to game, of course. First game at four folks who play together regularly at home who had really fun character moments together plus someone who'd played the scenario last year and therefore was hanging back verbally to let other folks have more impact on the story. Second game, there were fewer humorous bits, fewer back-and-forth character moments, but everyone seemed to have a good time.

It was interesting, both groups made very similar choices. I mean, it's a pretty straight-forward scenario but both groups made similar choices. Option between getting to the interesting point fast but not having emergency bugging out fuel OR getting there slower and having fuel to leave fast? Both groups chose to go slow and have fuel to leave quickly if need be. Investigate now or rig to blow up in the event of 'oh shit'? Both groups chose to rig it to blow up first.

I don't think I was steering them into those choices....

Any rate, can't talk too much more about the specifics, not and surprise the Tech. Diff. folks when I run this. :D

So yeah, for me, the scenario is the developmental writing work and running a game is the four-hour marathon writing session where the details get filled in, clever bits of dialogue happen, and your characters surprise the heck out of you. Possible taking the story in a completely unexpected direction.

No editing phase though. We're doing it live!

The Brief Post-GenCon Report

So I've spent my entire weekend at GenCon and a) I'm exhausted but b) SO HAPPY.  This was a very, very fun weekend and I am in need of some sleep, so... I'll write something up and post on Saturday. Thanks guys!

  • Thursday
    • Doom Metal Space Whales - the first GMing
  • Friday
    • My First Red Markets Panel as a Panelist
    • "We're soooo bad at puzzles"
  • Saturday -
    • Football Field Dealers' Hall  
    • I can run a Red Markets game
  • Sunday -
    • Doom Metal Space Whales - the second GMing
    • Adam runs a Red Markets game (I nearly die from laughing)