Gen Con, pt 1

I’m not sure how new of a thing this is, but we went to a scheduled, ticketed event Wed night. I would’ve said that was “before the con”—and, in fact, we ran into an interesting dilemma: one of us forgot his badge at home, and had to have it FedExed overnight, so he was without for Wed night. So, could he play the Wed night game? It’s a ticketed event, but there’s no such thing as a badge for Wed admission, because the convention is Thurs-Sun. And the game was in one of the hotels, not the convention center. So it’s a little unclear whether they can actually demand that you have a badge—or have paid admission at all—to play a Wed night game. Arguably, a 4-day badge is for “the whole convention”, so I suppose that covers it. Though I wonder if they’d let someone with just a Thurs badge play in a Wed game? Anyway, I digress.

Wed night’s game, which we barely made it to (mostly my fault, though i’ll let the construction along the way take some of the blame), was Fairy Tale/Noir, a QAGS game (and unrelated to the RPG Fae Noir, other than topic). The basic premise was pretty much what the titile implies: a mash-up of film noir and faerie tale motifs. Though the “film noir” was really more hardboiled detective, and the faerie tale motifs were much more Grimm’s, Mother Goose, and Disney, than actual folktales. The game was set in Happily Ever After, the faerie noir equivalent of Las Vegas, and revolved around solving a murder.

It was very fun, but not quite what I was expecting—simultaneously weirder and calmer than I expected from a QAGS game in general, or that setting in particular. The calmer part comes from my experiences with the creators of the game, one of which is very wild and crazy when running it, and the other of which is wilder. So i was expecting something with the zaniness and frenetic pace of a Looney Tunes cartoon. Instead, we got fairly sedate wackiness, most of the time. Which isn’t bad—just unexpected. Probably better, however. A couple of my friends who played the game with me were commenting that a wackier game of QAGS they played later in the con was too wacky, and it was hard for them to get into any groove with it. OTOH, I was a bit sleep-deprived at that point (i’d been up for more than 24hrs when the game started) and a more frenetic game might’ve kept me a bit more engaged.

I think part of it was the GM and players coming into it with slightly differing expectations. The PCs were to be the members and collaborators of a detective agency. But 8 people is a lot for that sort of thing—and the entire main cast (protagonists and antagonists) of many of the film noir and hardboiled detective fiction i’ve read/seen isn’t any bigger than that. And we were supposed to be just the protagonists. He got around this, to a degree, by suggesting some of us play adjuncts to the actual agency—Chondra and I ended up playing Tommy Tortoise and Harold Hare, a thief and a huckster that often teamed up. Though the whole-group element made it feel more like Ocean’s 11 than The Maltese Falcon, to me. Which is not to say it wasn’t fun—just another example of it being a slightly different sort of fun than I was expecting.

The other characters were Betty Butter, a gun moll with an odd butter fetish; Mickey Mouse (no relation), one of the Three Blind Mice, who was a Zatoichi-style swordsman (though that really never came up) and our surveillance specialist; B.B. Wolf, the head of the agency, with a bit of a checkered past; Little Red Riding Hood, a drag queen and the agency’s secretary; um, crumb!, i can’t remember his name, but the woodsman, who had an uneasy partnership with B.B. after that whole Granny incident—probably partly because he isn’t too bright—and served as the muscle; Geppetto & Pinocchio, a ventriloquist and his creepy dummy, who had a disturbingly-dark, yet childlike, personality. The woman playing Pinocchio—and occasionally Geppetto, on the rare occasions when he spoke up—really stole the show.

The plot revolved around Doc, a member of the PDF—I can’t remember exactly what it stood for, but it was close to “Professional Dwarf Fighting league”—turning up dead in the desert, and his wife, “Mrs. Doc”, hiring us to find his killer. I won’t give away the ending, since I don’t know how much they reuse scenarios, but it appeared to be player-driven. Talking with the GM afterward confirmed that there were a number of possible killers, depending on how we played it, and what we did. But I’m not sure to what degree, so it’s hard to tell whether we were being clever, or the murder unfolded as we declared it did, regardless, or some hybrid of the two. Not that one way is better or worse than the other, just that i’m curious.

In fact the whole thing was pretty broadly painted. Of the setting elements, it was hard to tell to what degree the GM was making up things as he went, and to what degree he had developed a fairly detailed setting, and was just revealing the surface of it to us. And that’s probably a good thing [that I couldn’t tell].

The game was well run, and we had plenty of fun. It reaffirms my feeling that 8 people is too many to engage in a game, unless they’re some sort of tightly-integrated team, or grouped together into smaller groups. Betty Butter didn’t really get to do anything until the final confrontation—though the player seemed fine with that—and the woodsman had a pretty minor role. Maybe in a longer game, that number would work.

Oh, and it turns out I’m not nearly as clever as my character was supposed to be, at least not when sleep-deprived. Oh well—I hope the player of Geppetto/Pinocchio didn’t feel too put out when I roped her into my “clever plan” that wasn’t, and spent 10-15min of our time on it.

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2 comments on “Gen Con, pt 1

  1. Danb says:

    One nitpick: it was “Fairy Tale/Noir”, not “Fae Noir”

    Also, you expanded “PDF” correctly.

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