Zed Lopez

Kublacon 2013

So I went to Kublacon. Friday afternoon, I GM-ed Monster of the Week. I was a little disappointed to only get 3 players. My time slot probably played a role, but mostly I blame the feckless description I had to come up with in a hurry because I’d waited until the last day to submit my game proposals.

My mystery was lifted from Dog Eats Dog. I think it went ok, but I should have done more to up the stakes and the threat level throughout the game. Next time, the monster will have minions. After defeating the chupacabra and finding her two cubs, our heroes located a chupacabra rescue society and transported them there – a happy ending… for everyone except the Chosen, who had had to skip out on planning her best friend’s birthday party to hunt the chupacabra, and so the party was a disaster and her former best friend hates her now.

More disappointing was getting no players at all for Left Coast. Again, Friday 6-8 probably isn’t the most promising slot, but mostly I think my description failed to convey AWESOME STORYTELLING GAME OF PHILDICKIAN HIGH WEIRDNESS!

But it meant I got to hit the Dealers’ room during its first hours, and scored the brand new Investigator Weapons, Vol. 1 for Call of Cthulhu inexplicably at 75% off. I love everything about this book – the period photos, the layout, the content, and the geeky obssessive thoroughness as it catalogs guns from all over the world that were in circulation in the ‘20’s and ‘30’s. The content about laws, attitudes toward guns, and availability may be of use to me, but I’m probably never going to engage in a game where we’re counting rounds and rolling precise, per-gun chances of misfire. But it still makes me happy that this exists.

The dealers included Geek Chiq, makers of bespoke granny-grade game tables. Très belle mais très cher.

I didn’t try to get into a game Friday night, figuring I’d want the time to recover from GM-ing, and I wanted to make it to the flea market at 11. Being unclear on the concept, I killed time in my room for a couple of hours until going down at about a quarter of to find the line for the flea market was hundreds deep. Now I understand why the Lifetime membership perk of admission to the flea market 15 minutes early is actually a big deal.

Kublacon sensibly caps the number of people let in the room at a time, and only allows more as people exit, so it took a half hour until I even got in, but it wasn’t uncomfortably crowded. I picked up Engel and Strike Force and some GURPS Supers supplements.

Saturday morning, I played a playtest of Guns and Glamour by Mickey Schulz GM-ed by John Kim. It’s about a population of refugees from the losing side of a civil war in Faerie crossing into the American midwest in the ‘20’s and establishing themselves in gangland Chicago. The rules are largely from MonsterHearts (which I adore, so that’s a good thing); the biggest variation is that you have both a race and a profession and get moves from each. I was a goblin lieutenant for an NPC Sidhe crime boss, desperately trying to smooth over messes despite having no real authority, and continuing to assure everyone that the boss had some secret plan that would all make sense in the end and it only looked like he was selling us all down the river by setting up the Sidhe, trolls, and pixies as an overclass.

I liked the setting and moves a lot, but I have some qualms with the rules for marking experience: you mark experience when you make a move using your lowest stat, when you inflict harm, and when you receive harm. It’s clearly going for encouraging violence to match the genre, but a result is that you’re kind of screwed three times over if your lowest stat is Tough.

Saturday night was a Call of Cthulhu game. Some of the players were on their third characters by the end of the game; I think one of us might have been marginally sane when the world ended. Overall, my player motivation is puzzle-solving and what I like in Cthulhu gaming is to keep the Investigate in Investigator and for the mystery to be primary. This game was pulpy and monster-heavy and not really what I seek out in Cthulhu gaming. Not that it wasn’t entertaining to hit someone over the head with a ginormous Necronomicon.

Sunday morning was Dread in which there aren’t dice, but a Jenga tower. As you attempt to do things, you have to pull from the tower; if it falls over, you die. The further the game goes on, the more inevitable it becomes. I’ve wanted to play this for years, and it really is a great way to make the players feel tension. I’m a natural-born fidgeter and spent the whole game concentrating on NOT TOUCHING THE TABLE.

After this, my luck ran out in terms of getting into official con games – I didn’t get anything for Sunday night or Monday morning. Happily, I texted a friend and he invited me to the Airbender Fate Accelerated game he was running ad-hoc. Thanks, dude! FAE is a nice, light system.

Monday morning found me back in the flea market where I finally found a reasonably priced copy of Amber. Though I backed the Lords of Gossamer and Shadow kickstarter and am liable to use its rules and setting if I run something with the Amber Diceless system, I still wanted to read the original. (Though it’s available as a reasonably priced PDF, I still haven’t warmed to reading lengthy PDFs that don’t fit on my Kindle DX. Maybe someday I’ll have some high-resolution tablet and that’ll change.)

I contemplated trying to get into the 7th Sea game Villanova’s Birthday but it was scheduled for 8 hours, which was more than I could face – I was pretty much ready to stop breathing hotel air and get home to my wife and cat. But if I’d known the 4-hour Teenagers from Outer Space game Luci the Librarian’s Last Stand needed players, I’d have been tempted to stay. Prior to the past year, TFOS was the only campaign I’d ever GM-ed, some 20 years ago, and I have a serious soft spot for it.

In the cheap irony department, my regular gaming group, which has cancelled about a half-dozen games in a row, was actually playing Monday night. But without me this time.

All in all, a good, exhausting time. I hope to put my new, improved 4-day game-con survival skills to use at Celesticon.

In other news, there’s a kickstarter for a new edition of Call of Cthulhu. Jesus Christ, $76 for two softcovers or $106 for two hardcovers? (Yeah, I know that’s a pretty typical price point these days.)