This year, Save Against Fear was awesome. For me, it was just 3 solid days of happiness. Possibly the best convention experience I’ve ever had. I hope it was good for everyone else there, too. Folks looked happy, and I saw a number of people just walk in from the Mall and check out what was going on. (One way to tell – Save folks are almost all white, so when I saw POC there I was pretty sure they were walk-ins, and it was great to see them)
I got there bright and early to run Satanic Panic in the first slot of the con. It was a ton of fun, and I really like some things about the system. It does what it does very well, I think, even for a playtest version of the full game, which is all I had. The game isn’t about whether you succeed or fail at using skills, but rather about whether you can manage your collateral damage and the amount of panic that you cause in the community. The players had tactical decisions to make.
The main challenge for me, as Game Master, was dealing with the fact that there are no skill rolls. The agents always succeed if it is within reason. So I had to tamp down my instinct to call for rolls and just decide what happens next. It was good, though, and I remembered that I enjoy a mechanic in games that lets you succeed without rolling, both as a player and as a GM. I’d just never run a game where that was the only mechanic.
For players, I had two game designers and one woman who had never played a tabletop RPG before. She actually came to the table thinking it would be a panel discussion or presentation on the history of the Satanic Panic, but she stayed to game and did a fantastic job.
Next, after cramming some Subway into my gullet, I jumped into a Pugmire game with Eddie Webb! Basically, it was a refurbished version of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, the 1980 D&D module, which is a great fit for Pugmire. The game was fun – everyone brought their best, I think, and we apparently bypassed all of the main threats (accidentally) and then rolled a natural 20 at the end of the scenario. In essence, we defeated the Barrier Peaks. Pwned.
Once again I woke up early and drove out to Harrisburg Mall so that I could play in Barak Blackburn’s Retrostar game, “Galactic Run 83.” This was actually a game put together by Jack Berkenstock so that he could play with his friends all at the same time. The game is simple, but was a ton of fun, mostly because of the work that Barak put into the scenario. It is the first game I’ve played that included a puppet as one player-character, and the character sheets were cassette tape inserts complete with a character soundtrack on the tape. Baller.
In the middle of the day, I facilitated our Game Designer’s Panel, which was recorded so that perhaps someday you could enjoy it as well. It featured Joseph “Bear” Thompson, Rich Thomas, Eddie Webb, Doug Levandowski, and Barak Blackburn.
I got to play in a game of Kids On Bikes with the designer, Doug Levandowski. It was another very fun scenario, featuring the curse of Hamlet and more than one punch to the nards.
The third day of Save was quieter, but I got to play in a playtest of the Critical Strengths Engine. In brief, it is a RPG being designed for therapeutic use from the ground up, and Jack ran a Pugmire scenario for me and four therapists. We gave some recorded feedback and filled out forms and handed our materials back in. I’m not sure I’m supposed to talk about, so I won’t, but it did motivate me to work on some new RPG projects for The Bodhana Group. With any luck, you’ll be seeing those sometime in the future.