2010-03-16: Dreamation 2010 Games
Time for some Con updates. I got to go to Dreamation this year. Back in that lovely hotel, for another good time. I've never made it there on Thursday before. It seemed so empty of people I know. It took until Saturday to feel like the chock-ful-o indie gamerness that I'm so used to from Dreamation. But it was quite fun throughout.
Julia and I brought our new jeep/larp hybrid game What to do about Tam Lin?. (Have to update the preview sometime soon.)Tam Lin and Janet, characters from traditional ballads, come to the Court of the Faery Queen, where charcters from other ballads have taken eachother to court over their misdeeds, to plead for Tam Lin's freedom. It is a monster of a game: 100 pages plus. More on the theatre larp side right now. We'd like to write a true jeep version. But it has lots of murder, betrayal and unsavory love, so it is true to the ballads we based it on. Play went well. We were missing several characters due to our player count, so we dropped one of the cases. The timing however was just right that way, so we will likely keep it that way in the final version. We had a lot of fun! Especially due to an amazing Great Selkie portrayal. "In the world of the Selkie, everything is...different!"
Flower for Mara
I ran Seth Ben Ezra's Flower for Mara for the first time. I played at GenCon two years ago, and loved the game. Very difficult topic: Mara has died, and the game deals with the grieving of the family members left behind. The story deals with scenes at family dinners over the seasons of a year (the funeral dinner, Easter dinner, Mara's birthday in the summer, Christmas), and in between we have focus scenes on each of the characters to see how they are dealing. However, in these scenes Mara can appear, as a ghost or memory. A tangible reminder. Julia played Mara, and was a "nice Mara". (I was a "mean Mara"). Major issues revolved around the alcoholism of Mara's husband, played by Frederik, and the attempts by her parents (Jason Morningstar and Marev) to protect Zoe, Mara's daughter (played by Anna) from him. The players jumped in with further flashback sequences, such as when Jason's father character had Frederik's character in the emergency room early in his relationship with Mara, lecturing him on how he was heading down a self-destructive path. Unfortunately, I missed some rules: we didn't do flower monologues, where each character says goodbye to Mara. And the personal griefs of the players that were attached to the eponymous flowers were present, but not everyone knew that you were supposed to share them. But overall, a good, powerful time.
One of two tabletop freeform playtests I was in. Remi is working on a game based on some young adult novels of Daniel Pinkwater. Stories in which a young nebbish of a character gets involved with some mysterious adventure, then learns to rely more on his/her own self with the help of some friends. A very promising playtest, which went about half-way through the game. The first part was structured well, and flowed even for people for whom the whole style of play was new and unusual.
Each player has a role that may encompass different characters that they will play (except for the player of the hero), and as you shift characters amongst you, the flavor you bring to play of that character reflects the type of role you take. For example, Michele and I took the "Friend" role. So over the course of things, we played fellow students, teachers, parents, etc. But our take was to have these characters help the Hero. Another player played the establishment, and so when she played the parents, their role was to block the Hero and to give him hurdles to jump. Our game had a young boy new to an urban school try to be cool and fit in. He found a friend in a young city girl who ventured with him to a mysterious tea shop, where they indulged in teas that expanded their consciousness.
This game ended up having a confrontation between the kids and the Hero's parents about the nature of the relationship between him and his friend, but it seems like we veered a bit from the desired path for the game, which is to go into another dimension or mysterious world. Remi got lots of good experience and feedback, which I am sure will help him finish out this excellent game.
The other tabletop freeform playtest. Dave Cleaver is working on a game he wrote during a Game Chef Contest that uses illustrations drawn by Vincent Baker. They are cute little drawings of cave people! The game is about a cave family, trying to take care of their cave baby who takes off on crazy chases into danger. It's very silly and fun, but also has intercut scenes where the family deals with their issues with one another. In our game, Jason, Rachel and I were the mother, older sister and father respectively. Jason's character had an issue like "My mate is not too bright" and that framed the family conflicts. Mother gained sister's admiration from me (which I'd had at the start) by doing amazing rescues using her noggin, and I eventually grew to respect her smarts. One issue that came up was that during the family scenes it was hard to focus on the child, so I think Dave may begin the game with a chase scene. This will put more emphasis on the madcap nature of the game too, which seems like a good thing. I look forward to seeing this finished too! It seems quite close.
Another terrifying jeep game from Frederik Berg Ostergard and Tobias Wrigstad. But in this one all you have to do is play out murder and mayhem, rather than risk your heart, so it's quite accessible. ;) A ghost story, dealing with two couples who happen to stay overnight at the same hotel room, at two different points in time: one in the 80s, one in the 50s or 60s. The earlier couple's stay ends in murder, and then these two characters "come forward" in time and possess the later couple. This is accomplished by a simple technique where the player of the older couple can "tap in" and take the role of one of the other characters. When they do so, they bring in paranoia and anger into the sweet new love of the others. Terry and Julia took the roles of the older couple, and brought new horror to the realms of marriage. Courtny and Will played the younger couple, a pair of to be engaged born again Christians who fall prey to temptation and have sex out of wedlock. It was gripping. We even had an audience, who came in a bit late, but who made it there before the end of act 1 and who got to enjoy the ride. They shared that their terror was enhanced (perhaps) by the fear of being asked to jump in and take part in playing! Hmm.. have to keep that in mind.
All in all a great con. Though sign ups were a bit odd at first though—all three of the games I ran had too few players signed up at the start. And it's only by the divine intervention of Robert Bohl that I ended up getting players after all for the first one. After that there was momentum and we got enough folks to play. Though we unfortunately had to merge two jeep crews, and Frederik only got to run Previous Occupants once. I heard about other games that had similar issues. I guess everyone wanted to try to play Fiasco and Swords with out Master. :) Thankfully it all worked out.
2010-03-17 13:10:31 Robert Bohl
I'm glad I was able to help.
2010-03-17 20:33:58 Seth Ben-Ezra
I'm glad that A Flower for Mara got played! That's excellent!
I'm curious; how did you do the flashbacks? Were they established within a spotlight scene? Or did they count as a spotlight scene? Or something else?
2010-03-17 20:53:11 Emily
The Flashbacks happened, I think, during spotlight scenes. The ones I recall were both with Frederik and Jason's characters: at Mara's wedding, and the other scene in the emergency room. (Jason was channeling his most recent game design in this game:). Both times they were nested into the larger scene.
They worked beautifully, and fit seamlessly into the narrative, as far as I was concerned. Used judiciously, I would say they are a nice addition to the game.
2010-03-17 21:06:03 Seth Ben-Ezra
Did Mara appear in the flashbacks? If so, was it as the living character or as the ghost-memory thing that is standard to the rules?
Because, yeah, I could totally see this as being useful if nested within a scene.
2010-03-18 15:18:01 Emily
Julia did play Mara in the scenes. She was living Mara, from the moment of the incident. It would have been interesting to have out of phase commentary from Mara and the focus character.
Ha! We could have had internal monologue in the nested flashbacks within the spotlight scenes. How's that for complicated. :)
2010-03-18 15:27:50 JMstar
Seth - I was listening hard and prompted a flashback to emphasize the parallel relationship with Mara between father and husband. So I tried to re-use the husband's lines in a different context, coming from a different character. Once the genie was out of the bottle it seemed very natural to look at their past.
2010-03-31 17:47:07 Emily