Saturday, June 13, 2015

Minicon Review

Minicon here in Fawaray, here's my review:

1) Fiasco - Colonials
This is a nice little game. Its strong in that its 100% communal, no GM needed, no prep needed, just a pretty good time. The weakness here was we had a few new players and people didn't really know one another. So the Aliens themed playbook was good but super open ended and we might have done better with a slightly more constrained setting. We did well, but if everyone was on the same page a bit more it might have helped at the beginning. But the point is really that things are open ended, I suppose.

The other issue is that since we didn't all know one another well, it was a bit akward trying to break in. I also felt a little like a 5th wheel because right away the married couple picked a relationship amongst themselves and the other two guys picked a relationship between themselves and I was the last chooser and 5th wheel. They picked a few things based on their previously established relationships then which left me with the two relationships I had initially chosen and one item that was out there. I felt like everyone else had 4-5 things related to their characters.

But, it was pretty good. The only other problems were related to people learning the game a bit (we kept continuing scenes rather than starting new ones, and it wasn't clear when other people can/should jump into scenes). Also we ended in 3 hours out of a four hour time slot. So we had to grab a beer. Boo hoo.

2) 5e Oriental Adventures
Not really OA proper, but an adventure based on a castle site the GM had visited on vacation. Oriental themed but mechanicaly just vanilla 5e. I liked the idea of using the castle, and actually used it when I ran the Githzerai Planescape game, where the Illithid's house in Sigil was basically the house I lived in while I was in Fez. That made it easy for me to keep things sorted during play and map things, but I'm not as sure if it helped the players. Though this guy was also able to show us pics of the various items we were dealing with which was cool, though he messaged them on our phones and I'm not sure that was the best delivery option.

The major problem with this game was it had too much in it. I had this problem last minicon as well with a game that had way too much to do and a GM who didn't do any star-wipes to move us forward. So we were 10th level 5e PCs, but didn't really use any rules other than casting a few spells and rolling a few skill checks. There was no combat. That's not a problem, but we spent a while picking spells (these could have been pre-selected) and there were a lot of things to track. The game could have been done with 5th level PCs and worked just as well if he had toned the likely enemies down a bit. As it was we never rolled initiative.

Another weakness was the Barbarian, and not just because the player was a little off. But the game was about 100% espionage (reading a scroll from the library, talking to 4 guardian spirits to gain their favor, rescuing a princess) and the barbarian didn't really have skills to help. Charisma was his dump stat, despite being the totem warrior, so people thought I was crazy to let him talk to the spirits. Bah. That was about the one thing I figured he should be able to do, but that version of the barbarian doesn't even have a grand ribbon about that. He can/should probably get commune or something at higher levels. But that's also where the 13th Age style backgrounds would be great: He's a fucking spirit-based character, just apply the prof bonus to interactions with spirits. Done and done.

I also found it odd that the players were, by and large, treating the Oriental Adventure much like a non-Oriental one. I was there for the honor and chambara-style conflicts between it and duty. We got a little bit of it at the beginning but they just wanted to spread rumors about the princess we were trying to save and I didn't quite get that. I suppose I could have been more forceful in my denouncements but I was more into solving the riddle of how we accomplish our goal than the roleplay of that.

The inflexibilty of the GM shone through at times too, we came up with some grand ideas to save the dying prince (which would thereby save the princess by default) but he had a bunch of combat encounters planned so he didn't let us go that way. Makes me yearn for 13th Age a little more, or at least that lazy GM style of play where you have an idea of the end but no railroad we're on to get there.

His style was also a bit jarring. He made us do the roleplay for each of the four spirits, despite the fact that we really couldn't fail. I saw that in the skill rolls too: there were no consequences for failure. Not even failing forward where someone takes a little damage for failing an athletics or acrobatics roll. There were no time constraints on our investigations so we had full access to lots of divination spells (and I obviously took a few and swapped more in as the game progressed since I was a cleric).

It really did bug me towards the end that the rules and the scenario didn't mesh well. I would have like it as a GUMSHOE or maybe Dungeonworld game or something. Simpler rules to fit what he wanted or planned. Or adjusting the scenario such that we had time constraints. I was happy to plan to send the bard in to case the library with Eagle's Splendor up to get in, then the thief and ninja in to steal the scroll with Cat's Grace up, but he had some huge magic library scene he wanted so the roleplayed that for about half an hour while 3 of us sat around. Given our unlimited spell use and no real possibility of failure, I'da just run a quick cut scene or montage and moved on to the combats.

I'm critical but I still had fun. And I've got some ideas for running more investigation-style games with 5e and I should pick up the Fiasco books. So nice.

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