One of the things I always want to do at conventions is to try games that I’ve never played before. This doesn’t always happen, though, as I do love GMing and teaching games (and I’m prone to volunteer for such things – see GenCon Report 2). However, at GenCon I managed to pull this off even with my excessive Marvel Heroic running.
Thanks to the fabulous D20 Blonde, I got to play in an incredible game of Dread. For those not following the latest story in D20 Monkey, Dread is a horror game with no dice. Whenever you want to do something outside of your normal skill set or notice something out of the ordinary, you pull a block out of Jenga Tower. The same is true if two characters are competing with each other. Each players pulls a block one after the other until someone backs down or the tower falls. If you knock the tower over your character is dead. Maybe not right away, but the GM may kill you off at any moment.
It’s a story-driven game. In our case, that meant an upbeat, rather comical first half that felt very much like I was playing Fiasco. The second half was a lot more serious, with every pull being watched with horror. It probably helped that I had an amazing group to play with, including Philippe Menard, Kate Kirby, Brian Patterson, Anna Walker and Jason Slingerland.
The mechanic that I really liked is the way character creation worked. There are pregenerated roles that people can pick from as the base of the character that are already linked to the story. In this case, it was circus-themed, so there were characters like the Ringmaster, the Dog Faced Boy and the Daredevil. Once your character was selected, you were give a questionnaire (created specifically for this character in this story) that you would answer to flesh out who you were playing. That way each character is tied to the story in specific ways, but also your own. It was very cool.
Dungeons & Dragons 4e (Midgard)
Now this might not seem like a new game. Anyone who reads Stuffer Shack knows I’ve played D&D 4e a fair amount. However, I did get to do something new with it at GenCon. I ran a game for one of the patrons of the Midgard Bestiary, which is now available, but was not at the time. I had created a lower paragon scenario just for this session. It was a bit of a dungeon crawl with a little mystery tied to it, in an area of Midgard that hasn’t really been explored by the adventures yet (by the way, The Midgard Campaign Setting is now available).
This was my Saturday Night activity that I had scheduled for four hours until Midnight. About an hour and a half in we started our first combat. It was awesome. Everybody games differently and I can assure that it never takes my players that long to stab something at home. It wasn’t that the players were dragging their feet either; they were just having a ton of fun interacting with the world and each other. It was highly entertaining and a great example of how 4th edition is not a tactical minis combat game, unless you want it to be. I ended up running three extra hours over and still had to cut some things to get to the final fight.
My Modern Assembly playtest went less well. I must be getting better at pitching because a set of beta rules that allows 4e fans to play in a modern fantasy setting pulled in four people who had never played D&D 4e before. I don’t generally mind teaching 4e to people, but that wasn’t really the point of the playtest. I wanted to test the new rules. There was also a big difference between the maturity levels of the players involved, which happens sometimes with con/pick-up groups. Still, I think people had fun, but it just wasn’t what I wanted. I was disappointed.
Project Ninja Panda Taco
I was very fortunate to meet the very nice Jennifer Steen at GenCon this year. You probably know her as the host of Jennisodes (when do I get my interview Jenn?:P ) but she’s also the designer of Kickstarter success Project Ninja Panda Taco.
We sat down with a few other fine folks to test drive the game. You play both a Mastermind (created by you with input from other players) and a minion. Each turn, two masterminds go head to head as one tried to stop the other’s nefarious plot. Each Mastermind pitches an awesome benefit that the minions will get should they choose to help them. Each minion you get to help you provides a small bonus to your roll. Each Mastermind rolls and the highest total wins that round. Play continues around the table so everyone has an equal amount of time playing their minion and mastermind. Whoever completes the most steps in their evil project wins!
One of the things that surprised me was the lack of good guys to foil your Mastermind. The ideas of bad guys fighting the bad guys was a lot of fun, but I wanted to know how this came to be, so I asked Jenn. She said:
“Masterminds can be good guys and take over the world doing good! During playtesting I had everyone make three characters, which created too many issues. Having a Mastermind and using that character during play against the other players made the game much smoother. Character creation was faster and players can jump between two characters easily. Having more than that made it confusing.”
Good answer! I certainly recommend this very silly game that doesn’t take long to bring the laughs and can be played in under an hour. Watch projectnpt.com for updates. The expected release date is currently in December or January of this Winter.