HelgaCon XI

HelgaCon has come and gone — it seems to go by quicker every year. This year we had a nearly full house with 23 gamers attending 15 total games. And this year the curse of sleep deprivation hit me hard – I thought I was past that. OK, here’s some random disorganized thoughts, because I cannot organize this into any kind of thesis yet.

* The sleep deprivation thing is weird – I’m sure I don’t get much sleep at any con I attend and yet for some reason HelgaCon hits me harder than any other. Maybe it’s just the extra stress of being responsible for the whole thing. I must remind myself to take it easy on that first night and force myself to go to bed at a reasonable time. Also, I must not try to use alcohol to help me feel sleepy — not only does it not actually work, it just makes it harder for me to stay asleep as I wake up repeatedly throughout the night feeling dehydrated.

* Running two games back to back is not good for me. I used to have the scheduler take this into account and penalize such schedules, but then folks started signing up to run 3 or 4 games which basically made it impossible to avoid so I took it out. Maybe I have to make this smarter – like actually look at distribution of games across days? Or only consider GMs signed up for 2 games to avoid burnout? Or maybe it’s just me.

* So, as a result of being a little out of it I accidentally cut my Checkpoint Zulu game short. I remember looking at my phone and seeing it was 3:00 and thinking crap, we’re halfway through, I’ve got to accelerate the pace. Only we weren’t halfway through, that slot runs from 2-6. Whoops. I think the game was fine and the players still had fun, but I’m sure we all would have enjoyed playing it out a little longer and now I have to totally discard this game as a data point on the pacing.

* Note, I will post details soon about Checkpoint Zulu. I’ve been holding off because I keep making big changes each iteration. That in itself is interesting though and worth a post.

* Friday night’s Fiasco game was amazing. Not only are those games usually great, but for some reason this group was really on point. I’ve never seen a Fiasco game finish with so few loose ends. Every player was in the same mindset and we just gelled. It was glorious, and I seriously want to play more Fiasco now.

* My brother Max ran a game of what he dubbed “Paul-thulhu”, basically a horror game using the same blend of Savage Worlds and Insanity Cards that I use. I was really excited to play it to experience what that’s like from the players’ side. The game turned out to be not at all the fun I planned to have, and instead totally different and amazing kind of fun. I don’t think I learned anything about my mechanics, but I did learn a lot about what a great GM my little brother has become, and what a great group of players he’s gathered around him. OK, that game is worth a separate post as well. I’m being far too cryptic and to explain myself would require a much larger word count.

* My experiment with adding insanity cards to normal D&D was OK, but not spectacular. The insanity cards were likely too light a touch for a four hour game. It was a great game though – the players started out with someone saying “let’s go around the table and all introduce ourselves”. Twenty minutes later we finally got to the last person, and after wiping the tears of laughter from my eyes I realized this game could very well go in a wildly different direction than what I planned. Actually after that they settled in and played the game to a satisfying end, though part of me wonders if it wouldn’t have been more fun to push the gas on the insanity cards and force the players into driving the game right off the cliff.

* Outdoor Spoliation was unusual this year. There was plenty of moving about the map and fighting terrible monsters, but there was also this odd bit of roleplaying a city council meeting. In essence we had captured several castles and had to decide how to spend our resources on maintaining and improving our realm. It was a clever means of self-directing our goals and Dan used it in an interesting way to generate move active hooks. When our we tried to improve trade on the river and several merchant boats went missing, we had to go investigate. That said, it took a good amount of time for us to decide what we wanted to invest in, and someone said something like “I could spend all four hours of the game doing this!” Which I think really illustrates how strange it is that a table of eleven people can somehow reconcile eleven different opinions on what is fun.

OK, that’s the high level.  I’ve at least identified a couple more posts I want to write out of that.  More to come!

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