Indiecon 2013

Lewts

Contents of my lewts sack after escaping Indiecon

Indiecon is about my favourite convention. It has a small, more intimate atmosphere than many cons and is all about the joy of playing games rather than tournaments and sales (not that there’s anything wrong with these). Indiecon is attendee organised with masses of games being played at the site and the opportunity to meet new people, make new friends, learn new games and learn about the existence of new games as well as supporting indie game designers and the companies that also support them.

This was my first Indiecon as part of Chronicle City rather than attending as ‘myself’, as Postmortem Studios. In some ways this was a lot easier than previous years (I didn’t have to drag all my own stuff down there) and in other ways it was harder. While there were several of us the stand was much bigger (we had as much stuff as Leisuregames did, to give you some idea).

We did pretty well for a small con (250 or so attendees), taking home a good bit of money and running some great demos, we picked up a lot of stuff too and had some good conversations about work and play. As usual it was a great con.

That said, a few things weren’t as good as usual and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention them. In no way take this as criticism of the con, which continues to be more and more awesome with every year.

1. The state of the site: The lodges and chalets on site are surprisingly comfortable and warm considering that we’re there in November and often battered by wind and rain (things were pretty mild this year for once). This year the lodges were looking a bit worse for wear and felt more fragile. Interior doors wouldn’t close properly, one of the showers was a little leaky, the kitchen utensils were even more scarce and useless than usual and the deck/balcony out back was undermined and starting to collapse. In the main hall the heating was ferocious, to the point that it made me sick one of the days we were there and when the aircon was switched on it leaked, with water dripping from the ceiling. Stock – and people’s games – could have been damaged.

2. Attendance: Normally the con is oversubscribed or subscribed to capacity. This year it seemed to be down. This was in part due to more people playing in their lodges (this was a shame, but last year it was harder to get tables, so it makes sense). It was also, however, in part due to the absence of the fanatical Pathfinder players who usually attend. On the one hand it’s arguable whether Pathfinder qualifies as ‘indie’ any more and the PF players never seemed to play anything else in any slot, on the other their absence is bad news for the con’s long term attendance and viability – which would be a shame.

On the more positive side, I made the following observations on demography at the con:

1. There were a good number of ladies present. I took a head count once a day and the proportion of lady attendees in the main hall varied from approximately 1/4 to approximately 1/6. That’s pretty good and, perhaps, reflective of the type of games played, the family/child friendly nature of the site and the welcoming and friendly atmosphere.

2. There were a lot of younger players present, at least comparatively. Between some gamer-dads running Happy Birthday Robot and other games for the really young un’s and some teenagers it was a hopeful thing to see so many teens and kids around. I couldn’t get a proper headcount but it did seem that gaming has sort of ‘skipped’ a decade or two. There’s a lot of older players and then it seems to be their kids – and their friends – that are making up the new generation. This gives me a lot of hope for analogue games in the future.

My Loot

Numenara & Player’s Guide: Safe to buy now that MotSP is out, this is a science-fantasy game with some eminently thievable ideas – such as effort.
Broken Shield  Based on the SF noir books by Gunnar Roxen. The demos were incredibly popular so this had to be worth a look. It’s also a Chronicle City product, hint hint 🙂
Iron Kingdoms: Kings, Nations and Gods: The updated setting sourcebook for Iron Kingdoms. A must buy if you like IK and a suitable replacement for the 3.5 edition versions. Mine has some ballsed up pages, but I don’t know if this is a broader printing problem.
Beat to Quarters: An immensely popular (at Indiecon at least) game that’s been present for years. Napoleonic in setting, Beat to Quarters is about naval combat while its partner game, Duty and Honour, is about troops combat. It engages at both the heroic and unit level and as such is perfect for gaming things like Sharpe or Master & Commander. It’s also eminently hackable and I’ve seen it used for Sci-Fi space battles and all manner of other things in its time. Check it out.
Fiasco: I just supposed I had better get a copy at this point…
Reign, Enchiridion: ORE system, played at the scale of nation/country/community. I’m a bit obsessed with three game concepts at the moment – cooperation, legacy, community. This was bought for research/inspiration.
Eternal Contenders: A GMless game of adventure/duelling that I found fascinating and wanted to read in detail.
FATE Accelerated: I may like this better than full-fat-FATE. Great for pick-up-and-play.
MSG: I reviewed this way back when and I wanted a physical copy since I had the opportunity.
Noteboard: A portable whiteboard. I’m not much for using minis in my RPG gaming, but for tracking initiative, sketching the lay of the land etc. This thing is great.
Misc Stuff: Bob the Diceman carries every dice you could think of and all the things you might otherwise forget too. He carries pens, pencils, packs of cards, beads, counters, dry erase markers… he’s a bloody godsend at any con he’s at and also does sales online. Support him!

The cat is Nik (short for Nikola Tesla, whom he is named after). He was not loot, but also would not move.

Indiecon: Rad, as always

Back from Indiecon and recovering from the inevitable con-crud that has targeted my throat and guts. The bastard.

I ran games of ImagiNation, Irrepressible, PROJECT, Machinations of the Space Princess, Blood! and Agents of SWING. Various of those adventures will be polished up and published as time allows.

ImagiNation went brilliantly, everything I hoped it would be. The mixture of whimsy and darkness, creativity, gallows humour and imagination. Especially the game with the ‘dutch invaders’ playing it. I also had at least five people come up to me during the convention and thank me for writing a game centred around depression and mental illness and to also thank me for being open about my issues. I had a bit of a wobble at the start of the con so that was a great boost for me and made me feel that I hadn’t been wasting my time.

Irrepressible also went very well. People ‘got it’ and understood and appreciated the mechanic and the way the game reflected karma, ‘right action’ and the virtues of the pilgrims. All that and it was still wonderful, irreverent fun.

Machinations is what you’re probably all most interested in. The game went great though it also helped to identify a few rules and bits and pieces that need to be changed. Overall though I seem to have been able to project the setting into people’s minds and help them have fun without Satine’s art. WITH Satine’s art the game should produce multiple nerdgasms at a distance of up to fifty feet! I should probably charge extra for that. One thing people definitely seem to want are props (dice/cards) and rules for ongoing campaigns, carving out their own empires and businesses in a savage universe.

Sales were shite at the con, unfortunately. It seems that the recession is finally biting into gamers and the traditionally resilient hobby business. That’s a worry but we can hope that things will start to pick up from here and that Dragonmeet will go better – sales wise.

Update

I can feel myself starting to pull out of this hole. So hopefully things will be back to normal(ish) soon. People have been great offering to help out and I’ve farmed out most of the prep work that I have to do. I’ve decided to keep the Irrepressible demo adventure for me, just to prove to myself I’m not a completely useless lump.

Expect some updates about MotSP soon.

Thanks to everyone for your support, the flipside of how things were a few months back.

If you offered to help and I haven’t gotten back in touch with you, I’ve given it to somebody else. Any help promoing/talking about/interviewing about MotSP still greatly appreciated.

Cheers,

G

Help?

I hate to have to do this but I am really, really fucking ill. My depression/exhaustion has had me floored for over two weeks now and I don’t have the energy left to really struggle through it.

The timing is massively inconvenient as we’re now into the thirty-day push to hit stretch goals for Machinations of the Space Princes and we’re into my ‘convention season’ with IndieCon and Dragonmeet coming up.

I have outlines of demo adventures for ImagiNation, Irrepressible!, PROJECT and Blood! intended to be run at Indiecon but I don’t think that between the depression and imminent drug changes I’ll be able to actually get the adventures written up. I’ve spent most of last week and all of this week staring blankly at an open Word document.

Hopefully I’ll be fit and well for the conventions themselves, but that also remains to be seen 😦

If anyone can help me out by taking my notes and turning them into written-up adventures for these games I will be eternally grateful. I’ll provide PDFs as necessary and if the adventures are subsequently polished up and published I’ll compensate you monetarily.

Please let me know if you can help out.

Email: grim AT postmort DOT demon DOT co DOT uk

I feel awful having to do this, ‘giving in’ to being sick, but it’s becoming clear I’m not going to be able to manage otherwise.

If you think you can help out with the MotSP drive in some way let me know too. I could probably manage email interviews, Q&A and that sort of thing.

Indiecon, Indiecon, Indiecon

Games Run:

Agents of SWING: Ran this three times, went jolly well. I think the prevalence of CSI thinking has impinged on the 60’s style though given everyone was FAR too interested in the stomach contents of the dead though once they got to the foreign locations and the evil base and so on it all got back on track. One group utterly failed to thwart the evil scheme. I think this one will work better as a published adventure outside of the confines of a con slot.

PROJECT: A simple playtest but it’s thrown up a few interesting issues and highlighted the need to get the world across more strongly. If everything goes well I reckon we can get this out next summer.

Blood!: I ran this twice, Steve ran it once for me. Very bloody, very messy and plenty of ideas for revising the rules when I get around, finally, to putting together Hell on Earth.

Invaderz: Ran Operation: Operation, where they were micronised and inserted into the body of the president. Hijinx ensued. Deadly hijinx.

Games Played:

Perfect: Interesting GMless game about a dystopian Victorianesque, Big Brother society. We only got through a few turns and I don’t think me or Carl quite got into the right spirit of the thing since it’s meant to be about people wanting to do ‘normal’ things, but being constricted by the society. I, however, decided to play an evil, criminal genius conspiring to undermine the whole of society while Carl played a ‘ripper’ murderer. Still, it was fun and I’d have bought it if the only copy hadn’t sold.

Forbidden Island: We own a copy, but playing with other people I think we were maybe doing something a little wrong, not that it really matters that much to gameplay.

Cthulhu Gloom: Fun game with see-through cards that leads to some very interesting card interactions and modes of play. Everyone’s doomed, you just have to make it interesting and the untimely demise of your characters scores you points.

Deathwatch: While not as memorable as ‘melta rape’, playing a space marine ‘ninja’ sneaking around in power armour was good fun. Especially when it completely boned the GM’s plans 🙂

I don’t get to play much at cons… alas… too much work.

Loot Accrued:

Skull faced soft-toy monkey (for the wife).

Purple dragon top (for the wife).

Resident Evil deck building game (for the wife).

Ant Attack card game (again, for the wide).

Airship Pirates: Yarrrr

Umlaut – which I had helped playtest at a previous Indiecon.

3:16 – Been meaning to pick it up for ages.

Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple – I like these GMless story games but don’t know when I’m going to play them. They do make good story exercises though.

Titan: Fighting Fantasy worldbook – I still have my original Out of the Pit and wanted this back in the day, so nostalgia time.

Assorted GM screens – useful reference.

MARS – Savage Worlds version. GMS can be a tool, but so can ERB inc. I’m a sucker for Barsoom and shake my fist at the legal shenanigans but perhaps I can do something cool with it. Also: nipples.

Report:

Indiecon is rad as ever and while I’ve never thought of it as a particularly commercial con – being more about playing, playtesting and networking, it made me almost as much cash as Gencon ever did. Which was nice.

Generally a good crowd, always a couple of dysfunctional people around by most of the con goers are mature and can handle such situations without making anyone feel bad. Child friendly – which was nice to see though it made me start feeling ‘broody’ 🙂

Compared to a lot of cons I feel Indiecon is also more welcoming to women and girls and despite expanding it still retains an atmosphere almost like going to your mate’s house for a weekend of gaming, just with added awesomeness.

I would still like to see some seminars or round-table talks between/with/to/at game designers and would-be games designers as I think this would add value to the con as one for Indie gamers and designers. It would be nice to brainstorm with each other more than how happens already by chance.

I think the ‘Muster’ tradition is one that’s going to have to go if the con gets any bigger. Gathering everyone together to dole out games is becoming too time consuming, loud and cramped which is a pity, but something I feel needs addressing.

Quote of the con was Mick Red talking about Agents of SWING:

It’s like Spycraft, only not shit.

If I ever did another edition and if I didn’t worry about people not having a sense of humour, that’d go on the damn cover.

Ooh, new banner, shiny.

This should help you find me at Indiecon and Dragonmeet, n’est pas?

Now all I need are some decent – portable – book stands.

Indiecon Report

A bit late, but I’ve had a lot of other stuff to do lately!

Indiecon 2010 was awesome, as always, but minding the stall and running demo games I don’t get to – particularly – take part in other games save in the evenings at the chalet, still, I got to play a few things and got to observe some other games in play as well as making some good contacts and setting up some freelancing work for the future.

I did have a few pictures, but other than the ones I posted before, well, my phone is borked, so I can’t really show you any.

Setting Sun went over well and the poker table, cards, chips etc certainly attracted plenty of attention, which was nice. Got some suggestions on some rules changes and had a good time running it. Everyone seems to appreciate the group-dynamic but I’m still umming and ahhing about whether to make the techniques universally or specifically applicable, otherwise the background and the ideas seem to work out well and I’ve got some help coming on the appropriate Chinese and Japanese naming. I think I’m on to something with this game but it needs the right look, the right write up, the right art and the right presentation for it to really go over.

The adventure for Setting Sun was the one I ran for my semi-regular group the other week, but the approach was different this time. I think every single group I had run through it sided with the native rebels against the corrupt magistrate and the prefect and, interestingly, they all used the same ‘Wookie’ tactic of pretending to capture the leader of the Pomo rebels and using him to get access to the magistrate and gun him down. I’m thinking I need to produce a more sandboxy style of play that suits the ‘engagement/mission’ way the game seems to play out. I’m thinking of ripping off the community/social dynamic of MGI’s ‘Underground’ (a much underrated game) and using that in some way in Setting Sun.

Agents of SWING I did want to have this game ready by this time this year but between brain issues and freelancing, other things got on top of me and prevented me from finishing it in time. This was another playtest then and, again, it went over well. There seems to be a lot of anticipation and desire for SWING to come out – which is promising. Cubicle 7, who have developed something of a reputation for FATE products, are interested in licensing it – rather than reproducing it – which will be an interesting thing to negotiate.

This adventure was ‘Snake Eyes’, a gambling-oriented adventure that had three incarnations of Roger Moore characters from the period in it. Went over well and introduced an interesting villain organisation that I’d like to use again. Got some more interesting feedback from players and hopefully the whole game will get tighter thanks to that.

Blood!: Windycon Blood! seems to go over well with people, once they get past the system complexity and into the swing of it. Not that the system is actually that complex but it’s a lot to take in until you get used to it. This adventure was an out-and-out comedy-horror adventure, since that’s kind of the turn that the adventures have taken in previous years. This was also a pisstake of my experiences at Indiecon and other conventions over the years. I won’t go too much into the adventure as I’m going to release it for purchase, but gamers’ general tubbiness is certainly a factor!

I got to play a few games in the evening, Corporation, Star Wars Saga Edition and Dresden Files as well as Deathwatch.

In Corporation I played a taciturn sniper who only really talked to his (AI) gun, or when killing people. He was waaay too into his gun and got a sexual thrill from assassination, something exacerbated by the personality of the gun AI. ‘X-ray’ vision and shooting through walls and armour to reach the soft, gooey person within. Corporation’s mission dynamic seems to make it easy to pick up, even though I had really no understanding of the game background. Makes me think of Syndicate and Syndicate Wars, though a bit high powered for my personal Cyberpunk preferences.

In Star Wars Saga I played one of the last surviving Senate Guard, after the liquidation of the senate, a lost son of Alderan, a noble and scoundrel with guard training represented by feats. I got to stab stormtroopers in the head and rescue Princess Leia, so it’s all good.

In The Dresden Files I played a 1970s ‘hard’ cop’s ghost, bound to a Ford Capri but able to manifest. He began or ended virtually every sentence with the word ‘cunt’ and was a lot of fun to play, especially combined with our weird freakshow of other characters. We ended up taking on a manifestation of Herne and the Wild Hunt in a remote village, protected from his depredations for decades by warding magic. It’s a good character and I’d like to play Dresden Files again but it really brought home to me how much I want to streamline and simplify SWING. It’s not that FATE is a difficult system, it’s just that – as with a lot of CCGs – all the exceptions and special cases start to weigh down the speed of the system like making a sprinter wear clown shoes. The approach to magic etc, while good, removed too many FATE points – in my opinion – and added more complications. Things to avoid when I’m writing SWING though I’m definitely sold on FATE as a good system to develop for.

In Deathwatch my Ultramarine assault trooper punched a tyrannid in the heart with a meltabomb. So it lived up, nicely, to my expectations.

I managed to resist buying Dust Tactics due to it being expensive, someone else buying it and not having enough money… until I won £110 on the raffle and by then it was too late. Instead I bought Qin + Supplement, the Starblazer GM  Screen, Legends of Anglerre, Poisn’d, Barbarians of Lemuria, Barbarians of the Aftermath and Mars Colony. All of which I’ll be reviewing at some point.

I’m sure we’ll be going again and I heartily recommend Indiecon. We were even spared the D&D squatters this year, so it was pretty much all Indie (or at least non-standard) action. The con remains friendly and great for gaming (actual gaming? At a con?) and it was great to see a lot more younger people and women at the con this year. It’s going to remain a fixture for me I reckon along with Dragonmeet but I really do need to get around to going to a few more cons.

Still, can’t recommend Indiecon enough!

Check it out