Monday, July 27, 2015

The Search for Stark!

Players T-Roy and Lisa show off the map of Leigh Brackett's Mars

Saturday was my third time running Warriors of the Red Planet. This weekend was Diversicon 23, one of the best small literary SF&F cons in Minnesota.

It's my tradition at this con to run roleplaying event that incorporates the work of our guests of honor (living and posthumous). This year's game was focused on three of our posthumous guests:
  • Leigh Brackett, the author of numerous planetary romance short stories set on Mars and Venus, as well as the Skaith trilogy featuring her anti-hero Eric John Stark
  • Gene L. Coon, who wrote a number of the best Star Trek episodes, including "Devil in the Dark"
  • Sun Ra, the inventive jazz musician who Guest of Honor Ytasha Womack (author of Afrofuturism) and many others see as the one of the pioneers of Afrofuturism
My Warriors of the Red Planet game was set on Leigh Brackett's Mars. The players were charged with finding Eric John Stark. The PCs started in the adventure in a sleazy cantina in the Martian city-state of Kahora, adjacent to the Terran starport. After agreeing to take a large sum from a mystery woman (Terran? Martian?) to locate Stark, the PCs headed for the last location where he had been found, in the even more ancient city-state of Jekkara (a city "half as old as the world"). After recruiting a Martian scientist/gadgeteer in an even sleazier establishment, they headed south in a jury rigged flyer, exploring a mining site and polar ice tunnels leading to the lost city of Sun Ark.

The PCs survived an encounter with a new creature, a Temporal Displacer Beast, which is something of a cross between a Horta, a Displacer Deast, and a Beholder (oddly enough at the Diversicon 23 auction later that evening, we saw a reproduction of the magazine featuring A.E Van Vogt's short story "The Black Destroyer", the inspiration for the Displacer Beast!).

I had four players, all women, all great players, including my friend Rachel Kronick (author of the Blade & Crown RPG). Rachel is the most consistent player in my Diversicon RPGs. Like a fair number of GMs, I am sure, I often get performance anxiety right before RPG events, and an inner voice tells me not to run my game. Rachel is usually the friend who talks me off the ledge, and nudges me to run the game.

Another player was very new to roleplaying. This was her second game ever, but she's clearly a natural and I have no doubt that she will go on to game A LOT after this adventure! Another of the players who made a quick cameo was Phyllis Ann Karr, the author of one of my favorite fantasies from the 80s, Wildraith's Last Battle. I didn't even know she was a roleplayer, but that makes sense given her collaboration with Greg Stafford as the author of the King Arthur Companion.

Once I began the game, of course, all the anxiety went away. It always does, especially when you have a group of players who have good energy with each other. 

I'm not sure yet who the guests of honor will be for next year, but I'm so glad I ran the game this year that I am sure I'll be back for more.