Sunday, February 14, 2021

Con of the North: Mostly Great! But Some Improvements Needed!


Legion of the Lord of Wisdom

This weekend was virtual Con of the North. I ran three, three-hour RPGs:
  • "No Small Favor", an all-Klingon Star Trek Adventures scenario using the brand new Klingon Core Book for the RPG line. The story was set during the TNG episode "Unification II", and explored what a Klingon Bird-of-Prey was really doing while Picard and Data were visiting Spock on Romulus. The PCs were an Imperial Intelligence team on special assignment for this mission. We had three Imperial Klingons (to use John M. Ford's terminology), as well as a Klingon-Romulan Fusion (another tip of the hat to Mike Ford); and one of the Imperial Klingons was one of the freaky-looking Discovery-era Klingons. The PCs decided that to complete their mission, they had to assassinate Captain K'Vada. That's what happens when you don't take Imperial Intelligence agents seriously when they "urge" you to do something important for the Empire! And so an alternate Trek universe is born! 
  • "Lex Arcana: A Simple Mission for the Emperor" was my first time running a scenario for the brand new English edition of Italy's most popular homegrown RPG. This is an alternate history RPG set in 476 AD. The Empire has not fallen due to the vigilance of the Cohors Auxiliaria Arcana, Christianity is a tolerated faith but not the established state religion. The PCs are members of the Cohors Auxiliaria Arcana, a special unit of the Praetorian Guard charged with investigating and dealing with supernatural threats, magic, and monsters. A lot of the character sheet is in Latin and the game is very immersive. The mechanics make combat high stakes and quite unpredictable.  The entire game is a labor of love.
  • "Servants of the Divine Daughter" was a Tekumel RPG using my own forthcoming Fate of Tekumel RPG. The PCs were members of a mostly Stability-oriented party armed with an Imperial Writ* to conduct a shakedown of Change-affiliated clans in Thraya during the reign of the Stability fanatic Empress Shaira Su. This was a really fun game to run!
I was also able to play in David Lemire's scenario "The College of the Hand of Hrugga" an EPT-based scenario in which youthful wizards in training took advantage of the absence of their teachers to do some archaeological exploration of their own to the east of Bey Su. We encountered Chnélh, and discovered a temple-tomb with a humanoid incarnation of the demon "The Beast With No Tail."

The Good Things About Con of the North 2021:
  • I had great players in all my games - and that makes all the difference!
  • While my scenarios are typically very player-driven, I do considerable prep in the days immediately before a convention (at least 15 hours per 3 hour game, usually for 3-4 days). That means I take PTO from work. After running the games, that really felt like that was PTO time well-spent.
  • I'm getting more of the hang of using Discord. I ran all three games using that platform, and had a good experience with it. The sound quality was excellent in all but one of the four games that I GMed/played-in.
  • In two of my games, I had players from across the United States! This is one of the great aspects of virtual play.
  • At least one friend whom I see - and often get to game with - every year at Con of the North (and only there!) popped in to say hello right before my game. It was great to see him. 
  • The technical support during game days was just great!
The Bad Things About Con of the North 2021:
  • Communications by the convention organizers were too late and too infrequent.  
  • Communications about the convention were not focused on the core activities of the convention experience. There were way more Facebook posts about signature characters/artwork being used to promote the convention than there were communications about what GMs or players should expect in terms of the play platform. We were all pretty much left guessing how things might happen until just a day or two before the convention started. This is no way to treat your GMs, Con of the North; we are the people who will make or break the experience, so please, please, please - tell us what's going on, and what to expect! GMs especially need clear and recurrent guidance about the technology to be used. Players want that too. People need to know where the convention server is, how the server will be organized, and how to find their games. I do get that the convention platform borrowed heavily from Gamehole Con's successful virtual game convention last Fall, but no one should have to have attended virtual Gamehole Con to have a guess at what and how things might happen at virtual Con of the North.
  • The COVID-19 themed official convention dice were truly tasteless. Gamers should recognize that there is far more to life than gaming, and that having to play in a virtual convention in order to continue enjoying our hobby really has nothing to do with "rolling all 1's". That is a perfect example of why "Geek Culture" is such a First World, narcissistic turn off at times. Seriously, concom, please recognize that many people are experiencing losses and making real sacrifices. Don't trivialize that with tasteless dice jokes.
  • Finally, I really miss being able to play in-person with some of my regular Con of the North buddies, as well as the special in-person things like the conversations that happen in the food vendor lines, in the dealer's room, or over meals. Hopefully that will be possible again in the next couple of years.

*I am not sure any of my players noticed that the Imperial Writ included a direct quote from Chairman Mao's Little Red Book, but there you go. The document was an entertaining project for the GM.

1 comment:

  1. Well said John! Many of your comments echo my own experiences and thoughts. Thanks for sharing.