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Paul Tevis

Entries in gaming (32)


West Coast Meeple Fest, Day 1

This is our fourth year of attending a wonderful long weekend of board games organized annually by Doug Garrett. We drove up to Santa Clara this afternoon and arrived in time to get a few game plays in. I think of it as a warmup before the event starts in earnest tomorrow.

Poseidon is a train game masquerading as a game about ancient Greek shipping. Specifically, it’s a stripped down version of the one branch of the 18xx series of train/stock market games. I’ve only played one of these before — 1870, I think — and found this one to be a much better introduction to the family. I do wish that it had a set of turn order reference cards, as there is one portion of the game where the order in which specific things happens really matters, and unless you’ve internalized that it can get very confusing. I liked it, and I’d be curious to give it another play.

Pantheon is the newest “Michael Tummelhofer”1 game, which follows the tradition of Saint Petersburg and Stone Age of remixing mechanics from other contemporary games to great effect. It doesn’t feel quite as elegant to me as the other two, but it does have awesome wooden feet pieces.

We ended with dinner at the Faultine Line Brewing Company, after which I was tired enough to just come back to the room and crash. Gwen’s off playing something now, but I’ll just have to settle for two games today. Like I said, it’s a warmup.


Fitness: Ran 3.5 miles
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 149 words, 268 seven-day average, 266 average, 33797 total, 203 to go for the week; 23-day streak

1 Pseudonym for Bernd Brunnhofer, with a hat tip to Michael Bruinsma and Jay Tummelson.


But I Want To Do Something Now

The real-time nature of ongoing LARPs continues to fascinate me.

I’ve written before about the how the time ratio of play to non-play affects how I approach a game. Tonight I’m thinking about the impact of between-game developments.

In Dying Kingdoms, there’s been tension for some time between the Illumin Emperor and several of the leading nobles of the Empire. At the end of the last game, we became aware at least one of the highest-ranked nobles was involved in some sort of conspiracy. Yesterday, a post on the in-character forum announced that his province, comprising roughly a quarter of the Empire, was succeeding. Today, a second province followed suit. Civil war, which has been whispered about for a while, seems imminent.

What makes this fascinating is that the next game isn’t for another month. I’ve got weeks to figure out how my character is going to react to this. And so does he, since the game tracks the calendar of the real world. It means that his reaction is likely to be a lot more nuanced and complex than it would be in a tabletop game. I’m thinking through a lot more alternatives and potential consequences instead of leaping into action, which is what I would normally do. It’s making my decision about how to react a lot harder than I expected. It’s a fascinating thing to struggle with.


Fitness: Ran 2.5 miles
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 328 words, 206 seven-day average, 254 average, 23396 total

Sunday at WyrdCon

I was up quite as late on Saturday night as I had been Friday, so I was able to drag myself out of bed and down to the gym on Sunday morning. A bit of time on the stationary bike gave me enough of recharge to give me a fighting chance of making in through my last event. I packed my things; grabbed some tea, fruit, and yogurt for breakfast; and showed up at the Dying Kingdoms event early enough to be put in charge of sign-in. It was not the first time that weekend that I realized LARP conventions have a much looser concept of “on-time start” than RPG conventions. I foresee volunteering to run sign-in at future events, in no small part because it helped me learn people’s (and their character’s) names.

The Friday DK event had been a court game. This was a day game, which meant that it featured some intrigue and lot more boffer combat. In that sense it was a lot like the camper event that went to over Easter weekend. This time around, though, I had enough sense of who the other characters were that I could really interact with them. I had some great roleplaying moments with other players and with the supporting cast, and I came away from the game with a much better sense of who my character is and how he fits into the bigger picture of the world.

My favorite moment of event came when Earrame — a mute elf who can shape-shift into a cat — ran into the room and meowed for help. I think I actually said, “What is it, Lassie?” She led me outside, where Ragnar — a heavily armored Viking warrior — lay unconscious and bleeding. The scene where my magistrate, armed only with what Ragnar described as “a sword and good intentions,” dragged him back to the marketplace to be healed is something I won’t soon forget.

Overall, WyrdCon was tremendous fun. I enjoyed it even more than last year, and it confirmed that I really have become a LARPer. I can’t wait for next year.


Fitness: Biked 10 miles
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 355 words, 177 seven-day average, 256 average, 19746 total

Saturday at WyrdCon

I followed my usual pattern of avoiding morning games by sleeping in until about 10:30 AM. I’d been up past three, so that was definite a good idea. Another good idea I followed through on was going for a four-mile run, though it was to have some downside later. The net result was that I showed up at my afternoon game well-rested and feeling good.

Blake, one of the Dying Kingdoms players, was running a Firefly LARP, and I’d volunteered to play supporting cast for it. I’d told him what my costume looked like (a lot like this, it turned out) and he said he’d have a character ready for me. I showed up to discover I was playing the personal physician to the planetary governor of Osiris. The game itself took place during the Osiris Ball. Imagine the “Shindig” episode but with gambling and a lot more guns. I ended up bailing about halfway through to crash on the pile of bean bag chairs they’d set up in the hallway, just before the Alliance security forces showed up and the game erupted in a hail of Nerf gunfire. It was fun to watch, and given that my character was unarmed, I think made the right decision to leave when I did.

Saturday night was a Babylon 5 game run by my friends Rachel and Ed. It pretty intimate, with just a dozen characters trapped on a luxury liner in 2260. The characters were all pre-generated, with good hooks into each other and into the setting, which made things work really well. A few days before the convention I asked Rachel if I could play a telepath. She asked if I wanted to play a corrupt Psi Cop. I said yes, of course. Things ended badly for my character, but I think I would have been unhappy if they hadn’t. The two highlights of that game were the awesome costumes and characters of the Centauri couple (an ambassador and his secret assassin wife) and the mindscan gone wrong of the Shadow agent that turned into a gun- and fist-fight.

I ended the night back in the giant pile of bean bag chairs with about twenty or so Dying Kingdoms players until about 2 AM, all of us in denial about the fact that we had had a game at 10 AM on Sunday.


Fitness: Ran 5 miles
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 181 words, 164 seven-day average, 255 average, 19391 total

Friday at WyrdCon

And now, the obligatory WyrdCon Recap Post, Part 1

My train was delayed getting to Santa Ana by about an hour, due to an unfortunate scheduling interaction with a new Metrolink train. I’d accounted for this possibility, though, so I was still able to get to the hotel two hours before my first event started. I met up with my friend Laura, grabbed a bite to eat, and got into costume for the first Dying Kingdoms event.

Dying Kingdoms is an ongoing LARP campaign that I’ve been involved with for about a year and a half. They have three kinds of events: court games, day games, and campers. The latter two feature reasonable amounts of boffer combat, though there’s certainly things for non-combat-oriented characters to do. The Friday night event was a court game, which meant that it was primarily about intrigue and jockeying for Influence cards, resources that can be used to Get Things Done in the setting. I started playing an ongoing character (as opposed to volunteering to run one-off supporting cast as needed) back in February, and because most of my experience with DK to that point had been with court games, I built a political character, an idealistic citizen of the Illumin Empire named Marcus of Albeira. As such, I was mostly in my element during that game, though because I’m not yet a big mover-and-shaker in the world yet, I had to work pretty hard to get traction. Still, I came out ahead, and Marcus is now a lot closer to his immediate goals than I thought he might be.

The most amusing moment of the game came at the very beginning, when we had to brief two walk-in players who volunteered to run some of the politically important supporting cast on what those characters had done at the game in February. Specifically, we had to tell one of them that he’d conspired to assassinate the other.

My favorite exchange of the evening:

Marcus (played by me): “So you’re offering me the opportunity to compromise my morals for political gain?”

Senator Meruna (played by Laura): “Yes.”

Marcus: “I have the feeling this won’t be last time I have this opportunity.”

Senator Meruna: “No.”

After the game I stayed up far too late debriefing with the players of some of Marcus’ allies. All in all, a great first day.


Fitness: None
Sun, Moon, and Stars: 259 words, 177 seven-day average, 256 average, 19210 total
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