Recently, I had the great fortune of attending Fear The Con for the third time in a row. I’ve been told that GenCon is like going to a class reunion where everyone is like you. Well, my graduating class was only 48 people, so I suspect Fear The Con is much more like my actual class reunion. You know everyone (by appearance if not name) and everyone knows you. Each year, I get to know a few more people a little bit better and I look forward to it as much to catch up with them as to sit down and game for 24 hours in a two day period.
This year I had the opportunity to play several excellent games, a couple good games and one decent game. Over the course of the weekend I was able to play four new systems that I was interested in, including the much anticipated Iron Tyrants, created by Luke Meyer and Adam Pinilla from The Podge Cast.
I also ran a game for the second year in a row. This game was a homebrew “system” I created based on the lives of the Klokateers, the numerous faceless individuals who work to support the greatest band in the history of ever, Dethklok. I put quotation marks around “system” because I hardly think that a four stat system using one die merits the term and because of the abysmal way in which it ended up failing me.
It took some work but I managed to wrangle up four players for my session. One of these players was fellow contributor to Ideology of Madness, Rob Justice (who I would like to thank again for allowing me to shanghai him.) If you haven’t done so already, check out his column here on the forum, the Justice Files.
After only a few minutes of explanation, everyone was up to speed on how to play this little bit of chaos that sprang out of my head and we got going. Everyone was quite creative and I think that they all had some fun. I know that I did. Unfortunately, it took me only a few minutes to realize that I’d made a horrible, horrible mistake. Though I had a few pages of notes and a fairly solid idea, my game was going to run extremely short and there was no real way to pad it.
Just as expected, only a little more than an hour and a half after we’d started, the game was over. Quite a failing for a GM in a three and a half hour slot. I’d like to say that my players surprised me or found some way to jump to the end and fooled me, but the truth is, I simply did not understand just how fast my game would go.
Fortunately, I learned something from my failure about game design: without some crunchy rules to make conflict resolution interesting and/or tactical or some sort of intrinsic conflict between the players that will force them to discuss and compromise, no matter how many notes you have and scenarios you’ve planned out, things are just going to go fast.
My “system” required that the players roll only twice per scene at most. There were very few modifiers to the rolls and there were no tactical choices to be made. Once the players made their roll, they got to decide what happened based on success or failure, but they did so without any influence from the other players. That meant that there was little, if any discussion between the players in any scene. It was almost as much four separate one-on-one games that happened to go one at one table and shared a GM as it was a single game with a GM and four players.
One of my players, Eric, was kind enough to stick around afterwards and suggest a few changes to the system that would not only make everything last longer, but make everything more interesting and help foster interaction between the players. I was able to entertain three of them with Three Dragon Ante for another hour and with one exception, all my players said that they enjoyed my game. Still, I feel guilty that I wasn’t able to fill out the entire session for them with my game.
If I can say anything about the experience it’s that game design isn’t quite as easy as it looks. Next year, I’m going to either use a system that I know works (and cram as many ideas as I can into my notes before the game gets started) or make sure that if I create a homebrew, there will be plenty of call for interaction and perhaps a little more crunch.