Saturday, August 25, 2012

Geekfest 2012 follow up

Last weekend we ventured up to Killeen, Texas, for the third annual GeekFest. Geekfest is a small regional convention hosted by Central Texas College in their Mayborn Planetarium. They have had great attendance each year in part because you can enter for free! There is a fee for additional events at the con, but this is a great marketing tactic that has paid off. Also Geekfest is probably the strangest convention I've been to with varied demonstrations from the school's competitive robot builders and a geeky cake decorating contest shuffled in with the cosplay competition, video and tabletop gaming rooms, and karaoke in the main hall.

We've been there every year, the first as patrons, and then last year as vendors. This year we have an increasingly interested player base at home, and will have more experience in running a con game. We have more props too. I think we should do it as a continuing learning experience, and who knows? This might be the year we get the locals to pay attention. 

By locals we're referring, at least in part, to the other boffer larp group that dominates the small town of Killeen. They play a game similar to Amtgard that is very focused on fighting without the level of roleplay we've been shooting for.   Their leadership has a low opinion of our game, or at least seems to to me, but some of his players showed some interest in what we offered. Our demo's were scheduled right after them in the same room. Everyone tried to be professional, but sparring out in the courtyard lead to my players taking regular shots to the head and overpowered hits from one of their players. I heard tell he was new.

Our own RP demo didn't go well either. The players we had were either very introverted, or quickly bored, and tended to wander off rather than attempt to engage with each other. I know larping outside of hitting with sticks can be scary. We just need to find a better way to create interest on a low prop and manpower budget. We could do something larger if we had a room to ourselves for hours of set up and take down, but that isn't what we got. I think next year we'll need to establish a better arrangement.

Still, we had a great time in the dealer's room, chatted up a lot of people, and enjoyed the enthusiasm of this convention. We're definitely coming back next year with something new to present.

My Town - Geekfest 2012 from Ten17media on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Keeping the sanctity of non-combat areas

Another learning the hard way story. It already occurs to me a lot of these posts will probably start this way and I'm going to run out of creative ways of saying the same thing. Now at least you've been warned. What's more these posts may be on the dull side, since unless you were there for the sudden breakdown in game play, who cares, right? So these are mostly for myself so I can recount them later and add them to a future game expansion so people who don't read this will think I'm a genius.
Hey! I can dream!

So here's the deal. As I've mentioned before my background is in Amtgard and later derivitives. In those games there is a designated non-combat zone where people can feel safe to hang out without being whacked with a stick. When we wrote Mystic Crossroads we recognized this as important to allow people who weren't keen on boffer fighting a place to play a role in the game. Unlike those previous games, we allow characters to freely roam in and out of this non-com area, which we call "Town". Town has become a very important space in our games and a lot of character interaction happens there. More than I think we expected when we started. It has also become a safe base to run and hide in when threats outside become too much to handle. Those are all good things... sorta.

The problem is this safe base mentality. Remember playing tag as a kid, and someone was on base so they couldn't be tagged? They'd lean off base, or step just far enough off that they could run back as soon as the It person ran for them? This became the game here too, and was just a fun as you remember. It slowed down game play, it didn't make any sense in game, and was frustrating as hell! When it came down to an altercation between players where one was trying to physically drag another out of town so he could be slain properly, well, that's when you know things are broke.

After game I talked to one of my players, Matt Web, and he had some bright ideas.
Matt W- "One thing I was thinking of... if you want to keep the sanctity of town, it might be useful to make it not so easy to just stride over back to safety. Like, I don't know, calling out 'fair escape' and having to count to 5 first before you are 'safe'. That's just a nascent idea, but it makes it far less easy to just run away. Or rather, you'd actually have to run, not stride casually over and stand right beside the safety zone. Like, you can't step into town for five seconds if you got someone right in your face. Or rather, you can't go back into town at all if someone is there with a sword to stop you. Hell, just declaring a center point outside of town as 'the gate.' And you have to touch that tree or pole for five seconds, and then you can go safely into town. That would more easily separate out the space. Yeah, that's what it represents, the town gate. That way you don't have to put your back up against the wall or anything, and can still maneuver, and if people are still trying to interdict against you, you can't just run off.”

And there it was right in front of my face like I should have thought of it long before needing to playtest. Of course town needs a gate. Therefore, before entering, one must stop at a certain two posts at the gazebo we call town. There they must repeat “Entering town!” ten times loud enough to be heard. Then they may pass between the two posts of the “gate” and enter. If someone within the town wants to block their way they have that much time to engage them either from within or without. The very next game I presented the new rule and everyone seemed happy, or relieved, to hear it.

I think we still have other problems with how town works, so I'm sure I'll be posting again, but this felt like a little piece of brilliance.