Monday, 30 March 2020

Virtual Gary Con Virtual Recap

Well, I did it, and I survived. I have leapt into the world of online gaming. I had intended to do two more playtests at Gary Con, Beneath the Temple of Doubt and Journey to the Crypts of Orderly Death, but I didn't want to be trying to teach myself a new way to run games while dealing with all the complexities that higher-level characters bring. Indeed, I chickened out and just ran the same funnel adventure three times: Once Friday, once Saturday, and once Sunday.

HEREAFTER THERE BE SPOILERS.

The funnel I chose was 12,000 to 0, a funnel in which the PCs awake as convicts given a new life (and no memories of their old) on Sky Ark 079. Unfortunately, the Corrections Personnel abandoned the Sky Ark centuries ago. Equally unfortunately, the PCs are brought out of storage because aliens have come into contact with the hull.

The adventure runs like this:

(1) Wake up and have an hour to get your bearings. Random clues that something is happening occur every 10 minutes. You have no equipment or animals, just vouchers to obtain them.

(2) The aliens breach the hull and start ripping the Sky Ark apart...and killing people. Where is the breach? Determined randomly.

(3) Systems begin to fail. Which systems? Determined randomly.

(4) The Sky Ark begins to fall out of orbit. The aliens flee. Escape pods are unlocked. Rooms start breaking free from the space station. Good luck! 12,000 feet is how high you need to be to have a stable orbit. The adventure title refers to what is happening now. 0 feet is the ground.

For more details on this adventure, you can download the free pdf of the Gong Farmer's Almanac, Volume 2.

This is my story of the Virtual Con.

Friday Night

I ran the game for Tim White, Moogatronic D, Kleighton Smoniewski, Jason Smoniewski, and Christian Cotten-Dixon, all of whom were gracious with my fumbling around Roll20. Connections were actually pretty good. The game play highlight was probably when the pony and cow were created on the same teleportation-type pad, creating a dead Cronenburg-type monster. As the PCs were still unarmed, it was a good thing that the creature wasn't still alive.

That bit is always a hit. Thus far, whenever I've run the adventure, something like that always happens. For some reason, the idea that one animal should be removed from the pad before another forms is never considered before the unfortunate events occur (or fail to occur, see Sunday, below).

This group figured out that the Medical Bay could be used to potentially revive the dead, but didn't realize that the Correctional Refusal System could be used in conjunction with it, possibly creating a character with their original memories.

There was an after-game discussion, in which my love of Doctor Who came up. The "Space Beacon Nerva" feel of the adventure was commented on. The animals stored on micro-cellular slides, to be reconstituted as needed, is also a nod to Doctor Who. (That the link to The Ark in Space was from Ark 76 is coincidental.)

Saturday

I ran the game for Mark Palmer, Dominic Cattarina, Sam Palmer, Kai Mote, and Rudy Randolph. One cool thing about having a virtual convention is that Mark and Sam Palmer would not have been able to make Gary Con XII, as they live in Scotland. Indeed, Sam Palmer played in the first playtest of Beneath the Temple of Doubt when I was running at Tabletop Scotland in Perth.

Connection was mostly good, but there was one part where my local DNS lost connection for about 3-5 minutes until I reset the modem. I felt very grateful that everyone was still there when I got back online! I was a bit better at using Roll20, and, with the good connection, we were able to play almost as though we would have in meatspace.

It was suggested that Roll20 could be used in conjunction with Discord for audio/video. I had chosen Roll20 because I thought it was the most widely used platform....and also Discord just gives me a black window. I will have to do some more research and planning, really, to determine which online platform is best. Someone anonymously donated a $30 credit to Roll20, though. I'm not sure who, but Thank You to whoever it was!

In this case, the Cronenberg monster was a goose and a hen, also dead. I believe it was this group which, thanks to a random malfunction, our cast was also able to get the transporter to invert a character before teleporting them to the cold of outer space. Good times, good times.

Saturday Night

Jen Brinkman kindly hosted the Saturday Night Social, which is, let's be honest, one of the most fun parts of meatspace Gary Con. You get to hang out with your peers, share the beverages of your people, and soak in the ambiance.

I wasn't able to stay online that long. Being at a Con and being at home are not quite the same thing. Home entails some level of real responsibilities.

Still, it was great to have a chance to chat with people, and just soak in the warmth. I missed those I was unable to see, and hope to see everyone at Gary Con next year!

Because Covid-19 interfered with my vacation, and I still intend on visiting family in Wisconsin this year if I can, I am considering Gamehole 2020 as an alternative. I will keep people posted.

Sunday

I played my final game with Michael Jones, Jason Menard, Jonathan Perkel, Joan Troyer, and Michael Williams. For some reason, the Roll20 connections were terrible. This made it really hard to track who was speaking and where characters were, but it did force me to learn a little bit more about how Roll20 works.

In this game, we had a PC stuck on the Sky Ark as it crashed into the planet, instantly vaporizing the PC. We managed to get a couple of escape pods carrying two PCs, which resulted in further death. And we also got a few escape pods landing perilously close to where the Sky Ark 079 crashed into the planetary surface. One of these PCs survived....if this was on ongoing campaign, this is where I would have pulled out the Mutant Crawl Classics book!

In Summary

The whole world is going through a rough patch right now, but I feel blessed that we were at least able to get together in this way. "Social distancing" may mean physical isolation, but it doesn't have to mean social isolation. I mean, I was lucky enough to have players as far away as Scotland join in one of my games! If nothing else, that proves that this InterWebs thing offers gamers a niche that is worth exploring further.....

I cannot thank those of you who came stayed home and gamed with me enough. I hope to see you all again, either in real life or across a virtual tabletop of some kind. To the anonymous donor of Roll20 credit, again, Thank You!

See you at Cyclops Con!

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