PAX Unplugged: Day 2 Log

Well, today was a lot quieter and casual for me. I was doing today with a group of friends who…well, were less interested in cramming into events. And you know what: there is no wrong way to enjoy a con. People come for a variety of reasons, and while I had effectively jam packed myself yesterday, I wound up enjoying different parts of the con that I had actually missed out on. One of the nice things about PAX Unplugged is that there is a wide breadth of things to try, and while some require the dedication to be there at signup at the moment the doors open, there’s plenty to enjoy for people who just want to show up and have fun

10:30

I broke my own suggestions and A) left on the later side and B) drove into town, but with groups sometimes you don’t have too much of a choice in the matter. Still, hitting up a common spot in Chinatown, $14 for the day is worth not worrying about it.

The line was in full force, winding from the entrance, back out the door to the left, folding back serpentine three times before folding back on itself the other direction and going to the corner, then down the next block, around the next corner before doubling back on itself again. And it still took less than half an hour to get through the line, so kudos to the staff for queuing well.

It was mostly a blitz through the expo hall to see as much as I could. I got a few notes though:

  • Apparently I missed it, but Onyx Path Publishing put out an announcement with their Trinity timeline! They have released a 2nd edition core rulebook, and the first book of the three Trilogy games. Aberrant, which Ari already took a look at, is also on the list for a release.
  • The creators of Tea Dragon Society have released a game by the name of Aquacorn Cove, much to the squeeing of people in my group.

12:30

We take a break for Dim Sum! Our favorite spot is a place called Ocean Harbor, and we stuffed ourselves for about $20 a person. It’s delicious.

2:30

Back to the expo floor for a while. Presents to be had for the Christmas season!

4:00

There’s a panel planned: “Don’t Yuck My Yum: A Debate On the Value of Evil Alignment” and I am legitimately curious. It turns out that the panelists are therapeutic GMs who use gaming in their therapy for teenagers and the VA system.

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So immediately, there’s a bit more to the framework of “I don’t want to run a game with a character in an Evil alignment” as much as it could be a legitimately bad idea for them to run a campaign with characters going off the rails. And yet, they are working with people who can legitimately benefit from being able to explore why they identify with that kind of character, and to explore the impulses that typically occupy the “Evil” alignment in D&D.

Big takeaways:

  • Session Zeros are incredibly important, both in that they set expectations for the players and offer guidelines to the GMs as to how far they can push. This sounded a great deal like Consent in Gaming. I asked one of the panelists about this afterwords, and they privately confirmed that they had been working on a similar project before it was released and the group they work with had (to paraphrase) “thrown their hands up in the air, because [Consent in Gaming] had already done it better than they could have”.
  • There is a reasonable stance to replace the “Good vs. Evil” axis with “Selfish vs Selfless”. It kinda makes a lot of sense: what is considered “Lawful Evil” is a character who believes in the rules, but in ensuring that they are exploited for their own personal benefit while someone who is “Lawful Good” believes in doing the most for others within the framework of the rules. A character can have selfish motives, and still get along with the group as long as those motives are being satisfied, which brings us to:
  • Aligning the party through common goals. This is a GMing technique even for games that don’t have a token “evil” character. At some point, you have to keep players invested in an end target, and having the proper motivation keeps people on track.
  • Players may begin to take actions that push against what their alignment, or stated motivations, or backstory might be. This is not a bad thing…in fact, this could be a very good thing. It’s the perfect opportunity for the GM to have a conversation with the player, and ask about why the players took those choices, and whether those choices have changed their outlooks. With this, characters can grow and develop…perhaps an Evil character finds something worth fighting for outside of themselves and their own personal ambitions. Conversely, perhaps a noble hero has to come to grip with the inequities of the world, which might take a bit luster off their halo. The panelists indicated they thought this made games more interesting, and honestly I agree.

After that, it’s a bit more time in the Expo hall, but everyone is beginning to wind down. There’s one more day to go…

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