Well, I have a moment before things might be getting hectic, so I wanted to share some overall impressions and observations about the totality of PAX Unplugged so far. First, I want to say that overall I see a vast improvement in organization from last year. Lines are shorter, and there are more options and backups to keep people happy. The decision to keep one main entrance seems to be paying off dividends, in that people are processed a lot faster to get in the action. Do I miss being able to pop out exits for a bite at a local market without walking all the way back around? Maybe a little, but the overall wait time is shorter, and the end result means that I am hanging around the con and exploring more.
Welcome to another Review In-Depth! Here I explore and attempt to critique a game using not just a reading or even a mere one-shot, but rather a full short campaign of play. While reading may tell you about rules and ease of use, and a one-shot may demonstrate game balance and fun factor, it takes several sessions to really tease out how well a game accomplishes its stated goals. And because rules aren’t everything, I cast an equally critical eye to the content of the story the group ended up telling.
Today’s game tells a sadly real story about the gap that exists between enthusiasm and actually finding time to play something. Cannibal Halfling’s first breakout article was written in March of 2017, about four months after the site was founded, and it was about two Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) Cyberpunk games, The Veil and The Sprawl. This recent campaign was the first time I successfully ran The Veil, in fact the first time I successfully played it at all…it was over two years after I first read it.
Out in one of the suburban zones of the Halcyon City metropolis Gilbert Phillps was shrugging on his trenchcoat and looking over his shoulder at the sleeping figure in his bed. When the doors had blown in at the Halcyon City High School #5 Semi-Formal Dance, the first thing he’d done had been to grab his friend and date Emma and spirit her away to safety. Once they’d gotten there, though . . . well, it had been an exciting night, long-hidden emotions had been revealed, and teenagers are teenagers. Now, though, Gil had to find out what had happened to the rest of his team. Leaving a note for the sleeping Emma, CryptoHertz opened his room’s window, deployed the flight pack that was the latest of his cybernetic upgrades, and flew off into the night (or rather, morning) sky. Continue reading Adventure Log: Masks: High Impact Heroics Pt. 7
As the doors of Halcyon City High School #5’s auditorium blasted inwards in a ball of fire and debris to interrupt the semi-formal dance, three things happened in rapid succession. First, the majority of the students present began to scream in panic and terror. Second, Gil and the Hemophiliac each separately took one look at the explosion and grabbed their dates, rushing Emma and the Sea Tarantula out a back door to safety. Third, the Lawman stood up from where he’d been knocked to the floor, drawing his revolver. Fanning the hammer he sent a hail of bullets through the smoke and dust . . . but there was an answering chatter of automatic fire. The revolver clattered to the floor as the Lawman went down, lost in the smoke and debris. The only active adult superhero and A.E.G.I.S. agent present was out for the count, maybe even dead. It looked like the younger breed of heroes were going to have to step up.
In RPG discussion circles in places like Reddit and Twitter, there has been a fair amount of hay made over the relative absence of ‘critique’ in the RPG realm. As someone who reviews RPGs fairly regularly, this is something which is difficult to parse but ultimately fair. A review aims to go over the traits and writing quality of a game in order to answer whether it is worth buying and worth trying to play. In RPGs (though honestly in all media) reviews skew positive because negative reviews get more negative attention, and because honestly writing 1500 words about something you don’t like simply isn’t fun.
The party was invited back to the governor’s estate to help interrogate Paul. The stories of the wizards crafting a gate were corroborated, though it sounded like Paul either didn’t agree with or didn’t believe the reasoning of his compatriots. Either way, it was a spirited argument and too many available teleport artifacts that caused the malfunction, opening the gate maybe a third of the way and casting Paul into the Interface. Paul wasn’t imprisoned, per se, but he was held in an office in the administrative district of Third City for safekeeping.
What? Whaaaaat? Really putting the wonkiness in Wonk here, after last week’s little doozy. But yeah, there are still a couple Adventure Logs left before I put a feather in the cap of my last attempt at running Dungeons and Dragons. This is the penultimate Adventure Log, from a series of sessions run in August of last year that led to an intriguing conclusion.
Boer the Dwarf had been wandering in the woods for hours. He had seen fleeting glimpses of his friends, but mostly just tall trees, thick bushes, and the occasional burst of laughter in the air. In a clearing he saw a woman, wearing a cloak of feathers and astride a white horse.
“Don’t worry, Boer,” she said. “Someone will open the door soon.” He awoke, miles and weeks away from where he had slept.
Hugh had similarly been wandering in the woods, but for mere minutes. When he saw the woman, she was a little more verbose.
“We continue to walk astride the balance beam between worlds, and between order and chaos. But when you reach your next destination, you will find someone trying to open the door.” Hugh also awoke.
The party made it to the castle, sending a signal flare to warn the regent of the doppelganger they were following. By the time they made it there, three of the pirates had not-Hugh in a sleeper hold, and the doppelganger’s command of language was deteriorating. The group went to see Sybil the regent, after providing some quick proof that they were not in fact doppelgangers themselves.
It was like staring into a row of funhouse mirrors out of a nightmare. Every tank Sally ‘Spitfire’ O’Brien looked in held a body with her face. According to the readouts at the base of the tanks several were deceased, each corpse looking . . . warped, somehow, by the experiments they’d been subjected to, but an equal number had life signs in the green. CryptoHertz, Sabot, Calamitas, and White Coat (Showtime had vanished by now) all kept one eye on Spitfire while they spread out and looked at the tanks themselves, trying to understand. Plague Hack’s words – no, lies – and the video he had shown her – had to have been a fake – burned in Sally’s mind as she found herself standing in front one of the dead tanks. With a blood curdling scream she raised her fist and smashed it into the tank.