Thursday, July 9, 2015

Go Play NW 2015 Wrap-up

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Go Play NW is a convention in Seattle in the last weekend of June. It was a lot of fun! There's only a little more than 100 people in attendance, but we're all story gamers of some type.

Friday evening I played Splendor with new friends Jerry Ozbun and Tomer Gurantz, and Ross Cowman (he's not new to me, but I love playing with him anyway). Jerry and Tomer are long-time gamers and first-time attendees. The game itself was really interesting, and I played it again later in the weekend. Splendor is a fairly new card-based resource-management game, and I'm pretty good at it! If I get a spare $30 I'll definitely be picking it up.

For my actual Friday night slot, I played Monsterhearts! Of course I did. Robert Bruce ran it, and my fellow players were Daniel Wood, Myra Lara, and Natalie Holt. I played the Witch, and I was a truly awful, awful person. It was a bit tragic to see me get totally shut down by the end of the session, but she deserved it. We also had a Selkie, a Ghoul (hunger for flesh), and a Sasquatch.

I skipped Saturday morning. To heck with the early wake-up.

For the second slot, I ran Legend of the Elements! This slot was with veteran GPNWers. I had Jay Loomis and Andy Munich (both of whom played in Avatar World last year), Erin Sara DiPeso, and Mark Levad. I brought my A game with me to this one: we used the Festival of the Four quick-start scenario and had a Hunter, a Fireshaper, an Earthshaper, and a Spiritshaper. We had a small chase scene, intra-faction rivalry, a super-strong Earthshaper ghost grandma, a Mulan moment, and wavering morals. I even wrapped up the Earthshaper Leaders plot point really well! Definitely one of my favorite uses of the Festival scenario, and I actually nailed the doing-stuff-in-an-urban-environment thing this time, which has given me so much trouble in the past.

For dinner, a huge wave of us went to Cafe Presse, this French bistro on Capitol Hill. We went because Morgan Stinson was there and none of us have seen him in months because of his personal and professional life keeping him away from gaming, and now he's easing back into it. It was fun hanging out with everyone and trying to cram like 30 people into this tiny back room.

For the night slot, I ran Legend of the Elements again! This time it was with newcomers to GPNW. Patrick Richardson, Matt Mignacco, John Cucco, and Ryan (I'm sorry, I forgot to write down your last name!) were all really cool. Oddly enough, I talked to all four of them about Legend of the Elements at ECCC earlier this year! I'd actually told Ryan about GPNW in general, so it was exciting to have him actually come and then play in my game :). Since I'd used up my Festival scenario (I only carried the one set of sheets for each), I ran The Red Mountain. The Red Mountain is actually my preferred scenario in general; it's not better or anything (that I could fix with revisions), I just happen to be more interested in the spirit and mysticism side of the game than the whimsical silly bits. The Red Mountain is much closer to the sort of climactic episodes of Avatar (first learning about the coming eclipse, siege of the north, etc), while the Festival is more of a middle or filler episode, fun but not too serious or anything. I don't think my MCing was quite as awesome as it had been that afternoon, but we still had an excellent time. We had a Fireshaper, Watershaper, Earthshaper, and Spiritshaper. I took my usual path through the cave and running into wolfbats event, and went in and had a creepy social encounter at the monastery. This is where I felt I handled the MCing worst - it was a discussion type thing, and didn't trigger many social moves. It was very fulfilling in an emotional way though, and then I capped it off with a really good final encounter that tied in a character's backstory, one of the answers from one of their scenario sheets, and a vague hint from earlier. That was one of my better MCing moments of LotE in general. I had sat there for like five minutes (with players on break of course) just thinking of what to do there, because I had like an hour left, I hadn't had a great combat encounter yet, and I very easily could have ended the game right there. I just happened to stumble upon this great idea, and I'm so glad I did cuz it let me end the game on the perfect note.

Saturday night after the game I went out with Morgan Ellis, Jeremy Tidwell, and Ryan to go find food and soak in the Pride nightlife. It was very fun. We had street meat hot dogs and they were excellent.

Sunday I didn't go in promptly on time, but I still hooked up with Johnstone Metzger to play some Fall of Magic! Despite all the time I spend in Olympia, this was my first time playing it. Before we really got started, two other late-comers showed up and we invited them. Andrew and Chaz were also first-time GPNWers, and they were only here for the Sunday. I played an Apprentice of the Magus whose character arc was losing faith in the power of magic as he felt how much stronger the power of death always seemed to be. We made it through the Hall of the Woods. I would definitely play this again.

Sunday afternoon was the one game I'd scheduled to play in ahead of time: Apocalypse World. Karen Twelves ran it, and I played with Eric Fattig, Jackson Tegu, Jeremy Tidwell, and Sean Nittner. We played Karen's Olive Garden scenario, which is a frame where we play the staff at a still-running Olive Garden that serves as an oasis in the blasted nightmare of the post-apocalypse. I was the Host and Gun Lugger, we had a Bartender/Skinner (art: mixology), a Manager/Hardholder, a Savvy Head/Janitor, and a Brainer/Server. It was so much fun and I really want to play more Apocalypse World.

Sunday evening I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. Jay and Drew weren't around so I couldn't do Dungeon World with them, so it was ended up as a toss-up at the pitch circle of either My Daughter The Queen of France (intense but very fun) or Splendor again (very laid back). I went for the laid back and ended up playing a couple of very quiet and contemplative games of Splendor with Ross and Myra, both of which I won. #undefeated

Then we all went to dinner at 8oz Burger. It was fantastic. I got to hang out more with Tomer and Jerry, as well as with Chris Paul and Dan Behlings. All of them were also first-timers at GPNW, so that was fun.
You see, I had a secret goal at this year's GPNW: if I saw anyone sitting on their own and they didn't look actively busy, I would go up and make sure they were okay, or just strike up conversation in general, or invite them over to whatever else I might have been doing. This is an extension of last year's goal of being actively outgoing and sociable, and it really worked out last year, and it did again this year! I introduced Chris to a bunch of folks, and in general I just tried to be as inviting as possible.
I have this consistent fear of our story games culture going clique-ish, driven largely by our selection of players. Not maliciously! After all, we all come out here and many of us only see each other at this con, so we want to play and hang out together while we can! We'll cherry pick our friends into our games, and then not have new people experiences. I'm doing it too; my Monsterhearts game was that, as was the Apocalypse World game (though I wasn't doing player selection for that, there was never even a public signup or anything). The games I ran had new players because I'd opened up public signups ahead of time and new folks filled in the spots.
Truth is, we're not that clique-ish. But we can look that way from the outside, and it's really hard to break through that! I felt that my first year at the con - I spent a lot of time on my own. I said it was fine, and that I needed the time to recharge, and some of that was true, but really I was just not sure how to break into these existing friend groups. So now I go out of my way to not let other people get trapped in that. And I've made some good friends that way! That's how I met Andy last year, and that's turned out pretty awesome. I'm really looking forward to seeing Chris and Ryan and Jerry and Dan and Tomer and Andrew and Chaz next year as well, and I'm looking forward to meeting new faces too!
And you know what? I don't really do this in my regular life. I've never been good at it. But in talking with another friend recently who recently moved somewhere where he doesn't know anyone, I kinda realized that I'm almost getting good at making friends with strangers. That boggles my mind. The benefits of story games!

A truly excellent Go Play NW. I'm very excited for the next one already.

Come back in a few days and I'll give y'all some Legend of the Elements news. The Kickstarter is coming!
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