You thought I was done talking about BreakoutCon 2017? Foolish mortals, we’ve only just begun because now it’s time to talk about the main reason for going: running my games!
Come on, Broken Ruler Games at Breakout. It’s a match made in heaven. And oh was it ever.
I ran four games in total: two playtests of High Plains Samurai, one for Ironbound, and one trip down memory lane as I ran some Killshot for the first time in a couple years. Let’s review them one-by-one-by-one-by-one, shall we?
High Plains Samurai
Oooh, baby. I ran two playtests of High Plains Samurai this weekend, one on Friday night and the second the next morning. To give you the perfect indication of how well it went on Friday night, I was running off nothing more than adrenaline and childish glee. Saturday’s game went so well my brain forgot it was suffering from a migraine.
To be specific, “playtests” might not apply because there weren’t any mechanics or discussions, roses & thorns kind of stuff, afterwards… we were too busy trying to cram in as much mayhem and over-the-top action before time was up. Yet the mere fact that everyone caught onto the mechanics and latched onto the premise with so much vigour and insanity was enough to tell me what I needed to hear this weekend. This game works. Fuck me, does it work.
The main concern I’ve had with HPS compared to ScreenPlay (and it’s various offshoots, including Ironbound, also played this weekend) is building potentials, a term for using the breadth of your character’s description to determine the dice you roll. Each character is assigned a number of potentials with a maximum dice value, Defence value, and the number of details you can apply to your description. If you incorporate the maximum number of details into your description as allowed by your chosen potential, then you roll the max dice value. Come up short in your details and the dice value drops. Basically, the more, the merrier. It was something that didn’t test well during ScreenPlay because it felt too cumbersome to suit that particular style of play, but it worked out well for HPS. All ten of my players embraced it, even if there were times when they found themselves short; they either added on another to build it to the max or agreed to a lower dice value. What hasn’t happened yet (and to my recollection remains that way in the soon-t0-release recordings for Comic Strip AP podcast) is a group using various martial arts flourishes and stunts as details to max out their potential. This is something I have to work on building into the game through sample plays.
The best way to demonstrate how well these games went is to provide you with but a handful of moments from both games.
- A barbarian from Khar’tep wielded a two-handed longsword that suddenly turned into a chainsaw sword, then it was a flaming sword, only to attempt spraying ice before a complication kinda broke it.
- Another barbarian (played by The Veil‘s Fraser Simons) fought off a young woman with flowing red hair that could extend out to 15 ft. and grapple her enemies. Oh, and this was after he landed on the back of the train’s dining car, causing it to heave upwards and come crashing down on one of the train’s guards.
- A samurai from Monsoon used his super speed to zip his way through the Caravan, slicing and dicing as he went, appearing as nothing more than a metallic line weaving through the parade of Mad Max-style vehicles tailing the train.
- Rather than use an innate qi power, a Raw Apprentice engineer from Rust had instead crafted a glove that was the source of his ability to manipulate metal.
- As the Salvation (aka “the train”) went off a cliff with most of our intrepid heroes still on board, it launched a series of countermeasure harpoons to hook onto both sides of a massive chasm and hold it suspended 500 ft. in the air.
There were even other designers and attendees who asked me about HPS over the weekend, which was… whoa! While I’m a little taken aback by the lack of playtest surveys to date, the word is definitely starting to spread and that’s a huge start going into May’s Kickstarter. Needless to say, I’m very happy with how everything turned out this past weekend.
As a bonus, I got to not only finally meet the last third of the Accidental Survivors podcast, Rob, but run the game for Rob and Chris. DVD bonus feature: Chris played in a very early concept of the system a couple years ago and that one bombed, so it was rewarding for him to finally see how it was fixed and held up nicely to what may have been an equal amount of insanity. Based on the feedback HPS received that night, this game is Accidental Survivor approved. (It has to be, seeing as the first third of the show, Fraser, is actually part of the Development Team.)
Ironbound (or How I Had To X-Card A 14-Year Old Kid)
A lighter game of the ScreenPlay system took place Saturday afternoon and also featured Accidental Chris. Honestly, he was the only one who signed up, so it looked like I was going to have to tweak a story about five intrepid magick hunters into a solo story. When two last minute sign-ups joined us, I was still in a tweaking mood. Yeah, yeah, we could hunt the same witch as before, but I was in the mood to mix it up for my own sake.
Very easy to do with this group. One player (note to self: start paying attention and remembering names of all your players) established a motivation to find his ex-lover who turned out to be a witch/warlock. A-ha! Seeing as I brought a printed copy of the Ironbound supplement, The Blessed and the Damned, there were a couple extra baddies to throw their way and so I mixed up the afternoon killing spree to a hunt for the Raven Queen, a polymorphing witch who shared a mountain with two other magick users. If time permitted, we’d perform a triple bypass on magick users. We definitely did not have enough time.
Even with the lighter rules and focused setting, this game still got crazy and was loads of fun. Not High Plains Samurai crazy, but in its own way. Running all these games has really provided me with a better concept on how to approach ScreenPlay con games and I’ll be applying those lessons to the next draft of the HPS playtest (hopefully later this month, once I get caught up on other matters).
Oh, you want to hear about how I used the X-Card. I, the GM. First off, let me tell you about how important the X-Card is to Breakout organizers. When you first arrive to receive your badges and other particulars, you have to explain to either Rob, Rachelle, or Kate (aka the Three Organizateers) how it works. No explain-y good, no GM-y for you. I then make a point of telling my players to hold it up and wave it like a flag if they feel it necessary simply because I might get caught up in the game or whatever I’m describing to notice. And boy oh boy did I end up waving that thing around like we were surrendering to the British.
We had a young lad in our game and I’m going to say he was 14. He did great, very imaginative, and took to the concept of the Arcanist (the true authority on magick countermeasures) like gravy to turkey. When the Raven Queen was thoroughly giving the Ironbound a right thrashing, this kid asked to look at the printed copy of the game and caught something on the cover. Take a look at the bottom right, the text box next to that figure casting magick.
This kid took that idea and decided to only way to defeat the Raven Queen was to fall into a crack in the floor she had opened, land inside a vat of blood (his call), and drink it all “to gain all the magick in the world.” Cool! And then he pushed that envelope with his next description. “I rise up through the crack, hovering. I’m naked and completely covered in blood.”
Naked? 14 years old?!! While the other Writers were waving their hands and asking, “Why do you have to be naked?” I grabbed that X-Card and called for a rewrite. “I don’t think we’re allowed to be in the room when you say the word naked,” I told him. “Let’s keep you covered in blood, but you’re wearing pants.” We actually laughed about it because it was a case of this kid getting really caught up in the moment and even after he apologized profusely for going too far, all was forgiven when he told me the idea came from the cover. All good and it definitely made for a memorable moment at the whole convention. Now I have a story to tell on how important the X-Card is to everyone at the table, including the GM.
There’s something refreshing about starting off a con wild and zany then finishing it off with gritty and grounded. The last game I ran on Saturday (and at Breakout in general) was my pride and joy, Killshot. Yep, assassinations on a Saturday night. This game only featured the two players who signed up very early on in pre-registration and that was another relief. To be honest, Killshot works better with a small number of players and seeing as we were playing “Retribution,” the quick-start job, it was a nice fit.
It’s also a huge kick when you have a player who is sweet and incredibly personable in person suddenly say things like, “I’ll just walk up to the guy and beat the shit out of him, if I have to.” Awesome! It was a nice relaxing game, but also one where I discovered just because you create a game doesn’t mean you can recall the rules after a long absence. Not that anything went wrong, but I definitely needed to refresh myself with Killshot a little more the next time I decide to run it.
This was a nice… dare I say, pleasant… game of Killshot to wind out the marathon GMing session. I definitely pushed myself that day and battled through a nasty migraine, sure, yet this was another accomplishment I wasn’t sure was possible. Now I know that when I’m having a great time at a con, I can rock the day as a GM. Two thumbs up and a pat on my own back were definitely in order.
On The Next Instalment of Breakout 2017…
Yeah, this series is taking a bit longer than expected but my goal is to wrap it up this week. My next post may not sound exciting at first because… well, I didn’t play or run a damn thing. I hung out with people all day. But who I got to hang out with was definitely what made Breakout such a huge success. Plus I sold physical copies to a store! That’s next time.