Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Warlock's Origins 2014 Recap!

Sweet zombie Gandhi, readers; it's been a while!  Real life has, as you might imagine, prevented me from keeping up with my weekly blogging.  However, having just made it back from this year's Origins Game Fair, it's high time to toss another entry into the pot!  So, without further a-do, here's a look back at this year's show!

Firstly, HUGE news!  After some delay, Cold Steel Wardens: Roleplaying in the Iron Age is finally on sale!  The PDF went live on the Chronicle City web-store the Tuesday before Origins, just in time for all those lovely gamers to get their hands on a copy of my first game.  Let me tell you, this has been a long time coming, and I'm still somewhat in shock that I'm a "real" published game designer.

The con itself was an absolute whirlwind for me this year.  Between the PlatinumChick and myself, we ran 52 hours of CSW.  For me, it was literally a full-time job for the week:  8 hours of games a day!  On the plus side, these games were a great mix of previous CSW players, some long-distance friends, and new players to the system.  Nearly every one of the WittGuild's games went off, with Friday and Saturday filling up the Union room we were in!

That said, I did manage to sneak away in the mornings for a while to get in some non-CSW gaming.  I threw down some ICONS on Thursday morning, a Venture Brothers-themed Paranoia game on Friday, a Cartoon Action Hour version of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe on Saturday, and a Justice League themed game using Mutants and Masterminds on Sunday before shipping out.  Also, I was sure to keep my evenings free to indulge in some of the great food found in Columbus' Short North neighborhood.

The ICONS game was an utter blast.  The first in a three part JSA storyline, the game ran quick around the table, even with 8 players sporting characters.  The GM was clearly enthusiastic about both the system and the source material, pulling out some fantastic villains to counter our Golden Age heroes.  On an awesome note, ICONS author Steve Kenson had offered the GM some prize support; a really stand-up gesture on his part!

Unfortunately, I can't really say the same about the M&M game.  The scenario felt poorly written, with little investigation or even interaction with NPCs.  We simply drifted from fight scene to fight scene with some nonsensical narration in between.  In one instance, we ended a fight scene by watching a huge portal open, only to return to play having been captured aboard a Thanagarian starship.  Worse, the GM insisted on splitting the table into separate groups for three of those four scenes, running one side's combat, completing that combat, then starting the other.  I literally spent over an hour and twenty minutes at the table before even finding out where my character (Green Lantern John Stewart) was!  While the table banter was great between the players, the scenario itself was dismal and the game definitely suffered from the typical problems with M&M:  overly complex characters with inflated (and incorrect!) numbers that don't really represent the idiom well.

However, the He-Man game more than made up for that disappointment.  Full of absolute fans of the iconic 1983 series, the game began with the classic theme song and didn't let off the gas for a moment.  While the scenario was simple, it perfectly fit in with the plotlines of the old show, while showing off the new rules for CAH splendidly.  Our game came complete with commercial breaks, breakfast cereal (it was Saturday morning after all!), and even a post-show moral delivered by yours truly!

Y'know, after coming to Origins for 7 consecutive years, you'd figure that I'd be an old hat at this thing, but really?  I find myself learning new things all the time...

  • The Happy Greek in the Short North?  Absolutely fantastic.  Even better?  It was utterly deserted on a Thursday night and our table of 8 was seated immediately.  Can't beat it with a gyro stick!
  • Speaking of food, I'm giving up on Flavors of India at North Market.  The last two times I've been there, the curry's been watery and lacking flavor.  So many better options are right there!
  • Wow, am I ever glad that we arrive on Tuesday evening.  Being able to pick up our badges the evening before the show starts really frees you up!  Those lines are hateful!
  • Best way to start the convention?  A free breakfast and a morning soak in the Drury hot tub. 
  • I think I'm done with Paranoia.  While I always have a good time playing it--and did this time, too!  Our GM was fantastic and the sheer idea of combining The Venture Brothers with Paranoia is mind-blowingly hilarious--Paranoia tends to play very 'samey' to me:  get mission, begin wacky hijinks, get terminated over and over.  It's just a touch repetitive for my taste.  Maybe I'll come back to it after a while.
  • Same thing with Mutants and Masterminds.  I'm not sure why it gets the acclaim it does, outside of being a huge part of the d20 boom.  While I love Steve Kenson as a designer, ICONS is such a superior game to M&M:  it's easier to GM, play, and generate characters in.  There are just other, better systems I'd rather play than Mutants and Masterminds.
  • Next year?  No occult themes in the CSW games.  Not that they're bad, really--CSW does low-level occult mystery games beautifully--but I want to be able to show off a new kind of scenario.  The gangs and crime families are so integral to New Corinth, it's high time I show them the spotlight.
  • Also?  No more 2 hour demos.  They don't fill out enough to justify running them.  The four hour games fill better.
  • For that matter, the Chew games didn't fill.  Very sad, considering how awesome the comic is!
  • I have no idea how I managed to stay awake during this year's Origins.  Literally every day from Wednesday on, I was awake at 7am or earlier, running game from 1pm till 11pm, then hitting the bar until at least 2am.  In the words of Lieutenant Murtaugh...
  • A tablet makes running game *so* much easier.  Great investment on my part.
  • Forgetting your camera sucks.  Obviously, no pics this year!
  • Always check a used game before buying it!  I picked up a copy of Ghost Stories on the cheap, having been told by the booth staff that he had "just checked it" an hour or two prior for another customer.  However, upon opening the game at home and popping out the tokens, I found that I was missing three vital pieces!  Hopefully my email to the creators will remedy the situation.
All in all?  I love Origins...can't wait till next year!