Browsing articles in "Convergence"

Spring Convergence is Set

Jan 13, 2010
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We managed to finally set a date for the Spring Convergence. Trying to pick a single weekend that everyone can attend is getting progressively more difficult. Gaming takes a back seat to birthdays, family commitments, holidays, and careers. It is very difficult to find the narrow window everyone can manage.

I’ll admit to being frustrated on several occasions. Getting everyone together is worth the mental anguish. Even if it feels like you are herding cats during the process. All the planning had some pretty great results.

For the first time, we have a player flying in from across the country. He was a fixture in Kevin’s Top Secret campaign among many others a two decades past. He’s also the first of many players we’d like to invite and play with once again. Another will be back in the U.S. within a couple of weeks. Doubtful he’ll be involved but who knows.

Game wise, I’ll be taking the hot seat for the bulk of the weekend. My game will be based upon a completely new, original setting I wrote about unintelligbly a few days back. Kevin’s been poking at me to think deeper about the setting and I’ve enlisted him to aid in the development. I’ll also be using the KORE rule system. I could have chosen several that work because the campaign will be rules light . However, it presents the opportunity to really play test the system so Kevin can achieve his New Years Resolution. He’s also offered to aid in the development of the mechanics to support the game idea but I think overall we’ll be focusing on the setting. If the setting isn’t clear yet, it will be in the coming weeks.

The group will also be expanding our horizons by getting to play a Cthulu Session or two. To my knowledge, none of us are familiar with the rule system but we’ve been introduced several times to Kevin’s interest in horror settings. It should be fun. Unsurprisingly, it only took one sentence in a single email to get him to agree to run it.

We also have the potential for a CP2020 session from R. He claims to suck at GMing but has all the skills he needs. That might shift a bit based on my broken earth futuristic setting but I aim to put him in the hot seat for at least a few hours. He’s far better than he thinks he is.

It may be difficult to get old groups together but I am ecstatic about the group for spring. None of them have failed and they progressively get better as we understand what we want out of them.

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Falter and Flow

Jan 6, 2010

After many discussions, I’ve settled on a campaign idea for the Spring Convergence. The setting will play off my Red Dawn session from the Fall but will not continue the original session. Instead, I’m going to blend that with other highly requested genres — Modern, Gritty Modern, Top Secret, and Cyberpunk. Each by itself is pretty simple to do although I abhor the over the top cybernetics of most ‘Punk settings. Cybernetics will be available but highly expensive.

I could sit down and run it tonight. My brain is full of the idea but I keep deviating when I attempt to write it up. My Achilles Heel has re-arrived in full force in the form of self distraction. I had a full week off of work during the holidays. My intention was to jot out the history, pick a game system to utilize, and then write up some campaign material. I did manage a few pages of background.

Those pages are not cohesive. They are random 4-5 paragraph blobs of trains of thought. Its a good start but then I started going awry. The concepts I want to use for the campaign are also of interest to me personally. So I bought some books on the subjects. Far too many, I have 5 non-fiction texts and 4 fiction books now just from a campaign idea. I’ve read 3 of the 9 books cover to cover in the last week. So I’m just going to force myself to write tonight in the form of the blog and see where it goes.

Couple that with random wandering on the internet about the subjects and well, I did not get very putting the pen to paper. I want this nugget of an idea to go beyond some mere mental concept into something I can hand to the players to develop characters. Deep characters so the background is critical. Normally I’d be able to sit down and explain my idea vocally. Convergence doesn’t allow me that luxury so I need to find a focus and move forward.

Modern/Post Modern is tough. My target players are all highly educated individuals so if I make a miscue in laying out the science, I fear I’ll fail to engage them properly. I’m probably over thinking the response. However, if I can blend modern science accurately within the session, I get a double entry point — something they want to play and a setting they want to play.

My premise is simple — the break down of modern society, the fall of nations, and the influence of wealth and power. It is not original nor do I intend it to be. This world is just another vision of how things could go wrong. I’m blending the current state of the U.S. with what could happen in the next 20 years. No cataclysmic events occur. My personal nightmare.

Why 2008 as a start? It’s the initial wake up call for everyone that the economy of every nation is intertwined. Sadly, its also the nation, which our wonderful politicians would deem “Too Big to Fail”. The United States economy is based completely on other people wanting to buy our debt. If no one is able or willing to buy that debt, the U.S. is just another Ponzi scheme. Bernie Madoff would be proud. Far too many transactions around the world rely on the U.S. dollar as a basis.

If I were a boxer, I’d see it as Round 1 jabs to determine the defensive posture of my opponent. He keeps hitting me in the body, wearing me down. Crude oil looks cheap on the surface in ’08. Demand is down, the economy is in the tank. Oil supplies are limited and running out.

Green energy is all the rage but it costs. A cost the U.S. economy cannot absorb immediately and the build out will take years and immense amounts of cash. Cash that only comes from people buying our debt. Except they are no longer able or willing to buy the phantom of the U.S. assurance to pay them back. And the efficiency of the green technologies are far below burning oil or coal for power. Everyone is strapped for cash. The U.S. burns more and more fossil fuels to keep the economy running. That boxer just hit me in the kidney…again.

Life sucks at this point…perhaps 2012 but it has been that way for a couple of years. The population is resigned to being in a recession or the Great Depression II. Life will improve. 15% unemployment is unprecedented but things are looking up according to the experts. The U.S. passes new laws. The unemployment extension act for the 12th time. The number of homeless people rises to 10% of the population. The homeless begin migrating across the U.S. in search of work, food, and handouts. The Welfare 2012 bill is held up because no other country wants to purchase debt based on a vacuum. The body blows keep coming.

2015. Financial reckoning. The U.S. starts defaulting on treasury bonds. The rest of the world is no better. Exxon buys Lockheed Martin. Total SA buys the defaulted assets of GM followed by Boeing. Corporations begin to field militaries to defend and protect the resources they own.

2018: Year of Storms. Hurricanes bash the U.S. southern and south eastern states. Florida is obliterated between the flooding and storm surge. New Orleans is swamped once again. The worst drought in history strikes the Mid Western states. The U.S. cannot produce enough food for its residents. Coastal infrastructure is destroyed and the U.S. can no longer produce fuel. Gas prices spike. Mass rioting occurs seeking food and shelter. Unemployment reaches 30%.

2019: The Gulf Stream current breaks down due to the desalination of the oceans. Lack of ice on the poles creates a massive feed forward climate shift. The remainder of the ice at the poles melt resulting in massive flooding of coastal areas. The entire population of the eastern and western seaboard states are forced inland.

Society breaks..

Dare I ask, what do you really want to play?

Dec 9, 2009

Twice annually, a small number of us gather for what we dub Convergence. Convergence is a long weekend where we gather at in a central location and game for as many hours as we can fit into the weekend. The first one was pretty ad-hoc. Other than a plan for when and where, none of us formulated a plan for the actual games to be played.

The second attempt was more organized. Instead of Friday night & Saturday, we arrived on Thursday night to have an additional full day. We had a plan for who was running and what system it was. A little forethought let us skip character generation to maximize on the on-site gaming time. In the end we ended up playing one of the pre-planned games and an ad-hoc short session of another game. The end result was far more enjoyable than the first attempt.

During a phone conversation, Kevin stated it would be far better to ask the players who and what they want to play rather than selecting a system by the GM based upon what he wants to run. It makes complete sense. The number of players outnumber the singular GM. Maximizing enjoyment for the majority should always be a priority. After all, when players have interest in the game, it ends up being a better session/campaign and gives each of them the opportunity to toss in some Rule of Cool.

So we’re going to pose the question to everyone planning to attend in the spring. What do you want to play? It won’t be quite that simple. Instead, I’ll be reaching back into a very introspective era when Kevin and I were actively debating the pros and cons of gaming systems, rules, settings and most importantly role playing.

  1. Considering all the characters you have played over your gaming career, can you identify a specific one who didn’t reach the potential you envisioned? Or has there been a persona you’ve always wanted to play but have never quite had the opportunity?
  2. With that character in mind, what is the ideal scenario, setting, or campaign that would fit the goals and motivations you have envisioned? What did you want to endeavour but didn’t get the chance to undertake? What would fulfil the character concept?

Note the absence of a rule system. Rule systems are just a framework we play by. Someone responding with a rule system didn’t really consider the question. Certainly, rules are useful and necessary in the majority of situations. Rules are also a barrier. A barrier most never recognize. Fewer still can play without rules. Pure enjoyment is achieved when player’s don’t ask how to use a die to achieve something. They act, you interpret, and it just keeps flowing. Dice are nice when you need to add the risk of failure but they are not an absolute necessity.

If everyone would start with an real idea of who the character is rather than what it can do based on rules and stats, gaming sessions would be a lot more fun. Ask to play outside of the box. If you hand a GM a character with a rich background and balanced capabilities, asking for a power outside the norm will not be a stretch..

Instead, everyone starts it with “I have stats of X, Y, Z…and P, D, Q” … uhh, guess I’ll play this template because it fits my rolls. The rules just quashed another great character based on dice. At least it could have been a great character. GMs can make template characters come to life but doing so is the exception, not the rule.

Personally, the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had gaming were when the G in RPG was an afterthought. All the play was dominated by goal driven role play not by fighting a battle with a foe. Defeating an opponent doesn’t always need to take the form of combat.

I have faith there are many other DMs and players like us. I haven’t yet identified the persona I most want to play in the spring But I’m working on it.

Tickle your imagination… Who, where, what and why would you choose?

Fall Convergence: Wee Hours of the Night

Oct 19, 2009

What do you do when you’ve wrapped up a great weekend of roleplaying only a few hours before everyone is ready to sleep?  A Convergence makes the decision more difficult since it is unlikely you’ll be roleplaying anything for another six months.  We’d just wrapped Kevin’s Basic D&D game a few minutes before around 9 p.m. on Saturday night.  It was too late to start another campaign game but everyone was still  in the mood to play.   My judgement of the room was to either start a session or call it a weekend.   I decided to finish the weekend with a game session.

While I had GangBuster’s prepped and all but one player had a character ready to go, it was too late in the weekend to start a full blown campaign I’d prepped.   Not enough time to get players into the characters or to get them running with an unfamiliar system.  Instead, I went with something familiar to everyone — play yourself.    I’ve done it a number of times for short duration games just to fill time but it had been years.   Basically, its the plot of Red Dawn, the movie set in the current day and time.   I chose the Chinese and the present location, Cheyenne, WY.

Perhaps its a Western U.S. response, but this game requires no game system.   Pure responses turn into pure roleplay.   I always make the players rank each other stat wise for some familiar system.  I shouldn’t bother, it has no impact.   The setting either hooks the players or it doesn’t.   I think older individuals with experience or memories of the Cold War respond better.

The hook caught 2 of 3 players.   Perhaps 3 for a couple of hours but little longer.  Folks from the Western US turn vengeful, and just plain angry when foreigner armies step on their turf.  I always enjoy the ingenuity of characters stepping into the situation with basically nothing and watching them turn into survivalists with the capability of response.

Perhaps it could be taken to a campaign level.   I’ve never tried.   After a few shots at it, I just admire the few hours of fun it creates and the very personal, goal motivated role playing that ensues.

The clock was pushing 4 a.m. when we wrapped up.   I’ll call that success.

Fall Convergence: Prohibition

Aug 20, 2009

My ponderings for the Fall Convergence began a month or two back.   I was ill prepared to GM for the March convergence but ran an Old West game off the top of my head.   It was mostly ad-hoc and as such suffered from the normal stalls inherent to getting players together, moving the action along, etc.   Its hard to ramp up a 1-off session with very little planning even with great players.

So I set about pondering.   Leafing through my library of books, resource materials, and the array of affiliated, odd-ball stuff I’ve collected, I walked away thinking something was awry.   There was plenty of stuff available including things I cannot even recall purchasing…let alone the reasons for procuring them at the time.   Inspiration came a few hours later via the History Channel.

Yes, Kevin, I know, always go back to Inspector Gadget.   Where do you find IG these days? -M

The show was about various people, locations, and events during the Prohibition era.   Gangsters, Cops, and Feds allow a vast array of things for a short lived campaign.   Perfect for a Convergence session or three.   A bit of searching around found a variety of systems set in the period.   All of them probably would work just fine.

I went old school and bought a GangBusters (TSR) rule book and 3 modules for inspriration off EBay for about $15.   None of the other people have played the system before and we’re not going to learn it anyway.   Character generation and about 12 rules will suffice…probably 6 or less is more than enough.   I could probably do it with KORE but I’m lazy and my available time is limited.

Game system.  Check.   Area of the genre?   Law enforcement?   Politicians?   Gangsters?  Media?  GangBusters contains it all and suggest a mixed group of all the above.   That is not a reasonable for a single weekend and probably not cohesive enough for a general campaign overall.   Perhaps that was its downfall or perhaps the genre just wasn’t fantastic enough for most.      Being the law is easy on players, they know right from wrong and can easily apply it to characters.

Too easy!   Criminals it is.   Gangsters they will be in one fashion or another.   Not high-ranking over the top ones,  they’ll have to get bloody and do the dirty work.      When common sense and morality are not on your side, you have to push yourself to figure out who, what, and why you are in the role.   I’m railroading the characters at the start so I’ll never have to do it again over the weekend.

Next up is filling out the campaign premise.  Low to mid level gangsters provide a lot of room for chaos.   So I read the material in the rule book and all three modules.   Two of the three modules got discarded quickly.  There are gems to be exploited but not enough for the baseline.   Strangely enough, the material in the rulebook I bought and the 1st module are near identical.   Not surprisingly, its just two different “versions” of the game that may as well be the same stuff repackaged.  I know, I know, you are “shocked”.  So was I.

Both the module and the rule system, dubbed “3rd Edition”, provide a nice baseline of NPC characters and some starter plot lines even if they are nearly identical.   After reading through them a couple of times, I started  jotting notes on scrap paper.   Personas, organizations, plot ideas, actual encounter thoughts are put to paper.   Even if they are copies of the actual material.     If I write it down, my brain retains it far longer than if I let the whim pass by.

The scratched notes are nice but not much of a plan.  Its in my brain and not on paper and will be lost if no action is taken.     So I grabbed a new notebook and started transferring ideas.   One person per page.   One organization per page.   One encounter per page.  If you’ve never seen the idea of a One Page Dungeon, Google it.  I’ve used it for 20 years but cannot say it was formalized.  Its a fantastic methodology to prepare for the chaos your players will create.

I’m unlikely to use the notebook during the gaming sessions.   Every plan is screwed as soon as it is enacted.   But I can use every page to sit down the next day, scratch out people, make notes on others, update events at a location.   Sometimes I need a reminder about a person or place I had in mind.   The notebook will make that easy enough.

However, on the One Page Per Dungeon thought, you may need to start a fight to keep it flowing.   When you have a couple dozen plausible encounters noted in part, its quick and easy to exploit.  And if this idea translates between a couple of different Convergence Sessions, 6 months or more apart, that notebook will be a godsend.

The last Convergence was a great time.   This one should be even better.