Convention Prep: CharCon 2017

After a successful weekend at CharCon Bonus Round this year, I was invited to run games at the main event of CharCon this week. I’m doing a lot of prepwork for it and haven’t finished reading anything that’s not related to the convention, so I haven’t been able to write my usual reviews.

Instead, you get to hear about some of the shenanigans I have planned and my behind-the-scenes work for this event!

==What is CharCon?==

CharCon is a gaming convention is Charleston, WV. The games offered here run the gamut from board games to tabletop RPGs while filling in that middle ground area rather well.

Like most conventions, it’s run by a core group of dedicated individuals and plenty of volunteers to help flesh out the programming, and that dedication is pretty obvious once you start working with them.

==The NPC’s Role==

My primary role at Charcon this year is running four sessions of tabletop RPGs, for a total of 16 hours of entertainment provided. I was also looking at bringing my NPC antics to CharCon this year, but that fell through due to a recent injury that has me on crutches.

Yay foot/ankle injuries!

Part of my being at CharCon this year was due to a random conversation: I was asked “Can you run a Dresden Files game?” The answer, of course, is “Which version?” Now I’m slated for games and scrambling to finish them.

==The CharCon Plan==

This time around, I decided to do something different than what I normally do at a con: I’m running the same game multiple times. Normally I have different scenarios for each of my games during a weekend, sometimes I even use a different game for each session (so I’d be running up to four different systems and four different sessions, for example), but because of time constraints and that request, I’m sticking with repeat games.

==The Prepwork==

The theme for CharCon is mystery, so when I was asked to run a Dresden Files game as well as at least one other, I decided to stick with the theme for everything and determine the best ways to handle it.

For my Dresden Files game, I decided to revamp my classic “How I Spent My Haunted Vacation” scenario, which was well loved at Tekko a few years ago. While I have the outline of the adventure, I have to recreate all of the characters and opposition, which is much more time consuming than you’d expect. I was also asked to run this twice to ensure that those who are interested get a chance to play.

The other session on the docket is using the new Cortex Prime SRD I got for backing the Kickstarter. I’m calling the game “Mystery Science Cortex,” just to see who gets the references and shows up. This game involves a bit more prepwork, as I have to choose which versions of the Cortex rules I want to use before making the characters up.

Since I’ve been on crutches all month, I’ve had some time to sit and write, which gives me a chance to get things done.

==How I Spent My Haunted Vacation==

This game is using the new Dresden Files Accelerated ruleset from Evil Hat. The pitch is simple: you are relaxing at a Bed and Breakfast in July when a freak snowstorm buries the area, trapping you inside. To make matters worse, there’s a grisly murder and dark magic afoot. It’s up to you to solve this before you are next.

I’ve only seen this game reach an ending ONCE, and I am hoping to see an ending again.

The prepwork for this has actually been focuses on making the characters. I wanted to have eight characters on hand for a table of six, while ensuring that no one character is more important than the others. At this time, the character High Concepts are:

  • Young Warden
  • Clued-In Cop
  • Combat Medic
  • Knight-In-Training
  • Winter-Borne Changeling
  • Twice-Damned Sorcerer
  • Emissary of the Ogre King
  • Modern-Day Sherlock Holmes

These eight characters were all created specifically to be in this game, and the game can run even if we are missing characters.

Other than the character creation (with custom character sheets due to an editable sheet not existing), this game was just a matter of mapping out the scenes. Unlike normal con games, this is halfway freeform, as the players can go anywhere and do anything to solve the murder. As I also have needed to stall the game in the past, as well as change some scenes (i.e. is the murder in the library or in the kitchen? Is the murderer hiding behind a ward or using summoned demons to protect himself?), I found that this approach is best.

According to the schedule, I am running this game on Friday night at 7pm and on Saturday at 12pm (noon), with each session running four hours.

Curious about all the details? You’ll have to join the table or wait until after the convention to find out!

==Mystery Science Cortex==

This is the game session that’s been taking up most of my time, honestly. Cortex itself is a modular game in the first place, and with Cortex Prime, the SRD is a toolbox to mix and match whichever mechanics catch your eye. It also doesn’t help that my primary knowledge of Cortex is from Marvel and Firefly, which is drastically different than what I have planned.

That said, Mystery Science Cortex is exactly that: a mystery. The game is using whatever version of Cortex I’ve decided is fitting, while the session itself is a bit of a mystery.

Finalizing stats, homebrew character sheets, and other madness during my lunch break.

In this game, you wake up from cryo sleep by the AI of your ship, warning you that something is wrong and it needs to be remedied. Sadly, because of how you were awakened, your memories are jumbled; you don’t remember how you got there, what your mission was, or even what you are capable of!

That’s where the most complex part of my game comes in: the characters. I have six characters, no more, no less, each one with a specific role (no, you don’t get to know). When players sit down at the table, all they’ll see is a character sheet covered with index cards, and over the course of the game, they can uncover their cards. For example, if they are looking at forcing open a door, I’ll tell them to turn over a card that has their stats, while if they are looking at hacking I’ll have them turn over their skills.

This is what they get to see when they sit down.

The goal of the game is to tell the story (of course), but also teach the game incrementally until the group has a full dice pool…and is up against the toughest challenge of the Adventure.

==Other Projects?==

As always, there’s other things on my docket that may or may not get done in time for the event. I’m not sure if I can swing it all, but I’d be damned if I didn’t try!

For starters, I’ve been helping a friend with his own games, as he’s running Star Trek Adventures. We’re still using playtest materials as the book just came out (and our time and respective funds are tied to con prep at the moment), but I’m really interested in seeing what he does with the game and am looking forward to being a player.

I’ve also been working on a large number of projects using various versions of the Fate RPG, including a Nasuverse hack, a Dishonored hack, a Tokusatsu (Kamen Rider) hack, and generally tampering with the game because why the hell not. Many of these projects are joint projects or projects I am soundboard with friends on for balance purposes, and while they are not directly tied to CharCon, they are things I’ll be considering later on.

My biggest project is actually something that came up as I’m trying to balance out my gear: I need an easier way to haul everything for my games for cons, especially this year as I’m on crutches and cannot wheel the giant suitcase around. One of the ideas that came up was to get one of the various “kits” out there, like the GM screen that’s also a box, or converting a box for minis into a kit. As they are rather pricey and the turnaround is months away, I might consider just putting one together myself or picking up something to repurpose to get the job done. I’ll be sure to share the madness with everyone as I work on it!

Hint: I’m putting stuff in a box 😀

==Coming Up Next==

As always, there’s PLENTY on the docket, but what shall I do?

Next week I’ll talk about how CharCon went for me, including details on the various games and how things went. After that, it’s back to reviewing things as they arrive and I can find time to read them, including Blades in the Dark Special Edition (I’m getting there, I promise!), Star Trek Adventures (ordering after CharCon), and whatever new 7th Sea books arrive (the Crescent Empire early copy arrived last week).

Stay tuned for more shenanigans!

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