Intriguing GMing Tips Gleaned From A Con, Part I

This past weekend I played about 14 hours of games at IntrigueCon here in Edmonton Alberta. I was fortunate enough to play games outside what I normally GM: Fate Accelerated, Savage Worlds, and Night’s Black Agents. All three game tables were excellent. Great game masters, great players, great times.

I can never take my GM hat off. So while playing I was taking notes on how I could improve my own games based on what I experienced and observed on the picture side of the GM screen.

Before I talk about my thoughts on detail delays and how you might be frustrating players with them, a few comments on the con itself, the first I’ve attended in two decades.

It was very well organized. This was IntrigueCon’s fifth year. I’d guess there were 75-100 people: about a dozen game tables, almost all fully booked in every time slot.

It’s an RPG-exclusive convention. In his intro speech, con organizer Daniel Hodges said other conventions today are dominated by other games with RPGs stuck in the back corner. He wants to give us tabletop RPG gamers our own event so we can go crazy and celebrate the game we love the most.

There were many prizes drawn throughout the weekend and I won two! Bubblegumshoe and Dinocalypse Now. The GM at our Horror Mansion SW game also gave out a set of dice, so I scored a sweet set of gold-blue pearlized polyhedrons.

The facility was good, clean, with easy parking and access. It was LOUD though. I have trouble hearing in noisy spaces, so I sat beside the GM in all three games. Next time I’ll have to bring an ear trumpet and say “EH?” a lot.

There was a large sheet of paper at the front where people wrote funny things said during their game. My first group contributed “There’s only one way we can fix this situation, and that’s with a giant explosion.” Lots of funny stuff happening in the games.

As for the games I got myself into, the first was a Fate Accelerated mashup of Firefly meets Buck Rodgers. The GM’s name was Paul. I played Rossitter Flywheel, the team’s pilot. I made his quote be “There’s no gap too small I can’t fly through.” And his philosophy was, “When there’s danger, whatever the danger, the solution is to fly faster.”

We started on a space station. An old contact reached out on the down-low with a scoop about a legendary explorer’s rocket that might be floating in the asteroid belt. As we had no money, we “borrowed” a neighbour’s lev-car and met the contact to get the coordinates of the rocket’s transmitter. We returned the car and outwitted a police-bot in the middle of filing charges against us by our neighbour. We then broke our ship out of impound and flew to The Belt.

We thought it a good idea to blast asteroids in our path with our laster turret. Then we spotted the goal of our mission and torpedoed our robot engineer through space into the listless rocket. He infiltrated the ship, activated the self-defence system, and got into a bit of trouble.

So we torpedoed our bug-thug and regs officer over to the ship to help out. As the captain was preparing the cargo bay for our prize he accidentally jettisoned himself into space. So we torpedoed the over-eager space cadet out with a tether to fetch our captain back.

 

Everyone was in trouble. And Rossitter Flywheel was a bit put out that he was the only crew member who wasn’t allowed to climb into a torpedo tube and get shot into space (no actual torpedoes were used during the game). So he decided to push the accelerator to the max and fly circles around the area and use the tether on the cadet and the tether we affixed to the marooned rocket to gather everyone back up.

The “plan” worked. We rescued the legendary explorer from his ship who was trapped in cryo. And then we returned triumphantly to the space station to collect our salvage rights.

As you can tell, the table decided to take the game to a funny space. I think we were the loudest group in the hall and constantly doing over-the-top stuff.

It turns out Paul had never GM’d Fate before, which blew me away because he seemed like an old pro at the game.

Fate Accelerated (I’m not sure how Accelerated differs from Fate Core) is largely an improv and theatre of the mind game. As we performed actions, we named them and that let other players use those named actions in the same scene for bonuses. Our character sheets were also introduced with sparse details and we were to create new aspects during play. So in this way, we created the game rules, constraints, and opportunities as we played.

There was also a neat mechanic called Compels where you could bring other players into play for bonuses.

What struck me was how this game’s rules got a group of strangers to start collaborating and cooperating pretty fast out of the gate.

In D&D, for example, every character is an island. Co-op thinking comes strictly from the players. Certain spells and feats might give teamwork bonuses, but otherwise, it’s a social dynamic. But in Fate Accelerated, the game system has that baked in if your group chooses to embrace it.

Well-played my bug-thug, regs officer, space cadet, robot engineer, and indomitable Captain Ralcom Meynolds teammates. Congrats on a successful mission!

As this is getting a bit long today, I’ll Muse in the future on what I observed about Detail Delays and how you might be hindering gameplay with them.

Until next time, remember that if you get into trouble, fly faster!