TLDR: I had fun, but the gaming world is changing and its time for me to be a grumpy old man.
Some quick post-convention thoughts on the Kapcon gaming convention this weekend.
First is the way the games being run have changed over the years. I see a strong move away from old school published games from big companies, towards Indie games. I can see why, the old school games were designed for running long campaigns, and their simulationist mind set focuses on incremental rewards and character improvement. Indie games are more like tvtropes on speed, and very much focus on grabbing immediate player engagement and permitting them to do a lot of swashbuckling Hollywood stuff. Even the old niche humor/horror games of Paranoia and Call of Cthulhu are vanishing under the relentless tide of Indie games.
Second, is that LARP is eating the tabletop games. Overall convention numbers are stable, but numbers taking part in LARP over tabletop are increasing. As a friend commented, LARP attracts all the good immersive roleplayers. This leaves a lot of tabletop games to collapse from lack of numbers, or to be filled by passive players who just sit back and watch one guy talk for three hours. I’m honestly not sure I should ever bother trying to run a tabletop game at Kapcon again – I’m simply not a good enough Rockstar GM to attract enough players for the game to be fun for me to run.
Third, convention organisation remains strong, improving every year. Two first-timers I helped bring along were very impressed and had a good time.
I played three games and ran one, and spent a bit of time working on Pax Victoria. I bailed for home rather than wait around for the prize-giving (pretty sure I was not going to get a mention for either GMing or playing, and sitting around through 45 minutes of talking and clapping when the brain is tired just doesn’t thrill me anymore).
(1) Too Big to Fail (GM Paul Wilson): after playing this I resolve to never ever play a game where you roleplay people playing roleplaying games gain. It was so meta-meta I struggled to know what to do at any point in time, especially as I selected Jim Butcher who had a “Serious Roleplayer, don’t break character” character, so I might as well have not been playing Jim Butcher. When the GM has to to tell you the Paladin’s horses name (Charlene) is an in-joke, the its not an in-joke anymore because only the GM is in on the in joke. The final fight was over in two rounds, which felt too short for me.
(2) Too Many Draculas (GM Mike Sands): my first experience of the Monster of the Week system was good. Characters were easily generated, and the scenario meant that anytime it slowed the GM just added another Dracula. We got through 11 Draculas, and my cantankerous granddad vampire hunter was fun to play, with my decisions meshing well with the other characters. Slight look of shock on the other PCs at my willingness to use them as bait, but oh well such is life. I liked this game so much I went and bought the PDF from DriveThruRPG.com.
(3) Price Slash (GM Dale Elvy): Again, a very strong focus on pretending you’re in a movie, with montages and flashbacks. Character generation was more of a work in progress, and I failed to mesh well with the other characters, so ended up pretty much a loner. It was frustrating to feel a few times that the GM skipped past me (he often started with the player to my left, and by the time Dale got to me he seemed to have the next frame in mind and wanted to move onto it quickly), so the more active/enthusiastic players got a bit more character development in. On the plus side, my laundry man/mafia assassin got a three year extension on his seven year deal with the Devil. The game was run with the EPOCH system, which worked, but had a lot of cards and counters on the table.
My own game, Last Stand at Salang was not a great success. It was old school, using Runequest VI, the latest version of a 1970s game, with three pages of character sheets, a colour map, and two pages of combat charts for each player. It was possibly the only 1970s era game run at the con. Because three of the four players were passive, it was mostly a military logistics game with one player dominating the talking and the die rolling, with the final battle taking the last 30 minutes. The player with the Dragonslaying sword failed to hit the Dragon three times, and then the Dragon did 13 HP (after armour) to the leg, biting it off, fade to black, a very scorched black. It was also frustrating to turn up on Sunday morning and have zero sign ups for the second playing of it. Oh well, at least I got a cookie from Idiot/Savant.
Thanks to James for giving me rides to and from Kapcon. Its a PITA to get there by Bus from Newlands (especially if you want to shower/eat before the con starts).