This year’s Dreamation 2015 games that I played:

Friday morning:

“Fifteen Men” by Anders Troelsen, Niels Jensen and Simon Steen Hansen; presented by Simon Steen Hansen. Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest… Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum… Following years of hardships, a group of pirates have now finally found the treasure, that for so long has haunted them in their dreams. Now all they have to do is to divide the spoils, but being bound for home isn’t without peril, especially as long as the gold glitters and the rum flows steadily from the barrel. Each player takes on the role of a pirate, receiving a new character every time the former succumbs to the crew’s continuing bloodshed. It is possible for each player to win this scenario through forging alliances, setting traps and deceiving when necessary, everything in order to make sure that the last surviving pirate is one of those that the respective player has on his secret victory cards. The setting and tone of this scenario is a dark and gritty one, but as the unfolding of events is a matter of life and death for the characters, the never ending scheming, backstabbing, maiming and murdering hopefully should bring about a laughter among the players. Drink and the devil had done for the rest…

Loved this game. The game’s description does an apt job of explaining it. One of the interesting mechanics in it is that although you’re issued a pirate to play at the beginning of the game with the understanding that the pirate will very likely be killed and replaced with another one before the end of the game (and usually more than once), you’re also issued three tokens that represent pirates that you may or may not control during the course of the game. Win condition is getting the most of your horses to the end of the game alive. This scrambles things up a bit because sometimes you’ll be playing to get your own pirate killed or playing to save another player’s active pirate. I’d definitely play this one again.

“When Alex Got Lost” presented by Rachael Storey Burke. This game is about a child, Alex, who becomes lost in the woods after a series of bad decisions during a family hike. Every step takes Alex further away from civilization and rescue. As dehydration begins to set in and Alex’s imagination takes over, the woods go from merely inhospitable to menacing, and imagined horrors seem every bit as real as the true danger Alex faces: That after three days without rescue, the chances of survival decrease dramatically. Themes: fear, isolation, psychological horror.

Rachael is someone I know from Camp Nerdly and this was a beta (or alpha?) test of her game “When Alex Got Lost”. Conceptually the idea of the game was what drew me– a lost child that needs to survive in the wild and dips into psychological trauma. What really made my time in the room great was the conversation after the game about what we liked about it, what we didn’t, what worked, what didn’t, and some brainstorming about how to improve the game. Overall, a good experience. Also, I appreciated that I was the only male in this game, which was unique.

Oblivion; “The Strife of Perception, Part One” by Immortal Unbound LLC. The future is dark and wrought with unimaginable horrors. Civil wars, plagues, oppressive governments, nuclear and chemical fallout, conspiracies, inexplicable supernatural phenomenon, and even visitors from other worlds are just a few of the things that mankind must struggle with. Despite these hardships, though, there is hope. Through advanced technologies, evolution, other-worldly contact, and, most importantly, the heart and will to survive, there are those who seek to change the destiny of Earth, wishing to see history take a new course. There are those who fight for it, fight against it, and simply fight for themselves. How will you shape the future of the world? Enter Oblivion. Players can choose to play in either or both parts of this event.

To whoever ran this game- I apologize for signing up for it and then falling asleep about a half hour before it and waking up halfway through it.

“The Hemlock from the Poppy” presented by Daniel Eison. In deep winter, a small company of soldiers is stranded in enemy territory. They have found refuge with a family in a small farmhouse. The soldiers are thankful for what little food and shelter the family has left, but even the perils of the enemy and the elements are overshadowed by a different threat: a ferocious and fatal illness is ripping through both armies and has started to infiltrate a civilian population weakened by years of conflict. The plague is shrouded in rumor and fear and no one has any idea how to cure it. In the farmhouse, one of the soldiers is coughing. To leave the house means certain death, but everyone is vulnerable to the contagion. Only by helping each other can anyone hope to survive, or at least to maintain their humanity for a few more days.

I read the description, it sounded great, signed up for it, and it was just me. Daniel tried to find a few other players, but no luck. Too early on a Saturday for death from disease. We spent some time talking about the game, then went across the street from the hotel for some Persian food. We talked about his family’s dynasty in medicine and how it influenced his game design. So, no gaming, but good conversation. I’ll keep an eye out to see if this one gains any traction with the indy gamers, because it’s a great idea.

My Life With Master; “Gaslight Minions” by Half Meme Press; presented by Tony Lower-Basch. An INDEPENDENTLY PUBLISHED GAME - Part of the Indie Games Explosion! In the grimy city of London, at the dawning of the age of mechanization, you will play the monstrous and inadequate minions of a visionary Master. You know you do not deserve love, but that will never stop you from craving it.

Quite a few conventions have had My Life with Master run and it seems like every convention someone brings this game up in conversation. This was the year to play it. If I had to put my finger on one game as being my favorite, it’d be this one. So, here’s the deal, the players dream up characters that will serve as minions for the master they design. The game master does standard game mastering, but also plays the master character, making this one of the most GM demanding games I’m aware of. Being set in London, our master would be a Professor Moriarty of sorts. I played a Fagin type dwarf character named Hamelin, who controlled the pickpocketing street urchins of the city. Russell Collins (of Tears of a Machine fame) played a fastidious mad scientist. The other fellow (sorry, didn’t catch his name) played an oafish man with a heart of gold. Where the real magic of the game kicks in is that each character is made with one or two “loves” in the city. These are people of importance to them. I came up with a nun who raised me in an orphanage and a toy maker who showed me kindness. The master then sends each of his minions on tasks that will damage the “loves” of the other characters, which inevitably leads to player versus player interactions.

My favorite scene during the game is that after breaking my nun out of bedlam (who was there after being poisoned by the other players to undermine her temperance movement) by inciting a riot among the mad and kidnapping Russell’s character’s grandmother, I arrived with both in tow at the very orphanage that Russell’s character had setup to burn down to frame a local constable for the crime. Then everything that could go wrong did, making for a great scene.

I’d recommend this one and my hat is off to Tony for running the game so very well.

Spark; “Carriers: Zombie Cyberpunk” by Genesis of Legend Publishing; presented by Jeffrey Lees. An INDEPENDENTLY PUBLISHED GAME - Part of the Indie Games Explosion! Corporations came to rule the world, then they destroyed it in one fell swoop. Nanotech was first used to benefit the human race, but it soon spawned the Nanoplague. Somehow the Nanomachines became intelligent and quickly went about eradicating the human race. When some humans found a way to counteract the Nanoplague the nano-hivemind developed a new technique: Instead of killings humans, it turned them into zombies. Now the surviving humans are huddled into a few well defended safe havens called Arcologies, mostly old mega-corp headquarters. They must combat both the Nanoplague and the hordes of zombies it created, and they must trade with other Arcologies in order to survive. You, well you are a “runner.” Your job is to traverse The Sprawl, the zombie invested wastelands the separate the few remaining Arcologies. You travel between Arcologies and facilitate the trade that is needed to keep most Arcologies alive. However The Sprawl holds more dangers than just zombies. Fanatical religious factions vying for power, mad scientists attempting to “cure” the nanoplague, and criminal gangs murdering and stealing whenever given the opportunity. Will you survive your next run? Carriers: Zombie Cyberpunk will be run with the Spark RPG, a storytelling role-playing game about building worlds and challenging your beliefs within them. In Spark, characters struggle not only with exogenous obstacles but also to uphold, and sometimes challenge, their deeply held beliefs. By challenging your beliefs you change yourself, and in changing yourself you change the world!

Zombies? Cyberpunk? How could I not sign up for this game? I’d not heard about Spark prior to signing up for it. The day before playing it the game hits the Bundle of Holding’s IGDN collection, so I download a copy and give it a skim. I find it to be in the same family as Jim Pinto’s Protocol, which I had ran at Dreamation last year. I liked Protocol because it’s like Fiasco, but with more structure. Spark gives a narrative game even more clear mechanics for moving forward without becoming bogged down in rules. The Carriers setting is a pretty unique spin on the post-zombie-apocalypse theme by adding in nano machines that are hell bent on destroying humanity. People keep the nano machines at bay through pulse generators that runners have strapped to their backs as they run through the wasted cities between the corporate owned cities that serve as the last bastions of humanity. I found this a bit reminiscent of the so-so Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. The system’s author, Jason Pitre, joined the table and we did a good job of putting together a compelling story where many bad and interesting things happened. I’d encourage anyone to check Spark out.

I’ll see you next year Dreamation.