I just got back from another wonderful Big Bad Con. BBC is an amazing Bay Area gaming convention that has a phenomenal community of designers and players and a huge number of storytelling RPGs and larps. This year I helped schedule activities for folks during the days before the the con and it was a great opportunity to spend some extra time with some of the wonderful members of the community!
Here’s a quick recap of the games I played, both before and during the con:
I started the week with Jason Morningstar’s upcoming freeform game Welcome Guests and it was great, creepy fun. Jason and I played friends on a backpacking trip who were invited into a family’s home for dinner. The family (the other players) were cannibals and over the course of the meal they were figuring out which of us to eat and whether to invite either of us to marry into the family. We were mostly oblivious and, by the end of the game, they had murdered us and put us on the menu for the next set of guests.
This was a really good time and, despite the subject matter, it wasn’t that dark – I enjoyed the heavy dramatic irony of my player’s cluelessness. I highly recommend giving this a play when it’s published.
Next, I played an early version of Nathan Black’s game, The Regulars. A group of us played bartenders and waiters who hung out after work at a bar together. The game was a series of ten minute loops, each being a different night. Each night we received new cards which detailed the indignities we had suffered at work and we had various ways to vent or help each other cope. It was a fun and sometimes frustrating (in a good way!) game and I left it with a bunch of extra empathy for folks who worked in the restaurant industry. I hope Nathan publishes a draft soon so more people can check it out.
My first official game of the BBC was also my first time GMing a game at a public convention (not including Metatopia playtests). I brought a draft of my adventures-on-a-map game Make Haste! and it went pretty well! The players told a nice story about a group of colonists on an alien planet, braving the elements and the local fauna to migrate to a new home. I think the design has reached a local maxima and I want to publish the final version before too long.
Next up was Love Commander, run by it’s designer Dev Purkayastha. It is a lighthearted hybrid roleplaying / card game about the crew of a starship going on missions. Our captain was comically aloof and we didn’t gel enough to overcome the threats. It ended with the entire crew dead but a good time had by all.
The Association for the Advancement of Fairy Tale Creatures
Friday night I played the Big Bad Wolf, vice chair of the The Association for the Advancement of Fairy Tale Creatures (rules). This was a very silly 20-person larp in the form of annual board meeting for fairy tale creatures. As Big Bad Wolf I tried to oppress the good characters, the minor characters, and pretty much everyone else. It was a lot of fun but, with 20 players, it was highly chaotic but facilitators Karen Twelves and Jason Morningstar did a great job of keeping us on track. This is probably a good first larp for someone who wants to try out the hobby and is okay being a bit zany.
Saturday morning I participated in Banana Chan’s new larp Attention Passengers. She’s an awesome designer of creepy games and also a great video producer – it was great to finally play one of her games! This game had six players stuck on a stopped subway car at 3am in NYC; something strange is going on and the longer the car is stopped, the more ominous the vibe. There was an audio track that led us through the game – complete with conductor announcements and subway noises – it was a perfect way to facilitate the game and ramp up the creepiness. I had a great time playing and I’m sure it’ll be a hit!
Next up was Strange Gravity, run by it’s designer Jay Treat. This was a 9-person larp in which we created and played out an episode of Star Trek. Despite a somewhat serious tone it was still very fun. The game splits narrative control among the players which led to a nice balance of different folks interjecting to steer the plot. My narrator power was to ramp up the emotion in a scene and that led to plenty of tense moments. If you’re a fan of Star Trek (or similar shows), check it out!
The Sunday morning slot can be a tough one, especially after a long weekend of games, but Shemesh was the perfect game for it. Wendy Gorman, the designer, led us through a worldbuilding game set in a solarpunk utopia. It was a calm and optimistic look at a future full of little vignettes and slices of life. It was bubbly and heartwarming and a perfect way to start the day.
Here is My Power Button
I ended BBC with Here Is My Power Button, an emotionally powerful game by Brodie Atwater, facilitated by James Stuart and John Stavropoulos. It’s set in the near future at a university that is testing artificial intelligence personal assistants that are extremely advanced. The players paired off into human / AI duos and I played a human paired with Jay Treat’s AI. We then played a series of sessions where the humans would visit the AI in the lab and the AI grew from blank slates to reflections of their human owners.
Jay and my characters developed a rich intellectual and collaborative relationship but other pairs had highly emotional, hero worshiping, or abusive dynamics. It was a really cool game and my description doesn’t do it justice – all the players were a bit emotional by the end of it. I highly recommend playing this if you have the opportunity – it’s one of my favorite larps I’ve played so far!
I had an awesome weekend and it was wonderful hanging out with so many great designers and players. I’m looking forward to seeing many of them again in a few weeks at Metatopia. If you’re at all interested in storytelling games, I highly recommend checking out Big Bad Con next year!