Games, Design & Game Design

Forge Midwest 2012

In Convention Report, Links, My Thoughts On, Roleplaying Games on May 7, 2012 at 10:15 am

I attended Forge Midwest last weekend, and it was nice. Forge Midwest is a regional “playcon”, a relatively small convention that is all about playing (mostly indie/self-published/smallpress) games. No panels, no booths, no official sales, just meetin’ up and sittin’ down to play. Back in Boston, I attended/organized various JiffyCons, which is a similar concept, though only one day’s worth. Anyway, playcons are great, and seeing how I haven’t been to a convention at all since Gen Con of 2010, I was excited to go!

I had a good time catching up with folks I haven’t seen in years, meeting new folks, and playing games! I took it pretty easy compared to some people (there were people who managed to get 7 or 8 games in over 2.5 days, which I just am not creatively capable of, I think). I was exhausted at the end, but in a long-term way I think it was pretty energizing. I would certainly like to try and play more games in the next couple of months, at the very least!

I played four games: Pickets and Blinds, Dungeon World, Dark Sun HeroQuest and Hero’s Banner. I enjoyed them pretty much in ascending order, actually. More details about each after the jump.

Thanks to Willow and  Tim, the organizers of the event, and to everyone I got to play with and talk too! It was a good time!

Game Reports

First: Pickets and Blinds, my comrade-in-arms Kevin Allen Jr’s game about “murder in the american townscape”. This was an interesting experience, I was really excited to play this game, but it turns out that it’s set up to do things that I don’t find particularly engaging in play. It’s a structured freeform storytelling game that asks the players to pretty much come up with a compelling narrative arc for their character, with the occasional twist thrown in either from a series of prompts, or from the other players. It reminded me most strongly of Fiasco, another game that I don’t really engage with. Many of the elements are clever, and Kevin’s personality comes through in every word and phrase, but the game didn’t have the forcefulness that I tend to like.

After that, I jumped into a game of Dungeon World, which is enjoying a lot of “indie darling” buzz, and I definitely see why. It’s a dungeon crawling hack of Apocalypse World, which I’ve been playing for almost 6 months now on a bi-weekly basis. It was interesting seeing the choices made to adopt AW, which is so particularly-tuned, to (what I think is) a messier, less-efficient style of play. I did get to be a badass Paladin, which was cool. I liked how quickly everything moved, and the GM was very excited, supportive and did a GREAT ogre voice. My takeaway after the session: DW does a great job of reducing the handling time and getting to the good parts of the Dungeons & Dragons experience – if you want to play that experience.

That evening after dinner was a game of HeroQuest, run by master Mike Holmes. He runs it off the cuff and modified to essentially make your characters in play, and I’m pretty sure that “the book” is pretty different from what we played. So I started calling it HolmesQuest. Anyway, someone mentioned Dark Sun, and the three of us who were sitting there at the time were all HELL YAH DARK SUN LETS DO IT. With the aid of an iPad and Wikipedia (to doublecheck our mid-90s memories and get appropriate names), a feral cannibal halfling, uber-stoic Mul gladiator, two Half-Giant gladiator brothers and a former-slaver Defiler overcame a series of challenges to discover the tomb of an ancient God-King, and escape into the past golden age (though doomed to repeat the events that lead to the creation of Athas). It was metal, it was fun, it was a little silly, and it made me want to learn more about HeroQuest.

Sunday morning, I sat down with well-coiffed designer and friend Tim Koppang to play Hero’s Banner, which I’ve always admired from afar but never had the chance to play. As it turned out, we ended up with two more player, both friends who I play Apocalypse World with, actually. We had a story of two brothers, Prince’s with different designs on the throne, and a related minor noble with big ambitions. The demands of family, crown and church pulled each of us in different, incompatible ways, and we ended the game (due to time!) about halfway through what could easily have been an epic, tragic tale. I had a really good time, due in no small part to my comfort level playing with these guys, but also largely because of the game itself and Tim’s skill in running it. We were technically playtesting some revised rules for a new edition (!!!), which I will be directing y’all to as soon as it happens.

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  1. It’s really handy to get these kind of micro-reviews – a bit of fictional content, a bit of this-is-the-game, and a subjective evaluation (including “not for me”). Thanks for that, Nathan! Forge Midwest sounds as cool and understated* as I always imagined.

    * as in Let’s Just Play; I’m sure that there were a few eye-boggling moments. Or if not, you disappoint me, Paoletta.

    • Thanks Alex! I would like to say I have some kind of special, intentional technique, but really I just get bored writing more than a paragraph of AP at a time!

      I dunno if there were any eye-boggling moments, (though Clyde and Tim K started arguing about conspiracy theories and their relationship to libertarian political views, which was…unexpected). It was fun in a comfortable way, not an explody ZOMG way, is all.

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