We're All Mad Here -- My Experience as a First Time Gamer, Part 2

Previously, I began to take a pensively reflective look at my experience at Fear The Con 7, a roleplaying game convention put on by the folks responsible for the podcast Fear The Boot.

Now, I give you my take on how the event went from game to game.

I participated in my friend Dan's "Introduction to RPGs" game, which consisted of a game called Tooth and Claw. In this game, all the players were part of a group of ferrets (officially called a business) in someone's home, and we had to complete a task that would bring balance to the force while simultaneously trying to keep the Big Ones from waking up and catching onto our plans (the game is available for purchase here). It was a wonderful start to a weekend that was sure to leave me with great memories of stories that will never be told again, because they exist in a singular time.

Also, I must warn you, I've been told that telling gaming stories is never a good idea, so you won't hear about too many of the details of the stories themselves. Sorry, but I've been told it's bad form to bore other people with said stories. So imagine, if you will, whatever you want to once you hear the premise.

Derek Knutsen of THE ESTABLiSHED FACTS ran a game that actually featured several the hosts of Fear The Boot as the characters in the game, playing themselves by day, and moonlighting as superheroes when the need arises. "What's Behind the Mask - a FtB Mystery" pitted hosts Wayne, Pat, John, Dan, Chad, and Chris against nefarious evildoers in the city. I performed my (apparently) spot-on Wayne impersonation, whose superpower was the ability to bore people by talking endlessly about nothing. When I first opened my mouth and spoke in Wayne's voice, jaws at the table dropped and I was asked how I was able to talk like Wayne so well.  In fact, the real Chad came by our table at one point, and one of the players gestured to me and said, "Chad, meet Wayne." I obliged with Wayne's sign-on, "This is Wayne."

Chad blinked. "Do it again."
"This is Wayne," I intoned again.
"Holy crap," Chad said. And my work was done.

Oh, yeah. Dan became Unicron.

One other thing... this was where I let my noob out. At one point, Derek asked me, "What class are you in?" I blanked. I knew about character classes, but only in passing, and only with something like Dungeons and Dragons. So I wasn't sure how to handle that with this game. Is superhero a class? So, I admitted, "I'm not really sure what you mean."

"I mean, what class do you have?"

I looked at my character sheet, but it wasn't helping. I had no choice -- I had to drop out of character and reveal my ignorance.
"Okay, I need some clarification, because I just played my first RPG about four hours ago, so I don't know what you mean."

Everyone at the table was visibly shocked. They had no idea I was a noob, and at that point, I realized I had nothing to worry about. Except I still didn't know what Derek was talking about. That's when he told me the NPC (non-player character) he was playing was asking my character (not me) what college classes I was taking.

So yeah. That was about as stupid as I was going to feel all weekend.

I actually left to go see Five Iron Frenzy in concert. Felt bad about bailing on the con, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see one of my favorite bands support one of the best albums they've ever released.

My first inclination was to take in the con this year, seeing as how it was my first time. But I also thought that it might be a great idea to feed into the activity by running my own game. I decided to create an Improv Workshop for gamers that utilized a lot of the games and principles I learned when I was working improv comedy professionally. It was a refreshingly fun way to break up my "soaking in" mode, and I played with 7 other people that wanted to increase their roleplaying skills. I broke out a Jason Morningstar RPG called News Hole, which was similar to Fiasco, except that the mechanics and setup of the game are much, much simpler, and takes less time to play. They had a great time with it, and it was interesting to see how each player developed their character as the game progressed.

Another Derek Knutsen homebrew game, "School's Out for Good: a High Five Adventure" provided no shortage of style, humor, and the most horribly wrong character combinations in a delirious 1970's superhero game. Imagine you're in a superhero group that lives in a swinging superhero pad, complete with a big television panel with random buttons (because science), that's also being followed 24 hours a day by a camera crew, director, and producers of a reality television show. One of the team achieves a hallucinogenic high whenever he has attention aimed on himself, another uses her sexuality to get what she wants (who also happens to be the most intelligent member of the team), a rock hard muscle man whose robotic armor is so large it has to be towed behind the superheroes' vehicle in a trailer, and a chiseled-faced alpha male with the worst propensity for sexual innuendo anyone has ever heard.

Yeah, guess which one I was.

This game was possibly the most ridiculous, fun, over-the-top piece of gaming I am liable to experience in a long time. And it's a shame, because while I'm sure the game is available for purchase (I'm trying to get that information), there's no possible way the game would ever be the same again, even if the same players were in it. But still, it was a great time, and I wouldn't have traded that time for anything.

Finally, I was able to play a game I've been dying to try since I found out about it several months ago. There were actually more people that signed up for the game than are supposed to play in it (Fiasco works best with 3, 4, or 5 players), so we split up into two groups. I ended up playing with one of the gamers that was in my Improv for Gamers workshop in Slot 4, and a husband and wife who are also involved with the same podcast that Derek Knutsen is.  The playset we used was one set in the wild west, and the town of Broken Wagon (apparently, a group of settlers wrecked and thought, "Why not here?" leaving the wagon in the middle of town) was a perfect place for greed, corruption, murder, thievery, swindlin', and all-out revenge.

I have to tell you, if you're thinking of getting into roleplaying games, do yourself a favor and buy this game right away. You can download additional playsets for free from Bully Pulpit's website at any time, and each playset has a few thousand different ways the game can be played out, so you're never going to want for variety.

Fiasco Dice.
Essentially, we crafted the story from the ground up, using dice as a mechanic to build connections between the characters, such a specific locations, a need someone may have, objects that are precious to the, and relationships between each character. From there, we created our characters' names and backstories, and we were off.

Because Fiasco is very heavily dependent on how well the players roleplay, improv comes in handy here, and I ate it up like nobody's business. One of the fun things about this game is that it's set up to end badly for all the characters -- no one really truly wins. It's tragic in that everyone makes some very great plans, and then those plans get turned in on themselves.

In the wild west, your fortunes can change in an instant.

After Slot 6 was over, several of us hung around and played a little bit more. Cards Against Humanity was brought out and a few of us decided to indulge in the depravity therein. I played with even more people behind the podcast THE ESTABLiSHED FACTS (whom I had played with already in Slot 2), and things just got wrong. Quickly.

When the facility finally had to kick us out, I came upon Chad once more. I shook his hand and thanked him and the rest of the Fear The Boot crew for throwing this convention. I had found a new hobby, and enjoyed myself immensely, and I just wanted to express my appreciation for their hard work.  He acknowledged, and we turned to go our separate ways.  A few seconds later, I heard him say, "Hey, Zach..."

I turned towards him.

"We're all going over to the Drury Inn to hang out and play some games. You should join us."

The kid in me that's always wanted to be liked, always wanted to be included, always ached for someone to point at me when picking teams and say, "We'll take HIM" did about 4 backflips and laughed giddily while I simply nodded, smiled, and said, "I'd love to."

I've always thought of myself as someone that wants to include other people in what I'm doing. I take after my mom in that way, in the sense that I'm always ready for a party. But for some reason, even though I know a lot of people and a lot of people know me, I've always felt like an outsider. I'd been rebuffed or ignored by people in social groups that I've been a part of, even when I was performing improv. Even now, my schedule doesn't afford my wife and I the opportunity to hang out with many people.

And then, someone I hadn't seen since our freshman year of college, someone with whom I've never made any significant connection, offered me an invitation. And it wasn't the kind of shrugging, well-whatever invitation that you give to someone when someone's already spilled the beans about your plans. It was a direct-hit request: "You should join us."

One thing I discovered, above all, at Fear The Con 7 was the feeling of being included. I was allowed to run my own game in my first ever gaming convention, for God's sake. I mean, if that's not an indication of a group that will let anyone in and welcome them as a part of their core, I don't know what is. I connected with people who trusted me and the others at those tables to be a part of their world, and to let them into our worlds. We built relationships, stories, and tragedies. We celebrated the camaraderie that comes with accomplishing a task or designing a structured system, we rejoiced when the pieces came into place, and rejoiced again when everything went horribly, horribly wrong.

My DJ schedule for next June is already filling up, so I don't know if I'll be able to attend again next year, at least not for the entire weekend.  But in the meantime, I'm going to organize some games, find some people to hang out with through a Meetup group, or make something happen through Google Hangouts.  I'm going to find other people to include, and we'll have ourselves a grand time building new worlds and tearing them down again.

Here I am. Rock you like a '70s superhero with a codpiece.

There Is No Box.