Last weekend I flew down to Plano, Texas, for GamerNationCON 4, a tight-knit tabletop gaming convention put on by the amazing folks of the d20 Radio network. They’d invited me to the guest of honor and run some of my favorite games, as well as to give a talk on gamemastering and developing roleplaying games. I’m so happy they did, as I had a blast meeting the GamerNation tribe and getting to put some faces to the names of people in the Star Wars RPG fan community. And there were some unforgettable gaming moments to boot!
Besides running events of my own, I was also able to play in some other attendees’ games! Highlights included getting to try 7th Sea Second Edition and a microgame called Great Ork Gods, as well as playing in a session of GM Phil’s unofficial Fallout game. The Fallout game used the Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars RPG system for its mechanics and was set in the northwestern Commonwealth (present-day Massachusetts, aka my old stomping grounds). GM Phil’s custom minis, painstakingly designed character sheets and item cards, and enthusiastic gamemastering lived up to the legend.
Some of the things that seemed to be the biggest hits among my players were the playbooks I adapted from Powered by the Apocalypse games. I used these playbooks to facilitate character creation for the two sessions I was running: FFG’s Star Wars RPG and Legend of the Five Rings Fourth Edition. The beauty of the playbooks is that they allow players to create custom characters from multiple-choice questions in about an hour or so. Creating your own character, as opposed to selecting a pre-gen, really helps to familiarize the player with the PC’s strengths and weaknesses in a way that reading over a character sheet once does not, not to mention it provides the player more of the emotional investment that comes with making a character one’s own.
In a future blog post, I’ll share those playbooks and discuss some of my thoughts on crafting and using them in convention games, as many of my players asked if they could get copies of them.
Besides the playbooks, I also gave each player character an individual hook that either tied them into the story or gave them a personal goal to pursue during the section. Each hook was designed to give players two options, meaning they had some agency in choosing what aspects of the adventure they wanted to engage in, or how they wanted to characters to interface with certain adventure aspects. The end result was a strong foundation for characterizing and roleplaying their PC from the get-go.
In the Star Wars session, I also linked the characters together using a method I’ve seen used in the Dresden Files RPG: asking players to turn to their left and right and forge relationships between their character and the other player’s character to help bind the group together. We began by turning to the left and establishing why one character had “a history” with the other. After that was decided, they turned to the right and hashed out why their character was reliant on the other to achieve their immediate goals. The result was a fairly cohesive table, with lots of interesting relationship dynamics going on, even as some of the PCs had competing aims.
Another hit seemed to be the Q&A session I hosted on Saturday. Their questions focused on how I prep as a GM, how to deal with player characters deliberately taking “a wrong turn at Albuquerque,” as well as potential demographic trends in the tabletop RPG hobby. I’ve covered many of these topics on my blog at various points, but there were some great questions raised that deserve new articles to be written about them! Look for those soon.
I ran two sessions of the Star Wars RPG, both times with experienced players, some of whom were more familiar with the rules than I was because it’s been some time since I worked on the line! I was struck by my players’ creative use of Destiny Points, which was much more narrative-leaning than I expected. The players used the points to gain additional clues from their characters’ backstory, establish existing relationships with the NPCs, shift the tide of an encounter by modifying the environment, and even add specialized gear that made sense with their backstory. In previous games, I hadn’t seen the Destiny Points used as much for the narrative side of things—usually I would be the one to suggest their use for “remembering to bring” key equipment or making leaps of logic that their characters should be making even if the players weren’t.
I set the adventure on Jedha, a few years before Rogue One, thinking that the location was compelling but still had plenty of room to fill out the sandbox. Doctor Roofoo, mentioned in the Rogue One Ultimate Visual Guide, provided precisely the challenge of a moral choice I was hoping for when I took some liberties with the canon. That, combined with the players’ sometimes-competing goals, meant that several players had to make choices about what they would compromise for their allies’ sake.
I also ran two sessions of L5R, one of my favorite games. It was an investigation-heavy adventure, which can be hard to run, and while I pulled it off for my MVG group, I was not at my best for the Sunday morning group, so the session took longer than it should have. There was an element of PvP in the Sunday session, which probably dragged things out a bit as well. In future sessions, I will probably adjust the backstories of the Kitsuki as well as the Soshi to be less complicated for new players, and less potentially antagonistic in the future (respectively). That being said, I’d had a Soshi in a previous session who was not quite so dastardly, but then again, he wasn’t a Scorpion player at heart.
Overall, it was a great time, with some delicious Texas barbeque and Tex-Mex food to cap it all off. If you live in the Dallas area—or you’re just a major fan of the FFG Star Wars RPG—you should check out GamerNationCON 5 in the spring of 2018. The staff—including Krista, GM Dave, and GM Chris—are fantastic people and put on an amazing con that really makes you feel like family. Stay tuned to their Facebook page for the announcement of their Kickstarter, which is your chance to snag a badge and other great perks.
This is Agent Jade, signing off.