Notes from Gen Con 2018

August 7, 2018 horror mothership scifi rpgs modules dead_planet gen_con session_report

Just got back home from Gen Con, which is always a little like getting back from summer camp. Historically, my con scheduled used to slow down after this, but not this year. In two weeks I travel for a friend’s engagement, two weeks after that I’m going to XOXO in Portland, a few weeks later we’ll travel for Lindsay’s birthday, then a little break for a few weeks, but then its BGG Con, Thanksgiving, and PAX Unplugged bang smack right after the other in the lead-up to Christmas. Sometimes it feels like the rest of 2018 is spoken for.

If you follow this blog, then you know that I was an ENnies judge this past year, and the awards were given out at Gen Con. I had a ton of fun, and it was great to finally get to hang out with the other judges that I spent so much of the past year deliberating with. I was incredibly proud of the list we put together, and incredibly proud of those who won. It was a great ENnies all around.

That’s Not Lemonade! had a soft release (and pickup for backers) while the rest of the units make their way across the ocean for fulfillment, and the response was great. Two Rooms and a Boom and World Championship Russian Roulette continue to sell well, and now with the Mothership Player’s Survival Guide AND Dead Planet, it’s first module out, we had a ton of product at the booth.

Dead Planet’s release was incredible and I couldn’t be more proud of the work the team put out. Fiona, Donn, Jarrett, and Stephen did an amazing job on all fronts and I think it’s getting a good reception.

I got to play a short 1.5 hour session on Thursday Night as well, which was great. I ran the game for Jason Hobbs, Donn Stroud, Mathias Weeks, Kane Cathain, and Donn’s cousin who always shows us a good time in Indy foodwise, Bird.

Now, we’ve been dining with Bird for the past four years or so and never once has he asked to game with us, but this year he wanted to roll some dice. When we asked if he ever gamed before he said yeah, some D&D back in the day, oh and Steve Jackson’s Ogre. Wtf? Bird’s been a gamer this whole time and we had no idea?

I didn’t have a lot of prep time and the module we just finished, Dead Planet, is fucking HUGE content and timeline wise. But it also has this neat little derelict ship generator, where you roll on a couple tables and you can find out wtf is wrong with the ship, who’s on it, what the cargo is like, and what weird thing is going on. We paired that with a map generator that stocks rooms quickly too, so I rolled with that, and here’s what happened…

Left to right: Kane, Bird, Hobbs, Donn, Weeks. The red book in the middle is Dead Planet and that + the little green notebook next to it is all I rolled with for this session.Left to right: Kane, Bird, Hobbs, Donn, Weeks. The red book in the middle is Dead Planet and that + the little green notebook next to it is all I rolled with for this session.

Stowaways on Whitehall Tyrant

We setup in the lobby of the Courtyard Marriott and got to it. Character creation took about ten minutes, all new players, and Bird hasn’t played an RPG in awhile. But there was no page flipping or anything, so chargen still goes great. All the time was spent with the PCs making decisions on either their class or their skills. Donn complains about Teamsters being overpowered again.

The Crew

This is the first time I’ve had a lot of marines in awhile. My home group just got their first one, but it was nice having a few since we could assume they were all working together.

We started them off with the basic premise of Dead Planet, they were traveling on a ship called The Relentless1 when all of a sudden they’re sucked out of hyperspace and into orbit around this strange ship, its tide-locked moon, and a huge swath of orbiting wrecks. Donn doesn’t want to play the stuff he created for the book, and I think the other stuff is too massive, so we decide to just investigate a derelict ship.

I roll on the table and I get a decent result: 96. I decide to just read straight across since I don’t have a lot of time and here’s what I get:

I decide to just use the dice map that’s already in the book since I don’t have any d6s on me and use the results (room stocking) that are already written up but tune them to the results I’ve just rolled and just see what happens.

They’re stuck out here by the Dead Planet and their jump drives no longer work. I do the usual thing where I separate the android, Rug Rug, from the group when I give them information, but Rug Rug proves to be the only android I’ve ever played with who comes back and immediately shares all the information with the rest of the crew. Kane was the most Bishop-like of all my android players and I salute him for that.

Their plan is to investigate a nearby ship, see if they can steal its jump drives, or maybe find some clean astrogation data, or maybe some idea about where they are or what’s going on. Recon, always a good choice.

They hail the ship, but get nothing. They get in close for scans, and I’m hoping they go by the moon, so I can have Brekt’s Breakers2 take a shot at them and then wreck them on the moon. But instead they decide to board the ship and make a bee-line for the command module.

Sci-fi is kinda like fantasy in that players are constantly throwing stuff at you that you aren’t anticipating and you just gotta learn to roll with it. The android wants to know if they’ve stored the data for the ship they’re boarding in their data banks. That’s a simple Intellect check. In sci-fi in general, that maps are always going to be more accessible than in fantasy, so you have to make sure that having a map doesn’t ruin the game. I’m trying to always have maps available for handout. Make it more like a heist game where knowing what’s ahead and beating it are two different things.

The ship is dark, it’s on emergency lighting only. They’ve docked with the cargo hold and the artificial gravity is off. They have magboots, which is fine, and luckily the entire crew decided to board3 and for the most part these guys are all OSR guys who want to be quiet, only engage in conflict if absolutely necessary, and want to work together.

They are very different from my home group in this regard.

After checking the cargo hold, and finding a lot of high end cars, they hear some gunfire in the room south of them. They inspect through a porthole and see a standoff in the barracks between some people in dingy vaccsuits, and a few aggressors in sleek black vaccsuits with tinted visors. One of them is taking cover closer to the airlock and they crew can see his/her giant golden revolver.

Rug Rug has the map in his head and knows of a hidden duct that will take them ahead of the firefight and closer to the bridge. They debate just throwing in a grenade and dealing with the fight, but decide to opt for letting the firefight continue.

They crawl through the vents for awhile and come around to another cargo hold, this time filled with half a dozen or so people (children?) in dingy vaccsuits. The team tactically launches from the vent and launches themselves up towards the ceiling in zero-g to scan the entire room with their weapons. They push off and land down on some crates for high ground, and the survivors do nothing but scurry.

These people are clearly afraid and start speaking in a Chinese-Portugese combo-language of some kind unknown to the crew. Rug Rug can translate and learns that these people are the smuggled contraband of Whitehall Tyrant, they believe the attackers are their snakeheads/coyotes who have suspect that their recent troubles in hyperspace are due to sabotage from the crew and the smuggled people, and a fight has of course broken out.

The crew decides to make their way back to the command room and deal with the refuges later. The bridge is all shot up to hell, and the ship’s computer confirms some weird suspicions: their ship’s astrogation data is wiped, and if the computer is to be believed, the ship arrived only an hour before The Relentless did, but was in hyperspace for months and months longer, their internal clocks are way off.4 Additionally, they find out that the jump core is unstable and slowly ticking down to destroying the ship.

Just as they’re piecing this together, the door to the barracks opens and one of Whitehall crew stumbles in and gets shot up and we go into combat rounds. Studer crits and gets a surprise round which he spends taking cover and popping shots off at the approaching black-suited intruders. Rug Rug takes cover and Binden grabs the floating casualty, hoping to get him/her to safety.

Their attackers are surprised by the new resistance they weren’t anticipating and being a tactical withdrawal immediately. Bird pops off some shots, and Mousekewitz, stunned from a crit fail, moves about anxiously.

The airlock shuts and we leave combat rounds and the group springs into action. Binden and Rug Rug patch up the survivor, who they take back to the cargo hold filled with refugees. There’s a short debate as to whether they should take the refugees with them. The Relentless’s life support can’t support all these refugees and the crew, but this problem can wait, they decide. Some of the refugees are children, and if they’re put in cryosleep they’ll take up resources more slowly. There’s also talk of scavenging further life support systems from some of the other derelicts in orbit.

They decide to head back through the ducts, and when they do they see a couple of the black-suited thugs standing guard in the engine room. Against their better judgement, they throw a frag grenade in, which kills one of the thugs immediately, spattering him against the engines. The other one walks in a daze carrying his own arm a la Saving Private Ryan, when the marines storm out of the ducts and put him down.

Things are tense as they can’t find the missing attackers, and two of the marines do a sweep while the rest of the crew works to shepherd the refugees back aboard The Relentless.

When they’re all boarded, Rug Rug runs a bioscan to see if anyone else is on the ship and he sees one dot heading up towards their bridge. The rest of the crew stows the refugees away and Bird goes after the last thug — he’s not fast enough to get there before the thug undocks from Whitehall Tyrant but he gets there just in time to see the now helmetless mafia enforcer attempt to take them into hyperspace. Bird lets off a shot fly and puts the guy down, but their ship stutters and suffers a hyperspace mishap (since the jump drives don’t work).

I roll on our hyperspace mishap table and find a great result. Rug Rug’s scanner shows three more lifeforms are now aboard The Relentless. And that’s where we end for the night.

No GM screen, just used this for the whole night.No GM screen, just used this for the whole night.

Session Notes

Recall that it’s been a year since my first game of Mothership. That I’m not only still playing it, but have released the Player’s Survival Guide and Dead Planet is amazing to me. I’m super excited about this. And the game works and is still fun to me and has come along way.

I also played this session differently than a lot of one shots. I didn’t have a lot of prep time, which is where I normally come up with the scary shit and the awful options — and if you recall my Survive, Solve, or Save principle you’ll see that on this mission, the crew did all three, which is a big no-no in Mothership land. But that was okay for this group — I was feeling that they were maybe not feeling full on stress panic attack level play and the game still worked. You can totally run a slow-burn campaign.

Previous games have a lot of stress built in due to poor play. Teams not working together, not sharing information, or in some cases, actively working against each other. In this game, the team was cautious and worked together. I didn’t feel like a lot of stress rolls would be called for (though there were probably a couple I missed). Did we show everything Mothership had to offer in 1.5 hours? No. But it did show me Mothership can totally work as a pickup game, and for people who want solid, deadly sci-fi without having to come up with a weird ghost alien or some shit every session, there’s still plenty of play on the human-scale.

And on top of all of that, we released a playcast of our session from Origins, which you can listen to here.

Dead Planet will be on DriveThru in a few days, and I’ll have a few print copies for sale at hopefully early next week once I get fulfillment sorted out.

Also, as a side note: I’m trying to get some Gygaxian Democracy going for a sector. You can check that out here if you want to contribute. I’d really appreciate it.

  1. Hobbs is working on a sci-fi game/setting thing called Relentless right now.↩︎

  2. See the module, but they’re basically a scavenger crew that crash lands ships onto the moon for scrap.↩︎

  3. This is another problem that comes up in sci-fi games a lot. People want to stay on the ship. They’re afraid to engage with the content. Which can lead to them getting bored. Something I’m trying to figure out.↩︎

  4. I should’ve called for a Sanity save here.↩︎

Previous post

How We Designed Dead Planet

At Gen Con we’re going to release the first module for Mothership, Dead Planet. Donn Stroud, Fiona Geist, and I wrote it and it’s got some beautiful...

Next post

Prisoners of Hecate Balaam: Session Report [Mothership]

I’m finally back from Gen Con. Dead Planet is being reprinted and packaged for sale on the website and it’s pdf is up-and-selling, so I finally got...

Would you like to know more?

Want to subscribe for monthly updates? Enter your e-mail below!

Copyright © 2018 Failure Tolerated