Quick Thoughts on Kublacon

May 31, 2011

I survived running two events at Kublacon, the big RPG and boardgame convention of the San Francisco Bay Area!

Here are some random, unsorted thoughts from a relatively novice convention-event host. (That's me!)

Things I did Right:

- I brought a bottle of water and some snack bars. Both of my events ended in the middle of dinner time. I was also too nervous to eat lunch. Water and snacks are essential to surviving the higher-paced schedule of a convention.

- I set my phone to silent ring every hour, not only to pace the game, but to make sure we all took regular breaks.

- Borrowing a technique from Apocalypse World, I made sure that everyone took a single action, going around the table, to make sure that no one was left out of the loop.

Things I did Wrong (or Things I need to Do Better):

- I scheduled Gamma World for 5 hours, but I think 4 hours was more than enough time.

- I should have run a single event instead of two. At least I spaced each event by a day, but it took a lot out of me. Because I was so nervous, I couldn't play any games before my events, and I was too fried to play any games after my events.

- Too many players. My Apocalypse World scenario was built for 4, but I allowed a 5th person to play. This caused the scenario to get too wide-spread, and a couple players didn't get as much screen time as they should.

- My Apocalypse World scenario had a little too much conflict between players. Next time I'm going to tone down the potential conflict, since Apocalypse World already has potential PvP action.

- The Gamma World boxed set has too many bits, cards, counters, and the like. It took me 15 minutes after my event to clean up, and the convention didn't schedule any buffer time between games.

Random Observations:

- Both of my games had a 60/40 percent dude to gal ratio.

- Both of my games had a lot of interest. My Gamma World game had a potential 7 people, but it scaled back down to 5. My Apocalypse World game had 9(!) people, and luckily, I had a friend, Carl, take 4 people to run Apocalypse World unofficially in Open Gaming.

- I was surprised that my Apocalypse World game had players passing hidden messages back and forth. I should have discouraged it earlier (but I was too distracted with getting the quieter players to participate). Apocalypse World works best with open "out-of-character" information.

- I hope that I hadn't misrepresented Apocalypse World to my players. By making the game so contentious, they might have missed the collaborative world-building narrative that the game is known for.

- I handed out a lot of business cards. I should have packed more in my luggage.

Overall? A lot of fun, but a lot of work! I'm glad to sit on my ass and chill out for several months now!

My Spoilery Thoughts of this Year's Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Wimeyness

May 16, 2011

Spoilers for this season of Doctor Who!

Season 6: Episode 1: The Impossible Astronaut

This new season kicks off with an amazing hook and a strong mystery. It also does something very necessary; the episode gives the companions information and goals above and beyond the Doctor's knowledge. So the weight of the story lies heavier on the human characters and a little less on the Time Lord's.

The astronaut gear and the Silence in suits and ties give a not-quite-human vibe to our mysterious antagonists, and the Silence's Memento-like ability to make you forget their existence brings a compelling obstacle to the table.

A great and strong start to the new season.

Season 6: Episode 2: Day of the Moon

Not quite as compelling as the first episode insofar as it almost seems rushed. I would have been tempted to make this a three-parter, and dedicate this episode to exploring the ramifications of having to fight an enemy that you immediately forget. The Doctor's solution is elegant (although turns his favorite species, humanity, violent), but it occurs too quickly. I was still processing all the information of the previous 20 minutes to fully appreciate the ending.

Still, this episode gives River Song some much needed emotional heft (she has been more campy than earnest lately), throws a couple more mysteries into the mix (who is the one-eyed lady and why is she "stalking" Amy, and who is the little girl?), so this episode promises more surprises for the rest of the season.

Season 6: Episode 3: The Curse of the Black Spot

I used to love historical episodes from the old Doctor Who, but I dislike them in the new series. I think it is because in old Doctor Who, the Doctor's "powers" were limited, so the audience can bask in an adventure in history with solutions rooted in persuasion, logic, or gumption. Now the tendency is to spice it up a bit with a supernatural event or with a super-science event requiring an equally-supernatural or equally-super-sciencey solution.

The idea of a space siren is kind of compelling, but it's hard to ignore the fantasy trappings that don't quite fit. And the ending, while it makes sense in a thematic way, didn't make much sense in a plotty way. How exactly can someone be in stasis from drowning, yet still alive, walking and talking? Why is Amy the only one who can revive Rory, when the Doctor has saved lives with more super-science?

The episode was all right, but not my favorite. I doubt I will rewatch it more than one or two times in my life. The weakest so far.

Season 6: Episode 4: The Doctor's Wife

Like Season 4's "The Doctor's Daughter", the title of the episode is a little bit of a bait and switch. Unlike "The Doctor's Daughter", this episode does call back to the Doctor's origins, although less in a backstory-way, and more in a character-way.

Thematically, this episode is strongest when with the dialogue with the Doctor and Idris/TARDIS. In many ways, it's a love letter about the two characters of Doctor Who that remain the same throughout the years; the Doctor and the TARDIS.

Other interesting ideas are Rory and Amy lost in the TARDIS and seeing possible future selves being tortured by time, although the show reveals that to be a hallucination which subsequently deflates the impact of those scenes. (Even the audience learns early on that they are hallucinations, so each additional scene of horror loses the impact the more implausible it gets.)

Plotwise, the episode is actually too straightforward, without any real twists and turns. Even the villain is given no full realization, having been reduced to a loud, booming voice. This is a pure character piece between the Doctor and Idris/TARDIS with a little bit of action in between. Interesting, but could have been better. (For example, what if House was a TARDIS gone mad rather than a random intelligent planetoid that just happens to have the ability to possess TARDISes?)