Monday, April 02, 2007

The Nerdliest Place On Earth

This weekend was the first Nerdly Beach Party, a gathering of like-minded gamers at San Simeon State Park, just north of Cambria, CA. This may be the only organized gaming event I attend this year were I traveled less far than the majority of the participants. There ended up being fourteen of us: three from the Bay Area, two from Sacramento, three from Santa Barbara, and six from Los Angeles. We mostly each other, so it was much more a social gathering than a convention. Still, games were played, and that’s what I’m here to talk about.

On Friday night, four of us started a Polaris game. Two of us had played Polaris before, and I had played with each of the other players in other games, but this was the first time any of the other players had gamed with each other. It’s a testament to the ritual power of Polaris that even though it had been a year since I last played and I hadn’t reviewed any of the rules that I still remembered all of the key phrases (and most of the mechanics). We played for several hours (I have no idea how many exactly), stopping for the night after three of our number had made Veteran. We actually got to that point fairly quickly, due to aggressive Experience checks and some good rolling. We picked up the game again the following evening and finished it off reasonably quickly, with three characters dying (one of them at Weariness four), and the remaining character becoming a demon, symbolically unseating the Solaris Knight in the process. (There was incest too. Ben would be proud.)

In general, the first night’s episode was very over the top, due no doubt to a general lack of sleep and the presence of alcohol. We mostly reined things on the second night (with the exception of Ryan, who went hell-bent for leather to demonhood), with what I felt was a corresponding increase in thematic focus. One of the problems I have with short games of Polaris is that the pacing often feels weird. In our case, we had a ridiculous amount of corruption going on before the characters made Veteran, and then it slowed down considerable afterward. It did lead to an interesting conclusion though, as the Remnant had essentially fallen to the Mistaken long before the end of the game, and the final conflict involved the last of Knights leading an army of demons to claim the city from the other demons who had already subverted it. This game also made me appreciate how much the shared Fate of the characters can influence play. In this instance, it was Idea: Children, and we all hit the familial aspects of our character’s stories hard. It ended up being very different from my previous experiences with the game, which only increases my desire to play it again.

Between the two halves of the game, I played in a one-shot of Full Light, Full Steam, Josh’s game of steam-driven Victorian action. Despite its apparent complexity, it’s actually pretty simple. Once I figured out how the scrip system worked (which is FLFS’s mechanic for know when you can end a scene), I had a great time with it. Thematic Batteries are yet another excellent variation on the Spiritual Attributes/BITs/Muses/Keys/Aspects concept, and I liked how they drove play. Much as Spirit of the Century is all about Aspects, FLFS is all about Thematic Batteries. I’ll go into this in greater detail when I talk about it on the show, but the more I think about it, the more I’m coming to believe that FLFS might work better for my style of pulp than SotC. (Let the flames begin.)

So, I didn’t get to play anywhere near as many games as I had hoped, but I had a ton of fun hanging out with the folks there. We’re already talking about doing it again in six months.

3 Comments:

Blogger Gerald said...

See, now, that's just evil. You pique my interest with a comment like that about the comparison between FLFS and SotC, and then make me wait for the HGWT (which I've been subscribed to for over a year now...) to get the details.

Evil, I tells ya.

10:30 PM  
Blogger Noclue said...

I wish I could have come up this weekend. Sounds like loads of fun. I am now definitely more intrigued to play FLFS at Gamex.

Looking forward to the next Nerdfest.

11:20 PM  
Blogger Joshua BishopRoby said...

Thanks, Paul. Looking forward to hearing your expanded thoughts!

2:05 PM  

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