Friday night I had a tough choice; Paul Czege had invited me to playtest Acts of Evil, but my friend Dave VanDyke had gotten intrigued by In a Wicked Age on the way down to Indy, and thought we could scare up a game that night while other folks in our party were having fun boardgaming. I went with my homeboys and Paul allowed that maybe we could do the playtest Saturday, which was very cool of him. By this time I'd gotten in touch with fellow Esoteric Murmurer Joe, who I hope will post his own report.
At first it looked like the guys might not be willing to set aside their boardgames for IAWA, which would have been frustrating, but Dave helped make it happen, and soon we had me, Dave, Joe, Matt "Kub" Kubiak, and Greg Bush ready to play In a Wicked Age. The oracle gave us some very grabby elements and some more oblique ones, and we managed to weave them together. We did a mostly good job picking Best Interests, though Greg's character, a spirit of the lower air, wasn't really directly connected to specific characters, which I think led to some boredom on Greg's part; he left the game about 2/3 of the way though. The other characters included a tyrant king (Joe), his 7th queen (Dave), who believed she too, like the first six, would be executed for not producing children, and so had sent for the palace guardian (Kub) from her own land to spirit her back home; but who had just learned that she was carrying the child of the King's chief huntsman (NPC), a fact which was known by the king's concubine (NPC). All of this involved a harvest festival which the King had banned, to everyone's disappointment, especially the spirit of the lower air who loved celebrations, and the proprietress of a wayhouse where the Queen had planned to meet the Guardians (concealed by the celebratory crowds).
Long story short, the story was spun on its head by the fact that Joe took, as the King's Best Interest, "to believe his wife is faithful to him." I thought that I would demolish this Best Interest at the beginning of the game when the concubine attempted to destroy the queen by revealing the secret to the king, but by the end of the game the best interest was in place, because the King had executed the concubine (on the pretense that she had lain with the woodsman) and slain the woodsman with his own scimitar, and had received the Queen back without speaking a word of the business, and the Queen had accepted the offer rather than run away with her Guardian, and she never spoke a word of it either, to the King... So the only people in the kingdom who knew of the adultery, besides the silent King and Queen, were dead. And the King had an heir.
Outstanding, just the kind of grand, violent, messed up story that IAWA is supposed to produce. I was really happy about it and told the story of the game (hopefully tolerably briefly) to basically everybody I talked to at the con.
Saturday I got up very late; took some time in the dealer room, and sooner than I liked, found that the day had passed and it was evening. No time for Games On Demand; I was going to Buca di Beppo for the traditional Saturday Night Gencon Pasta Feast in the Pope Room. Talking to Paul I found out it would work out to play at about 8:30, and Joe was up for it. So cool -- something could happen.
I left Beppo's by about 8:45 (doh!) for the Embassy and found Joe and Matt Snyder there with Paul. We started a game of Acts of Evil which took place in two places and times -- a big box store called Price Castle which is Wal-Mart if David Lynch were the store manager, and the Impressionist-era Paris art scene. I got to see the system as it stands -- I won't go into details on an unpublished game, but Paul has solved the biggest issue of the earliest versions of the game, where "Acts of Evil" had tended to turn into "Acts of Pointless, Vicious Squalor." Now there's some focus and interest to it, despite the evil.
Anyway, after about an hour and a half, Matt stopped and asked if Paul was hitting the issues that he was concerned with, and Paul wasn't so sure; he definitely wasn't hitting the mechanics he was hoping to test. We broke the session and started talking about what was up -- it turned out that we had indeed run into the problem that Paul saw as the final stumbling block to finishing the game, so we could talk about it from a point of view of specific examples; we discussed that baby to death for the next two and a half hours, with Ralph Mazza dropping in to help kibitz. Many solutions were proposed; none totally satisfactory. When we had all packed up and were heading away in the wee hours, Danielle met us and we briefly went over what was up one more time, and I repeated the inchoate feelings about the nature of the problem (I had a clear metaphorical idea of what was wrong and how it had to change but no clear idea how that metaphor could be translated into reality); I gave a silly, radical idea on how things could change, and Paul replied with a pause, and a very slow and distinct, "huh." Danielle brightened and said, "That's a good sound!!" Paul came back with his idea of what he thought I'd said, which was a considerably more crazy and radical idea than what I'd actually meant... and he seemed to have something bubbling in his head. So cross your fingers. Something's brewing in Paul's brain; I hope it's the thing he needs.
After Paul and Danielle left for the night Joe and I stopped to say hi to John Harper, who was in a big group of people, and he broke off to talk to us and we ended up shooting the shit into late, late into the night, about 3:30 or so. Got to learn about the current state of Stranger Things, and his plans for his next game.
That was it for gaming at GenCon 2008 for me. I think four games (Wizard's Tower, Lacuna, In a Wicked Age, and Acts of Evil) is a pretty awesome step forward after no full length games last time. I enjoyed meeting all the people I did, put faces to some names I hadn't before, and I'm already missing it and wanting to come back next year.
Maybe this year I can hit some con or get-together in between, like Forge Midwest or something.