Go Play Northwest 2013: After Action Report

Once again I went out and played twee indie games with the fine folk of Go Play Northwest. This was their seventh year running it, my sixth year attending. Here’s my recap, and I’m sticking to it.

The Venue

For the second year in a row, we were at Seattle University‘s Campion Hall. It’s a dormitory with a ballroom attached and some meeting spaces upstairs. Unlike last year, Seattle was hit by what we call a heat wave. I’m sure many places in the US scoff at our temperatures, but it was hot as hell by Seattle standards. And the building did not have any significant air conditioning. So the weekend was spent with everyone sweaty and fanning themselves. But despite that, I had so much fun it offset the misery of the temperature.

At one point someone had propped open a door between the ballroom and outside and put a fan there, as though that might have helped. It was so sad it was funny.

I couldn’t say how many people had shown up, but one impression I had was that it was definitely more gender diverse than I recall from previous years. I know there have been persistent efforts by some of the indie/story game community to make that style of gaming more welcoming to a variety of people, so it was nice to see that pay off.

I don’t remember if this was true the previous year, but many of the logistical elements (checking in, getting your badge, getting your T-shirt if you ordered one) were handled by SU staff and not volunteers.

Though there were some scheduled events laid out that you could sign up for, I threw myself entirely on the mercy of the “doughnut,” where basically those with games to offer stand in a circle of those who want to play games. With some specific exceptions, I picked from the offerings of the doughnut.

Friday Night Feast

As has become tradition, they have a catered meal Friday night before the gaming starts. Because, apparently, not all geeks loathe the sun like I do, they declared the weather “nice” and the whole buffet was out in “the Quad.” The food, which I thought was sort of Thai and sort of Chinese  (but I’m really not sure), was fine. The chairs were tiny frail things that filled me with soul numbing dread every time I sat in one, so I ended up standing towards the end.

The neatest takeaway was getting to meet Stephen Hood of Protagonist Labs. It’s a start-up in the Bay Area where they are trying to start a computer-based (possibly online) story game. Many games have resources that help play, but I’ve really been wanting something that was actually built within that medium. My original hope was some sort of play-and-pass app akin to the Scrabble game on my phone. But really, just having someone breach this territory is exciting.

Friday Evening: Anima Prime

There are some things that seem essential to any sort of experience. I don’t feel like I’ve really seen Kirby Krackle perform if they don’t sing “Great Lakes Avengers.”  I don’t feel like I’ve really seen a Pink Pistols bout if no one gets ejected. And I don’t feel like I’ve been to Go Play Northwest without my fix of Christian Griffen’s Anima Prime. Drawing from an anime/Final Fantasy VII influence, it is without a doubt the most fun I’ve ever had in combat. And I only get to play it at GPNW.

Combat revolves around describing your character doing cool stuff while you build up power to make a more serious attack. There’s also mechanics for non-combat scenes where you explore relationships with other characters, and this then gives you bonuses in later combat. It’s just an elegant piece of work that is fun to play. For this scenario, we had two tables with two GMs (one was the game creator, Christian Griffen). There was a massive conflict that was being waged on two fronts, and some players needed to be bounced back and forth and the events of one table impacted the events of the other table. Just crazy, crazy fun.

I ended the night with a long dehydrated drive home. Lordy. The beverage vending machine was out of order and I didn’t have anything to hold water in, so I’d been going over to the drinking fountain all night.

Saturday Morning: DungeonWorld

After a few hours of sleep, I drove back down for more gaming at the ungodly hour of 9 AM and joined the doughnut. It was still awfully warm in the place, but the beverage dispensers (which I think had been outside for the meal the night before) had been moved inside and there were cups as well. Plus big coolers filled with soda. Very nice.

I ended up playing in a game of Dungeon World with my friend Ogre. I had first been exposed to this the year before, and this was my first time playing it out of the book instead of an earlier playtest.

It was just as fun as I remembered. I played the Bard, which was not as effective as I would have liked. They are great when it comes to social stuff and lore, but less great when it comes to stabbing time. I also found that my “build” for the Bard was not as effective as I would have liked. There were just a lot of fiddly bits I didn’t pick up during character creation. I had a lot of fun, but I also felt a little bumbling.

The other players were a Druid, a Fighter, and a Wizard. The joke was made about us being basically a jock protecting the nerd, the hippy and the musician. It wasn’t far off. But now I want to do a D&D/high school mashup. I found the Druid to be, perhaps, the most unusual. The animal forms had an interesting approach that is different from the mechanics from D&D 3.X. Turning into an animal was not always simple, and sometimes the animal mind seemed to have more sway.

Lunch

Lunch was in the cafeteria and came with membership at the convention. It got you a reasonable cafeteria meal that was good if unremarkable.

Saturday Afternoon: Remember the Future

After lunch, we did the Lottery. For one slot, everyone tosses a badge into a box and then they are randomly drawn out to form groups. Then the group decides what they’re going to play. It’s very much a neat social experiment that shakes you out of your standard boundaries. I really like it.

We played a cyberpunk game called Remember Tomorrow. It’s a GM-free game with each of us taking turn playing characters and factions. In theory the game runs until everyone has resolved the stories of three characters each. But we just spent the slot doing the three characters we started with. It was very fun and reminded me a lot of William Gibson’s cyberpunk, especially Count Zero or Mona Lisa Overdrive, in which the story arcs overlap but are never quite a single story.

Dinner

I had my car with me, so a friend and I jumped in the car and drove down to El Sombrero in Columbia City for Mexican food. Note to self: when they ask if you want a small or large margarita, say “small.” We then went and got ice cream at Full Tilt before returning to the con.

Saturday Night: The Last Generation

This is a game by Jeremy Tidwell that I can find no site for. I played it previously many years ago (before I began recapping GPNW, apparently) when it was called Atelier. Mr. Tidwell has been playtesting it over the last several years, and it’s a work in progress.

The premise is that the Dust Bowl became far more apocalyptic and began to wipe out humanity. By the 1950s, all of humanity would be dead. It’s a GM free game, with a set of four pre-generated characters that are angels who travel through the countryside and try to save souls one at a time. Using tarot cards we generated the town and the pillars of the community that we had to save to keep the Dust from destroying everything. It’s a pretty dark game. I was on the verge of tears by the time we finished the generation of the city, and I almost never get choked up playing a roleplaying game.

This was my first chance to game with Ryan Macklin and Lillian Cohen-Moore. It was particularly awesome to see the sort of input that Ryan had to offer on the playtest. Far more insight than I had for certain. It’s a very interesting (if dark) game and I look forward to progress on it.

Sunday Morning/Afternoon: Apocalypse World

I’d really hoped to get into a Monsterhearts game, but every game of it filled to overflowing before I even saw them. So when I entered the doughnut Sunday morning, someone offered this and I latched on. As I’d said a while back, I am pretty “meh” about the whole genre of Post-Apocalyptic fiction. There are specific settings I find interesting, but as a whole the concept doesn’t jazz me. But someone offered this and I jumped on it.

I had a ridiculous amount of fun. The group had so much fun that we kept playing in the afternoon slot. In a way, it was still very Monsterhearts-y. I played the “Battle Babe”, which is in theory both hawt and a badass. Mostly my character was only hawt. I realized a ways into the game that I hadn’t picked the right move to be a badass, and I never got enough XP to get any additional moves. I also decided to flip the Battle Babe into being male. So he was this chiseled, scantily dressed man. Equal parts Thomas Raith and Vin Diesel. The most clothes he ever wore were a pair of leather short-shorts.

Even with having had an amazing amount of fun, I can’t find a lot of excitement with the idea of Apocalypse World. Since playing, I have been struck with a serious desire to write a hack. So I’ve been psyching myself up to read through the main Apocalypse World book and run some pickup games to get a feel for it. But I’m still very “meh.” It probably doesn’t help that I’ve found the book very frustrating as I try to read it from cover to cover.

But actually playing it was fun, so hopefully this will all work out.

Sunday Night: Stumbling Home

I didn’t stick around for the Sunday night slot. The afternoon slot was scheduled to end at 4 PM. There was a 30 minute break. And then the last slot was 4:30 PM to 8:30 PM. Even if I wasn’t bone tired and fading out during the second half of the Apocalypse World, there just wasn’t a good way to get dinner and I couldn’t wait until 8:30 PM. So my lovely wife picked me up and I called it a day.

I came out of the con this year with some additional gaming lined up. (Because I don’t have enough games, apparently.) I’ve gotten a group together for Apocalypse World. I’m trying to start a PBEM of the game. And I’ve got someone else who invited me to play a long-form Monsterhearts game. I think this is the most social I’ve been with people after a Go Play event.

Here’s to gaming!

1 thought on “Go Play Northwest 2013: After Action Report

  1. Carl R

    Thanks for the detailed writeup, I’m glad you had fun! The Friday Night Feast featured Teriyaki Chicken, Chicken Pad Thai, Tofu Pad Thai, rice, cookies, and soda.

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