The first problem occurred when someone asked the GM what year the game was set in, and he hemmed and hawed for a second and announced that it was 1927. There is nothing wrong with setting a game in 1927 per se, but if you are running a game focused on Hollywood actors and directors and you don't realize that this was the year that The Jazz Singer, the first major theatrical talking movie was released, then you're missing an opportunity to give the characters in the game some personal motivations. If you also decide to have the main villains in your 1927 adventure be Nazis when Hitler didn't rise to power until 1933, anyone with any knowledge of history is going to be jarred out of their ability to suspend disbelief. The other problem with the session is that the group had no real defined goal. My character was a Belgian expatriate living in the Congo and working as a jungle guide while secretly serving as an agent for Belgian intelligence. Supposedly I was on a mission to find the legendary spider temple and prevent it from falling into the hands of the Germans, but we more or less stumbled across both the temple and the Germans without doing much of anything, and then no one else really cared very much about the Nazi's in King Leopold's domains.
And this brings us to the other of the failings of the GM - the game was set in the Belgian Congo, but he didn't know much of anything about Belgian colonialism, Belgium's odd and unique relationship with the Belgian Congo, or, most grievously, Tintin. One of the rules of the Ubiquity system is that characters are given "style points" for doing things that are "in character" for them. My character was supposed to name his whip to get a style point, and I took this as a quirk that meant he should name other possessions that he valued. Given the oddity of having the game set in 1927, I mentally moved the game to roughly 1936 and began making Tintin references, since Tintin was such a huge influence on Belgian popular culture of the era. But the GM knew absolutely nothing about Tintin, so naming my whip Captain Haddock and naming a machine gun I acquired later Professor Calculus essentially fell on deaf ears.
We eventually ended up in a huge melee against a small squad of Germans in the bowels of the spider temple as pony-sized spiders hatched and feasted upon tied up natives. And at this point all of the various competing character objectives came into play, as our party members betrayed one another while dodging German submachine gun fire. And this internecine element really ruined the game for Angela, especially when the GM revealed that all of the goals she had had her character working towards through the entire session were based upon a lie, and all her effort was essentially wasted. While we got to shoot a bunch of Germans and giant spiders and drive away in a truck while the temple exploded, the weak GMing coupled with the somewhat forced player versus player struggles made the adventure simply unsatisfying.
Of course, the panel would not have been interesting and enjoyable if Derek and Brady had not been funny and engaging when they presented their material, and much of the content was delivered in the form of humorous anecdotes from their own missteps in the development and production life of Under Discussion. There is a reason why they have recorded more than one hundred and thirty episodes of their podcast when most podcasts have a lifespan of less than four, and in part this is because they are hilarious both on their show and in person. I have to admit that prior to attending this panel at Gen Con, not only had I never listened to a single episode of Under Discussion, I had no idea who either Derek of Brady were. During the panel, Angela realized that she followed Derek on Twitter and had had conversations with him via that medium, meaning that for one brief, shining moment, she was a more well-informed RPG gamer than I was. Since returning from Gen Con, I have been busy rectifying my ignorance and listening to hours and hours of Under Discussion. You can find the complete set of Under Discussion episodes on their website UnderGopher, and you can follow Dustin on twitter under the name 8one6, and Kevin on twitter under the name Hooligan.
|Setting up for the Big Game.|
|The board is set up and ready to play.|
|Angela and Savannah playing Star Trek Catan. Also, me.|
In any event, during our group's enjoyment of Cards Against Humanity we were approached by someone promoting their Kickstarter in a manner that I would hold up as an example of how not to promote your project. First off, he decided to interrupt a group of people in the middle of playing a game. It is never a good idea to promote your product by jumping in the middle of a group of people who are having fun and going into a marketing spiel. We were playing a game. Interrupting us was not a good way to get us to look upon you favorably. Second, his game was intended to be a replacement game for Cards Against Humanity, and to encourage everyone to support his project, he started by telling us how much he liked Cards Against Humanity but then went on to tell us everything he through was wrong with the game. But we had chosen to play this game. Telling us everything you think is wrong with the game that we were in the middle of playing and enjoying is also not a good way to get people to be well-disposed towards your ambitions. Third, he droned on for far longer than he needed to, repeating himself a couple times, and covering every single detail of his new game design. A thirty second sales pitch probably would have been acceptable. Five or ten minutes is inordinately long. Needless to say, I have no intention of supporting his Kickstarter, or even telling anyone what it is. But if you are reading this and happen to have a brilliant game idea that you are trying to get people to support, consider this as a case study in exactly the wrong way to go about that.
Gen Con, August 14th-18th, 2013: Wednesday and Thursday
Gen Con, August 14th-18th, 2013: Saturday and Sunday