For four days this past weekend, gamers of all stripes descended once again upon Morristown, NJ for Dreamation, one of several annual conventions organized by Double Exposure. Most of Fandible made the trek into the New Jersey wilds, and a fabulous time was had by all. This is Angela’s Dreamation 2017 Con Report – GM ALL THE GAMES edition
In a fit of overconfidence (and a desire to hit the game-hours minimum requirement to obtain a free badge), I volunteered to run five events at Dreamation, which meant I was GMing for almost half of the slots on the schedule. After a long day of meetings on Thursday, I jumped on the train with Billy and got to the hotel with just an hour to spare before my first game, Lois Lane Bubblegumshoe. This was the same scenario I ran at AcadeCon, so I was happy to kick off the con with it. My players hadn’t read the books, and I think one may have owned the Bubblegumshoe book without having read it thoroughly, but they very quickly got the gist of the setting and system, and we’re able to save the star of the basketball team from Cadmus’s experiments.
I should note in this scenario I always make Lois Lane a required character. The game is named after her, after all. At the end of the session, Lois’s player admitted she’d been nervous because playing Lois Lane was a lot of pressure! But she had a great team of reporters supporting her so she did excellent.
Bubblegumshoe wrapped around midnight, and my next game was at 9 AM, so no late night socializing for me. 9 AM brought my first game of a brand new Peggy Carter Hollow Earth Expedition Adventure, inspired by G+ conversations after AcadeCon where people expressed an interest in seeing a Peggy game before the war. I ran this scenario twice, once Friday morning and again Saturday morning, and each time I managed to wring out a “Holy shit!” moment from at least one player when they realized who from the MCU films one NPC or another actually was. Can’t ask for a better review than that! HEX continues to be my favorite system for a game like Peggy Carter because even as brand new characters everyone has a basic level of competence, and with taking the average included both sessions had plenty of cinematic moments of sneaking through a German fortress to find wayward scientists working on a super soldier program.
Friday afternoon I finally got to play a game, so Billy and I played Prime Time Adventures set in the world of Patrick Ness’s The Rest of us Just Live Here, about the totally normal kids who live in a town where superpowers aren’t uncommon. Joining us at the table were two of my Bubblegumshoe characters, plus Brennan Reece, who I had seen around G+ for ages and was happy to put a face to the name. It was Billy’s and my first time playing PTA, and while the system has some quirks (despite being a game about relationships there’s no way for direct player-vs-player conflict, the GM resolves for the defending character) I had a lot of fun as the injured jock stuck in a love triangle (yes, Billy was on one corner of that triangle. No, my character didn’t know he existed).
Billy’s favorite Chinese restaurant had too much of a wait for dinner Friday night, so the attending members of Fandible gathered for ramen for dinner. After a long day of gaming, the hot soup was just what the doctor ordered to recover for an evening session of The End of the World. This was the first of two parts, with Friday night the standard apocalypse scenario (Gaea’s Revenge once more, as weird weather stuff is my favorite thing to do) and Saturday night the players were invited to return to play their characters in the post-apocalypse.
I’ve run the apocalypse scenario for three groups now (Fandible, AcadeCon, and Dreamation) and it’s pretty apparent that Fandible’s style is pretty much standard for how players will handle the apocalypse. Lots of meta jokes and bad ideas. The one difference this time is the characters didn’t really get along (though the players were all having a blast – I did check in on that during a break), so there was a lot of trying to abandon various members of the party. Also different? Someone tried to save Sammy! He didn’t succeed (don’t tell the bodega owner that holing up in Target is the big plan), but I appreciated the effort. Also despite my best efforts, only one character died.
Skipping ahead to Saturday night, I had two of my four players return to pick up their characters two years later. Joining them was one player brand new to the game but who got into the spirit right away (when she looked at the characters I had pre-made she declared she wanted to be as useless as possible and chose the fortune teller), and Fandible-listener Sean! It’s always so cool to meet a listener “in the wild,” and especially have them play in a game they have some familiarity with because of the podcast.
The post-apocalypse game was completely different from any End of the World I’d run before. I took a page from Billy’s book with some of his Billy-verse games and started by asking the players questions about what had happened in the two years since nature attacked, which immediately underscored for the new players how dangerous this setting was and gave everyone some shared history. Then as actual play started, my brand new fortune teller character did my favorite thing to ever happen in a game, where she decided she wanted to do some kind of ritual to appease nature, and the ritual required participants to bring something “precious.” As other characters went to find their precious things I asked the fortune teller if she was being genuine or if this was a con (she’d established earlier that she was a fraud). Her answer was “yes,” she had some respect for the ritual that she was going to do, because her mother or grandmother taught her, but also she just wanted to see what the others might be holding onto. While I definitely hadn’t anticipated any mystical connections in the game, that immediately set the tone that praying to nature was an option, and when some bad humans showed up, some.of the players opted to put their faith back in nature and ask Gaea to protect them. It was all so well connected that I ran with it, and the climactic battle scene involved tree bark growing over an attacking soldier, and tree roots sucking another into the ground.
Saturday afternoon, Billy and I played together again in a sci-fi Fate setting, where the Russians were winning the cold war and the space race was greatly accelerated. Billy and I were once more in a love triangle, and he got his revenge on me by barely acknowledging my existence. But I got the last laugh, shooting him just before I revealed I was playing a Russian double agent.
And then laaaate Saturday night Billy and I played Dread! I’d been awake since 6:30 AM, so this wasn’t the smartest idea for me, and by the end I was definitely struggling to keep up with the mystery, but hey, I got to play Jenga.
And then Sunday morning Billy and I were together once again to play Final Girl with a table full of new-to-the-game players. However we were all wearing GM badges I noticed, so we were all accomplished storytellers, who crafted a great story inspired by The Thing. We were on at a dig high in the Rocky Mountains, and attacked by fungus monsters. At one point I was playing the archeology student who thought she was Indiana Jones and got to shout “It belongs in a museum,” which is all I ever want to do when playing an Indy-inspired character, so it was a convention highlight. We all agreed that Sunday morning Final Girl would be a great con tradition – no prep for the GM, no complicated mechanics for tired players to grasp, just some good old fashioned horror movie fun.
And in between, and during, all of these games, I got to meet a ton of cool people, some for the first time and others face to face after years of online conversations. Big thanks to Meguey Baker for breakfast on Saturday morning especially, and for quick check ins with people like Anna Kreider and Misha B! My goal for my next Double Exposure con is definitely to make more time for hanging out. The games are great, of course, but hanging out with people I never see is going to be a higher priority next time.
If you can make it to New Jersey for a Double Exposure event, I highly recommend it. This is a great group of gamers, dedicated to making our hobby safe and fun for everyone, from the greenest newbie to the most jaded veteran. I think every table I sat at had the X-card mechanic available, many GMs asked for character and/or player pronouns, and more than one player at my tables chose to cross-play – play a character whose gender didn’t align with the gender the player presented as. The whole convention was a safe space to be the best gamer you wanted to be.
If you were at Dreamation this weekend, drop a line in the comments sharing your highlights of the weekend!
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