GenCon 2011 really showed for me what different games can do.
A variety of game systems produced amazingly fun stories in the world of DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND, as I and three of my favourite DMs in the world ran our ambitious little "con-paign" THE JADE THRONE.
Four days, seven games, across four different game systems. How'd it go? Fantastic, which surprised me. I honestly didn't think it was going to work out, which is one of the reasons I most wanted to try it. For me, GenCon is a chance to push RPGs to the limit. You're surrounded by thirty thousand of the most enthusiastic gamers in the world, imaginative people who have come to Indianapolis looking for chances to do what they can't do with their home games. The perfect place for DMs to try out things that demand a lot of their players.
Or their settings. I wasn't at all sure that the proposed games of our mini-event were going to work well in this setting, but they did.
Feng Shui and Mutants & Masterminds, perhaps not so surprising. Old School Hack has turned out to be a reliable generator of hilarious awesomeness. But Leverage? A game designed to very faithfully reproduce the idiosyncratic story-telling style of a TV show about con men and thieves?
Yup, it worked just great. The REFORM SCHOOL NINJA GIRLS set out to confront Jihanna the Demon, infamous pirate queen, and as you might guess, wrapped things up with explosions, screaming bad guys and catapult-launched hang gliders.
DINO-PIRATES is a broad, pulpy setting, in the full sense of "pulp" as a "shapeless mass". It's about adventure, thrills, and delight, but the stories that take place there can come in all sorts of flavours. Different game systems produce different kinds of stories. Some, like Feng Shui and Leverage, are meant to emulate specific story-telling modes. Others, like Old School Hack, encourage certain kinds of events or situations. All of which mesh perfectly with DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND, which was designed from the start to support all kinds of stories and story-telling.
I've taken to running some DPoNI games using what I now think of as the "classic" rules; the ones based on Green Ronin's True20 game, and some with Kirin's fabulous Old School Hack system. I loved how the Leverage game went, and so I'm working on a Leverage hack for the NINJA GIRLS. DPoNI is never going to be a game the way Dragon Age is a game, or even Dungeons and Dragons -- it's too messy and unselective about what it includes. I think of that as a strength rather than a weakness.
We'll be posting the full story of THE JADE THRONE in the next few weeks (I hope), and we have even more ambitious plans for next year's GenCon conpaign. Zombies! Maybe. Or possibly lizardmen.