Revelation Paul's Briefest of Revelation Cons

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Thanks to all my players on Saturday — participating in games of Sunset Kills in the morning, then Girl Underground in the afternoon.

I'm not a good player, I don't enjoy the experience as much as running games. On that basis, I decided to attend Revelation as a double-shot drive-by. Or something like that.

I'm losing track of the weather fronts and whether the current one has a name; suffice to say, the weather was pretty terrible on Friday, so I was worried about going over to Sheffield from Manchester on Saturday morning. The 38-mile drive is always "fun"; weather conditions and darkness add to that entertainment. As it was, it turned out OK, with the restricted on Woodhead applying solely to high sided vehicles and the threatened 30mph speed limit not being in effect when I made the trip.

I approached Revelation with trepidation, running two games that I had never run before.

Yes, it's a lot easier to run games you know (and even adventures you have run before), but I have a strong drive to constantly challenge myself. I also don't want to slip further down the rabbit hole, so to speak, of buying more games than I ever read or play. As a part-time game designer, reading other people's games and trying out their innovations adds to the richness of my understanding - which, in small part, I hope makes the games I write (and run) better for the breadth.

Sunset Kills is, as someone else put it, Monster-of-the-Week-esque with fewer playbooks. A gang of the aware face supernatural forces to save their home town. It references Supernatural and Buffy, but I've never really watched either; I don't think it's a handicap to admit that. I had an interesting pre-game discussion about how the Scooby Gang fits into the available playbooks – the Snoop is Daphne, the Occultist is Velma, the Chosen is Fred, and the Monstrous is the dual forms of Shaggy and Scooby, the closest the Gang get to a "werewolf". I had a group of three - no Chosen; the Monstrous was a virtual ghost, a twenty-something arcade game lover consigned to haunting and resigned to a para-life of securing the best High Scores.

For Sunset Kills, my prep was pretty lean - a concept for the setting, Kingston Falls, and the notion of a carnival; but the player input fulfilled the rest. Sorry to the Occultist's mum, who became the butt of some juvenile humour that stayed the right side of a 12 rating (I think a few bits pushed it away from a PG). As was, the mum became the big bad of the piece, so it worked out wonderfully; Baba, as she was called, had enslaved the souls of a travelling carnival and sought to open a gateway to harness control of a demonic horde. The characters had to uncover why kids were going missing - Baba planned to spend their souls as sacrifices to help open the gate - while saving themselves from run-ins with carnival workers like Pinwheel, Yammer, Shaunov, and the Bear.

A nice bit of self-sacrifice at the end made for a satisfying conclusion; along with a couple of final words about mum, which I won't repeat!

After a snatched lunch of a McDonald's Sticky BBQ Chicken burger following an errand in south Sheffield, I returned just in time for the second game.

Girl Underground is a game about discovery, family, journeys and creativity, following the route taken by stories like Alice in Wonderland, Labyrinth and similar. The players all play The Girl, while also choosing a Companion – like The Construct (e.g. the Tinman), The Faun (e.g. Mr Tumnus), The Beastie (e.g. the White Rabbit), The Mythic (e.g. Aslan), and so forth. We had a hungry talking squirrel, an entity made of rocks who liked dressing in silk, a porcelain figurine, and a lost boy without a reflection. The first hour or so of the game involves discussing the Girl, her family, her home life, and then explaining how she enters the otherworldly Underground; then the poor soul running the game uses all that information to improvise connected locations to visit in the remaining time available for the game that reflect the challenges of the girl embracing her real-world problems and besting them.

The game literally prevents any notion of prep; indeed, to prep would be to spoil the magic, ignoring player-generated content to run a game they didn't participate in building in the first hour. It deserves a slightly longer playtime than the three-and-a-half hours I had but didn't suffer too badly. The City of Tall Hats and Perpetual Trains captured the lion's share (squirrels share‽) of the session, but that was no bad thing. Serena challenged the noisy indifference of the Underground, the stresses of making do, and the difficulty of accepting the help of others to calm the great monster of the Wolfwood, restore the damaged lives of her companions, and return to the tears and open arms of her sister Gemma with pasta (harvested from a tree in the wood) before mum and dad got home for dinner.

What do I learn every time I run PbtA games? Don't prep and listen like your life depended on it. Listen deep, with great care and consideration, and make copious notes.

I had real nerves about both games, but the fun of the game creation and content quickly spirited that away. It's hard work all that improvisation and I still feel myself wrestling against it, but I walked (or drove) away feeling good. I think I fought off the imposter syndrome today, holding it at bay for a moment.

I thank the organisers for running the event. I thank my players for hanging in there with me. And, I hope everyone enjoyed the rest of the weekend. Thankfully, the drive home turned out to be not so bad.
 
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