Realms Con Report!

Realms Con was amazing! For the photos, check out the Facebook gallery.

We ran three games at RealmsCon: 2 on Saturday and 1 on Sunday. We were fortunate – there was another RPG there that tried to run games but couldn’t find players. We managed to get full tables of 6-9 players each time.

The first game had explorers protecting a tishli from being kidnapped by slavers from Zahnrad in the Aeneam town of Coithwaite. Unlike the first time this adventure was run, the explorers managed to avoid burning down the building.This plot was continued on Sunday in the third game, who decided to head to Luxoglen to steal a boat. They then ran into the head of one of Aeneam’s main criminal organizations – La Marabunta – and barely managed to escape with their lives. One of the cool “to be added later” items highlighted were tattoos that acted as responsive armor, their images changing in response to attacks to boost defenses.

The second game (which the WIP Podcast, USS Joan of Arc, and Steam Engine Intrepid participated in) had explorers in the Aeneam city of Kwiv. They were supposed to stop two pirate factions, lead by Jadescale and Dahlia, from fighting and destroying the place. Instead, there was a 2 hour battle over lawn gnomes and a final battle involving 3-on-1 PVP. Hilarious all the way through. One player gave a speech that I wish I had recorded, an appeal to Jadescale that successfully convinced him to allow some of the explorers on his pirate crew.

One change to come from the experience were tweaks to character creation. We had blocks of text in the kindred that we’ve separated out under new headers. This will make it easier for players to find basic info such as speed. We also typed up a clearer explanation of ideals, faculties, and mods. This will hopefully make testing at GamExpo run even smoother.

In addition to the games, we also donated several art prints and bookmarks to the con for prizes and hand outs. This earned Aes a shout out at the closing ceremony!

Kudos to the following groups who helped make Realms Con awesome for Aes: Dark Tide Comics, WIP Podcast, Steam Engine Intrepid, USS Joan of Arc, Gold Coast, Master Bones Jangle, Airship Nikolai, Ramen Pride, Art Blocked Creations, and Rod Thornton!

We’ve been invited back to Realms Con next year to help run the table-top room and coordinate games. We’ll post more info later!

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Photos

Two new sets of photos uploaded on the Facebook page!

The first are a few pictures taken during a playtesting session on August 28th. They mark the last time one of our regular testers could attend in-person gaming for a while, since he’s moving to a new state.

The second are from an open play session hosted at Outlaw Moon on September 5th. We had three new players join, two of whom had never played an RPG before! Their feedback was very helpful. The game session was one intended for use at GamExpo in October.

Running Game Demos

Game demos are one of the key ways of expanding the player base of a game. While it’s possible for people to just see the book and buy it for the art or content, many buy games after they had a great time playing it. There is something about an in-person demo that lets a person connect with a game on a more personal level than simply reading the book.

This means the purpose of demonstrating a game is to entice sales or attract other players. A successful demo is one that ends with a sale or at least a positive recommendation. Therefore, there is a protocol in place to make sure the demo accomplishes this.

I’ve seen this principle missed a couple times by people trying to sell me on games (one board game and one video game), so I thought I’d write up their errors. It’s a good example of what not to do if you want someone to be invested in something you enjoy or are trying to sell.

1. Give the person learning the best starting situation you can. When I had the video game demonstrated, the guy picked a character and then revealed after character selection was done that he had taken the one with the best performance in the game. This is something you help someone with before hand. If you know a certain character or combination works well, recommend it. Don’t force it, but it’s information a new person will appreciate.

2. Try to make the initial experience as balanced as you can between challenging and straight forward. If it’s a cake walk, then the game will come off as too easy. If it’s too “curb stomp the new guy,” they won’t have any fun. For example, when I tried the board game, the other person deliberately chose the play style my chosen faction was weak against. As a result, the game was one-sided with no hope of victory. I ended up going through most of it frustrated I couldn’t do anything interesting. No one wants to play a game they feel is broken.

3. Suppress the desire to win quickly. You need to balance your play style – if you know you’re going to win, deliberately make a few mistakes or bad calls to give the other person a chance. Let them try something out. Let them discover the game’s magical combo bits. Shutting them down by going cut throat (as both demonstrators did) denies the essential experience of the game.

4. When demonstrating a game with lots of options, recommend a set you know to work well. I have a poor impression of the video game because my chosen combination wasn’t very good – but the guy trying to sell it to me didn’t help even though I asked!

5. Be a good sport. This is the biggest sin the board game demonstrator made. He made a huge deal of his wins, crowing about it non-stop, even though he knew I was frustrated. Taunts have no place in this setting if you want to get someone into it. If you make the other person think that everyone who plays the game is a jerk, they will stay away. (Magic the Gathering has this issue in spades.)

Since Aes is a role-playing game, there are some special caveats that come with that.

Designing pre-made characters (iconics) is a good path toward getting points 1 and 4. Part of the fun in an RPG is character creation, but some want a quick game to get to the mechanics and lore. Each iconic should be balanced and playable in their own right, with a variety of options the player can pick from. You don’t want one out of six of the icons to be “the sucky one,” since then the player who ends up with them will have a terrible time and you just lost a customer. (This is not the same as the character not matching the play style of the explorer – that’s just a mismatch and they’ll be able to see that.) It can help to couple pre-made characters with preset demo scenarios that give each of them a highlight. Players who get even one “Moment of Awesome” in a game are far more likely to buy it.

The second is to generally avoid GM vs. player situations. Challenge maps, where the Invisible Hand is deliberately trying to kill everyone, can be fun, but only if announced in advance. Aes is focused on storytelling with the Invisible Hand as a guide rather than a tyrant, so challenge maps wouldn’t work to show off the game’s best traits. By not having a “win” condition for the Invisible Hand pegged to player loss, you stay in line with point 2 and 3 above. The GM wins when the players are smiling and laughing.

Player vs. Player (PvP) should be strongly discouraged. PvP can bring out another competition source that can derail the intended positive atmosphere of the game. PvP often leads to a violation of 5 above, since bad sportsmanship can quickly emerge if the players start to war among one another. This is especially bad if there are a mix of experience levels. Aes is meant for cooperative play more than PvP, so this again is a necessary choice to convey how the game is intended to unfold.

Avoid the mistakes, focus on how to create the right environment, and you’ll be good at drawing in new players to your favorite games!

San Japan 2015 Action Report

San Japan 2015 was an amazing debut for Aes: Brass Revolution! Over a dozen people played games throughout the weekend with many more taking bookmarks and signing up for more info. The universal consensus is that Aes is a fun, well paced game with numerous options for problem solving and game styles.

Aes was compared very favorably to several other RPG’s (steampunk and non) and in several respects judged better implemented than even some finished products. Aes‘s crafting system, for example, was praised for its intuitive setup and called by one RPG fan, “The best crafting system in an RPG so far.” The use of a single d10 was especially praised for making the percentages easier to calculate as was the “faculties determine nearly everything” backwards character creation. Another great quote from a player: “You should start selling this alpha booklet instead of giving it away for free.” This is huge praise for a game still in a starting state!

The weekend provided a lot of great feedback on the system. It has prompted significant revisions to the use of action points to make several choices even more elegant than they were before. Instead of faculties being used the same way each time, they can be combined with others to create novel uses. This means two characters with the same faculty could be putting it into use in very different scenarios, which really amps the customization and avoids cookie cutter min-maxing.

We also had a chance to commission several pieces of art for the first iconic character of the game: Ji Wang, concoction discoverer! She’ll be one of six pre-made characters (and story figures) we’ll be using to promote the game. Aes is a game that specifically strives to combine the steampunk aesthetic with diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds, so including a main character of Asian descent seemed a natural course of action. The other five are still in development, though the goal will be a group that represents all the key aspects of the game.

To see photos from San Japan, check out the gallery on the Facebook page!

San Japan Bound!

By the time you read this, our product demonstrator will be at San Japan’s table-top gaming room showing off the version 0.02 alpha of Aes: Brass Revolution! Available to play testers will be a free bookmark and a chance at a free art print in one of three sizes: 4×6″, 6×8″, or 8.5×11″.

Friday will be casual, with one game possibly running before the Masquerade Ball at 7:30 PM and possibly one after it’s done (after 11:30 PM in the late night gaming room). On Saturday, he’ll be setting up a poster to advertise and running games all day into the late night.

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On Sunday, after check out, he’ll run a few more games before the con closes down. There’s no set start or end times and the game is designed to run with as few as 1 player. Stop on by!