The Sky Above Columbus was the Color of Television, Tuned to a Nina West Retrospective

Published on 2019-06-20

Origins Debrief

Origins 2019 is in the bag and it was, as always, really good. Our booth did well! It was a pleasure to hang out with friends on a mission and help each other out. Personally I got a lot of love from people who like my games, and everyone seemed really excited about the new version of Fiasco. We were especially pleased to talk to those of you who dropped by the booth!

I heard a lot of great stories about how my games are being played and used, and let me just say that if you decide to run one of my larps on a nerd cruise ship, I would definitely like to be informed and get some photos. Every game designer I know absolutely loves to hear about their games being enjoyed in the wild, and it is a kindness to tell them. 

Origins feels like the right size for a big convention -- there are a ton of people, but not so many that I can't stop to chat with, say, Jeff Tidball at the Atlas Games booth, or briefly pick John Nephew's brain about shipping and Foreign Trade Zones. There are too many people to see and things to do, but it all still feels pretty relaxed. Columbus is big-but-small and, for Origins/Pride weekend anyway, extremely gay, and there's plenty of good food and breathing room. It feels good. 

Origins Games on Demand is appropriately chill, with languid four-hour slots, and the crew is just lovely. It is an oasis of calm kindness and inclusion. I ran The Blue Way, Jonathan Walton's game Restless, and my yearbook games (as a playtest). I played a fantastic game called Lead and Gold by Alex Dodge and I suspect we will be hearing more about it soon. He's sending me a playtest copy at least. 

Werewolf Health Clinic

I also playtested a funny thing that has caught fire with one of my local groups -- a game we're calling Werewolf Health Clinic, which is pretty much what it sounds like. You play a bunch of regular people who learn the secret underworld of werewolves exists, and you travel the continent in a beat up van offering them health care they don't dare go to regular doctors to receive. 

The game is fun so far and full of really gritty ethical dilemmas. It turns out being a werewolf sorta sucks, and their problems on the fringes of society are a really disturbing echo to real-world issues ranging from health care access to homelessness to controlling infectious disease. So I'm two playtests in and really enjoying it. I think I'm drawn to opportunities to flip the script on traditional power fantasies, and being on the outside of outsider werewolf culture is perfect for that. 

One of my design choices is to make it GMless and diceless, and each member of a werewolf pack has an archetype (the fool, the provider, the conscience, etc), and each archetype has a single question you ask whenever there is uncertainty about that character. The question you always ask about the fool is "how do I fuck this up?" for example.  The question for the pack leader is "how does this diminish my power?" This leads to a spiral of crisis that feels very appropriate. 

--Jason