Nuke(m)Con 2008: The Wild, Weird West

Like a twister carving its way through a Midwestern cornfield, Nuke(m)Con has come and gone. My gaming group held its annual (well, almost annual) home-grown convention over the weekend. In a break from previous years, which typically saw a mix of Dungeons & Dragons and board games, this year’s Nuke(m)Con had a western theme.

We ran three western games — Margaret Weis Production’s Serenity Role-Playing Game, Pinnacle Entertainment Group’s Deadlands Reloaded and Kenzer & Company’s Aces & Eights and had a blast doing it. Our nights were anchored by sessions of high-level D&D, which featured an attack on one of our heroes’ greatest enemies: Turrosh Mak, the Despot of the Pomarj, and we rounded out the weekend playing our traditional game of Battletech.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to play Aces & Eights, but the group who did enjoyed it. I think the general sense is that it would make for a good campaign, but would require a couple weeks of steady play for everyone to get comfortable with.

Serenity Flies Again

I think my best game of the weekend was Serenity; in true Firefly style it saw our Big Damn Heroes pulling a bank job, specifically stealing a bunch of commemorative “Unification Day” gold coins about to be delivered to casinos on Santo. I continue to be impressed by the Cortex engine; while it can get a little rough when you get into combat, the beauty of it was that we never got near a gun fight during Friday’s game. As with our Battlestar Galactica game, the Serenity one-shot really did a fantastic job of getting everyone to role-play. That in turn gave rise to a hundred and one plans for getting the gold, not one of which involved a gun fight. There was some combat to be sure — mostly in the form of a few ambushes involving doses of knockout drugs — but I don’t think anyone drew a pistol during the entire fight.

I’m looking forward to running it again, and now that Margaret Weis Productions has released the Serenity Adventures, I plan on doing exactly that next year. I’m also very interested in picking up the Cortex RPG rule book that was previewed at GenCon.

Into the Deadlands

Deadlands went the other way. Our heroes played a team of investigative gunslingers from Union Blue Railroad sent into a town called Cooper’s End to discover what had happened to its construction crews working on the transcontinental railroad.

The game saw a great gunfight in the middle of Main Street, followed by a dynamite-hurling battle with a bone horror at the railhead. Savage Worlds still didn’t play as fast as it did when I tried it at GenCon in 2007, but I think (and the others agree) this is mostly a question of familiarity. If we played it two or three weeks in a row, I think it would run as smooth as silk.

The Assault on Turrosh Mak

Our two-night “Assault on Turrosh Mak” adventure went well, and was probably one of our best ever high level D&D 3.5 games. As was the case with our high-level playtest back in July, the adventure took forever to prep for, partly because I was working with two other DMs, partly because there was just so much damn work to do it creating characters. It took me about a week and a half of on again, off again, work to get the 3.5 adventure running; by way of comparison I probably spent four hours each on Serenity and Deadlands (and I don’t know those systems nearly as well).

So game prep remains an issue with 3.5 high level play, but the actual game went off without a hitch. Lots of role-playing, plenty of big moments, a few shocked and horrified glances around the table when the villains, ahem, lost control of the cyclopean nightmare monster they’d unleashed, but ultimately I think it was a very satisfying game. It’s also burned me out on high level play for a while; I want to come back to it in a few months, but for now I’m ready to get back to our mid-level D&D 3.5 game … and even more ready to start the Star Wars campaign.

Battletech and Star Wars

I’d hoped to run Dogs in the Vineyard on Sunday, but I ran out of time — I only got halfway through the book in the week leading up to the con, and by Sunday I was just too damn tired to run anything, let alone a very cool, very hippy indie game like Dogs.

So I joined the Battletech game, which was fun right up until the point where my mech got its head blown off. Seeing as how that was about three turns into the game, I ended up with a lot of time to clean up the house before my wife got home (which was probably for the best).

After Battletech, we spent about two hours brainstorming our upcoming Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic campaign. We talked about what period we want to set it in, what kinds of characters people want to play, what the tone of the campaign should be; in short, everything that folks should talk about before starting up a new game. I’ll be writing about it more in the weeks ahead, but suffice it to say I’m looking forward to the new game.

%d bloggers like this: