Metatopia 2019 was a great experience. As I have time I will post thoughts and feelings about the convention. I’m already working on some revisions for the two games I brought with me: Dark Well and Vigilance.
The convention started Thursday evening with a social event. My partner and I were exhausted from the trip in so I checked in but didn’t have enough energy to really participate so we went across the street and had delicious Persian food for dinner. And there were a lot of great food places nearby!
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were a mixture of panels–many for first-timers to Metatopia, and playtesting. I’ll get into some of the panels later on. There were several that I attended which were a good fit for where I am in the game design industry.
I did get in a quick chat with Phil Vecchione about our love of conspiracies. His writings on Gnome Stew are an inspiration for what I’m doing with Dark Well.
Sunday afternoon was spent wrapping up my last playtest and then heading out asap to continue our trip to Philadelphia and then Washington, D.C.
Dark Well: I’ve got a fair amount of redesign to consider for the character sheet to make it easier to understand and I’m hoping to simplify things considerably. The playtesters really enjoyed the conspiracy-generation and setting, with the Well part in second place, and character creation in last for ease of understanding. The suspense of drawing from the Well was consistent. The tags could be useful but were cumbersome. The differences between the derived traits under Life, Power, and Truth need to be easier to grasp and engage with since I modified them, though I have to figure out how to get the Change/Grow/Conditions part to work from scene to scene. In the short playtest sessions I don’t have enough time to use the pool of tokens to work with the game as the GM yet so I’m looking forward to doing that again at some point. Comparing the tokens to the chart works once people wrap their heads around it as it’s a novel approach. In the second group test of Dark Well, I was able to use some kindly donated yarn to make an impromptu conspiracy wall on the table (see the featured image above). We had a six-PC group for this one. I took the advice from the first group and used a completed character sheet to share visually with the second group and it helped immensely. While we didn’t get very far in the game I could see how the prop could be fun. It would likely be easier to maintain on a wall or dedicated surface–the group loved it so I’m glad I tried it and will see about testing it more location permitting. In particular, I’m redesigning the Conspiramap for Dark Well for the next playtest. These conspiracies freakin’ build themselves. More iterations to come, with half-baked Dwellers and conspiracies to get the players into the thick of things faster.
Vigilance: The playtesters loved the spreadsheet character creation and world creation and setting, with the dice mechanics being too easy-for-success. 1s for generating Chaos/injustice complications rarely came up which was very unusual and led to deflated anticipation and missed expectations for all. I definitely need to revisit to get more risk in the dice and possibly reduce or remove the Arena Dice pool. We didn’t get to test things at length, but I did have one of the groups do scenes that were non-combat to see how things flowed rather than worry about collaborative world-building, which definitely affected player investment and cohesion like never before. I think it also suffered from a late Sunday slot and me messing up a basic mechanics roll. We had a cool blessing scene and engaged with the constellations! The first group where we did build things together was a tighter fit but we weren’t able to engage as much with the mechanics with the time. Need lots more dice-rolling and tweaking to be more complicating/dangerous. Great suggestions on branding from the first group and I appreciate them throwing themselves into the game with heart and soul. Overall, there are a lot of strong pieces that I can skip over moving ahead with half-baked characters and precinct to get to play quicker.
Rebels of the Outlaw Waste: This is NOT a game that I’m designing, but rather one that I playtested Saturday evening and it was a hoot. Gonzo post-apocalyptic to 11. What sold me in the description was that it included stickers as part of the advancement system. The designer, Michael Addison of Nerdy Pup Games, has a fun rules-light RPG with potential and I hope that he continues to develop the game and share it with others.
Thanks to all the playtesters who participated in my games and who make Metatopia a conversation rather than lonely fun–you are valued. I want to thank Avie Wing and all of the amazing people who help to make Metatopia be as successful as it is. I wasn’t very talkative as I was taking everything in, but I did appreciate the hard work and fun experience learning and sharing our love of games.