My first encounter with 3 TTRPGs!

Had an absolute blast at my friend’s house con last weekend. Imagine this, if you can: an entire con filled with only cool people who are imaginative and fun! So of course I had a fantastic time regardless of the game system. But I did play three systems I hadn’t played before, so here are my thoughts!

One Honk Before Midnight— Players were geese trying to collect items to perform a ritual to bring back The Feathered One and return geese to their rightful place—having dominion over humans! Each goose has stats in Heroism, Observation, Nimbleness, and Kaos. Or, to put it more succinctly, HONK.

The thing about playing games with this group of people is that the people are so clever and funny that the system mechanics are often irrelevant. Such was the case here—we rolled dice and sometimes succeeded and sometimes failed, but it was a charming game with a fun and unexpected (to me, anyway) conclusion. Also, though basically you’re just trying to get items from a small English village, it definitely has the feel of a more epic adventure because navigating a world designed for humans when you’re 3 feet tall and can only grab things with your beak turns out to be quite challenging!

Alien— Hope’s Last Day

Do you have a hardworking GM who does tons of work to ensure you have fun every week, month, whatever? If so, I suggest rewarding them by asking them to run this for you.

It’s Alien. It’s dark, it’s scary, and you are hopelessly outmatched by the aliens who have many different ways to kill you.

You are probably going to die. At least, our entire party did. The game has a cool mechanic where you roll a bunch of d6 and succeed if you roll sixes. But then you also have a pool of “stress dice,” (also d6) that gets bigger and bigger as more things go wrong, so the stress of the situation makes it more likely you’ll succeed but also more likely things will go terribly wrong because you rolled a one on the stress dice. We failed a lot of panic checks and spent a lot of rounds screaming.

My character took a critical hit, and Alex, the GM, announced, “you’ve taken critical hit…number sixty-two.” I don’t know how many different ways the alien can crit you, but there are at least sixty-two.

Now, I’ve played games with Alex before, and it’s clear he always has fun running games, but my God, the naked glee this man showed as the aliens destroyed us in ever more horrible ways was really something to see. That’s why I say this one would be a nice gift to your GM. Don’t get me wrong—I had a lot of fun too, and I really appreciated the way the mechanics of the game added to the atmosphere. But I definitely didn’t have as much fun as Alex did.

(BTW, when he’s not cackling joyfully at the prospect of an alien crushing your skull with a headbutt, Alex also writes games. Find ‘em here.)

Deathmatch Island

Wow, was this a cool game. It’s kind of Lost (except with a satisfying ending that makes sense) meets The Hunger Games. But what’s cool about it is the mechanic. So instead of having individual stats and going through each action individually, you roll dice, the GM rolls dice, and if you beat the GM’s roll, you succeed and if you don’t, you fail, and everybody gets to narrate how this happens. I really enjoyed this because it allows for collaborative storytelling (my favorite part of this hobby!) even in combats. It also means you don’t spend a freaking hour on a single combat scene as sometimes happens in other systems.

Bonus: the book itself is a beautiful physical object and a bargain at only 30 bucks! Two players ordered it at the table, which should give you an idea of how much everyone enjoyed this game.

I also played in a Gumshoe-based 20’s pulp adventure, but I’ve played many different versions of Gumshoe before (including this and this, which are both fantastic), so it wasn’t my first time with this system. As always, a rip-roaring good time was had by all, except possibly for the character who had both the newfangled portable light powered by harmless radium and a whole lot of unrequited love for his boss!

As always, I ended the weekend feeling physically exhausted and creatively energized. There’s really nothing like making up stories with people all weekend to help fuel the creative fire!