June 19, 2011

Origins Bound

Origins kicks off next week, which coincidentally starts on my 40th Birthday.  This year is going to be different because of that fact and the fact that I haven't been employed in seven months.  Believe it or not, even GMs have ethical boundaries that they aren't willing to have crossed.

Fortunately much of the arrangements were made about 11 months ago.  Airline tickets were purchased with miles, hotel rooms were bought on points and because of my birthday I'm even getting some free food at the local restaurants.  I signed up for various member programs and a lot of them like to bring you in for some free grub when your birthday rolls around.

If you are going to Origins, I highly recommend checking out BD's Mongolian Grill.  It's good food at a decent price and really needs to be attended with friends.   I'll be going there at least once.

In the last month or two I've been working on squaring things away for the convention.  We've got two authors writing a total of six adventures for the convention and they usually need a lot of work to get things ready.  I just hope that we got enough things fixed and shipped to enable the games to run smoothly.  For the record, summer con tournament adventures are always a pain in the ass and usually require large amounts of editing/fixing before the convention.  It is just the nature of the beast.  Even my adventures have to be edited heavily from an outside source.  This year was no different.  I won't go into details here because someone might pull info they shouldn't have prior to the game.

I think the GMs won't have too many issues and the players will have fun, which is the important thing.  Since HackMaster Basic came out we tweaked the tournament layout.  In HackMaster 4th Edition tournaments were a brutal affair where just surviving was an accomplishment.  Adventures were written with the express intent of "hitting the players sideways" and trying to kill every PC was the primary goal.  Tournaments were highly competitive affairs that encouraged munchkins, cheating, and post-game whining.  Story was often a bit weak and the nature of the game discouraged some players from participating.  When HackMaster first came out they had to make the games single elimination affairs because it was difficult to get enough convention space and GMs.  As the years went by fewer players bothered.   I know of groups that play HackMaster as their primary game that went to Origins and GenCon, but lost all interest in playing in tournaments.

With the new game we were able to try and start fresh.  Tournaments were whittled down from a nine encounter standard to a six encounter standard.  Of the six encounters, only three could be designated as combat encounters, but the other three could transition to combat encounters if they were played poorly.  The emphasis is supposed to be on story and completing the adventure.  All players get to play in all games, should they choose to.  Tournament scoring is still left up to the tournament organizer.  For my tournaments I came up with a system that scores based on GM Honor rating, party success, and player ranking.

GM Honor rating is right out of the book.  Players get up to eight points based on adherence to alignment & class and general role playing.  The two charts are found on page 28 of the HMb PHB.  Party success is broken down into how many encounters were completed (up to six points) and up to two points based on party deaths (or lack thereof).  The last eight points are a bit tricky, but are allocated based on a player's ranking within the group.  Most people seem to read that part as player ratings, which is right out.  The players as each table get to rank each other in numerical order on how well they thought the other people played.  You don't get to rank yourself.  These ranking have to be put into a spreadsheet to come up with the final score.  Rankings helped to reduce a few potential player behaviors intended to influence the output.  First of all was removing themselves from the scoring.  Ranking in order keeps people from being able to simply rate everyone high or low, or just a small subset.  The ranking, with conjunction with the spreadsheet, also allows the GM/organizer to account for difference in table sizes.  The amount of points available doesn't change even though rankings due to table size could.

It is a work in progress, but it worked out very well last year.  The biggest problem was getting the ranking from the players and that was my fault.  I didn't do a good enough job explaining the process out in writing.  I have different scoring cards this year which will help out significantly.

Another thing I've done, and this started while we were playing HackMaster 4th Edition, is that I formally explain the tournament's grievance procedures and had all the players sign a document to the effect that they have heard/read the grievance procedures.  It was getting to be an almost annual event that there would be some big blow-up at the convention.  Usually someone complained they were robbed, but they didn't do much at the con about it, choosing to get home and blow up the KenzerCo message forums and create some brouhaha.  I'll admit I got pretty pissed at one tournament where we had problems.  I didn't do anything about it at the time and I should have, but I was afraid that there would be repercussions.  When we had issues at the same convention later I didn't hesitate to complain to the tournament organizer and it made all the difference in the world.

The people there running the show just want to have fun too.  That fact gets overlooked a lot.

So I have a lot going on this year at Origins.  I turn 40.  I also have a phone interview for a job on my birthday.  It is a job I not only need, but actually want.  I'm very excited by the prospect as it is only one of two or three jobs I've seen that were on my short list of what I think would be "ideal".

If you are attending Origins and are there early enough on Wednesday.  Maybe you can come have a drink with me to celebrate not only my 40th, but hopefully a good job interview.  I'm bringing a drink called Apple Pie for my friends.  Jolly Blackburn gave me a graphic to use on the flasks I'll be handing out to a few folks (I am unemployed, so there are only so many......I hope there are enough).

It is also important to mention that there will be a hard-copy preview of the new Hacklopedia of Beasts (HoB) book for Advanced HackMaster/HackMaster Basic.  It looks so good...I can't wait to get to drool over the real thing.  I'll have to figure out how to get my hands on a second copy or an updated PDF since this is something I want to be locked away under glass with an armed guard.  Jolly made a spoof ad for the book, which I stole to place here.  I'll definitely have to give it a review.

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