Gateway 2016: Bastards Everywhere.

By Posted in - conventions & Dave babble & playtest on September 5th, 2016

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Gateway 2016 is now in the can! Man I’m tired, thought I would get some extra time by staying at the hotel this time around, but all it did was give me incentive to try and accomplish more than what is deemed safe and healthy. The Happy Jack’s live RPG podcast probably should’ve killed me. Well at least the drinks afterward. Oof. 

In addition to running several Bedlam Hall games as well as a playtest of a new Spirit of 77 adventure (All the Anti-Christ’s Men), I also took some time to run an experimental FATE game, using “Spirit of Century” as the baseline, called Magnificent Bastards.

Magnificent Bastards is a simple premise, it’s effectively The League of Extraordinarily Bad Gentlemen. All the characters were effectively adversaries of one form or another in turn of the century literature. As a test, I drafted several of the bad-ass Happy Jack’s RPG Podcast team to take it out for a spin.

  • R.N. Renfield, from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In this, the Master is dead and Renfield is left to pick up the pieces of his life. (Played by Stork).
  • Irene Adler from the Sherlock Holmes stories. In this, the Great Detective is dead and it’s been Irene who has been dismantling Moriarty’s criminal empire. (Played by Kimi).
  • Svengali, from the novel Trilby. Svengali has lost his protege and is seeking her out to bring her back under his control. (Played by Stu).
  • Fantomas, a French serial killer that assumes the lives of the people he murders. (Played by Bill).
  • Mary Reilly which was a bit of a conceit on my part, based on the modern novel of the maid that served as the housemaid for Dr. Henry Jekyll (Jekyll and Hyde). In this game, she also took the formula that causes her to change into the bloodthirsty Anna Mobley. (Played by Kris).

In addition to this murderer’s row of players playing this literal murderer’s row of characters, I also modified SotC a touch – all the players had what was called their Dark Passenger, basically the worst aspects of their literary character come to the surface. After being hired by the Pinkerton Detective Agency to retrieve an “item”, they needed to deliver said item to get paid with both money and information. Naturally things went to hell pretty quick.

Strangely enough, I was more nervous about this game than anything else I ran at Gateway this year – Not only would I be doing something out of my normal wheelhouse but it was an experimental version of the rules. So I took a page out of Kimi’s Playbook – “When in doubt, make props.” And props were made, oh yes they were – autopsy reports, fake telegrams, character sheets that looked like newspaper. I even made a movie intro, just for whimsy. A couple of notes both for the system and the players –

  • First of all, it’s really cool to watch these guys play in a game. Once they get started, you really don’t need to do much as a gamemaster – just try to keep up.
  • I’m not sure if I had expected it, but it was Stork who took the reins as the “investigator” – poring over the materials, following leads, he definitely has a great mind for it. (and got most of the inside jokes from a meta perspective).
  • I said this somewhere else, but Stu (the host of the Happy Jack’s RPG podcast) simply does not get enough credit for being as funny as he is. And I don’t mean by one-liners, but genuine comedic acting that comes through in his gameplay. Every word that came out of him as Svengali was gold.
  • Bill had the hardest role, and knocked it out of the park. Every single character Fantomas assumed had a different voice and mannerism, while still maintaining the overall arc of the inner character. And killed people without hesitation.
  • Kimi was the natural in playing “the face”. It’s a good thing Kimi uses her powers for good, because she really could be dangerous on the Dark Side. And roleplaying with her as Professor Challenger was fun for me as the gamemaster.
  • And as always, Kris is a scary person. Her sweet demeanor? Oh that’s bullshit when she gets a character that’s given free rein to cause pure destruction. I thought I had feared her before when she played “Lady Macbeth” in Masterpiece 77, but now? Yeeeeeesh.
  • Once people felt comfortable spending Fate chips (used instead of points), things got really rocking. Players started developing their Aspects more and even add one during gameplay.

We ended after four hours at a good stopping point that definitely encouraged a Part II for the scenario. (I am very curious to know what happens next since Renfield rode his Dark Passenger into attacking someone). As a system, I am also curious to update the “Bastards” paradigm to another genre – everyone playing villains from a “Batman ‘66” milieu. (Keep an eye out for it at the next Strategicon.) My sincerest thanks to the Happy Jack’s gang in letting me experiment with something new, I couldn’t have asked for a better den of killers, thieves and lawyers.

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