David Rogers writes…
Love the idea for the tumblr, I’ve got one to share:
I played in a game of Andre Kruppa’s called “Incident of Owl Lake” at OGC, a con in Nashua, NH. It was a horror game, based on FUDGE that began with a strange vehicle crash-landing on the island where we were camping, and ended with us in a fight for our lives against the dark forces that had been controlling our lives since childhood. This was my first gaming con and I’d had some cool times and met some nice people, but generally had not been blown away by the experience. The gaming floor was loud and chaotic, the games were great but tended to move slowly and get side-tracked by table talk or outside distractions. I was really excited for Andre’s game, my last of the night and the con, because of the billed “theatrical elements.”
My friend Melissa was also slated to play. We couldn’t find the game at first — it wasn’t anywhere on the floor. Instead we got steered upstairs, to a part of the hotel we hadn’t been aware was part of the con. Inkjet-printed signs pointed toward a pair of double-doors. We went in and were greeted by a dark room, with a few mounted theatrical lights casting circles of illumination on a conference table in the center. The room was secluded, and quiet, and moreover, Andre had rigged it with a pretty extensive lighting and sound set-up.
The room was kept dark during the entire game, with lighting cues adjusting to the scene: a low red as we gathered around the camp fire, a sudden flash when a gun fired, glowing green or a sudden bright white as our situation proceeded to get stranger and stranger. Flashlights were provided for us to read our character sheets by when the lights were low or went out, and Andre wasn’t afraid to leave us in the dark. Then there was the music: Andre had a soundboard, some nice speakers, and a full range of musical cues. The sense of atmosphere — in sharp contrast to the other games I’d been playing — was incredible.
The theatricality went beyond the tech: we had props too, in the form of our flashlights but also in the neatly organized play aids Andre provided, from character sheets to rules references to setting materials, all neatly laid out and laminated. I’d never played FUDGE before, and neither had Melissa, but we were very seldom uncertain about a rule.
Andre also made use of long blocks of prepared text that were triggered at several points through out the game — specifically, when characters suddenly flashed back to certain suppressed memories. Several of these were repeated time and again as different characters hit upon the same triggers, but they didn’t get old: Andre’s spirited delivery (and accompanying music and light cues) kept them fresh each time, and the repetition underscored the eerie sameness of our experiences. By chance, my character was the last one to trigger a particular memory, but even though I’d heard the associated text three times before at that point I was still psyched. Andre still treated the material as fresh, too, throwing in an ad lib tailoring the speech to my character.
The game itself went great and we did pretty well. There were some really fun moments of pure dramatic role-playing, and a lot of exploration and problem-solving. Andre did a good job giving everyone a chance to have fun while still keeping the tension ratcheted up. Melissa and I were a little more into exploring interpersonal drama than the other characters at the table, and we had a few minutes to do that, but things generally kept moving at a good clip.
In the end, we all survived and escaped from a real nightmare into relative safety — thanks almost entirely to the good decisions of one of our savvier players. The game was both frightening and enthralling, and ended with a great moment of catharsis of closure followed by a great twist. Afterwards we were all visibly jazzed, wired even though it was well after midnight, and Andre stayed to talk to us about the setting he’d designed and the choices we’d made. He even solicited feedback about specific game elements and design choices.
All in all it was undoubtedly the best game I’ve ever played in. Andre has a website (http://www.gamesoapbox.com/) talking a little about the different scenarios he’s made and the different events where he GMs — I’d recommend checking it out, and if you ever have a chance to play with this really superlative GM, go for it.