Sunday, 1 April 2018

Breakout 2018 Convention Debrief (Part Three)

Day three! The final, bleary-eyed day of the con! (If you missed the first two parts, you can find them here and here.)

After a late night of horror playing BLUEBEARD'S BRIDE, we were ready for something a little lighter, and luckily, we had just the game. We were lucky enough to have Epidiah Ravachol on hand to run a traditional Sunday morning game of SWORDS WITHOUT MASTER, his very clever swords-and-sorcery storytelling game.

Like his spouse Emily Care Boss, Epi is one of the nicest and most friendly people I've met in the roleplaying industry. (Our immediate reaction to both of them was that they were people we would love to just hang around with, have over for dinner, share a bottle of wine - that kind of thing.) SWORDS WITHOUT MASTER was just about the right speed for two tired con-goers, with fairly light but evocative mechanics which emphasize the flavour of the genre. We ended up telling the tale of a group of rogues who were travelling through an icy northern sea, menaced by a strange leviathan that preyed on ships. That was tremendous fun.

You can find SWORDS WITHOUT MASTER in issue #3 of WORLDS WITHOUT MASTER (it's the one with the yellow psychedelic cover), Epi's awesome swords-and-sorcery-and-games magazine, here.

After lunch, Megan and I parted ways for a few hours. She played a game of VELVET GLOVE with Sarah Richardson (which she later told me she enjoyed a lot, despite being very, very tired) and I played CIRCLES OF POWER with Canadian designer Jason Pitre.

I had been wanting to play a game with Jason for some time, and Megan spoke very highly of his GMing skills after getting in on a game of CIRCLES OF POWER during Breakout 2017. C.O.P. (hmm, ominous acronym!) is a game that he's been developing for some time, a roleplaying game about "social justice wizards" battling a repressive society.

Our group didn't do a lot of actual gameplay, but focused more on discussing new setting material Jason had been developing for the game. There was a heavy flavour of old Quebec City in the setting, which I liked a lot, and I've been champing at the bit to play a fantasy game set in something like North America.

A game that treads into such serious subject matter obviously has to tread carefully, and we had a lot of spirited discussion about how certain ideas were implemented and whether they went far enough into the themes they were exploring. I thought the game was mechanically very elegant, with a boffo magic system, and an excellent way of building the idea of intersectionality into playbooks. Jason had astounding energy and enthusiasm, especially for the last game of the con (and considering he'd probably been working harder and staying up later than any of the rest of us), and he clearly has a lot of love and hard work invested in this game. I have no doubts that when it's finished, it will be a milestone game and a must-buy for anyone who wants to see RPGs that explore challenging subject matter.

You can find the "Apprentice Edition" of CIRCLES OF POWER and Jason's other excellent games here.

All too soon, it was over. We collected our bags and staggered toward the doors of the Sheraton, and feasted on pizza before sadly climbing on the Greyhound back to real life. Breakout 2018 was a tremendous experience, and anyone who's in the area with a love of roleplaying (or board games) should really consider coming out for the 2019 con. The people are friendly and supportive, the games are tremendous, and it will leave you spent but aching for more.

It will be a long twelve months until Breakout 2019.

Footnote: THE SWAG!

One of the great things about Breakout is that the convention manages an indie game store for their designer guests, so that they can devote more of their time to running games and enjoying themselves instead of selling their wares. As usual, I spent a lot of money there. This year's swag included:

TEN CANDLES by Stephen Dewey

A game of tragic horror played by candlelight. I've been wanting to play this one for a long time.


Poor Jason was getting some teasing about a spelling error on the cover of the new edition of his splendid Planescape-esque fantasy game, but it's still a splendid volume, one of the prettiest RPG books I've purchased in a long while.

THE WATCH by Anna Kreider and Andrew Medeiros

Our favourite game of Breakout 2017 was something we happily Kickstarted, and we're currently playing it at our table, but we were very happy to get our hands on a hard copy. If you don't own this game already, you really need to.


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