Con of the North 2013, part III: Codename Jedburgh

This was my first RPG of the Con, using Chad’s variant of the Fate rules for WWII. He started by asking us how gonzo we wanted it to be. I tend to want less cinematic, more realistic games, and it seemed so did the rest of the players, but as play continued, things kept getting more and more gonzo. It’s like weird science exerted some irresistible force on the game; each element allowed in a handful more, til at the end we’d had a motorcycle land at full speed from an airdrop, zombie soldiers, arc throwers, stiletto whips and a de-revivification ray.

But before that was character generation. I’m usually wary of character generation at cons because it can be interminable and, most important, it takes time out of actual play. But Chad has this down to a science, and it only took us about 15 minutes to make characters. And as we were doing it, he was generating a relationship map of the NPCs that he brought in quite well as the game progressed. There was the callous, foul-mouthed Lt. Col. who brought all of us PCs together, and the upstart “Professor” Priapinski who’d stolen all of one of the PC’s work, and the undead Übertoten against whom I’d sworn revenge. The PCs were all pretty much stereotypes: my famous actress-turned-resistance fighter, Tom’s Jewish mad scientist and Mike’s Sgt. Rock lookalike. But we breathed a good amount of variety and spice into it all; there were lots of great lines and scenes. The mad scientist’s frequent refrain:

Priapinski is a cretin!

As the gestapo officer ruined my resistance fighters’ cover as reporters:

Don’t go before we get your picture. Boys, please shoot him!

And there were lots of others that I didn’t get down. The game was very quotable.

Chad did a great job of keeping the action flowing, and of creating memorable characters and scenes on (what appeared to be) the fly. That’s one sign of a great GM: when the players can’t tell whether your memorable stuff was preplanned or not. He also clearly made good use of the relationship map, continually pulling in motives that would keep our characters involved and important.

Another thing that helped it be memorable was, ironically enough, being unafraid to be clichéd. We were all working hard to come up with original scenes, but we were also willing to just state what we thought was obvious. The way this works, of course, is that what one person thinks is obvious, another person thinks is brilliantly unexpected — and thus we had a bunch of wonderful, classic ideas slinging back and forth constantly.

I’d been in one of Chad’s Jedburgh games at an earlier Con of the North, and because of that, I was worried that this session would be repetitious, or that I’d know too much about what was going on. But the way it all flowed organically and brilliantly out of our character designs, it was a completely different game from what I’d played before. And it was a great deal of fun.


Con of the North 2013, part III: Codename Jedburgh — 4 Comments

    • He cut the pre-game ‘phases’ down to the barest essentials. For each of the three phases, we chose either an aspect or a background. Then we filled up to four aspects and four backgrounds total. There was no writing ourselves into each others’ character stories. (We did figure out how we knew each other before the game, but we didn’t spend an entire phase writing our histories together as so many other Fate variants do.) The total number of aspects was low — four, I think — and Chad made good use of inspiration cards to give us an idea of important NPCs in our history, which served to tie the PCs together without requiring lengthy exposition or description. There were probably other tricks, but those are what I can remember. You could always ask him for more. 🙂

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