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#4: The Game That Wasn’t

This article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue.

In daring to run a second TravCon game, it seemed blindingly obvious that it would make sense to try to playtest it beforehand this time. Instead of running the game in the pub for colleagues after the event, why not get them together to try it out first? Before, it all seemed terribly serious at the Convention, and was depriving people who’d chosen it of another game that they might have much preferred.

I’m just about capable of marshalling thousands of words and large amounts of Traveller reference material; that feels straightforward. It’s my time, my materials and it’s just a question of plugging away until you get there. Wasn’t it Mao who said the journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step? [Actually, it’s variously attributed to Confucius or Lao Tzu –Ed.] The 30,000 words or so of last year’s effort seems like a lot, but it’s only a few hundred words a night. Organising people, however…! Getting seven people together for an evening is clearly well beyond my capabilities. For a start, it was only three work colleagues close to hand; the other three people would be a former work colleague from another city, and an actual Traveller enthusiast, T, from the convention would bring along his Dad. At least, that’s the set up we’d had for my first game, and it had been weird, but it had worked. Besides which, I didn’t know anyone else who was interested despite asking around a little.

I suggested a few possible dates although it was always going to be difficult with Christmas on the horizon. One player was in an amateur dramatic production which limited his evenings, and others were limited by transport options. But we finally settled on a potential date and marked it in our diaries. Then one had a change in scheduling which meant dropping out; one got a new job in Oman which ruled him out (the lengths he went to to avoid it!); I was getting cold feet as well as not being too sure how it would run with just three or four people. In short, between us we decided we’d abandon that date and see if we could reconvene after Christmas, but I knew it was going to be problematic and indeed now another of our number is in Thailand for several weeks… I mean, just tell me you don’t want to play!

I also realise that there is quite a large chunk of me that doesn’t want to reveal my ‘secrets’ (both plot and some hopefully fun live-action elements) until the Convention itself. I’m sure T wouldn’t spoil the fun, but there is a strong desire—perhaps selfish—to spring various surprises on the Convention and see what they make of them. Or not. The snag with not running a play-test is that I really don’t know how it’s going to be received. The success of last year might have been a one-off fluke.