Conventions, Games:
Everway at GenghisCon

In February 2000, I went to GenghisCon in Denver. (Next February, you should all do the same. It's a good con.) In addition to my official duties of running D&D 3rd ed., I GMed Over the Edge (with a devotee of Karla Sommers among the players, no less), played On the Edge (very funky decks), and GMed Everway. For some reason, those are the games I wanted to play and I was relieved that no one asked me to GM Ars Magica. Maybe I prefer those other games at cons because Ars Magica is more about campaigns while OTE and Everway are more about colorful characters and amazing adventures (better fare for a one-shot).

The Everway game was with a local group that had played a lot of it. We assembled in the hotel atrium on the last day during my last hours. Since they'd played a lot, I didn't bother about bringing my own supplies. I had dropped off my copy of Everway at Con HQ to be given out as a prize. We gathered around the table, the players looked at me expectantly, and I said, "Do you have the cards and stuff?"

No, they didn't. "We usually just free-form it," someone volunteered.

"Free-form it"? I wondered. I couldn't imagine doing such a thing. The point of Everway, as I experience it, is to use images and symbols to trigger ideas in your imagination that you wouldn't get otherwise. The Fortune Deck and the vision cards are all about lateral thinking. The setting and background are conveniences that allow great diversity in character and adventure design. The background serves the cards. Without the cards, you just have the background. But here was a group for whom the background was the essential material that they preserved.

As free-form as Everway is, it's less amenable to total free-form than, say, D&D. There must be a Taoist principle at work, "The sword that is too sharp dulls quickly. The RPG that is too free-form is not free."

I balked. One of the players went and got a copy of Everway from the prize table, and we opened it up and used it. (I signed the rulebooks so that the person who got the opened copy would think that was why it was open.) And we played a pretty cool quest.

Somebody's kid picked out three vision cards to be the basis of the quest. One was the image of a man hanging upside down, and I decided that the man was recapitulating Odin hanging himself from Yggdrasil as a ritual of power. (I'm sure that Gloranthan heroquesting has affected how I imagine high magic, especially as I've been listening to Rob Heinsoo's stories and playing King of Dragon Pass, which you should all buy immediately.) Everway proved that it still has the power to freak me out a little, as Odin's card showed up in the Fortune Deck reading that I did to determine the conflict of the quest. Actually, synchronicity in Everway doesn't freak me out any more. I've come not quite to expect it but at least not to be surprised when it shows up.

The quest was about a priest of Loki interfering with a priest of Odin's ritual of runes in order to redirect power to himself. By the time the heroes got to the site, there was no solution to the problem. They had to invent one. (I don't mean, the problem was insoluble. I mean, there was no pre-existing solution to be discovered. The heroes would have to invent a solution if they were to have one.)

Unfortunately, I mistimed the game, and I had to leave for the airport sooner than I'd thought. The players didn't have enough time to work things out, they were stumped, and I had to run.

June 2000