I’m not sure how I never came across Metatopia before. It’s in Morristown, for Odin’s sake, which is a 45-minute drive from my suburban keep. Maybe it’s because I didn’t hang around enough game designers in the past. Maybe it’s because of the blinding headaches I get when the web guru in me sees Double Exposure’s website, which desperately needs to be liberated from its 1997 UI. But I digress.
Metatopia 2013 was such a fun time that I soon regretted not being able to spend more than one day there this year. It’s cozy and collegial, the Hyatt Morristown has a good bar, and Dunkin' Donuts is 3 blocks away. Win.
There’s no flashy exhibit hall and no dealer’s area aside from a handful of tables and book crates – nope, Metatopia is the place for game designers to test out their new products and concepts, and for eager playtesters to happily push those new concepts to their limits and beyond.
It’s also a place for panels and seminars on game creation, ranging from design to dealing with freelancers to marketing. I’ve done a lot of RPG editing – with more to come – so I checked out the seminar “What Goes Into Your GM Advice Chapter,” hosted by Kevin Kulp, Amanda Valentine, Ryan Macklin, and Brennan Taylor. Many notes were taken! Some of the advice was common sense, but no less valuable for being so. Three key tips from that seminar:
- Focus on the positive, fun aspects of the game. If your game doesn’t sound like fun to the prospective GM, why the hell should he run it? The important corollary: DON’T BE NEGATIVE, especially about other game systems.
- Make it clear that the information in this chapter is for your game. Sure, there will be general GM advice, but you need to focus on the specific ins and out of your system.
- Understand that players will fail at some point, so describe ways that the GM of your game can turn that failure into something interesting.
- Hanging out in the aforementioned bar playing a cool new pub card game from Cheapass Games, Pairs, with Kevin Kulp, Tracy Barnett, my old Staten Island pal Paul Gerardi (formerly of Z-Man Games and now proprietor of the brick-and-mortar Myriad Games), and other fine folks. And the game design talk kept on going throughout! It was very satisfying to be in the middle of creative discussions like that. Also, beer.
- Playtesting alternative rules for transition scenes in the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game. Transition scenes in the Marvel RPG are often skipped through quickly, and the amazing Krista White developed a way to bring specific emotional states into those scenes as a means of fostering roleplaying and even developing Milestones. (FYI: I really enjoyed playing Spider-Woman and whacking a decidedly retro-thinking Captain America with emotional stress.) Bonus: Also rolling dice in the playtest were two of the folks who wrote the excellent Marvel RPG – Cam Banks and Philippe Ménard!
Until next year, Metatopia.