Friday, August 22, 2008

Pieces of GenCon '08.

Though the convention just wasn't going to be as much fun as it could've been, you see Ken St. Andre wasn't going to be there, about 90 minutes after I finished working the baseball game, approximately 130am, 13 August, Peryton and I were packed up and in the car headed towards Indianapolis. Listened to a few CD's that I hadn't in while, while the lady napped, or when she was awake, we made up comedy skits. By around 615 that morning, we arrived at the Hampton Inn downtown, GenCon central, for yet another year. We were too early for any rooms, especially the larger one we had reserved, so the hotel fed us and stored our luggage for us after parking the car. After B-fast, we walked around the empty convention center. Once again the giggles were overtaking us as we relized that though we thought that we were sneaking around, anyone was welcome to wander all over the place until the vendors started getting out of the boxes and crates. At about 9am, Caed called and let us know she was being kicked out of the room where she had woken up, probably from a blurry night before, and needed help with her luggage getting to the hotel where we were sharing .

Manual chores done, we reviewed our schedules and hung out in the lobby of the Hampton talking about the punch and grind of our geriatric-driven healthcare system, which employs both Caed and I, up until lunch. At lunch, I doscovered that the Ram, though I usually dislike it, does indeed have air conditioning and their blond ale is pretty kick-ass. After lunch, Caed was once again caught up in her masses of people needing her attention. We promised to meet her where she was doing a LARP event for Live Cthulhu that evening, then went and checked into our room, where I promptly got a nap in.

At about 8pm, Peryton and I made our way to Caed's LARP, where we found out that she was playing an NPC. We watched and spoke with Chris and some of the cast, and I found a nearby little bar, where I got fairly lit not having to play or GM in the drama unfolding in front of me. Bruce Wayne, Monk, and his buddy Marco, good enough handle as is, called during the session, so things were lining up. Rook of course bumped into us around 11pm, as we were on the way to Champions with Caed and some of her LARP'ers. I was pretty blotto'ed by then, I remembering buying a round of drinks and an appetizer for dinner.

Thursday Am, luckily I was mildly hung-over enough to get up plenty early to get my characters ready for the Spacer's session, "Episode 4: The Moon of Fear", and "the Dark Knoll" for the Peryton RPG. I was dreading an upcoming Mutants and Masterminds scenario that was based off of my POW! scenario "What Price Liberty" as I just hadn't found a way to get comfortable with the system for the six months that I have been trying. I figured I'd stop stressing and just work through the day. Peryton didn't deign to awaken so early, of course, so I walked over to the Union Station conference hall with my thoughts for company.

Monk introduced me to Marco and two other players showed up for the space opera sitting. And the fellow who played the Marine commander threw me for a loop during "the Moon of Fear" as he brought down a whole platoon of security with the away team, and the ship's engineer jerry-rigged a hand-help laser cannon. Needless to say, we had quite a martial game. Asteroid pirates and space marine casualties everywhere by the end of things. Bruce Wayne showed up at lunch, having had a hellacious day already, and wanting to have some fun! "The Dark Knoll" had no one show up at 2pm, so I watched Monk run his "Black Lotus Affair" WHAP adventure for a bit. Wayne, Peryton, and I walked the Dealers' Hall after a bit, where I saw Mz. C. Calhoun, in appropriate metal bikini attire of course, Chainmail Chick from Flying Buffalo's Lost Worlds series at the Paizo Booth promoting the Gamers movie sequel, Gamers: Dorkness Rising. Then we headed back to Union station to get some rest and catch the end of Monk's run. I actually caught a nap in a quiet secluded corner, though the marble wall and thin carpeted floor was a bit cold. but I woke up refreshed to catch the finale to the Affair, and Peryotn was finishing her notes for her Peryton RPG scenario "Escape from the Artificer!"

Wayne came back from somewhere and after the game wrapped up, him, Peryton, Monk, and Marco and I all wandered to a nearby Irish pub, with a Klingon name like Clandagh or some such, to try their fish and chips, of course. Sitting out on the sidewalk cafe' part Aarra' and Steppenwulf walked into us, and joined us for dinner. I think the waiter moved some of the beverages out of the way to make room for some actual food at some time. But then 7pm came rolling around and Peryton had her scenario to run, and I had my Mutants and Masterminds session to do. Well, I solved my anxiety like any true-blue American, I threw money at the problem. Like a Haliburton subcontractor with a friend in the White House, I paid any player who produced a ticket with the event and their name on it hard cash-- try finding a GM who is nice enough to do that at a convention sometime. The players were disappointed but at least not pissed. So Wayne jumped in on the Escape, while Monk, Marco and I wandered around.

After the game, we ran into Rook attending a jump-in D&D game where the game-master was quite the storyteller. Peryton and I found Caed already asleep in the room. Lordhed knows what shady business she'd been up to all day. The rest of us ended up the night at a Cajun fast food joint with a decent bar. Some pretty awful microbrewed beers, but at least it wasn't budweisser(sp).

Friday am, the door closing as Caed headed off to breakfast woke me up. I started getting ready for the day's events. Spacers "Episode 5: The Blades of Triton" and the evening's T&T scenario, "the Dwarf Holes." Peryton having finished her grueling ordeal of having a whole scenario the day before announced that she would be sleeping in (imagine that). I made it down to breakfast, and talked with a couple from Michigan as I shared a table, because Caed didn't save me a seat.

"The Blades of Triton" went wonderful. Had a group of guys from the same college in Chicago, Monk, Marco, and Wayne all showing up. It was no time at all the crew of the USS Venture were shaking and tilting in their seats as the rocketship took damage during the session's Ship-to-Ship extensive play-testing. We never did get to the duel of psychics, but Wayne fulfilled the genre's obligatory romance with the lovely Dr. Nomra Saline of the Neptune Exploratory Authority. A good session overall.

After lunch, Peryton and I walked the Dealer's Hall for a bit, then rested in some chairs, while I rubbed here feet. I was making plans for a early dinner when Aarra' reminded me that my T&T game was 5pm not 7pm via text message.

Once again at Union Hall, the official spot for the session was not the same as the last official spot that I knew of. But luckily enough, Aarra', Steppenwulf, and another player met me in the area I was at. I hear it was quieter any ways. Peryton showed up and jumped in to play in " 'the Holes." The game went nicely, and the third ticket-holder did a great job of playing my homage to Drzzit or whatever that drow dude is. Monk and Marco rolled in towards the end, complaining about an absent GM.

Afterwards, I helped Caed out her big production, the Zombie Walk. Hanging with the LARP'ers of
Midnight Productions was good for my role-playing/acting instincts, we played off of each others' leads. The walk got really, I mean, really long after the third stoplight and a gaggle at the elevator. Still Caed was glowing, and we got to watch zombie Elvis et al. perform "the Thriller" dance at the end of it. Wayne, Monk, Marco, Peryton, I, and later Caed all meandered over to the Bourbon Street restaurant where we late-nighted it the year before. Didn't run into Rook at the end of the celebrations for the day though.

Saturday am, I breakfasted with a guy from India then went upstairs bringing a light meal for the knocked out gals before setting up the characters for my one game of the day, "Lies, Black Eyes, and Spies" for WHAP. Monk and I were co-running the adventure so it occurred to me that i was working awfully hard, but luckily I did. We only had three players, maybe a fourth, if you count the disinterested Peryton, then Caed, who showed up an hour later. But the scenario provided some fun and laughs all in a mystery-comedy story which could have been from a 1940's flik.

That afternoon, we, the usual cast mentioned throughout this entry so far, headed over to the Wayne Manor for a small pool party. Marco cooked, while Caed, Wayne, Peryton, and even Monk joined Wayne's son and me in the pool. After dinner, Marco, Caed, and Monk headed back early for a game, while Peryton and I chatted up Wayne's friend Chris, Hole-Man from here on, at the fire pit. Wayne busy-bodied around, I think Dr. Freeze was loose or his wife needed help with the garage sale or something. Hole-Man and Peryton had his kids cracking up. Aarra' and Steppenwulf called just before 9pm, so Wayne took us back to the convention area.

Steppenwulf ran an impromptu T&T game, which we'll call "the Gremlin's Chimney," for now at least. As Rezz Undar, the Half-Human Warrior, I was able to merciless kill Magic the Gathering players, well viscerally at least, as well as Vampire LARP'ers. Marco jumped in for his first T&T game ever, I think. Monk then Caed wandered up to watch half way through. Andy Hopp, of Con on the Cob fame, said hi then popped back to the game that he was running. I really enjoyed myself, as anyone who knows me is just shocked to find out. I really want to write up this game though. It was quite fun. Steppenwulf has been catching on how to do a good T&T session and despite the lateness of the hour everyone had fun.

Everyone else ran into Rook on the way out the door. I was busy taking the fire exit stairs as the main lobby's atrium third floor escalator at the Hyatt was bothering me. Peryton and everyone was too tired to do much else. I ended up the night at the Cajun fastfood place for a night cap before heading upstairs and joking with Peryton as she tried to read the T&T 7.5 edition rules.

Ah Sunday, the depression day. Actually I wasn't nor did anything give me cause to even be
stressed. Both Caed and Peryton were packed up by 10am. My "Cthulhu at the Sands" characters for that day's CoC game were all but completed. Check out went easy, and we found a place to park. By 11am, I had bought everything that I had wanted to get from the Dealers' Hall, and Peryton and I were having nachos for a brunch at Champions. The Bundesliga soccer was playing on TV, and our waiter was very fast.

" ' At the Sands" filled up at the very last minute. And as expected every player was into the role they played. Soon enough Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Angie Dickinson, Aland Ladd, and Lauren Bacall foiled Liberace's foul plan to summon a Servitor of the Outer Gods to help out his brother George with a slight fatal injury-- with a little help from Jerry Lewis. I hope to get most of the group back for "Skit Skat Over Innsmouth" next year. We wrapped up just as the clock struck 2:30 pm, and I think my game was the last game running. I closed the Union Station at GenCon 'o8!

Lunch was once again at Champions, as the Ram had shut off its air conditioning and football fans and gamers competed with each other for space and to find out who were more like the Borg. Hugs were given, and promises made for next year, between Caed, Marco, Monk, Peryton, and me. We had missed Paul 1.0, he drove this year and had to leave at 2pm. When we missed the Cthulhu rally on Friday or Saturday we missed his only free time in his schedule.

Despite the fact that this GenCon was the best yet for me, it of course was no fun at all. Ken St. Andre just wasn't there.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

of Flying Buffalo, Trolls, and Phoenixes

Well maybe just Scots, more so than phoenixes, as we traveled to Scottsdale not actually Phoenix for the Flying Buffalo and Tunnels and Trolls convention this last weekend.

It took a bit to get there. We had bought our tickets sometime in February or March, I'm not sure, after booking flights out of Columbus. And then getting the rooms reserved seemed a bit of a struggle from April until May. And the convention info was being posted lackadaisically at the FBI site for the most part. It really wasn't until a week before the Convention was supposed to take place that we attendees heard anything as to what was expected to happen. And when the information came there was a sudden need for 15 GM'ed adventures, not the originally posted five. And the guy who was supposed to fill three of the original slots opted out of showing up for whatever reason. That is on top of mandatory overtime at work at the Indian games and my own writing.

Luckily the night before we left Ohio, Flavia and I spent the night at Mandy-B's and Steppenwulf's house. Helping Mandy-B make a great vegetarian dinner and listening to her enthusiasm got me pumped up for the up-coming convention. And since we were flying out of town with them, it made getting there a bit of a festive pilgrimage. Though when we arrived in Arizona, we only had energy fro a dip in the pool and some late night pizza.

Friday morning rolled around, and I made myself stay in bed until 6am local time before jumping up to prepare the day's adventure offering of "Crossing Guard." At breakfast, Monk called and told me he was about halfway between Flagstaff and Scottsdale. Even Flavia found herself able to wake up before 9:30 local time as it was after noon back at home. We met Brian Penn, or Skulltosser, a long time editor of mine, and one of the better ones, over at Outlaw Press. With him was Bart and Byron, the men of mystery from the great northwest. And luckily Khayd', of Mike Eidson, was already chatting everyone up.

Before the games started, Rick Loomis's littlest sister, Nancy, told us about a great Mexican food restaurant just up the road. Two people we'd met Doug, Nodin, and Mark S., Spencer, offered to drive us, but then I decided that we'd, Monk, Flavia, and I, meet them there because I wanted to walk. Of course, I got lost and we found someplace else, a Cien Agave, where we got six dollar tacos and did much goofing off.

We were only 5 minutes late for the "Crossing Guard" session. Where I met Martin L., Dwarflander, as he and Nodin showed me some player tricks that I hadn't seen before as a GM. Afterwards, hearing of Flavia and my misadventure, Rick insisted on taking us to the correct restaurant. He also brought Steve S. Cromptom of Grimtooth's Traps illustration fame. After dinner, Ken showed up, and everyone retired to individual suites for the evening game sessions.

I played in Byron's and his brother Bart's room, 'A Role of the Dice" was Byron's adventure and I was awed as a GM watching him. Now when I do characters, I do voices. But this guy did at least six different characters with different voices AND at no time did one of the characters get mixed up with the others that the GM was doing from before. Now that was talent. Byron has been nice enough to email me a copy of the scenario, so I can finally figure out what we the players were doing.

Back in the room, Monk was crashed, I think he had around 6pm, as he worked the night before driving in. It was after midnight, or 3am my time, I got to bed quickly.

Saturday morning, Monk and I were sitting by the pool at 7am, as I put final touches on the characters for my spaghetti western WHAP! session. By 830 am, I saw that there were more than enough GM's to make the morning a success. Mac McMahon, Mak, was recruiting as many people as he could for his old school T&T/Call of Cthulhu game, but as I had five players, if including Flavia, for the "Hey Amigo It's Sabbatoe!" I had to decline. Khayd', as well as Landdwarf and Nodin, helped Monk, Flavia, and myself enjoy a good old fashioned Saturday Morning cowboy play-pretend. We did lunch, Khayd', Monk, Flavia, and I, at a Indian restaurant afterwards. When I thought Flavia might be catching the bill, I discovered that she had found some jewelry to purchase instead.

The afternoon session was going to be a wash for getting all but more than two people at any table that was not Bear Petersen and Larry Detillio(sp?) GM'ing an adventure. I scrapped my Spacers' episode for the afternoon, hopefully giving some players to Bart or Mak or whomever was still running. I sat in lobby with Jim Walker, one of the world's foremost experts on Monsters! Monsters!, and a whole slough of cool kids came over and hung with us after a few minutes. I slipped away when Flavia informed me that Liz Danforth was in the building. And I FINALLY met her, the woman who made FRPG come alive for me. This little "fanboy" session for me was almost as much fun as when I met Ken St. Andre for the first time.

Oddly enough, while I was talking to Mz. Danforth, a woman came up and waited patiently for me to finish my conversation with Liz. I figured she knew Liz, but I was determined to hog just a bit of her time. Well her name was Teri and she was waiting to ask me to run a "Classical T&T" adventure on Sunday. She wouldn't take my WHAP! powder punk event, so what else could I do. Frankly, I have to thank her an
d her husband for asking. I love doing "quick writes" for special audiences. More on that later.

Around dinner time, Bear Petersen wrapped up his game, and a horde of people discovered they were hungry. I think the other bigwig's game was still going on or took a break or something, but it was clear that time constraints were not relevant to that one session-- so much for anyone else wanting to play in his game, I suppose. But in anycase, we all plodded over to Red Lobster and had a dinner. I missed the awarding of Rick Loomis with the special T&T hat as I had to run back and get our camera. But I had fun none the less (see the pic's above).

My evening session was in Khayd's room, where we played two new friends Dave and Tracy, Minodave and Tracitroll, as well all of the Peryton clique, well almost because Monk was busy in the other room writing "Sock Hop of Terror." And lest I forget we met Tmuwo, one of the many Pauls of Trollhalla. But the game was "A Chance Encounter Meeting of Paragons," as usual as well written and pieced as anything Mike Eidson puts his mind to. It was a blast, I was reminded of StarGate for some reason, but this was as my Dark Elf jumped out the window for his life as the rest of the party went to slice out my heart. At midnight though, I felt like it was 3am and more than ready for bed.

"The Fire Monkey's Treasure" was written between 7:30am and 10:25am, just after breakfast. I was happy that I scheduled my game session from 11am until 2pm, because though I didn't sleep in, I needed the time. By 11am everyone signed up was there, including Landdwarf, Spencer, and Nodin, as well the Oleg and Teri, the requesters. Teri's mother Ann asked if she could watch. Mak came by just too late and too crowded-out to be accommodated with a player slot-- luckily I don't think he hates me, just yet, because he is a charismatic and funny guy. Well, the game went okay, it was a true "tunnel crawl," which as some of you might know, is not my norm, so I was a bit apprehensive. We even went 40 minutes over, which made Skulltosser late for his co-GM'ing with Mak at the next table. But at the end of the final conflict, where the characters have saved some pilgrims and are being chased by mounted bandits of human and Yyena (gnolls/hyena-kin), everyone, including me applauded. A whole new experience for me, and this crowd of players were some pretty amazing role-players, so I felt that the pacing was just right at least. Teri's mother Ann admitted that she was a T&T player for a long time, and she wasn't frowning so maybe things weren't as rough else where as I thought.

The dinner at the steakhouse was pretty good. Steppenwulf won Player's Most-Valuable Player. Spencer won GM's Most-Valuable Player. And best of all Byron won Best GM. Ken, Dan Lambert, Rrramberrt, and his friend Tony, Mr.T, Khayd', Flavia, and I mostly talked about Trollworld possible critters for Shippy's upcoming magazines.

I ran an adventure in my room,but first Rrramberrt and Mr. T- showed us the upcoming board-game Big Dragon, Little Knight. let's call it the "Afterglow Game." Khayd', Landdwarf, Spencer, and Skulltosser made my job as the GM that of the audience. They were so annoyed when I interrupted them with the plot that they killed the antagonist in about two turns. I didn't mind in the least.

Monday was spent not hiking the Camelback Mountain. But Monk, Flavia, and I did get to know the Heroic Fantasy guys, Doug, Frank, and Chris in the morning, and we walked the right way to the Mexican restaurant for lunch this time. Monk at dinner talked me into a fun little bachelor party idea, which I can't talk about here, maybe next time though.

On the way back home, I sat next to Jack Russel of the band Great White. I am not making that up.

Quick thoughts:

o...When Landdwarf and Nodin left, I really felt a "ping," those two guys had really made the convention for me.

o...Rick and Ken attrack the brightest, best, and most beautiful gamers in the world. Say what you will about how things fell together, we all made it work.