Wednesday, August 10, 2011

And big parties take care of themselves... GenCon 2011, pt II.

Sligo's text message vibrated my phone on the metal counter downstairs in the kitchen of our cottage. I groggily got up and carefully made my way downstairs. It was a little past noon and time to get up. Saturday at GenCon was well underway, and it was time for me get revived and moving. Pery stayed in bed, and I can't remember if CCrabb was still asleep on the couch bed or not. Maybe I am thinking of Friday AM. 

I found Monk and K-Bell sitting at the table where my Spacers "Attack of the Androids" scenario was supposed to take place. We faked a loud argument where we alternately threatened violence and calling GenCon staff to come to the amusement and annoyance of the tables around us. And when a couple players of his Wizards and Gunslingers "Blood Stone Quarry" showed up, we stopped abruptly. No one showed up for my game, so I chatted with the crew at the Events desk for a couple minutes before heading to the lounge in the Crowne Plaza. James, the bartender from the night before, and I talked for a bit, while I enjoyed my a cup of coffee and my first beer of the day. We both liked soccer, which meant that I could get a soccer channel on one of the TVs. Bruce Wayne showed up around 3pm, having won a free Stratego game from a 50th anniversary competition going this year. We caught up a bit and met a fellow from northwestern Michigan, and chatted away the afternoon. Wayne actually napped a little as his schedule is usually very booked.
About 5:30pm Wayne and I wandered over to Cladagh, Klahh-Daghhh or however it is spelled, the Klingon joint where you get fish and chips. We got a large area on the patio and awaited folks to start showing up. And alas a lot of folks started popping up. Monk and K-Bell were the first I believe. Chris Rowan, and his friends Chris and Jeremie. Then Caed and two more. CCrabb found the spot. Rook and the Doctor were in the joint, but they stayed inside where it was cooler and they were chatting up a couple potential business partners. Peryton was the latest. And though Ronin, my name for Chris Rowan now, wanted to talk business, I pretty much wanted to party. After dinner, our group went from a gaggle to a lot of smaller groups. I was doing the "group leader" thing until I realized that I'd probably have more fun if I didn't. Pery, Monk and K-Bell went back to the B&B, while the rest of us promised to meet at the GenCon dance.
Bruce Wayne's g/f Amy, planted the idea in our head back in January about checking out the dance this year. Alas she was in Chicago, but since Ronin and crew were heading there, it seemed appropriate enough. CCrabb stuck around as her midnight game was still way off. And Caed of course made a dazzling appearance during a James Brown song. Wayne was in a dancing mood, so I kept getting him in trouble by getting towards the middle of the dance floor, where of course the pretty and physically fit folk like to dwell. So while reliving my high school dance days for a bit, I went back to the table where the adults were sitting.

At around midnight, Amy called and was back in town. Bruce Wayne bid CCrabb and me adieu. We ended up at Scotty's, her midnight game didn't happen. It was a funny time. I was wearing my Army ring on my left ring finger, instead of my wedding ring. It's a habit of mine since my right hand has gotten to fat for rings. But since it was hot and the day was all but over, I took off the ring as we sat down at the bar and placed it in my shirt pocket. The waitress and everybody else at the bar noticed this. Arched eyebrows ensued. And minds went straight to the gutter I am sure. The waitress we had had an agenda as she took out orders when the other woman slipped off to the bathroom.

"So have you two been married long?" She asked.
"Oh we're not married, " I answered blankly. " To each other."
"Ah you two do make a nice couple." She went on. "So what are you two drinking?"
"Make it two beers." I answered. "I think she wouldn't mind a Killians. We haven't known each other long."
"Anything else to make the evening special?" She asked.
"Some nachos." I answered. "And if you could call us a cab, to get back to the hotel?"

Back at the cottage, CCrabb and I made a point to wake Pery up with loud "shushes" and slurred whispering. Pery stayed up for a couple minutes while we recounted the events of the evening, and our steamy drink at Scottys, and then she stumbled back to bed. We were having too much fun, so we had a couple more beers before ending our reveling. We either talked about the fantasists of the early 20th Century or the Middle East, I get our late-night drunken discussions confused.

Sunday morning rolled around. Peryton and I both had games at 10am so got out the door quickly. We said "bon voyage" to CCrabb who would be driving out with fellow Green Mountaineer Nik Palmer, Dr. Nik. And we both showed up almost on time.

Pery ran another iteration of BEAN "Aqua Teen Hunger Force and the Book of Beards." Monk was mixing things up with
B-13 "The School Days Of Napoleon Dynamite And Friends." And I was doing my victory lap with CoC "Rat-Pack versus Cthulhu IV: Lilith Be a Lady Tonight." Dan the usual Sinatra was a little later than me, so I didn't know which table I would be running at. But Russ, Lisa, Matt and Adam, mostly from New York City, if I remember correctly found me. And Dan did show up.

The thing about "Lilith" is that Frank Sinatra has been the heavy-weight for the past three years, with Dean Martin playing his Spock. So this year, the fourth of a supposed trilogy, I mixed things up. Lilith knew "Charm" better than the Chairman, and worked her feminine guile and seduced the hapless crooner within seconds of meeting her. And poor Dan, Frank's PC, couldn't make a resistance roll this morning to save his character's life, which was a lucky thing for me. The other Rat-Packers got to work and cleverly managed to foil Lilith and her minions, not once but twice to save our dude in distress. Sammy Davis Junior showed some amazing swordplay when defeating two of the Dark Templars. And even a nightgaunt couldn't distract the Pack from saving their friend. Juliett Prowse, this year's new 'Easy on the Eyes' member, did some rather jujitsu moves with her purse and high heels at that.

At the wrap, there was Monk, K-Bell, Sligo and I alone in the little conference room where we had been playing all weekend. I almost felt sad, but then remembered the victory dinner at Champions. Pery made her way there after finisher her before Christmas shoplifting of Dr. Who items. Trollgod and Corencio showed up as well. Paul Haynie, G'noll from Trollhalla, did a cameo with his lovely wife, seriously one beautiful woman. His performance at either end of the table was impeccable, but alas he would not stay to partake in the meal.

I spent some time back in the Exhibitor's Hall purchasing the books that I had promised to buy on Thursday. I ran into the guy behind Pagan Press, one of the joys, of so many, of my life. Pery also helped me find David Nett of my favorite Web series Gold: The Web Series. Nett, from here on out, thanked me for my pathetic sponsoring of his show, and I also a northern European to his northern European descent rebuffed him duly. Still I got an autographed copy of the DVD and kewl character cards. I also met the future superstar James Paul Xavier, who happens to be my favorite actor of the series.

Sligo then took us around town and showed us his favorite local game store, the whales of the Adventure Gaming world these days, the Arsenal. I liked it the moment I walked in the place, because I like the soccer team. Besides having a kitchen to keep the some revenue flowing in between sales of game products and gaming events, the place is just crawling with rooms for gaming-- both electronic and tabletop. This place is a treasure. Expect a future Hoot or Holler to be located here in the near future folks, first Frito-pie is on me.

We then were able to Sligo into hanging out with us at Bruce Wayne's new abode. Here we played Stratego, some new marble game called Stomp, and K-Bell and I played Rummy. Jordan likes to complain that we never hang out with him enough. Well, I'll have everyone know, he had to kick us out. I hope Sligo is still married the next time I see him. 

Monday, we drove Monk and K-Bell to airport and headed home. Poor Pery had to head to work the next morning, whereas I had the next two days off. Hence my long and winding blog recounting GenCon 2011. I almost want to be depressed, but now it's time to get ready for Carnage 14

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Take care of the little things... GenCon 2011

Wednesday AM arrived finally and I wasn't over-worked the night before, nor were Peryton and I running late when we pulled out of the driveway to get to GenCon 2011. I was a little more than happy. To start the celebration, I asked Pery to text message CCrabb obscure quotes from 1930s spy novels, in German, to tell how close to the meeting point we were. Oh yeah, this year we were picking up our favorite and all powerful Editor, Christine Crabb. And after a stop at the Strongsville Mall, in front of an Applebees, all three of us were en route Indianapolis, while her family was en route back to Vermont. Everything was coming together nicely and it wasn't past 10am.

The drive from Cleveland area to Indianapolis was only a conversation in duration. We found a Mexican restaurant, as everyone knows, that is one of the joys, of the many, in my life. So I think we were in the car like 15 minutes. We pulled into the Stone Soup Inn at around 4pm. Pery and I then took CCrabb on her first road march from the B&B to the convention center. The two miles, mid-90s degree temperature and high humidity, I am sure the woman caught a glimpse of how insane we are.

A staged reenactment of before leaving Cleveland and arriving in Indianapolis
My Wednesday night game, "Cthulhu Mansion" (part III) was a wash. I was about five minutes late, having picked up my badge before walking over to the game. I think another GM might've scooped my players after speaking with the room monitor on the way out; but after two seconds of thinking about it, I gave less than a damn. I stopped into the cocktail bar called "Olives" at the Omni hotel, had a vodka tonic and cooled off. Pery and CCrabb were able to find me there. I even had a cigar. Throughout the night we were able to catch up with Yoggy, Caed and Brock and a host of others as well. It was an "Old Home Reunion" evening, the likes of which we hadn't had over the past years at our beloved Con. Of course, I was seen cavorting with two pitchers of Killians all over Scotty's that evening. I think I made about 67 new friends each trip to the bar. We didn't get back to the cottage until 1am.

Thursday AM, I had breakfast with Monk and K-Bell and the three of us walked down to the convention together. Pery was ill and had to cancel her morning session, which had a full table-- Steppenwulf, of Mandy and Steve Butka. I was amazed to find that I had three players to playtest my PowderPunk setting in "The Wrong Side of the Fuse" scenario. Met a Tuki and Trevor, along with CCrabb and Sligo. It went alright, all the rules are still a bunch of pages on my laptop computer, so things were pretty loose and freewheeling. The group were all pretty ready to be in the hip version of the year 1501 A.D. and in a port just this side of Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. My cheesy accents just weren't up to snuff though.

At lunch, I called Pery to see how she was doing. I told her about the sold out table that she missed. When I mentioned that I was surprised that I had players for the PowderPunk session, she full-heartedly replied with, "Serves you damn right!"
I suppose she didn't expect staying out so late on Wednesday.

My afternoon session of PowderPunk was a wash. Monk was running his WHAP! "The Diary of Cassanova" steampunk session just a couple of tables over. Pery was on her way down for a 2pm game. I decided to head over to the Dealer's Hall and catch up with Looming Rick Loomis and Trollgod Ken St. Andre. This year Peryton Publishing, which Ken keeps calling "Peryton Press," bought a slot in the Flying Buffalo card deck, so our Sabriel-designed peryton is the two of diamonds, alongside with the Smiling Troll Joker and the Chaimail Chick Queen of Hearts; I picked up the cards from booth to lug around.

Trollgod swung me around to see the Exhibition Hall. Well mostly to bump into attractive women authors and artists, as well as find Liz Danforth and S.S. Crompton. Lordhead the man got me committed into buying about sixteen new books this year. The authors being V.J. Waks and a cast of thousands associated with the Dragon Roots magazine. Breaking free of the Trollgod, I bumped back into Sligo and we spent the afternoon lounging next to the troll statue just outside the hall. Got to know two kids in their 20s, one was the daughter of the guy behind Adamant Games. Sligo and I played up the age differences and kept having them explain this or that costume walking by. Jordan, Bruce Wayne, and his son, let's call him the Boy Wonder, caught up with us for a bit.

Around dinner time, we had a little private dinner planned. I figured no one was coming so I asked a couple more people with they would like to meet us at Acapulco Joe's. More than a dozen showed up, including Corencio, Ken St Andre's son James. The cozy little CoC session, "Cthulhu Dawn" after dinner planned just for Caed and about four other people, also burst its seams, where we had eleven players all hanging out in our cottage. I had a lethal plot worked out, where a couple of players would survive and I would have an "End of the World" themed scenario worked out, but the players did all "smart" things like stay in one place and stick together, so I had to kill them all. Of course, I did experiment with how to turn a PC into a flesh-eating zombie. As the climax of violence started, I had one player-character wield a shotgun so poorly that he killed more of the other PCs than my attacking zombies. Trollgod did try to get the gang to head to a bar, an impenetrable fortress if ever there was one.

Friday was Grind Day and Night. Sligo called to see if I needed a ride to the con, which I declined. I chatted with CCrabb while having a sandwich and coffee before rushing out the door to my T&T events. Pery was sleeping in, and she smartly would be starting later than me. The walk downtown did not get any shorter, nor did the rain relieve the heat and mugginess, but that just made the air conditioned Crowne Plaza that much nicer.

I really should follow Pery's example and start games later in the day, especially when I plan on running all night, but there is something about T&T games early in the morning at GenCon that rocks. The morning crowd that is looking for an "independent game" tend to be some of the better role-players and the like to keep to a schedule. Martin, Kat and Beau were no exception to this norm I discovered. They were new to T&T and Sligo and David, last year's Michelangelo Walking Statue, was the player coaches that helped me out immensely while they developed characters, while I could take a break to clean myself up from the walk. And the murder mystery that is "The Big Sky" worked out wonderfully. I really had a good time. It was better than coffee.

"The Bubble Pit" T&T scenario in the afternoon would turn out to be a surprise for me. I show up after lunch with Sligo and David, to meet Mike Siegel and Kevin already working on their PCs, with T&T books and no other dice but six-sided ones. Mike is Mrrrik at the Halls, err Trollhalla, to the uninitiated. David and Sligo's characters were already ready to go. So instead of spending the first hour of the game teaching people how to roll up characters for the first hour, which is essential to illustrate certain conventions that T&T has, like DARO and TARO, we were ready to jump right into the story from get go. There was the PCs getting to know one another. I was able to throw in the wandering monster with a serious ambush. Then there was a bit of a tunnel-crawl, one of the joys, of many, in life. The story twist occurred. We as a group were able to get into some advanced "rules discussion," which meant interpreting rules among well-read and already competent T&T players-- Yes Sligo and I had to work something out. All without arguing because of the T&T directive that the GM running the game is right. Mrrrik is an Army man, so my love a break every 50 minutes to an hour, didn't surprise him and Kevin one bit.

Heading into the evening, I was able to hang out with Monk and K-Bell, and even my wife for a bit. Friday night was upon us, and the Peryton Gamer's Apocalypse All-Nighter was about to take place. At 7pm Monk ran his RocknRole-Playing scenario "Drag Racing Zombies From Beyond The Moon." Not too far from him, I was running CoC, well my version of it at least, "Cthulhu Over Casablanca." I couldn't pay too much attention because I had a fantastically talented group of role-players in front of me, with Dan, my most recurring Frank Sinatra player, leading the party as Humphrey Bogart. Dan of course did a wonderful impression of Bogart. The group overall was wonderful. The fellows playing Paul Henreid and Conrad Veidt played into Humphrey's "the nicest Nazi I know" jokes very nicely. And I've never seen a role-playing table so full of alcoholic beverages in all my life, usually there is only mine and Dan's.

Caed promised a little zombie attack during at least one of the All-Nighter's games. She mentioned that she had two people willing to show up. At 11pm, the Zombie Walk produced about 20 attackers. We had a little LARP planned out, but it turned into a break. And despite our best eforts, we couldn't get the nurse zombie to stick around for drinks. Peryton's Doctor Who "The Web of Light" scenario started at that time during the break, so she couldn't yell at me for hitting on the undead, again.

My midnight game, CoC "The Horrible Fate of the Haunted House Hunters" player's showed up on. time. Monk's Toon horror scenario with Beavis and Butthead as other characters started as well. Once again, I had a full house, and Caed. "The Haunted House Hunters" is a tricky game to run. Mix up a police procedure, with a reality-TV satire and add copious amounts of Scooby Doo, and the GM has my influences down pat. Mind you, this is one of my scary ones, so the comedy isn't built in. Well Micha, Austin, Dallas, Jason, Caed and Diane worked in the comedy very well. What was nice as well, they took their pre-generated characters and worked from there, so to speak. As the guy having to play various NPC's I forgot I regularly forgot I was the GM, the PCs were that strong. Though we were supposed to wrap up at 3am, we went over anyway.

Luckily no one showed up for my CoC "Cthulhu Dawn" session, at 3:30am the "Haunted House Hunters" and I relaxed and got in-depth. The comedy schticks were played out earlier, and the PCs got down to the mystery(s) in front of them. Calls were made to fathers who were retired cops, and family problems role-played out. The players started checking out historical information. As the right questions were being asked, I dropped more and more of the clues. The bigger picture came together. And the sanity started ebbing away one or two points at a time. When the twist to the tale came, I had one PC this close to being committed. Despite a shot-gun mass murder attempt at the end, I think everyone survived, and the main PC, a retired wrestler turned paranormal investigator, redeemed his heroic heritage.

Peryton's 3am game BEAN "Aqua Teen Hunger Force and the Book of Beards" had a group of six or seven people come in punctually and abruptly drop their belongings on her table. Apparently about four of them were members of a cult dedicated to her ATHF games with a couple of indoctrinated converts in tow already. My and Monk's gregarious groups weren't even noticed as the Pery-Pod People began their game. As I was so wrapped up in my game, I didn't know that Pery finished her last session in less than 90 minutes. Her and her minions then worked out a sequel adventure, to fill the rest of candle burning until sunrise.

The Apocalypse All-Nighter wrapped up officially at 5:42 AM. My players, incited by Caed, were all about breakfast at Steak and Shake. I had planned on Acapulco Joe's, but couldn't resist the pull. Peryton came along as well, sated by her cultists worship, yet hungering for something more. At Steak and Shake, I wasn't sure which made the breakfast, the lack of taste in the food or the really bad service, but I was so drained at this point I was punch-drunk amazed at my own ability to smile. Peryton was pretty wiped out as well, after she ate her baby cup full of yogurt she taped her fingers and glowered at me as we awaited my apparently hard to prepare breakfast. I said, "Hey, we just pulled off an apocalyptic all-night gaming session."
She smiled.
And we used our smiles to get us back to our B&B cottage. I had even mustered up enough strength to compose a little poem to "my", I felt familiar enough now to refer to them as intimates, Haunted House Hunters, before I exited stage behind me out the door.

"Fair gents and fine ladies,
I pray thee to grant your ears.
I doth think, that tonight,
Thee have grown me dears.

Still I am weary,
Upon this morn of heat dreary.
For time beneath our willow,
I must find my pillow.

So alas, allow me my due.
To bid you, you, you, you, you
And you Caed,

I almost forgot to pay, and had to come back rushing in to the cash register before the cops jumped me.

The wind was blowing, but it was full of steamy humidity and not many degrees below our skin's temperature. When we hit the apartment, we were sapped.

Monday, August 01, 2011

One headlight

One more shift at work until Peryton and I drive off to Indianapolis for GenCon 2011. I really cannot say how much I enjoy this vacation. And this year, I swore things were going to easier for me while I am there, despite the fact that every year I run more and more events. But back in May I swore that I show up prepared, and up until tonight, I haven't been keeping my promise to myself. I knew this past weekend and Monday was going to be the clincher, the crunch, the... the test. And I passed it, with a "C" maybe a "B."

The scenario outlines are almost all completely done, so the typing since May has been helpful. And even the incomplete tales have the scoops, twists, bells and whistles all worked out in outline form with copious details. Of course when the plots hit the table, the players will be the ones who dictate how close things stay to my thread; which is the joy of role-playing, interactive parlor game that it is.The characters are complete for all six of the scenarios that I am running that should have pre-generated characters. And the character sheets for the other four are ready to go. And I even have a little LARP experiment worked out with Caed, my virtual sister, to spice up the Peryton clique's Friday night "Apocalypse All-Nighter."

Things are looking good.

And getting here hasn't been an easy path.
We've had to postpone the Elder Tunnels Summer 2011 issue because I couldn't finish my piece being so absorbed in my preparations for the event. And our kitchen sink's elbow has a hole, and we might have mice (despite seven cats). Two big convention friends JerryTel and Andre Kruppa have both canceled their appearances at GenCon, and these guys are at least as serious as I am about gaming. Existential angst and superstition are at the edges of my mind this week.

So tomorrow, I clean up the place for the house sitter, and pack before heading off to work a shift. And then on Wednesday AM, the dice are cast.