Sunday, December 16, 2012

On Any Given Sunday

One of the joys of writing, well creating, is the ties that I develop with other creative types. Mike Hartlieb and I worked together as paramedics before we discovered a shared passion for art and fantasy. I am a fantasist writer and he is a comic designer/pen and ink artist. Which explains to the rest of the world our generally dysfunctional approaches to reality, but also the basis for an awesome and enduring relationship as well. Today I was reminded of how brilliantly talented Mik44 (my cell phone nickname for him) really is.

While working a bit of OT, I sent a text message to the artist about getting together for lunch on Saturday or Sunday. It's kind of a bi-weekly ritual we have at a Mexican restaurant halfway between our locales. This restaurant is of course the Mexican Village. He responded that Sunday worked for him, but that he had no illustrations ready for purchase. I flippantly replied "If you don't need the extra cash, I am fine with watching the football game and discussing concepts for 'Glow'" (My upcoming TROTT post-apocalyptic game).

The restaurant ended up being the Old Angle, my beloved haunt, because of meetings with other folks as well. Well, Mik44 shows up with two drawings, began the night before. One wasn't finished, but he promised it'd be finished by the end of the game. So in the middle of a drunken crowd during a local event, the man is pulling out ink pens and finishing an illustration with a focus and attention to detail that made people envious. Mind you, we looked more than a little dorky among many Cleveland Brown jerseys and various gentry of the city's scene. But hey, it's the Angle. They have put up with me and strangeness forever already. And everybody seeing the guy work his magic, while having a couple beers and cheering the home team on, was a show in and of itself.

So Peryton showed up after the game, and indeed the illustration was done. AND it is something of a masterpiece as well. Above is just a little part of the work. You'll see the rest when Kopfy's Swamp of Doom Pt III: "Fish Tails and New Moon" is finished.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Carnage 2012, Pt 6: The End of Days

No Cheap Beckett Here

The older I get, the less satisfied I become with things. On my 35th birthday, I went to watch Waiting for Godot in Cleveland and could only notice that it was performed by actors with a solid background in clown performance. My 40th birthday was spent in Dayton, Ohio trying to keep a bunch of 40-somethings motivated to stay up past 10pm. I learned that in Ireland, according to fans of its music every day is either a wedding or a funeral. I learned this decade the parts that I don't like about the Lord of Rings movies are those that are actually in the book.

It was with some relief when Peryton discovered the Carnage Convention back in 2009. I found a not-too-small convention, where one does get to know people, find great parties, and some of the best tabletop role-players ever. We're talking GenCon caliber gamerdom but with a bar in the middle of the place, and room party crawl measured in yards not light-years. All in a place where I could convince honeymooners to come. Right at the Vermont and New Hampshire border no less, for the walk-about exploring drunk like me.

It's sort of on that note, that Sunday morning came about. Everyone packing was being done quickly and without problem. I didn't even have to play the "Where did I leave the camera?" game, that I so love to. So Monk, Zach, and I headed out to lounge area to enjoy the morning view of the lake, still cloud-covered, mind you, leaving Pery to do her last minute hems and haws in peace. Finally ran into Dr. Nik, who was only a blur most of the weekend so far. Rainbow Chick and Wotan showed up as well. Wotan showed his own poetic side when relating to Nik his thoughts of the weekend. It was a rather nice spiel. I was jealous.

Peryton came limping from the car a little after noon, so there wasn't much else to do except say goodbye to everyone and get going. And leave Lake Morey. Margo, was hanging with Dr. Watt and the Two Dans again, and she was acting pretty despondent at my only casual wave. Peryton swooped my coffee cup, which I was trying to lose just I often do my camera, into my hand, so I cut the flirting short, to say, "We'll always have Paris."

And with that, the last plane leaving Lake Morey jockeyed down the runway. Carnage Noir was fini. Like any good noir flik, I just can't wait for the next one.

Oh did I mention that Steven Dresser won the Barroom Brawl for like the 100th year in a row?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Carnage 2012, PT 5: The Longer Night

The Dancing Horse

My CoC game "Bigger Than a Breadbox" was full. Derek, Zach, and Dan Mills of the Two Dans (Him and Dan Williams) showed up from last year. TomM, Rainbow Chick and Wotan (Scott's new nickname, hey I aim to please), and later TomM's son joined in. This is basically the continuation of what is becoming my "Castle of the Moth Cycle", which is in its 4th year. I suspect going to become my Lovecraft yarn that defines my style of CoC playing. Though I want it to go creepy, I can't get over street-level occult which just touches the supernatural. Well this year, I actually got to something Lovecraftian though Mills, the Antiquarian, reprising his role from last year took away my major plot twist. Still the players made the game for me.

Let me go into more depth on the players. Wotan took his rural county Sheriff role to heart, and even came up with a background story, that I loved listening to. Derek's reprise of his role as the cut-up FBI agent, and added depth to it as the guy who resigned to take the fall for the shortcomings of his and his partner's investigation last episode. TomM played his director who caught the brunt of Derek's animosity and had to deal the still-employed agent that was severely handicapped from last game, and the hot shot agent assigned to his unit to clean up the mess. Rainbow Chick jumped right into that over-qualified, highly ambitious FBI agent's shoes with relish. And the Antiquarian, adopted his role of a dead man walking around in a pizza delivery guy's shoes with solid resolve.

I don't want to give too much away, but for three years running the players have been able to foil the Mi-go from completing the rewriting of their version of The Unspeakable Cults. This year, they got pissed. The plot was supposed a little farther than it did, but I was having fun watching the players. So I have a good lead in, with Derek's, the Antiquarian, and Wotan's characters being pivotal to the next installment, "The Keys to Christmas Place."

Wandering Through the Midnight Corridors

As my game ran over, I was a little late for James Caprio's The Cube of Death, a geeky/nerdy game show with hit points. I was seated with the dorks. While the geeks and nerds rooted for their celebrities, us dorks shouted out wrong answers and got yelled at. I have no idea who I was sitting next to, but those two dudes were hilarious. I am good at being wrong, but I really had to step up my game in their proximity.

Checking out Club Andre, which was open already, all the kewl kids were there, but Peryton wasn't. I found her back in the room hamming up her stubbed toe for an Academy Award. After major surgery and four monologues, she muttered that she may come out and "be among" everyone. With that promise to think about leaving the room, I was out of there.

I spent a bit of time chatting it up with the Two Dans, and a woman named Margo who was wearing a Harry Potter scarf but rocking my world with Noir-style femme fatale snippy dialog and attitude. I almost didn't notice it when Peryton showed up.

Andre's Billiard Room of Doom was hot. I mean the temperature was broken. But still, everyone was in there. That included Jeff Talanian of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea fame. As well as Steven Dresser, Zach, Pretty Boy, Byron, Rainbow Chick and Wotan, and various others. Monk showed up after hanging with his bunch of friends. The party itself was its usual affair, just more like a Roman bathhouse with everybody dressed, which prompted me to propose a 3am toast on the porch, overlooking the now still, and black as ink Lake Morey.

There were actually around three toasts. We didn't think Andre, Scott (the guard Scott), and Ben were coming. They came out of the room after 15 minutes, so the rest of us pretended to have waited for them. I think I was getting poetic, but don't really remember-- let's put it like this, there was more beer and liquor than anybody could finish.

After the ceremonial excuse for a bit of fresh air, we made our way back to Andre's Den of Iniquity. One by one we started dropping off. A fellow by the name of Arun slipped in and refreshed the mix with conversations the Matrix and other movies. I think we, Monk, Peryton, Zach and I, made it back to the room, in a pack, sometime between 4 and 5.

Don't forget Daylight Savings Time took affect that night...

Friday, November 09, 2012

Carnage 2012, Pt 4: The Long Day

The Sun Also Rises

I was awake before Monk's little chime started to wake him up for his 8am game. It sounded a lot like Peryton's tablet whenever we get an email notification of sales, so at first I was thinking we were making massive sales just by being at the Carnage Convention. Sales did actually go up, just not at 7:15am. I was awake and there was nothing to do about it. So I got up, put Zach's boots in the bathroom (a little ripe), cracked the window, and went to breakfast.

Pretty Boy was at breakfast and complaining about being up already. I pointed out that I too was up and moving around the dining room as well, then let it drop. His pain was great and there was nothing anybody could say to calm him down. Luckily he slipped off, hopefully to go back to bed, halfway through my pancakes. After eating, I did a quick circuit of the resort to see if anybody was awake. Not many that I knew,  even the morning riser Dr. Nik. Finding only Tom Dorman, who was a bit busy with like that staff duties stuff, I returned to the room and forced myself to nap.

At just before noon I was up. Peryton was almost out of room. I tried to prompt her with "Let's go be among them." You know keep each other company for a bit. She found an excuse to duck into the bathroom, leaving me in the hallway for over five minutes. Hrothgar came out of his room, which was across the hall, and we decided to walk up to the store again. All my beer had holes in the bottles or something.

No one was waiting for me to run my second noir game "The Dead End" when I returned. Peryton was texting wondering where the hell I was, I wanted to reply "Not in the bathroom" but decided not to. So I started sitting in on other games for a few minutes to get a feel for the GMs and the systems that they were running. And then I started doing the photo-journalism thing, making a point to get pictures of every room I wandered into.

I found Peryton running her "Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1: Black Stockings and Sippy Straws" BEAN scenario. Zach was playing as well as well as someone who seemed annoyed at me interrupting his enjoyment of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Pery tried to guilt-trip into joining, but I was enjoying wandering too much.

And the wandering paid off. I ran into Ccrabb and family. Ccrabb's oldest was running a D&D game for kids her age. Christopher, my editor's husband was there as well, and I always enjoy seeing him. I don't get enough time with that man, but I've liked him from day one. She gets jealous of her time with me though. So Christopher was off to do something with the youngest, so I sat with her while she tried not to be nervous looking at the curtains of the private gaming room where her daughter was performing.

We should've been talking about PeryPub business but mostly we just talked. We alternated conversations with Dr Watt and then Gaylord, who came by after another kid's game was wrapping up.  And then dinner plans came up, before you knew it it was 4pm.

An hour before a proposed dinner out, I started preparing characters for the night's CoC game "Bigger Than a Breadbox" Rainbow Chick and Uncle Scotty came by as well, recounting their afternoon's game.  So of course, I wasn't able to get them done before the dinner bell rang and we caught a ride with Tyler to Leda's. I was carrying my CoC book with me and was thinking about carrying it into the restaurant just to finish up the last three characters. Peryton and Dr Watt muttered "Nerd" under their breath, so I left my unfinished task in the car. Good thing that I did, I got to know Eric and Patti Rutin, the Dr. Who Monster Family from now on.  I have to say this was the easiest Saturday night dinner run at Carnage that I have ever had. I was able to get back and finish the last three characters for the upcoming game, AND tend to an stubbed toe for Peryton-- she married me for infantry medic experiences.

Carnage 2012, Pt 3: Surprises

The Weekend Is Going Too fast

Friday AM, I woke up too early and with a headache. I think most of it was Peryton's glowering stare after she heard about me being a jerk. And she reminded me, that I only died once in Andre's game. I had only been beaten down, drugged twice and had an overdose of sedative before I died the night before. I swear to godsheads that I was starting to feel like a Who song. So I started with the Dean Marten method of dealing with a hangover, which is scientifically proven, hair of the dog with as many apologies as required.

Monk and I bumped into David Crowell, Hrothgar, as my supply of beer was dwindling before noon and dragged him out of the door for a little fresh air, as we walked up to the store for more. We mostly enjoyed the morning air, really, and bought some room supplies as well as beer. Hroth was telling me about a game called Fate of the Norns that he was trying out. Little did we all suspect is that he'd probably be playing in every game that one get into at Carnage convention this year.

I walked in the front door and got a look from Nissi who was working when she saw the two six-packs I was carrying. I smiled and nodded. Those looks of hers would prove more than helpful later. Hey if I were a pagan, Bacchus would rule. I remember telling David, "It's Friday morning, and I am already thinking this con is too short."

My first game was at 1pm, and it was full. Steven Dresser, Lucas (from last year's "Castle of the Moth"), James Caprio, his betrothed Mary and a couple other new friends (Christine and Bob, I believe). I had two objectives with "The Bad Penny:" Get my TROTT system some play-testing, and make a straight Noir adventure. Now I asking me to do Noir is like asking a bear to live in the woods, and I think I got the basic tropes and plot devices right. The butler did it by the way. Rules-wise, I am really getting tired of explaining my rules, maybe I should stop writing them. Well here's to many more years of explaining them though. Better character sheets will help.

At dinner I ran into Peryton, with Andre, Ccrabb, Ben Osenfort, or Pretty Boy from here on, and the soon-to-be Caprios. Andre and I shared little jabs and pokes to show we still got along. But I knew he wasn't happy with me. I went to lay down, my head was hurting, as it should've been mind you.  I started getting texts from my Carnage son Zach. He seemed disconcerted as to where I was, I replied he then stopped messaging.

Making Space

I took Friday evening off of running to actually run in a game presented by someone that I haven't already gamed with. I chose TomM's Discworld scenario. I thought from all the gear and miniatures, maps and massive character portraits, it was a well-marketed game series, but no the guy put all this together through random fan memorabilia and his own game system. Pretty Boy was there, we've liked role-playing together since GenCon of this year. TomM gave him the secret mission of "keeping me under control," which is what I get for being That Guy once at a close-quarters convention. TomM's son was there as well, and another fellow. Dr. Watt, Tyler Dion, was there as well. And one other fellow, who did a great "Nobby." Ben and I played the least colorful characters of the game, but Pretty Boy was able to work in his sexual innuendo filled lines for everyone around the room. Dr. Watt did an assume Nathan from Metalocalypse for Igor, and TomM's son did a great Count Chocula/ Count Down. I am going to make more time for other people's games in the future thanks to TomM.

Afterwards, Zach found me and we caught up. We of course spent some time with Joe the bartender, Zach's Carnage Uncle, as I am his Carnage Father, of course. The Zach Pack, Heather, Derek and Patrick, listed in order of my notice showed up for my midnight game of "The Roll of the Dice."  An MSPE game. Well Jimmy, Dan Williams, didn't show up so none of wanted to play. Actually I am lying, I wanted to go hang, the RPG room was lonely.

Negative on the Fly-By, Space Boy

People were doing the post game cocktail hour, maybe three. My excuse that I was waiting for Peryton to come out of Andre's game. After a while Zach and I ran into Hrothgar and Pretty Boy. Over my shoulder I saw the back of Peryton's head sitting next just behind a booth wall and talking to Nissi. I excused myself, happy to see the old ball and chain out and about, and swooped in for a shoulder touch and kiss on the surprised cheek. Nissi's eyes widened as I on my bombing run.

Inches from grabbing a strange woman's bra strap and kissing her unknown face, I met Petra and her husband Scott. Rainbow Chick, a nickname given to Petra by Ccrabb some months before, looked surprised but not terribly bothered at my mug well within her personal space. To my own credit, I didn't go blank at the awkward moment either.

"You're not my wife." I said quickly. "Lovely hair." And I introduced myself quickly to Scott first and her. Not one to miss a beat, Petra became "my game wife" and Scott became Uncle Scotty.

Suddenly without warning, the bar closed. Not like it was 2am or something. Ben and I headed back to my room to pick up my beer supplies for the greater good of the party. I was speaking real loud as I opened the door and went straight to the refrigerator, Ben put his finger over his mouth. We had found Peryton, curled up in bed, really sleeping hard. Upon seeing her, I proceeded to ask 20 questions about her night.

"Do I really look like I want to have a conversation right about now?" Was her reply. Gotta love that woman.

The party ended up back in Andre's Billiard Room of Doom. Zach and I bid everyone adieu about 4am. The son I never had wanted to go sleep in his car, so I cop-wrestled him into our room to bunk with us. It was nice having family around.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Carnage 2012, Pt 2: Too Much Too-Much-Good

On the Road to Morocco, err Lake Morey

Getting on the road a little before 10am was not as hard as I figured it would be. I was cheerful because my breakfast was a leftover tuna fish melt from the Tully's somewhere up the road from the motel. When you own cats, tuna fish is a rare delicacies. Monk and Peryton had goodies from their own caches, so don't think I left them eating their fingertips. As our GPS was down, Pery was utilizing her smart phone and spreading out maps in the back seat, while Monk and I giggled about our incredibly witty jokes.

During the climb up the Vermont mountains towards the "central valley(?)", where I-91 runs and where anyone who doesn't drive to New York for milk or has a dog sled lives, I noticed the weather extremely unremarkable. The creeks and ravines were incredibly low for the time of year even. I mean I saw half of roads washed away after Hurricane Ilene. But this year, the 14th Colony of America's weather was better than Cleveland Ohio's. And with an hour and a half to spare, we arrived at Fairlee VT and the beloved Lake Morey Resort.

The Too Much Too-Much Bit

We did dinner with CCRABB, Tyler, and Tom Mechler, TomM from here on out, at the Hungry Bear Tavern.  We had been trying for an Indian food place which had shut off its lights 20 minutes earlier than its sign on the door said it would. Still the Bear had one of those wet burrito things called an enchilada with cream cheese and mild salsa, which was not bad. I was a bit over-excited at seeing everyone, so I drank. Now I know that doesn't surprise anybody, but when I showed at Andre's Thursday night pre-convention game, I became That Guy.

The game was fun though. Ccrabb and TomM probably would be too polite to call me annoying. Peryton was annoyed that I kept having to leave the room, because it broke the utter darkness of the theatrical set. Andre and Nyssa were handling me, but openly bothered. I think Toe-head, Ray Hickey, was a little jealous as he had do some of the best role-playing I have seen to date-- usually he's That Guy, just without as much vigor as I was putting into it. Now all that said, I was having the time of my life, and didn't mind getting killed three times.

What I regret is that I came back to argue with Andre about the scenario and its characters, instead of just enjoying myself in the Andre Billiards Room of Doom afterwards. I suppose I was paraphrasing Elton "Thursday Night Alright For Fighting." Definitely had a belly full of gin. But where was my mind at? Monk got me back to the room, laughing at me of course.

Carnage 2012, Pt 1: A Town Called Maliced

Whiskey Island Devastation and Famous Last Words

Getting off of work on Monday night, two days before we traveled to Vermont, with a lay-over in Syracuse, NY, was supposed to be a good thing. But when the winds knocked out our power at 9pm, yes sub-tropical cyclone Sandy hit Cleveland, and our waterfronts were washed over as well, that kind of killed that idea. The next day was spent first re-establishing contact with the outside world and avoiding the boredom that comes with a lack of electricity. Peryton made her way to work, and I climbed on top of our garage to remove tree branches from phone and cable lines.

Our little emergency radio, with its electric crank kept the radio and light present. We could even charge our cell phones, with enough elbow grease. And the little elf that wanted to be president, Dennis Kucinich, was proven right when the city of Cleveland-owned power company restored power to our little burg in less than 16 hours, while the more affluent customers of First Power were enjoying privatized triage and given five day waiting periods. Sadly, the winds had damaged our cable... sigh.

One interesting conversation of the Days Without Power was with my step-dad.
"You be careful driving." Don "Maybe just not go. "
"Oh the actual conditions on the ground are always not that bad." Tom "I was in the Red Cross."
"I am writing this down." Don
"Famous last words they may be, eh?" Tom
"I figure those will be drowning sounds." Don
"I'll call when we hit Syracuse." Tom

Ataxic Forward

Peryton was called into work Tuesday, so we couldn't leave until after 2pm or so. I actually spent most of the AM going back to bed, after waking up with Pery who had to leave early. And something happened that doesn't happen too often. I imploded. While lying in bed, amorphous anxieties would creep up and I'd realize that I was awake, every 15 to 35 minutes. Was it the storm? Was it new pressures at the job? No. It was because I had promised to clean the cat boxes out before the old woman got home.

So around 2pm, we were headed out. While we got to enjoy rush hour traffic in Buffalo, I had our trip to Syracuse down to the minute, including the inclement weather which had ceased around the New York border. Missing the correct exit to the airport to pick up Monk, added some time to my figures, but we got there. And I had a rather sleepless night in our traditional Red Roof Inn.

To quote Tyler Dion from the following afternoon, "It was like the night before Christmas."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Darryl Nichols: Artist Extraordinaire.

Today a friend has passed. I met him a few years ago while wasting my time behind a convention booth in Akron, Ohio. For the first few months he questioned me like a son-of-bitch about my then new TAG rules. He then threw his hands up into the air and started working with me. He helped me put together Crawlspace and really liked zombie movies. With his input and a lot of private discussion about the literature of the 17th through the 19th century, the follow-up Crawlspace product "Zombie Zigzag" came into being.

Frankly, that isn't what is special about the man. He mentioned early on that his physical ailments were keeping him from leading an otherwise normal life. He went on to state, "So I am doing what I have to do."

What he went on to do was was mesmerize me with what a master artist at existing he was. In-between treatments and preparations for forthcoming organ-transplants, he painted in bursts. Wrote game adventures for Savage Worlds. He and his beautiful wife, Carrie, had picture-perfect holidays with their families. AND he always showed up for a good table-top session in person.

Always a favorite subject of Darryl's, his wife.
I am going to miss having Darryl around. But I am sure he'll make fun of me if I don't enjoy myself half as much as he did with the time he had.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

GenCon '12 Pt 5: The Outgoing Tide

Sunday, Sunday

Though I pretty much woke up whenever Peryton started getting up and ready, I decided to sleep in. So as she slipped out the door to be at the booth at 9am at 8:54, she was probably late, I fell into a deep sleep. And at 9:14 I awoke feeling absolutely decadent.

JerryTel was hanging at the booth, for a couple hours with Pery when I arrived at 9:40 or so. As for Sunday there isn't much to tell. The minutia about sales was something a little less than Saturday's. Dr Nik and Sligo were sharing their new found wisdom of having attended the ENnies and Saturday AM seminars, respectively with me-- This being my first year at the get-together in Indianapolis after all. JerryTel got bored quickly and slipped off just before noon. Cram stopped in and took his place for company while we plotted things T&T.

The afternoon was spent mostly making speaking with people who wanted advice on their own publishing thing, sometimes even acting half way interested in our products. One of the more pleasant moments was when one of the mysteries of earlier days playing out. No longer wearing a short dress and a black Bob Cut wig, the woman who dropped her business card in front of me on Friday, appeared twice at the booth. She was still very easy on the eyes in her jean coverall shorts, plaid shirt and natural hair. I don't think she figured that I recognized her. The second time she approached she handed me another business card. Different style than the one I saw on but the same name. Two different approaches and variation of style while doing so. I felt a rush of heat from under my collar.  Literary chicks are sooo damned sexy. I looked left and right. I felt like I was cheating on CCrabb*. I referred the woman to Peryton, the real Biblio-Babe in the my life, just too damned flattered to do more than flub about verbally. Amazing how would-be hacks like me get the attention of book dames with looks, brains and amazing style.

After the Fire

At 4pm, we gave away our Shark-Jumping poster to a kid. His father was one of the guys wanting to know about the small press industry. The breakdown of the booth took only minutes and for all the lack of sales, it actually was a much better than usual sales weekend on-line. Plus everyone at PeryPub, despite not reconnecting as much as we like to do at GenCon, felt like we had accomplished something. I had one last scotch and soda with Jack before he went home for Monday and Tuesday off-- it was on the house.

I tried to set up a dinner with Ken St Andre and Rick Loomis and Sutter, James Sutton, to meet. One party wanted early and the other party wanted late. Ken compromised by saying he'd meet at a Denny's outside of his motel right between the county jail and the airport or some such. I declined, as we were quite happy going to our "fancy priced restaurant for a late nite black-tie event," to quote him. We were going to Bourbon Street, at 7pm, as we are wont to do when we are in Indy. Sutter declined as well since his booth breakdown wouldn't be until after 10pm or so. Plenty of our friends showed up as it was. We had a fine victory lap dinner with Batman, Colts Gal, Sligo and Cram. The conversation was equally between football, an ancient Greek-themed T&T round of games for GenCon for 2013, and Sligo's continuing stream of bits of wisdom from the seminars that he had attended over the last couple of days. For that last bit, I think he felt I should be taking notes.

Godsheads bless Peryton, though she took off her Exhibitor badge, she couldn't stop carrying around her gamer backpack that evening. 

The next morning I was up around 6am and out the door to catch a bus out to Batman's house and retrieve the car. For all the work of the morning, it was not unpleasant.  Peryton was amazing at getting everything ready to go, and after dropping off some borrowed items around town, we were on the road. Poor me would only have three more days off of work to recover from our beach blanket bingo.


Still going to do the booth at next year's event, but I am going to be much more organized and assertive about managing it. Stuff like time-slots and scheduling help here and there. And the booth lay out is going to be awesome. A closing event, like a poster give-away raffle for interested folks, will be a nice top off.

Definitely will have to cut into business and game-running time to have more social occasions for our clique. One the phone over the last week, after GenCon, we all really missed each other.

*Christine Crabb is PeryPub's Editor, its managing editor, its main squeeze; dammit. Get your mind out of the gutter already.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

GenCon '12, Pt 4: Eye of the Storm

One of the nice things about the late night games, is that I when I woke up after a three or so hours of sleep I don't have to spend too much time moping around the hotel room or the hotel before I have to get going to the booth. And considering on Saturday morning I must've slept over four hours, I awesomely work up twenty minutes before the booth was supposed to open up. So I nothing to worry about rushing from the hotel to the convention hall. Peryton had a game that morning, so she didn't deign on waking up before noon.

Amazingly, I wasn't late. And Monk and K-Bell showed up to help out with the booth. Right at 9am as well. And I suddenly realized, I didn't have to work the booth. I was able to do that 'networking thing' that so many of the professional game designers talk about doing. So I had time in the morning to meet with VJ Waks and Kevin Herbst. There was some discussion of getting them to do scenarios for Elder Tunnels.  And then around 11am, Derrenn Canton was early for our lunch date, so we were able to wrap up early enough to catch the last half of Arsenal game on TV. And then at 2pm I was hanging with James Sutton, Sutter from here on, from FASA games. As mentioned earlier, Sutter is a big T&T fan so among other things we talked about doing something at BASHCon big for the game.

In the evening, I ran Spacers (TM) "53 Miles West of Venus," for three players. Batman and Ben from Carnage and a fellow named Mike.  It was a rough game. I blame the players but I suspect that I was too weary from the long week to deal with my own rules. Still we had some fun, and had a few brews. Ben is never without food and beverage as I have learned over the years.

Peryton had some drama with her 9pm. Which JerryTel and I know the real story behind, but I suppose we're sworn to secrecy.

"The Rat Pack versus Cthulhu V: The Sword of Samael" Proved I wasn't too tired to run a game. I was just mixing up what number the game was, I had it in my head that this was the seventh not the fifth game. Dan and Russ from most years were able to make it. I had a special way to work out which players got Rat-Pack characters and who would remain the "nameless." And, the Jerry Lewis character went to fellow who annoyed the most people during character development. Still it was a great game, probably the most even -paced large group I ever ran. I pretty much can only thank the return players as well as the new guys, they rocked and got into the yarn wonderfully.

Got back to the room just a little before 4am. The line at the noodle shop was very long and slow.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

GenCon '12, Pt 3: The Hard Bits

Friday morning came about with me realizing that four-star luxury meant that microwaving food and ironing clothes were petty prol├ętaire annoyances; that so would've made my life easier, but real GenCon exhibitors wouldn't complain. I suppose to-go boxes are for the masses. I should be wanting to go downstairs and spending $17 on whatever that included eggs and whatnot. Or I should be holed up in my room and eating pop tarts and making turkey sandwiches with ketchup, no mayo, for lunch and dinner. Peryton stumbled her way out of bed at ten minutes before the booth was supposed to be open so I walked over there. I left her my $19 pancake leftovers from the restaurant along with a plum. I shoplifted the plum, to explain to all how I go about things.

Friday our sales increased by 1% worldwide when someone bought a dozen PeryPub products within moments of us opening at GenCon. Sadly that was on-line. Throughout the day, sales improved in person as well, mostly folks from my "Balrog in the Basement" session the night before. Sligo and John Bennet, Cram, showed up and made on-going great conversation. I met an artist by the name of Derrenn Canton who was interested in doing art for PeryPub, I set up a lunch date. One of the T&T fans that were buying items from the game the night before was a Michael. The man was really adamant that I meet some "Jimmy Sutter" over at the Red Brick/FASA booth some 900 miles to the east of our booth at GenCon. I nodded and smiled, but you know I was thinking more about a nap than anything else.

Not that I ignored Michael Hammon, he is a T&T man from Columbus with ties in Toledo, stay tuned kids.

I left the booth to Peryton's more-educated approach to salesmanship, to head over to hotel for a nap. An interesting interlude happened. Because of some interesting construction going on I decided to take the "sky way" back to the Omni. I missed an elevator, so I decided to take the stairs, but as the elevator door was closing a young woman wearing triangular glasses, and a rather short beige skirt looked intensely at my gut. My "Exhibitor Badge" happened to be in front of my pent up manliness gut. While walking over to hotel just across the upper level, the same woman was a few steps in front of me. As it would happen, just before she turned off the thoroughfare she dropped stuff, well plenty of scrap paper. Where I am a sucker I helped her pick things up. Where I am not a sucker is that I read her business card, laying on the floor in front of me, and figured there was more to come. 

Back at the bar with Jack, I ran into a guy that I ran a game for last year. Craig, removing a letter and replacing it, was rather enthusiastic about seeing me again. The drinks were on him. So while Jack and I worked out the details of the Korean war, Craig worked out the details of a decent scotch and soda. And after a couple of the drinks, when I excused myself, the fellow followed me to the far off JW Marriot or whatever. He insisted that he buy me dinner, a steak no less. The meat was marginal, but the broccoli and fries were awesome soaked in its gravy.

So I showed up for my "The Tunnel of Hard-knocks" a bit over-fed and well imbibed. Well I had to ask exactly where my game was, which was my introduction to an ongoing ittsy-bittsy drama going on for the GenCon staff. Someone was not wrapping up their game very quickly. Now had I not been late and a bit loopy, the situation would have been handled a bit differently. But in this instance, an event coordinator  got to prove their worth and act all dramatic as she recited some passage from an obscure GenCon policy, which she had looked up ten minutes earlier. This one outdid most in fax outrage while speaking to the offending GM.

This GM, after being chided by the event coordinator heard my name and suddenly stopped listening to her and looked at me. Apparently he was a big fan of me as well. James Sutton introduced himself while I apologized for all the officiousness going on. I did mention, that he should acknowledge the players lining up around the table when his game runs over to avoid the awkwardness that him and I were in. All the same, we set up a meeting for Saturday to talk about things T&T.

Don't read too deeply into my insinuations here. The woman dropping her business card so that I could pick it up had nothing to do with Craig, my fan player. Craig had nothing to do with the hall monitor. And the GM in front of me was more worried about the success of his game than he was about reading the schedule and knowing who was coming up after him. It was just rather fun and dramatic afternoon.

The Hard-Knock Tunnel worked out nicely. I ran a tunnelhack adventure that ended up in a battle. All within four hours. A handful of old-school T&T players, the most demanding audience sword and sorcery fans that I can think of,  decided that my GM choices in rule tweeks and how they worked were not only effective, they liked them. If I die anytime in the next three weeks, assume I died happy.

The evening's CoC game "The Tarot Deck" went swimmingly. The players caught the clues and only one of them died. They didn't piece enough of the mystery together to avoid the two villains from escaping. The players were so into their roles, that I might just run a semi-private game for a couple of them returning as the PCs from last weekend.

I was supposed to meet Caed for her birthday party, but she was having a problem with her foot. I also hear that her Zombie Walk only had a few participants, so I bet she was boozing and barbituate-ing in her sorrow. I found her text message not to swing by as I walked into her hotel's lobby at 3am. That's okay I needed the exercise as I backtracked back to our hotel.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

GenCon '12, Pt 2: To and Fro the Grains

Some Forces Are Immovable
For all the shark discussion, the booth stayed pretty uneventful. We allowed one interview, Peryton wanted to do less. The Gaming Gang's, Jeff McAleer charmed us both into it. I remember the interviewer and Peryton asking me if there was anybody else that I'd like to plug or could we start talking about Peryton Publishing finally. Sorry but Jeff Werx, Tavernmaster Games, the Troll Hammer, Trollhalla, and Flying Buffalo Inc all are apart of the package when it comes to Elder Tunnels and my T&T products. Sales were dismal, and Pery kept finding little critiques of every time I tried a pitch, so I settled into annoyed boredom and did up player-characters for the night's upcoming tabletop sessions. Dr Nik would come by and join in with Peryton in the softly-worded attacks on my sense of worth as well for a few minutes. So it was like every other day at home almost. Despite everyone's best efforts I made a sale and won over a couple people. One couple celebrating the wife's retirement and commitment to coming to GenCon every year from now on especially brightened my day.

In the afternoon, I slipped off at 4pm, allowing Peryton to show me how the selling thing was done. Stopping in to see Jack at the Omni bar, he didn't mind when I asked him to turn the 15 year-old basketball game on TV to CNN. A gamer from the across the lobby rushed over and asked why we weren't watching Fox News. I think it was phrased "Why don't you turn on Fox?" When Jack asked if he wanted a drink, we got to hear about his diabetes and dead aunt, so we both stopped talking to him. The dude went back over to his boxes of miniatures and waited for his taxi to take him two blocks like he was before. We then discussed the Pussy Riot conviction in Russia, which had just taken place. Neither of us were very happy about that. A bit later, I met Peryton, Batman and Sligo for dinner a little later at Champions but had to slip off for my evening's games.

Ah to Have Wings
The first game of Thursday evening, I ran into JerryTel running his Game of Thrones RPG at the table next to where mine would be starting. No time to talk, but it's always good to see him.

My T&T scenario "The Balrog in the Basement" went well. Two of the players had come from Ken St Andre's session that morning or afternoon. And though only those two would admit it, almost all the players had a lot of experience playing T&T. What struck me most about the session was that it was easy to handle the players. Now every GM will tell you that there is always one very strong and vocal player, and there is usually one, maybe two shy players that might blend into the wall if not poked every now and then. And this time was no different. What was different was that the shy player, I only had one this time, arose to the occasion near the climax. He died a heroic death, but the man was awesome in doing so.

My deviant version of CoC's scenario "The Moonrock and the Astrologer" had Caed showing up. And the four other fellows were the relaxed and quiet types that I'd expect to find at the Thursday night late shows, that I have been running for years. And as usual, the educational level and experienced professional level of all the players, me as usual being the dumbest in the room, kept the game at a very erudite level of humor and allusion-- we were chuckling about blood sugar levels in little old ladies playing slot machines and the costs of surveillance equipment and training. But sadly, the group missed a crucial plot point, namely keeping track of all three of the "red-heads" in charge of the evil-goings-on. Though they did great at cornering two of them, the third had their bag. Three died in the resulting gun and vehicle combat, two were sacrificed to an avatar of Azathoth.

Best image of the convention for me though, the wicked witch of the west getting ran over by a '78 Mustang, while a Prius drove head long into sub-machine gun fire.

Caught a cab with Caed and made it back to the room before 3am.

Monday, August 20, 2012

GenCon '12, Pt 1: Specks of Sand

The Stuff of Sandpaper, but of the Beach as Well
From the 11th until the evening of 14th, I was sitting around at home putzing around here and with my Spacers(TM) scenario "53 Miles West of Venus." Most of my After-11CoC adventures were flow-charted out at, while the T&T ones were pretty much complete. Now all I had to do was wait for GenCon to actually start. Peryton was actually lucky, she still worked up to the last evening where we had to pack up and head to Indianapolis.

Wednesday morning was spent stamping my foot to remind Peryton that we had work to get done. And then most of the day was spent with me waiting by the car while she disappeared to meet contacts inland in the jungle war-zone of the Exhibition Halls. And like advance troops anywhere, Pery spent her time hanging out and thinking of calamities to avoid getting work done and to get the folks back at home riled up. I actually shared a cigarette with Sheriff's Deputy who came by looking at his wristwatch, our car, and the time limit sign. We became fast friends. Upon hearing that a dolly for getting multiple boxes from the car to our booth area would, would take "a few minutes" because of contract obligations with a nation-wide temp-help agency by some game manufacture association, I told the woman to come back to car. I made her give me my exhibitor badge, and drove us to Acapulco Joe's.

With a frosty beer mug and tall, wet glass of ice tea in front of us, I found a flyer for UPS in the extra paperwork that came along with the badges. With a phone call, we had a dolly that we could pick up in about an hour, or earlier. So after a late lunch, I left Pery with a full dolly of boxes to make her way back to the booth area and set up. I drove the car out to Jordan's, Batman's, house, and made my way back via bus-- which happened to be the most air conditioned and least time consuming part of my day.

Back in the convention center, Pery had finished up the booth. The AC wasn't on, so Jim Searcy was worried about me having a heart attack as I touched up this or that around our setup. It was with some relief that I stepped out of the convention center to walk the dolly back to the UPS store. On the way to the hotel, I saw another red-head who had just walked out of a building into the August sun. We made eye-contact.

"I am so done with this Summer." She said.
"Me too." I replied.
"I know you are." She quipped.
"Ginger Pride, babe!" I held up a fist to her amusement. "Stay strong sister."

At the hotel, I stopped off for a refreshment at the nice bar at the Omni Severin hotel where we stayed this year. Met a fellow Finn turned into a World Citizen by the name of Teemo Toivanen, Timo from now on. His and the bartender's, Jack,  conversation, was such comforting replenishment, as well as the Sun King Pale Ale, kept me there for a while.  Well a "while" means long enough for Peryton to call me and ask if I was ever going to bother finding our hotel room. I told her to meet me at the bar. And started to assemble the gang for this year's Old Home Night. We invited Timo. I think he enjoyed himself.

Just a quick note to Scotty's Brewery, there is a reason why dance floors, not diner tables should go next to live music. And whoever was the band's manager is going to have his ass whooped by me personally next time I see him. "Take the chairs. I need the table." Why can't he sit next their speakers? He's lucky he got the hint that no one wanted to hear his talented trio and wrapped it up in an hour.  And Scotty's, you're getting as bad as the Ram in bad crowd management.

last part of the evening was spent with having the half-drunk gang get their badges and a nightcap. The Will-Call was open all night, good job GenCon. The Southern Gentleman's fiance Frostie, no nickname required, was a hit with the whole gang.

Shark Week?
Thursday morning came for me at like 4:30, so it was no problem for me to show up at the booth before the 9am early opening for the GenCon Very Important Gamers, the "V-I-G"s, or better yet "the Viggans." Pery was still blow-drying her toenails or something. This event pretty was much a gaggle of gamer-folk trotting towards the dealers with the biggest signs while knocking each other out of the way though there wasn't anybody around to be in a rush for. One of the Viggans, a short chubby guy with dyed-blonde hair, a Ken St Andre hat, and knock-off tan duster kept walking past the booth and trying to make eye contact with me. I was in a conversation with a 13 year-old about sharks, our poster had the quote "PeryPub We Don't Jump the Shark, The Shark Jumps Us" when the guy coughed trying to interrupt. JFK, Myth, a PeryPub contributor as well the guy working the booth next to ours tilted his head when I waved the guy on.
Yes Shippy, I received your email. Hoo boy, you came to GenCon and spent a lot of money before you got there. Until you stop messing messing with TrollHammer and Sligo, we're not talking.

By 10:15am, I was wondering what was up with all the response to our booth's poster. It had a shark jumping a spaceman and a goblin on a surfboard. Finally Peryton and fortieth person to comment on it explained to me that we were in the middle of Shark Week on the reality show network posing as something educational on cable TV or some such. I couldn't help but ask, "Where'd they work in the midgets?"

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Headed Down to a Beachless Sea

When people whom I know at a casual level asks me about where ever it is I go every August, I don't feel the need to be secretive. I tell them Indianapolis. When they ask why, I am a bit shyer. Come on, I grew up when everyone around me thought I was weird that I knew what a hobbit was. And the constant map drawing in my notebook gave many teachers a wrinkled brow upon their viewing of my "journals." Lordheads help me if a soccer or hockey coach caught me reading a Jim Apro drawn Batman comic book. "We go there for the beaches." I answer.

Ah yes. Tomorrow I take my coachman's vacation from a lot of hanging out in Cleveland, only one friend in jail, look I just bought him two beers, down to the shores of Indianapolis. And there I will bathe in tidal wave that flood the convention area with a medium-sized town's population of gamer dorks. And it's about damned time.

For the last four weeks I have working on my scenarios, which is not unusual. But at the same time I have been in-charge of, but not really in-charge of, setting up Peryton's and my booth. Yes we've gone and moved our basement business into the cottage industry of convention booth-buying tabletop gaming work producers.  Over the past year it has been something of a humbling experience, but I expect next year to be easier, after I get a view from No-Man's Land of the Dealer Hall at the bayonet level of vision.

The last minute writing has, as usual, invigorated me with love of whatever it was that I felt compelled to write back when the convention organizers demanded my game event submissions.

Spacers(TM) is looking especially awesome. Yes faithful play-testers (has it been long enough to call you players yet?) more space opera scenarios are on the way. The "53 Miles West of Venus" session is going to tie in nicely to the release of a little ditty that I am calling Spacers: Universe. It should be available right around Christmas. But don't hold me to it, because you know how I am with deadlines.

For my Call of Cthulhu stuff, my little angle is still getting worked out. But still no where near being ready to publish, certain people reading this blog. Horror is hard for me. But hopefully my two tales "The Moon Rock and the Astrologer" and "The Tarot Deck" will impress someone. I might not be as good as most of the GMs I know that specialize in horror at CoC, but I am clever and a fairly talented GM. My self-spun yarns might be starting to catch up with me this year. See you after 10pm if you're around.

My T&T scenarios have sold out this year. That is unusual, which I mean to say that I think my efforts since 2005 are starting to pay off. While I have been able to pull four to seven players for any T&T session at GenCon that I run; on the pre-purchased ticket buying metric, I've never had more than four people buy in. Ken St. Andre and Sligo are running events as well, last I heard. I think my titles for my favorite game, My Game, are rather unimaginative, but the tales I am telling in "Balrog in the Basement" and "The Tunnels of Hard Knocks" I feel reflect my usual comfort with the Tunnels and Trolls game system as well as my exuberance in presenting fantasy sword and sorcery as I see it.

So tomorrow, I head out to the White River where palm trees grow and women dressed as my favorite Batman babes show me their cleavage. I can deal with the long walks and bruising on my shoulder, where Peryton keeps hitting me for looking at the other women. I am at the beach.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I Gotta Have Batman

At 3pm last Wednesday, I picked Peryton up at her day job, the Head Breakfast Bartender at a local strip club, so that we could go see Spiderman: Dimwitted Edition and the finale to Chris Nolan's take on the Bat-Man. It was a good thing because the first time I promised to do so, I was "beer-napped" to use her phrase. And though I had been bamboozling a bit already, from Tuesday PM on, I was able to fulfill this promise. Now I am not going to go into how bad the Spiderman movie was suffice to say that Pery moved away from me and my snide comments before the end of it.

But Dark Knight Rises was definitely worth the watch. And I say this with some trepidation because everyone familiar with me know two things about me and movies: I like bad movies; and I often am too nice to movies in my initial write-ups only to delve into what I really hate about them later as time goes on. I figure that if you do not expect watching a film or TV show to numb your mind but expect it to somehow open up new vistas of perception for you, you're 4-14 years-old.  At the same time, the cheesiness of certain millennial masterpieces gets in my craw and only work deeper. In this case, it really is a nice finish to a very decent series of movies that I won't mind re-watching a decade from now. Mind you, it definitely needs to first two flix in the series to work. I think that I will enjoy it so much that I feel the movie needs some good press outside of its producers paid-for tidbits.

What is most astonishing about Christopher Nolan as a director out of the Hollywood establishment is that he really is a Batman fan. He might have a doctorate in film-making from the prestigious Too-Much-Money-and-Priviledge branch of London PhoneItIn"bey" University. And he might think that the LA Theater Works is a source of real culture. Heck he might even consider Anthony LaPaglia one of the better soccer players of this decade. But I think he gets weak in the knees every time he sees a trade paperback of this or Batman story cycle. He gets weak in the knees just like I do.

From the fist movie on, Nolan has not only shown that he wants to show that 70 year-old Batman franchise isn't just camp and weird TV camera angles, it was about storytelling. I suspect he also wanted to show Frank Miller was a fraud when it came to being a writer of anything heroic. But still wanting to show the appeal of a gritty Gotham, while sticking to its most iconic characters, the Bat-Man, Commissioner Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth.

Now while much has been said about the "real Batman" since Nolan's movies have come out, he deftly hasn't fallen into that trap. Any kid reading the comic books knows better as they hear CNN and deal with their schoolmates almost everyday. Batman and Robin for 95% of the comic's history was about big props and the color purple. What they like about the character, is that he is person that pays attention to detail and overcomes setbacks as often as obstacles in his strategy of coping with the world around him. Overall what we, the "real fans," like is the philosophy that being "practical" ignores the imagination and aspirations of people who enact changes for the better in the world.

Instead what Nolan was reflect, rather accurately, the tastes of fans of Batman below the age of 90 in storytelling. And he did not fall into the other trap of the Ever-Adolescent generation, the 30-70 year-old crowd, that still buys comic books and lives for the latest "pop culture figure" to come to life on the movie screen, which happens to be cynical idiosyncrasy (Did someone mention Frank Miller?). Besides the use of the moniker "Dark Knight" and a tank as the Batmobile, as in the Dark Knight Returns dystopian bleakness, there just isn't a lot Miller material in the works.

Instead what we get is Denny O'Neil's influence on the work.  Not the cartoon mogul Bob Kane nor the consummate Mother's Basement Dwelling Frank Miller. Nolan levels gritty scenes and non-comic bookish dollops of reality, like aging characters, personal afflictions and the life around them with immersing the viewer into the tale of the characters. He doesn't forget the Jungian archetypes that Batman comic books should really be about. Ras Al Ghul and Scare Crow moves on to the Batman heavy-hitters of Two-Face and the Joker. And by the third movie, there is only the meta-story to tell. Let's talk about just the third movie for a bit.

Now is the time on Sprokets when we dance.

Dark Knight Rises takes us into the complicated story lines of Batman: Vengeance of Bane, Gotham City's Cataclysm and No Man's Land and wraps up the Ras Al Ghul yarn in the first movie nicely. All three of these cycles, were the best reads about the World's Greatest Detective yarns I've read over the past three decades. Nolan sticking to his reality-dollops vision doesn't take this opportunity to go hog-wild on the costumed characters, to help complete his "trilogy" of the "best-ever" Cape Crusader story on the silver screen. Instead he focuses on the foibles of the characters involved.

Bruce Wayne is so over-the-top navel gazing, he needs an ill-fated yet plucky Catwoman to get his attention. And while everyone might've forgotten about the Ras Al Ghul's Brotherhood of Shadows while dealing with the Joker, the Brothers haven't forgotten about them-- a perfect starting point for the cinema version of Bane. Now as a guy who has stepped outside of planes while they were in-flight, I might take exception to the opening sequence but the popcorn filling my mouth and Pery finally finding me after her Special Ed Spiderman film credits had me too busy to really care.

The actors' characters are quirky, and that helps the casual viewer disbelieve the outrageous and understated horrific events going on as the stage is set for the Batman to regain his bat-manliness (despite the death of Bat Manuel). Cat Woman's little yarn is especially well written. Talia al Ghul is not a moral to be ignored when it comes to love interests in superhero-dom as well as real life, and especially refreshing in the "love-interest" trope laden, like land mines, movies about comic book characters these days.

Overall an Godzilla, the highest rating of any movie in my book. Here's to Nolan's take on the Robin saga.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

SF Knitting Gritty: Prometheus

I'll admit it, the lazy curmudgeon in me decided I didn't care if I saw this movie in the cinemas or not. I flattered myself that I was being cynical and jaded. But this evening when Peryton kicked a cat off the bed to lay down next to me in my final fits of diurnal sleeping, I am a wise enough man to know when it's time to mix things up a bit. So as I woke up, I suggested, "Let's go see Prometheus."

Can't say it was a waste of time at all. Besides the wife always cheering up whenever she sees Idris Elba, I was treated to Ridley Scott breaking out of the "Uber-Serial Killer In Spaaaaace" motif and inventing the space opera for the teen years of this century. It starts with bubble-helmets and gets better from there. Granted I didn't get to see Kate Dickie naked, which I am getting used to after seeing her so more often than my own wife lately after watching so many films with her in them this last Winter, but the space ships made up for it.

I didn't see the touted weakness of the film being that Scott was just rehashing Aliens once again. I saw nuts and bolt science fiction. Scott has a love-hate thing going on with the corporate world around him, I think. The film's corporate leader needs androids who are deceitful to others and servile to their masters. The corporate lackeys are self-serving and cowardly. At the same time, the hourly help is very capable if a bit culpable in the wrongdoings going on around them. Those infested with the infestation weren't just fleshpot victims, like the original, they were fighters. The survivors even keep fighting. While obvious homage scenes to 2001: A Space Odyssey were all over the place, this movie had more in common with Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. That is if the earlier films principles about the Laws of Robotics and reasons why man is driven to explore were turned on their head. As with any Ridley Scott film, this movie is a morality tale. This time he mixes it up a bit and just goes ahead and intertwines the foibles of many of the characters into a straight up take on most of the Seven Deadly Sins. Lust ends up in the wind, rage crushed by its obsession, gluttony fulfilled and greed left empty. But the proud survive after their respective falls.

Not saying the nuts and bolts are without flaws, there are some of the worst research methods I've ever witnessed in all but the most B-rated mad science movie. Still the scenes held together, without any cheap "gotcha" startle clips. Overall a King Kong of a motion picture.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Smoldering Parts, No BBQ pt. 5: Dying Embers

Monday morning came orderly enough. I woke up at 7 am and forced myself into fitful naps until 10:30 or so. Spent most of the last 30 minutes of our allotted time in the hotel 3-S'ing and packing up crap. Had a sandwich with the wife and then went to get the car ready for loading. Said goodbye to Dr Nik and Hrothgar, both heading out to other vacation endeavors. Dr Nik is helping us getting prepared for GenCon and David gave us some free greeting cards with his water colors on them and started the drive home.

Even four hours later, I couldn't stop being happy. And when we got home, I noticed on the FacetuBe, that everyone else was agreeing. Not a bad hoot at all. Not bad at all.

This Hoot was sponsored by Game Soapbox ProductionsPeryton Publishing, Panik Productions, Christine Crabb Private Editorial Services and Asian World Imports. With special mentions to Trollish Delver games and aspiring author Mark Thorton.


Smoldering Parts, No BBQ pt. 4: Okay, There Was BBQ

Sunday morning, I got to torture Dr. Nik by insisting that we "walk and talk" over to the gas station, I was out of beer, while he was suffering from blisters on his feet. Okay I didn't know he had the blisters, and the guy is too tough to admit it when he is suffering. Still had I known, what a feat that would've been.

I ran my game "Fever Dream" that afternoon. And what I thought would be a clever twist, turned out to be a typical run-of-the-mill CoC adventure. You see, after doing years of very pre-scripted story lines with developed character roles for the PCs; I keep thinking puling a bait and switch will show me as a brilliant GM. I forget that, only five people in the world have played enough in my games to get it. So my "take them unawares" approached impressed no one except me. Where I had three stratagems to get the players whether they tried to stay and fight, run away or something in-between; the players themselves just perceived that this was a "No one gets out alive" scenario. While they were wondering what exactly it was their overly detailed characters were doing there, I should add. Same thing happened back with "In the Midnight Hour" at GenCon in 2010.

Sometimes it's just me and Trigger.

An impromptu dinner at Tuly's with a rather unexpected crowded table, including someone who refused to come earlier (Dr Watt!), was quite fun. Jimmy and I got to show the two sides of Catholic culture for anyone not living in the middle ages. And Hrothgar caught the tab!

While others slipped into Dr Nik's impromptu game downstairs, all the Trollhallan fellows and dames in attendance (myself, Peryton, Hrothgar and CCrabb) tried out Dark Harvest with his story "Styrgoi." I was too tired to be the tactician of yet another player group of "girls," which I forcefully, and without asking, assumed in Dr Nik's "Abyss" and do so often in other games, so I just played a pompous ass of an Austrian aristocrat from 1880, though it was 1910. Chrissi and Robin did fine doing all the real work while I chased, err had others chase skulls-head moths. I did provide an awesome soundtrack as well.

Now this after party was legendary. Even Peryton and Hrothgar showed up for the final night of festivities at the Kruppa's emporium of decadence and delight. Well enough, when we walked in there were heads being chopped off, always a decent start to an ending. Liquor was getting in short supply by 3am, so I mugged Jimmy and left Andre one last swallow of cognac, while Hrothgar, CCrabb and myself forced the Kruppa into a bout of singing classic rock songs and "What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor."

I stumbled into the room at 5:05am, and Peryton, beating me to the punch, applauded me for my rendition of "Drunken Sailor."

Smoldering Parts, No BBQ pt. 3: Bonfire of the Vanities

To use an often used quote after dinner, we proclaimed "let the games begin," and so they did.

I am the one with the big hair and having monkey sex on the scooter.

I jumped in on Dr. Nik's game with Peryton, Nissi and CCrabb. I should've known better, as this doctor is always a favorite of the ladies, his "Abyss of Insanity" had only female characters in a Foxy Five Fire-Team (re. Kill Bill's Deadly Vipers sort of way). Toe Head (Ray Hickey) had cancelled his Beer Bellies and Bathrobes, much more my style, LARP session, so I had to stick around. Despite everyone wanting me to play the 250 pound Helga, err Maria leader figurine, I went with the miniature that reminded me most of Uma Thurman. A nice mix of The Spy Spy Who Loved Me and Aliens Versus Predators. Nik's pacing and ability to shift gears when the genres shifted rather amazed me.

Afterward the traditional after-party began in earnest in the Kruppa's suite. I kept everyone that I could around about 5:30a. Dr. Watt and Jimmy stuck around as well.  After chasing down Dr. Watt down the hall for a hug that never happened, I stumbled into our own suite and regaled Peryton with tales of my exploits, since she had missed them all by going to sleep three many hours earlier. I was surprised when she didn't take notes.

The next day, WE FOUND THE GROCERY STORE thanks to Dr Watt's directions from Jimmy's "finder thingy." I spent the trip getting to know the kids, Nissi and Toe Head, and keeping an eye on CCrabb, who just drank way too much the night before, so she needed my protective moral oversight. Actually I just had my keys in my hands when someone asked about who was driving.

Peryton's "Any Port In a Storm" starting that afternoon did nothing but reaffirm that she has only married me for my Pyramid-Heads and Sewer Monkeys, now named Spider Apes. For a CoC adventure it was quite Dr. Who-ish, and her already swollen head just bigger when everybody (Dr Nik, Dr Watt, and Hrothgar) loved it.

Okay I am lying. There was barbeque over the weekend. Dr Watt took a handful of us to Dinosaur BBQ. Pery and I had been there once before, oddly enough on the home from Carnage the first time. And to quote, maybe paraphrase because I'm never paying that much attention, Tyler, "The only good reason to be in this dismal town." I am sure he meant the "second" but why quibble? I had something called a Pork Porto, which rocked. I think Dr Watt had something called "the heart attack special with mac and cheese" or some-such. Really there was like three kinds of beef and plenty more.

"The Vault" was the Kruppa's evening presentation, and I prepared myself for the Homeric voyage into the underworld that had become his suite. Jimmy, Daniel Williams, impressed me greatly. Not just for his expansive knowledge of lineages of most nobility and Catholic personages, as well obscure folkloric persona in English history. The man had me sympathizing with his double-murder/suicide of his wife and then his sister. Maybe it was more about someone else wanting to to shoot Peryton, who played his sister, besides me. That said, this scenario if anyone wants to do a Kruppa scenario, I cannot recommend this one enough. There is some great Andre Kruppa acting, complete with lighting and sound, to just sit back and watch. And I got away with the gold.

This after party ended early, at 3:30am or so. I suddenly started thinking in German and knew it was time to get some sleep.

Smoldering Parts, No BBQ pt. 2: The Hole Is Dug

Well actually before we headed out of town, the neighbor's Puerto Rican cooking got Peryton and I hungry for Colorado sauce. So we stopped off for some Mexican and a beer for me, because I had been a good boy and done some house cleaning while the woman was at the job. Then we got going.

The drive through east Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York to Syracuse, err the Syracuse area is very familiar. We amuse ourselves with waiting for the awesomely-named reference points. Vrooman Road exit, come on folks, "Vrooooom Man!" There is a humungous stone quarry just west of Buffalo where "a whole season of Doctor Who could be shot" according to Peryton. And my favorite town's name in all of NY "Gowanda," I get gushing about Pangaea, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Rachel Welch right about then, for no reason but that it sounds like Gondwanaland. Then there is my everlasting discussion as to who is a better songwriter Paul McCartney or John Lennon to finish the rest of the trip-- Pery just loves that one.

We got to the Maplewood Inn at 10:30pm or so, and CCrabb and the Kruppa were already there. We checked in, with some hiccups caused by an over-zealous desk clerk (isn't that always how it goes?), and walked over to Tuly's for a late dinner. Godsheads, seeing friends again after months, sometimes a year, is about the most wonderful thing about these hoots. We ended up back in the Kruppa's room, before the black plastic went over the windows and body parts were hung. We drank vodka from a skull to desecrate, err celebrate the lovely site we had chosen. And with that A Dark Gathering had begun.

Friday morning was spent by me blithely driving all over the Syracuse metroplex and not finding a single grocery store after 30 minutes. CCrabb and Hrothgar were in the car enjoying the scenic route through slums, then the trendy district and then some suburb where they live off the shallow lake they build their houses next to and therefore don't need anything larger than a large convenience store/ gas station. With that we gave up, and headed back for the yarn that would get things started, Hrothgar's spooky T&T tale entitled "Compound Interest." The man crafted a wonderful game as well as great mystery off the top of his head and a couple words from the audience just to show me up. By the end of it, Dr. Watt and followed by Dr. Nik made their presences known to us. And once people got their breaths, we collected Jimmy for dinner.  There Nissi and Toe Head appeared after a hard day of rolling bums at the bus station, and ready for some gaming. Finally the Kruppa arrived before Jimmy or I could order a $33 steak and bill it to his room.

Smoldering Parts, No BBQ pt. 1: The Kindle

I have to admit, I was worried as to how the latest hoot was going to work out.

Back in November Andre Kruppa, GM extraordinaire, who shall be referred as the The Kruppa from here on, mentioned to me "I'd like to do one of your 'hoot' things." Now this was said with his New Englander-Maine accent which sounded more like "Ahw'd lyk to do uhn ov yer HEHUWT tings," that accent just brings so much joy and mirth-filled thinking into my life. We had been drinking; but the following morning we were still speaking of it. On the way home from Carnage, while dropping off Monk and K-Bell at the Syracuse New York, I saw the Maplewood Inn, and did some digging around there. So about a week later, we formed the CthulHoot FacetuBe group to get things rolling, no one liked my "KruppaHoot" suggestion. By "we" I mean the Kruppa, Peryton, CCrabb and myself.

Now PeryPubbers know from doing these things for about half a decade, never to expect too much. You pick an off weekend, some place in-between you and the friends expected to arrive and then wait for the four to eight people to show up out of the twelve to 900 that were in invited. Now CCrabb and the Kruppa are convention organizers, which speak a similar language but still a different language than Hooter. And when you give CCrabb details to mull over, she loves to roll up her sleeves and get down to the job of worrying about them.

There were some daunting details to definitely be looking at. This hoot was going to take place some six to ten hours away for just the organizers. Who did we know were those close enough or committed to Off-the-Wall goofiness enough to show up? What weekend would be best? Could we get room discounts and with what sort of contract obligations?  What should we call it?  The concerns were addressed and coping strategies developed, through no small part of CCrabb's work. Again no one liked my suggestion of "The KruppaHoot." Suddenly,  "bam!," invites for "A Dark Gathering" event, scheduled over this last Memorial Day weekend, were sent out.

Over the rest of the next three months, squalls of dismay would continue to arise. The fulfillment of a certain number of room reservations, required to get our room discounts. A lack of response by many who would be closer than others, requiring more painstakingly discussed invitations. And a definite lack of energy because of post-convention fatigue from other more formal events throughout that time causing forlorn statements at the Cthulhoot page began to worry me about anybody else wanting to come. Though I knew CCrabb would be there, the rooms were in her name, so I knew there would be four of us, the Kruppa nor the PeryPub household would ever leave The Editor, OUR editor, stranded-- and in Hoot history, that could still be a successful get-together. The at the Gathering page people started... well, gathering. Namely Tyler (Dr Watt) and Dr Nik of Carnage fame were the first. Elder Tunnels contributor and Trollhalla fellow David Crowell, Hrothgar, decided to show up. And then Nyssa Schmidt, Nissi, and Ray Hickey, Toe Head, confirmed as well. Somewhere in there Dan William (Jimmy from now on) signed on as well, I dunno when, I wasn't paying attention.

My count was that eight people were coming while CCrabb knew that 10 of us had confirmed, which works fine in my mind. That's a lot of Hooters in one area that none of them is from. Still CCrabb had to have something to worry about, so she decided that the Kruppa's scheduled games would conflict grievously with my single slotted game. Godshead bless the woman, I love her, but homicidal thoughts came to my mind. Someone in the PeryPub household finally got exasperated about even going, though she won't admit it, her nickname rhymes with "peryton." Truth be told, I knew she was exaggerating.

Still on that note, we got into the car on Thursday evening and headed to Syracuse, NY. Liverpool actually, but who's reading a map right now?

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fantasy Movies Are Supposed To Be Bad, Yet Again

Just watched John Carter Warlord of Mars at the movie theater. It was nice to have an excuse to go to the theater. And having read more than a couple of the books back when I was in third and fourth grade, I have been waiting for this video game blockbuster since Gladiator. Now that I've seen both a decent Batman movie (two no less) AND the Warlord of Mars on the silver screen, the world can end this upcoming December. If only I'd have lived long enough to see religious Star Wars fans commit mass suicide and George Lucas exposed for college age plagiarism.

I liked it, and would rate it a
King Kong on a "Godzilla to Smurf" scale. Of course, I may always downgrade the movie later, as I have done with the LotR series over the years. You just never know when your frontal lobe will find something cliche and unbearable, at least in my mildly schizophrenic case-- Tuesdays can get so boring speaking to yourself in your own head!

I was really worried about the casting, I am getting tired of Scorpion King remakes, but the cast worked well for me. Thomas Kitsch, with a self conscious stage name like that, I shouldn't be thinking he'll be going cliche while selling out too soon. The man did a good job as John Carter, by the end of the movie, I felt he was channeling the character from the books rather well. Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas worked nicely, though all they needed to do was give him some fake arms and tusk, instead of a CGI body to make him look like a Green Martian. Lynn Collins had just enough cleavage showing to get the JCM-Old Schooler like me paying attention-- and she made a good scientist-warrior as well. Sola, Samantha Morton, is downright intriguing.

The 21st century additions to the story worked out for me. Hey the wife and kids are a part of the movie watching for adults, get over it "High Fantasy" fans. The animals of Barsoom, including Woola, were a part of the tapestry of the books. The "Heroic Despite Himself Would-be Anarchist" story-arc for Carter helped out the romance, which was the point of the novel The Princess of Mars, as well ecological destruction by overly zealous industrialists. The twisting plot back on Earth was nicely done.
It gets rather Sherlock Holmesian towards the conclusion, yet still the Hollywood writers didn't diverge from book too far. Let me note, that when it comes to Burroughs, being wholly Hollywood is not a bad thing. The hometown of the author renamed itself to Tarzana, after his Tarzan series of stories.

My criticisms of this take are minimal. One is that the story went too many places. Part of the wonderment of Barsoom is wondering what will Edgar Rice Burroughs show you next novel, or short story. The gold martians and the white martians appear later in the series, as well as mentions of the Thern. And the uniquely Martian take on astrology, Barsoom means "8th Planet" after all, is missing. I think this would've given the movie a bit more authentic, as well as trippy, feel.

The only problem I have with this version is that I believe Disney bought out the rights to the John Carter material. This means too much marketing and not enough re-takes on the tales.
Here's to the Disney sequels then... don't let Peter Jackson anywhere near them.


Monday, January 09, 2012

A Weekend for Awesome Uber Overlords, Elvismas 2012.

The west of the Miami River Holler, Illinois-ese, for Hoot, did materialize this last weekend, even if the folks from Illinois that the event was placed for couldn't make it. No "Awesome Overlord" admission badges for anyone; though, Scott, Sligo, and I were still the Awesome Uber Overlord's of the event so there was no going back. And this Birthday trip had a lot of serendipitous elements to it that made this Elvismas rather magical.

Jordan, hence forth known as Batman, instead of Bruce Wayne, reminded me the evening before the drive in Indianapolis that we would be staying at his house, not the Red Roof Inn. I was busy with homework, so I figured I'd just call everyone in the AM. We didn't leave the house until 1am. But the drive from Cleveland to Indiana that Friday morning was a little bit of fun. The roads were clear except for a couple truckers and us. Once we passed Columbus, I had a great view of the waxing moon and Orion in the western portion of the winter sky. Luckily Pery was napping, though she'll deny it, despite her snoring, because I'd shut off the headlights for up to 30 seconds to just soak in the view. We arrived in Indy and at Batman's house a little past 6am, I forced everyone into a root beer while I had a beer and we got caught up a bit before napping some.

After a bit of sleep, I was able to divert Trevor, Tre-Pod, to Batman's house instead of the motel. Alas JerryTel, ever the imposing sort, insisted on remaining at there. Sligo and I chatted via text messages for the early afternoon, while her majesty, Pery woke up and made herself presentable, Batman went for a run and Tre-Pod took a nap. The Arsenal's shifting opening time indicated that events would begin in the evening. During this time I noticed Batman's next door neighbors were Arsenal, the soccer team, fans. How awesome!

At the Arsenal, I can't say enough how impressed I am with the place. Between the well maintained appearance of the place, the functional kitchen, and the conference areas, this frugal, but not cheap-minded, enterprise shines among adventure gaming oases. Bill and his staff have high standards and it really shows. I hope to have many years of association with the joint. Counting up the attendees, the game festival idea just wasn't going to happen. So a Hoot, err Holler was. Upon revising the list of what was going to be ran, Sligo, Pery and Tre-Pod had play-testing events, so things were going to turn into GM workshop. JerryTel decided to stick to his "Game of Thrones" D20 scenario, leaving his first attempt at T&T for a later time. I challenged all the collected GMs to a die roll off for the first slot, which Tre-Pod took up. I won the roll and the first slot was mine. So I humbly pulled out my notes, inside a PDA, for "Journey Through A Strange Vale" and got started.

AND IT WENT AWESOME. Not saying there weren't glitches, like in the combat math (the second time in within three months, dammit), but overall it went well and I enjoyed myself immensely. Even when Batman had to get up and leave for a "few minutes," Jo-Jo, Sligo's friend wandered in a minute later and took over that PC until his friend showed up-- Just as Jo-Jo had to leave Batman showed back up, amazing. Kerry, called Wanderer from here on, a regular from Sligo's T&T group, proved my old adage "presence is like hair, better to have too much than too little. The actor can always get a haircut to fit the director's role in mind." He was good at providing leads for me to play off of, even if I had to tell him to let me run my NPCs and my own plot. The pacing of the scenario was pitch perfect though, and a couple spiffy tricks I came up with worked very well. When the group got to the "Strange Valley" my deadliness was effective but not unfair, and my major monster was fun to play and lead to some very good scenes. I played with the FBI Origin's 2011 card deck as a 'divine intervention' piece, basically any dead PC had to play Charon at a hand of Five Card Draw and win to somehow miraculously survive death. With that we concluded the first night of "InConTroll."

The following morning was a little hectic, but we found a rather fancy Mexican restaurant in an old Church that had some great grub and spent time with Batman and Colts Gal and her friends. Tre-Pod wasn't impressed, and I was stressed out because we ended up late for the noon game. By 1 pm though, we were developing characters for ND-RPG (No Dice RPG), Sligo's card deck based experiment. The scenario was just designed for mechanics-checking, though I am flattered that Sligo felt the need for a reason for our characters to be together, ie a role-playing premise. We the PCs were walking along a sidewalk, a hole appears and the scenario started from there. The rules worked well enough, and the opposition resolution isn't just playing gin rummy or poker, so there is something there. My own feedback was concerned with the character sheet, while others pointed to this or fact rules functionality or specific.

The Walk the Spiral (RobinHoo) scenario had everyone scared, seriously scared. Perhaps it was the start were everyone had was a pre-generated character, that knew everyone else in the party as a character in a FRPG campaign, but now were people from real life, who did not know each other. Maybe it was rather the surreal setting where time seemed to mixed up. A bit of over-reaction and being overly cautious kept things at a snail's pace for a while. I finally just got over it. Remembering that Pery wants to resolve this campaign and probably had not designed a Doom 1st-person shooter scenario so common among amnesia Lost-like plots, where the scriptwriter is pretty much making it up from session to session. Maybe following my lead, if misunderstanding the difference between a clue and threat, Tre-Pod, Sligo and Wandering began to act irrational, running from harmless encounters to calling out and waving to people with strange items attached to their belts or in their hands. JerryTel was looking furtively around still being very, very quiet. Because of the slow start, the ending was rather hurried. Oddly enough no character was killed.

Tre-Pod's Saturday night game suffered the fate of all Hoot's "the last Saturday night game," everyone ran amok. At least no one fell asleep like last June. I became the "I Just Did 1 Million Hit Points" Guy. Though I derailed the plot, my experience points were awesome. Dude, I killed Quetzalcoatl. Almost everyone else followed suit and helped me cover my blood-stained hands from there. It didn't end pretty.

At the closure of the night's gaming, Colts Gal and a friend, Batman, Pery, and Tre-Pod treated me with a pubcrawl around the Fountain Square neighborhood. It was a great night.

Sunday came too early for some, and too late for others. JerryTel cancelled his slotted Sunday game, having been left to his own means at the Red Roof Inn and could not take isolation from his fair and beloved pastures and rolling hills of Toledo. I personally think he was too overwhelmed by all the Awesome Uber Overlord GMs he saw over the past couple of days, myself, but that's just a theory. Tre-Pod we left in bed as the revelry from the night before was proving to be a little too much for him to find his glassed let alone consciousness. Sligo offered to step up with a T&T game, but decided to switch it out with his arena-style board game in development. Batman loved the game. Pery was impressed and I have to say that even the prototype looks great.

Wrapping up the playtest after two matches, at my insistence, we had a parting meal with Wanderer, Sligo and Batman once again on the Fountain Square. Batman took the longest way he could to get home, not wanting Pery and me to leave. Though it is flattering, I was in a state of near exhaustive panic at being so late.

On the way home, I responded to a volley of Happy Birthday calls and a called a couple texters. Tre-Pod texted to let me know he was home and fully functional. So getting home at 11:30, Pery and I decompressed just a little before bed. I was an Awesome Uber Overlord this Elvismas, that takes some transition when slipping back into reality.