Thursday, February 25, 2010

Further February Fun

February has been a pretty fantasists-filled month for me, full of escapism, fast-food and rolling dice. Just two weeks after our Trollhoot, BASHCon rolled around, which is a convention that Peryton and I really enjoyed last year, so heading to this year's kind of went without must discussion. So from the evening of Feb 19th until the afternoon of the 21st, we vacationed in balmy Toledo, Ohio. The Universisty of Toledo's Student Activities Center to be exact. The wife (click here for her summary) was uncharacteristically giddy about getting things rolling for the trip so she was packed the night before and had me pick her from work to get things started. The surreality that keeps impressing me this Winter would keep popping up to mark the trip as well, this time less than subtly.

Of course, one of the defining features of BASHCon is the first day's congestion at the registration desks. Peryton compared last year's signing-in to getting in Mordor. Well this year, they improved on the congestion and difficulty, they put all of the desks in front of the entrance to the auditorium where people needed to get in and out constantly, right next the bathrooms as well. Two signs were taped above the doorways one for "Pre-Registered" attendees and another for "On-Site Registration," I suppose that the person putting up the signs felt better, but as for the rest of us standing in the line, neither moved any faster than the other. We hung out with JerryTel whom we gamed with last year and who happened to be standing in front of us in the line. Once I got up to desk from forty feet back in the hallway with the ramps and stairwells and the up and traffic of the building, about an hour later, the actual paying and receiving my badge took about five minutes, and the person at the desk had been awaiting my arrival, apparently every time he typed the letter "K," my moniker "Tom K." would pop up-- still it was nice to be so personally welcomed.

Once able to move freely into the gaming area, the auditorium, I was impressed once again by one of the strengths of BASHCon, its space and functionality. The Dealers' Area had been included in the general gaming area while the activities like LARP'ing and foam-rubber sword-fighting had rooms or basement hallways for their goings-on. In the Dealer's Area we found a number of familiar faces from our travels around Ohio. Chris, the Magician, who runs is a gamers' curio; Stan the Toledo anime guy; and the wise and pleasant Dice Guy whom I especially like chatting up. Some screams issued forth from the basement level, next to the Starbucks signaling that the Zombie LARP was starting, I couldn't help but smile and relax.

At 8pm Peryton and I ran games at neighboring tables, the Peryton RPG and Tunnels and Trolls respectively. JerryTel was back and fellow named Andy joined in for my "Back In the Loop" sequel to "the Loop." It was funny running a "tunnel-crawl" for two "big picture" sorts of players. My traps and plot-twists wrecked havoc on the poor souls, but they were just careful and more than clever enough to survive the adventure, we wrapped up around Midnight. Peryton finished up about a half hour later, when we were walking to the car I noticed that she was glowing. She smiled and said, "My first All-Party Kill."

On Saturday, about half the drama of the day would occur before 9AM. I woke up about 5am and after doing the morning thing, I went to print up my massive collection of notes for the game that I was running at 8am. Well that just wasn't going to happen on the hotel's office center computers or their printers despite about 90 minutes of effort. And getting Peryton out of the door before noon is always a bit of production. Still we arrived with minutes to spare before 8am, though I was going to have to be doing a lot of jotting down rules by hand so the players wouldn't think that I was making things up in my head as we played. While getting to the table I walked past a clump of people at the Registration desks, definitely not uncommon, checked with the Information desk where my event was to take place, and walked up to two players who were waiting. After some chit-chat and introductions we worked on developing their characters. When I mentioned that I like smaller groups, Matt, Bowler from here on, and Beckett, such a kewl name that I'll just leave it, told me that two other players were coming but were being held up at registration because the guy at the desk wouldn't sell them a day pass until 9am, and the security at the auditorium door wouldn't let anyone past without a badge.

This is how I found out that the official convention didn't start until 9am, though two events were listed in the program for 8am and about six tables had games going on. Before I thought to get involved, the two guys, John, Mutant, and Alan, the Alchemist, were able to get into the auditorium at 8:30am with day badges and tickets that they had procured at gunpoint after having dispatched the campus police officer at the door into the next life. You see Mutant and the Alchemist are from Detroit, my long, lost gaming homeland, and we roll like that-- if we want to game before the open doors are really open nothing is going to stop us. The four people waiting for Godot behind the Registration desk, but definitely not yet running it, are lucky that these two marauders of reality didn't melt the clock on the wall. A bit less dramatic, the little glitch in scheduling and organizational functionality struck me as surreal. A little after 9am, the morning's adventure "Cleftburg" began in earnest, which was Cleveland deconstructed in terms of a post-apocalyptic world. Peryton and the four guys helped me craft the introduction adventure for my future Gamma World rip-off, which is now called "Glow" until something better sounding comes along.

At lunch time, I was further impressed by the UT facilities, just around the corner from the gaming area is a restaurant called Phoenicia. It not only has a walk-up window, but a full dining room, complete with cermanic coffee cups, a beer and wine selection, and very decent Mediterranean food. Peryton and I had lunch and beers with Mutant and the Alchemist while we talked about pure-dee Detroit games like Rifts, Fringeworthy and Stalking the Night Fantastic, right next to a meeting of the campus Young Republicans. Nothing like hummus, nuclear annihilation, and conservative ideology to make a completely engrossing mealtime atmosphere. I wanted to put on a bowler hat and place an apple, my desert, in front of my face but Pery reminded me that I didn't have a hat.
Sticking to a theme, next came Gamma's official Gamma World game, 'The Escape.' It was great to see Jeff and his daughter Sarah again. Three out of the game's five PC's had played in last years session, so the session really did have the feel of a sequel. Gamma, like Mutant, is a post-apocalyptic officianado so I was treated to some in-depth discussion of the doomsday milieu of our gaming subculture. This year's adventure really rocked. To quote Peryton, "It's like Road Warrior, but not boring!"

Dinner was back in the Phoenicia dining room, where Pery and I kept it light. Sadly, all the mutants and Republicans were absent, so we had to amuse ourselves. We had to shift gears for JerryTel's upcoming Savage Worlds: Ripper Tech game anyway. After dinner we explored the other event and game rooms, and discovered a Salvador Dali battleground for the WarHammer miniature combat game. Really, I have pictures! I'm not making this up.

JerryTel's game "Ripper's the Gathering" of course was packed. And I was impressed with his GM'ing ability because he had all levels of Savage World gamers there, from the novice to the expert, and he handled it like a pro. The plot moved along quickly and the action was evenly spread out among the various players. One image that will stick in my mind was one fellow, Jeff, had a double-fisted shooter character running around in his "union suit" as hulking mister Hydes broke tore the front door of its hinges. Peryton was jealous of the obligatory mad scientist of the group, we all know she feels she is the only one qualified to handle a steam-punk laser gun correctly.

The midnight wrap-up meant it was time for Pery's and my second annual Tacos at Midnight event on the way back to the hotel. There's this place called Del Taco, which is 24 hours, fast-ish food, and not Taco Bell, so it's kind of different and fun. I mean who doesn't go to Toledo for the tacos?

Sunday morning I slept in until 6:30 and Peryton stumbled out of bed in time enough to get us to convention by our 9:30 am start times. She ran the latest Dr. Who RPG and I demo'ed WHAP with a quick Spaghetti Western shoot out. My single player, Ryan, or "Workingman" from here on, and both developed characters, which helped me get into the mechanics of the dice rules. By the time we were getting into the character Types and the Perks they get, was ready to do a third character, using the abbreviated "MaR" instead of a fully fleshed out opponent for him. By the time he chose his weapons, I had a three way shoot out between his Scruff Noname, a Scrapper, Snake-eyes, another Scrapper, and Sombrero, a Flatfoot, all ready to go. The shoot-out went well and we were finished just before 10:15. I awarded the brave explorer gamer with a print-out of WHAP!'s PDF, complete with its S.S. Compton cover, and Workingman was all finished and ready to go a mutual acquaintance's Paranoia game, already warming up.

I was able to get my GM discount, which recomped the price of my badge in less than fifteen minutes and wandered around. Seeing that the Magician had finally gotten out of bed and made his way to his unattended booth. I had noticed, for a strange, inexplicable reason, a bag full of Ral Partha Call of Cthulhu miniatures on Friday night, so I went ahead and bought it.

There was an "Open Painting" area in the auditorium which was doing brisk, so for the first time in more than thirty years, I sat down and painted a miniature. Of course, I mostly spent the time getting to know three young guys. Rick and John were trying to get their "video-gamer buddy," Tommy, into the joys of role-playing by having him paint his own character's miniature, which, it seems, according to D&D 4e. is obligatory. So while I brought one of 1920's metal figures into the world of full color, we talked about cars and trains, Europe and Japan, other conventions that we attended, and trips that we had planned for the rest of the Spring. I mentioned T&T in passing, just in case the trio ever moved away from miniature table-topping. Once my figurine was painted I noticed it was just after noon and I bid everyone adieu.

Peryton's game was in the wrap up stages. The villain had been defeated and they were trying to save the hapless NPC of whatever affliction that the world of Qalidar was inflicting upon her. I swear the four ppl at the table were speaking in a different language and uttering weird and strange phrases like "The Pyramids of Mars" or "The Last Dalek" like they were cross-referencing something. At the wrap up, it was time to get going, luckily Peryton was hungry so it wasn't hard dragging her out to the car.

Alas BashCon was finished for yet another year.

On the way home, I noticed that the Hardees on the eastbound I-90 Turnpike had an alert sign some six miles out before its off-ramp, and the Burger King ones only about a half mile. As Hardees has the best chicken sandwiches in existence, and a recurring rare treat for Pery and I while traveling, this made total sense to me.

Once home, I was happy at only having to drive an hour for one of our little road-trips. I have spent the last three days getting two small T&T adventures in something we call the Elder Tunnels series ready for publication within a couple weeks. Luckily all my writing for this month's on-line Spacers game coming up this Saturday night was done in December.

Like I said, February has been a fun time full of fantasy and escapism for as fast it has been flying by.

No comments: