DDC 2014

So this year's Dundracon convention is complete. It's the longest running gaming convention in the Bay Area. This year has been the best time I've had in a long, long time.

Friday Night
I forgot when I got there, but it was a pretty rapid "check in park get into room meet up go have food" sequence.

A few hours after that, I ran a pick-up game of FATE. The game was "Back in Flesh", my modern science fiction / time travel / black ops / amnesia game that I've run before. I had two people I run games for and two people who were new to both FATE and my GM-ing style.

This was probably one of the best versions of this story, with a lot of firsts among the times I've run it. (Quick note - I can't reveal details of this story because I might run it again, and part of the adventure is figuring out what is going on and making decisions on what you learn.)

I did do the set-up differently. Rather than having a bunch of semi-completed characters, I had concept cards that helped guide character creation. I'll probably do that again next time I run it.

Saturday
After a fitful night of only about 4 hours of crappy sleep, I woke up early enough to have breakfast with Cil, then to hit the dealer's room to make my only purchases for the Convention:

Tenra Bansho Zero
Cards Against Humanity
The two Fate Worldbooks
Two sets of Fate dice (Valentine and Vampire)

The first purchase was because I had made it into Kevan Forbes' (brazenleo) Tenra Bansho Zero game.

TBZ is a Japanese RPG, an anime style game but so much more than that. I guess it's been around in Japan for a long time, and revolutionized the hobby over there. It's been here for less than a year. It's a science fantasy epic game involving some Asian legends and some repurposing of other Japanese legends to fit the game.

The game was fun. Most of the group made great contributions to the story. One particular player (who had a shinobi (ninja) character) had an interesting paradox - he was in love with the lady we were searching for, but his clan had told him that if she was too far corrupted to save, it was his mission to kill her. The player played it BEAUTIFULLY. Another player, who in real life was a religious studies graduate, played "the worst" buddhist monk ever. Which was awesome.

The only problem was that the game could have run long, but that happens, and it's hard not to when you are mixing the good story with the good playership.

After that game, I hung out with Kevan for a bit, then crashed and finished up the work for my official event that was the next morning.

Sunday
So here's one way where I'm an idiot. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a morning person. But I always schedule myself to run morning games at Conventions. I should know better, but I'll always do that. (Part of it is that in late night games, about a quarter to half the group is looking to fall asleep, and that drains my energy.)

And this Sunday morning was no different.

I ran Hunter: the Vigil, with a group of characters dealing with a Yuki-Onna (Japanese snow/frost - witch/spirit thing) in Chicago in the winter of 1988. I had one no-show, two people who had to leave two hours early, and two people who wanted to drop in. So I wrote up a character on the spot, accepted both no-shows, so that at the end there would be at least five characters present for the end.

The group was good. I was less good - a mess up on my meds made me a bit more scatterbrained than normal. However, I think it went well over-all. Everyone got to be useful, everyone got to shine, and for once, people used their Contacts merits. (I almost always give characters Contacts and Allies, but a lot of people don't use them because they don't have an action use. Since I tend to run games that require investigation and information gathering, on the other hand . . .)

We had a bit about weird dice pool combinations - Dexterity + Science to not destroy a valuable but fragile piece of evidence while making an impression of it; Presence + Resolve to get a young child to eat something they didn't want to eat; and Composure + Firearms to reload a gun while running.

I think everyone had fun.

That evening, I was in a new World of Darkness hack of Changeling: the Dreaming. The Storyteller was a player in my Hunter game. I was interested to look at his hack. I got to play a Sluagh (my favorite kith from old Changeling), and got to do what Sluagh are built to do - first, gather information; and second, scare the crap out of an NPC to help gather information.

I had a blast. At first, most of the group bugged me. This was due to the fact that what most people consider "adorable geeky quirkiness" comes to me as "really fucking annoying." But by the end, only one person still kinda bugged me. The person who bothered me the most wound up being really awesome. (There's probably a lesson in there.)

The plot was good, the ST was good, I actually corrected myself in character for something I had said ("Remember when I said we had plenty of time? I have never been so wrong in my life. Let's hurry."). And we saved the day.

Monday

We packed up and left. Nothing much to say about this.

So it was fun. If this is portentious of the Convention circuit in the Bay Area this year, I can't wait.

Rich

Demons

So if you helped fund the kickstarter program for White Wolf's "Demon: the Descent" at a certain level, you got the *.pdf of the book early.

Like, months early.

Like, last Sunday.

This was truly a surprise for me, as I'm sure it was everyone else involved.

I've skimmed through the book, read parts of it in detail, and I'm pretty happy with the product. See, Demon: the Fallen was one of my favorite Classic WoD games, because it hit upon subject matter I was interested in. Things like faith, interpretation of religion, value (or lack thereof) in religion, loyalty, and heroism. The demons portrayed in D:tF fell for good reasons, though eons of bitterness corrupted the majority of them. Despite what some people believed, it didn't contradict any of the other games - in many ways, D:tF said all things were true, and nothing was true. We had neither the mind nor the language to truly understand how it was.

I liked that. Some people really, really didn't.

Anyway, the new Demon is a different breed altogether. Literally. These aren't Miltonian entities transformed into tragic anti-heroes. I don't want to say too much more, except to give the "pitch" for it.

This is The Matrix meets The Deaths of Ian Stone.

This is Cabaret Voltaire's "Don't Argue" mashed up with almost any VNV Nation song.

This is the original La Femme Nakita. With a supernatural twist.

I'm really looking forward to running this game one day.
  • Current Music
    Imogene Heap - "The Moment I Said It."

[Kublacon] I still live. Rah!

Hey all. I've really left this journal to rot.

So this weekend was KublaCon, which is one of the best Conventions in the Bay Area. (It may indeed be the best, but I see some contenders ready to go a couple of rounds with it.)

One problem I'm experiencing at Cons is that I'm getting . . . older. I don't have the energy to game 24/7, or at a Con, 24/3.5. I really wish I did, because there are a lot of games out there I want to try. On the other hand, a good majority of the games I wanted to try started before I arrived, or ran simultaneously with my event. (There were a few others - energy dictated I pick carefully.)

Most of this will be really boring, but it all ties together to how the Convention went.

Friday
I left home only a few minutes later than I intended, but apparently that was tragic - instead of arriving at 3, I didn't get there until 4. This is kinda bad at this Con due to parking, but I lucked out.

Got the room, checked out the Dealer's room, bought the game "Monsterhearts" (which looks awesome), met Cil and otherdarkmeat, settled into the room, picked up the latest Arkham Horror expansion, then tried to read a book. Instead, I fell asleep - at 8:30.

Holy crap.

It did feel good to get a full night's sleep before my game.

Saturday
My game started at 10 AM. It was Hunter: the Vigil, the first part of an episodic series I'm going to run at local Conventions, though it might not last that long. Part of the reason for this is because all of the local gaming Cons are getting more aggressive about getting game submissions in earlier and earlier. So my response was "screw this" and rather than try to think of unique games, I just threw a bunch of games to get them in and done.

Anyway.

I had three no-shows, out of six. One was someone I knew (who was somehow booked into a different game as well), and one was someone I think I know and REALLY REALLY dislike, so his lack of presence was good. And I was willing to run it with just 3. (It occurred to me a half-hour later that the group needed at least 4, so Cil stepped in to play a 4th character.)

The game went okay, and what didn't go well was mostly my fault. First, I was a bit put off by the 50% no-show, so that rattled my mood. It also led to me forgetting some important pre-game steps.

And then, I got too caught up in placing red herrings all along the way. Bad idea. It left the group with too many things they thought were leads, and not much work on the actual story. (I'm also thinking I should have kept in the original, Lovecraftian things that the original story had.) (I've run this story before. Originally, it involved Nyarlathotep, portals to distant worlds, and pretty much what I call "high intensity Lovecraft.")

I also had a player who wasn't a bad player, but sometimes he got caught up in having his way and questioning lots of things that really weren't important. But none of that was awful enough, and all three players were really, really good.

But, people said they had fun. And I learned things for next time.

Anyway, Cil and I met up with some people, then had dinner, and then went to the room to relax - which actually meant sleep. A lot.

Sunday
Sunday morning I played "Unhallowed Metropolis," a game I've wanted to play for a few years. Apparently, it's having a big resurgence as steampunk becomes more popular.

The woman running the game had put a lot of work into it. The character packets were pretty spiffy - within the history for each character, she would tie which event linked to which skill or quality or disadvantage the character had. She also provided combat sheets, and apparently characters armed with guns had little cards that tracked their clips and ammo. (I may steal that.) The character I chose was the Mourner, which is a character that doesn't use guns. (Mourners are mostly female, trained to watch over the bodies of dead aristocrats for three nights, and put them down if they rise as zombies. In general, a Mourner is a lot like Buffy in this game - put a Mourner in a room full of zombies, and soon you'll just have a Mourner walking out with bloody blades, and lots of gore on her black clothes.)

It was fun, though one downside of picking the Mourner is that they are a quiet type of character, which means it's hard to engage in the patter and chatter of the other players.

Oh, I should also point out that she (the GM) had framed photographs for all the characters (taken from the artwork in the book), and a real neat initiative tracker thingee behind her hand-made screen. Honestly, the amount of work she did was extremely impressive. Probably the second best I've seen at a Convention. (Though maybe an Iron GM contest of some sorts between her and seannittner would lead to awesomeness.)

Anyway, after the game I gave her the Good Omens spiel (which will be the topic of a near future post), because I think adding her to the group would be a real boon.

I picked up a campaign book for Monsterhearts, went out to dinner with Cil, came back to the hotel, and settled down to rest.

And today we came home.

Overall, this Conventoin rocked. It re-energized me a bit, and I wasn't sick like I was at Dundracon. (For starters, I remember this convention.) I was also proud of myself for my restraint in the dealer's room - only one indie game, a supplement for it, and an expansion for our favorite boardgame.

Only three more conventions this year. :-)
  • Current Music
    NCIS penultimate season episode
  • Tags

Convention Game Sign-Ups, A Rant

Or, I know no one asked me, but . . .

(This is kind of a response to what a blogger/gamer posted a few weeks ago, that I had to work out in my head. I'm posting it here because my thoughts were too complex to put into a simple response to the blog post, and because it's been a few weeks.)

The Bay Area does stuff differently. That apparently annoys a lot of people who aren't from here. (Technically, I'm not from here, but I've been here long enough that I can totally flow with it, and I like that we're different.) This even includes game sign-ups at gaming conventions.

See, the bigger conventions use a "shuffler" system.

Here's what an ideal shuffler system won't do:
1. Yes, it can not guarantee that you get into every game you want.
2. It will not put you in a game you don't want to be in unless you screwed up in your game sign ups. (I've heard people claim this has happened. Seems a bit suspicious to me.)

What it does do is create a kind of "fair" sign up system where everyone has an equal chance to get the games they want, but the more popular games will be harder to get into.

A lot of people want all the Conventions to run on a First Come, First Serve sign-up basis.

This seems like a bad idea to me because it eliminates (or at least severely cuts down) on "walk-in" gamers. Also, since people are going on what works for them, let me tell you why this doesn't work for me.

I'm a type B personality. I like to go with the flow of things. I never know what my mood is going to be like from day to day. When something is supposed to be fun, I don't want to put too much structure to it. And, for me, long term planning is when I figure out what I'll be doing in the next 12 hours.

I can sleep all day on a Sunday, with no guilt, just because sleeping and napping feels so good.

On top of this, I'm really picky about what games I play. I won't play any game that is inherently PvP or tragic. This cuts out on a whole bunch of indie games. I won't play any game that is just a war game in diguise (D&D in any edition, for example). I'm not saying these games are bad, nor am I making any judgment on the people who play them. All I'm saying is that I don't like them. (Or, in the case of inherently tragic games, just can't play them.)

I recognize that type B's are a minority amongst gamers.

FCFS works completely against this combination. And it makes the conventions stressful for me.

Case in point - Big Bad Con

Yeah, I had fun. I do not want to take away at all from how well run, or how enjoyable, Big Bad Con was.

But game sign-ups were a "delayed" FCFS, where the people who pre-registered for the Convention signed up a couple weeks before the Convention, all starting at the same time. And as that time approached, and I was trying to get some sleep, I began having stress dreams about oversleeping past the sign up time, of missing the games I wanted to be in the most, of missing the entire sign up period, and so on. It really screwed my sleeping up.

It was like, for about six hours, I was a type A personality. I don't know how those of you who are like that continue. I'd just explode from the stress.

I know at least one GM who missed the sign-up times, so she pretty much got into nothing at the Con. And that sucks.

Others told me "Oh, I was going to go, but all the games were full" or "I have a friend who was going to go, but all the games were full." And my response has always been "Don't talk to me about it. I'm not involved in the sign up process. Talk to the person who runs the Con." Which I know they won't do, and so I seem like the lying crazy person whenever I bring up that there's about as many people who hate FCFS as there are who hate shufflers.

But neither solves the problem that Bay Area Cons are having.

The problem is that there aren't enough GMs, and there isn't enough variety. (Though Big Bad Con was a huge, notable exception to that rule. It had the most variety I've seen at a Convention, ever, which is another reason I had problems figuring out sign-up.) Since BBC can populate a 2 1/2 day Convention with a wide variety of games, I know it can be done.

If there were enough GMs, and enough variety, this whole discussion would be moot.

But I like the fact that the Bay Area is "weird" compared to other places. I like that all the Cons give you a variety of game lengths - 4, 6, or 8 hours. Tell the story you want, not the one you are limited to. I like that other things work differently as well. I would NEVER want the Bay Area to conform to what other places are doing. It's part of our "charm."

And I'm sure this whole sign up process can be fixed, so that everyone is equally miserable happy. But we need to rethink beyond there only being two or three options.

[Actual Play] In the Dead of Night

Players: Me; Gabriel Weiss; Gene Wood; Nicholas Owczarek
System: Dresden Files RPG/Fate 3.0
GM: Kevan Forbes

So this is the game that I wound up being an hour late for. But at least I stayed for it.

The set-up of the game was that we were all dead - people who couldn't move on to the great Beyond. And in our little realm, we were police officers/investigators whose main job was to protect the other lost souls there.

We heard rumors of a Rakshasah who had stolen/destroyed some lost souls, so we investigated.

Our group was:
A modernish police officers who was the former partner of one of the characters in the Dresden Files book.
A man who was part of Elliott Ness' "Untouchables."
A Pinkerton (<- Me)
A former slave turned Civil War soldier (Union side).

We discovered some evidence of the Rakshasah, and the soldier found a way to use the manifestation of it to reach into the dream realms.

This led us into three dreamscapes - a farm-house, where we faced weird monkey things; a dollhouse (which led to the dreamer, a little girl); and the little girl's room (except it looked like an adult room). We found the little girl being assaulted by a porcelain doll, a sand filled dog plush; and an evil clown.

As expected, a fight broke out. Well, I picked the fight. (This was my theme for the weekend.) We fought all the things - I wound up with my second wound of the night (A Consequence - a way to avoid adding to your damage track. During the fight with the monkey things, I got a dislocated shoulde; in this fight, I also became "horribly burned".) It took some time to take down the clown (who was the Rakshasa), relying mostly on the modern officer and the untouchable, while I kept trying to put up Aspects (as did the untouchable).

It was fun, but I was feeling ill. One reason why this story is so short.

What Rocked
1. I love FATE.
2. The guy playing Ron (the police officer) was Awesome.
3. Kevan knew his story and his setting.

What Could Have Been Better
1. Kevan had some confusoin with the rules, which he admitted.
2. There wasn't much of a FATE chip economy going on. (Again, Kevan apologized for that.)
3. I had some serious problems with two of the players.

I don't remember their names.

Problem Player 1 just had two problems - first, he was drinking beer. Beer ruins your concentration, your memory, and your focus. And this showed - he couldn't recall certain explanations of the rules or the story, and got a little too belligerent when asking questions.

Problem Player 2 was a bit worse. Now, I think he's going through chemotherapy or something. But - he spent most of the game away from the table. When he was there, he was just nasty and complaining, or rules lawyering, which is one of my pet peeves about FATE players - a game that has few actual rules.

Mostly, he was just disruptive. It bugged me.

Rich

[Actual Play] Do you Remember . . .?

Players: Bill Miller, Kevan Forbes, Kevin Beagle, Michael Ripley, Mike McFarland, Nik Gervae
System: New World of Darkness (and, Changeling: the Lost - see below)
Storyteller: Me

This game was probably the second biggest risk I've ever taken as a Convention GM. I'll explain why below, but let it be known that as I was working on this scenario, I frequently consulted other GM/Players (people who do both) to ask "Would this make you leave a convention game?" "Would this game still be fun?"

For Convention games, I'm not much of a risk-taker. As a GM, I'm not much of a planner.

So for this game, for probably the first time ever, I had props. Kind of. I had character namecards that folded up in front of the player, with the name of their character and the picture of the celebrity who would play them in the movie. (In this case, we had Johnny Depp as a horror author, Naomi Watts as a children's book author, Emma Stone as Depp's oldest (bastard) daughter, David Morse as the only police detective in town, Khandi Alexander as the town's Medical Examiner, and Patrick Warburton as a retired Marine who is now a school teacher.) For me, these are props. I suck at props. Mostly because I don't plan that far ahead.

I did the quickest run down of game mechanics that I could, which still took about half an hour. I had one brand new role-player. (Well, newish. He had played a few games before, but he had that new player smell and shine to him.) Another player played in the old World of Darkness, but not the new one.

I then set up the background of their small town, and of a television show they all watched as children, called Candle Cove. (Yes, I will steal things from the internet. Actually, I'll steal from anywhere - the news, movies, tv shows, books, other GMs, MMOs, video games, old LSD trips . . .) I gave them a very general rundown, and each had a card of 'true things' they recalled about the show that the others wouldn't until they were shared.

And then I explained that they were all (but one) single parents, with young children, who began to get together to watch "Candle Cove," which was being rebroadcast on some local channel. They would all gather at someone's house after school for a half-hour, and then come home. (Which house it was would change from day to day.)

And on the first night of the game, the children didn't come home. When the parents went to look for them, they found the host house locked up, covered in sea-water. After getting in, they found the host parents dead, the first floor covered in sea-water, and a teapot on the stove whistling out calliope music.

(They did a lot of investigation - which is good - and apparently I creeped them out during this phase and with random 'facts' about the show.)

I let the players run with this scene. They investigated the house up and down. The ME went over the bodies. They tore through the crawlspace. They looked things up online.

In a twist that I didn't expect, the ME and the cop went to the local institution to talk to her (the MEs) husband, who had been institutionalized about a year ago after cutting his abdomen open while shrieking "You. Have. To. Go. Deeper." (That was the catch-phrase I used instead of "You. Have. To. Go. Inside.") Anyway, this visit forced me to improvise word-salad style speaking. I also had him hitting the table, frequently, to emphasize his points - which weren't alwasy easy to understand.

Around the half-way point, a character tried really hard to open the television screen from the house. And open it did.

I took each player's name-card, and gave them a new one. The new cards had the same names, with photoshopped versions of the characters - the police detective looked very dog like and furry; the ME had gray skin and HUGE jet black eyes, the male author had bushier eyebrows and odd letters and sigils all over his skin, the female author had pointy ears and almost all-white skin and hair; the male author's daughter had blue hair and eyes (like, aqua blue); and the retired marine was large, red, and had fangs protruding from his lower lip.

They all learned that in truth, they were Changelings. And that Candle Cove wasn't a TV show, but an Arcadian realm they had all once been abducted into.

After that, and some further examination now that they had some supernatural abilities, they headed into the TV/Door and into the Hedge (which I kind of hand-waved for sake of brevity), and into Candle Cove itself. There, they encountered two other Changelings who they had left behind from their initial escape, and eventually they caught up to their old Keeper.

Seems he made an oath with them once - he would send them back to reality and erase all the pain and misery he had caused from their minds, and one of the characters slipped in "And our descendants." The Keeper didn't think that last part would count, so he took the kids, and that's how it all happened.

Anyway, the PCs realized that with him having broken the Pledge with him, they had a chance to do him in. So they did, in a battle that turned pretty much one-sided in a matter of turns.

After that, they found a way home, and that was the end.

What Rocked
1. I always get a perverse thrill when I unknowingly creep players out.

2. No one left the game after the bait & switch section.

What Could Have Been Better
1. Hotel food got me sick to my stomach - which did cost the game a little bit.

2. I think I lost two players after the bait & switch. They seemed to be unsure what to do or how to do it.

[Actual Play] Eclipse on Extropia

Players: Me, Basil, Leon, and Silas
System: Eclipse Phase
GM: Mike Parker

So you know what's not brilliant? Trying to write Actual Play content almost a week after the play.

That's me all over.

I've been intrigued by Eclipse Phase since I saw the first marketing for it online. As I think I've mentioned before, it covers lots of science fiction material that I find endlessly fascinating - transhumanism, post-humanism, animal uplifts, brain-taping, approaches to immortality, post-scarcity societies, terraforming, and of course everything that can go wrong with those things.

In Eclipse Phase, a bunch of AIs hit the point where they were smarter than humanity, and tried to wipe us out. They almost succeeded. But humanity has been through worse (literally, though not as planned out or tactical), and so we survive.

The normal character in Eclipse Phase has a "cortical stack," a small, grape-sized device in the base of their spine that allows them to transfer their consciousness from body to body. Most also have a "back-up" of this stack, in case it is destroyed or lost (or stolen. . .)

Characters normally work for a group called "Firewall," that wants to ensure humans don't become extinct, regardless of what form they may take.

And so . . .

We were a Fury (an Amazon type body, the stereotype from bad movies, not the real life one breasted kind; and the gun bunny); an uplifted Ocotpus (not quite certain what his specialty was); a Menton (a body with maximized intellectual capacity); and an Olympian (as awesome as it sounds.)

We were sent to investigate a company on a habitat called Extropia. We didn't have much data beyond that, except that Firewall thought they were up to something. There was a lot of info gathering - not my character's strong point, since I was the gun bunny. I did accompany them on a few trips, even when they created duplicates of their psyches (called "Forks") and sent them off on a pure info/digital mission.

Our group discovered a zombie virus sort of nanotech on a distant laboratory that had been digitally transmitted back to the Extropian company. (Things like this happen in Eclipse Phase.)

Long story short, before we were done some kind of terrorist attack happened on Extropia, causing three of their nuclear reactors to become unshielded. (Radiation, btw, causes the nanotech to mutate more quickly, and to evolve more quickly). We raced to save the remaining reactor, and found a contact of mine trying to organize security forces. One of his underlings incapacitated him, so I took out the gun I had and combat broke out. Someone shot our Olympian (who had, in their defense, shot first), so I liquidated him (literally), and later, when one of them ran away, I destroyed his leg.

We saved my contact ("Stan"), and eventually discovered we had to abandon this habitat (which apparently houses 100 million people) to the plague. We did get the cortical stacks of many of the terrorists, including some who we thought were leaders. And we managed to warn Firewall about the dangers in Extropia. So in many ways, it was a pyrrhic victory, rather than a total loss.

What Rocked
1. Early on, we made connection rolls to see if we knew anyone on the station who could help us. I rolled and then made up "Stan," who worked security on Extropia. Mike let me continue to use Stan, and even worked him into the plot at the end, which is awesome. (I hate the "Okay, you meet nameless contacts" outcome. I try to not use that as a GM, even though sometimes I do for brevity.)

2. Mike knew the system, and used all of it, so that even though it looks like we had very low skills in some places, we were all hypercompetent in our areas of expertise and in related fields. It was awesome when I pulled out my big gun and realized that I was the badass on the field.

3. I don't know about the others, but I had skills in things like "Psychosurgery," which was manipulating other people's "Egos" (digital personalities) directly, and got to use it to help others.

4. I have a better feeling for Eclipse Phase, now.

What Could Have Been Better
1. Game intro seemed to go on forever, but I'm not sure how to fix that either. I sometimes do this as well. It must be the plague of not using super popular systems that have any degree of complexity.

2. Apparently, one of the players had recently received bad medical news. A related topic came up, he tried to share (looking for connections and such, like people do in times of tragedy), but it just served to make the game briefly uncomfortable. Not out of calloussness, more just like it felt we were blind-sided. (At least I did.)

3. The story itself seemed aimed to either be a tragedy or a pyrrhic victory - which I don't mind, but . . . I dunno.

Big Bad Con - Review

This year was the first year of "Big Bad Con," a game convention put together by a friend of mine. And apparently this first year was a good success for a small Convention, which is awesome, because seannittner knows how to organize things, and is charismatic enough and smart enough to actually turn this into one of the bigger Cons in the area, if he keeps up with it.

(And, no, I'm not just kissing ass here. I'm much more obsequious when I do that.)

So - timeline of the Con:

Friday

Friday morning was going fine until my printer decided it didn't want to speak with my laptop anymore, and then decided that rather than ejecting a printed page, it would hold it and print the top of the next page on the bottom of the previous page.

This curtailed some of the printing I wanted to do - but maybe that was for the best.

I took a nap, got up a little bit later than intended, packed up the car, and made the drive that should have taken only 15-20 minutes in 45 minutes. ( I hate people who have to rubberneck at every police pull-over or, in one case, at a parked, inoperative tow truck.) Still, got there in time to grab my hotel room, but stuff in it, register for the Con, and make it to the Friday night game I was in.

Yep, that's right people, I actually PLAYED on a Friday night.

Mike Parker ran Eclipse Phase, in the actual Eclipse Phase world, and with all the rules. I'll post a review later (I'm going to review all the games I participated in), but I'll say here that I had fun again. Though there were some awkward moments that had nothing to do with the game.

After that game, I went up to my room, finished up some details for my game, and tried to sleep.

I always sleep poorly the first night in a hotel.

Saturday

Saturday AM Cil and I woke up, had breakfast, went into the dealer's room (I purchased only two books - Microscope and the Airship Pirates/Abney Park RPG. I had a "wish list" and only bought things that were on that list.)

Cil had to work registration at noon, so I went up to the room, added a bit more detail to the game, played City of Heroes, then went to run my game.

The game I ran was advertised as a New World of Darkness game, but there was a bit of bait & switch. They started out the game as mortals, mostly single parents dealing with the disappearance of their children. Roughly around the half-way point of the game, they discovered that they were Changelings, that this knowledge had been removed from them through a powerful Pledge, and that the disappearance of the children reflected that the Other who swore the Oath with them had violated his side of the Oath.

(I'll go more into it later, when I review it.)

During the dinner break, Cil purchased a hotel restaurant hamburger for me, which immediately went through my digestive system like high powered ammo through cheesecloth. This required me to take another break about 15 minutes after I restarted the game, which I felt awful about. But the worst would come later.

Despite that, the game went well. Which made me happy. I think this might have been the best convention game I ran this year - though I do have to credit the players I had with a lot of that.

Sunday
I had a 10 AM game to get to, and I overslept a bit. Cil and I tried to grab breakfast, but five minutes after I ordered I had to go to the game. My stomach was still kind of gurgly, and I was disoriented.

So I was kind of confused when people seemed upset at me for only being a few minutes late.

I found out later I was over an hour late - the game started at 9, not 10. But fortunately, my space wasn't given away.

Still, the game was fun. It was a Dresden Files RPG where we were all dead people working as a makeshift police force in a realm of dead people, tracking down a Rakshasa that had managed to connive it's way into our world. My character was a 19th Century Pinkerton.

I was also supposed to play in a 3 PM World of Darkness: Innocents game that I had been looking forward to all weekend. Except my stomach wouldn't quit lurching and gurgling. I decided to bow out (fortunately, they found a replacement) and drive home. But one day . . . ONE DAY . . . I will play in one of this GMs games.

Overall
Games were good. None were perfect, but that happens very rarely. (Once every four years, as far as I can tell. At least when I'm involved.)

I had some problem with the game registration system - but I'll go into that in another post. (Let's just say there's problems with gaming in the Bay Area in general, and the sign up style - regardless if it's First Come First Serve or Shuffler driven - will never fix it.) I'd just like the registration system that doesn't make me psychotic and annoying.

The Hotel had a kind of creepy vibe to it - I started to tell people the elevator was haunted, based on how the lights would flicker and move when the elevator was operating. (No, it wasn't haunted. I don't actually BELIEVE in ghosts.) The accessibility of food wasn't the best.

However, I will say this is what a well organized convention looks like. I was unaware of any snags in the general flow of things. There were also too many games that I wanted to play in or try out - and that's not a complaint.

I heard it turned out well, so we can apparently look forward to another Big Bad Con next year. Which is awesome.

Rich
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From Old to New Worlds

I realized recently that the new World of Darkness has been out for seven years. Which means it's not really that 'new' anymore.

I've found this particular version of the game to be much more inspiring as a GM - and as a player - but I'm apparently one of the few in this area, which I find disappointing. Though I do have some good players who do enjoy the setting.

So after seven years:

Vampire: the Requiem is kind of disappointing to me, only because it's way too close to the original vampire. Then again, that was the most popular game, so why fix what wasn't really broken. The clans, though, seem less iconic.

Werewolf: the Forsaken is, in my opinion, superior to the Apocalypse, though it does lack the epic feel that Apocalypse had. It was easily fixed, though, for me at least. I sometimes miss the Triat (Weaver / Wyld / Wyrm), but I'll get a bit more into that below.

Mage: the Awakening blew me away. I found the setting and rules to be vastly improved, and I like it so much I'm running two (kind of weird) Mage games - one of which is a revamp of "Ascension" (because I want to run the Ascension), and one is the post apocalypse game (that is quickly reaching the end of Act One.)

Promethean: the Created was unique. I wish I could find a group who could get into the mindset for the game, instead of people who just say "Why would I want to be human?" no matter what I throw at them, plot-wise.

Changeling: the Lost was even better than Mage, in terms of the changes to the setting and changes to the characters.

Hunter: the Vigil is still a game that I don't think needed it's own gameline.

Geist: the Sin-Eaters is another awesome new idea. I'm having fun running it right now.

(One gripe I have about the nWoD and it's various games is that I never get to play in a long term, regular game. And that's never going to change, apparently.)

But there are things I miss:

I miss a lot of the old vampire Clans, and even BEFORE WW released the Vampire Translation Guide, I had my own rules for it. I like mine better, so guess which ones I'm using? Sure, it's kind of a hybrid, because I like the Covenants a lot more than the Camarilla/Sabbat/Anarch divide.

I miss Pentex. The idea of a corporation that has found a way to profit from the end of the world, and has a plan that goes past that, is one that still appeals to me. Not just because I'm a die-hard anti-corporatist, but because the plans and web of intrigue, and the morally gray areas, make it a wonderful antagonist. (And imagine if Pentex existed WITHOUT the Wyrm - just mostly pure, supernatural, human evil.)

In one game I'm running, I reintroduced "The Midnight Circus," though I've used French words for it - 'Cirque du Minuit." Translating characters from that book has been kind of frustrating, as I look at certain skills that NPCs have and think "What, was the author 12?" Still, I like circuses, and while again things might have to change a bit, the idea of the evil behind the clowns and the brightly colored tents and sounds of laughter entertains me to no end.

I wound up using the "Changing Breeds" book as a starter to introduce over 50 different, non-Uratha shape-changers into my games, including two Werewolf variants, two different kinds of were-spiders (who don't get along), and some that think they are the keepers of ancient magics.

According to reports from GenCon, White Wolf will be releasing a new version of Mummy next year, and once again I can't wait. I always liked Mummy, though cold never get anyone to play it. The Purified from Immortals worked for a bit, but I really liked the culture and history behind the old Mummies.

I've been trying to re-work Demon: the Fallen (Demon: the Redemption), though there are some issues with it's mythos and the new World as it exists. (Though not by much, now that I think about it.)

On my own, I've got working rules for Slayers (like Buffy, but more world appropriate, and extremely toned down for earlier rules ideas I had), and something like the "Others" from Nightwatch. (I've only finished the first half of the first book), and even the Mai from "The Nine Lives of Chloe King" (a kind of non-shapeshifting shape-shifter, if you will.)

I guess what I'm saying is that even after seven years, the world seems new to me. I like that. It's open enough to add what I want without trying too hard, and almost every book has been a big boost to the setting without going too far.

A brief confession

I'm going to talk a bit about the GM group Good Omens.

This year is the 10th Anniversary of the group.

I was there at the very beginning, and for the first few years was really, really active in promoting the group, recruiting, and making sure things functioned. After a while, some others came along who were a lot better than it than I was, and I happily ceded the functions to them. (Which may have been a mistake. It may have been too much. Though my personal stress level has gone down, it's really hard to get myself motivated to take all of this back over again.)

In many ways, I view Good Omens as my child. I've been there for some of our experiments (the biggest, IMO, being a one shot Harry Potter LARP, aimed at children and early teen players, with a very simple system that I threw together in a week. I don't think it went as well as it could have, but I learned a lot from it.)

We have our proponents - a decently large group of friendly people who genuinely seem to like us and what we do. And there's a smaller group (isn't there always) that are our detractors - people who say things that are either misinterpretations or outright lies involving what we do.

If I were a smart man, or if I were a wise man, I'd just ignore that small group. Unfortunately, I'm not really either. I mean, I should expect the naysayers because that's one of the prime aspects of geek culture - geeks hate when other geeks succeed at anything. And there's one or two detractors who are members of Good Omens (and, really, if I could kick them out, I would. Why would you join a group you hate? OR why would you stick with a group you hate? It doesn't make sense to me.)

As I said, I'm not as smart or wise as I appear. I take the small group of detractors VERY seriously. In some ways, when I hear bad things about Good Omens, it's like a parent hearing someone say that their child is ugly or stupid. I really shouldn't care about these people, but I do.

But I also have this to say:

During our 5th Anniversary, we started GOCon, an event I'm proud of because it's a thing I never thought we'd put together. What's even better is that it's a charity event - each year, we accept donations to the local county food bank in lieu of entry fees. The gaming store that lets us use their space for this convention doesn't charge us anything (which is pretty awesome of them, I have to say), and so each year, for the past five years, we've managed to put 100 lbs. or more of food into the hands of underprivileged families.

Which, in my mind, is pretty awesome as well. We don't do this as a religious group or a political group. That would be impossible for us - our politics run from socialist-left to libertarian-right. Our religion run from a small percentage of believers to mostly agnostics and atheists. So we just do this as gamers.

This year, there's a new convention coming up - Big Bad Con. While not associated with Good Omens directly, it's founder, seannittner, is a member. And many of us are going to support him. Considering he's one of the few people in the world I'd take a punch for, I'm going to be there.

He's set up this convention to be a charity as well. Money will go to the Alameda County Food Bank and to Doctors Without Borders.

And who can seriously argue with either of those charities without sounding like a douchebag?

So I look at what we've done - feeding the poor.

And what we will do - getting medical aid to the isolated and needy.

And I think that, while we aren't solving the worlds problems, we are contributing to lightening the load.

And so, if Good Omens is so bad . . .

. . . what the fuck have you done?

And until you can answer that question, please, shut the fuck up.

:-)

Rich