DexCon 2006: Silliness Afoot!

Just got home from DexCon. The con was hectic, but good. And there was a creeping tide of silliness in sundry places.

I wasn’t able to get any time off work, so I didn’t arrive until 7:50pm on Friday. I was scheduled to run With Great Power… at eight. I had three players hungry for four-color goodness so I ran them through “A League of Their Own.” It was probably the silliest game of WGP I’ve ever run. Fun, but in a sort of genre-mocking way. “Prepare to get your buttocks telekinesed, Stalwart!” was a line I recall. The players enjoyed it, and I found the silly a bit relaxing after the hectic of getting there.

After the game I did some chatting to decompress and got to cradle Burning Empires in my hands. It looks like nothing so much a one of those thick hardcover sci-fi novels. I can testify that it’s beautiful. People I trust assure me it plays better. I’m sure I’ll find out sooner or later.

Saturday began with great promise: Judd had a seat available in his Dictionary of Mu game. I love to play anything with Judd and have been anxious to try out Mu for a while. I started out as the prince of these awesome Martian uber-gorillas who had just grew a conscience and released his slaves. He was going to have to face the consequences of it. Oh, and he had this massive Dragon for a demon and I scored a +3 on the binding roll. Sweet. Unfortunately a RL crisis at home reared its head and I had to bow out of the game before actually getting to play. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t much silly in Mu.

Saturday afternoon saw me in an awkward position. Several months back when we were registering events, I thought I might develop my Game Chef game, Play Right!, into a publishable game. I subsequently decided not to, but forgot that I had signed up to playtest it at DexCon. Luckily no one showed up, allowing me the afternoon to reheat the With Great Chili… And, as it turns out, squeeze into a pick up game.

Alexander Newman ran Donjon for six of us. Mayuran suggested we’d be making one of the worst type of Conan movies. I played a wizened old sorcerer called Gu’laag. We were humming along making our characters, coming up with cool abilities and stuff. Then Alexander mentioned that the first part of the game is shopping for gear and you could see the energy level of everyone at the table sink. The rules-inspired slapstick that is the “shopping phase” ate up time and moved neither the adventure, nor our capabilities forward much. After that, people were desperate to do SOMEthing, so Nathan Paoletta summoned an undead wolf to use as a mount and the rest of the group attacked it. Classic dysfunctional player group behavior. Plus with a lot of silly along the way. The game was food for thought, though not for the appetite for role-playing. I hope Alexander writes up an AP.

Six o’clock was the party featuring With Great Chili and a vegetarian rice dish courtesy of Jenn Rodgers & Russ Gaines. The party went pretty well, but come January, we’re going to need a LOT more food.

I was scheduled to run With Great Power again at 8pm, and by 8:10 I had no players and was going to head off and maybe join in Nathan’s game of Carry. Then Eric from pscore.net showed up and said he was really excited to play. So over then next hour he recruited his sister Danae, and his friends Richard and Rob. Together with Kat, they played the Liberty League in a fun rendition of “A League of Their Own.” I don’t know that I’ll every get tired of this scenario, although I should likely retire it. They only got to play one enrichment and one conflict, but they all had fun (Rob even picked up the game the next day.)

Midnight belonged to the Master. I had six minions, three I knew (Fred Hicks, Rob Donahue, Steve-the-really-good-player) and three I didn’t, I had to turn folks away, as well. They made a beast-aspected Master who was a squat military genius of a general who was constructing an infernal war machine out of human parts. There’s a whole AP post here, as well. Suffice it to say that there was a lot of speaking in funny voices and dark silliness. Likely due to the uncomfortable subject matter. But the strength of the game still brought out the intrinsic tragedy.

Four hours of sleep, plus loading up the car, later was the Indie RPG roundtable. Due to scheduling problems, Luke was already gone, so it wasn’t the standard “Luke and Jared show.” I kinda ran things, asking for updates on games we had discussed in January (CUP/One Night has been broken productively and will emerge stronger — Contract Work is developing, but still needs playtesting — Mob Justice/Condemnation has seen a playtest, and a plethora of suggestions, but is waiting for other projects to be finished). The only new design we heard anything about was Rob’s Acts of Confederation-era swashbuckling game. It was a little chaotic, lacking some of that divine fire that motivated the January roundtable, but was a good meeting nonetheless.

A good con. Glad I went. Must sleep now.

A look back at Origins 2006

It’s Sunday night and I’m beat. Origins was quite an enjoyable show. Much less busy, less pressured, less like work than GenCon. There was a bit of time to play, a bit of time to eat (the North Market rules!), a bit of time to shop, a bit of time to chat. Turn, turn, turn.

Kat and I were scheduled to run 8 sessions of With Great Power… One session only attracted one guy (I ran him through a one-hour system tour), but the other seven had enough folks to actually play. And from nearly each session somebody came to booth to pick up the game.

But, I’d left off at Friday morning….

I did the booth stuff Friday morning, then rushed off to run a noon session of With Great Power… Unfortunately only one guy showed up. His name was James and he was more than happy to sit through a one-hour system tour. I showed him all the basic ins-and-outs of the game and refunded him a generic token for his time. Kat and I managed to get in a little shopping for Dalys & Sohely. It’s nice that you can see the whole exhibit hall in a couple of hours, rather than a whole day like at GenCon.

At 8pm Kat and I each had a session of WGP scheduled. We assumed that between the two tables we’d have enough to make a single game. We joked about drawing the short straw to see who ran the game and who got to scurry off to play in Iskander’s excellently disturbing Consiracy of Shadows Blood Opera scenario. When we showed up, I had 4 players (including James) and Kat had 5. I ran my alien-invasion scenario “They Came From Beyond!” and had a blast! Everyone understood the kind of story we were going for and the game rocked! The alien turncoat and the last remaining supervillain died in order to defeat the alien menace, and the last remaining superhero managed to resurrect the superteam that had died before the story had even started. The three players besides James were New Yorkers Jessica Hammer and her friends Robert Scott (an artist) and, I think, Amy. Excellent players, all.

In a odd bit of synchronicity, both Kat and I had double-ties in enrichment stakes in each of games. What that means is the player and the GM each played the same ranked card in an enrichment scene, so the original Stakes had to go up. Then they tied again, so the Stakes went up again. A great way to drive a game hard.

We were up kinda late with that, and Saturday started off moving slowly. I couldn’t make it to a panel on superheroes and their arch-nemeses because of a scheduled event. But the game went really well, included James again. He brought a friend from home, so I’m pretty sure he liked the game. That game also went really well, with Liberty Belle being arrested for trying to assassinate her father when she had actually subdued the assassin. Good stuff.

The Saturday crowd gave me the feeling of GenCon on Thursday.

Saturday night was something I was anticipating and anxious about for a while. Running Universalis for Peter Adkinson & friends. I brought Kat with me and we ran the game for Peter, his dad Gary, Rennie Arturo, the GenCon programming head, and Rennie’s assistant Jeanette, who had never done any role-playing before. The session was good, if slow. We made this cool fantasy world where the men were dying off because magic caused sterility and the women ran the wars because men were too precious to waste on the battlefield. We probably did too many tenets. It took us three hours before anyone added something to the story that caused an “oooh” at the table. But we did get there. Both Peter and Rennie were thorough and insightful in their questioning. They both said they thought they understood it much better know and could delve into playing it at home.

Didn’t get to bed till nearly two. This morning started early. There was booth stuff in the morning, then a noon panel on “Superhumans or Supersaints.” Morality in superhero stories and RPGs. Fellow panelists were Jim Lowder, Steve Kenson and Steve Long (of Hero Games). It went really well, as we delved into the philosophical aspects of power, responsibility, truth and justice. The bit where I got to show off a little: Don Concoran and Joann were in the audience. Don asked “How do your games address the moral dimension of supers?” Steve Kenson talked about how complications get you hero points in M&M. Steve Long talked about how Disads get you build points in Hero and not using your Disads penalized you xp in Hero. I talked about Suffering and Enrichment scenes and Stakes. Don followed up with “How much of your book is devoted to that moral dimension?” Kenson: “3 pages” Long: “There’s a few sidebars, plus more stuff in the supplements” Me: “Well, if you don’t count the index and stuff, over a hundred pages.”

Ya gotta love a great setup. Thanks, Don.

After that, did some last minute shopping and then some podcasters came to the booth. They were from Fistful of Comics and Games. They played the 10-minute demo, then interviewed me. One of them even bought the game. I may have rambled on, but all this public speaking has to be good for me. Like eating your broccoli, right?

I actually kinda like the press-stuff. Maybe I’ll listen to more podcasts.

Then it was breaking down the booth, loading up the car, and watching everyone else leave. Went to dinner with the hometown crew, caught up with how they’re con experience went, packed things up, and wrote this.

I liked my first Origins. It’s a unique show. It’s got its own flavor. It’s a taste I like. I’ll be back.

Origins Report, Friday Morning

Hey, I’m at Origins in Columbus, Ohio.

This is my first time at Origins, after trying to get here for more-or-less nine years. The drive went fine on Wednesday. I arrived before any of the other IPR folks (Brennan, Alexander, Clinton) and moved all the stuff from my car to the booth. Had dinner w/ Clinton and some friends from home, got familiar with the lay of the land, and tried to rest up for the Convention proper.

Thursday started with great news: Greg Porter of BTRC won an Origins Award for Infinite Armies! The announcement ceremony was held on a tiny stage outside the exhibit hall while throngs of gamers were waiting to get in. Nobody listened to my little speech praising Greg for optimizing PDF coding to make a card game where you can make your own cards and proclaiming this a victory for indie gamers everywhere! My immortal words, lost to the ages. ::Sigh::

Oh, and I laughed maniacally.

The rest of Thursday was mostly spent at the booth. The traffic is so much lighter than GenCon. I kinda like it. Less pressure. I ran two or three With Great Power… demos. Made two sales and got several commitments that folks would be back. And met the prolific Mendel Schmedelkamp. Talked a lot.

After the Exhibit Hall closed, I spoke as part of a panel about superheroes and their secret identities. Fellow panelists were Sean Patrick Fannon (Origins events guru and author of the Fantasy RPG’s Bible), Steve Kenson (designer and line developer of Mutants and Masterminds), James Lowder (far-ranging editor and writer of superhero RPG and prose-stuff). And me. I certainly didn’t dominate the panel, but made a good show of it, especially for my first panel. My fellow panelists were extremely knowledgable, insightful and enthusiastic. I’m not dreading my next panel (on Sunday) so much.

After that, I helped out with Kat’s Everway LARP. This time, rather than the King, I played the merchant, Earnest. I had nothing but junk to sell, but I sold it with a straight face and made out like a bandit. Beautiful! Lots of fun. Particularly once Alexander, playing the king, found out I had cheated him. “You worthless, conniving camel-trader, you!”

Today is two scheduled WGP games, at noon and at eight. Plus booth stuff. Gotta go.

End of the month-from-hell

It’s the last day of May. I logged more than 200 billable hours this month (which means I was here longer than that). As far as most things I would choose to do with my life, May was pretty much a lost month. My embryonic games are just as embryonic as they were 3 weeks ago. Good thing I haven’t set publicaction dates yet.

However, today is my wedding anniversary. Nine years ago today imogena and I were married. I’m luckier to have her now than I was then.

It’s a workday with plenty of extra chores to do, so I don’t know how much celebrating we’ll get done. Even so, it’s a good day. And, hopefully, a better month is just around the corner.

PROMOTION–Threat or Menace?

I got a promotion at work yesterday. I’m now the “assistant production manager.”

I also worked more than 12 hours without a single break.

What’s the point of working if I only get to work more?

The fact that I find messes like the Games On Demand thing when I get home makes it all so much better. 😛

I have no idea when I’ll be able to work on my games-in-progress again.

A one-trick pony

Watched Sin City last night. I’d never read the comics–they didn’t look like my kind of thing. Seems I was right.

I liked the movie well enough. The visual spectacle was stunning and well-crafted. Robert Rodriguez definitely knows what he wants to see and knows how to get it.

The stories themselves were … well, I felt like I’d heard them all before. All the heroes are tough-as-nails, terse, grim killers highly skilled in the ways of violence–with some small “code” to their killing that sets them apart from the criminals they ravage. “I’m not killing you for my own gain, I’m killing you for this crummy, little ideal.” The women were pretty much the same, only a little less so. They’re all renditions of The Dark Knight. I guess Frank Miller only has one character in him, and writes about him over and over. And that character is perfectly on-target for the escapist power fantasies of boys and young men. Fully consumed by his rage, inhumanly compotent, emotionally dead–except for a single, fleeting, over-idealized spark that keeps him from “crossing the line”–this character allows all the vicarious joy of being evil and hurting other people, while still enjoying the authorial (and audience) approval of being the “good guy.”

I guess that’s why he’s so popular.

It wasn’t funny the first time

It’s 3AM.

I just got back from walking the dog.

Funny thing is, this was supposed to be my night to catch up on sleep after waking up exhausted 2 days in a row.

After putting in a 12-hour day at work yesterday (today don’t look much better), we watched Mr. Howl’s Moving Castle from Studio Ghibli. Beautiful, beautiful film–as is all their stuff. Why can the Japanese make steampunk and magic look so cool, when games make it just seem lasersharked?

In the “Rome wasn’t rebuilt in a day” department, Jason Roberts, my cousin & the genius behind FVLMINATA: Armed with Lightning, has started a LiveJournal at iuppiteroptmax. It’s his first step to bringin Thyrsus Games back from the grave, and I wish him loads of luck.

Now, do I bother trying to go back to sleep?