Tuesday, August 21, 2012

GenCon 2012: GM's Report Card

I am recently returned from GenCon Indy, so again, I pop my memory card into the computer, upload some photos, and share my experiences to all and sundry!

So, this particular GenCon was kind of a special one anyway. It was the premier of curse the darkness, the first roleplaying game from our new company, Play Attention Games. We weren't sure that we'd have the books there, but they did get delivered, in enough time to sell a few and hand them out to our Kickstarter backers that made the show. So that was nice.

Let me back up. We left Cleveland on Wednesday, my birthday. I was recovering from a god-awful cold (really felt more like a flu, but it went away too quickly for that), and so I kind of felt like hell. Michelle was, as you may know, an Industry Insider Gust of Honor, which meant she did a bunch of panels for them and got a free badge (but they didn't even give the panelists water at their panels. Really, guys?). But that meant we were both really busy all con, and Wednesday was the only day that things were really chill. (It was also my birthday.)

So we got there, and we checked in to the JW Marriott, which I recommend. Nice place. Check the view:

Blue, da-ba-di-da-ba-die.

We got checked in, and then headed over to the convention center to get our badges. This is what GenCon looks like on Wednesday.

Kind of empty.

Except that we then discovered that the line to pick up badges that had been preordered wrapped around the goddamned block.
Yeah, should've had them shipped.

We got the badges. There were some slight issues; I think the girl that was looking for my badge was not familiar with the convention that "Mc" tends to come before "Ma" in alphabetized lists, because it took her a really long time to find me. And then they gave me hassles about giving us the boys' badges, because they didn't have IDs to show (duh, they're kids). But we finally got it sorted. So we left from there and went to get dinner. We decided on Mikado's, because noodles and broth sounded good to me.

Mikado is only open to vampires, apparently. GET IT?

So we ate, and then walked back through the convention center toward the hotel. We saw Cardhalla being constructed:

There's an "after" picture later, too.

And then back to the hotel for sleeeeeep.

Next morning, the boys rolled out of bed and immediately turned on the Xbox.


No, screw that! This is GenCon! Time to go to the dealer's room! So they got dressed:

Gamer funk protection?
 ...and headed over to the convention center again, carrying a box of t-shirts.

This is what GenCon looks like on not-Wednesday.

We got to the booth eventually. Michelle was chipper.


Still chipper! Those blue things are curse the darkness shirts.

At the booth, we had lots of people come up asking for punches in their Cheese Weasel punch cards, including a member of the Miskatonic Cheerleading Squad.

Go pods!
 As I wandered out of the dealer's room to run my first game of curse the darkness, I saw a really tall Wookie.

 The first game turned out to be set in the convention center. The city was burning, and one of the community's people, someone skilled at firefighting, had vanished. The other characters found him baking on a rooftop and saved his life. I did not, however, snap any pictures.

So after that, we went to the Games on Demand rooms. Now, I'm totally volunteering to do this next year. It's a great system, folks get to play the games that they want, and it really showcases the strengths of low- or no-prep RPGs like Fiasco, Monsterhearts, Apocalypse World and curse the darkness. We played Apocalypse World, which was a lot of fun. I was a sex-club owner in a drowned city (Seattle; my club was in the space needle).

Somewhere in here, too, I got the emailed from Drive Thru RPG saying that my books had been shipped, and would arrive Friday! I was pretty damned elated. I may have squealed. Anyway.

Trevis, our maniacal GM.
The game was only two hours long, but we got a really good sense of it. Like TechNoir, which I had the pleasure of playing at Origins, this game starts you off with an archetype character, which you can then customize. It also makes a point of defining the relationships and connections between characters, and asks which character is making trouble for the guy running things. I was the guy running things (the club owner), and one of the other players was playing a psychic who wanted to either run my club or have a bigger piece of the pie. The game centered around getting the club up and running again, and ended with us taking someone hostage and fleeing back to the club. It probably would have been much bloodier if we'd had time to pursue it.

The GM, thrust into running this as all GoD GMs are, kept pace, threw complications at us and (and this I truly appreciate) asked us to supply details and backstory about NPCs. It was a lot of fun, and I was sad to learn that the game isn't available for purchase yet. My Grade: A.

And then I had a pickup game of curse the darkness. In this game, the characters were outside of Vegas and had to find out why their power went out. They biked to Hoover Dam and found some folks trying to blow it up, but they all went through a Removal Challenge together and all survived, and made the essential choice (seriously, everyone draws the same suit in a six-player Challenge? That's mathematically unlikely). Good time was had by all, however.

So then sleep. Next morning, I went down to play Four Colors Al Fresco.

This game uses d16s, which is weird.
 Now, I'd played this game a bunch of years ago at Origins. The system is wonky, but fun, and the setting is awesome. It's a supers game set in an alternate Renaissance Italy. Our group was a bunch of Omegas who were socially unacceptable - my character was Ozymandius, King of Kings (Deceased), a Mum-Ra kind of character. The other characters included a boy who cares for a goose that can lay golden (among other types) eggs; a necromancer who can only animate the bodies of fish; Princess Zoe, Midas' daughter, made of living gold; Swanmay, a warrior woman with power over birds; and Lazarus of Bethany, the man raised up from the dead by Jesus. Together, we were just too weird for polite society, and so eked out a living in the mountains.

I like this starting point, and our characters were wacky but had enough chemistry to be fun to play. And then the game was about a bear-demon that was killing people. It was fun, it just felt a little...pedestrian. I had to leave early because I needed to go pick up the books, so it's possible I missed something important. With that in mind: My Grade: I

After that game, I got the books and then we were going to play Advanced Dimensional Green Ninja-Educational Preparatory Super-Elementary Fortress 555 (hell yeah, I c/p'd that ). But that's a very hyperkinetic, random game and Michelle and I weren't feeling up for it. We rested a while instead, and then wound up going to dinner with some friends. I wound up bailing early. I felt like absolute shit for some reason, and I didn't want to relapse into sickness. I did see a couple of interesting things, though.

A living statue.

An unliving barista.

Cardhalla, now complete.
 Next day! Saturday! I had a 10AM game of curse the darkness to run, so I did that. That game was a lot of fun. The characters were coffee growers in Hawai'i, and were searching for their store of coffee that had vanished overnight. What was interesting, though, was that this group really latched on to the notion of breaking the rules, to the point that they would hand me Between Points when they referred to "our coffee" rather than "the coffee." More deaths this time around, very cool group of people.

So from there, I went to the booth and spent the afternoon there handing out copies of curse the darkness to backers. It was closing time before I got to leave, and Michelle and I got dinner at a food truck.


Food trucks are awesome!

Ya! Monsters!

And then back to the JW for our game of Fortune's Fool

That's my camera case. How meta.
So, I signed up for this game because it uses Tarot. Your draws are successful or not based on the number and whether the suit (or Major Arcana) is a favorable one for your character. The game was based on Beauty and the Beast, Michelle played a character called Belle, I played Sir Gilbert, who wound up contracting the curse of the Beast and getting all hairy and people-eat-y at the end. The game was a lot of fun. If I have a criticism, it's that toward the beginning the GM had a tendency to interrupt, but he got over that (he's a big personality, like me, so I know how it is). :) My Grade: A.

And then we went to the hotel bar, had a drink, went to bed. Nothin' fancy.

Next day, on the way to Clay-o-Rama, I saw strange and beautiful things:

I'm a sucker for supers.

More supers!

A dragon made of balloons!

And then I made it to the Family Fun Pavilion, where I found my table and folks got working on their Claydonians.

Preparing for war.

All set to the dulcet tones of Radio Disney!

Killlll meeeeeee.

The battle was joined, and it went the way it usually does. Bloody (clay-y?) melee...

And the adorable little girl that no one thinks will be a threat hung on with most of her hit points until the end, and then mopped up the survivors (hers is the purple thing up there).

So then it was finally time to wander the dealer's room, which, despite being in the room a good deal of the con, I hadn't been able to do. So I took some pictures.


Some...elf guy with a panther!

Michelle, Dave Brookshaw, and a box!

John Kennedy, and his girlfriend, Kat!

My GenCon 2012 haul.

 So in general, good con. Next year: Definitely doing Games on Demand. Definitely not doing Guest of Honor. Ain't worth it. They don't treat you right. Actually, the con in general could stand to step up its customer service game a little. This "no refunds" bullshit is getting a little stale.

But I hate to end on a negative note, so I'll just say: I'll be there next year, hopefully with some spankin' new games to show off!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

OK Road Trip: Day 3-Home - Crickets, wine and cooking

 So! When last we left our...us...we'd lost our damn AC. Again. We dropped it off at the Firestone in Lawton, OK and piled into Michelle's parents' pickup truck to go home (tight fit, but her mom let me drive because she's an angel).

Firestone got working on it the next day (it would later turn out that the first fix involved a faulty part, and the compressor exploded again. The mechanic was very excited, he said they'd never seen anything like it before. Yaaaay. At least it was under warranty so it didn't cost me more). Meantime, we did Oklahoma things.

We saw The Amazing Spider-Man, which I really enjoyed. But no pictures of that. We went back to the house in Temple, OK (which is small and empty and OH GOD GET ME OUT), which was being swarmed by crickets. Like, really, you'd go outside and there was a blanket of them. Frogs loved it, though.

Next day (which I guess would have been...um...Monday? I'm totally lost) I mentioned I wanted to cook. We were going to go to Michelle's brother's house so the kiddos could swim, but they also have this awesome kitchen that they seldom use. Michelle's mom was kind of flabberghasted that I a) could cook b) wanted to cook and c) would cook in someone else's house, but see, I center myself by cooking, and I was pretty off-center.

So we went by Wal-Mart (ugh, if I never set foot in another Wal-Mart it'll be too soon, but there apparently aren't grocery stores in Oklahoma) and got stuff to make chicken Parmesan, which is simple and easy to make, but also not strange (Oklahoma is the land of starch and red meat and that's it) for the diners. So the kids jumped in the pool:

Will and Al, pooling.

Will and his superhero cousin, Libby.

...I made dinner. It was well-received, and April (who's...geez, my sister-in-law, I guess. Wow, I just realized that! Neat!) asked for the recipe. So that was gratifying. :)

Home, sleep, uneventful day, crickets, and then next day, voop! Off we go! We got the CR-V first, of course, and then headed to Oklahoma City and Half-Price Books, where we sold off enough books and records and whatnot from Michelle's parents' house to finance most of our trip home (so that was nice).

We drove to Springfield, MO, stopped for barbecue for dinner, and then I realized there was no way I was driving another 180 miles to Fenton (which is where our hotel was) without coffee. So we drove down "C-Street" in Springfield, which was a cool little area, and found some photo-worthy stuff:

A rose in the street.

A creature made of metal.
We also found a coffee shop called Big Momma's, which is exactly my kind of place:
They really like hedgehogs.

I totally agree.

We got coffee and dessert, and then back on the road! We found some radio broadcasts of The Shadow to listen to, and that got us to Fenton.

Next day (Thursday), we set off toward home. We had breakfast at this awesome little restaurant called Maggie's Lunch Box (if you're in Fenton, I highly recommend it - I had a beef and ale sandwich that was amazing). Behold!

Soooo maannnnyyy....

And then we found ourselves in Illinois, and near Greenup. We'd been here before, at a winery that we really enjoyed, so we stopped by again (amidst whiny protests from Will) to buy more wine. We also found a cool covered bridge nearby:

Ooh, covered bridges.


And from there, the long slog home. Stopped by Indianapolis and had dinner at an awesome little Chinese place with John Kennedy. And then home!

And here we are. Our next trip, I think, is GenCon.

Monday, July 9, 2012

OK Trip: Days 2-5.

Woof. Eventful trip. Finally started to get good for a while there, and then the second car-splosion. Let me back up.

 So, when we last left our protagonists (that'd be Michelle and me), we were in Davenport, IA, getting my car fixed. That took all day, but it did get done ("Air compressor exploded. Needs new coolant fan. Dinglehoppers need re-bloofered."). Fortunately there was a mall nearby, where Michelle and I spent much of Friday.

That's a tattoo parlor on the left and a Build-a-Bear on the right. Odd mall.

But eventually we got the car done, and drove to Des Moines. Now, the whole point of taking this route to Oklahoma (going through Indiana, Illinois and Iowa rather than down through Missouri) was going to Zombie Burger.

Zombie Burger is, as you may have guessed, a zombie-themed burger joint. Their food is really awesome, and all their burgers are named after various zombie things (the one I ordered was called "They're Coming to Get You Barbara", and the bun was two grilled-cheese sandwiches because FUCK MY ARTERIES ANYWAY). Some pictures from the place:
Shamble to the restroom.

Wait times for tables can be murder.

Yes, you can order a Bloody Brain.

Michelle, about to be eaten by a wall.

The initial plan was to go to Kansas City and crash with Michelle's aunt, but it was late before we got to Des Moines so we just got a hotel. Next morning, then, we got up and started heading to Kansas City so we could at least have lunch with her.

En route, we stopped at another winery. This one (Two Saints) had a number of really lovely wines. And was very pretty. Check it.


A moment later, the plant ate her.
 So we tasted some wines, and bought a bunch, and then back on the road! We made to Kansas City, and had a lovely lunch with Michelle's aunt Ann, and then got back on the road. Ann mentioned that there was a winery nearby that had, at one point, been a sanitarium or something like that. Odd Fellows? Hell yeah, gotta see that.

We bought some more wine, and on we went! We drove through Kansas, and OMG, Kansas is like Iowa except somehow more boring. We did find this kind of cool fence thing, though:

Not pictured: Michelle.

So we finally made it to Oklahoma City, got the boys (after some fuckery from United Airlines), checked into the hotel, and went the hell to bed.

Next day (Sunday) we all got up and had breakfast in the hotel, then had lunch at Dave & Buster's (the food was surprisingly good), and then went to the Oklahoma Science Museum. Oh, yeah, we got pictures.


The skeletal dinosaur surveying his domain.


Yoshimi, they don't believe me.

Michelle and also boxes.

A little miniature village.

CSI Pompeii?

"Snakes for hair, you say?"

I have no idea why she took the picture while I was yawning.

Al is really tall.

Will is training to be a mall cop.

The boys as astronauts. We're not sure why the robot needs a helmet.

And then off to Ted's Escondido Cafe for dinner, then back to Temple in a complete uneventful evening...OH SHIT CARSPLOSION.

Yeah, the A/C is out. AGAIN. The good news is that we left it at Firestone (because they "fixed" it the first time, it's under warranty) and went back to Temple (aka, "nowhere") for the night.

Further adventures today.