Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Origins 2016

Origins is a gaming convention that I have been familiar with since the 80s. Always a bit clunky, Origins has remained "the second convention" in my mind for most of my adventure gaming life. The last time I was there, I think about seven years ago, there was more headache than joy in the occasion. Inefficient registration, too many territorial-minded cliques, and too few attendees to justify any of that. Too little bang for the buck, to be taken seriously. With growing difficulties at getting a room as regular game-runners at GENCON, I decided around March of this year to re-check out Origins.

I still found the experience to be at a rather middling convention, but with enough attendees and new gaming cliques to still be worth the time. The mishaps which occurred actually filled me with no end of mirth. Sometimes the hilarity was worth the price of admission.

Registration was a Two-headed Ettin with a Laptop in Need of WINDOWS Updates

I should have kicked myself for not "preregistering" for the convention, but seeing that my games were listed on-line and in the printed catalog I figured that a GM badge might be waiting for me. While waiting to check on my status, I was engulfed by an angry horde of folks that had prerigistered and were in line for three hours on average. I know because one cut into the GM line to randomly place a complaint because her boyfriend didn't make it a money-making game on time. The dude at the GM's desk, Ben, I think, was kewl by me, and Paul came by and helped me out-- He seemed happy to have a GM-based problem. When I realized that my free badge came at the price of then standing in the Preregistered line though, I went straight to the Buy Badge Now (I paraphrase) booths and spent 35 minutes in line. Yes, I paid for my admission, but I am not a broke gamer.

Tales from "The Quiet Room" and Elsewhere

While my "daytime" events (one starting at 11am, two starting at 2pm) where all in one conference room, where other RPG games were being ran, for some reason all my Crawlspace events were placed in the GCC Rm 125 T-1, also whispered, and labeled on the room sign, to be THE ORIGINS 2016 QUIET ROOM (dum-dum-dahhhh)!

My "Nixon World" Wobble session for Wednesday 1pm lost two ticketed players because of my time spent in pointless lines at the registration process. I showed up at 1:17pm. Luckily there was Alan from Terra Haute, that stuck around. I spent just over two hours, doing a one-on-one introduction to my setting and having him live out the abbreviated scenario. It did me as much good to hash out the tale as it amused him.

The 6pm Crawlspace session of 'The Dig" on went swimmingly, though everyone was worried about being in a room called the Quiet Room. Sure enough, a couple of people came in and stared at us for making noise-- one just had to slam the door on her way out. Still Bridgett, Michelle, Thomas, Jason, and Ryan made the game a ball. While in game phrases like "Bridgette (French pronunciation) the Humvee" and "the Blair Witch Tsunami," had everyone giggling, "Any kind of mythical creature that I can't use duct tape on?" by Jason won the laughs award. I am now in love with Bridgett, like everyone else in the group, while stepping outside for fresh air and cigarette smoke to wake me up, she told me, "You really can do creepy without us seeing it coming." To complete the night two guys in yellow "Origins Security" shirts came by as things were wrapping up and told us that we weren't being quiet but that they didn't care.

Thursday's 11am SPACERS(TM) session "Vacuum" had only Alex, back from Kentucky currently living in Columbus, as its sole player. Once again, I used this as an opportunity to not only do an abbreviated one-on-one session, but to go into the long backstory about the setting of the Spacers Universe that he was in. When we finally got into the game, Alex was very much into the story in front of him as well. We spun the yarn for almost three hours, and he was frustrated at being repulsed from the Others' "Other-Mother" (mothership) without a chance to fight his way through all of it.

"Flotsam Bay" after the 6pm mark ran into the shoals of "the Quiet Room" so to speak. I kind of knew things were in for a rough patch when I asked the woman making baby bottles with Similac formula, and another woman requiring three chairs to charge a cell phone that she was hammering away on with urgent text messages, "Are you here for the Crawlspace game?" The was reply was both two hateful stares and a "WHAT!?!" shouted almost in unison. Moving to another table, I was still able to rope in three players, but when three breast-feeding parties and an arguing couple (complete with the one charging her phone) filed in, one of them being a very polite couple, I was left with Ken from Pennsylvania. We made it up to 45 minutes before he just threw me his ticket and ran off screaming something about "tasteful side boob" into the night.

The next day, I dropped off my tickets from "Flotsam Bay" and was able to talk to Ben about being scheduled to run games in the Quiet Room. While I was happy that there was a Quiet Room, I wasn't sure if role-playing games needed to be done in the same room. I never mentioned breast-feeding mothers, I didn't get a chance. Apparently, my would-be players from the night before complained about a massive side-breast fest from the evening before. He blurted something about "there already is a 'Family' room for breast-feeding" and dove into one of two very thick Origins program books-- apparently this one was for etiquette. When I reminded him that "quiet rooms" generally are reserved as places for breastfeeding so that the mothers were doing nothing wrong, he discovered that the Quiet Room was indeed "set aside as a family room until 6pm Wednesday thru Saturday." What I heard was, because of my deaf ear, was "the Quiet Room was set aside for families from 6pm, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday." It took us ten minutes to wade through that disconnection before I finally suggested just putting times on their official signs when rooms are multi-purposed. He mentioned that I should go to room GCC 130 (an oft-repeated suggestion from many folks wearing Origins shirts this year to folks that they were too busy to deal with)... or maybe writing a note to Paul... maybe... I wasn't being a pain nor annoyed. I figured that he wasn't in charge of anything or just not planning on being at the convention next year, so I dropped it.

My Friday, 2pm game "Robot Jazz" for Glow was full. Paul, from DC, was not a part of the local group of Evan, Graham, Saker, Marce, and Phil (who kept speaking too quietly). The local group was drunk, but their energy was invigorating. I wasn't surprised that my RPG scenario about cutesy robots filled up. I was jealous at everyone except me, and maybe Paul, being high. Still I needed the tickets, so they got their moneys' worth.

Going back to the room for a nap before my late-night game (10pm-2am), I kind of watched ESPN soccer news before turning it off and falling asleep. Robin showed up at 7pm, but I was too sleepy to do much except kiss at air and mumble "See you later love."

Showing up at the now very quiet Quiet Room at 9:57pm, I was not surprised to to find no one there. I would've called child services on anybody bring there kids around my Crawlspace scenario "Detroit Death Metal Audition Apocalypse" for their own goods. A little after 10pm, two people, a newly found each other couple showed up, to my game. "We just had sex 45 minutes ago" she announced. When I asked for names, their badges twisted around, he replied so cleverly "Dick and Gina." I wrapped up my show-and-tell in about thirty minutes.I stopped into the Show HQ GCC130, and found two people eating pizza waiting for somebody that knew what to about anything-- a dude on an electric scooter needed to return it to security, and "somebody" besides him needed to pay for it.

Robin's Three Hour Convention

Bill Bricker texted me to come have a drink at 10:38. I couldn't find him at the bar, but I ran into Nick and Rob from Cleveland. We play in Beckett's DCC "Under a Broken Moon" campaign together. These two invited me to some hobo party outside. I mentioned that I'd look them up after calling them traitors for not showing up before and went to look for Bill again. I ended up drinking with a man named Karma from the Netherlands at a park bench. Neither of us like board games very much. Before going back to the hotel, I drank with Matt from Buffalo, who was working this year at Origins, like me he was comparing it to GENCON.

The next morning, it took Peryton from 8:30 until 11:30am to get out of the hotel room. From there I was able to get her into the Dealers room while I checked on a game that I wanted to play. Sure enough there was Matt, from Buffalo, behind the counter. I caught up with Robin at the Cubical 7 booth and being all giddy about Dr Who books. After a lunch where we watched Hungary vs Iceland soccer-wise, and went back to the hotel room. At 7:30pm, I dragged myself out of bed and started getting ready for some time as a player in a game ran by somebody else. The wife was wrapped up in the sheets and way too interested in the CONCACAF Cup soccer matches to leave the room, yeah right.

So I jumped into Ian Eagle's QUAG "I Psi" game at 8pm and had a great time. Around 9pm, Denny, from Beckett's DCC "Under A Broken Moon" group started messaging me about running a game for the a lot of them at the Convention. Mr. Ian was nice enough to gift me his rough draft of the scenario when we finished.  I showed up at 11pm and had a great time drinking and re-running the "I Psi" scenario using my own Red Bat rules. There really couldn't have been a better top to the show overall. I showed up at the hotel room around 4am.

I still woke up earlier than Pery, who had went to bed at midnight, to check out and head home.

So now, Origins for the Real Role-player

Service-wise, I wouldn't bother being treated as anything other than a paying customer. A customer that doesn't seem to be all that important. The horde of convention managing booths were staffed by people that were over equipped, but under-trained and ill prepared. There were as many kiosk as as any GENCON convention in recent years, and scores less folks to be handled. Those that could provide actual service could either hide too easily to be found or were overwhelmed by tasks elsewhere that should have been taken care of before the convention opened its doors. On Wednesday morning the Exhibitor Hall was still in shambles and not open to the attendees. The attendees were busy standing in line instead of enjoying their first of "5 days of gaming."

If you are into RPGs Origins has enough numbers to get traffic but as an organization it doesn't care. Big organizations were placed in wedding reception-sized halls. "Indy gamers" had better have a large cliques or be set wholly at the whim of the convention organizers, like a room set aside for "quiet time" most of the time.

I did enjoy most of the time that I was able to run games. I was a bit flummoxed as to what it took to get to run those games. One of the most ironic things that I heard from three people that I gamed with was, "You can't get games like this at GENCON!"

To which I only once replied, "Um yeah you can, with more than you and me sitting here."