Monday, March 12, 2018

Apocalyptic Cheese: Assault on the Gary Conplex 2018

Thursday AM, roughly 10am local time, I found myself facing Chicago traffic for a third time in six months, all to be heading to Wisconsin. This time not for work, but being a tourist-- not just that but an Adventurer! I was driving to Lake Geneva for Gary Con X. Monk had tried to facilitate us two meeting us there six years before, but had to cancel. This year he dug in and with determination he made sure we got there. Of course I had to drive to Milwaukee, first, to pick him up at the airport, which was as far away from the Grand Geneva Resort, the convention's home site for now, as Chicago O'Hara, but who was counting anyway? Actually I was... .

So having left Cleveland at 6am local time, I was close enough to the Gen Mitchel Airport (MKE) at 11:50 to stop off and take a break. I hit the Mars Cheese Castle. Having a couple of beers and a liverwurst sandwich, on which onions and lettuce costed extra(?), I chatted up a Wisconsin-inspired Glow scenario with JerryTel IRC to pass the time. Badgers and cows were involved, and I was allowed to sample the establishment's beer cheese. Finally a little after 4pm I was able to go and pick up my Bru from the airport.
At around 5:15, Monk bothered to ask me, "What time is the game you're running again?"
"Six, tonight." I told him as I had three months earlier.
He looked at the GPS on the windshield which indicated that we would be there at 5:42 pm, and replied, "Oh."
At 5:49pm though, I was checking in at the Registration Desk. The convention had been running all day already, so the lines were mostly empty. The GM's spot didn't have me so without comment, I moved to the Preregistered line, because I couldn't schedule an event without paying for a badge to begin with. There were three people in front of me, and single person working the line. Another fellow moved to an unattended registration line and suddenly four people rushed to that line. The attendant did the one that showed up first, whom he seemed to know, and then announced he was closed. It took a while for the on-rushers to get the point to move behind me. On my turn, at 5:57, the fellow couldn't find "Tom Loney" nor "Thomas...", I told him my user name for the site was "Tom K." He couldn't find that either. I showed him that my event was in the catalog, and suddenly he found my email address, where a "Tom K Loney" had bought a badge for a "Tom K" from Cleveland, OH according to the payment information. A dude nearby wearing a name badge entitled something like "Wulf Rager" smirked. At 6:06pm, I was standing at an empty table, where I waited for fourteen minutes. In a few more minutes, I found Monk also at the registration desk, where his badge couldn't be located either. At 7:07, after checking emails and verifying program entries for events registered, it was discovered by the attendant that "Michael" is indeed the longer form of the name "Mike" and badge was pre-printed and awaiting that person. Upon this warm welcome, finding our room far on the wings of the resort, involved four sets of stairs and two ramps and four buildings. Walking outside avoided this cavern-like voyage. We would be the only two conventioneers to utilize the fresh air route as far as I could tell though. Hey, maybe it's an old school thing, despite all the power scooters.
By around 8pm, I ran into Dan, Frank Sinatra from Rat Pack vs Cthulhu days, and we slipped into the gamed session called "The Transience County War" for a system called Feral World. The GM was the author, a Sydney Wyeth, who brought the furry-humanoids to the old west, complete with recoil rolls and shotgun pellet scatter rules. It was fun, but by midnight we were all dying from exhaustion.The next day, all the morning games I looked into were filled with six people and then some. But around 2pm, I was able to run an unofficial Crawlspace game, "The Sleep Study", the one that no one showed up the night before for Dan and his entourage (his son, Kyle, and buddy, Bryon(sp?)), and Monk. Monk and Dan went on to find a D&D session to play in. I spent the rest of Friday night holding my liquor well until I wasn't. I would like to thank Christine, Joseph, Joe, Niall, and a few others for putting up with me. I came back to the room when I noticed I was slurring really bad. I did catch some serious pod casters talking about a dice-driven golf game and other more mundane RPG sessions before then.
Saturday at least until 4pm, every game that I was interested in was booked up. I did have lunch with Monk and a fellow from Rhode Island, Tim, that was running a DCC Lankhmar scenario. I'd wrap up my endeavors, at 4:45pm, having a cocktail with Josh from Prolific Games. I was invited to a game that evening but I missed a page and ended up just hanging out watching TV. Sunday was ditto and this time Monk hung out as well. Monday was spent checking out and getting Monk to Taco Bell before getting him back to the airport. The drive home was a bit long, and Chicago tolls are excruciating.

This was a great GMs' convention. Every table from Friday am on was booked up. The red banners proclaiming how full a table was were everywhere before the games were even supposed to start and chairs around the table filled. As for special guests, this is the place to be. The program has some fourteen out of 82 pages of personages the attendee should meet. The resort itself is a pleasant smaller complex where the miles around it are hidden by its rolling hills and deep valleys. The staff was great, I am not sure if I didn't meet any wait staff that was not a grad student if not a teacher already getting extra money. The breakfast buffet had great smoked trout and a wonderful omelet chef.
I am just not sure if dedicating myself to the convention is the right thing for me. Monk and I mostly did it as a lark, "a bucket list thingy" as we joked years before. While it is 80% role-players, it was still around 1,200 people, I think, and there are like plenty of OSR games plying for attention. And folks, judging from registration onward, were not the types that like stuff that isn't very familiar to them. While I could register ahead of time to play in games, I doubt my Crawlspace, or other projects, would receive anything beyond marginal attendance for a handful of years. In case you haven't noticed, I am a running GM that is getting no younger.
Wisconsin though was very proud of its cheese.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tom K in Toledo: BASHCon '18

Driving to Toledo last Thursday afternoon afternoon was the start of a recovery for me. Long time friends and associates will be familiar with our clique's "Quitters Club" phenomena. This is where we make plans to do something and then the day before we do it, sometimes a couple of days before but not often, decide not to do it. It started with Jerry and Robin at BASHCon about four years ago, and has crept up here and there every since. Well last couple of years I've indulged in it as well. Having moved last February and being physically beat-up, I announced the morning of BASHCon 2017 that I wasn't showing up. Later in the year, I postponed my own birthday celebration in the same sort of attitude. Well, driving down I-80, around 3pm, it felt good.

Of course, once in Toledo, my proposed Thursday night pre-convention party had mixed results. It was scheduled later, like 8pm, and no one showed up until 9pm. And that person, JerryTel, had to leave around 11pm. At 9:30, Uncle Gnoll was communicating via FacetuBe that he was there but getting something to eat and could be contacted by ouji board or something similar after that. I actually saw him pulling out of the parking lot as Jerry and I ran up to the corner store to grab a 6-pack. When Jedi and Sahara ( cum new boyfriend, Tiny Tom, we'll call him) showed up at 10pm, we did get a short Crawlspace session worked in. I practiced running the scenario called "The Sleep Study" which I will running at other conventions this year. It went okay and I creeped myself out more than scaring anybody else, but got good feedback from the test audience.

Friday during the day, I spent most of time watching RT America to see what the shows are actually like on TV. Not doing the cable TV thing at home, I see only a couple clips from my Redacted Tonight on my social media feed. As a propaganda channel, as even the BBC and all countries' news sources are, it's what it is. Playing to the weird mixture of disloyal, illiterate liberals and willfully ignorant, anti-liberal GoP-voting authoritarians, it still had enough conspiracy theory authors solving the assassinations of the late 60s and 70s to fill 30 minutes here and there. It was a romp through anti-intellectualism with the trappings of intellectual reasoning. It was fun, but I would've gotten better international news analysis from nun porn or some such.

That evening, I showed up at the University of Toledo around 4pm. There was no registration yet. "We open at five" said somebody in a UT BASHCon shirt sitting in front of a computer with four staffers sitting behind him. I snuck into the exhibitor's area to say hi to Beckett who was still setting up his booth. Actually he was chatting with Ted Mallison who was also running a booth to field his playtest for Whisper City Pro-Wrestling RPG. I went ahead and bought a copy right there. I then went up to the Phoenician restaurant, now on the fourth floor and having a stage, to have a couple beers while waiting. I read the small book during that time, and I found the rules fun and knowledgeable. I also dig the term "Potato Rage."

A little after 5pm, I picked up a badge as there was no line. I then sat outside the entrance to see how long it would take for anybody to open up the doors. It only took 26 minutes, with staffers sitting just beyond them and other staffers walking in and out of them. Convention goers themselves started filing through as well. Finally the boss, a young woman asked why the doors weren't open and received shrugs and baffled expressions from all near enough to hear. It was actually hilarious.

By around 8:00pm, JerryTel and friends, Peryton, part of the Jedi Clan, and Gnoll showed up. We started an unofficial RPG session "A Little Horror on the Prairie, Pt 5: A Bloody Ending." Jerry had eight players, five new ones and the characters that Pery, the Boy, and I have been playing for a few years now in an on-going 1870s Stay Alive campaign. There was some smatterings of role-playing, no one at the table was a noob or shy, then the GM just threw his hands in the air. We were railroaded from the starting point onto a train and to the adventure's release point. And it was fun watching Jerry break the rule against railroading because "We are going to finish this scenario, dammit, tonight." he swore. Of course when the staffers decided to wrap up the convention an hour early at 11pm, it was supposed to be going until midnight, we hadn't finished yet. So Jerry reluctantly agreed that a Part 5b, could be run as a Saturday night event. After midnight, Gnoll had a late supper with Pery and me, which made it a perfect evening. I slept like a stone for three hours at least.

Saturday, while JerryTel and the Boy were running Circus Imperium, their own take on Circus Maximus, I was having lunch with the other half of the Jedi Clan and shopping. Ran into Denny and Marty, part of the Beckett CLE gaming gang. Saw Corey from Toledo for about 10 seconds before losing him for the rest of the weekend. I then chatted with Mallson about RPG settings as an addiction. Jedi and the other half would head out before the evening game. We did dinner, Sahara and little Tom joined the JerryTel clan and us, and then we found a private room for "A Bloody Ending, part 2." Gnoll found us just on time as if by magic. What a game it was. JerryTel's flare for a cinematic fight scenes and use of visual props was awesome. The group being smaller by one person gave everyone a bit of time for hamming it up. We finished up at 9:45pm and everyone had enjoyed themselves immensely.

A heavy snowfall was coming down, so I cancelled a room party for everyone not staying at the Red Roof Inn where we were. Pity it would've been fun to hang with the CLE gang and Mallson, but I did not know how bad the snow was going to get. Instead we sat around with the full Jedi clan and Gnoll until about 1am. Peryton was about to make herself a bed on the floor when the party decided it was time to say goodnight.

Sunday, JerryTel ran his traditional D&D game. Pery and Little Tom just had to be there. So the man was handling a group of about twelve, four of them under the age of 17. I watched some guys in the video game room, where they told me about a video game where the players assume the roles of the deck staff of a starship. I also spent some time brainstorming with Jedi and Jennifer, Jenn, about GENCon and how to hype up BASHCons that don't fall on years that end in zeroes or fives. As Jerry's game wrapped up and he was cleaning up he looked at me and asked if I had done anything all weekend. When I replied no, he said, with some exhausted satisfaction, "I've redeemed myself from the Quitters Club."

The after dinner was at El Vaquero. The whole of the Jedi clan, the JerryTel clan, Pery and I, and Gnoll (coming in late) made it. The poor waiters and cooks and people sitting around us. Still they got us in and out in less than an hour and a half, and other large groups were coming in as we trickled out. Peryton and I made our way home in separate cars, as wasteful and inefficient as it sounds. Still it was a fun party.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Star Trek the RPG: the Twenty-Teens Edition

For my B-day, I bought myself four RPG products. Two RPGs and two sourcebooks indulging in adventure gaming passions Sci-Fi and Horror. Of course my bank account didn't need the hit and my book shelves have been overflowing for over three decades so this present is as decadent as a trip a Greek island. Still there is some joy in sitting back over a couple of evenings with my reading glasses on and reading through works written for the crowd that has role-playing in mind. Ah the fantasy-trip. As a guy writing his ultimate sci-fi/space opera RPG, I have to read all other SF games in existence. Of course the various Star Trek iterations are on the top of the list of what gets read. My first indulgence on the couch of yellow light and warming cats, was the latest RPG by Modiphius, Star Trek Adventures: The Roleplaying Game.
Well, looking at the cover, I see the darker disaster-driven tone of the Star Trek reboots (the ones w/ Chris Pine and incomprehensible space battle scenes) movie-- is that blown up London in the background? And I think Tuvok is leading a mission into somebody's tool shed on Smoggy-IV while an Andorian engineer struggles to get into a footlocker with a hapless red-shirt looking on dramatically. The overall product is as big as encyclopedia, heavy hardcover bound, and the pages are so glossy that paper cuts are not hard to come by. I know that this stands for quality (or rather "bang of the buck") in the Kickstarter era, but I begin to identify with our antenna-having heroine on the opening illustration.

I spent about an hour of the three hours reading it from cover to cover, looking at the inside of the covers. These are filled with star maps of what I think is Alpha and Beta quadrants of the franchises' universe. I never paid enough attention when watching the shows to hear if the writers identified real stars as many homeworlds for this or that alien species, so this was like a box of chocolates to me.

Turning through the sharp pages it read quickly. The historical sections strung together the franchises' sometimes at odds milieu. Enterprise, the grossly incoherent original series, the meandering Next Generation, and then about the second season of Deep Space Nine are woven together. The events of the Voyager's beginning and the Gamma quadrant are mentioned but not delved into. This history is more ascertained from atmospheric quotes of characters from the differing cultures referring to events from the various series and the movies. The writers want the gaming experience to occur using their mechanics and products. Long descriptions on point allocation, how dice effect things and how players should view their Star Fleet careers fill many, many pages. Pointers for the GM get thrown in here and there, and later a full section for the GM adds more to details already given. Meanwhile only the more TV photogenic of alien species of the UFP are bothered to be profiled. Later, some ships are discussed and then adversarial aliens and their ships get some coverage. And I was ready to play a game or two set in DS9 with maybe a time travel episode going back to STtOS.

The book and the writing has a lot of good things going for it especially when compared to other Trek RPG projects before it. There is high quality artwork, no pictures from the series, like an earlier effort. The ships and technobable (Treknobabble) are easily understood. The writers mention the Gorn but did not try to fill the Klingon and Romulan empires with animal-people and the Kzinti from Larry Niven's writings like say works that rhyme with Starfleet Battles (and its spin-off Prime Directive). It keeps itself from getting bogged down in details that never appeared or were even mentioned in the shows like FASA's RPG did way back in the day.

At the same time, as space role-playing games go, I wanted more to the universe if I had to deal with such a big book. Overall a Bigfoot of a sci-fi RPG.