Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Fistful of Carnage

November 7-9 was A Fistful of Carnage, their second time at the Killington Resort venue, and my first. It was also my first time heading out that way on my own. Tom had a weekend with Monk and Jerry planned, but I still really wanted to go to Carnage, so... there it is. The drive was uneventful. In a sudden nostalgia attack, I decided to stay at the Maplewood for my mid-trip stop. Oddly, there was no Dark Gathering in progress, so I made do with delightfully awful SyFy Channel movies and worked out some details for the games I was planning to run.

I pulled up to the resort around five o'clock Thursday evening, but the the combination of oncoming winter and heavy clouds left the mountain pretty dark. After I checked in, I drove back and forth a couple of times before I realized I was reading the map backwards. I probably shouldn't admit that in public. Oh, well.

Once I found my spot, I poked my head into the luxurious condo, checked out the view from the back porch, and unloaded my bags. Well, except for one.
That one had to go with me over to Andre's Thursday night game. It's a bit of a hike from where I was staying, and it's even longer if you wander over to the Snowshed first because you had a room number but no building name to go with it. And then it turns out that the room number isn't a room number, but some kind of hotel code for the type of room. Eventually, though, the front desk staff at the Killington Grand got me pointed in the right direction.

The game was late getting started, so I didn't even miss out on the pizza. This scenario was a bit of a departure from the usual Andre fare, a Dark Age adventure using his prototype Lucid Dreams system. None of our characters died or even went insane, although I think Ray got a little twitchy after Andre made him read that entire scroll out loud. And then it was really late. Probably. My watch kept switching modes, so I was never sure.

I spent Friday morning and some of the afternoon finishing up my D&D adventure. It turns out I had just written some notes and a few monsters that I wanted to use, so I had to draw the map and place things and do all that nifty stuff.

Despite the fact that I was eager to hurl myself into the convention crowd, it was great having all that space to myself to just geek out and enjoy the fake fireplace and the view in between scribblings. Finally, still not quite believing that I had managed to get everything ready on time, I hiked over to the Killington Grand to pick up my badge and t-shirt.

Over at the Snowshed, I got acquainted with the area, caught up with some friends, and settled in at my table. One guy showed up. We had a nice chat about D&D editions while waiting to see if anyone else would pop in, but finally Nyssa and Tyler made me untie him and let him get away. I blame "Adventurers League" for the weak showing. I mean, my promo was awesome, so there must have been organized play or some other stultifying influence, right? Anyway, I thought about jumping in on someone else's game, but ended up going back to my room to get some writing done. The travel and the whole mountain thing and having all that space to myself added up to a really nice creative boost.

By Saturday, the snowdrizzle had cleared up and the mountain was all bright and sunny. The panorama up at the top is also from my Saturday morning hike to the Snowshed. I grabbed some lunch at the food court thingie, mingled a bit, and got set to run my Doctor Who adventure, "Stetsons Are Cool."

This was the one I had been most excited about running, so I was gratified to find a full table, including Tyler, Steve, and several people I didn't know. And I wasn't disappointed.

Everybody managed to turn the pre-generated stat sheets I handed out into fun characters who helped me bring the decaying desert town of Scurl's Hollow to life. Well, metaphorically, anyway. It was still full of really old people, ranches without livestock, empty mines, and a railroad that went nowhere.

The team of six 51st-century time agents under the command of Kip Brannigan (possibly a relative of another famous Brannigan) wandered around town shocking people with their strange eating habits and baffling the barkeep just because he was easily baffled.

In the course of these important activities, they were able to work out enough of what was going on to thwart a time-traveling cultist and restore quite a few cybernetically zombified townspeople to relative normalcy. The zygma device was recovered and a talking brain from another universe was sealed away from our continuity. I love this game.

After that, Tyler told me about the late night trivia game in the bar and wandered off. I went with Steve and a couple of his friends to try out the hotel restaurant. My Qalidar session at seven was a bust. I lurked around the Snowshed for a while.

Before long, I was invited to jump in on a card game. I think it was called Dominion. I figured I might as well, but my first turn gave me flashbacks to old management seminars, so I screamed and ran and screamed and ran and screamed and ran until somebody hit me with a tranquilizer dart.

I woke up in a comfy chair by the fireplace in the Killington Grand lobby. It wasn't all that late, so I tinkered with my latest bad idea and just enjoyed the ambiance. A group of card gamers finished up at the nearby table and was replaced by a group of board gamers. Eventually I decided it was probably late enough to go find the trivia game.

Nobody seemed to be playing anything at the bar, so I sat there for a while and tried to order a drink, but couldn't get the bartender to make eye contact. I wandered off again to see what else was going on and ran into Tyler, who showed me how to cross into the alternate reality version of the bar where the trivia game was happening.

Somehow our team got the name "Freebird." The game was bizarre. As near as I could tell, it was played by yelling at the MC until he asked your team a question or made some random reassignment of points. Someone else at the table described it as the trivia quiz version of Calvinball.

We came close to winning. We at least managed to knock Tyler's teenaged nemesis out of the running, but in the end we were defeated by a louder team. One of their players had previously won awards for being loud in other games, so there was no shame in it. Also, I had finally found a spot that the bartender could see, so I was feeling fine.

The crowd buzzed around for a bit until Tyler, Nyssa, and I were politely invited to continue our conversation elsewhere. Looking around, I was a little surprised to see that there was nobody else in the bar. We wandered around the hotel for a bit because we each had a different idea of where the party was. Finally tipping over the correct shell, we found a high concentration of cool people in what I think was Scott & Petra's room.

The party drifted into a sort of cartoony haze, but the brutal hangover of Sunday morning is considerably clearer. No lobby-lounging farewells for me, this year.  Queasy, brain-bruised, and unsure how badly I had embarrassed myself the night before, I packed up and slithered down the mountain without a word.

I had originally intended to drive farther than Syracuse or maybe even make the whole trip in one day, but I was in no shape for it after that party, so I stopped in a motel that afternoon, ordered a pizza, and watched the latest Doctor Who.

Have I mentioned before how much I hate writing conclusions?

Monday, November 03, 2014

Red Right Hand

If you read the super-hero stories in Stars, Specters, and Super-Powers, you  may have noticed that the titles are all songs. The reason I mention this is that I heard a song the other day that makes me kind of regret one of my choices. If you read "The Man Comes Around," try it again with "Red Right Hand," by Nick Cave, instead. Oh, come on! It's not even all that long! At least read the first scene. That'll be enough to get most of the connection.
In some ways, though, I'm kind of glad I didn't hear the song first. At least this way it doesn't sound so much like that's where I got the idea.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Bad Idea

Just played another session in my Icons campaign. I should finish preparing for Carnage. I should work on Qalidar, or even finish Losing Lanterns, which is just insanely close to the end, now. And I probably will put in a bit of time on at least one of those in the next few days.

I have been captivated, though, by an idea that popped into my head earlier this week. It's the kind of plan that's almost universally derided for its imprudence and, for once, I think the universe has some really good points. It's a bad idea. A bad, bad, really not-good-at-all idea. I shouldn't even be considering it.

The thing is, I kind of think I can make it work. I've created a sprawling web of a Scrivener file where I keep moving around all these little bits of information with ever-changing tags and notes. Workable plots and themes are starting to emerge, lurching and staggering toward those tantalizing visions that drew me into this in the first place. Something is taking shape.

It's probably still a bad idea, though.

We'll see.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Superhero RPG Appendix N Blog Challenge

I came across this interesting Barking Alien challenge by way of +Lowell Francis:
I challenge you, the Superhero RPG GM, and/or player, to list between 5 and 10 Superhero comic books, and 5 to 10 Superhero live action or animated shows or films, that typify your style of Superhero RPG campaign.
Having just started a new super-hero campaign, this stuff has been on my mind quite a bit, so all right, here we go:
  1. Fantastic Four - From as far back as the flea markets could provide, up through much of the Byrne era.
  2. Avengers - Mostly the mid-70's through the mid-80's.
  3. Rom: Spaceknight - All of it.
  4. Micronauts - All of it. This and Fantastic Four were the first comic books I followed.
  5. Uncanny X-Men - The Claremont/Byrne and the second Claremont/Cockrum run. I don't mean any slight to the others; this is just the bit that influenced me.
  6. Nova - The original series, from the 70's, with Marv Wolfman and Sal Buscema (and later, unfortunately, Carmine Infantino).
  7. Alpha Flight - Byrne through Mantlo. 
And for the shows & films... Sometimes I feel the need to justify these, so there's some blather about why I think they fit:
  1. Farscape - Farscape is the gold standard for all my role-playing games, super-hero or otherwise. Its style and attitude had a huge influence on the games I run now. If you can figure out how the characters in this show, each with their own, often violently conflicting, agendas, can come together - or somehow muddle through the crisis without coming together - you can deal with any group of players. 
  2. Transformers - Season 3 (the original series). 
  3. Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes - (I mean the Avengers cartoon that was prematurely terminated, not the obnoxious one with the movie-based costumes and Red Skull's League of Villains Least Likely to Ever be Part of a League.) I almost hesitate to count this, because watching it feels so much like reading the comic book that I take pretty much the same inspiration from it.
  4. Archer - No, seriously. While, again, not about four-color spandex super-heroes, this is another study in how wildly conflicting characters act when thrown into a dangerous situation... or an office building. And, while the comedy does often find its way into lighter moments, the way this show plays out has a lot of influence on even the more serious of my ongoing plots.
  5. Aqua Teen Hunger Force - I don't know. It's really hard to find movies or shows that have anywhere near as much influence in this area as even the most cursorily-perused comic book, and it would be cheating to count something like City of Heroes as a movie or show.
Okay, your turn.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Assembling Some Icons

So, updating from the other day: Last Friday, I took the first step towards that super-hero campaign I've been pining for.

It was over Roll20, which is a nice platform. I'd rather play in person, but you take what you can get. Somehow I think meeting my friend from Tulsa every other week in person might become impractical. Plus, I guess it's just less of an investment for everyone. That's kind of sad, in a way, but hey, whatever gets the dice rolling.

Anyway, what we did this time was play out a bank robbery with some pre-generated characters that I handed out. Emergent (well, a dude version... although who's to say the same character couldn't go back and forth?) joined some of our old City of Heroes characters in taking on The Angry Beet and his beet mite minions. Seemed to go pretty well. I made note of a few minor things to keep fixed in my brain for running Icons and things to remember for using Roll20. The plan is for them to make characters, or at least come up with a concept and three qualities so I can make a character (for people who haven't bought the rules yet) and get together again in two weeks (well, just a little over one week, now).

Crossing my fingers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


I've got to get a campaign going.

Sure, I can always run convention games, but what I'm really craving is something ongoing, something that can evolve its own storylines instead of relying entirely on me to force them into place. I've got several ideas. And what I mean by that is, I've already worked out the details of several campaigns. I'm not even going to list the stuff that occasionally flits across my brain, like the 70's style UFO hunter thing or the Lost Room spin-off. These are the ones that I'm serious about, that I've already thought through and could jump right into, given the chance.

So, in no particular order:
  • Dungeons & Dragons (5e) - Nothing groundbreaking here. Like a lot of people, I'm just excited about the new edition and really want to dive in. I had a Sea of Dust (Greyhawk) campaign a long time ago that would be fun to re-hash. Plus, just, you know, D&D.
  • Robinized Rocket Age - I'm seeing a similarly life-supporting but somewhat less populous solar system than the one described, borrowing a lot from the Martian Chronicles for that particular planet. Much of it I would use as written - like the creepily domineering Europans and the jungle highlands of Venus perched above the toxic cloud-covered lowlands. At least, I would make them toxic. They might just be extra hot in the game. I do a little bit more tinkering in my head every time I open that book. It's just teeming with inspirational nuggets.
  • Mostly Micronauts - I'm fairly certain I would use Icons for this. Another option would be an adaptation of Rocket Age, but, looking at how I would adapt the characters, I think the assumptions of a super-hero game work better. Anyway, this would be mostly based on the comic book, but would incorporate other stuff, including bits of the Farscape universe, my own creations, and various other tidbits that I've been daydreaming about adding for years. A lot of my Micronauts musings have already taken shape as bits of Qalidar, but I'm craving more of the pure gonzo space opera stuff now.
  • Straight-Up Super-Heroes - Speaking of super-hero systems, I'm still gearing up to run a four-color comic book campaign. I think this is the one I'm most likely to really do. From a starting place like that, I can still jump into Microverse or basic space exploration action as the mood strikes me. The hometown would be Beta City, mostly to give me an excuse to use our menagerie of City of Heroes characters as NPCs. 
Doctor Who almost made the list, but I'm fairly satisfied with convention gaming for that. Not that I couldn't be talked into a campaign if someone were to ask. And convention gaming is probably where all but one of these will take shape. It's a pity, because it's hard to get the "exploration" vibe in a one-off adventure, and there are things you can do with recurring characters that don't work when you just say, "you know _______ and he's always pulling stuff like this," but oh well. I really can't complain about the amount of gaming I get to do.

I mean, I will, but I probably shouldn't.