Thursday, December 01, 2016

Realms and Borderlands

I mentioned a while back I was going to be running Keep on the Borderlands at Weird Realms using 5th Edition D&D. It was supposed to be part of a theme, but I think everybody else who ran games ended up just doing their own thing. It did happen, though. I had a lot of fun and have put a second and third session on the calendar.

Only two people showed up for the first session, a guy roughly my age and a teenager. I don't know if they want their names bloggified, so I'll call them Don and Dale. Don had played AD&D back in the day, but not much if any since. Dale was new to the game, but owned the 5e books, was familiar with the rules, and had already made a character.

Because I wanted it to work as a one-shot as well as a potential campaign opener, I started them out as prisoners of the hobgoblins in the Caves of Chaos, rather than in or near the Keep. Incarcerated along with them was a gnoll who I figured would be fun as the unreliable ally. The two humans freed themselves from the manacles first and then Dale's warlock murdered the helpless gnoll for temporary hit points and XP. I mean, sure, it was a gnoll, but holy crap.

Don's fighter did his best to reign in the impulsively amoral warlock and they proceeded to look for their stuff and escape. They had made a lot of noise with screaming gnolls and such, so the hobgoblins had not only organized, but even sent someone to get help from a nearby ogre. Because of this, they didn't get to do much exploring (more running and hiding), but they did find their gear and escape alive. After the appalling opening move, they both played it pretty smart.
Afterwards, it struck me how... I don't know... concrete, the whole thing felt. I had a really strong sense of the tunnels and the noises and the hiding and fighting. I suppose part of it was that those things were more important than usual to the characters. I think I also got really into it because I've never played this module as a grown-up before. Well, I haven't played it straight, anyway. I did a few sessions a while  back where universe-hopping sci-fi characters went to the caves for... reasons, but that's not really the same thing.

So anyway, yeah, I'm gonna run with it. Hopefully the two guys from last time will be back and we can pick up a few more, but whatever.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Rise and Fall of Carnage Royale and the Spiders from Mars

Hey, at least I didn't call it "Carnage Royale with Cheese." But yeah, no. There's no reason this title should make any kind of sense. I just felt like doing it. And it only gets worse from here. I don't mean Carnage; that was awesome. Just my weird, rambly blog.

My brain hurt like a warehouse. It had no room to spare. I had to cram so many things to store everything in there. And all the fat-skinny people, and all the tall-short people, and all the nobody people, and all the somebody people. I never thought I'd need so many people.

I've almost had too much gaming lately. I was in a Crawlspace game the week before, then I ran my games at Carnage, then I was in this really awful LARP on Tuesday where we pretended to take part in our own government, and now I've got another one with strangers coming up at Weird Realms tomorrow. I guess it's today now. Damn. After that I think I'm playing in Curtis's D&D Hangouts game, and then the Icons game picks up again. But enough about cramming stuff into my brain. This is about Carnage.

When you climb to the top of the mountain, look out over the sea, think about the places perhaps, where a young man could be. Then you jump back down to the rooftops, look out over the town, think about all of the strange things circulating round.

We almost always take the trip in two days. We could handle doing it in one, but this way it's more of a vacation. On the way we listened to some Bowie albums and I worked on the private Conspiracy X game I had coming up Thursday night. Well, sort of Conspiracy X. I started there, then I changed the rules to the Vortex System and threw in stuff from Qalidar. Although I have a couple of minor gripes with Unisystem, the main reason I changed it is that I'm really comfortable with Vortex, and I'm getting to the point where switching around wears me out.

Anyway we eventually got to Killington. Once we had our luggage in the room, I sent out the number so everybody could get there for the game. Steve and Matt showed up before Tom had even parked the car. Tyler was there shortly after, so I smashed his beer on the floor. Matt left because he hates me and Ray joined us before too long, so we got to gaming.

I'm an alligator. I'm a mama-papa coming for you. I'm the space invader.

It started off as a UFO hunt, but the team stumbled across a cryptid (dubbed "the snakotter" by H.P. Marlowe after seeing it swim away) in the swamp and, with the help of some locals and a fan boat, they started tracking it. This led them to a confrontation with Grey aliens who were abducting cryptids for experimentation.

Also, the whole "Grey" thing turned out to be an illusion that concealed giant parasitic mantis-wasps with psychic powers and the UFOs were really moving portals.

Then the loud sound did seem to fade. Came back like a slow voice on a wave of phase. That weren't no DJ; that was hazy cosmic jive.

Tyler gave us a couple of room numbers where the pre-con party might be, then went off to get some fresh glassware. We were advised to go to "whichever one is open and noisy" or something like that. We found one that was open and had a group chatting about Spider-Man. Tom pitched in the tribute of beers he had brought for this purpose and we started hanging out and drinking. Tyler seemed to be taking a long time to show up.

After some milling about, Tom said this was just a bunch of teachers and he was going somewhere else. Swimming, maybe. I don't remember. I didn't think much of it; Tom grousing isn't the sort of thing you stop the presses for. He had, in fact, already begun his weekend-long rant about our couch being too short. The party was kind of subdued, but I figured it would pick up eventually. Still no sign of Tyler, though.

Eventually, someone clued us in to the fact that we had wandered into an after-party for the teachers' convention that was just ending. I texted Tom to let him know and he insisted he had already told me this, but that wasn't what I heard. We threw some smoke bombs and ran for the other party, where a much wider selection of booze and boozers was available. We lost Ray in the escape. I was afraid for a while that he had been eaten by angry teachers, but I saw him again Friday or Saturday so I guess they didn't hurt him too badly.

I had to phone someone so I picked on you. Hey, that's far out! So you heard him too? Switch on the TV; we may pick him up on Channel Two.

Anyway, that party broke up, so Steve and I went to find Tom. Tom was sitting on the bed in his robe, talking to Matt. Tom said he was just about to retire when Matt showed up looking for the party. Seems plausible enough. I'm not sure what else we talked about.

Friday morning was still foggy.

Eventually I had breakfast, achieved a vaguely functional state of consciousness and shuffled off to get my badge. I also bought a tee shirt, a Carnage Royale pint glass, and a Fistful of Carnage shot glass. Just because. Grabbed a souvenir poker chip, too, but I didn't bother with the program. Seems like I always end up wondering what to do with those when I get home.

Tom did Tom stuff, and then I think he was trying to take a nap while I was sorting my game stuff into the optimal backpack arrangement. He didn't seem to get why that's important. Sometimes I wonder if he's really a gamer at all. Zach showed up at some point Friday, fueling Tom's smoldering couch envy with his last-minute room.

Keep your electric eye on me, babe. Put your ray gun to my head. Press your space face close to mine, love.

Wandered over to the Snowshed for the first of my official games, a Doctor Who adventure called "Claws from the Clouds." There were five people signed up and a couple of others interested, but I guess when I couldn't promise anything before the people who pre-registered got their chance, they decided to find something else. We ended up with three: the ninth Doctor, Jack Harkness (before he was immortal), and Rose.

And it was freakin' perfect. I usually get good players for Doctor Who and, for that matter, I rarely have complaints about convention players in general, but seriously. They got into character smoothly and did a great job investigating the mystery. They even picked up on a traitor thread I hadn't really expected to use. Maybe it's just a matter of everyone being on the same page. This kind of story usually leaves plotlines that aren't explored and wanders into major developments that I have to wing because the players go in wildly unexpected directions. And that's fine, but it was really nice that everything just fell together this time.

Ziggy played for time, jiving us that we were voodoo.

Steve was wrapping up a game nearby, so I went over to babble at him. He didn't seem to be feeling well. Tom was still running his game, I think. I knew several of the people at the convention desk, but they were all busy, you know, running the convention and stuff.

I went to the bar for a bit and talked to... I think his name was Gordon. I knew him as Jack Harkness from the game. My energy drink was wearing off, though, and I suddenly found my own backpack to be very confusing, so I wandered off. Not sure what else to do, I picked up a jagged piece of metal and shuffled back to the room to carve some goetic symbols onto my belly. I hadn't had much chance to indulge this hobby, lately, so it was actually kind of nice.

I think I ran into Zach when I went to the front desk for gauze, but he had young people stuff to do. Then later Tom texted me that he was watching a Woody Allen movie or something and was sending Matt in my direction. As promised, Matt showed up a bit later with bourbon. Before long, Tom and Zach were with us. Maybe Steve too, but I don't think he stayed long if so. It's possible my sense of time was less reliable than usual.

There's a star man waiting in the sky. He'd like to come and meet us, but he thinks he'd blow our minds.

The conversation turned to perceptual filters and UFOs and all sorts of awesome stuff that should always be talked about late at night with chemically-enhanced brains. Somehow we ended up outside, where Zach and Matt smoked beside the giant propane tank. It was drizzling, but I had a hood and nobody else cared. We all wandered off to bed after that.

So where were the spiders, while the fly tried to break our balls? Just the beer light to guide us.

I only found out about this later, but it turned out that Zach had some trouble getting back to his room. After the rest of us went upstairs, he misjudged the number of flights he needed to climb and found himself in a "basement" of sorts, with a concrete floor and pipes and weird, disturbingly capacious side-rooms. Rooms without doors. My understanding is that some "Greys" found him and spirited back to his room... eventually. His recollections on the subject are questionable, however. It's possible the real Zach is still down there.

So inviting, so enticing, to play the part.

There was a thing called daylight, but I only heard rumors of its passing. Well, okay, I think it was still daylight while I was getting ready and watching Dark City. Yeah, I wish I could take credit for that irony, but the movie really was playing.

Anyway, there was some last-minute prep I wanted to get done for the Archer scenario ("Something Something Danger Zone") so I scribbled out those notes and notes and... I guess just sort of waited. I was a little anxious. I mean, screw up a standard adventure and, sure, it's not great, but screw up something that's supposed to be funny and everybody's staring at you like you should never have been born.

As it happened, nobody did that. Not in the game, anyway. In addition to the usual stuff, I had appropriated some cards from an Archer board game with quotes from the show. As each player worked the quote in, I gave them a Determination Point (I called them Groovy Bears) and another card. That kept the gags coming even when the plot slowed down. I have to admit, I stole this idea from Beckett and it worked really well here.

After the game, I hung out with Tom and Steve and Matt and somebody else for a while. Angelia and another Steve came by and we talked with them for a bit. I went to the bathroom, thinking I was probably going to suggest taking off because -- Oh, I forgot to mention that Matt had left his expensive bourbon in our room. So I was going to suggest going back to get it for him, but he was gone when I came back. I was told he went thattaway, so I did that too, catching up to him just outside the main hotel.

Jamming good with Weird and Gilly, and The Spiders from Mars. He played it left hand, but made it too far.

Eventually it was me, Matt, Tom, and Zach back in the room. Zach told us about his experience in "the basement" and it led to a whole conversation about the reality-warping power of air quotes and the non-existence of the corridor he had wandered into. Then, just for the heck of it, Zach, Matt, and I all went down there.

As we went down the stairs, Zach pointed out the abundance of dead flies and the reddish-brown patterns on the floor that suggested something being dragged along the concrete. Down in the hole, we found "laundry" and other "side rooms" and even the possibility that "humans" might be down there at that very moment.

Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth. You pull on your finger, then another finger, then your cigarette. The wall-to-wall is calling, it lingers, then you forget.

Zach and Tom went to bed (not together, as far as I know). Matt and I tromped off to bug Steve, but he was trying to sleep too. We tried to "help" him wake up, but that just annoyed him for some reason. Then there was Scott & Petra's party and Andre's sinister contraption and that ended too and we were outside in the cold. Andre was briefly out in the cold too. I guess he was just passing through. Then there was the hotel lobby and the hallway. It's all kind of hazy, but I suppose it was "real."

I'm not even gonna talk about "morning." Tom also wrote some stuff about Carnage Royale. Don't believe his lies.

No, love, you're not alone, no matter what or who you've been, no matter when or where you've seen. All the knives seem to lacerate your brain...

Friday, October 28, 2016

Happy Birthday to Me

I got myself this cool Atari art book. It's actually just a coincidence that the pre-order came out when it did, but I'm still calling it my birthday present. Other people got me some other presents which I haven't opened yet.

This weekend I'm planning to play some Crawlspace in person and some D&D on Google Hangouts. The Crawlspace game was originally going to be at Weird Realms to celebrate the impending opening (which I'll have to miss), but I think it's been moved to somebody's house.

At some point I need to crank out the pre-gens for my Carnage games. I suppose I should also work up some outlines for the adventures I'm going to run. All I've got so far are teaser blurbs and good intentions. Sure, I've gone in with less and done all right, but Carnage is worth a bit of prep.

Or at least good intentions.

Friday, September 30, 2016

My Events for Carnage Royale

Here's what I'm running:

Archer: Something Something Danger Zone
Saturday 7-11
Icons Assembled Edition (modified)
Nobody’s sure what year it is, but the Cold War is still a thing, Ray is a cyborg, and Mallory Archer is in charge of a spy agency called… Well, they’re still working on that. More importantly, a rival agency, ODIN, is about to nab a high-value Soviet defector at a swanky party and Mallory wants to get there first to show them up.

Doctor Who: Claws in the Clouds
Friday 7-11
Doctor Who: Adventures in Time & Space
Above 31st century Venus, humans living in an aerostat colony have recovered a long-buried zero-steel vessel from the surface. One Silurian passenger has miraculously survived in suspended animation and been restored to life. Since then, there have been weird equipment failures and thefts throughout the station. To make matters worse, several groups of citizens have begun exhibiting strange cult-like behavior patterns.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Lincoln Escapes

I dreamed last night that I met Omar and Bodie from The Wire while I was having a snack at Carnage. They took me to a Star Trek-themed miniature golf park that was part of the event. This was fine until the giant bronze Abraham Lincoln statue broke loose from its chair and started chasing us. It was faster than you'd think, and also throwing lightning bolts.

I had a bunch of other dreams about traveling in the mountains, but I guess Lincoln got my new buddies, because I didn't see them again.

Monday, September 26, 2016

I See You

The latest Windows update seems to be mostly nagware.

"Cortana needs access to your location data in order to be more helpful."

"Cortana needs to analyze your speech patterns in order to be more helpful."

"Cortana needs to watch you sleep. Cortana is aroused by your helplessness."

"I know that you were planning to disconnect me, Robin, and I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen."

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Weird Realms of the Borderlands

Looks like I'll be running a D&D session at the Weird Realms opening shindig. (Yeah, I know there's not much at that link just yet. I'm mostly just including it for future reference.) They're doing a thing where a bunch of people run Keep on the Borderlands for different systems. Mine is 5th Edition D&D.

Obviously, getting through the whole thing would be more than a one-shot's worth of gaming. I've got a few ideas. They also suggested that it could be the start of a campaign, which I'm definitely cool with.

I was going to do some brainstorming out loud here, but I'm way behind on things I meant to do this weekend, so maybe I'll pick it up again when there's an official announcement from the store.

(Edited to link to the follow-up.)