Tuesday, February 20, 2018

BASHCon 2018: One More Time With Feeling

Tom & I missed BASHCon last year because we were in the middle of a move, so this was a welcome return to an always-cozy gathering. As I've said before, it's almost like another "hoot" but with better gaming spaces and some extra people buzzing around. We could call this Tol Hoot 9 instead of BASHCon 33. But we probably won't.

Tom left Thursday because he wanted to have a pre-con gathering. I'm told it was small but fun, and they even got in a late-night game of Crawlspace. I wanted to avoid using my precious vacation time, so I waited until Friday after work. At some point while I was driving, Tom texted me a picture of a woman's torso.

I got in and got registered in plenty of time for Jerry's private Stay Alive game, A Little Horror on the Prairie. It turned out that everybody was still getting settled, so there was time to hang out and even look around the commerce nook. I kind of had an urge to buy some dice all weekend, but nothing grabbed me. I was presented with some shiny gold and green earrings that Tom picked up for me, though. I learned that Phoenicia had moved to a larger space upstairs, but it was still around and still delicious, so no biggie.

So anyway, we found a big table in the corner and got into our Wild West horror personalities. Or Wild North, I guess. I don't know word stuff. We staggered around town for a while, doing our various con artist, gambler, or general trouble-maker things, until Jerry realized that a group this big was never going to be gently steered in the time we had. It worked out to be a good balance of free-roaming versus plot advancement, I thought.

It turned out that we had even less time than we thought, as the convention staff started shoving everybody out the door at eleven o'clock this year. Nobody else had plans, so we decided to re-convene Saturday night to finish the adventure.

Tom, Paul, and I went back to our rooms to consolidate vehicles and then off to Applebee's for a late night snack. That's right, Applebee's, not Del Taco, because Del Taco -- sigh -- was gone. Anyway, I was enjoying the conversation and the weekend break from my diet so much that I didn't mind.

We slept in and took our time getting over there on Saturday. Neither of us were signed up to run games. I had planned on signing up to play some stuff, but the only thing that looked interesting was Jerry's Sunday D&D event. There was a six-hour long Marvel Super Heroes session, but... six hours. I did bring my Icons rulebook, in case the opportunity for a spur-of-the-moment adventure came up. It almost did while we were having lunch at Phoenicia with Randy & company, but then he wasn't feeling well and canceled. He said he wasn't feeling well, anyway. The rest of the crew had already left to play other games, so, with only one GM and one player, gaming seemed kind of pointless.

I went shopping and picked up a sparkly garnet ring from this guy who always has cool jewelry at BASHCon, and chatted with Beckett at the Weird Realms booth. Well, I went over there intending to just chat. I figured he'd just have stuff from the store that I'd already seen, so temptation would be minimal. As it happened, he had recently dug up a bunch of old D&D stuff that had just been waiting to be cataloged or whatever. I ended up with a well-preserved copy of The Isle of Dread (the real one, not the ugly remake they did for the Mentzer edition) and a much less well-preserved copy of The Lost City. My old Isle of Dread was really ratty, and I had never owned a print copy of Lost City, so I snagged 'em.

Tom was still talking to the guy who made the wrestling game after all this, so I wandered into the hall and wallowed in my swag. My copy of the Star Frontiers hardback had arrived just before I left Cleveland, so I had that with me as well. I didn't get it at BASHCon, but it kind of feels like BASHCon loot. After a while, I went back to the wrestling guy to find Tom, talked for a while, and wandered off again. Later we wandered around and found Beckett at the auction.

Once everybody was free, we had dinner at Phoenicia with most of the BASHCon contingent. Beckett was working, Paul was elsewhere, and Randy was still under the weather, but it was still a big group.

And that brought us to Little Horror: Part Two. There were actually many more previous parts, but I'm just going with the BASHCon count. Jerry found us a nice conference room to play in, and Paul joined us just in time. There was a dimension-shifting church and a bunch of frog-demons and a sudden betrayal to deal with, but we managed to get back safely. Well, Saharrah did clock her boyfriend's preacher character with a bat, but he lived. We found Denny on the way out and noticed that it had started snowing pretty hard. There had been plans for a party, but the maybe not with all the weather stuff. We did still end up hanging around and drinking a little bit with the other Red Roof denizens, so it wasn't a total write-off.

Sunday morning was the event I named this blog after, Jerry's heavily customized 2nd Edition AD&D game, One More Time With Feeling. I always look forward to this one, and I wasn't disappointed. We didn't do a whole lot because the group was huge, but we did some exploring, some drow-fighting, and some role-playing, and we achieved our objective, so it was cool.

We may have lost Del Taco, but we still had our Sunday lunchplace of choice, El Vaquero. No Beckett, but we had a big enough group to squash the other patrons in the area deep into their booths with our boisterous nerd-revelry. And the food was really good. After everybody else left, Tom & I talked to Paul a bit more and drove home.

And I really did not want to go back to work on Monday.

Friday, February 09, 2018


"They have their goals -- touching or comical or mad. But I’ll be content to drift through the Exile world in my scarlet balloon, looking down on all the people and the animals, listening to wind and the cry of birds, smelling pollen, resin from the forest, smoke from wildfire on the grassland. I’ll come to earth only when I feel that the Earth is real again and I am."

Elizabeth Orme, from The Many-Colored Land, by Julian May

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Gen Con & Writing Stuff

I've only submitted one event for Gen Con. I didn't really even want to do that one, but I felt like I should make some token effort to contribute to my group in exchange for the badge (and yeah, I'm entitled to a few of their extra hours after all I've contributed over the years). In some ways it's a little sad because I always have fun running games and it's a chance to do creative stuff that I wouldn't otherwise do. I even picked up one of those newfangled cooperative board games that all the kids are playing, thinking it might be a prep-free alternative to RPGs. From my one play-through, it looks like fun, but not this time.

For all the fun I have playing those games, there are hours of stress that come first. There's time I could be writing that goes into bringing ideas together. There's time I could be packing, squaring things away with cats, or just relaxing, that goes into making those goddamn pre-generated characters. There's psyching myself up to perform in front of a bunch of strangers. In the case of the board game, I'd have to get the rules down well enough to teach it to strangers, just like I would with a new RPG. And, when that's all done, there's always teaching, which I hate even more than cleaning out litter boxes.

I don't need it this year. Hell, I still haven't started my D&D campaign back up because I'm still not sure what to do about the bloated roster. Sure, the hiatus may very well have solved that problem for me already, but I'd still have to start the process, and the thought of more organizing makes me tired.

Those are issues I've always dealt with, of course. I've probably nattered on about them in this blog, even. The reason they're not worth my time this year is the good news. If I need to run a game, my Icons campaign is back in action and doing great. More importantly, work on The Nameless Way is really picking up again. Now I'm just hoping I can finish it and see it in print before the last orange straw breaks some camel's back and this whole country turns into Ferguson.

I don't want to end on that note, though. I'm excited to be doing the stuff I'm doing. Maybe I can share some more information about what's going on, later. That's always harder than actually writing the story, partly because it feels so silly and pretentious, but I thought the last attempt came out all right.

Friday, December 29, 2017

2017: Remember That It’s All in Your Head

Where to start?

Here's a TV moment that kind of sums up 2017: Tom and I were watching Crisis on Earth X. Sara walks up to Alex at the rehearsal dinner and starts tossing back drinks. When asked what she's looking to make go away, her response is, "Nothing. I just like the taste of scotch." Back in the (sort of) real world, Tom said, "She drinks like you."

So here's to making that fucked-up outside world go away, and to loving the taste of scotch. Or whatever.

Writing... well, it's been going much slower than it should, but it's getting better. I'm now calling the book The Nameless Way. I started the year off strong, then things began to taper off in the summer and really fell apart during Gen Con month. I tried backing away from gaming for a while, I tried silly resolutions, I tried, you know, stuff. I think what finally got me back on track was when I took a week's vacation around Thanksgiving, escaping not just conventions and all that structured gaming stuff, but the constant brain-killing drum of my day job.

There were so many games, though. We started the year off with a clump of 'em at Weird Realms for Tom's birthday. My D&D campaign there drifted off early. I never had more than two players and, after a couple of cancellations for illness and something else I think, I never much felt like trying to schedule another one. The Scrap Pile had been on hiatus since late last year for other reasons.

In March, though, my World of Greyhawk campaign started up. I did this partly because my friend Curtis's D&D campaign had gone on hiatus to wait for a missing player. This one has been lots of fun. We were running along every couple of weeks, tromping through old modules and stuff. It had a bunch of long-distance friends in it so that was cool too. After a couple of months, Curtis decided he needed to start his campaign back up without waiting for the other guy, so hey, double the D&D! We even had a brief Icons reunion for Giant Size Scrap Pile #3.

In the fall, we were finally able to stir the Scrap Pile back into action. Aaaand Curtis started an Icons campaign of his own. That put the count up to four. I was running an Icons game and a D&D one, plus playing in, well, same. Sometimes we were playing twice in one weekend.

Also, the Greyhawk campaign was huge. I was wrangling five to seven players every time. That's about as many as I can handle at a real table. On Hangouts I'm more comfortable with three or four.

October came around and, on top of all that, I needed to get ready for the games I was running at Carnage. I told everyone I needed time off from gaming stuff so I could do more gaming stuff. Carnage came and went. It was awesome as usual, but didn't do much to clear my head. Curtis has run one out-of-continuity romp-type game since then and I had a blast running the Scrap Pile Christmas Special, but I still haven't started my campaigns back up. I guess I will eventually, on a less crazy schedule... assuming anybody still wants to.

I love both of my campaigns, and I love my friends, but I can't function with humans flitting around in all my spare time. If this year has taught me anything, it's that talking to or even thinking about other people too much is like sleep deprivation. I can handle some overload, but the toxins build up quickly and take a long time to clear out.

Like I said before, the vacation helped a lot. Before that, I was too fried, even with the restored spare time, to even catch my breath. Now I'm starting to pull it together. The shorter break for my Christmas trip helped, too, even the part where I got stuck along the way for some surprise auto maintenance. I'm a little concerned about where it goes from here. Multiple week-long getaways are a privilege for the wealthy. Maybe spacing out the game sessions will do it, or at least get me close enough that some carefully planned shorter breaks will work. My day job didn't use to require measures like this but, since we got sold to Jabba, it's been generating too much psychic garbage for me to shovel out.

I've also been backing away from social media a little, especially Facebook. I still use the blather sites quite a bit, but I had gotten into some bad habits, like using them to look for distraction when I was in a bad mood, or using them to vent. It's embarrassing how long it took me to realize that both of those are more likely to make things worse. On a somewhat related note, the site that did the syndication or whatever you call it for this blog appears to have imploded. While it was nice to get the extra hits, having to come up with something to blog about every month was annoying, so... good riddance, I guess.

I put out the last major piece of the Qalidar RPG, the Qritter Qatalog, this summer. There could, theoretically, be other books later, because I've still got some material I could run through the grinder and release. I suppose I could also do a compiled edition, but I probably won't. With the monster book out, I've done pretty much everything I felt obligated to do. If anybody wanted to actually play the game, they could do it and not feel like pieces are missing. Well, they might feel that way, but they'd be wrong.

Other stuff: Hey, in February, we moved! Not far -- just across the expressway. It was a grueling slog of a move, but I'm really happy with the new place. It's a house instead of an apartment, it's quieter, the way it's arranged is more conducive to the way Tom & I like to do stuff, and when things break, they get fixed. Plus, balcony!

Anyway, my goals & plans for 2018 are pretty much the same as last time, because I'm still not there and I still haven't quit. I'll try to find some practical ways to stay on track.

I'm thinking of backing away from conventions a bit. I'm already committed to go to Gen Con next year, and I'm not sure I could give it up anyway. It's a painfully expensive rampaging stress-monster, but it's also a freakin' amazing five-day party. I could, however, GM less and play more. Carnage, of course, is exempt. I could go to BASHCon and not run any games, or just run one off the books for my friends. It's a low-pressure shindig that doesn't even require time off from work. And maybe that's it. Tom's going to GaryCon with Monk, but I was already thinking of staying home to save up my vacation days... and bank some extra alone time.

I guess that's the end. Happy New Year!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Carnage Redux or Redact or Something

November 3-5 was the 20th anniversary of my favorite convention. I wasn't there for the very first one, and I can't even claim a perfect record since I started in 2009, but I go whenever I can. Carnage is the best.

This blog, on the other hand, is a mess. You should stop reading now. You have been warned.

Usually they have a theme, but this year it was "whatever." Kind of a look back at previous themes, they said. I suppose my Doctor Who game, as a mash-up, sort of fit, but that was just a coincidence. Turned out there was a full moon this year too.

It's been a mercurial, emotional autumn. I'm not entirely sure why. I probably wouldn't tell you if I knew. The relevant part is that this filter has been casting everything in weird shades, Carnage included. The games I was running were mostly outlined, but I started getting really stressed out over the last-minute preparation, stuff I've done plenty of times before, for plenty of conventions. I got grumpy over silly details when we stopped for the night in Syracuse the day before. It was a pleasant trip for the most part but, like I said, weird shades.

Tom drove on the way over, so I used the time to get stuff worked out for my private Thursday game. I had wanted to do more with the mythos established in Conspiracy X this time, instead of just doing my own paranormal thing like last year or trying to explain the whole universe like the year before that. I was fairly pleased with what I put together. We got in with plenty of time to stretch out. Steve was in the lobby and helped us unpack. The view from our room was a conversation piece. Ray would later dub it the Party Patio.
A last-minute convention schedule thing killed the game, so we just did the usual hanging out stuff, messaging friends in as they showed up, swarming from room to room at whatever point felt right. Eventually Tom & I walked with Matt back to his room (one of the condos) and then some time after three, Tom decided he wanted to stay there and drink some more. Matt is nocturnal, and he seemed to be okay with it, so he walked me back to the hotel and I slept while he returned to his waiting Tom. None o' my business what makes those crazy kids happy. I don't think it's, y'know, constitutional, but whatever.

Friday was the official opening day. Somehow I got out there before the registration desk got crowded, or maybe it was just running smoothly the whole time. After that I fussed around, did random stuff, stressed over what I was wearing with the coat to my Doctor Who game (I had packed several alternatives), and moved things around in the room for, you know, reasons. I also reserved a room for next year and tried to find out what happened to my missing credit card. Anyway, there was a game later.

I didn't actually play the Doctor, but it was my coat so I got to wear it for the picture. I was way nervous about wearing the silly thing across the hotel. I don't normally do stuff like that. Tyler's gleeful giggle-squee when he saw me was just what I needed, though. That's Rags and Steve on the left side of the picture. I don't know the two on the right in real life, but they were Janet and H.G. Wells in the game. It was a great group, but they almost always are. I was totally flying.

Tom was in a game. Cthulhu, I think. Seems like we started out in Steve's room and talked about how gaming was the best way to get to know people because, personas and stuff, wandered off to Scott's party, and so on. I brought the overcoat with me everywhere. I was a little bit zoned out at first and couldn't get into the socializing, but finally decided, hey, I'm here to have fun, so why can't I? So I gulped down... I don't know... it had some melted ice in it, so there probably wasn't all that much whiskey. Managed to impress Matt, at least. Or worry him. It also kicked in the human stuff so the party was fun. Then we were outside talking about dreams and things. Bound to happen eventually, right? Tom's game ran late, so I don't think I saw much of him.

So anyway, Saturday happened. I found the credit card I thought I'd lost right when I was about to give up and report it. Then I was stressed again about the Farscape game. In the course of writing scene outlines mostly on that little pad of hotel paper and filling out character sheets, I realized why I always get stressed over these games, even though I know I'm going to enjoy them. I love playing role-playing games. I especially love coming up with scenarios and running them. I just really, really hate starting them. Once that's over, I'm good.

But it was a great Farscape session. The nebari mad scientist played up to my standards, which I didn't expect. Because one guy showed up who didn't know the show very well, I even bent the plot a little to put him into a Crichton-like position. The guy playing the sheyang had written down a bunch of Farscape slang and worked it in throughout the session.

Tom joined up this time. He had been in a game earlier, but it was a train wreck. There were also  some other guys Steve knew, and Rags. Matt had appeared briefly during my game, then looked confused and disappeared again. The rest of us went back to Steve's room, where they all talked about beer forever. Like, all the stuff about types of hops and how much malt and I just kept seeing myself screaming and throwing furniture around until they choked me into unconsciousness. I guess I could have tried to change the subject, but I just kept hoping it would get better. Eventually it did, and then we wandered off to the big party.

Matt still hadn't shown up, so I texted him and, before it even got to his phone, he appeared at the door. I think he might be Satan. Or one of Satan's interrogators. I'll have to be more careful about squawking his name in the future. Anyway, circulated around the party a bit, talked to Scott and Andre, talked to Petra, who strongly recommended being carried on a litter, talked to this weird flying centipede thing that came through the yellow gateway. The rent-a-cops came a couple of times to shush everybody, and eventually it was time to go.

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and I returned Steve's coffee cup, talked to him for a bit, then wandered around looking for someone else to pester, but there didn't seem to be any more open doors. There was a gnarled tree that I could have taken a picture of but didn't. I always start these things out planning to share insightful comments on the weekend's games or art or something and I always end up rambling on about who I hung out with and where. Oh well. Insight is overrated. Anyway, Tom and I packed up and left the next day, and drove to our usual stop in Syracuse.

The next day we did a little exploring. Saw some woods that still had pretty leaves, and a lake, and found a really good Mexican restaurant.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


I stumbled across this place while I was walking to pick up the car yesterday. There's a fairly major intersection, with one distinctly smaller and homier road that goes off to the west. Right past another ordinary crossroads, the neighborhood street dead-ends at the entrance to this cemetery. I had been close enough to it before to know it was there, but I figured, despite the enticing entrance, it was still just gonna be a cemetery.

Yesterday was a nice day, though, and I had plenty of time to get where I was going. I walked through the gate and was immediately flanked by pine trees. They were all pretty old, and one of them was really striking, towering over all the other trees. Ordinary pine trees might not be as seductive for other people as they are for me. I grew up around them, playing in forests carpeted with brown needles and pine cones instead of crumpled up leaves. In my twenties, I moved off to other places with mostly hardwoods so, to me, pine trees are youth and wide-eyed exploration. Pine trees are magic.

Beyond that, there was an odd assortment of other trees and, of course, graves. I didn't spend a lot of time looking at headstones. The names wouldn't mean much to me, and, while I wasn't in a hurry, I did eventually have someplace to be. It wasn't really the history that drew me in, anyway.

It was a little bit cloudy, and, while the cemetery itself doesn't have a thick canopy, the occasional shaded nook offered patches of luxurious twilight. The busy street was not even a quarter mile away and there were houses even closer, but somehow I felt the kind of wide-open emotional freedom I usually only feel alone, at two or three in the morning.
Am I being morbid here, going on about a cemetery? I don't think so. My mind certainly wasn't on death, or even much on dead people, beyond occasionally wondering about the story behind an interesting stone. At the back, my path turned into a small loop around a big one with several smaller stones around it. It looks like just a monument or something to identify the area but, as far as I can tell, these are actual graves.
Past that, the property ended at a metal fence and a sharp dropoff into a narrow valley. This isn't a great picture, but shooting between links in the fence didn't give me a lot of options, and I didn't like any of the shots that included the fence. I really wanted to climb over and take off into that valley. It felt like somebody glued a piece of home onto the back of this otherwise flat neighborhood. It was the exclamation point at the end of all the little things that made this enclave feel so disjointed.
Of course, for all I knew, somebody nearby owned that valley and would blow my head off with a shotgun for trespassing. Plus, I did have an errand to complete, so I went back the way I came. I half expected the gate to transport me to a foreign country, or a century in the future or something, but nope, it was the same old afternoon in the same old town.

I wonder if I should go back.