Wednesday, August 25, 2010

House Condemned

(with apologies to Langston Hughes)

What happens to a house condemned?
Does it bleach out
Like old paint in the sun?
Or shelter angry thugs--
Just for fun?
Does it slouch over sidewalks on the street?
Or feed the hungry termites--
with its starchy treats?
Maybe it stays up
till its nails corrode.
Or does it explode?

In reference to:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


So... I'm back from another Gen Con.  I suppose I should start with getting there.  Monday and Tuesday were spent sleeplessly scrambling to get all the stuff ready that I had been not quite getting ready for a long time.  Somehow this led to Wednesday morning, when I woke up in a culvert leading down into the Flats.  More disturbing than this, perhaps, is the fact that Tom already knew where I was and came to pick me up on the way out of town without being called.  Another stroke of luck was that I (or perhaps the person or people responsible for leaving me in that ditch) had, at some point, made all the character sheets and props I was going to need, and written down enough notes to get me through the games I would soon be running.

On the way in, we stopped for lunch across from the site of this year's Troll Hoot.  For possibly the first time ever, we were able to move along without having to spend much time glowering at Columbus, and there were no construction projects on I-70.  WAHOO!

After checking in at the Looking Glass, we set out through the hundred-degree steam-bath of Indianapolis to the convention center.  Tom stopped along the way for an impulse haircut, which gave us a nice air-conditioned respite midway.  First sight of the Fabled City of Nerds is always an emotional experience, and this one was no exception.  The fact that downtown Indy is such a pleasant and welcoming hang-out is definitely a part of it.  There's just nothing else like Gen Con.

The lines to pick up our badges looked pretty scary at first, but actually moved along with impressive speed.  I had some trouble getting my free swag, as you can see below, but other than that it was cool.

After drinks and a snack at the Alcatraz, Tom started up his Cthulhu Mansion adventure, while I tried to get in touch with Mike (Lea, not Larsen - let's just call the Arizona one Monk from now on to avoid confusion) and wandered around Union Station sticking my nose in whatever strange stairwell or tunnel presented itself.  I was rewarded with this tidbit, a hotel connected to the station in which some of the rooms (no doubt the really expensive ones) are inside old train cars that line the halls.  I also bumped into Caed and recovered a wandering YogPaul, which I captured and led to the Cthulhu Mansion game to fulfill its duties as co-keeper.

The good news is that the sauna was about to blow away and leave us with much cooler and dryer weather.  The bad news is that Mike was cruising right in on the crest of the storm that was clearing it out.  He managed to arrive without any clear idea of where he was or how to find a parking place, obliging me to sprint through the rain in a twisty multi-block path until I finally caught up with his car in order to guide him back to the Looking Glass.


Tom was out the door before I was up, but eventually I got out there and helped Mike get his badge and stuff.  The policy towards cell phones seemed to have changed since last year, but luckily I was able to hide mine from the murderous mobile-manglers long enough to get clear of them. 

We had a big welcome to Gen Con lunch at Champions with everyone we could find (Me, Tom, Mike, Caed, Ken St. Andre, Monk, Kelly, and Zack (a new one for me).  I opened my big mouth and quite possibly got myself roped into a non-paying writing gig, and there was much rejoicing.  Then we broke off to dig into our various events.

Mike followed to watch my first session of Aqua Teen Hunger Force at the Mountains of Madness.  He was scheduled to play in a later session (as Carl), but didn't have anything else to do and there's really no spoiler that's going to matter in an Aqua Teen story.  Two guys, who I now remember only as Meatwad and Travis of the Cosmos, were already waiting, and a full table settled in shortly after, including Mike, who sat in on this session as Mothmonsterman.  This session may well be the most fun I've ever had a gaming table.  Several players did first-rate impressions of their characters, and even the ones that weren't stunningly on-target were exceptionally good.  The best compliment I got was "it's just like a new episode of the show."  I can't take all that much credit for that, but hey, I made the thing happen, right?  The session ended with a giant Old One (a mass of cardboard tubes and angry Meatwad-faces summoned "accidentally" by Frylock) destroying Australia while Meatwad found the secret of cosmic power and became ruler of the world, or at least New Jersey... or at least Shake.

Jerry from BASHCon was running Game of Thrones at the table next to me, so I invited him and Mike to come down to the nearest bar (Level One in the Hyatt) for drinks with Tom and whoever Tom was buying drinks for today.  It must have been my psychic powers that told me where he would be.  Tom's companero turned out to be John Kennedy, of the non-famous Kennedys.  More happy milling-about ensued.  Somehow we ran into Monk and Kelly and ended up eating at Claddagh (minus Jerry and John) and then lounging on the steps of Union Station, where we were joined shortly by Sligo/Scott of Trollhalla and Indianapolis.  I tried to hang on for Tom's late night Cthulhu game but gave up and went back to the B&B to crash.


My first event of the day was my Beyond the Caves of Chaos True20 adventure (using extra rules & creatures from Qalidar).  That one went well.  I had a good group and I'm still liking True20, especially since I started using cards for the damage conditions.  The Pyramid Heads (a menace I stole from Tom) were great fun with their knockback/stun-only kazap pistols.  I was somewhat disappointed that my other main villains kept getting staggered so that the players never got shot by their bee guns.  Ah well.  Next time.

My next event wasn't until seven, and Mike was finally up, so we stopped at the Red Dragon Inn (which is normally the Circle City Grille in the Marriott) for some fantasy-themed drinks and snacks, then took a turn around the exhibit hall, which was dizzying as always.  I wandered over and chatted with Ken & Rick (mostly Ken because Rick was really busy) at the Flying Buffalo booth.  Shortly after, I'm reminded that Tom was planning some sort of dinner tonight.  Since Mike and I have an Aqua Teen game at seven, I decide to remind Tom of this.  Well, Tom is in a game (I later found out it was T&T) that was going just swimmingly.  "No time for chit-chat, old girl.  You can sort things, spic-n-span, eh?  There's a good lass." 

Never one to disappoint a Victorian gentleman, I returned to Flying Buffalo with my trusty sidekick and set about sorting things the best I could.  Ken and Rick would meet us all by the stage outside the exhibit hall and we would go to Champions from there.  Mostly, it worked fine, but here's the problem.  Ken and Rick were joining us at the most convenient dining spot after all the exhibitors were released from their cages in the exhibit hall.  All at the same time.  So, even when we switched over to Red Dragon, there was no way we were getting a table and moving on before the Aqua Teen game that Mike and I had coming up at seven.  So, sadly, we had to bow out on what looked to be a fun dinner and go on to our game.  I can lead my people to the Promised Land, but I must not enter.

A group of boardgamers had settled on our table, apparently having been told that it was an open gaming location, but they were very polite and even apologetic, so that was no big deal.  Then a strange cult of uniformly tee-shirted gamers asked us to switch tables so they could all be together, which was fine as well.  We got started with a much smaller group than before, featuring only Carl, Shake, and Frylock, with Meatwad as an NPC.  Mike played Carl.  With less frantic player activity, I had to provide a bit more plot to keep this one moving along.  Instead of re-building the fish-bot to fly to Antarctica, Frylock invented a matter-transmitter which, of course, left them no way to get home after confronting MC Pee-Pants (reincarnated as an Elder Thing wearing a diaper).  Another player showed up really really late and took over the Meatwad role.  It got a bit of a slow start and it was never quite as insane as the first one, but it did evolve into lots of hilariously surreal Aqua Teen fun.

Tom was off on his own doing something for the rest of the night, so Mike and I found some comfy chairs with a table in the hallway and tried out his newly purchased card game, Timelines.  Or Timestream.  Or something like that.  It was a fun game, and it's just so totally Gen Con to be out in some random convention hall nook playing a game you had never heard of until that day.


Saturday's first game was at nine in the morning.  Crazy, I know.  I was almost on time, greeted by a table full of Aqua Teen fans who weren't going to give up that easily.  They were funny in their own right, but not as dead-on with the Aqua Teen style as the others had been.  Still, Shake tried to become a heavy metal rock star named Ingmar and Carl was used as a human landing cushion by Travis, only to be re-built by Frylock with mechanical penguin parts.  Everyone but Frylock and Meatwad died when they brought down the mountain and ignored it.

My next game was at two, so I found Mike and we did some more shopping.  I bought Eclipse Phase (I want it on record that I saw it and thought it looked cool before I knew about the awards) and we joined Tom at Acapulco Joe's, which is a bit of a hike from the convention center but, hey, it's pretty good Mexican.  Tom regaled us with the story of how some twit in his game was not only surprised but actually outraged when his Call of Cthulhu character died.  It's a horror game.  What else is gonna happen?

Stuffed, we waddled back to the convention center (the long hike not seeming like such a bad idea anymore) to get our next events going.  Tom had his Wrestlers vs. Dracula, Mike was off to try and get into a Star Wars Saga game, and I had another True20 Caves of Chaos session.  This team stealthily avoided the pyramid heads and staged a pretty clever ambush to nab the high priest so they could interrogate him.  One of them did walk right into my bee guns, though, and got stung to the point of incapacitation.  Yay, bee guns!  Neither this group nor the other one did much with my sub-plots, though.  I suppose that's to be expected.

We were occasionally interrupted by the joyous war-whoops of the unruly mob next to us, which turned out to be Tom's wrestlers.  I watched a bit of the end.  Tom would later downplay his own performance on several occasions, but I saw him brilliantly hamming up the announcer role, surrounded by guys who were having (and making) a resounding blast.

Tom and I hooked up with Mike (who had succeeded in getting to play Star Wars), Jordan, Monk, and Kelly at the Level One bar.  Kelly seemed to be enjoying her first Gen Con, mostly engaging in dark Victorian fairy-centric games, which is not surprising because Monk loves that stuff.  Monk & Kelly had other things to do, so Tom, Jordan, Mike, and I popped over to Champions.

While we were having dinner, Tom got a call from Todd Rooks, a friend and fellow Gen Con aficionado.  He plays in a group that meets at Gen Con for a once-a-year ongoing dungeon crawl campaign called the Short Nine.  The name comes from the fact that all the player characters are dwarves, halflings, and gnomes.  Thankfully, I didn't get a dwarf.  I hate the dwarves in fantasy games.  I think they were experimenting with 4E D&D last year, but this year it looked like pretty much straight Pathfinder.

Anyway, they had a couple of open slots, so Mike and I jumped right on that and joined in for a great game that ran well after midnight.  Mike's chipmunk-voice singing (he played a bard) and a few lucky contributions on my part apparently distinguished us enough to earn us entry into next year's game, "The Short Nine Plus One" (my character had been an NPC rescued by the original gang prior to my joining, and Mike's had been played by someone else). 

Having totally played through my scheduled midnight game without realizing it, I was pretty much done for the night.  Tom suggested that Mike and I take a cab back because he wanted to walk, believing that this would somehow help his aching ear.  Although his walk took a detour through the new Scotty's Brewhouse (which I never got around to visiting), he eventually made it home.


Ah, Sunday.  Generally pleasant, but in a bittersweet way.  All my GM'ing events were done, so I had only a visit to Tom's Rat Pack Cthulhu game (Fly Me to the Moon, this year) and a final round of shopping on my agenda.  I was thrilled to see that the guy who had so brilliantly portrayed Frank in the original Rat Pack Cthulhu event was back for another performance.  We split up to drop off our collected event tickets and scour the exhibit hall on our own.  I picked up a Star Wars book (the Saga Edition sourcebook for Rebellion Era campaigns), a shirt that says "strike him down and take his place at my side," and a copy of that "who's a werewolf" party game (called something else officially, but I can't remember).  Tom got some Stackpole novels, a Delta Green book, and maybe some other Flying Buffalo stuff.  Mike picked up a shirt for Amy, some miniatures, and maybe some more Star Wars books.  I saw YogPaul, who was entangled with a vendor, and we lamented never getting a chance to hang out.  Guess where the rest of us met up for the after-party.

Back at Champions, we got a back room for myself, Tom, Mike, Monk, Kelly, and our new friend Diogo from Brazil.  We toasted New Khazan and Gen Con and new friends.  Mike left early because he had a longer drive home.  Not too long after, the rest of us took off as well.  I spent most of the trip home reading Eclipse Phase.  It's such an intricate world that I'm reading it pretty much straight through like a novel, and I haven't even gotten to the rules yet.  It's an amazing setting, though.  Can't wait to read more.

I'm thinking it would be easier to just do one scenario every time for next year's Gen Con, but it's hard to rule out so many other ideas.  I want to do another True20 one with the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (or maybe Tharizdun) instead of the Caves of Chaos and of course there has to be an Aqua Teen sequel.  I'm thinking, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and the Book of Beards, centering on the discovery of the long lost mythos tome, Les Barbes Bizarre.  Maybe I'll just end up doing two again.  And maybe something else will captivate me between now and registration time.

When we got home, I found this picture in my email box:
For an alternative (don't believe his lies) perspective on the event, check out Tom's blog.
For previous Gen Con posts, click here.