"It is a day so long in coming that I am uncertain how to celebrate it."
"Perhaps a quiet chuckle."
"Very well, then. Let us chuckle."
Click here for the musical accompaniment, but don't bother watching the video. Just come back to this window and read while it plays.)
Our first obstacle was Daci's scheme to keep us home by claiming one of the boxes. It was a clever plan, brilliantly executed, but somehow we found a way to deal with it. We loaded up the car and left Cleveland shortly after Tom got home from work on Tuesday. We took a new route, going past Toledo and then heading off through the corn fields to Indianapolis. The Machine says it takes twenty minutes longer, but it was a much more pleasant drive than the 71 to 70 route, partly, I'm sure, because we didn't have to go anywhere near Columbus.
We got going bright and early - before noon, anyway - had breakfast, rearranged some bags, and packed some stuff that we were borrowing from Jordan. We grabbed an early lunch at Acapulco Joe's, rented a dolly, checked in at the Canterbury, picked up all the badges for the GMs we were sponsoring, and I started setting up the booth while Tom disposed of the car and made his way back. We chatted with Eloy and John K. a bit in the process and invited them to our Old Home Eve at Claddagh.
After the party broke up, Tom wandered off to drink some more with... I forget. Probably Caed-Robin, and maybe Jerry too. This was only Mike's second Gen Con and Amy's first, so we wandered a bit and I showed them around the convention center. It was my tenth year there, so, even when nothing is going on, the whole place is buzzing with memories for me. And I hate it when there's just one tiny little line hanging below the picture. There; that's a little better. I wonder why they put in so much image padding.
I was in and out of the exhibit hall Thursday morning, but mostly I remember pressing Jordan into taking me to the post office so we could pick up the new Qalidar books. It seems fairly obvious in hindsight that, knowing it would be close, I should have had the books shipped to the hotel. Instead, I had them shipped to Jordan's house. Since he has a job and stuff (I know, right? The nerve!), he wasn't there the first time, so they had to be picked up at the post office, and he had to be there to do it because I hadn't thought to put my own name on the package. Maybe he still would have had to be there because it was his address; I don't know. Anyway, Jordan had a limited amount of time to run all over town, and was nice enough to sacrifice his whole lunch break shuttling me and my books back and forth so I could get them and some comfy chairs (another favor he was doing us) back to the convention center.
When the hall closed, we headed over to Champions. Mike, Amy, and I met Brian over there and tried to reserve a big table for everybody, but they wouldn't put us on the list until we had at least six people present, or, apparently, until Tom showed up at the other door and made the same request with an even smaller crew. Scott and Caed-Robin were added to the pile. I think that was it. The ever-dwindling menu is making our sentimental haunt less appealing every year, especially when you can get better food for the same prices just by walking a block or two in the other direction. I dunno. We'll probably still try to pop in there at least once a year. My geriatric bitching aside, the company was more than enough to make it a great dinner.
Dark Gathering. This year, we were right in the middle of the convention center, instead of off in a peripheral hotel somewhere. I loved this. Tom was less keen on it because it was harder to grab a beer mid-session and he had grumpy old man issues with the climate control.
zombie-choppers escaping from Toledo at the next table.
There was an interview for a podcast (the name of which I wish I could remember) and then Mike, Amy, and I met Jordan for drinks at Champions. I went back to the room for a bit and then it was time for Aqua Teen Hunger Force role-playing. I had my usual crew, plus Mike and one other player. Just like last year, I planned to get a picture and didn't, so you'll just have to imagine. The Aqua Teens, having borrowed Carl's two coolers full of beer to go camping in the Adirondacks, stumbled upon a meeting of the Love Mummy's hugging cult (the other players), and of course ranged across various other locations from the show until a Foreigner Belt mishap conjured a volcano under Carl's house and Frylock took Meatwad back out to go camping. Quote of the game: "Last time I saw him, Fry Man, he was straw deep in meat. Nobody should have to see that." That only took around ninety minutes, so we took a break and played another one. As always, it was awesome.
Next day's function - high class luncheon. Wait. Sorry, that's from a song, isn't it? First up was my second Qalidar session. It had been sold out for some time, but only two players showed up. I think some of the others switched over to the evening one. Anyway, the two players I had were such great gamers that it didn't matter. Also, they loved the game. I'm sure that didn't have any impact on my assessment. Seriously, though, playing a mystic and an ascendant, they carefully scouted out their surroundings and came up with intelligent plans to put the odds in their favor. There were a couple of fights that were practically impossible to avoid, so I toned those down because there were only two of them. Apart from that, they pretty much took on the beefed-up critter strength as it was.
The other concession I made to their party size was that it was more of an information-gathering mission for a larger expedition to follow, so, once they found the giant hive facility in Katun and figured out how they were getting their goods, where they were shipping them, and who was behind it, we called it a win. The game had already run a little over, but we had all agreed previously to keep it going. Then they each bought a copy of the book and had me autograph it. I always feel a little pretentious doing autographs, but that's something I can live with. Unless you count Aqua Teens, this is the first time I've gotten such an enthusiastic response to a game. I'm just gonna enjoy it while I can.
My third and final Qalidar game started at 9PM. Well, my game by default. Curtis was scheduled to run this one, but he was AWOL from the whole show, so, not wanting to send interested gamers away, I covered it. There were four at the table, and Tom dropped a fifth player into the mix for reasons that seem to change every time it comes up. There was certainly room, though, and he turned out to be a good addition to the group, so I guess it doesn't matter. With five people, we had every character but the karcist in play.
I'm glad I did run this one, because this party's exploits were something to see. I love how you can run the same scenario three times and get three completely different adventures. This group combined the second one's sneakiness with the first group's larger size and wider range of classes. They started off abducting and interrogating the extras, which even without a great deal of cooperation, led them much more quickly to the facts they were after. This was also the only group to meet the stardust mercenary and find out that he would be more than amenable to deserting his employers for the right price.
Exploring Katun with similar care, they were also the only group to find where the dobbers actually slept. Having chatted up the locals and studied the way the compound worked, they spent quite a bit of time figuring out what kind of attack would cripple the operation, free the enslaved population, and keep the dobbers from rebuilding here. The resulting plan was a symphony of ambush, sabotage, and synchronized demolitions. And except for a couple of slips and one piece of bad information that they were able to work around, it played out perfectly.
With no more events to tend to, I settled in at the booth. Tom and Ken showed up almost together if not at the same time. Maybe they had breakfast together or something. Anyway, Ken said he read the book and it was "weird beyond imagination," which I took as a compliment. Actually the most flattering thing to me was that he not only bought it, but read it right there at the convention. He also said it needed some jokes, which... okay. I'll have to take a look when I'm going over the final release and see if it's too dry.
So, the final loot count included Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle, the d20 ring, and the crystal pendant. Kind of a light haul, but the convention itself was so much fun that a few souvenirs should be more than enough. I had intended to pick up 13th Age, Numenera, and a couple of random Doctor Who DVDs, but unforeseen circumstances made the additional expenditures unwise.
Back at the booth, we found Jordan, his girlfriend Amy (let's call her Indy-Amy to avoid confusion), Scott, and John B. along with Tom and Ken. I think this is actually where Ken said the stuff about Qalidar, but I don't feel like moving it. We cleared out the booth and boxed everything really quickly, and then hooked up again in the Canterbury bar for drinks. Everybody wanted to do something different for dinner. Jordan and Indy-Amy just ate right there. Luckily, we were able to come up with a compromise that annoyed everyone equally. Still, Tom and I had a nice dinner at Bourbon Street Distillery followed by a pleasant early evening walk back to the hotel, and I got to meet a friend of Jordan's who took a look through Qalidar and described it as, "the stuff of nightmares."
On Monday, we pulled off a surprisingly successful car-shuffling and packing plan, then Tom, Mike, Amy, and I headed out to Acapulco Joe's for... breakfast? It was still pretty early, so they weren't serving lunch. It was kind of weird to eat pancakes at a Mexican food place, but everything else on the breakfast menu was revolting (the incomprehensibly popular "breakfast burrito" included), so that's what I went with.
And, sigh, that was pretty much it.
Jerry, Tom, Eloy, Ken, and Scott are all blogging about the event, although not all of them are finished, and some of them have barely started. Some of my other friends also blogged about it, but it's against the rules to link to people I didn't see. More blogs will hopefully pop up at this link. As always, don't believe their lies.