Monday, August 26, 2013

Gen Con 2013: Saturday and Sunday

I went to bed Friday night worried about stringing together my planned T&T 'On the Road to Baru-Kesh' adventure. I have a solo adventure almost complete, an article already published regarding adventures in the city, and a few other things fleshed out here and there. A cohesive 4 hour adventure to get my characters into the city and then surrounded by an overarching story, I had not yet nailed down.

My schedule for the day was to work the auction until around 3pm, then run my T&T game from 4-8pm before going back to the auction to help sort all the items that would go back to the sellers as the Charity auction was being run. I took some time once I got to the auction to jot down a firm outline of my adventure, which made me much more at ease.

I did get a chance to briefly auction a few items during our last role-playing session. Over the course of intake for Friday and Saturday, along with the left overs of what was not sold on Thursday, we had a good chunk of time set aside to get through all of them. It was good to get back on stage as an auctioneer having spent most of the last few years helping run the pit and other administrative aspects of the auction with Katie and Soren. More than anything, I tend to do a little bit of everything and just usually fill in where needed, whether it be registration, writing, working the pit, or just answering questions.

I won a copy of the "Stormbringer" rpg boxed set and took it to the dealer hall for Ken to sign, but he was not at the FBI booth yet again.

Close to 4pm, I jetted off to my T&T game. Tom was running a T&T game at the same time. Once we figured out who should be at what table, 9 players ended up at Tom's table while only 3 were at mine. When none of Tom's players wanted to leave his table to join mine, I felt a bit insecure...but heck, my game ended up being the best of the weekend for me as a GM.

Steve and Stephen have been playing in my AGOT (Game of Thrones) game for 5 years. They are a father and son duo that are just great personalities, wonderful role players, and friends I look forward to seeing every year. They had let me know that they would not make it this year. Another father-son duo was scheduled for my T&T game and they mentioned the Steve had recommended me as a GM. After talking for a bit, I realized that they were wearing the same shirts that the Steves tend to where. Tom and Tommy are good friends with them and play in the same group.

The story of the shirts is a few years back, the four of them stopped off at Wal-Mart and found the 4 shirts on a rack.  Ever since, they wear them as over shirts, more than likely to better find eachother in the crowds. The funny thing is, while watching some local Indy coverage of the convention, I spotted Tommy. A still of that video is below. You can see the black shirt with the fire design on the right side of the screen.

The third player had played in Sligo's game on Thursday, so had a bit of experience with T&T. Tom and Tommy would  be playing for the first time. I walked them through character creation and immediately, Tommy was very excited about the prospects of playing a non-traditional character. While Tom and Henry created Dwarven Warriors, Tommy could not decide between a minotaur or a troll. I was excited about the prospect of him playing a minotaur since they are quite a prominent kindred in my city of Baru-Kesh. I may have nudged him a bit in that direction, but the rest of the afternoon was pure gold.

Tommy wanted to add a talent for his minotaur to be learned/educated. What ensued over the course of the game was just great stuff - a large, hulking minotaur that spoke in very proper dialect and diction. When Tommy went into character, his dad was having a blast using his thumb and forefinger to act like he was wearing a montocle.

At any rate, 'On the Road to Baru-Kesh' is my intro adventure that begins with the characters guarding a caravan on the way to the city. I experimented with a random dice roll that will be showing up in my solo adventure determining some background information that would play a bit later in the adventure. Using my adventure from Elder Tunnels, the characters then interacted with some of my city dwellers and merchants before hiring on to try to finish dealing with the threat they encountered.

The highlight was the minotaur interrogating some bandit prisoners - he would ask what the NPC's name was, I would tell him (Bill) and he would call the character by his proper name of William. Hard to explain this stuff, but it was alot of fun. In the city, they ran into both my 'Jaded Jeweler' and my 'Addled Alchemist'. They also experienced the 'Persistent Porter' and the 'Perilous Pit'. I may write more about this on the T&T blog. It was a good time and thanks to Tom and Tommy for making it special. Hopefully Steve and Stephen can join us for the continuation. Overall, they were very pleased with the system and looked forward to playing again.

Tom's game was still rolling, so I headed over to 'Champions' to get a beer and a burger. Tom, Cram (from Trollhalla) and another Canadian fellow that played in my Stay Alive game last year were with Tom and joined me for dinner. Being the first real food I had all weekend (at least since Wednesday night), it was once again the best burger and fries I had ever had. I think I ended up with another whiskey burger but it was 2 half pound patties - even in my malnourished state, I could not finish the whole thing. Good meal and good company talking about all things gaming and T&T.

I was able to snap the following picture of the Cardhalla area a few hours before they would be demolishing it with hundreds of people throwing coins to destroy the buildings. The first throw is actually auctioned off and all the money is donated to the Gen Con Charity.

Back at the auction, the charity auction was in full swing and most of the rest of the workers were busy with the Saturday night sort. Everything that is unsold must get sorted and go back to the sellers the next morning with any payouts they have earned. A friend (Harper) had his 9 year old daughter with him helping us out. She was treating it like a game as she helped her dad get hundreds of games into the proper piles for the following morning.

WOTC dumped a lot of huge Star Wars Celebration (IV I believe) banners into the charity auction. Many went unsold because the shear volume of the items in the charity auction was just  crazy and most attendees were gone. I left around 1am and they were still going. All the stuff I bought can be found here, including a few items I did buy during the charity auction.

Sunday was going to be fairly easy. I helped out at the auction in the morning, dealing with payouts and returning items to the sellers. My AGOT game was at 12pm, a game I have run many times before. It always goes fairly well and more information on the details can be found here. Ken St. Andre was in the room running his last T&T session - the first time I had seen him since I caught a glimpse in the dealer hall on Thursday or Friday. We briefly chatted while on a break from my game. His blog entry can be found here.

After the game, I was able to get 20 minutes in the Dealer Hall before it closed. I then went back to the hotel to wait a few hours before our Auction Staff dinner at Bucca Di Beppo, an annual tradition. As we walked to the restaurant, I noticed my car was sitting outside the Crowne - the Valets must have rotated the cars and I pretty much decided that was a good sign that I should drive back to Toledo that night after dinner.

We ate in the 'pope room', feasting on spaghetti, cannelloni, shrimp alfredo, veal marsala, and lasagna. I broke my streak of only drinking Guinness - not having it on tap, I ordered a just as good Samuel Adams seasonal brew while we waited for our table. We had plenty of Tiramisu and an apple dessert to round out the meal.

not my picture...
We said our goodbyes to yet another tiring but fun weekend as auction volunteers. Myself, Soren, Katie, and Harper walked together back to the hotels. Hopefully, I will make it to Pentacon this year to hang out with Harper in November.

Tom, Robin, and their entourage were somewhere else. They had invited me to the restaurant that they were going to be at after they cleaned up their booth in the dealer hall. As I said before, my mind was on getting home and sleeping in my own bed next to my wife. The 4 hour drive took a bit longer because I was a bit tired and need to stop to refresh with drinks and snacks.

Tom and Robin did stop by in Toledo on their way back to Cleveland the next day. More on that can be found in Tom's post here.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Gen Con 2013: Thursday and Friday

Thursday was my day to actually play in the one game I had planned for. A friend (Suzi/Pooka) from the KFG (Kentucky Fried Gamers) has been running her Conan D20 game almost as long as I have been running my AGOT (Game of Thrones) game. I have been signed up for her game twice in previous years and both times I found excuses to not show up, whether it be from fatigue or hunger. She has attended all my AGOT games and I have promised her a Steak Dinner already for missing her game the last time around. I was GOING to make it this year.

The day was going to be working the auction pretty much all day with a plan to take a break and get through the Dealer Hall for about an hour. By 8pm, I would take off for the Conan game and then run my 'Midnight Zombie Stomp' game at 12am.

Soren and Katie (who run the auction) wanted to go to an event on Thursday night and needed someone to cover for them in their absence. I knew Suzi was also running her game at 2pm, so I ducked out to get to her game early to try to secure a seat at her game with a generic ticket. On the way outside and across the street to the Marriott where the game was, I saw Robin with a very happy look - her box of Qalidar pre-release books were in her possession. Her adventure regarding these books can be found here.

Luckily, Suzi was able to take a 7th player and I was in. We played a group of adventurers tied to a noble family, the son being our leader. I was one of two barbarians, my character being a former slave that was bought and then immediately freed by this nobleman's son. For this, he earned my loyalty, but he was also a surly and negative muscle clad warrior, which I had no problem sliding into.

We were hired for a mission to get a simple flag for another noble with ambition to be the next leader of the city we lived in. We needed to cross into Pict territory, climb a mountain, and locate what turned out to be an enchanted flag that was used in the past to influence others. Suzi is one of the best at setting a scene with plenty of flavor/descriptive narration. A great game to start the convention with.

Went back to the auction for the rest of night. We fell a bit behind trying to get through the RPG session, but no one wanted to stay much past 11pm on the first night. Despite my pleas to the auctioneers to speed things up, we were forced to pull back some items for the following day.

My Zombie Stomp game was prefaced by my discussion with the players that the game system was supposed to be released months before via a Kickstarter. The game designer did get me a PDF copy of the rules a few days before, however I did not get a good chance to read through the rules completely. Three players showed up for the late night game and together we did our best to get through the rules. We left with a good list of questions to send to the game designer, which I was able to send away that night before I went to bed in hopes that I would get a response prior to my running of the 2nd session the following night.

Tom had a lively game of his 'Crawlspace' system going at the table next to me. Looked like the players were having a great time.

Cardhalla - Thursday Night...

Friday was going to be very similar to Thursday, except that instead of playing in a game at 2pm, I would be running my 'Stay Alive' Tunnels & Trolls game. At some point before 2pm, I slipped into the Dealer Hall. Most of the places I needed to go were in the same general area. I walked by the Flying Buffalo booth, but Ken St. Andre was not there. I do not know Rick very well and have never talked to Steve Crompton before, so being the shy type, I moved on. I found the Peryton Publishing Booth and got my copy of 'Qalidar' as well as the Gale Force 9 booth to get my 'D&D Next' Pre-order. I then rushed off to my game.

(In hindsight to my hindsight, I think the first time I went into the dealer hall, Ken was there, but there was a line waiting to talk to him. Subsequent trips into the hall over the rest of the weekend, I never saw Ken again. I did see Rick, Steve, and Mike Stackpole at other times, but again - do not know them very well. I did see Ken on Sunday, which I will talk about in my next post.)

A member from Trollhalla was at the game, Zhrugzutar. Another player was also an auction volunteer that hung with me the previous night helping out  while we were a bit short staffed. I ran the standard 'First Night' adventure. While I still have a fascination with the whole zombie thing, I have come to realize that running an ongoing campaign, even only 2 or 3 sessions, is quite a challenge to keep things fresh. The players interacted quite well and were very well organized in their escape plan. They used carts to transport weapons, food, and an injured/bitten NPC. In one scene, 2 players entered an elevator with the cart holding the injured NPC between them and the elevator door. The players tried to deal with a zombie on the other side which only resulted in a few failed saves (trying to leap over the  cart) and the poor NPC being finished off by the hungry zombie. 

Robin took a picture of the group - I think she was running/finishing one of her Qalidar games as I started my game. Her brother (Mike) and his wife (Amy) were also running his Superhero game.

After my game, I went back to the dealer hall. I tend to confuse my times when I wait this long to log all my memories. Robin's synopsis says I told her about the Crit Success Ring Deal for GM's later in the day on Friday. Whether or not I bought all that other stuff before or after my 2pm game, I have no freaking clue anymore. I do know that I told Robin, Mike, and Amy about the ring deal where 'Crit Success' would sell a dice ring for only $5 to any GM. Amy and I went first and got our specially priced awesomeness, followed by Robin and Mike.

I returned to the auction until about 1130 when I needed to get away to run my Midnight Zombie Stomp for Friday night. The designer did send me an email in the morning clarifying the rules questions I sent him, but I was not too excited to run the event. The rules are still a bit wonky and I decided to let the players know ahead of time as a fair warning. Tom was wrapping up one of his games as I was waiting at my table for my players.

One person showed up that had a ticket and I told him about the state of the game, how the game went the night before. Another couple showed up with generics and appreciated that I was up front with them and decided to do something else. The player with the ticket said he may be back, but he must have found something else to do.

Tom had a late night Cthulhu game that not one person showed up for, which I had never seen before with his late night games. We shrugged off all the no-shows and went to Champions Sports Bar across the street to get a beer. I was not going to complain about an early night, getting back to the hotel room at 1am meant an extra hour of sleep.

Cardhalla - Friday Night...well, actually Saturday morning since I forgot to get the picture the previous night.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Gen Con 2013: Wednesday

For the dealers and other non-Gen Con staff, Wednesday is the day for setting up and otherwise getting ready for Thursday. I left Toledo at about 7:30 am and after stopping for lunch at Panera, got to Indy just past Noon.

I checked in to my room where my auction roommates had already arrived the night before and then grabbed my box of games to sell and tried to find the walkway to the convention center. It has been a few years since last I stayed at the Crowne Plaza, and that was before the new section of the convention center opened with a walkway to the Crowne. I had asked the bellhop what floor it was on (the 2nd) but took a wrong turn. I asked two maids who did not speak English, and eventually figured it all out.

Arriving at the auction, everything was in full swing. I just joined in on the organized chaos. This year, we only allowed people who had already pre-registered their items online to get their items dropped off. After this first day, the tables were already overflowing with all manner of gaming goodness. We shut down around 6pm and wrapped up by 7pm.

Pictures of the warehouse and pit (before the storm coming on Thursday - Saturday). I set up the pit with the names of the people registered for us to hold their items each day as they are purchased.

The warehouse pictures below are only for the items we accepted on Wednesday.

The store items as well, just one day of accepting items.

Met Tom and Robin at Claddaugh after wondering around a bit. Ate some bangers and mash and washed it down with 3 glasses of Guinness. Sligo and his wife was there. I think Tom's friend Jordan was there as well, albeit very briefly - he was off to fight crime as Batman, or so Tom believes.

Met Eloy from Third Eye Games and a few of his friends (one an artist). Robin's brother and his wife also made an appearance. Things began to wrap up so with Tom, Caed, and Sligo, we traipsed to the Severin sports bar and had one more, this one a Guiness Black Lager.

Before I left for the night, I did get a picture of the first day of Cardhalla, the event where people build card houses and structures all weekend and then destroy it on Saturday night for Charity.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

An Early Trip to Indy in August

It all started early Tuesday morning, a ritual that I had been performing for about a week driving to work paid off. I was eager to win tickets to the Chelsea/Inter Milan soccer match in Indianapolis, a part of a tournament in the USA that included 7 European squads - The Guinness International Champions Cup. The XM radio station devoted to soccer was giving away tickets for a few weeks, but I had not been able to catch a giveaway for the Indy game when driving to and from work. The offer finally came and I was the winner. Now, who to go with me?

I immediately thought of fellow soccer fanatic Kopfy, but a call to him was not answered. Once I got to work, the reality of trying to find a person to give with me to Indy on a short two day notice had become a b it more worrisome. A co-worker's husband is a college coach and wanted to go, but he was under a prior obligation of attending a coaching seminar, and as I awaited his decision if he could go, Kopfy got back to me with an energetic confirmation that he would like to go. Later Tuesday night, the coach was out and Kopfy was in. Two vacation requests later, I had 2 days off and was ready for a quick trip to Indy.

Tom was running late on Thursday morning, but we had plenty of time. He was coming in from Cleveland and was only about an hour late. We got on the road and I was happy to see the new highway construction on 24 from Toledo to Fort Wayne was complete and wide open all the way to 469/69 in Fort Wayne. This makes the trip from Toledo to Indy about 4 hours. Very nice.

We arrived in Indy ahead of rush hour and we parked in the lot adjacent to the convention center early enough where we could park in a corner and right near the exit. We headed to the stadium, and not knowing where will call was, we proceeded to walk all the way around the stadium to find it. Chelsea was giving away free flags, which was nice but Tom and I are both Tottenham fans, so Chelsea is kind of the bad guys in our world. Tom grabbed one, so I did least I would have one souvenir from the trip. After a brief snafu at the will call where they only had one ticket for me, we soon had everything straightened out with both tickets in hand. We now needed to find some food and a bathroom.

The Slippery Noodle is right around the corner from the stadium and turns out to be a very large pub/restaurant. We started with 2 Black and Tans, although the Tan was not the traditional Becks, but a substitute that Tom said would be called something other than a Black and Tan. Not being a big drinker, it tasted fine with me and I do like Guinness. Once again our timing was perfect, the place was just starting to fill up and did not take long to do so.

I asked the waitress what was good on the menu, and she referred me to the Whiskey Burger, which as incredibly good. I had not eaten all day and had already downed the first drink and then my first of 3 Newcastles by the time I got the burger, so it was the best damn burger I have ever had. Tom ordered a chicken cordon bleu sandwich that he said was good as well, but he could only eat half of it.

The game started at 8pm and sometime after 7, we made our way to the stadium. After 4 beers, I was quite toasty. If Tom had ordered one more round before we left, I do not know if I would be remembering any of this right now. The streets of Indy at this point were shrouded in Chelsea blue. At least 5 of every 6 fan was a Chelsea supporter and 4 of every 5 of them was wearing an ugly blue Samsung jersey. It was going to be a home game for the Blues.

Lucas Oil stadium is quite the spectacle. The roof was open and it turned out to be a gorgeous day. Our seats were in the lower section in the corner - not too bad at all.

Surrounded by a growing sea of Chelsea Blue, we waited for the start of the game. The guy and his son in front of us were from Chicago and were at the Gold Cup championship the week before. I think the boy was a Chelsea fan. I am obviously still a bit...inebriated.

By this time, Tom was already finishing beer number 5 and you would not even notice.

The game turned out to be a mismatch as Chelsea totally dominated and Inter Milan seemed like they did not want to be there. It turns out that the Italian league teams are just now breaking camp and getting into shape as there season starts a few weeks after the other leagues. Still, Inter looked slow and not at all creative. It was a cool night and the stadium was actually air conditioned even with the roof open.

That idiot with the Chelsea scarf...him and his mates stood up and blocked our view every time Chelsea entered the offensive half of the field. The hispanic guys behind us yelled at them to stop standing up, but they still persisted for a bit longer. Tom said they asked him in Spanish if he could speak espanol, and he replied he could. They probably stopped talking about us in Spanish after that.

Chelsea won 2-0. Oscar's goal was a good one, a long shot from outside the box. Their second goal came on a penalty kick. The foul actually occurred outside the box, but the crappy ref awarded the PK.

Below was my attempt to try to get a photo of the shot...

The second half was clouded by the Ref's horrible decision to award a Red card to an Inter player about ten minutes in. This set the stage for the remaining 30 minutes to be very boring. Chelsea decided to not go for any more goals with any intensity and Inter was just as bad with 10 players as they were with 11. While at our seats, Tom had bought two more beers, both Guinness Black. Beer Count: Tom 7, Jerry 4.

The attendance for the night was 41,000. Not too bad for a friendly with two European teams in the middle of america. To Chelsea's credit, they brought on all their stars to play in the second half that were not in the starting line-up including Torres and David Luiz. The hispanic guys behind us saw our flags on the ground under the seats and tried to take them while Tom was at the restroom. After telling them they were ours, they still proceeded to take the flags. I actually took them away and held them until the end of the game. I may have come close to being beat up, but did not really care at that point. Those were our crappy Chelsea flags.

After the game, we were in no hurry, so we dropped our flags off at the car and headed a bit further into town to the bar at the base of the Omni hotel. It is a nice and roomy bar where the televisions were showing the LA Galaxy/Real Madrid match. We plopped down at a table with a couple from WV that were Inter supporters and another guy wearing a soccer jersey of a Mexican team (I think). He had no clue the game was in town and was in the bar to get some food. Tom chatted up with them while I drank another beer, my fifth on the night, followed by an iced tea. Tom had two more for the final tally: Tom 9, Jerry 5.

We headed back to the car and plugged in a Red Roof Inn on the north side into the Garmin. I either missed a turn or the Garmin was just off its game. We eventually, somehow, got to the Red Roof Inn sometime after midnight. There were two workers, one older dude training a younger woman. An energetic and lively conversation ensued about how she was young enough to be the same age as Tom's daughter (early 20's), and how she would like to take her  kids on vacation to Las Vegas when they turned 21. I think she said her oldest was 2, so she has plenty of time to save up.

With our bed secured, we headed back out to a nearly empty Denny's to get a late night meal. The waitress was happy to sit us in a secluded section and dipped into our conversation about Nazi Germany, assumingly making up a story about wanting to get a tatoo of a swastika. Whether or not that was true or not, I have no clue. Tom continued to flirt with her the rest of the evening while I concentrated on my 'Moons over My Hammy'. When I mentioned I wanted grits instead of hash browns, she gave me an odd look, which I easily took as not to order the grits. Damn...Tom could not remember her name that night and now I cannot remember it now. He did get a picture with her as we left.

Back at the hotel, we prepared for a good sleep. Check out was not until 12pm, so were planning to take full advantage.