Visiting Gatewaycon 2016

Last weekend Jennifer and I drove down to Strategicon. We had a good weekend–not perfect by any means, but a great getaway.

Friday
On Friday, we hit a Santa Monica local place for lunch, essentially at random. It was tasty Thai… and I’ll probably never be able to find it again.

We checked into the hotel around 4, got things moved up to the room easily (we didn’t overpack as badly this time), and rested after our ride, before dusting off Pathfinder and checking out our characters. We brought some snacks down, joined Zach, and played some PFS from 8 until past midnight.

Unfortunately, the GM had received the adventure less than 2 hours before the game started and he was new to GMing. He did great though–and it turned out that he’d prepped wisely, by pressing his girlfriend into work as his dungeon drawing assistant while he read the adventure. (She was done before we reached the table–she had a game of her own to play.) Anyway, it was a good experience, though mostly because we got to play with Zach.

Saturday
Saturday had a lazy beginning–no urgent morning game. Jennifer and I cruised the dealer hall… a little too quickly. The turnout among venders was much worse; basically no one was carrying indie games unless they were demoing their own. Speaking of which, I did get to play an enjoyable abstract–reminiscent of checkers, with movement allowances dictated by a card deck draw. It wasn’t bad, but it’s not one that’d make it to my table. Still, pleasant enough and the game was quick to play.

After lunch with Zach and Jennifer, I grabbed my gear and headed down to run my Dogs in the Vineyard game, Destiny Branch. (It’s the same branch I ran at the minicon–the familiarity from repeated exposure to the NPCs was great.) I had two preregistrations on day 1, which filled the game. (Only half can be reserved online, with the other half available for signup at the con.) At the con, I had +3 signups on paper. Only 2 people, both the preregistrants, actually sat at my table. Fortunately, Dogs is great with a pair.

They tackled it in a very different manner from my June game, in part prompted by the different relationships they selected with the locals. The blight sign (from an overlook of the town) prompted them to ride directly to the farms, where their relations (and a love interest) were. The next morning they talked with the most affected farmer, then rode into town and encountered the obnoxious gold leaf being placed. From there they saw the Steward… and went off to the final confrontation.

It was a solid session; both players were new to the game, but character generation led to interesting characters who really engaged. They’d both heard about it recently and decided to give it a try. Both really enjoyed the dice mechanic, but wondered about drifting the game to another setting (a less problematic one). I talked about how the problematicness was baked right in, intentionally… it was a great discussion.

After the game, I grabbed a quick Cobb salad (thanks to Bryan for putting that in my head–it’s good fuel!) from the hotel Starbucks and headed up to my table to run my fate game, Camp X. Unfortunately, while it also had two signups early in the online preregistration, by the con one had been changed to “badge refunded”. The one player wasn’t joined by any paper signups, so decided not to bother showing up for a game that wouldn’t fire. [I presume.]

After waiting 15 minutes and noting the attendance as zero, I excitedly headed to the (poorly advertised) Games on Demand. When I got there, a sign explained that six games were on offer (mostly GMless favorites, like Microscope, The Quiet Year, and Kingdom).

(Aside) Games on Demand Pros:

  • Games on demand is a great concept, successfully implemented at GenCon, etc.
  • They scheduled the slots to begin 30 minutes after the roleplaying slots–so, if your game was canceled, you always had a backup available.

Games on Demand Cons:

  • Poor advertisement: It got a decent placement, but I hadn’t heard about it at all, and it was only a line in the Con Schedule Book. I don’t know if it was listed online–since “on demand” meant that you don’t signup in advance.
  • At 8:20 pm, one guy was holding the room and didn’t really seem to understand the concept. He wasn’t a player or GM, didn’t point me to the game interest/signup list or anything else.

Anyway, no game fired with only me present and signed up as interested. After 8:30, we both wandered away.

I headed down to the board game area; it was still quite busy. After drifting around the room and awkwardly looking over people’s shoulders, I came to the HQ table, where they kept track of the events on a white board. I noticed that a Captain Sonar 101 (demo) was going to start at 9, which was in just a few minutes. I was present when the organizer arrived and they discussed which tables would be free for use and where we could muster and discuss crews. There were 31 signups; I made 32.

We gathered in the hallway where we could discuss things without having to shout so loudly. Most of the attendees had never played, though a few had played one position. As resident “expert” and enthusiast, I was provided a crew of three other players and an opposing team. Much as when Josh taught us, we went through a few turns… then leaped into real time. My ship took terrific damage from loading up systems, but eventually we cornered our foe and landed a pair of perfect torpedo hits, eeking out a victory.

Unfortunately, we had only one game box, so we all got up and swapped out for the next two crews. Much like previous times, the people who weren’t playing (and random people walking by) clumped up around the game to study and cheer the teams on. After the second match, we had hit “tournament time” (the demo was scheduled for an hour), but with only one box we built a few more crews (I played one more match) and turned the subs loose on each other. All in all, a very fun end to the evening.

Sunday
I set my alarm so I could get to Pat’s table for his Fate: Pacific Rim game. He had perfect attendance–6 players showed up on time, with one showing up 20 minutes late and having to get turned aside.

It came off incredibly well; he’d prepared a cool soundtrack that ran in the background (with key moments having custom tracks), and a great in media res beginning with a patrol off to rescue a crashed ship… and fight off a wave of Kaiju.

The fight was the densest, most complete Fate fight I’ve experienced. The pair of people working together to manuever a Jaeger made for a great partner to bounce ideas off. We generated a ton of Aspects for our positioning, target systems, our efforts to distract them and more–and needed them, since the Kaiju could take a tremendous beating and ignored minor pokes.

It was a slick, well produced game–clearly a labor of love. We even walked away with cool mini-movie posters featuring our Jaeger: mine was Aurora Bombshell. Don’t mess with Artemis and Athena!

After another Cobb salad, I got to my afternoon Dungeon World game. It was stacked with engaged players; a pair were new to the system, while the guy to my right was a regular GM of the game.

We explored (and slew!) the Everinth, a twisting collection of elements the demon had eaten over time, including whole towers, sewers, natural caverns and much more. It was a weird and sometimes surreal journey to the labyrinth’s heart…

It was a great one-shot. I made a mistake that I often do–picking a less flashy character–but my portly dwarven cleric got plenty of well tailored hooks (and moves) directed at him. There were a number of good moments, including the PCs stretched out along an icy cliff and climbing–only to hear dragon wings as the lead team reached a cave ahead! Poor Drummond clung to the icy wall, but Dagolir went tumbling down to smash into the icy pond below. Fortunately, Slog kept the dragon busy until Cinder Colfang scorched it badly in its protruding rear… which prompted a roar of pain… and Slog’s sword stab through the top of the dragon’s open mouth.

Several other good scenes popped up; the GM had a logic to the connections between the surreal locations that we moved between–eventually discerned–and lots of vivid locations for us to court danger. Plus our bonds threw us together and encouraged conflict in good ways throughout the adventure.

All in all, it was a great night and a cool tale to kick Drummond’s adventures into new motion.

After the session, I caught the close of Mike’s Traveler game, where I was scheduled to join Mike and Pat for dinner. Unfortunately, a mishap left Mike unable to join us, so Pat and I headed out for night of good conversation on the town. It was nice to get away from the con a bit and catch up.

On return to the con, I headed down to board games learn Glory to Rome. It’s an interesting card game; still popular despite not being published for a while. After a half-game during the 101, I joined the tournament that followed. There… I got to see some very effective strategies, though I did luck into a pretty good one myself. After being eliminated, I headed up to sleep.

Monday We slept in late, before checking out and loading up the car. We returned to see Shane’s game being playtested, but got distracted in the hall by a cool Sherlock Holmes game in development. We got a good description, then got to play through a quick game with another curious customer and the friend of the designer who was demoing.

It’s a fun cooperative game with great art. It’s thematic, and has a great mechanism for connecting clues to tie Moriarty to crimes. On the flip side, Moriarty’s deck makes him threatening… but sometimes he’s so scheming far ahead that you don’t have to worry about this turn’s fiendish twist.

Afterwards, we got a chance to see (but were too late to play) Shane’s space merchant game in development. It was in a much earlier phase–still printed pieces without art. It looked interesting but complicated to explain. Gameplay seemed much less complex once you got started only the techs of your specific ship to worry about.

After watching them play for about a half-hour, Jennifer and I hit the road home. We beat the worst of the traffic–there was some stop-and-go after the 405 joined the 5, but it wasn’t that bad. Then over the mountains and the flat road home.

Odds and Ends

Great sector generator for Stars w/o Number

Fate/FAE encounter design– http://station53.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-tao-of-fate-creating-challenging.html
(for Josh’s game?) http://fategroups.com/
http://fate-srd.com/stunt-maker/

A strong post about “the worst ever” and deflating motivated responses– http://blogs.swarthmore.edu/burke/blog/2016/02/23/opt-out/

http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/20513/thus-began-the-adventures-of-eowyn#latest

Rejected Princesses; women being awesome in history, with great explanations.

http://www.dicemonkeys.com/you-dont-have-to-be-a-cartographer-to-have-great-rpg-maps/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=page-post&utm_campaign=Great-Maps

Guard Mouse sketches — https://plus.google.com/u/0/collection/gBaGQB

Aesthetics, mid– https://hyenaswine.wordpress.com/

Dal Fry (Dal Tadka)

Fatayar recipe (yum)– http://www.maureenabood.com/2012/03/22/lebanese-spinach-pies-or-fatayar-or-whatever/

http://nixoniad.blogspot.com/

Music: investigate Metric, Pagans in Vegas

Lots of interesting looking games– http://ludicreations.com/crowdfunding/

Wipe & wipe reusable graph paper — http://tinyurl.com/pog2oqc

Sweet potato chard casserole

Cook up 4 slices of bacon. While it cooks, wash and slice a large sweet potato on the mandolin. Cut the chard stems out of the chard (about 2 bunches) and cut crosswise to produce 1/4″ thick slices.

Remove the bacon when browned and put the sweet potato slices and chard stems in the hot fat, cook on medium for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the chard leaves into ribbons.

Mix up the white sauce in a bowl. The white sauce is 1 can of cream of mushroom soup, 1 cup of sour cream, and 1 cup of shredded jack cheese.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 13×9 casserole dish. Transfer the sweet potato & stems into the bottom on the 13×9; it creates a sparse layer. Add butter or bacon fat (maybe 3 tbsp.) to the stovetop pan. When it melts, add the chard leaves, stir for about 2 minutes, remove. Layer about 1/2 of the wilted leaves over the sweet potatoes. Add the white sauce, top with the remaining chard and bacon, and cover with one more cup of jack cheese.

Bake @ 350 for 30 minutes; remove and serve.

Bookwyrm 2015

I had a nice time at Bookwyrm, though there was a bit more of a “working” feel than the cons of my imagination. The first slot I was backup for walk-ins; I prepped City of Danger, but wasn’t needed. Instead, I got to play in a game of The Queen’s Cavaliers run by the author. It came off very smoothly in the GM’s hands; I was impressed by the level of differentiation between skills, well handled via card references and a quick reference page. There’s enough system that it’d take a while to master, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Saturday afternoon, I finally got to play Lady Blackbird with Patrick, Will, and a couple visiting from Southern California. I liked it! I can see why Patrick would like to try the system with a little more time; a con slot was quite rushed, especially with rules explanations.

Sunday morning, I was signed up to play in Jeff’s Dr. Disco vs. The Agents of F.U.N.K.. Unfortunately, we had a bunch of last minute walk-ins, and our “on standby” GM hadn’t played 5e or finished reading the adventure. So I ran instead; a couple (and James) played at the start, but Keith and his son soon joined us.

The first mini adventure’s fight was quite difficult–though, in part, because they approached the tower in small groups, which denied them the chance to power through their foes quickly. They saved the kidnapped boy, but were dropped in the process. Fortunately, the adventure mentioned a pair of guards nearby, who weren’t up to a fight, but could at least treat the wounded.

The second mini adventure was a better story, but the kid was acting out; I think he was frustrated by the first adventure’s finale. (So was I.) So there was a lot of his character spiking the scenario and taunting his dad’s character. A less fun finish to the morning.

The afternoon slot I ran Psi*Run. I had a split of 3 experienced and 3 new players; we did fine. Afterwards, a few players mentioned that their creativity was low since it was the con’s last slot. Still, it was a fun session, and the characters mostly got to ends that their players liked.

All in all, it was a good weekend of gaming. (Though I do look forward to playing an Agent of Funk one on these days!) We were pretty wiped by the end, but enjoyed hopping out to join the organizers afterwards. Before next year we need to decide how to get in gaming; this year, the booth did fine on Saturday (because Jennifer was at it most of the day), but Sunday’s sales were bad because we were both GMing the morning slot, and both played for at least part of the afternoon slot, leaving the table bare. Maybe scheduling an employee to run it for a slot, or just having the table present one day, not both… we need to figure out something for next year.

A new comic

So, I spent much of the last two evenings catching up on Dumbing of Age. I’m caught up now…

Also, tonight’s rush dinner proved awesome. It was: Thin sliced pork shoulder, cut into strips. Lightly floured with salt and pepper. Cook quickly on medium high in bacon fat, add sliced apples (and turnip), serve. Yum!

The end of an era?

Without long drives, the era of listening to podcasts could be coming to an end. The recent ones have been pretty good… so maybe I’ll see if I can keep them in the rotation, somehow.

Dice tower news 186 – 189; steady good updates.

Radio Free Burrito 034 — Another weird, solid episode, though I was hoping for more Poe.

Feat the Boot 320 & 321 — Conclusion of unique snowflakes; fine, though much less “concrete” than they seem to think.

Ken and Robin 67 — The gaming hut about character design options was a good exploration of point buy versus package improvement. Ask Ken and Robin was a good segment about buying into the premise of the game to enjoy the game.

This American Life 512 — House Rules. A great examination of zoning, home ownership, redlining’s historical roots (and after effects). Good detailed reporting.

TJ Hour 1051 and 1052 — an exception to the generally good nature of the podcasts this week. They teased the episode as a press conference, and said they had an hour and a half of material–but for some reason only included one non-staged question in 1051, then repeated the boilerplate discussion of Jefferson and architecture (the same questions but differently phrased answers; like we’d heard a rough and final draft in the two weeks). We got a few more “press conference” questions, but very few. A real missed opportunity.

Books

The Path of Daggers (Wheel of Time 8) — Continued strong and ended well.

Winter’s Heart (Wheel of Time 9) — The first part is good, but when we turn our attention to Mat we realize how much he’s been absent. It’s an interesting chunk of book; slow without being stagnant. The return to Rand at the end is slow, then frantic.

Book 10, Crossroads of Twilight is with Dad… I need to borrow it before I lose momentum.

I began R. A. MacAvoy’s “The Grey Horse”, which I almost set aside before the early reveal. It’s still not compelling, but I have higher hopes.

The end of an era?

Without long drives, the era of listening to podcasts could be coming to an end. The recent ones have been pretty good… so maybe I’ll see if I can keep them in the rotation, somehow.

Dice tower news 186 – 189; steady good updates.

Radio Free Burrito 034 — Another weird, solid episode, though I was hoping for more Poe.

Feat the Boot 320 & 321 — Conclusion of unique snowflakes; fine, though much less “concrete” than they seem to think.

Ken and Robin 67 — The gaming hut about character design options was a good exploration of point buy versus package improvement. Ask Ken and Robin was a good segment about buying into the premise of the game to enjoy the game.

This American Life 512 — House Rules. A great examination of zoning, home ownership, redlining’s historical roots (and after effects). Good detailed reporting.

TJ Hour 1051 and 1052 — an exception to the generally good nature of the podcasts this week. They teased the episode as a press conference, and said they had an hour and a half of material–but for some reason only included one non-staged question in 1051, then repeated the boilerplate discussion of Jefferson and architecture (the same questions but differently phrased answers; like we’d heard a rough and final draft in the two weeks). We got a few more “press conference” questions, but very few. A real missed opportunity.

Books

The Path of Daggers (Wheel of Time 8) — Continued strong and ended well.

Winter’s Heart (Wheel of Time 9) — The first part is good, but when we turn our attention to Mat we realize how much he’s been absent. It’s an interesting chunk of book; slow without being stagnant. The return to Rand at the end is slow, then frantic.

Book 10, Crossroads of Twilight is with Dad… I need to borrow it before I lose momentum.

I began R. A. MacAvoy’s “The Grey Horse”, which I almost set aside before the early reveal. It’s still not compelling, but I have higher hopes.

Meme: 10 books

What’s old is new again… the 10 books meme struck me on Facebook. I thought I’d toss the answers here, so I can be amused at how much they change next time it rolls around.

10 Books that changed my life upon first reading them and have stayed with me: (via Will Johnson and Tony Ridgway)

10. Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion
9. Several Piers Anthony series: Xanth, Bio of a Space Tyrant, and Incarnations of Immortality
8. Ender’s Game
7. The Time of the Dark
6. The Chronicles of Amber
5. The Eye of the Heron. A great prompt to examine pacifism, the difficulty in adhering to it… and to think about success and failure of non-violence as a movement. All of her Hainish/Ekumen novels prompt thought about cultural influences and nature/nurture in worlds with very different nurture.
4. The Chronicles of Narnia. I read the covers off of them. Then I heard how it had all been a trick to proselytize, which led me to carefully reread and notice the parallels. Soon I appreciated how well drawn they were and how appealing Narnia’s story is. Streamlined for kids; rough in important ways. The stone table scene delivers what feels overwrought or like torture porn in telling Jesus’ life.
3. Red Box D&D/AD&D: I read, and mused, and studied, and researched—and built worlds for myself and my friends to inhabit. In many ways THE most influential book in terms of guiding how I spend my days and what I think about.
2. The Last Herald Mage: Magic’s Pawn. Lackey’s hurting, misunderstood young hero made homosexuality painfully normal, by experiencing the confusion and longing for myself.
1. A Wizard of Earthsea. Precise, beautiful writing, a story with a moral; difficult relationships, and acceptance that we all die. The third book, The Furthest Shore, was similarly powerful–though it taught a sense of balance, restraint, and provided a vision of life as an old person that seemed pretty cool all the same.

Meme: 10 books

What’s old is new again… the 10 books meme struck me on Facebook. I thought I’d toss the answers here, so I can be amused at how much they change next time it rolls around.

10 Books that changed my life upon first reading them and have stayed with me: (via Will Johnson and Tony Ridgway)

10. Hyperion and Fall of Hyperion
9. Several Piers Anthony series: Xanth, Bio of a Space Tyrant, and Incarnations of Immortality
8. Ender’s Game
7. The Time of the Dark
6. The Chronicles of Amber
5. The Eye of the Heron. A great prompt to examine pacifism, the difficulty in adhering to it… and to think about success and failure of non-violence as a movement. All of her Hainish/Ekumen novels prompt thought about cultural influences and nature/nurture in worlds with very different nurture.
4. The Chronicles of Narnia. I read the covers off of them. Then I heard how it had all been a trick to proselytize, which led me to carefully reread and notice the parallels. Soon I appreciated how well drawn they were and how appealing Narnia’s story is. Streamlined for kids; rough in important ways. The stone table scene delivers what feels overwrought or like torture porn in telling Jesus’ life.
3. Red Box D&D/AD&D: I read, and mused, and studied, and researched—and built worlds for myself and my friends to inhabit. In many ways THE most influential book in terms of guiding how I spend my days and what I think about.
2. The Last Herald Mage: Magic’s Pawn. Lackey’s hurting, misunderstood young hero made homosexuality painfully normal, by experiencing the confusion and longing for myself.
1. A Wizard of Earthsea. Precise, beautiful writing, a story with a moral; difficult relationships, and acceptance that we all die. The third book, The Furthest Shore, was similarly powerful–though it taught a sense of balance, restraint, and provided a vision of life as an old person that seemed pretty cool all the same.