Gen Con 2011

Usual smooth logistics.  Potential roommate backed out a few days before trip, but it wasn’t a new experience to be on my own like last year, so I was in a much better mental state.

Thursday

9AM – Emperor’s Favor, Part I

Start the con off with some Heroes of Rokugan.  First two-part mod in the campaign and I had scheduled to do it back to back.  Unsurprisingly, not everyone else had.  Cory, the campaign admin, made an announcement that it would be a very good idea to play this before the political interactive, much more important than the other new mods.

From my left, it was Mirumoto Katsubishi, Hida Kaminari, Shosuro Sakura, Hiruma Genji, Mirumoto Ito, Doku (ronin), and I was playing Moshi Shigeo (my main).  Ben Fredericksen was the GM; I am now trying to note GM names so that I better recognize people both in person and through their online handles.  I took a lot of notes, more than I expected.  Because others hadn’t planned to play the 2PM slot and we wanted to keep our table intact, we pushed through to get done by 4PM.

The most amusing thing about this table was that the two highest Honors were the Mantis and the … ronin.  It felt strange to not play online.  I think it was a combination of factors:  seven players; playing with people and characters I wasn’t familiar with; GM style; importance of moving quickly.  Mods just seem to be much more direct in person.  Maybe, it’s because it’s easier to determine leadership and come to an agreement on what people are doing and GMs don’t get terribly distracted with things not all that important to the plot.

2PM – Emperor’s Favor, Part II

Not really 2PM, we probably started 1PMish.  Similar level of notes.  I want to witness people’s reactions to what happens.

I go by the exhibit hall to check on Great Clans, as the most value to getting it at the con is to get it early and see if it affects my existing characters or what characters I might want to make if my I lose one.  Sold out.

7PM – Mouth of Milu

I had signed up for this because it was set in Hawai’i.  I’m surprised more things aren’t.  As we finished Emperor’s Favor early, I got to the game almost two hours early.  The GM had a large number of decorations, a tiki hut of sorts, leis for everyone, etc.  I ended up taking home a number of the decorations for work to put up.

This was FUDGE set in the modern day.  I played Dr. Lenk Martell, radical scientist working on NEOP Near Earth Object Probe(s).  These probes could be used to deflect asteroids and whatnot by self-destructing.  The PCs had various relationships, though not with everyone else.  After a recent meteor shower (caused by one of my probes), Kilauea erupts and the Big Island is being evacuated.  Blue geodes and strange cave formations appear around the island, with the blue crystal seeming to move.  We barely get off of it with our helicopters and start flying to some dink town because the stoner husband to one of our pilots has family there.  While arguing what to do, we let some people on the roof of a church get immolated.  Flying elsewhere, we rescue some Japanese who talk about monsters.  Eventually, we figure out that all of our theories – scientific, spiritual – point to going up to Mauna Kea where I hope to blow my probe.  The less intelligent PCs instead decide to throw some magic rocks into a frozen lake to get spirits to reactivate the volcano.  The GM is surprised that I survive and ours is the only group to never blow the probe.

Apparently, the meteor shower brought alien life that was trying to conquer the volcano goddesses.  The goddesses fought back by having the lava chase the crystal.  Reactivating Mauna Kea was enough firepower to keep the alien stuff at bay.

The lack of agreement on what to do was fine.  The lack of caring of what others did was a bit odd.  Some characters had way more to do than others.  A lot of time was spent with the husband and wife and ineffectually hanging around locals.  For me, it was fine as I got to do my thing.

Friday

10AM – Dragon Dice Quests

Yes, Dragon Dice.  I couldn’t get into a slot of a RPG at this time, so this ended up being the very last event I signed up for, figuring it was different and I could talk to someone about stuff Andrew and I worked on over a decade ago for Campaign Dragon Dice.

This was not at all what I expected.  This was Dragon Dice the RPG.  By using dice to reflect character skills, your character was a collection of dice that had normal RPG adventures.  A terrain die reflected range to enemies.  Number of health determined character level.  As a demo/playtest, it was mostly a combat scene, a combat that dragged on forever with no way we were going to lose.

It’s a really interesting idea, one I wouldn’t have considered.  On the one hand, I like how it enables using a bunch of dice to do something besides play Dragon Dice, to use dice one might normally use, and I think it can actually work.  On the other, I’m skeptical about selling the idea of using Dragon Dice to people for a home RPG.  While I like Dragon Dice on some aesthetic level, others I run into don’t.  I can see the relatively gaudy colors making things seem too cartoony for serious fantasy role-playing.

Being right next to the exhibit hall, I look for Great Clans.  Sold out.

2PM – Grand Theft Chariot

Greek heroes.  I choose the Cunning Hero and name him Kyrevaius.  His epithet, a game mechanic (one I’m used to with other Greek mythology games), is “The Resourceful”.

We begin in Patara, where the land goes dark.  The priests of Apollo wish to make additional sacrifices and the crowd gets unruly.  Being cunning, I douse torches to blind the crowd.  Others do their things.  Oh, the others being:  agile hero, strong hero, wise hero, charming hero, and fast hero.  The next day, we are called in by the queen to be sent to find the Oracle to Apollo on an isolated island.  I am the only person the GM recalls who actually asks what we know about the island.  Seems odd, when two of us are heavy on the Knowing skill.

Mechanics.  Roll a number of d6’s equal to your skill.  Fives and sixes are successes.  You have a Competency ability that is a pool of additional dice that can be added to a bunch of appropriate skills.  Competency dice explode on sixes.  So, my Knowing, for instance, is 3d6 from Competency and 4d6 from normal.

On the way to the island, we realize the entire world is in darkness.  The Storm strikes us, but we don’t lose the ship.  Korus “The Beguiling” loses a follower, as I recall.  The player gives his followers the most awesome names:  Red Shirticus; Expendicles; Meat Shieldian.  We begin to scale the 100′ cliffs, when harpies attack.  Pythus “The Knowing” cyclones some.  We dispatch the rest.  The filthy, sarcastic oracle tells us that Apollo has been taken to the Underworld, tells us about Charon, Cerberus.  I make some honeycakes for Cerberus and two sleeping potions, one a fake.

We music Charon as Orpheus did.  Cerberus we toss some poisoned honeycakes to and seems asleep as we sneak past but wakes up and attacks Cassius “The Colossus”.  I try to remove Cerberus’s acidic spittle from Cassius’s armor and get attacked by Cerberus’s serpent tail.  I survive the venom, so I milk some into another container … for I am cunning.  Meat Shieldian bleeds some for the ghosts so that they will give us information.  Expendicles helps dig a pit for the blood.  To Tartarus.

We find a centaur guarding a tree where the head of Orpheus sings, making this area of Tartarus pleasant.  Orpheus will tell us where Apollo is if we get him out of the Underworld.  Centaur doesn’t like that.  We cut off the centaur’s leg to free him from his chains and take the two with us.  Orpheus had been kept in a box by Hades and Persephone liked to take him out.  She dropped him, which is how he ended up in Tartarus.  Orpheus saw Hecate dragging a chained Apollo, so we look for her cave.

We find Apollo chained up.  Before we figure out what to do, Hecate appears.  Cassius breaks the chains and we briefly fight, with Cassius being turned into a tortoise.  Hades appears and gets everyone’s stories.  Xanthos, King of Patara, was pissed that Apollo was banging his wife, so he worked with Hecate to capture him, with Hecate becoming the new patron of Patara for her help.  Apollo and the rest of us are free to go.  Apollo asks us to kill Xanthos and reconsecrate his temple with the king’s blood.  I prepare a fake wound.  In Patara, we explain to the priests.  At the palace, the king punches his wife and attacks us for interfering with his vengeance.  I avoid guard attacks, moving closer to the king, while exclaiming about my “wound”.  I quaff my fake potion to “heal my wound” and accidentally drop my other “healing potion”.  I go to help the fallen queen, who is a slut.  Everyone else does their fighty thing, and the king finally tries my venom of Cerberus.

Temple sanctified, queen servicing all the heroes who want her rewards.  My legacy is Kyrevaius “The Resourceful” “Who milked Cerberus”

7PM – Ancestral Dictate

Back to HoR.  I find out that AEG got in new Great Clan books around 4PM.  *sigh*

Ancestral Dictate cannot be played by the same character as Prison of Earth, which is perfect since I have two characters.  Most didn’t.  So, I play with four characters that have never played before.  Four combat focused characters … in a mod with no combat tag.

Charles Penn GM, Moto Shizu, Ikoma Osamu, Hiruma Sentou, Bayushi Junichi, and my character, Hoshi Takumi.

I do a lot of courtiering with my tattooed monk.  I spend all 11 of my koku with my Wealthy tattooed monk.  I have a lot of notes, again.  I think I take more notes in face-to-face games these days because I know so much more about the world and the campaign.  More XP means I can buy up my social skills before the political interactive, this ends up mattering a lot.

Saturday

9AM – Prison of Earth

An all HoR day.  I play with someone I know for the first time.  He plays his tattooed monk, I play my Mantis, so we have three Moshi at the same table.  We fight well.  The arc of the mod is a bit odd to me, but I guess that’s cool as it’s different.  One may notice the lack of details in my descriptions of HoR sessions, well, Andy and possibly others haven’t played them yet.

Ben, again, GM.  Utaku Zaina, Moshi Akio, Moshi Kokoro, Isawa Koukainashi, Togashi Juichi.

Swing by AEG booth, sold out.

2PM – Summer Storms

Ah, battle interactives, I love them so.  We have 12 Mantis, four rank 2’s, three shugenja.  I’m at the table with the rank 2 shugenja I played in the morning with and four rank 1 bushi.  I am rank 2.  Yes, I who can take 20 mods to rank up am a high ranking member of my contingent.

Moshi Kokoro, Tsuruchi Kendai, Yoritomo Sen (unit commander), Yoritomo Wakou, Yoritomo Kikai.

The nature of the battle event is that there are five locations for each battle.  Crab fight Crane, Dragon Phoenix, Lion Unicorn, the noble and virtuous Mantis vs. the Scorpion.  There are three rounds, where you get a random location.  If opposing tables are at the same location in a round, you can have player vs. player, which the Crab and Crane had.  There were three tiers of difficulty.  If you rolled well enough, you could choose a higher tier, roll really well, a low tier with better tier rewards, if you fail, a mid tier encounter with low tier rewards.  Mantis lacked generals.  We found out later we got slaughtered, not because our PCs did but because our victory points were way lower because our tiers were lower.

In the first round, we defended Gateway Village, the gateway to the Tsuruchi Valley.  We actually played this fairly smart but we took a lot of damage.  Didn’t matter as wounds healed between rounds.  We didn’t make our roll high enough to do anything but a low tier encounter.

In the second round, we tried a mid tier encounter.  Not good.  In the second round of combat, their bushi did 41 damage to one rank 1, 41 damage to another rank 1, 20-30 damage to a third rank 1.  We should have lost after round two.  After round three, we should have been wiped.  They were rank 2 bushi with 9k4 attack rolls.  While we finally took some guys down, mostly with grapple plus gang up tactics, we lost two bushi, one having to use a mod reward to reduce damage not to die.  Our shugenja, me, and our one archer (only one Tsuruchi archer at each table!) had to carry the load.  To give an idea how bad this was, we didn’t realize the bushi we were fighting were Earth 2 until two of our bushi were out of the fight.  We persisted.  We ran over time.  We finally won as the enemy shugenja was surprisingly useless.  We didn’t have time for a third encounter but got the rewards for a low tier encounter for the third round, anyway.  We did gain Honor for fighting a battle we should have lost.

I found out later some of the other encounters people had.  The high tier stuff was just insane, with seven rank 3’s where virtually nobody in the campaign is up to rank 3 yet.

8PM – Spoils of War

Political interactive, how I never have done a normal one in person before.  Prior to the event, everyone got special name cards that had stickers to advertise certain things to NPCs.  I got two stickers that very few had, so it was kind of worriesome.  I played my Dragon, the Dragon contingent was large and disorganized.  It didn’t stop us from doing well early, but we got screwed by the Scorpion towards the end.  The Lion got hosed.  Phoenix did well.  Tortoise!!! and Brotherhood of Osano-Wo!!! did well.

I found out that one of my stickers was for artistic ability, so I got pulled aside by the Kakita family daimyo to join his new artists organization.  The other sticker had to do with storytelling, which didn’t help me.  I probably should have had another NPC’s interest since I gained him as an ally in a mod, but it wasn’t reflected in my card since it happened at the con.  Because we were at an imperial court, Etiquette and other social skills were huge.  Another tattooed monk lost a rank of glory and some Honor for not having his social skills high enough, and as I said at the con “all tattooed monks are courtier builds”.  With my final XP expenditures, I skated, having the 3 Etiquette and 3 of either Courtier or Sincerity to not get hammered.  Woe to anyone with no ranks in Etiquette.

Sunday

Morning – exhibit hall

Sold out.

I did some exhibit hall stuff.  Normally, I do a complete walk of the exhibit hall in my off slot, but I had walked a decent amount earlier in the con when with someone else.  So, I focused on some stuff.  So many things I want, so little interest in paying for them, at least at full price or even 25% off.  I did pick up some stuff, about half my cash I brought went on Sunday.

Had to rush to my final game.

12PM – Wu Xing – The Ninja Crusade

I didn’t need to rush.  We started late.  We did very little.  It was lame.  At the end, the GM thanked people for the “demo”.  Okay, I can accept that there are RPG demos, but advertise things as such.  We had a full table with one fight scene and some other stuff most didn’t care about.  I did relatively a lot of stuff I cared about because I can be forceful when others aren’t, but it was still amazingly hollow.

I’m unimpressed with the mechanics of the game.  First, d20 resolution sucks – too wide variance.  Second, the initiative system was incredibly complex.

The one benefit was that we finished with enough time for me to go back to the exhibit hall, which I think was when I spent most of my money … wait.

Having the last game be lame and so much worse than anything else seemed like it would put a damper on things, but my mind was so much more in the HoR world and the buying of stuff afterwards meant I didn’t think a whole lot about it.  There was nothing great, nothing that stood out to compete with the many HoR adventures.  Grand Theft Chariot was nearly great, just the sort of thing I hope to play, but the con was dominated by HoR for me.  Good or bad?  Good that HoR is doing well, 100+ average number of people for every slot; good that I enjoyed the HoR at the con as much as I did.  Bad that I need some balance.

Okay, why don’t more of my friends go to Gen Con, again?

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