What is the ideal Gen Con for me?
Sorry, I’m going to drone on with this for a while before getting to actual activities.
This is the question I started thinking about when I started thinking about how no one probably cares about my hotel situation or travel situation or food situation – the things that aren’t particularly gaming related. By no one, I mean I can just let people I talk to on a regular basis know about these things, so it would be redundant in a blog post.
Ideally, I travel with two other people from California and stay in a quiet, convenient, and not unusually expensive hotel room essentially next to the convention center that is not the JW because the JW is way too far in one corner. The traveling with people thing is because it’s more fun to talk to people about stuff on the way over and the way back. Actually, vastly more fun. Outside of Gen Con, I don’t think there’s any gaming event I would go to on my own that isn’t local or that doesn’t involve a specific invite from someone I know. Whether it’s Los Angeles V:TES or Origins, if someone else wants to go, sure, if not, eh, probably not.
I have no travel issues, of course, including getting the Green Line shuttle from the Indy airport right away, getting into the hotel about 5PM, drop stuff off, get badge by 6PM, go out to dinner with those with me and others I know from around zee world. I get to bed about 10PM.
Okay, how is this not as boring as actually describing what did happen? I actually meant to get into ideal Gen Con from a gaming perspective and got sidetracked.
From a gaming perspective, play HoR because there’s a greater community to HoR as I’m sure there is with being invested in other living campaigns. I may be on the periphery of the community, among other things I don’t even play in the political interactives that I could play in (Gen Con’s), but there’s some ability to not only spend some time with people I know but to talk to people I don’t really know about the campaign, the game system, and whatnot.
At the same time, while also something I can only do at Gen Con, the other end of the spectrum is playing things I don’t know. Find systems or worlds or even genres that expand my RPG experiences. This seems to be getting harder and harder. Much like how I envision that local convention RPG sessions will be a lot like ones I’ve already had, I’ve found that the past few years of Gen Con has seen my “esoteric” RPG experiences be rather similar to ones I’ve had at Gen Con. That’s not surprising, but it does reduce the possibility of the highest highs.
I tried to recall my highest highs from Gen Con RPGs. I can’t remember that many of the great games I had, which is why a record, like this, is so useful. I remember the game where we were playing dreams as the weirdest game I’ve ever played. I remember the Native American game. I remember Zero Movement. I remember a Wraith game for some reason from back in the Milwaukee days even though it wasn’t all that interesting to me to play, maybe it was because we had too many players and we switched off with our Shadows. Of course, it’s a bit easier to remember some more recent games, like the Babylon RPG from last year … no, not a Babylon 5 game for those who didn’t read my GC report from last year, a game set in Babylon. (Or, Qin, Kuro, Yggdrasill, angel sucking, etc.) Four Colours al Fresco for a while. Supers, in general, for a year. Immortal days. LARP days. Yes, I did some LARPing, not much, but there was/is a group, and I found playing a pregnant duchess hilarious.
Speaking of things that aren’t tabletop RPGs, what of CCGs? There were the volunteer years of running Babylon 5 CCG demos that had value but I wouldn’t want to do something like that again. I barely did anything at one con because of all of the CCG stuff. Sure, major B5 or that one major Wheel of Time tournament were something, no matter how frustrating it was. I only recall one V:TES tournament during the con, and it was goofy, not VEKN at all, what with the six player table and some card limits and banned list or something.
Getting to what I actually did and did not do, I did not do Shadowfist or V:TES. I showed up where people were playing, twice in the V:TES case, but I prereg for as many RPG events as possible and CCG events just kill multiple RPG events unless they are unusually short (for the games I tend to play) or late in the day. I felt bad about not supporting V:TES, so I’m going to look at playing in next year’s Sunday tournament and try to see about an evening tournament on one of the other days. I don’t know what to do about Shadowfist. I could make more of an effort for pickup games, which maybe make sense on Wednesday, Sunday after the con, or at strange hours during the con.
9AM sees me, once again, starting off with HoR3. This has a lot to do with how many fewer RPG things are going on at 9AM on Thursday of the con than during other slots. I play Tomb of Jade, which is what I’m signed up for. I’m inclined to avoid spoilers for mods because I’ve heard that HoRers may actually read my blog. Somebody has to. We were done in about 2.5 hours. Things went smoothly, as opposed to horrendously. At my table were Mirumoto Daiki, Kakita Shiro, Yoritomo Mifune, and Kitsu Saigo. Cory ran.
I was 4xp closer to my goal. I needed 10xp total before the Battle Interactive to go to Earth 4 with my main/combat character. 12xp would be better as, then, I don’t use my 2xp cert from the AEG event two years ago. It will be funny to use that cert only when I get to the campaign finale next year, or will it? I find out the tags for Aftermath and decide I’d rather do it with my alt, even though it’s what I’m signed up for Friday morning. With March Beyond Hope also released at the con, that becomes another possibility, in addition to backfilling.
2PM sees me playing Wu Xing for the second time. I can choose one of two abrasive female characters or a male character – I go with the female bookworm. I’m already sleepy. That is really, really bad, considering that I don’t game Wednesday nights at Gen Con.
A Nobleman’s Daughter is sympathetic to the Lotus Coalition and goes to find the Library of Alexandria of martial arts, that happens to be under an imperial base. We gather intel in town before setting out, up the mountain. We come across a watchtower, where we easily dispatch the few guards and realize that the imperials are digging up stuff on the mountain. We find an old general’s camp, abandoned except for a tortured prisoner, an attendant of the lady. The old general is trying to gain the power that the monks who turned evil sought in years gone by. The old man wants to get back youth and glory. We go underground to follow. In the library, there’s an ink demon that suffocates people. We find the lady and confront the general, who gets taken down.
If all of this sounds dry, it wasn’t. It’s just that it has so much similarity to so many things I do and that I did very little that was notable. The others pretended to be my entourage as I was the only one who could disguise well as someone from a higher class, just wandering the mountains. I tried to use my ability to instaread books, but we still lacked time due to combat. In the ending fight, all I did was lay down the general’s banner over his dead body after the others nuked him. Maybe there were other things worth mentioning, but I have to keep this post moving.
7PM was Ragnarok Over Midgard, Fate of the Norns. Apparently, this was created 20 years ago, only seeing serious publishment a couple of years ago after a Kickstarter. The game uses a bag of runes for resolution. Runes come in three types – physical, mental, spiritual. There’s a Void Rune that you always have to use. Each rune has specific abilities. Damage is done by taking runes out of your draw bag and moving them through a pathway on a playmat. So, everything is playmat and runes and character sheet info. Runes can get locked to where you start running out, in which case life is getting bad. There are conditions (on the playmat) where you mark whether you are Taunting or Poisoned or Degenerated or whatever.
I was playing a mischievous Maiden (I’m sure she was not a maiden) of Ratatosk, the squirrel who causes trouble in Norse mythology. To my left was Ragnar, berserker. To my right was Freki, skald, Volheim, runecaster, and Alfhild, witch. We were setting sail from Norweig to get away from a failed mercenary operation. A storm and some lightning/ravens/wolves lead us to an island where they are awaiting a king to pay tribute to. We get put in the overflow tents. Another group shows up, and I take an interest in the part troll lieutenant of their leader, as he doesn’t like the king or a bunch of nobles as his kin did a lot of service for the old king and his son and didn’t get proper respect. We try to party some. The king shows up and our new buddy, my boy toy’s cousin, is a big enough shot that we make the main hall and act like our plans for a democratic republic of communism on the island of Islandia (our destination) is already in place, as we take a high table. Our ship’s captain, the only other survivor of the sea trip, ends up dying due to cold and talking about the pull of the mountain. We figure that the local land spirits are displeased and head up the mountain to pay tribute, sacrificing some slaves that were already ready to be sacrificed (these people were dumb). We do the ritual, but it’s still not good enough. We fight some wolves on the mountainside. We come down last and find out the local jarl has been murdered, with my man missing. We follow my main to another town, where the slaves have been zombified and are attacking. Unlike the wolf fight, where I taunt all of the wolves into attacking me because that’s what I’m really, really good for, I skirt the main fight and hook up with my big guy. This is not good for the party, but the whole fight was more dangerous as spiritual rather than physical damage was being dealt, and our armor and parries and whatnot don’t do anything against spiritual attacks. The zombies start coalescing into uberzombie that gets pushed into a burning building and crispied away. Queen was behind things.
The system is different, which takes a bit to get used to, but it seems reasonably elegant. I’m quite impressed with how much better it seems to handle diceless play than a lot of diceless games. Andrew, the designer and our GM, has obviously used the years to work out a lot of issues with coming up with novel RPG mechanics. I do think my character’s abilities are kind of crazy good, though. In a physical fight, I can force everyone to attack me or lose actions, I’m hard to hurt, and I defend easily. Everyone recovers wounds, though it seemed like I could also easily recover damage. I may not hit hard, but I take aggro off those who can. Where I avoided playing a saucy wench in the previous game, we didn’t have extra character options, so I embraced my saucy wenchness and this was my role-playing highlight of the con. Probably my highlight, overall, as I really like it when someone can do something interesting with or without dice, and I’m a big mythology fan.
Speaking of mythology, I’m somewhat concerned about the world, though. Ragnarok has already started and the Sun and Moon have been eaten, so the world lies in darkness. Apocalyptic and post apocalyptic settings aren’t really my thing. I did ask about setting before Ragnarok, after would be another possibility, and I was told there was a plan for something. The game is going to be supported. So, I think I need to pick this up. I would totally do another session next year, maybe get a book signed.
9AM sees me back at HoR. I’m scheduled for Aftermath but want to play Shielded by Fire, Glimpse Beyond, or March Beyond Hope. I get into the last. Richard Burns runs. Going around left, besides Yoritomo Amuyu deadheading the mod, we have Togashi Ketsu, another dangerously beautiful Tattooed Monk. To his left is Seppun Katsu, my new hero. Then, Tsi Sanzo. Where last mod ran only 2.5 hours, this ran more like 4.5 hours, with my getting out of there just in time to make my 2PM game without rushing. We had a slow go of it investigating. Katsu-sama did duel someone “to the corpse” that makes my Kharmic Tie with his ancestor tingle. I should see about getting a Kharmic Tie to Katsu-sama, though I have a hard time seeing how it would ever come up. Tsi Sanzo was the only one of us with simple attacks. Ketsu, Katsu, and I were all R-3 and don’t get simples to R-4. Seppun tech actually got used. My Sorinpu actually got drawn and had one of its abilities matter, with the other being a possibility I thought of, then forgot.
I need to get a cert about being able to do something very normal without losing Honor as I’m tired of very normal things being bad. I could save this comment for later, but my sense of the mods is that my experiences were all better than the mods. I don’t actually know how good a mod is until I read it and probably run it, but I just felt like the mods were adequate but lacking in interesting things to do, where even with the odd time elements to my first two mods stuff was fun and the players were enjoyable. Just felt forced. Maybe it’s the face to face experience, where in the online experience I do much more personal stuff. I did get to roll Engineering …
2PM was my Hunter: The Reckoning game. We were investigating a haunted mansion/asylum. I played a former soldier of the Defender persuasion. The game was supershort. We found out that the doctor suicided after he put his son to sleep, which indicated one or both were the ghosts. We investigated during the day, which helped our research. We went at night. I Warded (force field) to keep bad stuff from happening. Another character Insinuated the ghost away. We both had 5 successes on our rolls. While really short, I thought it was fine. I think some players new to the game didn’t get a lot to do. It wasn’t as cool as my previous Gen Con Hunter games, but I have yet to have a bad Hunter game, I wish they were more common. Actually, there were two running at the same time. I had plenty of time to pick up a Shadowfist playmat from Daniel for my Kickstarter rewards, but I didn’t engage with the other Shadowfist players.
7PM, last HoR mod. I’m signed up for Laughter of the Flames. I figure I play that, rather than try to backfill, but there is no table for it. No table for a Gen Con release. Huh? I stand around until Togashi Ketsu and I get together with Utaku Yui and a deadheading not Kakita Rei and play Stolen Property. The mod has no combat tag, so I wanted to play it with my alt, but it is mid/high and I need XP for my main, and it’s something I can play with no other table to play at, so I play it with my main. Cory runs. Todd and Adam wander by at various times and note they need the mod. Organization people! I found the lack of “everyone playing this mod, go over there, everyone playing that mod, go over there” to make things difficult for me, as I don’t have a group to form a core for a table.
We run the whole slot. I didn’t find the mod all that interesting, but, with fewer players, more stuff happens per player, so it was good. I got my 12xp and was set for the BI.
I had an open slot in the morning. I could have tried to sign up for Feng Shui 2e game, which I only found out about at the con. That sounds possum. I could have played in the political interactive for HoR. I might have had other options. I slept in, til like 8AM. I ate breakfast over by the political interactive, saw the list of side contests. One of them was interesting to me, but it would require playing my main, and I’m already not inclined to play, nevermind that I do noncombat stuff with my alt.
1PM was Feng Shui. I asked someone who had played 2e earlier about it, and it sounded like some good changes were made. We basically played Big Trouble in Little China, with some minor modifications. My fiancee was the special bride. One of the GMs spoke Mandarin, one of the players knew at least some. My awful, awful knowledge of Mandarin just makes me not so happy. Golf balls were used to trip people. Metal fan was stolen and handed off to our lawyer to reflect lightning. Jack’s truck was recovered. We didn’t use the actual combat mechanics with the shot chart and all, but that’s fine. I actually see 1e’s combat as one of the game’s weak points (in that it slows things down a ton to actually do the mechanics).
7PM Battle Interactive. I get placed at a R-3 table, with only Kakita Shiro being R-4. Moshi Arashi, Yoritomo Wakou (table commander), Shiba Kazuo, Kakita Shiro, Hiruma Tanjo, Isawa Reiko form my table. Due to Arashi being Earth 2 and my lack of simple attacks, the plan is for me to yojimbo her and whoever else. Eytan is our GM.
Round 1, we hit Noodle Street for a tier 3 encounter (we could have done 4 but wanted to prepare for bigger things later), where the smells of fried food are in the air. Sandbags with spikes narrow our path. Hot oil is thrown at us. Otomo and merchants heckle us from above. I roll 40 initiative, which is amusing given my following of O’Saigo. Round 1 of the combat, I guard the two shugenja. Round 2, I drive a cart into the spikes to clear them, making an Engineering roll, which I have to Luck. Round 3, I’ve been delegated to call in our minor clan bonuses, which are healing shugenja, and a Kitsune appears to heal the Hiruma. Round 4, a Dragonfly comes in to heal the Hiruma. Our table Medicines another Noodle Street table a bit. The Yoritomo and Isawa throw things at the Otomo and gain Infamy. We are relatively unscathed.
Round 2, Central Market. We fail the Battle roll, then fail it again. We are stuck with a tier 3 encounter worth 1 VP. Cory comes by and gives us a special encounter. Dragon assassins failed to kill our leaders and are on the way back to their lines with intel. We must stop them. This encounter is all offense, as they are in wound penalties but are also R-5 Mirumoto/Taoists with R-3 Mirumoto “mooks” and a ronin shugenja with Void spells. On round 1, I guard Arashi and Tanjo. Combat was essentially over before my action on round 2. Yes, four R-5 bushi and four R-3 bushi and a R-5 shugenja were taken out before the end of round two. The shugenja was possibly going to cast Destructive Wave on round one as only one of them needed to survive.
As those who follow the forums or who were there know, Toturi Daio showed up under the banner of the Black Lion and we minions waited for our commanders to figure out what to do. Kazuo, Shiro, and Reiko left our table, when the rest of us followed our side’s orders to attack the Black Lion forces. We did a tier 4 encounter, which probably made little sense, though I guess the point of the BI on a personal level is not so much Glory, as I can’t gain Glory with my main, nor can a lot of others, but to have difficult fights for the fun of it. I actually had to attack in this fight as Arashi kept increasing her ATN to 52. I missed the R-5 Hiruma on round one but hit some R-3 “mooks” on the other rounds, taking 36 wounds total. Tanjo “died” but had Touch of Destiny left.
I preferred this BI to last year’s, as last year’s was kind of easy and dull until we got to the weirdness at the end and almost got wiped, which wasn’t all that interesting either. Here, I got to roll Engineering. I might have been able to get through a BI without once making an attack roll. Heavy armor helps my build so so very much. As Glory is meaningless, I’m not sure what the incentive to do anything besides special encounters is. Sure, the side gets VPs, but it seems way better to do tier 3/tier 5 special than tier 4/tier 4, so why waste the resources on anything besides specials?
My main survived. I’ve had my replacement ready to go for a year, now. I can even get it to be somewhat less pathetic if I can get 2xp per mod played. I really need something to do with my main. The one thing about this con is that the list of daimyo supporting the Black Lion actually made me want to kill somebody. I’m highly apolitical (which is one of the reasons to avoid the political interactives) but also kind of unmotivated in this campaign and ambivalent. While there were daimyo on the other side I didn’t want to fight, there were many I was happy to see suffer. Yeah, politics.
I had another open slot. I dropped by the V:TES players again and Felipe and I talked about next year. The morning worked out well for Josh and me to hit the exhibit hall and get checked out of the hotel.
My noon game was Urban Shadows. Kickstarter was recent. Publish will be soon. I really liked the character creation system for a game of modern supernaturals running around dealing with each other, elements of WoD, Armageddon, supposedly Dresden Files, lots of book series. The structure of the game is that it’s character driven and the GM built a story based on character creation. That’s okay. It meant a lot of my background didn’t matter as we only had two hours to actually do stuff, but part of playing was making up stuff about our characters, which is a thing. The dicerolling system didn’t interest me. It’s built to create complications, but, for a very storytellerish game, it seems really random what the dice say. Also, the mechanics are kind of odd in that they are very structured in an OOC way for what’s a very storytellerish game in style. It’s not even listed what damage actually does to you. Advancement is really weird and seems very gamable. But, I got to play a Danish immortal in Uttica, who had ownership in a newspaper, so I quite liked my character, as little that I accomplished as I did.
That night, I had to sleep at the airport because of thunderstorms in my connecting city. Could have been worse. Besides that, it was pretty smooth and enjoyable, much like recent years where only minor things were less than desirable. Again, nothing spectacular but it was really good to check out Fate of the Norns and Urban Shadows. I need to remember to back the Feng Shui Kickstarter.
And, just to reiterate, hanging out with people I know (to varying degrees) or have something to talk about with is one of the best things about Gen Con or any con or, really, any sort of gaming at all.