innocent_man: (slimshady)
Last week was Origins, and so we all piled into Baby Blue (Michelle's weird, she names her cars) and trundled down to Columbus to do some gaming, some hanging out, some demos of curse the darkness.

Overall impressions: Attendance seemed light this year. I don't have numbers to back that, but based on what I was seeing and hearing, the move to early June may have been a mistake. Next year it's later in the month, so we'll see if that really made a difference, but I dunno.

Professionally, though, I think it was a good con for me. I made some connections, spent a lot of time hanging with Matt McElroy in the DriveThru RPG booth and with Jonathan Lavallee and Mark Truman and talking business, pleasure, my Kickstarter, Mark's Kickstarter, game design, and so on. That was awesome. Also introduced to the joys of bibimbap, which I'm totally making as soon as I get my hands on some bowls that can handle it.

Wednesday! )

Thursday! )

Friday! )

Saturday! )

Sunday! )
innocent_man: (eliotcooking)
Productive day yesterday. Let's two-peat!

(Jesus, did I really just say that? Coffee, I think, is the answer.)

  • Finish cleaning kids' rooms.
  • Do write-up from last night's Geist game, and if I get really ambitious, last week's curse the darkness game.
  • Finish mowing the lawn.
  • Work on Hunters Hunted 2 redlines. (Not done, but worked on 'em.)
  • Shoot video for curse the darkness.
  • Assemble stuff for Origins' games.
  • Play some L.A. Noire.
  • Make a character.
  • Figure out stats/mechanics for mementos for Geist characters, which I forgot to do after the last game.
  • Watch Dead Man with Michelle.

That was yesterday. Didn't get to watch the movie because Cael wouldn't go to bed and Michelle had to read the system for today's chargen session (Game of Thrones), but that's fine, maybe we do it tomorrow. Today:

  • Make spiced peach jelly.
  • Finish handout for curse the darkness demos for Michelle & Sarah.
  • Go over finances for Origins, crying optional.
  • Go to grocery store.
  • Work more on redlines (gotta be done by Wednesday, 'cause my deadline is Friday and I ain't working over Origins!).
  • Assemble stuff for Origins.
  • Finish video for curse the darkness.

So that's where we are.

Peach jelly: I bought a bunch of peaches at the market the other day, so they're nice and ripe now. I peeled 'em (god, that's a chore), pureed 'em, and boiled 'em with pectin, cinnamon, crystallized ginger and a spice bag with some mulling spices, and then added a shitload of sugar. The jelly is currently cooling; I'm excited to see how it tastes.
innocent_man: (ptc)
So, what's new?

Well! Michelle has finished her MA. Now begins the long slow to getting herself a PhD (though you could argue that actually started when she started Case). But mostly I think she's just thrilled to be done with classwork for a short while.

The Kickstarter continues to kick ass. We've got the rest of the artwork back, and it's amazing (a new piece should be going in an update on the Kickstarter sometime soon, I hope). We've still got a few weeks, so I figure we should be able to hit $10K and do the curse the darkness companion, but honestly even if we ended today, we've done pretty damned well for ourselves.

In unrelated news, I had a job interview last week for my local school district. I really hope I get the position, and it's causing me a little bit of angst. I love my job. I love my kids. This district is driving me crazy. My caseload is too big, the bureaucracy is too stupid, and Ohio doesn't give a shit about poor people so they don't give a shit about the people who teach poor people's kids (that'd be me). I can afford to keep making what I make, for a little while. I cannot afford a pay cut, and that's what the district wants. I can't do it. I need to get somewhere that I'm not expected to make less every year, and it's bothering me, because I feel like I'm quitting on my kids. But it's an untenable situation, and I have my family to consider.


Anyway, something else. Umm. Oh, right, poo. See, here's the thing. I run this Clay-o-Rama game every year (most years) at Origins and/or GenCon. Clay-o-Rama is awesome; you make a monster out of Play-Doh and the monsters fight. I occasionally get a guy playing at Origins who wants to make a big piece of poo for his monster. And he's, like 40+. And there are kids playing. He should know better, but he apparently doesn't.

I'm not willing to just sign his ticket and tell him to piss off. I could, apparently, under Origins rules, since a GM can kick anyone out of a game for any reason (which I fully support). But I work with people who are emotionally stunted or behaviorally challenged, and the other thing is, I've never talked to him about it (last time because it just caught me off guard). This year, I'll make the rules clear up front - no scatological humor. And if he can't handle that, I'll excuse him (and anyone else that can't play by the rules), but I can't just jump directly to "go away."

Shit, when did I become patient?

Anyway, Promethean. )
innocent_man: (zombie)
Didn't quite around to this Saturday night. Had zombies to kill.

Anyway, Saturday we got up and went to our 10AM game. New game (like, not quite in print yet) called Geasa from Firestorm Ink.

This game is a bit like Fiasco in that it's GM-less and focused more on the players all telling the story together than on any kind of player/GM dynamic. You're playing folks who are urged by "fae" (though the "fae" in question are just as easily ghosts, spirits or any other sort of supernatural critter). My character, however, isn't influenced by my fae.

Our game, f'rex, had four players: Me, Michelle, the game's author and another fellow whose name I forget. The other fellow was the first one to come up with a character: "Irrelevant African prince hunting a lion." I grabbed that word "irrelevant" and put the setting into colonial Africa, with the prince trying to complete a manhood test while British folks are there shooting up the place. So I played his mentor, an older warrior split between teaching the prince and trying to repel the invaders. The author (Jonathan) played the Great White Hunter, here to take some interesting animal heads and so on. And Michelle played the goddamn lion.

Meanwhile, we have our fae. The one I controlled was the the spider-goddess trickster Anansi, influencing the hunter (chaos!). Jonathan controlled a spirit of hunger and uncontrolled gluttony, influencing the prince. Prince's player controlled the wind-spirit of the Serengeti, influencing the lion, and Michelle controlled the spirit of the nature, red in tooth and claw, influencing my mentor character.

The game ended with a huge bloodbath in the forest and the lion killing the hunter and mauling the prince, with me slinking away into the jungle, horrified. I think if I'd thought about it, I'd have wanted another scene for my character just to wrap things up, but the game is awesome. Totally buying it when it comes into print. And, the GM was a super nice guy, very invested in his game, taught it really well, and completely sold me on it.

My Grade: A+

Didn't get a pic from that game, but holy crap! Minotaur!

And then over to Dread! I wasn't going to play Dread this year, because I play it every year, but my friend Matt was running it, and since I taught him Dread I thought it'd be fun. And it was. Our characters were high school students at Camp Integrity, and we woke up to the sound of gunfire and realized we were actually in a government base where they were doing research on werewolves. And then night fell, and the injured girl we were with Changed, and badness ensued. I knocked down the tower to kill a werewolf and save the others, Michelle knocked it down by accident and get her character's arm bitten off.

Michelle, struggling with the tower.

Sort of an odd shot of me.

It was a fun game. I think we should have been making more pulls, because it got kind of draggy in the middle. Matt was of the opinion that having the game start more in media res, with the gunshots happening while still dark and the werewolves still running around, would be better; I tend to agree. Takes the focus off investigation, but makes it more action-focused, which allows for more pulls.

One weird thing (and this was nothing to do with Matt): One player was there long enough to make one pull, which he did badly (tossing the block on top and making the tower crooked, which is why I wound up knocking it down rather than pulling) and then...left. Never said where he was going, never came back. Kind of a douchey move, on its face, but then, maybe his wife went into labor or something.

Anyway, this was clearly a learning experience for Matt, and the game was fun. He didn't interrupt players, his logic for pull made sense (it was just more lenient than I tend to be) and he kept things moving.

My Grade: A-

Last RPG of the day: Victoria. Basically, an RPG set in Victorian England, with as much or as little supernatural as you want. The focus is more on the social structures of the time, and the system is nicely simple but still has some character to it (you "roll in" like you're gambling, and everyone generally succeeds on a 7, which is the most common result on 2d6, which I like). The game was, basically, chase down the bad guy and rescue the girl, but I liked the reason it was us - our characters had been trapped in a tunnel accident some years before and had become friends, even across class lines.

I have really nothing bad to say about the session, except maybe that more female characters would have been good (he only made one). But the GM/author's experience of gaming clearly differs from ours, so hopefully that's a lesson he takes away. The GMing style, though, was great. He stayed engaged, kept the action moving, and combat was quick and exciting (which is always nice). As with Geasa, can't wait to buy it.

The group!

My Grade: A

That night, Michelle and I played Rising, which isn't really an RPG so doesn't get a grade. It was, as usual, awesome, and I think I officially like "standard" Rising better than the Lovecraft-influenced Twilight Rising. I got to shoot zombies with nerf games (gun kept pulling high and hitting folks in the face - sorry!), and that's always fun.

And then Sunday, we spent the morning shopping. Wound up getting a bunch of Masterbook games for $20, picked up Leverage, Deadlands Reloaded, and a couple of cheap games at one of the cheap games booths (Buffy and something called Haven).

All in all, great con. I decided, though, that I really do like running games at least once in the mix, so come Con on the Cob and MarCon next year (both of which I'm doing; MarCon has moved to Easter weekend, which is nice because I don't have to take any time off to go) I'm running games. Probably curse the darkness, among others.
innocent_man: (changeling)
Origins! Yay more!

So, our first game of the day was Streetfighter. Based, of course, on the video game, White Wolf got the license back in the day (specifically, 1994, so before, say, Changeling) to do an RPG. The result was...odd. It was all of the quirk that you expect from early-edition WW games, mixed with a fighting video game. This from a company where combat mechanics were not, you might say, the strongest point.

But for all that, Streetfighter was quirky, weird and kind of fun. You have combat cards that you play on a turn-by-turn based to simulate attacks. If there are any problems with it (and there are), it's that it uses first edition Storyteller rules, meaning there's the hard botch rule (1s cancel successes), which is pretty freaking dumb.

This particular game of Streetfighter was pretty straightforward. The little brother of one of the characters was kidnapped. We (a bunch of streetfighters of varying backgrounds) band together to find him. I gotta give the ST props - he went all out. We each had combat cards, theme songs (which played, and we got bonuses while they played - mine was "The Going Gets Tough" by Billy Ocean), character backgrounds, and minis. The first fight was against the so-called "Tutorial Gang," there to show us how combat worked.

A-like so.

The game was silly, but that's fine, it's Streetfighter The problem came when the party split and followed two leads. Now, I've talked occasionally about how cross-cutting between two scenes is tough to time, especially when there are fights involved. You need to keep everyone interested, especially at a con game where it's easy to lose interest. What the ST should have done, IMO, was run one fight, then the other. What he did was try to run two fights at once, with the result that neither of the groups really felt like we were getting his attention. But either way, we all hooked up again for the final fight, and found the missing brother and the Evil Bad of whom was a puppet.

Did not see that coming.

We beat them, we won, we kept our sheets, life is good.

My Grade: B+. Lots of prep, good sense of pacing and humor, just one really bad decision, IMO.

So then we had a game of Unknown Armies. I like this game, though I still feel I'd be at a loss on how to run it. I've played it a couple of times, and it's different every time. This time, we were all "Barrow-Kooks," these completely insane and dysfunctional people living in a shack in a cemetery. My character was Fishback, a hobo assassin. No, really.

I like playing psychos sometimes. I had to kill a few people to get body parts for the narco-alchemist. One of the victims bragged that he played lacrosse, and I said, "Oh! That's the game you play with an ice pick sticking in your eye, right?" and flung an ice pick at his eye. And really enjoyed the looks from the other players.

The GM, telling us what's what.

The game was fun and bizarre, and the group was awesome. I had two problems. First was just that the early bits of the game rambled a bit; it felt like what we did didn't mean much of anything for a while. The other issue was that this was evidently a continuation of a previous story, or with these characters, I dunno. It felt like we were missing something, and while it wasn't a huge deal, it nibbled. But the story got resolved, and there were some awesome moments (ice picks in eyes and so on), so that was fun.

My Grade: B+

Last game of the evening: Changeling: The Lost. Now, obviously this is a game I know quite well, and that raises my expectations a little. The GM knew the game reasonably well, but when he found out my relationship with it, he was happy to foist mechanics questions off on me, not because he didn't know them, but because he knew I knew them better. And that was good, and I think made the game move faster.

The scenario was a little strange, though not in a bad way - we were changelings who had taken up residence in a high school to avoid a Fae pursuer, but couldn't leave without losing the magical protection of the place. The game was very bound up in real-world history, and we wound up getting sucked into Faerie and fighting a Charlatan, which was fun. The characters were also pumped full of dots.

As a side note, I don't know how I feel about con games meant for beginners but with very powerful characters. On the one hand, it's nice to be competent. On the other, it's not like starting NWoD characters aren't, and it's just more stuff to keep track of. In any case, I don't think anyone was lost (no pun intended) with the game, and we all had fun with it. The GM was awesome, really. NPCs were memorable and distinct, he interacted directly with players rather than putting up a screen, and he obviously had a great time with us. So it's not how I would run a beginner Changeling game, but it was definitely an effective way.

My Grade: A

And that's all for tonight. Tomorrow, two games I've never played and one that I have! Yay!
innocent_man: (mine)
So here we are at Origins. Yay!

Took us some time to get out yesterday. Mostly that was because Heather's been backed up with work the last month, so I amused myself taking pictures of people with my new phone:

Michelle, waiting.

Aaron, waiting.

Me, waiting.

Heather, wait...oh, hang on, there she is!

So we left, drove to Columbus, listened to Patton Oswalt on the way. Nifty. Got into Columbus, checked in, and then Michelle and I headed out to play Desolation.

Ah, back among my people.

Now, I really enjoy Desolation, but haven't really managed to play a game of it that emphasizes the sad state of the world, rather than going for cheap laughs. And I still haven't. The fellow who ran the game was the same one that ran Hollow Earth Expedition for us in 2009. That game was kind of weaksauce, so I admit that when we realized it was the same guy, we were a little apprehensive.

It was better, though. We didn't have an immature 16-year-old and his equally immature dad making boob jokes the whole time, for one. The GM liked screaming "RAT CHEESE!" a little too much (it made sense in context), but beyond that, it was a well-run sandbox game - he plunked us into the situation, and we just tore shit up and had fun. Interesting note: The other player (it was just me, Michelle and this other woman) not only had no experience playing RPGs but had to be told, conceptually, what an RPG was. She got right into it, and she seemed to have fun; I'm just wondering how she got to that table.

Anyway, once again, characters were just photocopied from the book, but that's fine. The GM had trouble explaining the system (took too long, made my eyes glaze over), but once we got rolling he did well - didn't stomp on our plans, didn't interrupt the players (I fucking hate that), and ended the game when it ended, rather than shoehorning in a T-Rex. I approve. Wasn't awesome, but was fun.

My Grade: C+

So then we went to bed. Up in the morning! I had tickets to Prawn!

Well, fuck. No one showed. I got a refund and one we went.

The familiar skyline from the hotel window.

Con on the Cob! You should go!

At the Chessex booth, you can buy a scoop of dice. Don't pretend you aren't tempted.

So we got some lunch, did some shopping, and swung around to play in a demo of mad-scientist card game.

This dude even looks like a mad scientist.

The game is fun; you basically try and build evil experiments and collect victory points for the really important ones (like Underground City and Weather Control). Early gameplay, though, is slow; Michelle and I thought of some improvements, but they weren't simple enough to justify buying the game and house-ruling. And I have other stuff to spend money on (read on).

So then we had a game of Deadlands. Oh, Deadlands. Highly awesome. This was the Savage Worlds version, but all the fun stuff is intact. I played a huckster, slinging cards around for magic. It was a pretty straightforward "go get the dude off the mountain" scenario. At first I was concerned because we were tailing along two badass bounty hunters...but then the mutant bears popped out and ate them, and I knew we were fine and weren't going to be dwelling in NPCs' shadows. Yee-ha!

It was a good time. I had a shining moment (casting a Speed spell and rolling up behind the bad guy and capping him in the back of the head before he knew I was there), we got to shoot a bunch of zombies. I could have done with a little more RP, but honestly it was a two-hour game. And just look at this awesome setup:

The little orange things are corpses of things we shot. Boo-ya!

The GM explained the rules to the newbies perfectly and patiently, knew the characters and the rules well, and kept things moving. His characterizations were memorable, and it was generally a great time.

My Grade: A

Then, dinner! (Lemon Grass, a fusion place down the street. I recommend!) On the way we passed a dog biscuit store (no, really) with some interesting art:

Then, Ganakagok!

I've played (run, really) this game before, and was really happy to be playing it. Our players fell into it right away, and we had this cool, exciting, very epic Norse-ish story going on, involving elemental spirits, burned cannibals ghouls, giant fucking owls, snow rhinoceri (OK, they didn't figure in directly). My character was a fire-tender, a young boy who learned at the feet of the elders and kept their fire burning so they could stay warm.

One thing I didn't like: During the scenes, we only did the die-shifting round once, not twice (if you know the game, that makes sense, if not, don't worry about it). That changes the play because it changes the strategy, but it didn't end up mattering much. The story was awesome, we concluded and everyone, I think, was happy about how the Nitu people ended up.

The GM could stand to work on pacing a little bit, but only if I'm being really nitpicky. He definitely had a good feel for the game and did a good job at ceding control and ideas to the players, which for Ganakagok is essential because if it's not a shared story, it's one dude telling you a story.

Our story mats, if you can read any of it.

My grade: A-

I actually talked to Bill White, the author of Ganakagok, a little after the game, about curse the darkness and he totally got it, even from a brief description. Made me feel like I'm on the right track, if I can just distill what I really envision the game being about down from where it is now.

But I digress. Tomorrow, more gaming, including Changeling and Unknown Armies! Yay! Origins!
innocent_man: (themepark)
More gaming stuff this time, not as many pictures of my kids. Still a few, though.

Saturday! )
innocent_man: (teagan crazy)
So! It's already Tuesday, and Origins is feeling further and further away. That said, I suppose I should do my write-ups for the con. With pictures. And hookers. In fact, forget the pictures and the con!

Anyway, Bender aside, last week we went to Origins. "We" here is myself, Heather, Aaron, Michelle, Cael, Teagan, Andrea and Cory (insofar as they were sharing a room with us, though we really didn't see too much of them, as they were busy with their own shenanigans, for the most part).

Photos, so I cut to spare your flists. )
innocent_man: (buttons)
Kind of. The site has always redirected to a GeoCities account, but now GeoCities is closing down. So I set up a Blogspot account, which you can find here. Please do head over there, follow it, friend it, comment, do whatever one does for Blogspots.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be moving my essays and other content over there. I'll probably not be moving my fiction; I'll keep that blog for gaming-related essays, How To Run Game X and so on, but keep my personal life (and game write-ups) here. For now, all that's there is part one of my Origins write-up (it's in depth, so it'll be split into several posts).

On that subject, does anybody have Game X requests, or essay topics they'd like to see?


innocent_man: (Default)

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