17 August 2006

Gencon 2006 - Day 2

[Note! This GENCON 2006 report is being written chronicalogoly, but the way blogger works, is later posts are shown first. To read the report in order, please scroll down to “Gencon 2006 – Day 1” and start reading from there.]

Before we get to the pictures and the story of Day 2, I need to finish Day 1.

After the True Dungeon Ken and I wanted to go to sushi restaurant. This is a place that Ken, Geoff, Ethan & I went last time I attended Gencon in 2004. We loved it then. Now it is looking a bit beat up. The air conditioning was non-existent and the service was slow and unreliable. Still, that didn’t stop Ken, Brian and I from ordering a whole boat of sushi.

Okay, I forgot to get a picture of the boat – I was too busy eating it to really bother with the camera. The picture above is stolen from the web. Anyway, 75$ later I was stuffed on raw fish. The experience was worth mentioning.

Okay, onto Day two of the convention…

This is the day I didn’t brush my teeth. The above picture kinda represents my state. I was kinda clean having just taken a 4 minute shower. My hair is still wet in this photo. Once again, Ken, Woody and I got up at the break of dawn to play DnD. This time we got up at 7am to catch an 8am game (okay, I lied; we got up at 7:45am – hence the 4 minute shower and lack of teeth brushing.) The guy in the above photo looks nice here, but I think he was getting tired of my antics by the end of the game.

It seemed I got the most fun playing ridiculous character concepts. I think my lack of focus got on some people’s nerves since I wasn’t gung-ho about solving whatever, but I was instead interested in flushing out my character’s personality.

Okay another photo that is less gross of the same game so I can continue without you gagging:

Ken played a druid, which for those of you not up on your DnD terms, is a dude that worships nature. He’s kinda like a Greenpeacer, but less fanatical. Woody played a fighter.

I was having a big problem picking a character. This session was a bit odd. It was a Zeitgeist Game. Which meant there were a ton of DMs hired by Zeitgeist Games to run pre-made adventures. When you went through an adventure, you got loot that got recorded on some Zeitgeist Games database somewhere so you could re-use that character in another adventure at another tourney somewhere else. The fact that everyone’s character was permanent (usually you use the character just for that single game then you never play them again) made people even less tolerant of my antics.

Anyway, I was having trouble picking a character. Every arch-type was covered at the table, so I opted to play another Druid – just like my buddy Ken did.

Now it is important to understand Ken here. Ken likes to powergame. That is, he wants his character to be the best at what he is supposed to do. Ken knows all the rules and options available to characters, an always picks the one that appears to be the most advantageous to him. However, I don’t do this.

I played the younger druid bother of Ken’s druid. While Ken’s character loved nature (like all good druids do), my character hated it – even though he was a druid. He was constantly summoning animals by his side and allowing them to be slaughtered by the monsters the party was fighting. I started out the game with a pet camel that I had named “camel” – more out of disrespect than lack of.

I still think the character was funny. In particular in contrast to Ken’s power gamed druid. Ken eventually got into “it” and was always bragging (in character, of course) how Mom and Dad loved him more than me. Whenever he rolled better numbers than me, he always made sure to point it out.

This amused Ken and I a great deal, but probably got old with the rest of the table.

This is the game where Woody got really irritated with two of the guys we played with. It’s funny, because all-in-all everyone we played with was top-notch. And I’ve played with some big-time losers at Gencon before. Still these two guys were sorta condescending to our DM. (She’s shown in the above pic, the two obnoxious guys are behind me, not shown in the photo). It seems they played in Zeitgeist Games a lot and they thought they knew everything. Still, I didn’t mind them too much. They just looked at me funny when my druid kept trying to saw down trees (he hates trees) with his scimitar.

The lady DM really got into reading boxed text. Normally boxed text bores me to tears because the reader is usually reading it for the first time themselves & can’t quite get the oomph into it. She, however, was a good orator and did voices and everything. I really enjoyed listening to her. This was Woody’s favorite session.

After the 4-5 hour session, we went and grabbed some lunch. This is where I saw the angel. It was a cool costume.

I saw this lady later and she was able to fold up the wings behind her. They looked pretty cool tucked away as well.

Some people dressed like cards. I didn’t ask – I just took the pic.

Okay, I don’t have any pictures of my favorite game session of the whole convention. I was just too engrossed in the game to remember to photograph the thing.

This game was the only one where all my buddies (Woody, Brian, Ken, Chris, Sarah and myself) played. We made the entire table. No strangers, except a lone DM.

The game was run by a guy that worked for The Game Mechanics. I think it was JD Wilkers, a game designer. I probably played my least annoying character in this game, namely because my buddy Brian was being mega annoying instead. He played the best looking guy in the party, so he was in charge of talking to everyone. His guy drank with everyone he spoke to, so by like the eighth contact, his bard was smashed (or that’s how he played it). He must have had a pretend drunk conversation with DM for at least 20 minutes. Woody’s character (a cleric of some good deity) ended up picking up Brian’s bard and hauling him out of taverns over his shoulder – all the while the bard was pointing at people in the bar and waving all cool-like.

This game was punctuated by a surprise Mind Flayer. We were all about 5th level or less so the mind flayer pretty much kicked our asses. When we weren’t being stunned, we were having our brains eaten. When our brains weren’t being eaten, we were being charmed into buddying up with the big baddie. Somehow we recovered sufficiently to get a ton of Pro Evils cast on most of the party, and then we got lucky and killed the damn thing.

When we found the loot, my guy stole it and gave it to his crime bosses. Chris’ mage failed his task, and was never heard from again (he belonged to one tough mage’s guild, I guess). Woody’s cleric basically got Spanish inquisitioned when he came back having failed his quest. Sarah’s thief shared in my guy’s stolen goods and “won DnD” as she puts it. I loved the endings and the dynamics of the game. Tops.

Okay, this photo is of our last planned game session of the night. (We had one more afterwards, which was a pick-up game – but I’ll get to that in another post.)

I wasn’t that big on the Zeitgeist model of DnD sessions – but Woody loved them. So we went back later that night and tried to level up our guys to 3. (In the photo, Ken is the one bending over – he didn’t play – he just came and watched.) I played my “I hate nature” druid again – much to the chagrin of the players and DM. It’s funny, because earlier in the day the group tolerated the pissy druid – but without his brother to, well, balance him, he probably came across as even more annoying.

I tried to pattern the character after Larry David. One of my favorite lines from Curb Your Enthusiasm had Larry telling his wife something to this effect, “You know, sometimes I think what it would be like if I was deaf and couldn’t hear the birds sing. You know, it wouldn’t be that bad really.” That line sums up what I was trying to do with my character.

There was a woman at the table that was talking to a captured goblin that we had tied up. The DM said the goblin apologized for eating a baby. The lady was playing a paladin or something and acted disgusted at the goblin. My character injected that he had tried baby before and it wasn’t that bad. She got mad at me & my character accused her of being a close minded bigot – each culture does things different, one shouldn’t judge. The lady pretty much ignored me after that.

My character’s best line in this session was after we just entered a cave: “Can’t a druid find some nice urban adventures around here?” The DM actually laughed at that one – most of the time he just gave me dirty looks.

After we finished playing, Brian, Woody and I wandered around a bit. We stumbled across a dude holding up a sign that said “Free DM”. We quickly jumped into his game – which ended up being the most interesting session of the whole convention. But I’ll blog that later, by itself.

15 August 2006

Gencon 2006 - Day 1

Well, a bunch of my gamer buddies and me went to Gencon this year. This is the third time I've gone & it just keeps getting to be more fun.

Ken was the only other person that went with me that has been before (both of my previous trips.) If you have any love of games at all, you can't beat this convention. It is about 20,000 people playing non-stop games for four straight days. Just incredible.

First let's start with something silly:

Ha ha and all that. That is Ken punching Brian inside a fake TV.

Now on to the story: We fly into Indianapolis on Wednesday night. Ken, Brian and I were staying in a Marriot. If you read about Marriot, they claim to be smoke free. So we show up in the hotel and promptly get shoved into a room that was, of course, smoking. Not only that, but the entire floor the room was on was a smoking floor. I go up to the front desk after Ken has checked us in and throw a fit. They give us a non-smoking room.

Why in the hell do hotels allow anyone to smoke in their rooms? No one wants to be in a smoking room, not even smokers. And then they have the gaul to try to cram all the crappy rooms down everyone's throat. I just can't stand it. Marriot will NOT be getting my return business.

Anyway, we get in to town and settle in. Sarah, the pregnant wife of Chris gets to pick the place to eat since she is by far the pickiest eater among us. My only rule was that we had to go to somewhere we couldn't go in Houston. She ends up picking a great place! It's a steak house that specializes in shrimp cocktails. And not because of the shrimp, but because of horseradish sauce they put on them. Every time I took a bite of my shrimp, I would wince because I knew my nostrils were going to get steam cleaned. If you ordered a steak, you got a choice between two sides: a bowl of navy bean soup -or- get this, a glass of tomato juice. The story we got from our waiter was that tomato juice was invented in Indianapolis. I ate a shrimp cocktail, 10oz of rare filet and a glass of tomato juice.

So the next day I get up with Chris, Woody and Ken at 7:30 to catch the 8am Barroom Blitz game.

This is a picture of the miniature's map that we were playing on with 8 other people. The idea is pretty simple; you are in a bar and are pissed off about something. It is your job to start a fight and resolve whatever it is that you are mad about. I played a bouncer that got dragged into the bar on his day off, so he is just pissed in general. Woody played a law officer looking for a particular criminal in the establishment. Chris played a death-metal bard that wanted to make tons of money. And Ken played a peace-lovin' monk. His job was to keep everyone from fighting.

That's me on the left. Next is one of the more fun players we played with. He was in charge of a drunken dwarf cleric (think Friar Tuck). His goal was to save all the beer. I think he made it. The next guy (tall one) is my buddy Woody. The short guy after him played a thief. He was trying to rob the drunk cleric when I almost killed him. The cleric played it cool, healed the thief and then enlisted him in his cause. By the end of the game Woody, the dwarf and the thief were all in cahoots with one another. The last guy was the cook. He didn't do anything in the fight for the longest time. He ended up fleeing the burning bar at the end and stood outside the exit door killing people that ran out for safety. I respected that.

Where was I, you ask? Dead. This is the second time I have played this game and it is the second time that I ended up being the first player dead. It kind of sucked. But I guess them's the breaks when you are the person that starts the violence. I almost killed the thief, but I missed him due to being blind (it’s a long story -- Chris' fault, though). And then I got cleaved in half by the half-orc pimp. The guy playing the pimp came over and shook my hand afterwards saying that there were no hard feelings. Which, of course, there weren’t. I just wish I could have killed him instead.

After about 4 to 5 hours of that Ken, Woody and I met up with Brian and went to play a hack’n’slash game. This is a DnD game that is all about killing stuff. You don’t have to figure out any traps or talk to any people in the game. Heck, you don’t even have to talk to other players. You just have to fight stuff. Pretty simple really.

Brian and Woody are off the photo. You are looking at the DM on the far left and then three guys that knew each other and played role-playing games with each other. The guy next to the DM was quiet, but sneery. But other than that, he seemed pretty cool. The guy next to him was, I think, their DM. Every time I said something off color (surprise, surprise) he would laugh. His two buddies would just put their heads down in what appeared to be anguish. The last guy was also quiet. All three of them seemed to know what they were doing, playing-wise, they just were a bit unfamiliar with the rules.

This is the game where my half-orc barbarian (that is so rote, all barbarians in all the games I played were half-orc, bleh) got drained of 8 points of CON damage from two stirges when the DM rolled 2d8. I hate those things as a player. As a DM, I love ‘em though. We were never able to finish the dungeon because of time constraints. I hate leaving a game unfinished – it feels like I failed. But we had a 6pm timeslot for True Dungeon.

This event was a lot of fun, except we sucked at it. Basically you walk around a dungeon with a character placard on your chest. When you do something stupid (like step on a marker on the ground that defines a trap) you take damage. A room DM runs over and marks the damage on your placard with a dry erase marker. Basically, the game is like this: everyone goes into a room where there is a puzzle. If you solve the puzzle, you win stuff. If you don’t, you take damage. Eventually people start dying. It was unfortunate that our best puzzle man, Chris, was one of the first people to die. All in all, there were something like 7 puzzles and we solved one of them (well, we kinda solved another, but just not good enough). In the end, everyone died. Still it was a ton of fun.

I’ll try to blog the two other days of Gencon later this week.