Tuesday, February 17, 2015

DunDraCon Days 4 & 5

The past few days have been so packed that I haven't been able to take the time to tell you about it.

When last we left our intrepid hero, he was just about to run his adventure for the Teen Room. When I got there (yeah, I know. As fun as that opening line sounded, I don't think I want to write this whole thing in third person) I found a full table waiting for me. Including the two presenters for the seminar where nobody showed. I had the time to talk to them about the game as part of our conversation that night, so they decided to give it a try.

Overall, the game went well, and the party came up with an amusing solution to the final problem. There's typically some variation in how the players handle the problems presented in the adventure. Most groups come up with fairly typical solutions to the problems presented, but the final encounter is very open ended and demands a unique solution.

The Jaded City of Oz is a city so magical that they're not entertained by much anymore. In order to get into the city, the players have to demonstrate that they have something unique and interesting to offer. That night, the player who had the Shaggy Man (I use the Characters Pack to provide pregenerated characters to play) used the Love Magnet to romance the guard into opening the gate.

We started at 7 PM and finished the adventure at around 10:30, which wound up being bedtime for me.

The next morning was nice and easy, with very little to do. I wasn't scheduled to run my game for grownups until 2 PM, so I took advantage of the morning to get some shopping done. I'll tell you a bit more about what I got and what I think of it in another post, once I've had proper time to digest it all.

I had a full group by the time I showed up. One player had announced that he would not be arriving, and I believe that one other person who signed up simply did not arrive, but I had two girls turn up to see if any slots were available. Since there were, and I wouldn't have minded squeezing a few extra players in anyhow, they both joined the group. That left us with 4 females and 2 males (a father and son team if I'm not mistaken) to start off the adventure.

Both of the guys picked the Soldiers, Omby Amby and Private Files, and I got the feeling that they were expecting a more traditional, action oriented adventure. They did find some action and eventually got into the swing of things.

The girl who picked Prince Inga played him as haughty and overbearing, but it was fun because she kind of expected the trouble she caused. Between the encounters in the Winkie Country and the Gillikin Country, Prince Inga was such a mess that they were allowed to enter the Jaded City because they'd never seen a Prince who was covered in so many egregious substances.

One of the things about the Jaded City of Oz adventure is that it never really takes as long as I schedule. On at least one occasion, I've had a group clear through the whole thing in only 2 hours. The average time is actually closer to 3. It's just that the minimum amount of time I can request on the schedule is 4 hours.

So once the players completed the adventure after 3 hours or so, I checked with Game Registration to see what game I had gotten into. I had 2 selections that were at about the same time, so I decided to let the con's computerized Sorting Hat make the decision for me.

It was a Fate game set in the Star Wars universe. Even though I've got all the books and several sets of FUDGE dice, this was my first time actually taking it for a test drive. The GM was really awesome and the game was very visually and cinematically oriented. He had pictures of every character and background images for every place we went. He had Star Wars theme music loaded onto his tablet for background music, and even started off the proceedings with a title crawl.

The characters were pregenerated, but we were allowed to choose their gender. The GM had pictures of the character whichever choice we made. I decided to try playing the female version of my chosen character. There was a female player in the group, so I told her that this was my first time cross-playing (as I've heard it called), and I was relying on her to correct me if she found I was doing it wrong. (I don't know if I've told you any of my horror stories of when male players have tried to cross-play in games I've run, but I do have a couple.) She told me that the fact that I was worried about doing it wrong meant that I was very unlikely to do it wrong, which made me feel much better about the proceedings.

We also got to fill in some of our character's backstory. Most of it was already established and we were given a sheet that laid out the major formative moments of our character's lives, but also leading questions about the specifics of how those moments went down and what they meant to us. It was the first time I've had to put that kind of thought into a con game, but I think it did help the experience a bit.

One of the characters was a really exotic looking alien (an Ithorian, for those who know the Star Wars universe) and whenever the player spoke in character, he would speak so that the air blew over the top of his drink bottle. It was a really cool effect, making him sound a bit like he was using Stephen Hawking's voice synthesizer, but with far less technology.

The GM's cinematic focus came through not only by the way he described scenes and scene transitions, but also how we required us to roleplay. Rather than simply letting us say things like "My character is suspicious of that guy" or "I think about it, but decide against it" he would make us describe our character's internal monologue as if we were characters in a movie. "Okay, you're suspicious. What does that look like?" "How can we see the decision process? Tell us how that decision process would play out visually so the audience can understand it."

It was an interesting and exciting challenge. The GM has apparently run the scenario several times, and might do so again, so I'm not going to go into detail on the plot, but I had a lot of fun.

That started at 6 PM and we kept at it until about 2 AM. Everyone was having a blast, but we were all pretty wiped out near the end of it. On top of that, I knew I would be facing a busy morning. The last day of the con, we would have to be packed and out of our hotel room, while making the last sweep of the Dealer's Room, which would only be open for a few hours.

It was rough, but we managed to get out and catch the transit bus and then the BART very smoothly. We did run into trouble at the Greyhound station, however. It seems that with all of our purchases, our checked baggage wound up exceeding the weight limit. We juggled some things and packed them into our carry-ons so that our luggage would be under the limit.

Finally, last night and about 10:30, we arrived home, safe and sound. And after such a full day, it was pretty much straight to bed for me.

And that's why I didn't write this until now. But there you have it, folks.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

DunDraCon 2015 Day 3

There was one thing that I failed to mention about yesterday, which was the seminars. Aside from the Buyer's Bazaar, that's one of the big things to do on a Con Friday. I attempted to attend 2 seminars yesterday, but both of them went somewhat wrong.
The first was a GMing seminar. The problem here is that the speaker was about a half an hour late. It turns out that he was tied up getting his hotel room squared away. Once he arrived, it turned out to be a pretty good seminar. He'll be giving it again later in the con, hopefully for the full time and the ability to expand on some of the topics. I'll try to catch it.
The second was a seminar on gaming with kids. When I walked into a room with only 3-4 people in it, I assumed we had another speaker no-show. I was only half right. The lead speaker had failed to show (having gotten distracted by a game) so he left his 2 co-presenters to do their best. This was compounded by a lack of an audience. What resulted was a bit less focused, but a bit more intimate.

It turns out that the cosplayers from last night wound up doing a karaoke performance. Actually, it was more of a karaoke event run by cosplayers. Skeletor was the MC and He-Man ran the music. A few people, both costumed and not, got on stage and did some karaoke. Optima Prime, the girl dressed as a robot, performed a "traditional song of her people:" Dare to be Stupid by Weird Al Yankovic.
I only stayed for the first set, since it was getting late and I had a game to play in the morning. If I didn't have the time pressure, I probably would have gotten up on stage myself. It's been a long time since I've been able to do karaoke.
The game was, of course, another Mythos Trek adventure by Whitney Preston. I had played in his game last year and had a lot of fun being a total Star Trek nerd for 8-10 hours, so I decided to repeat the experience. While the adventure did have some Mythos elements, the main MacGuffin of the story was actully the puzzle box from the Hellraiser films.
Although he had reserved a 10-hour block to run his game, we wound up finishing a little bit early. Thanks to that, I actually have time to write this.
As much as I was looking forward to having my game sold at this con, it wound up not happening. I was tied up with my game, so my wife checked in on it for me. I don't have the details on wherewires got crossed or why, so I'm not going to make damning speculations. Needless to say, however, I am disappointed.
I will soon be going to run my game as part of the convention's Teen Room, where I had run Castle of the Mad Archmage last year. Here's hoping that goes well.

Friday, February 13, 2015

DunDraCon 2015 Day 2

The first official day of the con.

It was an easy morning. Coffee and pastries from a coffee shop is a pretty nice breakfast. If only we could do it every day. The Best Western was only a few blocks from the transit center, which is where we had gotten off of the BART last night and were now boarding a local transit bus to take us on the last leg of our voyage.

Once we had things properly coordinated with the guy who's room we were sharing, we proceeded to get some shopping done at the local Target. You may have noticed that we didn't take any pictures on our bus trip yesterday. It seems that our last digital camera had gotten fried about a month ago. The USB hub we were charging it from had surged, killing not only our camera, but also 2 MP3 players and our largest flash drive. So we went to the Target to scout out a replacement.

While we were picking up some other things, we did notice something interesting.

I have no real problem with pink tools. My wife's main comment on the color was that she would prefer purple rather than pink. But I am irked with how power tools are marketed to women. Both the pink electric screwdriver and the kit of pink tools are marked with "home" somewhere in their name or branding. As if women need to be reminded that, no matter how handy they may be, the place for their handy skills is in the home. The non-gender-branded tools do not carry such reminders.

So yes, I am calling sexism on this, but not in a "burn the non-believers" kind of way. Just in a "This is the 21st Century and the fact that we can't get past this sort of thing is the reason we haven't been allowed to invent flying cars. /facepalm" kind of way.

Digital camera and a few other needs taken care of, we went back to the con hotel to check out the Buyer's Bazaar. The Dealer's Room is not open today, since the dealer's are taking the time to set up, so the Buyer's Bazaar allows individual sellers to rent a table and sell off their games that they haven't played in ages. I picked up a few Palladium books as well as a couple of GURPS books that I didn't previously have. The list continues to shrink and one day, I will have them all. I'll tell you all about that in my annual "This is what I bought" post.

I will, however, give you a small teaser:

DunDraCon has never had a strong costuming/cosplay component, but that seems to be changing this year. There is some sort of cosplay karaoke event going on pretty much right now. I think once I'm finished with this post. I'll go get some more pictures and give you a fuller report tomorrow. But I do have some pictures to share with you right now.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

DunDraCon 2015 Day 1

No, the convention hasn't started early. This is just me trying to get back into a blogging groove by writing about my annual convention adventure as it happens. This is the second year that I've had a laptop that has been able to travel with me, and free wifi is everywhere these days, so I figured I should probably start embracing modern technology.

The majority of today was spent traveling in one conveyance or another. My wife was up late last night making sure everything was packed and ready. Although she accompanies me every year, she is really the unsung hero of getting ready for the con. She does tend to overworry and overpack, though. It's one of the things I love about her.

After only about 2 hours of sleep on her end, and perhaps a few more on mine, we gathered up our suitcases and carryons and sherpa'ed our way to the bus stop. Which is where my worrying started to kick in. I have traveled by Greyhound several times, but I always worry if the bus will stop where I expect it to. When I was a kid, there was a Greyhound station in town and that's where you went to buy tickets and get on the bus. The station closed a number of years ago and the property is now a used car lot. You can't buy tickets in town (I went to a neighboring city to get the tickets for this trip), but the Greyhound does stop where it used to, in front of the used car lot that used to be the bus station. Even so, I worry every time I wait for the Greyhound bus there, sure that the closure of the station was a sign that the company doesn't want to do business in town anymore and this time, they won't stop for me. They still do, but I still worry. Every time.

The bus did arrive and stop for us. It was an uneventful trip overall. I caught up on some reading, while my wife did some sewing. She made a pair of snowboarding mittens. Not that she's into snowboarding (she responds very negatively to cold), but she liked the style of mittens with a distinct index finger. So she cut some fleece fabric into the proper shapes, packed a simple sewing kit, and took the time during the bus ride to hand stitch the pieces together.

Once we arrived in San Francisco, we took a moment to hit a coffee shop before boarding the BART. We were both running on very little energy and trying to carry my wife's overpacked bags, so the rest and caffeine did us some good.

The interesting thing about us traveling on the Greyhound and the BART is that we simply follow both routes to the end. We got off the bus at the last stop of its route, then got on the BART train and rode that to its final destination as well.

That got us as far as Pleasanton, where we have hunkered down for the night in a Best Western. Tomorrow, we'll hop on a local transit bus to take us the rest of the way.

More news then.
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