Monday, February 25, 2013

Adventures in Oz the Great and Powerful

So Oz the Great and Powerful is coming out in a little under 2 weeks. A new big-screen Oz adventure. Top Hollywood talent both in front of and behind the cameras.

Unlike Disney's previous attempt at an Oz movie (Anyone remember Return to Oz?), this one is trying to emulate MGM's Wizard of Oz. As a fan of the novels, I really liked Return to Oz since it was an adaptation of the next two books in the Oz series. But fans of the classic movie were disappointed that it didn't maintain the same tone as the previous film. Apparently, Disney has learned its lesson by aiming for MGM fans this time around.

Though the tricky thing is that they can't get too close. The movie's copyrights are held by Warner Brothers and they're not too friendly with Disney at the moment. In fact, I'm inclined to think that my copyright fight with Zazzle was part of the backdraft from these media giants sparring.

So Disney has tried to lean on public domain sources for inspiration. But just inspiration, it seems. While I was pleased to note that at least one movie trailer showed the Dark Forest and the China Country. I recognized them instantly from the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as places that Dorothy encountered on her way to Glinda's Palace in the Quadling Country. (Fun fact: The Cowardly Lion went on to rule the Dark Forest as King of Beasts as a result of that adventure.) But when I saw this map of Oz put out to promote the new movie, I found out that they had been moved to the Munchkin Country, which was somehow on the left side of the map.

While I'm disappointed that they didn't go for something more faithful to the original novels, I do understand why they did it. By having their own version of Oz, they have stronger intellectual property protections than if they had used public domain sources or Warner Brothers copyrights. Just like Ruby Slippers are distinct to the MGM movie, China Munchkins are clearly Disney.

Though I'm sure you didn't come here just to read my tedious explanations of copyrights. So here are some Great and Powerful Oz goodies for you.

If you want to see what a humbug Wizard might look like in the AiO rules, I already did that and you can find it here.

And a special magic item in honor of the movie:

Glinda's Travel Bubble

Power: Summon/Travel (3)
Scope: Self/person/object (0)
Ritual: Simple (0)
Item: Single Use (-2)
Effect Power: 1

The subject of this spell is transported via bubble to a destination determined by the caster/creator.

Notes: For some reason, every time I write up one of Glinda's spells, it comes out as a magic item. But then, she is the Good Witch of the South, so between her magical resources and healthy supply of Oz Points, she can throw around a lot of oomph fairly readily.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

DunDraCon 2013

It seems that I am not allowed to have a quiet Thursday when I'm going to DunDraCon. I tried to get the day off from work, but it was not to be. Thankfully, I was able to change an evening shift to a morning shift so my friend Mike didn't have to do too much night driving.

Just one travel photo this time, of a geodesic dome building outside Laytonville. It currently houses the Laytonville Community Christian Church. We see it every year as we drive down, but I think this is the first time we managed to get a photo.

We spent Thursday night at Mike's mom's house (and she was a wonderful hostess) and Mike drove us down to the hotel on Friday morning. Checking in to the hotel and picking up con badges was painless, as usual.

Although we expected that the Dealer's Room would be not be open on Friday (to give the dealers time to get set up), we were pleasantly surprised to find the Buyer's Bazaar open. Some people were set up selling the odd and unused bits of their collections. I picked up an old issue of the Rifter, but not much else grabbed my fancy.

Then on to seminars and games. Looking over the schedule, it seemed like they solved the problem of not having very many seminars by holding some of them twice. The first seminar that my wife attended was a knitting seminar. Although she's always been crafty (and there will be pics of that later), she had never previously picked up knitting. A little crochet here and there, but this was her first time with some big ol' knitting needles.

And since her grant application is what got us to this con, there will be quite a few pictures of her this time around. Though she has requested that I not use her name or link to any of the online spaces that the interacts in. Call it paranoia if you like, but she thinks of it as part of the cost of being online as a woman of color.

Perhaps inspired by the knitting seminar, or just the fact that we forgot to pack our badge holders, she dashed off to the kids room where the leatherworking guy was set up to help people make leather crafts. Without badge holders, she'd be stuck poking holes in her shirts with the pin backs.

Here she is working.

And here's the result.

While there may have been only a few seminars, there were a number of games going on. I couldn't decide what I wanted to go for on the Friday night session, so I put in a request for three games and let the con-game Sorting Hat figure it out. (I actually had four games that I was interested in, but the signup form only had 3 slots.)

I wound up getting into a game using the new Star Wars rules from Fantasy Flight. This was a system I was dubious about for a couple of reasons. First of all, the company released a public beta as if it were an actual product. A free beta, sure. A printed beta that was priced to cover the costs of its release, sure. Treating a beta like a product, not so much. And then there's the fact that it uses funky dice. And when a gamer says you've got funky dice, you've got funky dice. (Some of the dice in the photo were manufactured with those faces, while some of them are regular dice with stickers to replace the normal numbers with symbols.)

The GM was trying to run a fast and loose sort of game, which just left me with the feeling that the dice were giving out too much information. Because not only are there successes and failures on the dice, there are "advantages" and "threats," small things that go right or wrong independent of success or failure. While it's a very cool idea for a system to say "You succeeded, but scored 2 threats. You get most of what you want, but not quite everything", it didn't seem like the GM was incorporating that into her narration.

The players made this game fun, though. One of the pregenerated characters provided by the GM was Jessica Rabbit (Yes, that Jessica Rabbit. The character illustration was someone's fan art of Jessica in custom fit Stormtrooper armor), who wound up being played by a little old lady. Her attempts at being sultry made her sound like Treetrunks from Adventure Time. Though having her give makeup tips to a Hutt was my idea.

I later spoke with a friend who played in the Star Wars Mega Game that was held the next night (16 players, 5 GMs) and he felt the system was kludgey and awkward. He also got to play a Force user and was bothered that he was confronted with the Dark Side for doing fairly minor things like a Force Push. I heard that at least part of the justification for that the current rules were written for untrained Jedi. Hopefully more mature Force rules have made it into the final product (which I believe is out now).

My Saturday morning game wasn't until 10, and the Dealer's Room opened at 9:30, so I had a nice little bit of time to browse before I had to settle in to game. I don't think I bought anything at that time. Which is kind of odd, because I usually take the opportunity to pick up some gaming stones. Green ones to stand for Oz Points. I wound up having enough from all the stones I've bought previously, but you can never have too many gaming stones.

I also used the morning to print out character sheets (I actually use the Characters Pack as pregens), although I seem to have been behind several other people who had much the same idea. The only printer in the hotel that worked was low on ink and the character sheets were faded in a few places. Thankfully, my players were pretty good sports and we got all the important stuff filled in.

A few other pictures I took that day:

My wife letting her natural hair loose and showing her love for the MMO Rift. Although she proudly avoided becoming a "faction snob" while playing World of Warcraft, she is an unabashed Defiant fan in Rift.

The Society for Creative Anachronism combat demos.

Because I realize that there is a portion of my fan base who likes seeing guys with their shirts off.

Sunday featured my run at the Kids Room. Lots of shouting ensued to ensure that I was heard over the din of hammering at the leatherworking table and the other games at other tables. I commented on this to the Kids Room coordinator, but made sure to point out that I had set myself up for it. The first year I ran AiO at DDC (Back in '09) I had been given my own quiet room, but suffered from less than ideal attendance. Since the con staff love feedback, I requested that events on the Kids Room schedule be closer together so I could possibly pick up the runoff from other events for my game. So for the last few years, I've been putting up with the hammering and shouting because I pretty much asked for it.

Then it was time for a little more shopping (and I'll tell you what we bought in a bit) and getting the wife's game fully prepared. Mostly it came down to making the pregenerated characters, which takes time with Pathfinder. Especially once the characters are above level 1. While I was concerned that she only had a skeleton of a plot, she's actually a very improvisational DM and managed to fill most of her timeslot with fun stuff.

Although it didn't happen this year, I must tell you the tale of Princess Melanie. I can't recall what year this was, but we were sitting in on the same seminar. I want to say that she was in her full princess regalia, but that part isn't necessarily clear. She asked some questions of the panelists, and gave them some of her background. When she was a little girl, she dreamed of being a fairy princess. While this is a common dream among little girls, this particular little girl grew up and found a way to make it a reality. (I believe she entertains at children's parties.)

What did happen this year was me managing to reconnect with Princess Melanie (who happened to have a very young Princess-in-training along with her) and telling her how awesome I thought she was for being brave enough to forge her own career path. Even though some people might think fairy princess is not a career, it seems that they're just not being creative enough.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

This Year, DunDraCon Is Brought To You By...

Con or Bust!

My annual trip to DunDraCon is usually funded by my tax return. This year, however, things wound up a little differently. Between my day job and Uncle Sam, my refund was not very impressive this year. It was enough to get us there, but not enough to really do anything once we got there. So my wife, who is multi-ethnic, applied and received for a grant from Con or Bust! That covered our hotel and transportation, allowing me to put my tax refund towards having a good con experience.

When I found out about the Con or Bust! annual fundraising auction, I knew I had to contribute something. So I did. A signed copy of Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. And don't forget to check out all of the other cool items that you can bid on. And if you have something you would like to offer, they are still accepting submissions.

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