After Hours

Returning to "normalcy"

For those wondering, yes, I did in fact survive my stint at the local science fiction convention.

It was fun, but horrifically exhausting. I lived on little sleep and

lots of caffeine--this con offers a hospitality suite with free snacks

and soft drinks, so I subsisted for long periods on Diet Pepsi,

tortilla chips and M&Ms interspersed with fast food twice a day. If

you're wondering how geeks achieve that legendary combination of

tattered clothes, doughy physique and an acrid cheetos-esque aroma, my

weekend nutritional regimen should offer an illuminating clue.

And before you ask, no, I didn't "dress up" for the con. I don't do the masquerade (scary as it may seem, these are the most flattering pictures, by a long shot). I don't LARP

(I'm not a frustrated theater major, nor am I low-rent goth wannabe).

Heck, I only spent about 15 minutes in the dealer's room or the art

show (I'm cheap, and I never know where to hang that 3'x4' oil

painting of Spock and Data playing tri-level chess). In convention

terms, I'm pretty much a muggle.

When I wasn't volunteering my time at the registration desk, I was in

the game room, which is the main reason I go to this Con. It's a chance

to try out new games and game systems, specifically the latest

pen-and-paper roleplaying games. RPG sessions take hours, and I try to

squeeze in as many as I can. Friday night I played from 7:30 pm to 3:30

am (and still had to bail out of game early--it ran until 8:00 am). On

Saturday I played from 2:00 pm until 4:00 am with a short meal break in

between. In all that time, I only got in four RPG sessions. These

things take a while.

To be fair, I also participated in an Anachronism

tournament, which took a good chunk of my time. It's a wonderful game

for history and military buffs, and it doesn't suffer from most of the

financial or technical woes of conventional CCGs. Without saying too

much, the highlight of the tournament for me was having Robin Hood kill

King Arthur. The best moment I watched was a three-way battle for

second place between Robin Hood, Attilla the Hun, and Leonidas of

Sparta (whom the aforementioned history freaks will remember from the

Battle of Thermopylae, and the normal readers will write off as further

evidence of my unhealthy preoccupation with the History Channel).

I also got to try out some variations on the insanely amusing card game Munchkin, by the infamous game designer Steve Jackson and cartoonist John Kovalic, of Dork Tower

fame. To date, I had played classic Munchkin (mocking fantasy RPGs and

movies), Star Munchkin (mocking sci-fi RPGs and movies) and Munchkin Fu

(mocking martial arts RPGs and movies). At Con I got to play a

"blendered" game of Munchkin Bites (mocking horror RPGs and movies) and

Super Munchkin (mocking superhero RPGs and movies). I never get tired

of self-referential humor as a game mechanic, but that probably says

more about me than the game itself. Still, you have to respect any

rules sheet that encourages cheating and actually defines the

"reasonable amount of time" you can allow a player to make a move or

protest a rule: 2.3 seconds, precisely.

As to the actual RPGs, I got to play a Wheel of Time game based on the Robert Jordan fantasy series (run by the most well-prepared GM I've ever met, Anastasia Webster), a Rifts game (run by my favorite con roleplayer, Chris Brimmer) a Stargate SG-1 game (run by one of the sourcebook writers, Andy Davis), and a Star Wars

game cobbled together at the last second. I probably enjoyed the

Stargate session best, simply because I had been dying to try out the

system. It's basically the same D20 mechanic that underpins every major

tabletop RPG these days, but with some nice tweaks specifically

designed to give gameplay a cinematic/tactical feel, especially where

critical successes and failures are concerned, even though we didn't

use the complex fluid initiative system that Stargate is infamous for.

(Yes, I just totally geeked out in that last sentence.) I could write a

whole blog series on my thoughts about the D20 system and RPG game

design, but I torture my readership enough already.

So, in summary, I geeked out for almost 48 hours straight, and if it

wasn't for physical exhaustion and marital obligations, I would have

pressed on further down the dangerous spiral of dorkdom. It's what I

do, it's what I am, it's why no one reads this blog. Tomorrow, back to

complaining about Tech Q&A, I promise.


Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

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