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.