August 25th, 2004

Thursday: two out of three ain't bad, and Japanese food _definitely_ ain't bad

Getting up and having breakfast ahead of a game starting at 8am is somehow not so difficult when that 8am start is actually 2pm in your timezone (but I'm certain it'll never catch on at UK GenCon).

We began this year's gaming experience with a game called "Interaction", which was on the lists as AD&D 2nd Edition but turned out to be more of a round-the-table freeform. That sort of thing can work well with the right group, and this group wasn't at all bad; we were invited to decide on characters with a reason for coming to the abandoned Temple Of The Ten Thousand Eyes Of God, and winged it from there on in. rotwang played the librarian of another branch of the Temple, and I played a hedge witch whose aunt had absconded with the family book of lore many years before. We had one younger guy in the group who seemed a little bit thrown by the freewheeling nature of the game -- I think he might have been expecting dice, or stats, or something -- but he managed well enough. rotwang managed to find the books which had been stolen from his library, and I was reunited with my aunt (sort of ;)).

A brief round of the trade hall found us plenty of stuff to come back and look at more thoroughly, and we also ran into anubisgrrl's friend B (the one who performed their wedding), which was both pleasant and unexpected. We then headed off for the Open.

The US Open is run a little differently from the UK Open. The UK Open is an individual event (or was, when I last played or DMed it, now some years ago) where everyone round the table scores the other players. The US Open is a team event which does tend to make for a slower start as they try to marshal those people who don't have pre-existing groups of six into such groups. Our team didn't quite finish the scenario, partly because we started quite late and partly, I have to say, because the GM himself wasn't the fastest; quite good, but he had to look some stuff up from time to time and that tended to make things drag a bit. Not surprisingly, we didn't progress to the next round, though it is my impression that far fewer teams did than was the case in previous years; I think there were four teams progressing and four alternates from our slot, out of a total of perhaps 25 - 30 teams playing (rough guess).

The theory was that we would then get some food and go off to the event we'd booked for which started at 8pm. In practice, rotwang and I stared blearily at one another and came to the conclusion that starting another 4-hour event at 8pm and thus finishing at midnight, or 6am as we would call it in UK time, was not really feasible, so we cashed in our tickets for that. (Aside: I liked the fact that you could explicitly get refunds on tickets you weren't going to use so long as you did so at least 30 minutes before the event; that way, someone else could take your place.) We thought briefly of going to the Party In The Plaza -- which was in fact not in the Plaza for reasons I never quite figured out, but in the hotel across the road -- but looked at the queue to get in and decided not to bother. Instead, we stopped in at the local Japanese restaurant and ate edamame, sushi and sashimi (so, no surprises there then) and then staggered back to the hotel to say hello to oblivion ("Hi, Oblivion, how's the wife and kids?")

Cthulhu and shopping and Bobs, oh my

Friday dawned bright and early, as days are irritatingly prone to do, and once again we were washed, brushed, dressed and fed in time to get out of the hotel for an 8am game. (The Adam's Mark Hilton seems to have solved many of the staffing issues I mentioned last year -- I didn't have to repeat myself much when ordering breakfast (except on Sunday, when the concept that someone might not want any more coffee proved bafflingly hard to convey.))

Cthulhu In Class. Yeeees. ;) This was a Matrix game, a species we first played at US GenCon either last year or the year before, and again it's a cooperative type of game -- you argue for or against a particular outcome and the GM rules on the strength of your argument, which affects the difficulty of the die roll you make to see if your argument has succeeded. There was something nasty in the High School -- as there usually is -- and our motley band took the parts of the school nurse, one of the cheerleaders, the school klutz, the Latin teacher, the decidedly dodgy teacher (I don't know that it was ever specified what he taught), the irate parent, the principal, the janitor, the wannabe gangster, oh, and Nameless Evil (played by rotwang). The group quite quickly split into those on the side of the angels and those rather less so, but it ended up with Great Cthulhu being summoned, choked by someone who had become Ultimately Good, and winding up as the new principal of the High School; he also had a new wing of the school to accommodate those students who had accidentally been turned into zombies during the prom, as often happens.

After the mass insanity, we had a couple of hours to look around and do some shopping in the trade hall. We started at one end and tried to do this systematically, 'cause that hall's way too big to wander round randomly (especially if you're actually looking for specific things to buy). We stopped by the Dead Gentlemen Productions stand to grab what turned out to be the very last of their "Am I still unconscious?" T-shirts (which just happened to be in my size, rah!). On Thursday we'd grabbed a couple of copies of The Gamers and one copy of their new production, Dead Camper Lake, and been rather disturbed that they actually remembered us from the previous year. Possibly they just don't have all that many English folks buying their fine product, or maybe we're weirder than we give ourselves credit for.

After some grabbing of random stuff off everyone else's "Please get this if you see it there?" list, we managed to get up as far as the AEG stall. (This included getting rotwang past the Dwarven Forge stand without buying anything, somewhat to my astonishment.) AEG were showing off their new product, the World's Largest Dungeon. About 1000 pages of hardbound book (a bit over an inch thick) and maps totalling somewhere in the vicinity of 15' x 10'. It was... impressive. It was also not particularly cheap, so we decided to think about it some more.

By now it was time to head out for the D&D 30th Anniversary Celebrity Seminar, which turned out to be good fun despite the celebrities being rather less well-known than I might have hoped. Those present, however, spoke about their favourite roleplaying moments, which products they'd thought had been pivotal, and the like. High spots: the dungeon-crawling Cybermen, Bob Salvatore's wand of wonder, and the complaints from the children of one of the panellists about their parents and friends, who formed the gaming group that the children had not long joined, spending too much time reminiscing about games from twenty years before. (That last sentence should be taken out and shot. Sorry.)

After the seminar, we returned to the trade hall by mutual agreement, marched up to the AEG stand and purchased a copy of the World's Largest Dungeon. I'm sure that won't have been a surprise. ;)

We loved Ruth's Chris Steak House last year so we went back again this year, even taking time to change out of formal gaming attire (T-shirts black and/or with dragons on) into, gasp, non-black clothing. There may even have been jewellery in my case. I am not quite sure what the folks in our next game made of this!

Bob's Who's Who In The Zoo was our final game of the day. Once we'd spotted a pattern to some of the encounters (I won't go into more detail in case of spoilers) there was much racking of brains and list-making, but our happy band of Bobs managed to rescue the Prince. Hurrah!

We spotted a sign saying that there was to be an introductory HackMaster session in the morning, which pleased rotwang no end as he'd tried to book for HackMaster stuff when we were pre-registering and found it all full. This did mean we had to get up early again, which was getting harder, but...