April 13, 2018

GamerNationCon 5 - The Aftermath

So yeah, GamerNationCon 5 has come and went, and it certainly was a thing.

Lest that first sentence be misleading, I had a lot of fun at GNC5.  I wasn't able to get into a game run by GM Chris or GM Phil, but that's not too surprising given how quickly those tend to fill up.  I did get a few pick-up games in, as well as getting to see a number of friends that I'd not seen or talked to in quite a while, such as Kevin "Rikoshi" Frane and the ever-lovely Adie from across the pond, as well as getting to spend some time chatting with Christopher West and Star Wars RPG authorial legend Sterling Hershey (about 80's cartoons and differences in animated TV series that were brought over from Japan between the original version and the American version of all things).  I also got to catch up with folks I'd not really seen or talked to since last year's GamerNationCon, and enjoy a few meals out.  Got to try Mediterranean food, but it doesn't seem it agreed with my stomach, which is a shame as it was tasty.

I don't have a bunch of pictures, as frankly I've never been really much of a photo-taker, either in terms of pictures I take generally not turning out so well or just a lack of interest in doing so.  Adie did get a pretty good pick of me in my Hogwarts student cosplay, though sans the school robe.  Lin got a group shot of me in costume, Eric in his Black Mage costume, and Andrew Maiaweski (Phil's brother) in his Hogwarts outfit.  Also in costume was one guy in a very good Hagrid costume and one gent done as Uncle Vernon after tussling with owls to snatch Harry's Hogwarts letter.  I wasn't the only person to don their Hogwarts robes, with other folks wearing theirs on different days of the con.

Amusingly and on a bit of a lark, I'd decided to pack the Plagg plush that I'd picked up on a bit of a whim last year.  Plagg is a character from the CGI animated series Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir, which is a series that while aimed at younger audiences is surprisingly good both in terms of plot and quality.  For the first couple days of the con, I'd had Plagg's oversized head sticking out of my messenger bag, but for Saturday and Sunday I got the notion to tuck him into my badge holder, again with his giant noggin peering out over it.  That got some grins and laughs from folks, and since Plagg is a magical creature (in the show, he's a kwami and provides one of the heroes with his powers) it fit well with the con's theme of "magic" and with my Hogwarts get-up.

Gaming-wise, the sessions I ran were mostly hits, but a couple of misses.  I had one player that was in two of my sessions and frankly if he never shows up to another of my games, I'll count myself fortunate.  I hate players that don't want to get involved or constantly question my GM calls when running a game, and this guy did both, the former during my Dragon Age game (which ran way shorter than I figured) and the latter during my Star Wars game.  If he reads this and gets offended, I really don't care, and again will be glad if he doesn't play in another game I run.  But with the exception of that one person (who thankfully was not in my 7th Sea game), most of it went well.  Again, Dragon Age ran way short, but I think a large part of that was my simplifying the first initial combats, which upon re-reading was probably mean to chew up more time; when I first ran the module it ended up going over due to combat drag, so I probably chopped it down more than I needed to.

My Star Wars module went pretty well, though I ended up ab-libbing much of the specifics, which is something I'm wont to do when running a pre-written module, even if I'm the one that wrote it.  Part of that is not being certain of what the players will do, but part of that is not wanting to break the flow of a scene to look up what exactly had been written.  Luckily I'm pretty good at improve GMing and making stuff up as I go, so it worked out.  The final combat got interesting, as one of the players who had taken one of the two beatsticks in the party simply couldn't succeed on a combat check no matter what he did.  Still it was fun, and apart from the wet towel player I mentioned above, the players all had fun.  I guess said wet towel player has had some bad GMing experiences from what a mutual friend told me, and so had learned to constantly question anytime a GM did something that was outside the rules-as-written.  I guess I've gotten so used to gaming with folks that know ahead of time that I'll throw rules aside in the favor of "rule of cool" or having fun that I forget not all players at my table are aware of that; I should probably adopt a variation of GM Chris' boilerplate speech in the future.

The 7th Sea game more than made up for any drags up to that point.  I was running my "Under a Harvest Moon" adventure, which was itself an adaptation of Steve Kenson's "Apple of Her Eye" for the Shadow of the Demon Lord RPG.  This is a horror-themed adventure with some pretty unsettling elements, but this group of players were punch-drunk enough that the session turned into a near-constant laugh-fest with some really absurd lines being tossed out.  Again, the players had a blast, and more than once we had to pause so everyone could catch their collective breath after a particular good zinger got tossed out.  This was also the first time that the Heroes directly confronted the Villain rather than outwitting them, and in retrospect I think the Villain needs to be punched up a bit in the offense department as they simply could not deal enough Wounds to the Heroes to be a credible threat.  I had considered using the 7th Sea: Khitai quick start rules for Brute Squads for this adventure, but I forgot about them and simply used the default rules as that's what I was more used to, and the last thing I wanted to do was go book-diving in the midst of a combat scene; it's one thing to do it for a home campaign, but just feels tacky to do it when you're the one GMing a con module.

The last game I ran was on Sunday and was a pick-up making use of GM Chris' Harry Potter theme for the Genesys RPG.  I had a quintet of pre-gens that I'd managed to get printed out, and with a big thanks to Will for rounding up players I was able to run this.  I'd intended for this pick-up to run no more than a couple hours, and at roughly 2.5 hours it fell within that metric.  There wasn't a whole lot of pre-planning on my part; just enough for the basic set-up and after that I simply riffed off what the players did, giving occasional nudges here and there so that they didn't all just sit around.  Big props to the guy that played the Gryffindor Opportunist, as he did a lot to keep things moving, and props all around to the table as they had fun with the characters, with most of them getting fully into the spirit of things.  One moment of unexpected hilarity was one of the two Hufflepuffs deciding to sock the Gryffindor in the face after coming to an erroneous conclusion that Gryffindor was a culprit in making a 2nd Year Hufflepuff have a really rotten day, with the other Hufflepuff reacting in shock (all while saying "we said we'd TALK to him!") and the Slytherin was annoyed at this time-wasting foolishness.  I'll certainly be keeping this on hand as a quick pick-up game for future cons and game days.

As for games I played, I got into a D&D pick-up (was supposed to be a Star Wars pick-up, but the GM sadly had a bad case of nerves and had to back out) that used some of the most oddball pre-gens I had ever seen.  It deliberately had a Coen Brothers movie vibe, with out hapless bunch of adventurers inadvertently becoming notable assassins in the space of a morning.  The two stars of that game were Kevin and his friend Paulie, playing a duo of a moronic half-giant fighter and a really smart kobold druid respectively.

Another game I played in was a Star Wars module set around the Battle of Jakku, with our party being a Rebel ops team that was one of a dozen such teams sent to capture a Star Destroyer.  We failed the mission (which seems to be the norm) but were able to survive (2nd group to do so in all the times the GM had run the module).  I wound up playing a Gand beat-stick, who had some Force abilities that I never wound up using as there was never really a need for them.

I did get to play in my friend Eric's magic-themed Geneys game.  I won't spoil anything, but it was a neat set-up with an interesting twist.  I had a lot of fun, and ultimately wound up becoming the party leader of the group.

So overall, it was fun experience.  Luckily my flights down to Texas and back were largely incident free (a half hour delay on the return trip on both the initial and connecting flight).  Also, I've now left behind DSL-based internet and now have high-speed, a choice that was spurned by my copper-wire landline being shut down by the apartment complex (they claim notifications were sent out, but I never received one and it seems neither did a few other folks).  Definitely a whole lot faster than what I'm used to, which is nice.

In other news, I did go see Ready Player One on the opening Friday, and I very much enjoyed it.  The movie is notably different from the book, but I think they had to make many of the changes they did as the Challenges/Gates as presented in the book simply don't work for a purely visual medium.  I liked the changes to the cast in general, which again was something that needed to be done for the sake of a two-hour film as opposed to several-hours long novel.

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