The Chef Chu's feast was one of those, with friends that I haven't seen for a long time, with food that I cannot get in the Boulder County area. The dishes were of Peking duck, sea bass steamed with ginger and scallions, dry cooked string beans, pea sprouts with garlic, and tangerine beef along with the favorites of snow white chicken, pot stickers, and cream cheese crab wontons fried deep and crisp.
But best of all it was with people I haven't seen for a year, and have talked to just about a often, people I used to game with all the time and whom really feed my creative juices: Trip, Earl, Cat, Carl, Chrisber, Christy, and their Teo. It was fun to tell them stories of Jet, who is now taller than I am and driving. *laughs* They'd last seen him when he was tiny, still holdable in arms, stealing glasses, and crawling about playing with tableclothes that hung over the edges of tables.
Wednesday was all for Santa Cruz and getting to visit with Gretchen, whom I really do adore, and whom I get to see just the one time a year. I sometimes get on Slack and can talk with her, but it was so nice to just be face-to-face and get to eat and play with her. Sometimes her husband, Brad is around, but he was away on business this time, so we got to run around with her and help her get to all the places she wanted to be.
The first of which was Zachery's, which is one of the best brunch and breakfast places in the area, with really good gluten-free discipline, and amazing choices. They have a Mike's Mess, that is a huge mess of potatoes with various yummy things in it, which is what Carl traditionally gets. I often get the Junior version, but this time I struck out and decided to get the banana walnut sourdough pancakes, with sides of both pepper bacon and the chocolate swirl coffeecake. They have a different coffeecake each day. And they have the best coffee, fresh, hot, and beautifully roasted and brewed with care, love, and very fast turnover.
It was such a huge breakfast that I didn't eat half my bacon or the coffeecake and had it wrapped up to go. The Inn at Pasatiempo has refrigerators in the rooms, so I knew that I could keep it for another time.
We took everything back to Gretchen's, and I got to see Chance again. Chance is their part-greyhound mix hound, who loves everyone and everything. He was just bouncing off the walls, though, as he hadn't had his morning walk, so Gretchen and I took him for a walk by the sea. They went up along the broadwalk, as it was easier than trying to track him on the dog beach with only the two of us. He's fast enough, it's better to have three, so we decided not to let him free. Instead, they went to the lighthouse, while I went down to the beach and wet my toes in the traditional test to see if I would turn into a mermaid. No mermaid, yet.
We went home through the fields, and saw the first of the monarch butterflies. The painted ladies had been flooding through Longmont, on their migration, but the monarchs had just started getting into here.
That was good to see. We then took Gretchen to the Farmer's Market, and I cheerfully bought the first thing I saw, which was a local drinking chocolate, with four varieties, but I only bought one of the boxes. It was a habanero blend with other herbs and spices, and it was beautifully balanced, so while it was warming and built on chili heat, it wasn't overwhelming. Wandering about with Gretchen I came out of the market with a wedge of sheep's cheese, a quart of sheep's yogurt, a huge, burst pomegranate, two ripe pears, and two impeccable, tiny, dense, dry grown Early Girls.
We then headed to the other side of town, where Gretchen and I tried to find ink, but I only found vintage comicbooks, instead. Then we hit the teahouse, where we were all still so full from breakfast that we only drank tea. But I got a Golden Monkey that brewed so viscous that it poured like honey, and I shared that with Carl. Gretchen got a nice sweet green, and enjoyed the clarity of the liquor.
The walk to Mobo Sushi wasn't terribly long, but it whet enough of an appetite that I got myself a Sunset (tobiko topped with quail egg and wrapped in raw tuna, beautiful reds around orange and yellow) and a calamari roll. It was very tasty, and Carl got four rolls while Gretchen got two. We had hot tea and talked and ate. It's good to have friends where it's just nice to be in their company.
We dropped Gretchen off at home, and I gave her some honey. She bought a print of one of my paintings, quite happily. Given that Target can deliver anywhere, it made it easy for me to have them mail it to her when it's done. I might clean up the photograph a bit more to make sure it prints the way I really want it to print; but she wanted an 11x14 print of the magpie painting so that she could frame it. It was amazing to realize that I could do that, too.
Carl and I slept at the Inn, and the next morning we drove to Pleasanton, where Carl did quite a few errands, and we ended up at the English Rose. They do a high tea, and when Eric heard that there was a place that did high tea, he asked to join us. I very happily agreed, and we had a splendid time amid frills, shelves of teapots, and tables filled with ladies all celebrating some girl-time together. They started with a sample tea: Snickerdoodle, and it came with a simple butter cookie. It was quite good.
The first course was a New England clam chowder with pretzel sticks that were chewy and sweet. Then came the tower of plates, with sandwiches, tiny savory pastries, and topped with a trio of tiny desserts which were a pecan bar, a tiny pumpkin cheesecake, and a petit four that was indeed tiny. The sandwiches, of course, included cucumber with dill cream, but there were also egg salad with capers, roasted tomato with tuna, and a chicken salad as well. The scones came with clotted cream, strawberry jam, and homemade lemon curd, which were all very good and so beautifully traditional.
They came with up to four teas, and we took full advantage with a white Darjelling, a tippy Assam, The Sugar Plum Fairy, and a Kentucky Blend (that we all agreed really should have been "whiskey" not a Yunnan and more obscure Chinese tea blend). We drank all the pots of tea. *laughs* And rolled out of there on our way to the hotel that BigBadCon was going to be held out, the Merriot in Walnut Creek.
We picked up Simon, a friend of Carl's from the Pacific Northwest, when we got there, and then went to Sweet Maria's, so that I could pick up my green coffee order of about 20 pounds of various varieties. We then went to End Game, where I bought one game, and asked after another that was already packed up for BigBadCon, so I said that I'd find it there. We sat and talked for a while in the back corner of the store, and picked up a few more people before we headed around the block (and, in reality, in the same building), to Miss Ollie's a Caribbean restaurant with excellent fried chicken.
The problem was that Eric and I were so full, we split a couple orders of empanadas instead of the fried chicken... and I half-regret that decision a I was able to get a single bite of a wing section and it was so deliciously seasoned, with a very light crust, that I think we should have just split one of those, instead. They had the seasonings under the skin, and it was so tender and beautifully seasoned, I was pretty sure it had been brined.
The LA crew rolled in on time, and ordered as they sat down. The food was very good. Vinegary coleslaws nearly pickle-like in intensity, potato salad that was nearly dry, coconut rice and beans were steaming hot and sweetly creamy, and fried plantains that were crisp on the outside and sweet and nearly fluffy on the inside. I had a spicy sparkling ginger drink that was nearly hot with ginger, and Colin let me taste his sweet cardamon tea that was so good I want to make my own.
It was so good I haven't really felt hungry since.
*laughs* I've mostly been eating some almond butter granola and the sheep's milk yogurt for breakfasts, various breads and cheeses and crackers for lunch, and Carl and I bought various TJ's snacks and a snack basket from the Con staff themselves for the games. I have tea, sparkling water, and the room brewer's coffee for drinks, and it's been good. Though dinners have been luring me out, too, though Carl has helped with that, along with the fact that the Merriot's restaurant's staff has been so overwhelmed with the time limits on meals that they've given up on anything other than a buffet for breakfasts and dinners.
On Friday night, I sat at a table with Carl and some of his friends for fifteen minutes and never got a drink or someone to take my order, so I walked away from the hotel and found a Kinder's BBQ and Deli. I had to study the menu for a while before getting their marinated beef with some macaroni and cheese and coleslaw. It was so good when I got it back to the room, but given that I hadn't really eaten all that much, I was hungry.
Saturday night, Trip, Carl, and I just made a break for it right at 6pm, as we had all just gotten out of our games, and we went to Le Cheval, a Vietnamese restaurant with an amazing menu. Carl highly recommends the clay pot rice, with nice, crispy bits of rice cooked with meat and various vegetables on top. A single order is way too much for me, so Trip helped me eat mine, and I had a bite or two of his tofu with vegetables and it was plenty, especially with the Vietnamese coffee to keep me awake while I sat in the teens room from 8 until midnight.
I had two teen room sessions, and when one of the adults who ran a game for the teen came over, after and said, “Thank you so much for sitting vigil.” I think that I shall now call it The Teen Room Vigils. They were necessary things, and the BigBad Con organizers pretty much made sure that at least one adult, if not two, were always there to either keep order or be the responsible adult in case of emergency. I think I got a free membership for doing it? And I told the organizers to give it to someone that needed it… next year; I might give the extra membership to Blaze… We’ll see.
I’d signed up for four games on a semi-random basis as I missed the initial game sign up due to taking care of a ton of stuff for the Longmont Studio tour the weekend before the Tour. One of them didn’t turn out well, but it was as much because my tastes didn’t run into Satanic kill-everyone-we-meet kinds of games. It might have been good for someone whose tastes ran that way? And it was a choice by the players to pretty much be the bad guys. I just didn’t like it.
I had fun in an Atlas game with four other people and a lady leader who knew how the rules were supposed to work. She mostly taught and mediated to get us to follow the really simple rules and token juggling and the five of us made a beautiful map with stories about every corner and aspect of the map. It was an intriguing mix of fantasy, steam-punk, and a sort of spiritual haunting. I loved it, and loved having a world made from multiple brains where everyone contributed what struck them and caught at them about the made-up geography.
I had a blast in the two other games I was in, one which I had been expecting and the other which I had been hoping, but really lucked into a good new group of GMs and players. The surprise game was with Andy Munich, who had only started coming to BigBad Con the previous year, and from my impressions, the other three players in the game knew about Andy and were really looking forward to gaming with him. And I found out why.
He was running Legend of the Elements by Max Hervieux, who couldn’t use the copyrighted material for the game, but it’s basically Avatar. And he and the other players knew the source material solidly enough to do an amazing job of recreating the best aspects of the series. It flipped easily and naturally between intense action scenes, comic character interactions, and deeper personality interactions really rapidly. Talking more with Carl, it seems that it really was Andy’s fault more than the game creator’s as the GM’s play books and moves as written weren’t nearly as fluid or adaptable as how Andy played it.
I decided to not play a Bender, instead going with the Scholar playbook and playing Auntie Mai, the quintessential old Auntie. Most of the players at the table were actually Asian in background, so it was really funny to have everyone play off the fact that I played her as I would any of my Aunties. That made me laugh so hard. I would knit people socks, get people hot soup, find things for people, do small deals for all kinds of things, build people things, and use my knitting needles to pick locks. That was so funny. What was funnier was that as we went along, we all created this really intriguing set of possibilities for a backstory for Auntie Mai. She’d been in the Iron Turtle prison for ten years, and it was a specialty prison for hardcore Benders and political prisoners of the government. So why was she, a non-Bender, there for that long?
Two young Benders were going into the Iron Turtle to get her and a gifted archer named Cedar Tree out of prison, and the whole thing was the prison break so that they could do another job (which was the second of the two games that Andy ran). But they had to have Auntie and Cedar Tree out. So their introductory scenes were all about getting onto the prison.
Cedar’s introduction had to do with someone who had ratted him out and gotten him into prison, so that was his goal was to find the person that got him in and do something about that. He also wanted his bow back, and I said that I would do my best to find that for him.
Then my introductory scene had two enormous brothers hulking up to me and going, “You.” The guy I was helping cringed, but I finished what I was doing, and then turned to look up at the brother and I smiled at him and said, “What may I do for you?”
Andy visibly changed tack from it being a fighting confrontation for me to something that was far more clever. It was so cool to see him do that, and he went with the big brothers looking for a book to read at night before they went to bed. And I fished through my bag and found a poetry book for them, which they happily wandered off to find, and as they left, I said to Cedar Tree, without looking at him, “Thank you for watching my back.”
That was so satisfying. *laughs*
And it was even more satisfying just to get his bow out of the guard room so that he could have it for his stuff. And the huge fail of his first arrow gave him experience points that he was able to use for other things later on, and I truly love that about the Apocalypse World gaming systems. Failures are the way to true power. That is the best.
I’m not sure I could spoil the game, as it was all about Andy adapting to what we did, what we were trying to do, and what our rolls turned out to be. And I’m learning, especially after last year, that a lot of the gaming experience I have can’t really be caught in the linear exercise of writing out ‘what happened’ in the game. I loved playing with these guys, and I’ll look for Andy again next year.
Andy and I talked one of the following evenings in the lounge and he said that he recognized me from somewhere, but wasn’t sure where. I thought I’d recognized him as well. But we couldn’t figure out where or when, and my list of my games last year didn’t include him. The striking thing for me was that Andy characterized me as an amazing support player who took satisfaction from getting something another character needed, rather than having to be the center of the play.
That was so true it took me aback for a while, thinking. I am that way not just in rpgs, but also in all of the FPS’s I’m playing. I have more fun supporting my teammates than I do in getting the kills. This is an example of that while I’m playing Rainbow 6, and how it can surprise me when I actually do get kills. It’s pretty funny at the end.
The last and best was Kevan’s Masks game. Kevan has always run fantastic games, the highlight of which was the extra game he ran just for me when the sign-up software for BigBad Con had promised me a game and then dumped me out of it. Sean Nittner had been nice enough to ask Kevan if he’d be all right to run one extra game at the end of the Sunday events. Kevan was staying the night, so he was willing to run one more, and we had a stellar crew to play, including the fun Eric Lytle. Kevan ran an amazing Shinobi-only game and three of us were the students to Eric’s old Master, who had a little of the abilities his three students had, and it was a blast.
Kevan still remembers that game, and enjoys it when I can get into his games. So it was really nice that I could get into his Masks game. And it was really fun, the other three players were really into the genre and one lady was also a fantasy/SF author who had some really creative ways of going at things. She played a Nova, a super who has awesome powers, but can’t really control them, and feels bad when it goes wrong, as it inevitably does. She was Primeval, a woman who could use jungle plants in all kind of amazing ways to just change reality into the shape she wanted it in. I was a Legacy, a superhero trying to uphold a long tradition in the type of super-heroing that she and her family does. I called her Whirlwind, with a mom named Tornado and a grandmother called Dust Devil both of whom were well-established in the superhero community. One guy played a Transformed, called Black Knight, who had hosted an alien symbiote who made him look like a black armored knight all the time. And then we had Smart Alex, who was a Delinquent, who was super smart and could hack just about anything.
And it started with all the adults in the city being frozen, magically, and there were only the kids left to deal with things. It was a blast, and would probably have entirely played out differently with a different set of people and characters, and the funny thing was that while I was the least powerful of the whole team, everyone still thought of me as the team leader. And it turned out that I finished off the objectives of both of the missions that we were given.
The introduction was just what happens when all the adults get frozen and we have to save various busload of kids around the school that we’re waiting to get into. That was a fun way to explore the various powers and aspects of our newly built characters.
The first job we were given was to stop a riot at the police station, and we found a gang there with high powered, super technical weapons, and because one of us got a great roll on something, one of them turned out to be a restraint system for supers. Everyone else took out all the gang members, and got in the initial blows against the super powered ice woman who was organizing the kids; but I got the last shot with the restraint system on her and bound her up enough so that we could just talk with her for a while. She wasn’t able to give us much useful information on what was happening, but we were able to see the tornado of magical power that danced from the fusion power plant in our city to the sky….
Of course there was a whole team of bad guys at the plant for us, and some of them were insanely powerful, including one guy who was trying to get all the power he needed to become a god. That was scary, but not nearly as scary as Smart Alex’s solution of turning the fusion plant into a fission plant, running the wrong way. But what he also managed to do was to contain the blast so that it only involved the plant, and the bad guys were going to take out the whole city. But the whole thing was being prevented by a magical warding circle that was protecting the one who wanted to become a god.
Being a speedster, I was able to throw myself in the way of an ice blast that was aimed at a concentrating Smart Alex, but that got me iced to the wall. Primeval starts growing through a lot of the concrete in the plant, cracking and pulling down everything around the bad guy, Fenrir, and his Ice Giants; but also making it really hard for us to get across the floor. Black Knight was trading blows with the Ice Giants and taking them down. Fenrir was scary, but not as scary as Primeval. But the breaking up of the floor also broke the protective circle, and since I had phasing abilities, I just stepped out of the ice that had trapped me and ran circles, literally, around Fenrir, sucking the air from his lungs.
When he passed out, the tornado of light that went from the ground into the sky went from blue to red. Primeval asks Smart Alex if they can ride this out, and he just says, “Run.”
He actually locks down the system by destroying his genius phone (his personally upgraded ‘smart’ phone), and then we all run. And it all goes boom.
It was fun. And the description actually misses all the best of the roleplaying, as it was in the in between periods, when we, as a team, were trying to undo the damage of the previous adventure sessions. All the damage in Masks has to do with confidence, attitude, and how well the kids can face the next step, and all the power ups increase character confidence and ability to do what they want to do and their trust in each other: basically, how well they can work as a team. Failures are the way to create experience, rather than successes, and experience eventually leads the way to being a grown up who has more influence on each other.
It’s not about the powers. The super powers are, indeed, awesome. The Nova, in particular, has the power to simply change reality to be what they want it to be; but the price is the guilt they have in their abilities and the collateral damage they always do. It’s interesting because then the point of the whole game is more about the interactions and how they do as people rather than a comparison of powers: which is what the best comics are about, anyway… so it works so well as a game.
It was a lovely game, too, and I’ll be looking for those players to play with again, along with getting a game with Kevan next year, especially if, as with this year, I can’t get into one of Carl’s games because he’s so popular.