Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

BigBadCon Week -- Part I

So John and I now have a tradition, where I take a week off for the Big Bad gaming convention and then he takes a week off to go to Seattle and be with his mom for a week. Poor Jet has to do the school thing, but since there was talk at BigBadCon of allowing 13+ to play and run in a kiddie pool, he's said that he'd like to come for the weekend and not skip any school to do it, but still come and play. That would be fantastic.

As it is, though, we each get our week to do what it is that we really want to do, and it turns out very well for both of us. Jet seems to get into the spirit of the whole thing, too, and is extra helpful for both of us while the other is gone.

Carl and I have a plan that we've refined over the years, that includes pretty much every stop and every place we go, and often all the people that we meet up with and he does the inviting, of which I'm very grateful.

Especially when I was running like crazy before I left for Oakland. We had snacks to do at the church, Jet had his usual scheduling madness, I met with people to figure out the cabinet agenda for October, meeting with people who were trying to anticipate all the changes we were making to the structure of our church, and also met with people that are thinking of taking over the moderator's job. There was ordering coffee from Sweet Maria's so that I could pick it up during my trip, getting in my chiropractic visit and my massage so that I wasn't too crazy beforehand. Of course, the previous weekend, both Jet and Donna had a cold, and I was coming down with it and fighting it as fiercely as I could.

And, last, but not least, I had to make both the roast pork and the daikon/carrot pickle for Jet's banh mi sandwiches, which he brings to school nearly every day when he doesn't have something else he wants to bring. The roast pork was a work of art, too, as I used a char sui marinate recipe, kept a bit of it aside, and soaked the shoulder roast in it over night (cut into strips about two inches thick and wide and as long as the roast), I roasted it in a 275 degree oven for four hours, and finally I used the last of the marinate to grill it and char the surfaces just a little so it was caramelized, glazed, and the surface fats were crispy. It was good. And sliced into slices, Jet could make a relatively thin layer of it, and one four pound roast makes for three deli meat boxes in the freezer, and one for the refrigerator for Jet's lunches, my ramen, and amazing fried rice.

After doing all that, I made myself a sandwich for my flight from Denver to Oakland, since I wasn't landing until 2, it seemed a good snack for the time between getting up at 6:40 to see Jet off at 7 and the end of my flight. John drove me to the airport, and we got to talk a little, which was nice, and the flight and security was all pretty unremarkable.

Carl picked me up at the Oakland airport, and we went to the cheesesteak shop next to his mail boxes. It's always tasty, but I had a small sandwich and a drink because I just love them. *laughs* From there, we went and checked me into the hotel, and I dropped off all my stuff. We headed out toward Chef Chu's in Los Altos. We hit the Butter, Flour, and Sugar bakery first, for some coffee and a bakery item. I bought a hazelnut mousse thing for my hotel after dinner, as I didn't want to spoil dinner, of course. And, as usual, we hid out at the smokehouse next door and Carl got drinks there while I called John to tell him that I'd made it just fine and to talk with the boys for a bit in the parking lot. I also called a few people that I needed to call for church stuff, too, while I was at it.

At Chef Chu's, we met up with Earl, Cat, Marith, Brad, Gretchn, Chrisber, Teo, Jeremy and Rachel! Sadly, Trip couldn't make it due to transportation problems, but it was so good to see people. It was funny because Rachel and I are both pretty active on Facebook and we were like, "I'm totally caught with you, what are all these people doing?" That was really fun. We ordered 2 Peking ducks, two orders of crab and cheese puffs, two orders of potstickers, one pork bun just for Teo, a small preserved mustard greens and pork soup (as there were only a few people that wanted some), snow white chicken, dry cooked szechuan green beens, tangerine beef, kung pao lamb, and steamed sea bass with ginger and green onions (which was as exquisite as always, tender, tasty, and no eyes to put other people off of it).

We talked about books, games, and old campaigns as we worked our way through the courses, and it's always the best way to remember that I'm back here. And some people got hooked up with opportunities that would otherwise not have happened, and that made me very content.

The other good thing about a familiar hotel is that I seem to sleep fabulously in it. *laughs* The next day, I was up and had breakfast at the hotel's breakfast buffet, they had these lovely half croissant sandwiches that had egg, cheese, and a bit of bacon. Tasty, and I could have just the half, which was perfect before we headed out to Nikaku Animeart in San Jose on the way to Santa Cruz. I needed origami papers of various particular sorts, and they had nearly all of them, so I bought forty dollars worth of papers while Carl waited in the car, and then we headed west.

We met Brad and Gretchen at Zachery's for breakfast. Brad's work had laid him off, at his request, so he got a pretty good package, and the satisfaction of knowing that he'd saved a couple of his co-worker's jobs. So he was looking for work, but with a good safety net so that he could find the work he really wants to do instead of just what's available. He's also taking some courses and catching up on years of things he wanted to do but work had gotten in the way. *laughs* So he's a very content man, and it was good to see him so. Gretchen looked pretty happy about it all, too. They'd also moved out of their old Victorian into an apartment right next to the ocean. It's one of the few complexes that allows dogs, and Chance is very happily with them.

Not a Mermaid, Yet
I got to do my traditional dipping in of my toes out on the beach. The water is, as always, good and cold, and I didn't turn into a mermaid. *laughs*

The weather was misty and the wind was up so the surf was up, and Gretchen had the energy for a walk to the lighthouse where we leaned against the rails and watched the surfers all lined up like ducks on a pond. They were catching the waves, often going very close to the cliffs. Brad caught up with us there, and we talked and walked back through a Monarch preserve. There were butterflies hanging from the trees, and the orange color of their wings looked so much like the fall colors of the trees that they blended in perfectly. They looked like nothing more than dead leaves when they hung on the branches. It was really cool to see the natural camouflage working.

We collected Carl, and he went to get comics while the three of us sat at the tea shop and drank tea. The name of the place changes every year, but it's in the same location and the same guy seems to own it and run it and make enough from his very eclectic collection to keep going. Once we finished with tea, we headed to Mobo Sushi.

Mobo Sushi
We always come here, and it's always good. *laughs* We each have things that we nearly always order, and always enjoy. I always get the Sunrise, it's a tradition, with tobiko eggs under a quail egg, wrapped in tuna. It's beautiful, tasty, and it has all the textures and flavors I want. The other thing I got this year that I'll probably want again, is the Landshark roll. It has macadamia nuts, unagi, grilled hamachi, shitake mushroom, shizo, and a lot of other things and a lovely sauce bathing it all. It was amazing.

I always enjoy the time I get to spend in Santa Cruz with these people, and this year it was no different in that. But it was also so good to see them content and happier and with more energy than they've had in a while.

Carl got us back to the hotel, and he said that it really was nicer to do the long drive with company, so that was really good. We reiterated the agenda for the next morning, including the fact that I had to pack everything up as we were moving to the Oakland Hilton for the Convention on the next day, and we called it a night.

Sweet Maria's
Thursday was all about getting ready for the convention. We packed everything into Carl's car and hit a Trader Joe's to buy the little food we needed and a lot of the snacks we wanted. From there we headed into Oakland, stopping at Sweet Maria's, which sells green coffee beans online. They have an option that allows people to pick their beans up and it costs nothing so far as shipping. I'd asked mine to be packed into an open box, and they did so happily.

The iron gate was really beautiful and necessary as it was in a rougher part of town, and once inside, I just found my box, and took it with one guy giving me the once over of a look and saying, "Oh, you're the one that wanted a box?"

I nodded. "Yes. Thank you."

"You're welcome," he said and waved me out. It was pretty cool, and I'm glad that they can do business that way.

Endgame and the Cock-a-Doodle Cafe were not far away, and Carl parked nearer to Endgame so that if we bought games we wouldn't have as far to carry them. That was cool, and we walked the few blocks it took to get to the Cafe. We'd eaten there two years ago, when I'd turned my whole vacation around and ended up staying to visit with people after the Con instead of doing it all before. Carl likes having his breakfast there after the Con, and was happy to be flexible enough to do this before, instead of the Homeroom mac and cheese place. Homeroom was good, but the menu's kind of limited, whereas the Cock-a-Doodle Cafe changes its menu around frequently with the seasons.

Graham Cracker Crusted French Toast
I like that, and when we sat down, I was happy to find a Thai Fried Chicken and Graham Cracker Crusted French Toast. I had to get that, and it was every bit as good as I thought it might be. The Thai Fried chicken was crisp of skin and tender of flesh, and beautifully seasoned with the tang I usually associate with the Thai fried chicken wings (like the one I got in a taco in New York). The French toast was fabulous, with that sweetly distinct crunch of graham cracker crumbs studded all along the surface, and the insides were fluffy and tender.

I was very happy.

After lunch we headed into Endgame, and I bought a Hobbit Tarot deck, simply to have it. I also bought a small box of dice that had one of each type, and I thought I needed the expansion deck for Zeppelins Attack! but then realized that I'd already bought it and had been playing with it when I looked at the back. Oops. They were kind enough to take them back.

We sat for a while in the back and just talked with people that wanted to talk, and at 3, we got into the car and went the airport. The traffic was a little slow going there, but that was all part of the plan.

We got there in plenty of time to check in, and they had to remake our rooms so that they didn't have feather pillows or comforters as we're both allergic. And it was nice to unpack everything so that I could just flop at home whenever we managed to get back that night.

We headed back into Oakland when we were all set, and found a parking spot very close to Pican. From there, we walked to a little coffee shop up the street and had some tea and very little to eat and I bought a little breakfast roll for the morning. That was fun, and I folded all the bits of a little box while we were sitting there. It was a good way to pass the time, and given that I had plenty of origami paper now, it was really fun, too.

When it was nearly time for dinner, we made the walk back to the car to drop things off into Carl's trunk, and then to the restaurant, where we met up with Eric in the bar. I really love talking with Eric. His enthusiasm and energy is always fun to be around. He's sharp, smart, and creative in lots of ways, and he always really enjoys the food that we get here.

Pican is a restaurant that takes its inspiration from Southern foods and translates them to Californian sensibilities. It's pricey and rich, but oh so good when they get it right. They've had hush puppies, beignet, fried green tomatoes topped with amazing things, and catfish that their southern sources might not recognize. They always do a fried chicken dinner, but with truffle honey as a topping. They've also got a whiskey collection, with an cask expert who designs flights of three tastes of various varieties for either beginners or experts.

Nearly all the sides and appetizers have been pretty interesting for me, but I've had a history of hit and miss with their mains. They have steakhouse sized servings instead of super high end restaurant servings, so committing to a main really takes a commitment. And I've had mains from them that just didn't inspire me. The rice based mains in particular haven't been that great. I've had their version of jambalaya and I have to say that it wasn't nearly as savory or spicy or tasty as the originals I had in New Orleans; and I've tried a bite of others' the years when I didn't order it and it was pretty much the same. Their attempts at crawfish and shrimp etouffes and the very New Orlean's style of BBQ shrimp (dripping in butter) had the same effect on me.

So I had a real determination to stay away from any main that didn't absolutely delight me in concept. No "cheap" main simply to have something. I'd just skip it entirely this year, if it wasn't something I loved, as there have, in the past, nearly always been appetizers or sides that I could swoon over. One of my absolute favorites was the potatoes with chicken chitlin's and nearly anything with pork belly. *laughs*

These are some pictures of what we did get this year. The pork belly was mostly eaten before I got a shot of it. Someone's steak was really amazing with the fried onions on top, the jambalaya risotto looked pretty nice. And the pork chop looked astonishingly good on it's bed of rice and real chow chow (a spicy, vinegary cabbage pickle that was crunchy and a good strong contrast to the meltingly tender pork). They also had a banana pudding where the streak of actual banana was buried in the glass, and the advertised "chocolate sponge cake" was actually a peanut butter mouse and jelly slice that would have been better advertised as grown-up pb&j.

Diver Scallops with She-crab sauce
And they were all pretty amazing, but I'm actually proudest of my main course this year, which was the diver scallops in a she-crab sauce (made with the eggs from the she-crab innards). They smelled like the sea, and the scallops themselves were perfectly seared, crisp on the outside, creamy rich on the inside, and the briny bitter-sweet depths of the sauce was amazing with the contrast of the sweetness of the scallop meat. It came with Cherokee tomatoes which were okay, meaty slices of pretty good tomato, topped with sweet corn (which was quite excellent as much for a textural contrast as for the taste) and some nice tender asparagus spears. The corn I liked.

The Flight that someone else got was pretty exceptional, and the whole table got to sniff or taste most of them. I had a cold that a) I didn't want to give everyone and b) wouldn't allow me to really smell much, so I didn't go into the glasses; but I did love the stories.

One of them was from an "orphan barrel", i.e. it was a single barrel that was separated from the others of it's ilk over the years, and sold as the only barrel known of its kind. That was the glass on the left. The glass on the right was from one of Jefferson's Reserves' Very Old Very Small batches, only about 9 to 11 barrels a year is made. As a contrast, Bernheim Original says a 'small batch' is no more than 100 barrels. So different people make up different definitions of the term, and Jefferson won't tell the exact number of years or barrels they made of their stuff.

From the expressions on eveyone's faces, though, the Jefferson's was well worth the mystery. And it had a depth and character to it that the other two couldn't hold a candle to. The blade and Bow was chosen as it has a lot of the same characteristics as the Orphan Barrel whiskey; but everyone said it seemed boozier... and it had the higher proof for it.

It was really fun watching people enjoy and wow over them.

We headed back to the the hotel after that, and I slept the sleep of the dead. I was pretty sick by this point, and really liked being able to just curl up on my room and die for a while. I did get up the next morning, in time to go to In&Out with Carl for 'breakfast' before the afternoon games. He'd had to do some preparation, and that was cool. We also both got our badges from the registration desk, and then went to our respective games.

I'm going to have cuts for each of the games in case someone wants to avoid spoilers for the games themselves.

I had signed up for the Companions game despite not being a huge fan of the Doctor Who series, as there were a couple of Jet's friends who were interested in the Dr. Who Companions game and in how it worked. Chris Mitchell, whom I'd played Always, Never, Now with last year was in it with me, and he didn't know the series all that well, either. All the players for the game showed up, but Jeremy, the GM, didn't. Eventually, Sean came in to tell us that Jeremy hadn't even signed in through registration, yet, so he recommended that we go and play in other games, and one of them was the goblin game where you get 'to like kill a hundred guys!'

It's not my usual kind of thing, but it sounded like fun and the other two players already in the game were Lali Cheshire (who I knew was going to be in the workshop on Sunday) and Nathan Black. They were really into the genre and Chris was great, too, playing the geeky guy that wants to make the gang and is an artificer at heart. Duane was great, too, and had and language, voices, and everything down. *laughs*

We all made our characters, through the character sheets, and it was fun to pick names, pick a thing that we possessed that would help us out on our rolls and in the story, pick out a defining strength for the character, and figure out why we were there for the Title fight for the Championship of the Goblin Ninjas. The mechanics were very straightforward, and each ninja goblin had a capability. Both the Focus (thing) and the thing we were good at could get us dice to use in the rolls for successes. We were all Goblin Ninja, with all kinds of really goblin capabilities. *laughs* The name of the system is actually Goblin Ninjas Flipping Out And Killing Like A Hundred Guys, and it fit really well.

Lali and Nathan created goblins that were there involuntarily, Chris was there to try and 'train' to get into a gang, and I was the only one there to actually try and win the title. *laughs* I have always been a little too goal-oriented, I guess, and I've never felt that comfortable in games where I have to be glib and verbally comic. I like figuring out puzzles and what to do in a given situation, it's much harder for me to feel like I can keep up when it's all about the quip or the Great Line. There are so many amazing players and GMs at BBC that are excellent at that. I had a fun time at the improv class, but I realized that I almost always went with the 'doing' or accepting and action more than a leading line... I'm the straight guy. *laughs* And that's okay.

The plot was pretty simple, go to an island, try to win. The Contest was being held by a lovely Evil Overlord that Duane played to the hilt, and we had a first individual trial to get by, but then we got into the Us-Versus-Them-All fight. The interesting part was that after the individual trials the two who were not combat types were trying to run, the tank was just out for a stroll, and I was worried about Chris' character, so was trying to rescue him. That was pretty fun. It turned out to be a really enjoyable game, but I'll admit that I don't think I contributed nearly as much humor as the other players. I felt a little bad about it, too; but it was fun.

When my game finished, I went out to the food trucks to find some dinner, and ran into Jeremy at the King Knish cart. He apologized very nicely for showing up an hour late, and it turned out he'd run for those that had waited. I was a little disappointed with that, but it's just life. He had to run into his next game, and when the food took a little longer, I said that I'd be happy to bring it to him in his game when it was ready. He seemed kind of surprised by that, but I said that I didn't have a game and I might as well do it.

So I did. I also found Carl eating his knish in the main lobby, and I happily sat down with him to eat my dinner. The spicy ketchup that the Knish Man made was very good and the knish itself was savory and tasty. It was nice to just talk a bit with him before it was very late, and I went to bed feeling really sick from my cold, and resolved to sleep as long as I could because I didn't have a morning game.

I did manage to get up in time to ask Carl about the models he wanted me to build of the Russian airplanes that were flown by the Night Witches, and he happily gave me the kits and a little glue if they needed it.

I went back to sleep, only getting up for a little breakfast and a Nutella and banana crepe from the crepe wagon, and then another nap; and by the time it was 3pm and time for Carl's game, I actually had my voice back and enough energy to go play with him and the three guys signed up for the game.

As you might have figured out, Night Witches is a role playing game based on the Russian women who flew in World War II against the Germans. The nickname was actually coined by the Germans for an entire regiment of women that flew over 23,000 sorties and dropped over 3000 pounds of bombs.

They used wood and canvas Polikarpov Po-2 biplanes, designed back in 1928 as trainers and crop dusters; but they're also the most produced plane in aviation history. *laughs* I loved that, and the little models were so much fun to put together, and one of them had a broken strut that I glued in place. The guys at the previous game thought the broken strut was pretty representative....The game itself is Apocalypse World-based, but is really heavy on the setting and has a whole series of games laid out in historical order for the campaign. It's interesting having all of that laid out for an AW world.

The thing is that it's rare for me to be in a game where everyone has to play women. Table top gaming still has a much larger majority of men than women. Big Bad Con has the highest percentage of women I've ever seen at a gaming convention. The management of the convention, the GMs, and even the players have all been really great about supporting me and my play in all the games. The cool part was that it never came across as "oh, I'll praise you for gaming here 'cause you're a woman!", it was just a natural part of the game play and what people liked or didn't like.

That means a lot. And Carl's been that kind of supportive for the last twenty five years, and I'm very grateful for him, and all the people I've met through him and his tireless efforts to encourage me in my gaming.

And I do like playing in Carl's games, a lot. And this particular game was kind of a slice of life out of the air women's lives. The big things, like the missions themselves and the deaths and damage that came out of it, and the small things, like how to scrounge supplies out of the hierarchy, the neighboring men's base, or even from each other and our connections into the greater world, all contributed to the way the game flowed. Much of the mechanics of Apocalypse World are geared toward having most of the successes also have a consequence, and that the playing out of the consequences is what is fun in a game. A lot of it has to do with the choices that people make in bad circumstances. Numerically, the most common outcomes are those where the players get to do what they wanted to do, but either a plane gets damaged, the target isn't destroyed, or teammates take damage.

The game itself was framed by the nightly missions; and I got to play the squad leader through picking the right rank and everyone agreeing to let me lead. The fight itself was interesting. I went in first, got a success but decided that I hadn't actually destroyed the target, but my success helped the second pilot with their roll. So we ended up destroying the target, but there was flack from it. We learned quickly why the NPCs shouldn't both be in one plane, since they can't roll for themselves (the GMs in an AW game never roll, and the NPCs don't get to roll or defend themselves) they both went down in one plane. So we got to start with deaths in the squad and figuring out what to do next, including finding the materials to patch up the planes, though we'd managed to hit our objective.

The in-between conflicts had to do with lining up the entertainment for a general's visit and the fact that he was going to do an inspection. The tension came from the fact that all the biplanes had come with machine guns; but the machine guns were so heavy and useless for actually hitting anything, that they were all taken off the planes and lost or traded away from the supplies we really could use. So we were running around, telling some people about the inspection so that they could prepare for it, and getting the worry about what we were going to do when they didn't find them. The fun thing was that through all that the people at the table got a certain sense of each other and how it could all work as a team.

We also got two new squad members to replace the two that were lost, spreading them out among our more experienced people. But during the night mission, one of them was shot as well. When we landed, one of the airmen we shared the camp with said something derogatory about our dead mate, and... well... the dead girl's pilot hit him. Of course, we all jumped into the melee together. With all the frustration, anger, and stress from the war itself, the fight was needed all around, and relieved a lot of it.

The beauty of that was that when our superiors all dragged us in to find out what happened, we all, men and women, said that it was a fight with German infiltrators who stole all the machine guns. And the absolute solidarity of the answer given impressed our superiors, who said, point-blank to me that it was an absurd story, but that it indicated a degree of teamwork they wanted to encourage. So we were let off lightly.

And that was about the whole of the four hours, though it ended on a historical note brought in by one of the players. One of the Russian air women had been writing her husband during the whole of the war, but only found out, after the war, that he'd died on the battlefield early on in the war. Her superiors had kept it from her, so at the end of the game I received the news that one of my ladies' husband had died, so the choice was whether or not to tell her.

The interesting thing to me, was that I decided my officer would talk with the one lady character that I trusted the most about the whole thing, to figure out what it was I should do; but we were already kind of closing out the game, and the male player said that I should just decide it, why was an officer talking with a sergeant about such things? Which was perfectly legitimate action for him to choose.

Having worked with solely men in the engineering field, I knew that would be the way I'd have handled it in the all-male environment. I wouldn't talk with anyone about that kind of emotional choice, and I would have just made the decision on my own. The thing is that now that I'm working in the nearly all-female environment of our church, I know that several of the ladies I'm closest with would have talked it over with me and understood why talking it out mattered and needed to happen before the decision was made. It was interesting having that contrast...

It was a bit like reading a book written by a male author with a female protagonist, and while she was kicking butt and doing supernatural things I had no problems with suspending disbelief; but the moment she told a talkative man on a public transport system vehicle that she just didn't want to talk with him I was like, "Shit... he was doing so well at writing her up 'til now..." Which isn't to say that women can't tell men that they don't want to talk with them in a public situation; but it jarred me badly when she did it so casually. And, yes, she had super powers, so had no reason to be afraid of consequences from rejecting him; so it really was an emotional reaction on my part, and indicates a level of wariness on my part, simply because of my gender, that surprised me.

There are differences. Some of them so subtle it seems stupid when I think about it, but they seem to matter. And some of them really are personal preference, but so many of them indicate interesting tags of gender bias that I'm really sensitive to right now.

It was a good game, and the players, as nearly all the players in BBC games have been, were fabulous and it was amazingly cool to play with them. I was especially impressed by the one guy who said that while the game was out of his comfort zone that he was glad he'd played in it. That was very cool.

We walked a block or two away from the hotel to go to Fancesco's Restaurant, an Italian restaurant that was created back in the 70's and never moved forward in time. The menu, the specials, and even the wait staff all seem a little stuck in time. It's a great place, with amazing food and weeknight specials that are spelled out on sandwich boards all over the front foyer.

There's a special that they have that isn't actually on the online menu, which doesn't surprise me in the least. It's a mixture of ground beef and spinach, with other things, what in any diner might be called a Joe's Special; but the helpings are really generous, and it comes with the traditional bread. Chris H. from Endgame always gets that, and Carl, too. I've had it and it's good with ketchup. *laughs* But one helping can feed me for at least two meals. One time, a few years ago, I stumbled on the Canneloni Ravenna, and it's fabulous, nearly as good as the canneloni I used to get in a restaurant that no longer exists in Issaquah, WA. *laughs* The real fresh pasta sheets used to roll them make a real difference. So I had that, and it was as good as I'd remembered.

The company was fun, too, and we brought along about half a dozen all together from the convention, who didn't have late games that night.

I'm not sure when it was, but at one point, Carl and I were just sitting in the lobby of the convention and Sean sat down to talk about a possible teenager extension to the convention. He was saying that there were people who couldn't come because their teenage kids couldn't come, so he wanted to create a safe venue for teenagers, at least thirteen and up. So we talked through what it would take to create some kids' tables, for the 13-17 crowd and what it might look like. That was fun, especially since Jet might be interested in such a thing.

I got to sleep at a reasonable hour, but after sleeping most of the day I had a hard time getting to sleep. I also thought that my first game started at 9; but I was wrong. Oops... luckily, I did both a good deed and got forgiven my mistake...

I actually got up in plenty of time, but I'd heard a man in one of the other rooms saying on the phone with someone else that he was pretty much set, but would have to scrounge a cup of coffee off someone. I poked my head into the room and asked, "Do you want me to make you a cup of coffee?" He was very surprised. *laughs* And very very grateful when I handed him a cup from my room coffee maker a few minutes later. I was making a cup for myself anyway, so it worked out pretty easily with the two-cup maker.

That was when I looked at my badge and realized that I was actually half an hour late for Christine's game. Oops.

They were there, and Lali had actually taken my spot and Pepper Pots; but Christine was kind enough to say that I could join in. She had two extra character sheets, and Sophie Lagacé was kind enough to say that she'd be really happy to give me (laughs and laughs I almost said Mei Ling Wu...) Melinda May because she wanted to take Sam Wilson, aka Falcon as her character. They hadn't started the game, yet, so I didn't feel too badly about jumping in right then.

Most of the players were really into the characters, the Marvel world that we were playing in, and it worked out really well. Christine gave everyone the room to run, and I was pretty quiet to start, mostly because of my early mistake, and I was still pretty run down, enough that my creativity just wasn't particularly on for any of my games for the weekend.

It was a little odd realizing that, and realizing that last year I had been really on for all my games, but that this year, after the year I've had as moderator, that I've really been wrung out thoroughly enough that having BBC as a creative jaunt was a huge contrast to the work I've been concentrating too much of my life on doing and getting done. So I was rusty and awkward and felt... off compared to the year before when I'd actually been doing a lot of fiction writing even if it was as an aftermath and I didn't get much published last year. I'd still been creating.

I got in one great shot as May with the early mooks of the game, and did a really lame sort of description... just effect, instead of drawing on her martial arts abilities that have always been the screen for her ability to just take a lot of people out quickly. I now realize that I don't think I was up for much more than that, and I mostly followed Phil around, who was played by someone who seemed like he'd rather be playing Thor. *laughs* It was an interesting take, and it's hard to do Phil's dry humor.

But as things went on, and we played further in and got deeper into the plot, it got to be really fun. Bry was to my left, and she was an amazing font of knowledge about the system itself, and I got to discover more about the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying system than I'd thought I'd get to know. A lot of it is about picking your dice and each ability or piece of equipment comes with a certain size die, and the results are both the two highest and the next type of die (i.e. 12-sided, 4-sided, etc) to determine your result and the strength of the effect. There are some interesting mechanics that come from that sort of system, and everyone that's attacked gets to roll a defense roll as well, which is good for the players, but it does make combat pretty slow.

Christine's plot was pretty fun, and she had plenty of battles sprinkled throughout, along with a logic trail to follow that had a few good paths to discovery. So that was all great, and we ended up in the final confrontation. We even had a good strategy for the end boss, with Sophie's Falcon as the setup guy. Then Pepper had her shot, and she must have been angrier than anyone knew, as with one amazing roll (and one really bad roll by the big boss in his own defense) Pepper took out the last bad boss.

*laughs* It was perfect. I fist bumped Lali. Both Bry's character and mine had held back to do a one-two punch to finish the Boss off, but Pepper had already taken care of the problem, as she is wont to do. We wrapped up there, a little late, and Christine apologized profusely, but we were all very happy with the game.

It was a two-hour workshop on how to use the Apocalypse World or the Fate system. Both are open source systems, that allow people to change them to suit a particular setting or goal. There are basic ideas behind both of them, and the workshop allowed the two teachers, Marissa Kelly and Mark Dias Truman to list what they saw as the differences between the two systems and how they would work better with a particular focus.

I didn't actually *get* the differences, kind of obviously, because every time I thought a particular game would fit one system, they'd tell me that no, it should be the other... so I don't know if I actually learned what it was that they were trying to convey.

What seemed to be one main difference was that they felt that Apocalypse World allowed the developer to define the world in depth. And I saw that in Night Witches, as the developer for that game actually defined the world, defined the play, and a whole series of individual games that could be gone through in chronological order, if the players and GM wanted to be historically accurate. Whereas, the Fate settings are often defined on the fly during play, and the attributes that players come up with during play define the setting and what it is that's going to happen next. The other point was that in AW worlds, success are always mitigated by consequences, whereas in FATE, the outcomes are really clear and clean of messy other bits.

The interesting thing to me is that I've always seen Fate as being very much genre-based, and the stronger the stereotypes within the genre, the stronger the Fate system can be. It's a little like calling out the attacks in a martial arts movie, if there's Titles, there are easy Attributes which are handles that have some common understanding between a group of players and the GM that are quick and easy to use. But where there aren't such clearly defined phrases, it's hard to use Fate for the game.

The instructors decided that all the exercises would be done in two-women groups that would try and come up with a game concept by the end of the two hours.

Lali and I decided to band together during the two person exercises, we'd played in two games together already, once by chance, so it was just fine. And when she heard that I was working on flood recovery in Colorado, she thanked me profusely, as her parents were out here and had gone through the flood in Jamestown. Whew. There was a lot of destruction up there, and we decided to try on an ecological game, where the mountains out here had spirits that were upset in various ways by the people doing various types of development and the game was about figuring out what was wrong and fixing it. Paying the price to make things right, with something of a spiritual bent rather than just physical. Given that the setting was pretty well defined, I was thinking it would be Apocalypse World; but the instructors were saying that in Apocalypse World it would be come something like the eco-disasters taking over the world, whereas with the FATE system, it could be very Miazaki-like.

It puzzled me, a little, as to how that might be? But they asked us to come up with Attributes and FATE Accelerated characteristics that were genre related. I've been thinking about a little afterward, and it was pretty clear that the goal of each game is to be the humans that fix/reconcile what's going on; but it might also be interesting to be one of the creatures. *laughs* And it might even be more interesting to do the AW version where it is the long slide down into ecological disaster, where every attempt to fix things simply makes other parts of it worse... and how people work in that kind of system.

Uhm. Yeah. I often think of AW as kind of depressing, I'll admit. One really good point the instructors had, though, was that with FATE there are very clear win/lose states, and that the players in FATE would know that they've won/succeeded or lost/failed in pretty concrete terms. So that would fit our original concept much better, but the AW one might capture, better the intertwining of humans, their ambitions for the development of a site against the needs and reactions of the local spirits.

It was a fun two hours, and we'll see if anything comes of it.

Given that this got to be bigger than the 64k limit... I'm cutting it here and putting the last and best game with Kevan Forbes in another post. *grins*
Tags: gaming

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