Friday, August 28, 2009

Gen Con in My Back Yard 2: 17 Years of Memories

In a previous blog, I related a small bit of my life with Gen Con being based in my hometown Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1985 to 2002. This was the first part of my entry into the RPG Blog Carnival for August 2009, hosted by Chgowiz. Below in no particular order is a Baker’s Dozen of reminisces of my 17 years going to Gen Con.

  • Having my 1988 Gen Con/Origins program signed by Gary Gygax. That complete story is here.
  • Getting in my first auction battle over a Chill RPG boxed set with some extra goodies. It ended up costing me $30, but it was an exhilarating victory.
  • When I was Entertainment Arts Editor for the MATC Times (a college paper), some of my fellow editors and I went down to Mecca the Wednesday before the Con. Long story short, I got a Press Pass good for the entire Con as long as I wrote an article. My friend Phil said my eyes were glazing over. TSR did have a nice pressroom, and the press liaisons were swell. That was a great Con.
  • Going to Gen Con for the entire weekend on an Exhibitors Pass. I was friends with the owners of one of Milwaukee’s FLGS and they were getting a table at Gen Con. As long as everybody ponied up the price of the pass, it seemed TSR didn’t care how many “employees” the store had. My friends had almost 30 "employees" that year.
  • That same year I got one of Pagan Publishing T-shirts along with the latest issue of The Unspeakable Oath. I wore it on Saturday. Several people asked me if I worked for Pagan Publishing due to the Exhibitors Pass. When I told the guys at Pagan what had happened, they laughed. One of them piped up that I should say I worked for Pagan Publishing and make up new products coming out.
  • Meeting up with friends that I made while writing for All of the Above, the GURPS APA. People from across the nation (and several foreign countries) had a little get together on several Saturday afternoons. I still have the APA issues with the pictures.
  • Sitting at my friends’ booth, and helping keep an eye on the table. (It also was a nice place to crash for a few minutes.) My favorite year was when my friends’ booth was across from a booth that played The Story of Ricky almost non-stop. Next to us was a booth for Billy Bob Teeth and some new company hawking their new game. The company was Pinnacle and their game was a Horror/Western/Steampunk RPG was called Deadlands. Nice fellows, I talked to them a couple of times. I wonder whatever happened to those guys?
  • Walking around the convention, I saw June Lockhart signing autographs. I wasn’t going to get one, but a sloppily dressed gamer stood right in front of her. I won’t go into details, but there was asscrack. I felt so sorry for Mrs. Lockhart, that I spent $15 for an autographed picture from Troll.
  • Talking with Claudia Christian for a minute about The Hidden. If I’m getting autographs, I have found that sometimes you’ll get a minute or two more if you pick something a little more obscure. Everybody was going for the Babylon 5 picture, but I really like her scene in The Hidden. Some brought her Playboy appearance. I didn't have that issue...
  • Pointing out some resin pieces to Adrian Paul. He seemed like a nice guy.
  • Pimping my friends’ miniature game Wehrmacht, a diceless giant robot miniatures game by Tyrant Games. And having Mira Furlan ask me why I was wearing something that promoting Wehrmacht because she knew what that meant. She still gave me an autograph.
  • People like Paul and Cheryl Lidberg from Crunchy Frog Enterprises and Phil and Kaja Foglio who remembered me from year to year. I made it a point of buying something from them every year.
  • Eating at the local Hooters at the Grand Avenue and having the waitresses come a sit with me. One of my best friends worked there at the time, and I had gotten to know several of the waitresses. They started to go through my bag and rifle through my purchases. Good thing that I put my issues of XXXenophile in my car…

This list could be endless. I could talk about going to the Safehouse, and having Lou Zocchi explain to me why his dice are the best in the world for the umpteenth time. The hidden treasures hidden in the boxes at Crazy Egor’s and having person after person tell me why their game in the NEXT REVOLUTION IN GAMING!


Maybe I should go to Gen Con next year.

Happy 92nd Birthday , Jack!

Today would have been Jack "the King" Kirby's 92nd birthday.

Do yourself a favor. Go read some comic books, and bask in the creativity Jack Kirby help build.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gen Con in My Back Yard 1 (RPG Blog Carnival August ‘09)

This blog is in response to the RPG Blog Carnival topic for August of 09. This month Chgowiz is hosting it over on his blog Chgowiz's Old Guy RPG Blog.

Milwaukee is many things. It’s the City of Festivals and a Great Place by a Great Lake. It’s been talked about in classic movies and classic television. It's the home of the Racing Sausages and the Bubbler. I’ve lived there all my life.

And for over 15 years it was the home of Gen Con.

It was the Saturday of Gen Con in 1986 that my dad dropped my friend Sean and me in front of Mecca Arena. My dad had given me $20 for the day. That was enough for a $5 visitors pass, some money for food, and 10 bucks for buying some gaming stuff.

I had never been to a gaming convention before. My knowledge of the gaming community was playing D&D and Marvel Super Heroes with my friends and reading gaming magazines. The games I had gotten were from places like Waldenbooks and B Dalton, or game stores like Napoleons in Milwaukee. Pa had heard that Gen Con was in town and asked me if I wanted to go. Of course I said yes.

Sean and I waited to get into the hall with everybody else until the magic 10 AM opening of the Exhibit Hall. When they opened the doors I was in Gamer Heaven. I played in Gaming demos. I got to see RPG and board games that I had only seen in advertisements in Dragon. I got to meet people who's work I had read and enjoyed. When Pa pulled up at 6 PM, we carted our grab bags full of catalogues, freebies and purchases and put them in the car.

“Did you have a good time?” Pa asked me when we got home.

“I’m going back next year,” I said.

So I kept my promise, finding some way to get to Downtown Milwaukee every year Gen Con was in town until it left in 2002. It became part of my summer tradition, getting up early in the morning on Con day to get an early start on the convention. Saving up the money to by up all of my small press favorites. I went at least 1 day to Gen Con every year from 1986 to 2002. That was some good times.

When it was announced that Gen Con was leaving Milwaukee, I was saddened but I understood. The city had never treated Gen Con with the respect that one of the biggest moneymaking conventions in the city deserved. Promised hotel building never took place, and other local decisions made the move to Indy inevitable. Late July 2003 was the first Gen Con I had missed in 17 years.

I finally made to Indy for Gen Con 2008 last year. I had a blast, and it was great wandering around the Con again. It felt like visiting a favorite cousin that lived around you for a long time, but moved away. I know I can always go to Indianapolis to attend Gen Con.

But I will always have the early Milwaukee Saturday mornings in August eating breakfast and getting all my Con gear together. Then I get in my car, driving about five miles to attend the Biggest Gaming Convention in the World, right in my backyard.

In the next blog, I tell some of my favorite memories of 17 years attending Gen Con.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Moldvay-esque Adventure Helper!

Everybody has his or her favorite authors and game designers. For me, Tom Moldvay is one of those game designers who influenced my role playing and my writing. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson may have opened up the dungeon for me, and I started playing the Red Box Basic D&D edited by Frank Mentzer. But for lost cities, islands of dinosaurs and Clark Ashton Smith in my Dungeons and Dragons, that was Tom Moldvay .

And then there was Lords of Creation.

Every gamer has their guilty favorites. Lords of Creation is one of mine. I bought it for $10 at a long gone toy store at a lone gone shopping mall. This was the deep immersion to the zany world of Tom Moldvay. This game awoke my appreciation for the weird and bizarre in RPGs. One of the best descriptions of the game is here.

Submitted for your approval is a table designed to add a little Moldvay feel to any scenario. Roll a couple times on the table and let the fur fly!

The Moldvay-esque Adventure Helper!

Roll a d20

1 A portal opens to a random elemental plane: Roll a d6:
  1. Earth
  2. Air
  3. Fire
  4. Water
  5. Elemental Blend
  6. GM created elemental plane.

2 The Wild Hunt attacks! 1d3 Hounds and assorted beasties per player.

3 Anachronistic devices added to treasure-troves.

4 Strange prophetic dreams begin for the most intelligent player in the party. They can be useful, terrifying or both.

5 The vehicle the characters are traveling in is intelligent or a transforming robot.

6 A portal to the Plane of Shadow opens! Roll a d6:
  1. Terrifying visions
  2. Players take cold damage per GM choice
  3. 1d6 Shadows attack
  4. Shadow maelstrom! Everyone sucked into the Plane of Shadows
  5. A random player becomes haunted by an Schattendoppleganger
  6. Nothing, just some trippy descriptive passages

7 Ghouls attack! 1d6 Ghouls attack the party.

8 Random famous historical or fictional character interacts with the PCs.

9 Different versions of a creature or character meet and fight!

10 Genre mash. Add an unusual genre scene in the scenario. Think gun slinging orcs, cyborg elves, biotech dungeons, and haunted graveyard in a post apocalyptic city.

11 A portal to a parallel earth opens! GM Choice where it leads. Nazis are probably involved. Fricking Nazis.

12 A mysterious benefactor and/or their adversary choose to use the PCs are their representative in a grand conflict.

13 Random gates are littered through the campaign world.

14 A portal to the Realms of the Gods opens. Roll 1d12 for Mythos:
  1. Greco Roman
  2. Egyptian
  3. Chinese
  4. Japanese
  5. Babylonian/Sumerian
  6. Celtic
  7. American (North, Central, and/or South)
  8. Vodoun (The Loas)
  9. Pick a lesser known Earth Pantheon
  10. Animal, Plant, or Elemental Lords
  11. Lovecraftian Entities. This is not of the good.
  12. GM Created Pantheon or Neutral Ground
15 A portal opens that leads to a planet across the galaxy

16 Suddenly, dinosaurs attack! I got nothing. Throw a bunch of them at the PCs.

17 Have a sense or section of the scenario that is a tribute/homage to a popular book, movie or TV show.

18 Take every monster book in your RPG collection. Pick 5-15 monsters and sprinkle them throughout the scenario however you can.

19 A portal to a world based on a fictional setting opens. This can be an exact simulation of the setting, or one that is darker or lighter than the actual setting.

20 GMs Choice. Get as weird as you want. Some of my favorite moments in the Lords of Creation are scenes in the modules that make you say "WTF?"

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Encounter Critical Theatre #2: Starcrash (1978) Highlights

Submitted for your Encounter Critical/Star Wars ripoff approval, three YouTube videos celebrating Luigi Cozzi's masterpiece of space opera cheese: Starcrash!

And now my favorite scene in Starcrash:

My reaction when I first saw this scene:

a) Dead Silence. Then...

b) "That's F***ing Awesome!"