Since the convention is already two days day over, I figured that I should start posting up the reports on the weekend that was at CanGames 2014 today, while I have the chance. I don't really know how long and detailed these reports will be, as I didn't take as many notes about the convention events as I usually do. So lots of this stuff is from memory and the notes that I jotted down on my mobile phone. However, there are some photos from each day of the convention that will go into these reports, so you'll get a bit of perspective, if nothing else, that way. This post, and the rest covering the events of each day at CanGames 2014, is behind the cut.
I woke up bright and early in the morning, and found that the weather was due to be extremely wet for most of the day (and possibly the weekend) with a temperature of around 25oC. Not an auspicious start to the convention weekend. The dampness and the cool weather in the morning made my bones ache, especially my back, and didn't do any good for my left ankle and leg. After eating breakfast and performing the morning ablutions, I set about finishing up packing the stuff that I would need for the day - the gaming stuff that I would need to run Atlantis: The Second Age that evening, a personal tote bag with a few necessities including a mug with some tea bags, some Crystal Light for addition to water, a couple of Nature Valley bars, some Glucerna, and an extra pair of underwear and socks and a roll of toilet paper. Once everything was ready, I went upstairs and made up a bagel with lox and cream cheese and some cheese slices and some veggies for snacks in the afternoon and later in the evening.
spross arrived around 11:15 am or so and, after loading snacks and some bottled water into the cooler, he grabbed the boxes of games that I was selling at the convention, and I checked that I had all the stuff that I needed and didn't forget something. After that, we set off for the convention. We stopped off at the WIND Mobile store so that I could pay the monthly mobile phone bill and get that out of the way, and then went to the nearest Tim Horton's for lunch. I had the turkey bacon club sandwich with ketchup, rather than their hot sauce, and then we made our way downtown, and arrrived at the Rideau Curling Club, the venue for CanGames, around one o'clock. The parking lot at the curling club was full, and there was a lot of cars parked in the immediate area, but we found a parking space literally across the street from the venue on Percy and were able to park there.
spross and I proceeded into the curling club, and found that the convention was getting ready to get into the full swing of things. (The first games were to start at 2 pm, but several folks were sitting at tables prepping their games (notably on the curling sheet area where the miniature games were going to be done), and I recognised quite a few faces even this early.) I went over to the Command Centre and picked up my registration packet for the weekend, and dumped stuff in the locker downstairs. There was no sign of knightbane or any of his friends and family, though I saw several friends and acquaintances - Ray and Shannon Dickson, Anita Hebert, Chris Evans, Eric Paquette, Norm and Tony Newton, Noral Rebin, and other committee members, and tashiro. I went over and said "Hello" to many of the folks I knew, and by that time, spross had returned with the trolley and the games that he and I were selling at the convention. We went out into the miniature areas and down to the Marketplace, and handed over the games with the sale forms to the folks from the CanGames Booth, and then went back to the main area of the venue, where I sat down for a bit and relaxed, putting my leg up on an extra chair to get some pain relief for the ankle. I took one of the bottles of water, and washed down a couple of Tylenol, hoping those would help.
The central section of the Command Centre, where the trophies and certificates from CanGames 2013 await pick-up
After recovering for a bit, I went over to the Tournament Desk and checked to see how many players I had for my games over the weekend, notably the Friday night running of Atlantis: The Second Age. I was a bit discouraged, as there was only one person signed up for that session, but I had one person for Saturday's Yggdrasill game and a couple of folks for Sunday's Atlantis: The Second Age session. Not good, but not too bad. By this time, it was just after 1:30 pm and folks were signing up for various games. I went back to the Tournament Desk, and made the rounds, and actually convinced a few other folks to sign up for all three games for the weekend. When all was said and done, it meant that I had almost full tables (missing four players total out of fifteen) for the three time slots. Not a shabby hour's work!
After that, I was feeling a bit restless and wanted to see some of the gaming going on and catch up on a few things, but the pain in my ankle and leg hadn't subsided too much, so I decided to take things cautiously. I caught tashiro just before he was getting ready to game, and he picked up the Airship Pirates game rulebook and adventure supplement from me for the price we had agreed. I wandered around a bit and took a few pics of folks, some of the games that were going on, and anything that caught my interest, but not too many.
A game of Cloak and Dagger
Out on the curling sheet, where the miniatures were but also several folks with game company booths, I saw that the Pathfinder gamers had a massive, sectioned off area on the floor. Lots of Pathfinder games going on for the weekend. (I forgot to take a photo of the section.) One of the game company booths that was present was that of Drewling Panda Games. Jessie Edwards, one of the co-founders and a game designer as well, had some neat products, including some samples of their board games, and one of them, Arcova, definitely caught my eye. Jess explained the game to me, and showed me some of the physical components, and I got to sit with her for about half an hour and see the game in action. Neat stuff. We talked about the potential for an rpg in this regard, and I mentioned I was an editor and writer and she asked me to come back and talk with her later in the weekend when I had a bit more time.
The calm before the storm out on the curling sheet surface
By this time, my back was killing me, and I needed to sit down for a bit. I decided that I would try to sit in at a game, and luckily I found a game of Pandemic just organising in what would be the Open Gaming area on the ice sheet, and so was able to play in that for an hour or so. I played the Scientist, and we did a decent job, losing the game right towards the end. After that, I just went and sat near the Command Centre again, relaxed and rested, just sitting and talking with a few people, for some time, by which time it was closing on 5:30 pm, so spross went down to the lockers and grabbed what we needed for our games that night (he was running Tales From the Floating Vagabond) and then we went up to the Curling Club cafeteria and ordered supper. I had the roast beef sandwich with salad with an oil and balsamic dressing, and grabbed a few of spross's French fries, while he had some of the salad. The dressing on the salad was more oil than balsamic, and the sandwich was adequate but somewhat dry without the sauce. I had some ketchup and relish with it, and that made it tolerable.
Close to 5:45 pm or so, I went to my assigned table for the evening, and started to set up to run Atlantis: The Second Age. I tried to re-read the combat rules and some of the salient points of the adventure I was running, but kept getting interrupted by people wanting to talk. I did manage to read what I needed to before the CanGames staff put the tournament sheets out around 6:30 pm, but it was a close call. My hyping the game and doing a bit of recruiting earlier in the afternoon helped, and I was gratified to see that I had a full table of gamers, with two alternates also signed up. One of my friends from the Cubicle 7 mailing lists, Scott, came by after seeing the new Godzilla movie. He picked up the The One Ring boxed set from me for the price we agreed on, and had hoped to get into the Atlantis game, but he'd signed up as one of the alternates. Everyone showed up to play so there was no room for him, but Scott ended up getting into spross's Tales From the Floating Vagabond game instead. I was sorry about that, but glad that Scott managed to get into a game.
I was somewhat worried about running the scenario, since this was the first time I was running Atlantis: The Second Age since the previous year, and I'd never run the game at a convention (other than the previous version back in 1985), and as it turned out, this was somewhat justified. Friday night's scenario was a home-made adventure, "The Medallion of Ssthauga", and I'd only created five (5) characters for the scenario. There was Halicarios the Historian, a scholar; Phaedra of Atlantis, an Atlantean sorceress; Asari Metmoset, a city of Atlantis guard; Johano the Glib, a Tharshi diplomat with some neat tricks up his sleeve; and Heqt Sammardine, a burglar born in the city. Without giving too much away about the scenario, the plot concerned one of Halicarios's friends who wanted to meet him to discuss a threat to the city, and then deals with the medallion of the title and what it means. Each of the characters had connections to one another for the most part, and the adventure was actually set within the jewel of the Atlantean (perceived) empire, the city of Atlantis. The one disappointment that I had was that all of the players were male, as there were two female characters. Still, I was just very happy to have a full gaming table for the evening's play. Once all the players were present and accounted for, I went through the basic rules of Atlantis: The Second Age, and then talked to the players about their characters. This took a bit longer than I had expected, but that's because there's just so much stuff on the character sheets and all. Hopefully, it would be easier with future runnings of the game, now that I had a bit of experience in this regard behind me. (Unfortunately, there are no photos from the Friday night running of the game. :( )
In terms of the players and the characters they chose, well... Ian, the fellow who has been running the TOON system at CanGames for lo these many years, played the sorceress, Phaedra. He played her in a bit of a looney fashion, not really grasping the seriousness of sorcery in the game, and was rather madcap rather than overbearing and condescending. She was something of a distraction to the other players and their characters, and caused them a bit of a problem in that she didn't really use her magic at all. While she did use her Shield spell to protect the body of the deceased scholar from attempts at robbing him, Ian didn't really take full advantage of her magic. Paul played Asari Metmoset, and was pretty effective as the town guard, using his combat skills to protect the rest of the party. Mark did an adequate job of playing Johano the diplomat, using the communication and negotiation abilities of the character judiciously, but he didn't actually play up the alchemist aspect of the character at all. The player was a bit of a know-it-all gamer, and was pretty critical of the whole set-up of the game and the choice of player characters for the scenario, but didn't seem to have a good grasp on what sword & sorcery is all about. John-Angus played Halicarios the Historian, the focal characters in the group. He did a really good job bringing the other characters together (see below), but was rather insulting to his friends. He actually stole the deceased scholar's belongings to pay off his own debts, and then chose to appease the Gods in his own way. Definitely the feel of sword & sorcery, but not necessarily the right time to do so. Finally, Grant played Heqt, the thief. He did a really good job of playing her secretive and manipulative, and made her relationship with the other characters interesting and fun to watch.
In retrospect I refer to this adventure as "the Comedy of Errors while on the way to the Cultists' Shrine". The players never actually finished the scenario properly, as they got so distracted by some of the little things and petty personal problems that they had both themselves and with the different characters that they lost the focus and never actually dealt with some of the key issues of the plot that would help them get to the heart of the matter. They never returned to the Spear and the Maiden for information. Half the player characters learned information about various aspects and elements of the scenario plot, but didn't share the info with the other players until it was either too late or they'd paid the price for the lack of sharing of information. In some ways, I blame myself for not keeping the players tightly focused in on the plot and the like, but I suspect this also has to do with me not having the familarity with running the system that I would have liked before running the scenario at a convention.
Some of the highlights of the adventure included: Asari bluffing Heqt into going with him and the other characters by offering payment, but not saying how much nor confirming exactly what the job was. Both Asari and Heqt expected to see tension and fireworks between Phaedra and Johano over the Atlantis/Tharshesh diplomatic situation, and being disappointed it didn't happen, though they tried to make it happen a couple of times. Asari also manipulated Johano to go with the group to the Foreigner Quarter by claiming that it would be another adventure, though Mark played Johano somewhat cowardly throughout. Halicarios's player actually convinced Asari that he should go and recruit the rest, and I rather liked that somewhat. Phaedra tried to use an Influence spell of mental suggestion on a mind controlled mercenary, only to discover a nasty surprise at the other end. The best line that I heard from the group was from Mark's diplomat: "Real gods have messengers, bad gods have spawn". Insightful, true, yet lacking in a grasp of the true situation.
After the scenario was over, so to speak, several of the players chatted with me about the game and how much they enjoyed it and quite liked the mechanics. They admitted that they were somewhat intimidated by the character sheets and the sheer amount of information on them, but told me that I'd done a good job giving them the basics on what everything was. One of the players, John-Angus, said that he would potentially look into the game more. Mark made his feelings about the scenario and the player characters known to me quite...avidly. I was pretty tired by then, and while I take criticism about the games that I run relatively well, it was clear that he was just arguing for the sake of doing so. Coming from a Call of Cthulhu background, it was clear that he really didn't grok/understand the Sword & Sorcery genre. Other than the basics. I was, I'll admit, a bit stressed by his attitude and somewhat annoyed with it, but he did raise a few valid points about stuff on the whole.
After the players had left and spross came over after finishing up his own game, he gave me a hand packing up all the gaming stuff, and then we said goodnight to several of our friends at the convention who were still there (even this late, being around 11:20 pm or so). We took everything out to the car, and set off back for my place. By the time I got home, it was close to midnight. I was pretty tired, but I still had to make some food ready for the next morning and start re-packing stuff for the Saturday game as I was running Yggdrasill. Needless to say, the bowel woes decided to strike, and I didn't get to bed until after 1:15 am. Mind you, I fell asleep pretty quickly after that.
And there you have the write-up for the Friday of CanGames 2014. I hope it wasn't too long for folks, and those who've read this day's write-up enjoyed it. The write-up for Saturday at CanGames will have several photos as well, trust me. :)