July 31st, 2015
I woke up on the Friday morning of GenCon feeling somewhat tired, though a bit refreshed. I guess my body was finally acclimating to Indianapolis somewhat, and I was starting to feel relatively at ease. I had been taking an antibiotic against the bronchitis that I had developed the week before GenCon, and this was the day after I finished the antibiotic. We'd see how the day went, though my bowel started off misbehaving as usual, but the good news was that my blood sugars were relatively normal - normal for me, at any rate. After taking my shower and the other morning ablutions, I prepped the majority of the material that I needed for the afternoon's game of Primeval that I was going to run, the home-grown scenario, "Peril Beneath the Streets", and then spross and I headed downstairs to the Indianapolis Marriott North restaurant, Bistro 33, for breakfast. I had my usual for breakfast - the American breakfast, with 2 scrambled eggs, some toast, peameal bacon, and decaf coffee, with a side order of sauteed mushrooms and spinach. While eating, I tweeted out a request to find out if anyone knew if there was a dealer in the Exhibit Hall selling lightweight poker chips, but to no avail; I guess it was too early for most of my tweeps or something! In the meantime, I got a text message from one of my (virtual) friends, Lynne Hardy, who currently is doing work for Modiphius Entertainment and has quite a few game writing and editing credits, notably (to me, anyway) for still great The Dying Earth from Pelgrane Press and her own Cogs, Cakes & Swordsticks from Modiphius. I've known Lynne for more than a decade, but we've never met. Anyway, she asked if we could get together for lunch this day, and I told her that I'd get back to her when spross and I reached the convention site. Still had the whole drive to the convention thing to do, and wasn't sure where we'd park the car. Once we'd eaten, we went back to the room, gathered our stuff, and set off for the day's events at GenCon.
The trip to the ICC took us about 30 minutes as usual, with spross driving, "Amy" (the GPS) giving us directions, and me playing the role of Gwen DeMarco (played by Sigourney Weaver) in Galaxy Quest, repeating the GPS's instructions to make myself feel like I was contributing something on the drive downtown. Being Friday, the last day of the work week and the second day of the convention, it was busy and crowded in town and so we struggled once more to find a parking space, but lucked out and were able to park at Plaza Park(ing) for the day (the same place we'd been able to park on Wednesday, Day -1) by about 10:15 am. Luck seemed to be with us for a change. We left the car in the parking lot, and I realised right away that I had a dilemma on my hands - the gaming stuff that I was lugging with me in the messenger bag for the afternoon game was quite...heavy. spross decided I'd be better off leaving the gaming stuff at the car for now, since we'd have time after lunch to grab the stuff before I had to run the game, and so he took the short walk back to the car from where we were to deposit stuff (I kept my bag with the meds and the like with me) while I tried to stretch the kinks out of my neck from carrying the books. Ughh!
I texted Lynne back and told her that we could do lunch, and she suggested a place called Noodles & Company. I'd eaten there a couple of years back at GenCon, and agreed to the request. Lynne said she'd meet us there, as she had her own stuff on the go for the morning. In the meantime, spross returned, and he and I decide to brave the crowds and went into the Exhibit Hall once more. It was absolutely packed this morning with people, seemingly even more than the day before, but I had a goal or three in mind. I started off in search of the elusive poker chips that I was hunting and asked around at a couple of likely booths, but nobody could help me out in this regard. I finally went back to the Koplow Games booth area, and bought three lightweight sets of small, plastic chips in blue, white, and red. Sort of like mini-Style chip markers from back in the days when I was running Ubiquity. From there, it was over to OffWorld Designs, where I snagged another two t-shirts that I wanted. At that point, I headed over to the folks at Modiphius Entertainment to see what they had for sale, and discovered they were marketing a Thunderbirds board game based on the old ITV series. Neat stuff! I couldn't see how I was going to get that back to Ottawa, but received a nice cardboard flyer from the designer, Matt Leacock (I think), and thought that I might order the game when I got back to Ottawa. Continued wandering around some more and lost spross for a while, seeing what there was to see, and managed to get a quick demo of what the Gravwell board game was like (but can't for the life of me remember which booth area it was at). (See what happens when you don't take notes!)
Part of the Polaris RPG exhibit from Black Book Editions
Another part of the Polaris RPG display, with my glasses!
spross rejoined me, and I found the booth of the good folks from ODAM Publishing, the folks who make Of Dreams and Magic (ODAM). I had wanted to back the Kickstarter for the game, but just didn't have the funds to do that at the time, and so I snagged a copy of the regular edition of the game (a big, heavy book that weighs a good 7 lbs.!) and got a couple of dice and the free PDF of the game as well. I don't know if I'll get Tammy and my other gamers to play the game, but spross looked through a copy of the book and told me that he'd play if given the chance.
By this time, it was after 12:10 pm, and I had to think in terms of eating lunch before running the Primeval RPG session at 2:00 pm at the Hyatt Regency. I texted Lynne back that I was heading for Noodles & Company, but she must have still been doing her thing. The weather was broiling and humid outside, but fortunately the walk to the restaurant was pretty brief... The place was packed, the menu that I saw on the wall did nothing for me, and so I quickly told spross that we were heading back for the Circle Center Mall food court, and we'd go and eat some more Maki of Japan food. I texted Lynne that there was a change of plan, and she texted me back to say they'd meet us there. Needless to say, the Center City Mall food court was *jam packed* with people, but we got in line and while we were picking up the food, Lynne and her husband, Richard, arrived. Hugging and stuff all around, and I was thrilled to meet her. She and Richard went off to grab some sweet nosh and stuff, and spross and I lucked out and grabbed a table. Lynne and Richard returned with sweet treats and cold ice coffee confections from Cinnabon (envy!, jealous!), and it was like Lynne and I were friends of old (which we are!). Richard is a great guy and he and Lynne had some wonderful anecdotes. Alas and alack, lunch passed all too soon, as I had to hustle over to the Hyatt Regency to get ready to run the Primeval game session, while spross dashed back to the car and grabbed the gaming material that I'd need to run the game with! And he also took the gaming stuff we'd bought this day back to the vehicle as well. Bless his soul. I bid farewell to Lynne and Richard, and found out that she'd be at the Modiphius booth for most of Saturday, and promised myself that I'd see her there and pick up some gaming product as well. (That and a photo, since in our enthusiasm to just talk and stuff, I forgot to take a photo!)
I got to the Hyatt Regency with some time to spare, around 20 minutes, and there were already a couple of people sitting nearby who were going to be players in the game, but I was still lacking three players for the 6-player game. I tweeted out for anyone who might be wanting to get into the game to play, and hoped for the best. The room in the Hyatt Regency was one of the meeting rooms, well ventilated and air conditioned with some 10 or so tables at which several games were winding down and/or getting ready to start up. After cleaning up some of the debris left on the table from the previous game and a quick pit stop, I started to set up for the game. The Primeval scenario of the day was a home-grown adventure called "Peril Beneath the Streets"; I've run this one at GenCon before, oddly enough. It's set in the London Underground after the player characters are called in to investigate the deaths of several London Transit workers. The scenario has a couple of sub-plots that I won't go into here, and is quite creepy with the feel that I'm going for in terms of describing the abandoned tube station and all that. Oh, and there are dinosaurs and Anomalies. (Yes, that was plural.) For this one, I use the central characters from Series 1 of the tv show - Nick Cutter, Stephen Hart, Abby Maitland, Connor Temple, Claudia Brown, and Captain Tom Ryan - as I wanted the players to rely on their wits and each other, rather than the technology such as the Anomaly detectors, etc. that were developed during Series 3. Furthermore, I tweaked the stats of the characters slightly to suit them better in my opinion.
While there were supposed to be five players signed up for the six slots of the game, two of the players never showed up. Fortunately, I was able to convince spross to play in the game (using generic tickets), and another fellow by the name of Rudy came in with a couple of generic tickets as well. Since there were only five players, one of the characters had to fall by the wayside, and it turned out that character would be... Claudia Brown. This made for an interesting group of character dynamics, since they didn't really have any character to handle the social aspects of the situation they were in, other than Cutter, who really isn't up to that personality-wise. Only two of the players who showed up for the game had any familiarity with the Primeval tv series, but in many ways that made the game more interesting, as it frees up the way some of the tv series characters are portrayed by the players. For the benefit of the players who had seen little or none of the tv show, I went into a bit more detail about the series insofar as these characters were concerned, and some of the basic premises, and this seemed to help the two players in question a good deal.
Two players give SteveR's camera a thumbs up of approval about the Friday Primeval scenario
Some player and character observations are in order, I suppose. First off, I should say that all the players really did a first-rate job with the roles they had to play. The fellow who played Nick Cutter did an admirable job with the character, very much trying to play the "pal" angle with the fellow playing Stephen Hart, and acting the leader. He didn't give Connor or Captain Ryan any leeway at all, something that amused me. The fellow playing Stephen Hart did a relatively good job being the friend and assistant to the Cutter player, and the two of them worked well together. He didn't relate that much to Connor and Abbey, though he did have some sympathies in common with the fellow playing Captain Ryan. The fellow playing Abby Maitland didn't really do justice to the feminine side of Abby, though he tried his best to relate to Connor in a relatively friendly fashion, and got annoyed when the player playing Connor tried to stick close to him/her for any period of time. spross did a pretty good job playing Connor Temple, doing the research that he could, being an Abby fan for most of the game session, and playing the smart nerd. Finally, the fellow playing Captain Ryan did a good job playing the military man, pledged to protect the scientist and other nerds, though he was a bit gun-happy for my taste. However, he was a bit disappointed that he didn't get to use his weapons as much as he would have liked, and the Cutter player kept him on a leash. The players all seem to have had a good time of it in the game session, and they commented to me when it was over they had really enjoyed themselves.
A shot of the game table during the break at the 2-hour mark
None of the moments in the adventure session really stand out to me, other than two. First off, the players split the characters up at rather strange, inappropriate moments, and there were some interesting times when they were separated and dealing with various game situations. Moments that stand out include: When Stephen Hart's player had him go off down the tunnel alone, and then they hear him screaming as he runs back towards the group, covered in compys, and SteveR's Connor grabbed Abby's gun and tried to shoot one of the things off him!... Captain Ryan doing the heroic thing at the end to destroy the compy nest with the grenade making things into a fireball coming down the tunnel, and the player seemed disappointed later when he successfully made the two rolls needed to throw himself to safety in the Underground tunnels... The players' creeped out reactions when I was running them in the tunnels, with shadows, dripping noises, the smell of ozone, and the dark... On the other hand, the sad thing was that the group didn't get overly creative at times and needed prodding (using the Story Points mechanic), but the folks playing Cutter, Abby, and Connor came up with some good ideas from time to time. That said, the player characters never did save the people on the train, something that Lester brought up in the final debriefing.
After the game finished, with about 10 minutes to go in the time slot, the players told me that they had really enjoyed the game, felt that it had an evocative feel to it, and that the game mechanics were excellent and suited a roleplaying game based on the series. They found the game mechanics to be quite simple and easy to learn, and a couple of them expressed interest in purchasing the game. (I directed them to the Cubicle 7 booth in the Exhibit Hall.) I had a terrific time running the game, and one of my favourite games of the last couple of years. I hadn't run the game in a couple of years now, and suffice it to say, the game was so much fun to run, that when we broke for the 5-minute break at the half-way point, I finally realised how much my back/leg were hurting me, and how I needed some snack food and water.
After the players left the Hyatt Regency game room, spross helped me pack up the gaming stuff after I got back from the lavatory, and then we wandered back over to the ICC to see what was going on, after a stop at the Marriott Downtown, but there was nothing going on in the IGDN games room and nothing appealed to me at Games on Demand. By that time, it was close to 7:20 pm or so, and I was so tired and stressed from the noise of all the gamers that we decided to head back to the relative quiet of the Indianapolis Marriott North, and see what we could find for dinner there.
The drive back to the hotel was relatively quiet, and we went upstairs and dropped stuff off there. We thought of going to the local P.F. Chang's for supper, but I didn't fancy that since we'd eaten twice at Maki of Japan for lunch in three days, so we went down to Bistro 33, where we ordered the roast chicken. I don't know how roast chicken is supposed to be served in the U.S., but this was not what I was expecting, and that's all I'm going to say about that main dish, other than to add that it was saved by some mediocre pot stickers as an appetiser and a decent salad, and we splurged on a pretty good piece of cheesecake for dessert.
By the time we finished that supper, I was just tired and worn out, and still a bit hungry. So spross and I went back up to the hotel room, and had a bit of a snack including some cheese and a roll, with some apple and some almonds. I switched out the game stuff for the next day's Primeval game session, and then reloaded the medicines in the pill dispensers for the next day. Then it was usual nighttime blood test and insulin routine, followed by the brushing of teeth and then crawling (literally, in my case) into the bed. SteveR and I chatted a bit before bed, and then we turned off the lights and tried to sleep.
That's the wrap-up on the fourth day of the trip to Indy, and the second official day of GenCon 2015. Hope folks enjoyed the blog entry. The Saturday report on events will follow as soon as I get a chance.