John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane

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GenCon 2015, Day 3 Report

Here is the report of the fifth day of the trip to GenCon 2015. The report on the fourth day can be found in this journal entry.

August 1st, 2015

I woke up on the Saturday morning feeling somewhat tired and achy, though I did feel somewhat rested. I managed to catch some 7 hours of sleep or so, and definitely felt a bit better despite the aches and pains. We had slept in late, however, so needed to start functioning for the morning. After spross woke up, I went to do my morning ablutions, and felt a tightness in my chest as well as having a mild sore throat, though I attributed both of those to allergies at the time (but was this actually the beginning of con crud?). I felt somewhat better after drinking a bit of water, rinsing my mouth, and taking my shower. While SteveR showered, I lotioned up the parts of my body that needed it, and noticed that my legs and feet looked somewhat better. The Gold Bond for Diabetes stuff seemed to be making an impact after only a couple of days, though the left ankle swelling was still present and it hurt like heck, even for so early in the morning. I made sure that the Primeval RPG stuff that I needed for the afternoon was ready, as I didn't want to have to deal with packing it and remembering to do so before we left for downtown Indy. Once he was ready to face the day, spross and I headed down to the Indianapolis Marriott North's restaurant, Bistro 33, for breakfast. Once more, it was a highly satisfying meal of scrambled eggs, peameal bacon, wheat toast, and decaf coffee, with sugar-free jam and yogurt. Lovely, and a nice way to start the day.

We headed back up to the room, and gathered the stuff that we needed for the day at GenCon. Then it was back downstairs to the hotel parking lot, and we set out for the ICC in the Honda Accord, "Amy" giving us the usual directions to get downtown in about 25 minutes. Arriving in downtown Indy, spross had no problem parking the car in the Circle Center Mall parking lot (at a reasonable price for the full day), and then we started the long walk to the ICC. It was a somewhat warm, humid day, and I felt a little uncomfortable in the chest, but attributed that to the weight of the gaming stuff on my shoulder. I was thinking about doing supper at the Old Spaghetti Factory this evening, and tweeted out a message asking if any other folks would like to join us, but didn't get any replies to that one.

The madness of Saturday at GenCon

Once in the ICC, I saw a lovely couple near one of the escalators, and asked them if they'd mind if I took their photo. They were delighted, and once I had the photo, the couple answered some of my questions about the materials they'd used for the period costumes. Very illuminating.

Elizabethan couple

I decided to go into the Exhibit Hall this morning and just let my feet do the wandering, and spross and I split up for the morning stroll through the Hall, and agreed to meet at the Cubicle 7 booth just after 12:15. The trip through the dealer's area took me to some of the smaller booths that I'd wanted to check out, though I completely forgot all about the Authors' and Artists' areas until it was too late. One place I wanted to stop for sure was the "Modiphius Entertainment booth, as I was hoping to see Lynne and Richard Hardy again, get a photo or two, and also buy some stuff. Sure enough, Lynne was there and the booth was doing a good amount of business, though I also saw that they were having trouble with the credit card transactions; I almost did the transaction for the two copies of Cogs, Cakes & Swordsticks (one for me, and one for Ellie) using cash, but decided to go for the credit card since I was running a bit low on cash for the day, and still needed to eat some lunch for the next two days at the convention. Lynne signed the copy of the game for me, and one of the booth folks was kind enough to take a couple of photos of Lynne, Richard, and myself.

Lynne and Richard Hardy with yours truly

Continued to wander on through the Exhibit Hall, just seeing some stuff, looking over some merchandise, and marvelling at the sheer spectacle of it all. During my meanderings, I also managed to play a couple of demo games. One was an up-and-coming small company whose name I can't remember that were promoting a game in development called Phoenix Kings. The premise of the game was one of "faith, fighting, and flaying" set in the Aztec/Mayan cultural areas. I played an aspirant to power, but I killed the King's sorcerer, angering Huitzilpochtli, and died a horrible death. All in 15 minutes or so... Lots of fun! Over at the Z-Man Games booth area, there were a lot of intriguing games on display but one that appealed to me was Sylvion. I got to play a quick demo of the game, as I needed to get to the Cubicle 7 booth where I was meeting spross, and it was pretty fun. The way I undestand this one is: The terrifying Ravage and his Fire Elementals want to burn the grand forest of the Oniverse to dust. Only the players can face the heroic task of stopping this unspeakable offense by building the best Defender deck by skillfully selecting cards from those available. As a two-player game at best, this was simple in so many ways, but strategy and skill played a role, and it was fun.

In any event, I made it back to the Cubicle 7 booth and met up with spross, and it was time to go in search of lunch. Since I had the second Primeval game session to run, we needed a place to sit and eat, but I wanted somewhere relatively quiet as I was a bit overwhelmed by the noise and the like. I was sitting for a bit, talking to a couple of people, and they suggested that we go over to Shula's in the Westin hotel, as they had a very nice lunch menu that could be taken out, if needed. The ambience of the place was pretty great, and it was relatively quiet when we got there. The club sandwich did the trick for me, at $13, and consisting of smoked turkey, cure 81 ham, apple wood smoked bacon (which I skipped), and cheddar cheese (which I switched for shredded mozzarella), on a toasted ciabatta roll. Since it was ready in 15 minutes, spross and I ate our lunch right there in Shula's at a quiet, corner table, and it was a great lunch. I skipped the fries that came with mine (okay, I admit it... I ate half the fries with the sandwich, as when I checked, my blood sugar was quite low), and just relaxed there for a while. After that, it was time to hustle myself over to the Hyatt Regency in order to get ready for the afternoon running of the Primeval game. With that great lunch under my belt, I was really looking forward to the game!

I walked into the Hyatt Regency game room, the same one that I'd played in the day before, and was so ready for this game. There were six people pre-registered for the game, so it was full, and I was rather looking forward to running the game for a full table of players. I started setting up for the game, and several folks came over to the table and sat down, all ready to play, a couple of women and a fellow. By the time 2:00 pm rolled around, I realised that one of the players wasn't going to be showing up, so I tweeted out a call that there was a spot available in the game for anyone who wanted to play, but there were no takers. I wasn't worried about it, as the Primeval scenario would work fine with just five players.

The Primeval scenario that I was running on this Saturday was a home-grown one called "Feast or Flight". This one features the primary characters from the Second Series of the show - Nick Cutter, Stephen Hart, Abby Maitland, Connor Temple, and Jenny Lewis - and throws in a new security guy, Jake Hemple, for the sixth character, and is a nifty little adventure with the premise of the characters investigating a suspicious death at a conference on food and famine. While I'm not going to go into detail about the scenario for obvious reasons, since I plan to run it at various game conventions and for demonstration purposes in future, I'll discuss some of the elements here. Bear in mind there are a few SPOILER WARNINGS here, so be warned.

With the exception of three of the players, there were two players who had no knowledge of the Primeval tv series at all, and one of the female players, Fawn, told me that she was playing only her second roleplaying game, her previous experience having come the day before at the convention! Then, right off the bat, the players presented an interesting dilemma in running this adventure. Since the game session was one player short, the players left Captain Hemple, the head of security, out of the game and opted to take only one ARC security officer with them, a relative newbie named Angela Thompson. This meant the players chose to go in without any real combat skills, other than those of Stephen Hart, and the NPC Thompson who would be played by everyone at various times during the adventure. Could have made fighting the dinosaurs a bit more difficult, to say the least. The players took an interesting approach to the scenario, and were somewhat cautious throughout most of it, though they were certainly justified in being so, given that they lacked any real firepower to deal with hostile creatures.

The fellow who played Nick Cutter did a good job with Nick, emphasising the palaeontological side of his game (he knew a good deal about the subject as well), and tried to play the rift between Nick and Stephen Hart that existed at the time of this scenario over the latter's affair with Helen Cutter. He also was very insistent they not try to kill the creatures they encountered (they couldn't have regardless, without the firepower), and kept Connor on something of a leash. Furthermore, he kept calling Jenny "Claudia", much to the Jenny player's annoyance, but also flirted with her to some extent. Fawn, the roleplaying newbie, played Stephen Hart, and while she was a bit slow getting a handle on the character and the roleplaying elements of the game, by the time the third hour rolled around, she'd gotten a good grasp on the character and took charge of the hunting down tracks and the like. The fellow who played Connor Temple did a relatively good job of it with the character, playing up the Connor/Abby relationship, but didn't use his skills in the early part of the game to research Manderley House and the conference all that well. He treated Nick Cutter as the father figure in a truly frightening, but accurate, manner, and like I said, did a reasonably good job of it. The fellow playing Abby Maitland was very good with the character, handling the animal encounters (until Fawn took solid control of her role as Stephen Hart), but she deferred to Cutter, and got annoyed at Connor following her around at times like a puppy. The woman who played Jenny Lewis did a terrific job of it, coming up with a good cover story for the ARC personnel being at Manderley House (they were from a government organisation similar to Animal Control), and took charge of all public relations the group had to deal with, while also flirting somewhat with the Nick Cutter character and getting annoyed every time he called her "Claudia"! The player was absolutely brilliant in the role of Jenny, and she's the one who really came through for them near the end (see below).

spross arrived back from playing in a game of Laser Kittens (don't ask me, perhaps he'll say more about that here or in his own blog!) relatively early, and after taking a photo or two of the game and plopping down the laser kitten he'd gotten in the game sat and watched for a bit, before he went off to wander around a bit more.

The game session of Primeval had some wonderful moments in it, though there are no true highlights other than the sequence at the end. Some of the memorable stuff includes: The woman playing Jenny Lewis taking complete charge when the characters arrived at Manderley House, much to the Cutter character's annoyance. He took Jenny to task about it, but Fawn's Stephen Hart interfered, "defending" Jenny... The Connor player making constant attempts to get hold of of the tranquilliser weapons every chance he got, and constantly being denied... Connor Temple being attacked and unable to save himself from the claws of a paronychodon, until Jenny's player used two Story Points at the time to bring Corporal Thompson in to change the story, as she killed the dinosaur before it killed Connor (using *her* Hero Points to make the Marksman roll count)... With the two groups of player characters split up and caught between the herd of pachyrhinosaurs and the oncoming paronychodons, Jenny putting the pedal to the metal with one of the ARC SUVs and screaming to a halt near Cutter and Stephen Hart, with the words, "Need a lift?"... The ridiculous yarn that Cutter spun to a local about the wounded pachyrhinosaurus he almost stumbled on with his motorbike, with predators also nearby, and then the fabulous Convince roll that he made (total of 28, Fabulous Success) to get the man to leave quickly... The characters of Abby, Connor, and Jenny having to leap out of the first SUV, after it was rammed by a large herbivore and sent spinning through the air, spending Story Points to survive a) getting out of the vehicle; and b) hitting the ground, hard... Two other moments of the session were memorable to me. First off, when the characters had to split up to a) examine the body in the hastily assembled morgue at Manderley House, b) check out the site where the body had been found; and c) look around for tracks, the players split the characters with the wrong characters going to the various destinations, and then had to get in touch with each other and swap places doing the various information gathering. The final madcap chase with the surviving SUV, as the player characters used the plants that Abby had realised the pachyrhinosauruses were eating to lure them to the Anomaly, hence also luring the predatory raptors to the Anomaly, was brilliant. It was made even better as the Jenny player spent a large number of Story Points (she'd accumulated a few) to keep all the character safe in the vehicle, including Thompson who was on the right side running board of the vehicle, "distracting" any creatures that got too close. Rather than take the vehicle through the Anomaly itself, she remembered Lester's words about value of the vehicles earlier, and tried to do a hairpin around the Anomaly edge at the last moment. Some excellent stuff.

A lot of Threat markers in the final scenes of the Primeval scenario

The game went exceedingly well, and the players all told me that they had a really good time and enjoyed themselves immensely with the Primeval game, and "Feast or Flight" specifically. They loved the game mechanics, adored the Threat mechanics and felt it was quite intimidating (see the photo above for how many Threat markers were on the board at one point in the climax sequences), and liked the adventure a lot. "Let's keep off the menu!" was a recurring theme the players kept saying during the course of the game session. When we finished up, Fawn (the newbie to roleplaying games) told me that she loved the game, thought it was a lot better than her previous experience the day before (though she didn't tell me what she'd played on Thursday), and marvelled that I was able to juggle the various sub-plots and the splitting up of the party the way I did. I was flattered, and quite humbled by her presence at the game, and her play made that of some experienced roleplayers look positively novice-like.

Once the players had all departed, it was some time after 6:25. spross helped me pack up the gaming stuff, and we headed out to see what we could do for some supper, as we were both starving. We dropped some stuff off at the car in the Circle Center Mall lot, and then headed over to the Old Spaghetti Factory. On arriving there we found the wait would be around 45 minutes to an hour, much too late for either of us, so we headed out and found ourselves in the Omni Severin hotel and their restaurant, 1913. Had a relatively good dinner of small salad, farmstead filet (steak that was absolutely like butter), with redskin mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts. The meal was quite good, though I prefer my steak a bit more...solid. The last two pieces of the steak were absolutely rare, and when I brought this to the attention of the waiter, he insisted that my steak would be deducted from the charge! spross and I had a dessert - the decadent Stirred Barn Raiser (consisting of vanilla ice cream, butterscotch pudding, a milk chocolate chip cookie, and Barn Raiser crumble). I had a whopping three small spoons of the dessert. Yay! Lovely supper, and felt quite good afterwards.

The relish tray during dinner at the Omni's 1913 restaurant

After supper, spross and I wandered back to the ICC to see what was going on, and then over to the Marriott Downtown. In the Indie Game Developer Network (IGDN) game room (ballroom 7, iirc), there were several games going on, but I was intrigued by a game session of what was called the Psionics RPG from End Transmission Games. I saw that Mikaela Barree (the art director, and co-writer) was running the game, and Devon Oratz (the game designer) was playing in the game. I was intrigued enough to flip through a copy of the game, and I liked what I saw very much; psionics in roleplaying games are not handled all that often very well, and this game seemed to have it all with a vibe that reminded me of Alfred Bester's works and the Tomorrow People tv series (both old and new). When I interrupted the game (I feel guilty about this now, btw), and asked Mikaela "So what do characters *do* in this game?" (one of the criteria I have for an rpg), her answer was really good, and I turned back to Devon and said, "Sold!" A sort of impulse buy, I suppose. Both Devon and Mikaela, along with Russell Zimmerman, a contributor to the fiction in the book, signed the copy of the book for me. We let them get back into the game, and both spross and I watched for a little bit, and then headed over to Games on Demand to see what was going on there. There was nothing happening that night that I really wanted to play, and since it was closing on 10:00 pm, spross and I decided to head back to the hotel and get some sleep.

The drive back to the Indianapolis Marriott North was quite surreal, being as dark as it was, and my favourite part of the drive, Meridian Avenue, was really quite creepy by night in a good way, but I was also feeling quite fatigued and exhausted so that may have had something to do with my...impressions of it. After the long day and the massive crowds at GenCon on the Saturday, the lovely quiet of the Marriott North was wonderful. I had a bit of water from one of the lobby coolers that refreshed me somewhat, and then it was up to the room. spross and I unloaded the purchases of the day and I unpacked the Primeval gaming stuff, and then we just relaxed for about 15 minutes. I asked spross what he was going to do with the laser kitten, and he told me he wanted me to give that to Ellie as a gift. I laughed, and asked him what he thought Kathy might do if I gave Ellie a kitten doll with a laser pointer, and he said that was a good point, but he'd think some more about it. :)

By this time, I needed to take my blood test, and then do my insulin injection, and reduced the dose of insulin again by a couple of units, given the blood glucose readings I'd had during the course of the past two days. We snacked on some almonds and Cheerios, and I started putting the meds in the pill dispensers for the next day. I was very tired, and so after a bit of small talk, I went to bed but was a bit hyper by the events of the day and some of the gaming stuff that I couldn't fall asleep right away. So I lay in the dark, hoping sleep would take me...

An extremely long post, as folks can see, so I hope that all those who read it enjoyed it. :)

That's the wrap-up on the fifth day of the trip to Indy, and the second official day of GenCon 2015. The Sunday report on events will follow when I get the chance to write up my memory derived notes.
Tags: convention, gaming hut, gencon, personal, photos, primeval rpg, report, rpg hut

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