August 16th, 2008
This day has got to be one of the longest days I've had in a long, long time. The morning wake-up call came way too early at 7:00 am, and I think I only caught about three hours of sleep, what with the late night before and all the stuff in my head about that day. I woke up, and I knew that something was wrong since I felt like I had the start of a sore throat (and that feeling only intensified as the day went on). I was still pretty depressed about the events of the "Conquest of the Surface World" game the day before, and had to psych myself up for the "Lake Qechacua" game that day. Not something I'm used to, since I love running that scenario usually. spross and I went down to breakfast at the usual time, where it was quite crowded that morning. I had the usual omelette with veggies and cheese, and then headed back to the room. I grabbed what I needed to run "The Secret of Lake Qechacua" and organized it, before SteveR and I both headed down to the lobby. He was doing the Exile Games booth demos for four (!!) hours from 10:00 am - 2:00 pm while I was running the scenario in Union Station, so we split up and headed our own ways at that point. Before he left, I reminded SteveR to ask Jamie or one of the guys at the Greymalkin Designs booth for the set of miniatures that I needed to run the Desolation game later in the day. I arrived in the room at Union Station in time to watch a couple of games in progress - supersech's "Escape From the Hollow Earth" and Mike Hirsch running "Dirk Savage and the Mystery of the Emerald Chupacabra", and Rbree (Robin) running the "Wilderness Kids" scenario.
And then came "The Secret of Lake Qechacua"... what can I say about this game, other than the fact that it renewed my faith in roleplaying and was one of the *best* games of HEX I've run as a demo and all. All of the players for the "Lake Qechacua" game showed up a bit early, a good sign, and I learned that three of the players were newbies and three of them were veteran Hollow Earth Expedition players, so it was going to be an interesting mix of gamers. The young woman who was playing (but I forget her name now) was an rpg newbie, and she told me that her boyfriend had signed her up to play in a few games, but she was not impressed with any of the rpgs she had played at GenCon Indy so far. I assured her that HEX was the perfect game for newcomers to the world of rpgs, because of the simplicity of the game mechanics, the speed of the system, and the widely understood nature of the Pulp genre. She took on the role of Eliza, and what a wonderful game it turned gout to be. I actually had a full complement of seven players for the game, as one fellow showed up with a generic ticket hoping to get into the game, and fortunately I have seven player characters for "Lake Qechacua". An older gentleman in his late 60's (!!) took on the role of the aged moneyman, Marshall Hardigan, and did a wonderful job of playing the guy who thinks he's in charge of the expedition and tries to give orders, all the while being in a position of having to take orders from Eliza and the more knowledgeable folks in the party about surviving in the Hollow Earth. The young lady playing Eliza slipped into the role of the daughter looking for her missing father as if it was tailor-made for her, the role fitting her like a glove. She exuded the personality of the concerned daughter, the young woman on whom her uncle, Henry Summerfield, doted on, and the heroine of the Pulps to a "T". The two fellows who played Cary Gates, the big game hunter, and Sergei Terlenko, the Russian former mercenary, were delightful in their character play. The guy playing Cary brought home the unrequited love that he felt for Eliza solidly, and while the fellow playing Sergei played it more as the friend of Cary's who knows he loves Eliza and just wants to twist the screws a bit by flirting with her was superb in his role, he did a fine job portraying the Russian ex-merc with the Greed motivation coming out at the least expected times. The two of them played a game of one-upsmanship the whole way through the game that was fascinating to watch, and climaxed in a nasty bit (but more on that later). The guy who played Andrea O'Reilly, the Annie Oakley of the reporter set, did a really good job with her, portraying the somewhat callous approach of the character to life, but forgot at times that she was a pretty good marksman. During the initial battle with the apemen, Eliza got kidnapped by the apes (that Danger Magnet flaw, of course!), but Sergei pumped a few Style points into his attack roll with the rifle, and shot the vine. He then made a heroic attempt to grab Eliza, but failed by a whisker, and she was rendered unconscious by her impact with the ground. The guy playing Sergei picked her up, caressed her slightly along the back and all, and returned her to Cary just as Eliza woke up. Cary saw the rumpling of the clothing and the like, and went ballistic - all this in the middle of the fight with the apemen!! The older gentleman playing Henry Summerfield, Eliza's uncle, did a good job playing the botanist surrounded by a world of flora wonders as well as the concerned uncle, and reacted poorly to the whole Cary-Sergei business over her. The weakest performance in the game was by the young man who was playing Bradley Nilsson, the wilderness guide with a dislike of the urban environments. While he did a good job roleplaying the friendship between himself and Henry Summerfield, he struggled with the rest of the play, possibly due to the sheer roleplaying intensity of the players around him. Still, he told me afterwards that he had a pretty good time. The scenario ended up on a magnificent note, in which unable to let Eliza die in the collapse of the Qechacua temple at the end of the scenario, they *both* sacrificed themselves to protect her and allow the others time time to escape gunning down Qechacua after Qechacua before they were overwhelmed and fell to their deaths!! Brilliant stuff!! Especially Cary's cry of "I love you, Eliza!" just before he fell to his death. During the early going of the scenario, the players derailed the adventure around the time where they met the Kanutu, but brought themselves back on track. Thus, instead of ending fifteen minutes early, Nestor arrived to run his game as I was wrapping up at the hour mark. We managed to make a relatively fast transition, talking a bit while he set up as I was clearing up the table.
spross arrived just as I was finishing up, and he told me that Matt from Greymalkin was running "The Price of Admission", so I would have to wait for the miniatures that I needed to run the scenario at 6:00 pm that evening. Matt would drop it off at the GMD booth for me to pick up. By this time, my sore throat had me convinced that I had picked up something at the convention, and I was starting to feel sinus pain as well. Given my proclivity for sinus infections, this was not a good sign. I took a couple of Tylenol with some bottled water. SteveR and I returned to the Omni Severin, and dumped all the gaming stuff off before heading down to the Severin Bar for lunch. I had the club sandwich again and, much to my surprise, so did spross, although he had fries with his. After that it was back to the hotel room to grab a bottle of water and a tote bag, and then we headed over to the Dealer's Hall. I wanted to see the Exile Games folks at the booth and chat a bit with them (as I hadn't really had a lot of time to talk to some of these folks at the con), as well as to go over to the Greymalkin booth and pick up the miniatures for the Desolation game that I was going to run later.
At the Exile Games booth, Jeff (Combos) and lena_of_fargo (Katie) were there, but banished_babe (Melissa) had gone for a bit of a nap after a hectic morning. SteveR told me that Melissa had dressed as the cargo cultist alchemist, complete with needle-imbedded toy bear, for the morning, and I was sad that I missed it; he told me that he had managed to photograph her, thank Goddess! :) Jeff mentioned to me that the feedback cards on the Thursday and that morning's "Lake Qechacua" games were all very praising, both of me as a GM and the scenario and the game system. I was glad to hear this, for sure! :) Listening in, one of the folks (I don't remember if it was lena_of_fargo or maybe Dave or James (Yancey)) said that the newbie girl from the morning's game had actually come by the booth and picked up copies of the HEX GM Screen and SotSW (as her boyfriend already had the main rulebook). Great stuff! :) Over at the Greymalkin Designs booth, nearside or Jamie (can't remember which!) gave me a small box with the miniatures, dice, and Style chips that I needed to run "The Price of Admission" scenario for Desolation. I also learned that sales of the game for the day were somewhat disappointing, but found out that everyone else was having the same problem, so it was a universal one. I bid the GMD folks adieu, and went back to the Exile Games booth, where I collected spross. "I've got cows!" I said to him with a silly grin on my face. Since he was going to play in the game that evening, I hadn't said all that much about the game to him, but from what I'd just told him and the look on my face, he was definitely confused, but anticipating the game as well. hehe :)
The two of us headed back to the Omni Severin, as we were both feeling a bit tired, so wanted a bit of a rest. Besides, I had to take a quick look over the Desolation scenario, so I wrote a bit of the journal entry that these notes are based on, read up on the scenario and all, snickering to myself several times as I did (don't worry, I'll explain about that later!), and after munching a bit of snack food, spross and I headed over to Union Station about 5:00 pm, so that I could hopefully set up the Desolation scenario stuff relatively early and get ready to run it.
(This set of notes is based partially on the memories of spross, as my notes come to a conclusion around the time we started to game on Saturday night.) When I arrived at Union Station, there were still a couple of games going on that were going to run until about 8:00 pm. My friend, Tammy Powers, was there, and spross arranged to give Tammy his open ticket for the Desolation game so that she could play in "The Price of Admission". There were a total of six players, including SteveR and Tammy, for the game, so one of the player characters - the noble sorceress, Esther LaVore, was not played. All I am going to say about the plot of "The Price of Admission" is to provide an overview... The player characters arrive at a settlement, but when they request entry, are told that there is a small price of admission - all they have to do is go and bring back the village's cows that have wandered off. And they are told that the bull cow, Gus, can be a handful. Suffice it to say, I thought the player characters had a terrific time of it in the game. The male player in the role of Lem Ollender, the ex-Legionnaire, did a really good job given what he had to work with. Since the character of Esther LaVore, the sorceress who is the one who got Lem wandering around in the first place and whom he had vowed to protect, wasn't being played, that limited his roleplaying opportunities, but he played it to the hilt. Lem came across as very old school, and the player did a good job of trying to live up to the ideals of the Empire that no longer is. He shone during the fight with the skeletons, and was in his element, but other than that, played things rather quietly. The fellow playing Denner Khent, the scavenging dwarf, did a pretty good job overall. Denner is somewhat rough around the edges, and has a few fears that can be played up, notably one of the Night of Fire reoccurring, and this was brought out to the fore during the attack of the skeletons when the elf elementalist cast a fire spell at the undead creatures, thus causing Denner to suffer from his phobia. During the final conflict with the troll, the player tried to have Denner sneak up behind the beast, but it smashed him into the nearest cave wall, rendering him unconscious for most of the battle. It was quite entertaining to watch the other player characters protect him during the fight. A female player took on the role of Menelaris, the defiant elf Elementalist, and played the character as superior to the others and everyone around her to the extent that the rest of the player characters became seriously annoyed with the character. At one point, spross had his character, Sasha Veng (see below) give the Menelaris character extra Style points for his Magic skill roll in order to make him suffer from Burn damage! (A bit outside of the rules, but I had seen Matt do something very similar in one of the other Desolation games during the weekend, so let it go...and it was really funny!). Suffice to say the player did Menelaris proud, playing him arrogantly and slightly over the top, willing to risk all with his magic. Lots of fun. spross took on the role of Sasha Veng, the Rover performer. I thought SteveR did a pretty good job of things here, as he played her in such a way that she tried to keep the attention of others on her all the time, and this came across well. During the final battle with the troll, he had Sasha distract the troll by dancing, and this worked temporarily, until the other characters and the goblins started attacking it. In one of the funniest moments of the game, Sasha tried to jump onto the back of Gus (the cow), but to quote Maxwell Smart, "missed it by thaaaaaat much!" Sasha found herself literally on the ground on her rump, her...pride sorely wounded! The player taking on Krek of Kharhut, the outcast forester, also did a very good job of things. He played the character very much in a practical manner, and Krek was one of the first to suspect that there was more to the villagers' request about retrieving the cows than met the eye. During the skeleton attack, when Menelaris used the fire spell on the undead creatures, Krek fled due to his phobia of fire, climbed a tree, and had an encounter with a Weave-warped raccoon. I threw that in as an unexpected kind of encounter, and it turned out to be lots of fun; the player commented to me afterwards that he rather enjoyed that bit. My friend, Tammy Powers, played Tarl Ishrak, the farmer with faith, and she did an adequate job of it, playing up his religious bent. She played the negotiator and the one advocating peaceful solutions quite well, and did a good job bringing a more human element to the role and to the game overall. Suffice it to say that the players all had a really good time over the course of the two hours of the demo, and rather enjoyed the whole twist on the plot (which I can't reveal here!). For reasons that I can't discuss, there were a whole lot of cow, bull, and cow insemination jokes, and this was something that Jamie told me the next day had occurred quite a bit in the running of that scenario. Price of admission, indeed! :)
After talking with some of the gamers and Tammy, I headed back to the hotel with spross to drop off the stuff, and to get ready to run the HEXfriends game of Desolation that night. Tammy headed off to catch the bus for her trip back to the hotel out near the airport, but not before we made arrangements for her to meet us at the hotel at 8:00 am in the lobby on the Sunday, as it was the day for heading back home to Ottawa. Back in the room, I relaxed for about ten minutes, while SteveR went off to get us some Chinese food over at P.F. Chang's. Taking what I needed downstairs, I descended to the lobby of the Omni Severin to look for a place to game and to lay claim to it. There was nothing in the lobby area itself, but I did find a spot up on the mezzanine level, near the back section where a wedding was going on. It had a long couch, soft, cushioned chairs, and a nice glass table, but was covered with alcoholic beverages and partially empty glasses (from the wedding guests, no doubt). Once the hotel staff cleaned the stuff out, it was perfect for my needs. spross returned with the Chinese food, and the less said about that foul stuff, the better... there was fried dumplings and moo shu pork (I don't eat that much pork, when it comes to Chinese), and I had very little of the food. Thank Goddess, considering how wretched SteveR felt the next day (but that's another post!).
Suffice it to say, the HEXfriends had all arrived by 9:30 pm, so we were able to start. The group consisted of Linwood (MikeD), Nestor, Rabbit in the Moon (Kate), spross, Charles (a friend of Kate's), and Chris Thiessen (another HEX devotee). I was pretty nervous, with the "HEX star power" of Nestor, Kate, and MikeD playing in the game; other than Mike Hirsch, I hadn't had one of the HEX forum folks playing in any of the games I had run at the convention to that point, so I think my nerves were understandable. And by this time, I was very tired and had started to suffer from the sinus infection that I had picked up. Rather than run an actual Desolation scenario since most of the folks present had played in most (if not all) the Desolation scenarios on offer at the convention or had read the one in the rulebook, I decided to run a playtest of a scenario that I had been working on for a couple of weeks. I handed out the standard player characters for Desolation demos to that point - Lem Ollender, Esther LaVore, Menelaris Covalanar, Denner Khent, Krek of Kharhut, Sasha Veng, and Tarl Ishrak. Naturally, Esther got left on the sidelines once more. :) The basic premise of the scenario was that the characters were approached by the mayor, unknown to them a Beguiler, of the town they were in, and asked to take a package from the town to the village or town of Arahn. The mayor only knew where Arahn was last said to be, and didn't know what the package consisted of; he also insisted that the players not open the package or attempt to find out what was in it. Things worked out pretty well in terms of the playtest, with the players coming up with convincing arguments of why the opening bits of the scenario needed to be changed, why the use of a weave storm needed to be eliminated or moved around somewhat, and a few other sundry things. Nestor, Kate, and Chris were a bit harsh on me in terms of some aspects of the scenario, but no more so than I expected them to be or wanted them to be. Overall, I thought it went pretty well. I had figured that we would stop around 1:00 am or so, but things ground to a halt around 11:45 pm, as Kate and I (and several of the others) were all pretty tired and worn out.
After we all broke up for the night, spross and I headed back up to the hotel room, and started packing suitcases and the overnight bag and the like in preparation for the trip back to Ottawa. After such a long, busy day, I figured I would get a decent night's sleep. Ha! Little did I know...
A very busy day, like I said, with some really great gaming. The sinus cold had just started in on me, but that was to affect me even more the day we reeturned to Ottawa (naturally, right? :)) Anyway, that pretty much wraps up the second actual day of GenCon Indy. I'll post up Sunday's report on the last day of GenCon and the trip back to Ottawa when I have a bit more time.