Saturday, May 22nd, 2010
The morning began for me around 7:20 am, and I was quite tired. I tossed and turned pretty much all night, but the stomach and bowel stuff wasn't too bad. Got out of bed, washed my hands and face, and went about the morning stuff. I had a few issues with my abdominal stuff again, and wasn't sure whether the afternoon gaming session was going to work out all that well. The good news was that my voice wasn't hoarse, although I had nasal drip. I think this was very much to do with my allergies, which have been bothering me the last three weeks or so something fierce. I gotta retain the voice, as I'm going to need it on Sunday for the second DW: AiTaS game. Had lots to do that morning before leaving, since I needed to get some snacks ready and finish packing the gaming stuff and all that I needed to run the Desolation game today.
spross and I had agreed that he would meet me here at the house around 10:30 am or so, as we both wanted to check out the Dealer's room, and we also needed to do a bit of lunch before I actually ran the Desolation game at 2:00 pm. After a light breakfast (my abdominal pain was minimal, but it was still there) and shower, I got myself as ready as I could for the day. Once spross showed up, I decided not to carry the fancy case that I keep the Style Chips and personal use Ubiquity dice in (since that would add to the weight considerably), and just popped a variety of Style Chip denominations into the dice tray that I was using (one of the better purchases I made at GenCon in 2008!), and took the dice in my regular bag with the game stuff for the day's adventure. spross had his own stuff with him for the day as well, since he was running a kid's game of Hollow Earth Expedition, and was going to have his hands full, too. I took some cheese sticks and celery, along with a couple of bottles of water (any others I could pick up at the convention, if I needed to), and packed them into the nice, decent size cooler that spross brought with him.
After stopping off at a Subway to pick up two 6-inch subs (turkey breast for me, tuna for spross), we proceeded over to the CanGames venue, the Rideau Curling Club, and had the same problem as the afternoon before finding a parking space. It was already somewhat after 11:00 am, so he dropped me off outside the curling club and went off to find parking for the day. It took him a bit longer to park the car, so after I had gone into the venue, I offloaded my gaming stuff in one of the lockers, and sat and chatted for a bit with a couple of friends that I have known for a few years, and chatted. After a bit, since spross still hadn't come in, I headed for the Dealer's room, but got distracted by some of the miniature gaming stuff and also went over to the folks at the Fool's Moon booth, who had a neat guy dressed in a full fox outfit to hype the new Fox Magic rpg (check it out, it's quite neat!), and chatted with shiftercat, as tashiro was off doing stuff, but eventually I worked my way to the Dealer's room.
I wasn't really planning to buy too much stuff at the convention, to be honest, as I was hoping to find maybe a second copy of Savage Mars, but there was nothing game purchase-wise on my agenda. I took a cursory look around (since I was still having some abdominal pain), and went and checked out to see if any of my gaming stuff had sold, but it didn't appear anything had moved yet. I bought a tube with the standard multiple set of dice from the Comic Shoppe booth in a dark blue/black with speckles, although I had really wanted the sand/dust orange set, since that would go well with running Savage Mars. When spross finally got in and caught up with me, I took him back to the booth and he thought I should get the orange dice, as he felt the other set wasn't really readable. He traded in the set of blue/black dice that we had exchanged for a white with specks set (I think because of his wanting to run Slipstream), and I got the sand/dust reddish orange set. There wasn't really a lot of stuff that was of interest to me in the Dealer's room, other than one of the second-hand dealers with a lot of boxes with various rpg stuff in it, but I just couldn't stand and walk around for long. spross did show me a copy of one of the Savage Worlds hardcovers that he found for $15, but I didn't pick it up. I've got the SWEE book, and that's good enough for me to do what I want with Mars/Barsoom.
I headed back to the main area in front of the CanGames registration desk, where the comfy chairs were, and took a load off for a while, but it was getting near time to eat some lunch and then get ready to play the game. I found myself quite thirsty (the humidity was very high again on the Saturday, and the temperature inside the CanGames venue was hot, even with the large fans they had going at various points), so had some water, and sat back. I chatted with a few friends who were nearby, the folks at the registration desk, and one of the folks who has played in my Desolation game the last couple of years, Ray from P.E.I. (don't know if he has a LiveJournal account). When spross came back from the Dealer's room, he went down and grabbed the cooler from the locker, and we had lunch sitting at one of the empty game tables (I thought it was mine, but I was at the wrong side of the room; thought I was running both Saturday and Sunday games at F4, but Saturday's game was F2). While eating, I finally met up with knightbane. I've known him virtually on and off since I started Tweeting and knew him a bit from his LiveJournal, and we'd actually gamed but never met at CanGames for several years. We chatted only briefly, since both of us had games to run. knightbane was running a Little Fears game at the table adjacent to mine, so I moved by that time to my correct table. I saw that he snapped a photo of my putting down the character sheets on the table (that's the photo in the music montage at about 2:25 in), and then got to work finishing the set-up for the game. Thanks to Ray for sorting the Style chips while I got everything else out for the game! :)
spross took off right after we ate, as he had to get ready up on the floor above to run his Hollow Earth Expedition game on the kids. Once the game sheets were laid out at 1:30 pm in preparation for the 2:00 pm games (players can either pre-register for games and pay to play, guaranteeing themselves a spot in the games, or wait until half an hour before a game is scheduled, and sign up for nothing to play), I saw that the Desolation game had six players signed up for it, so the game was full. Another player signed up for the game within a few minutes, and two more signed up as well, giving me nine potential players, but only the first six would get in. The other three could replace players from among the first six if one or more of them did not show up for the game. I needn't have worried on that count, as the six players who had signed up for the game all showed up before the starting time of 2:00 pm.
The scenario was called "Frontier Justice", and is a unique Desolation adventure in that the players are playing the Oruskan races (i.e., orcs, goblins, and kobolds) for this one. The scenario, "Frontier Justice", can be summarised as follows: The players are part of an Oruskan settlement and the expected supplies have not arrived. The chief of the Burning Shoulder tribe is angry, and dispatches the player characters to find out what happened to them. The player characters eventually track down what happened to the supplies and encounter a major human threat that could potentially destroy the Burning Shoulder tribe unless they stop it. The player characters for this scenario include Arsh'val, the Orc Blood Rune mage; E'klaan, the Kobold Spider Primalist; Gath'terra, the Goblin Archer; Mer'mi Lack, the Goblin Merchant; O'klaan, the Kobold Hunter (and brother of E'klaan); and Wrunk'ha'mak, the Orc Warrior. An...interesting mix of characters, to say the least.
The game ended up being somewhat of a mess... even though in retrospect it was pretty enjoyable for the most part, and frustrating for the me and the three other players at times. Three of the players, Ray from P.E.I. and his daughter and Douglas, had played the game before, but the other three players, all younger fellows, were new to the game. The game started off pretty well, with the players establishing their characters in the opening scene, as Car'ook, the leader of the tribe, told them what they were being sent to do, and that he didn't want them to come back without the supplies. The group got itself somewhat organised, and things went off the rails somewhat. The three younger players were coming to the game from a D&D background, and it showed. Despite the written character backgrounds and material that they had for the characters and the background and history on Scondera (the game world) that I gave them, they not only played the characters as kobolds and goblins a la hack 'n slash, but they didn't interact well with their fellow tribe mates, despite the nature of the Desolation game world and the importance of one's Oruskan tribe mates to each other in this world. Add to the fact that two of the players seemed to fixate on game mechanical elements rather than on the roleplaying aspects of it all. Furthermore, the two younger guys playing the Blood Rune Mage and the Spider Primalist had serious problems getting a handle on the magic they were playing (despite the sheet of guidelines that I provided for them), and that added to the frustration of the three other players. One of the worst elements of their play was the Goblin archer trying to do the job of the Kobold hunter, and the Orc Blood Mage trying to play the role of the Goblin merchant. I spoke to the three players in question about this during the 5-minute break about half-way through the game, and the guys playing the Goblin archer and the Kobold Spider Primalist made a bit more effort to get into the characters in the second half of the game, but the other one... *sigh* Also at the 5-minute mark, I went upstairs to get a bottle of water from the cooler that spross had, and found the kids game out of control, with the kids running all over the place helter skelter and not a lot of gaming going on. But that's for later...
There are a few SPOILERS for the scenario below so be warned... Just skip a couple of paragraphs. :)
As for the game itself, there were some definitely good moments over the four hours of play, and the scenario finished up pretty much the way I saw it was going to go with about an hour to play. The group of players was essentially the three players trying to get things done and accomplish the goal set out by their tribal chief, and the three players more interested in analysing the game mechanically as we played, and trying to get a handle on what was different about it from D&D. The group didn't stay cohesive, with several of the players going off to do their own things, despite the supposed party leader's decisions, and this slowed them down and at times slowed play down as well. Like I said, frustrating at times. The party did make their way to the outpost to the south, where they got to tangle with some of the strange Desolation creatures and beasties, followed the tracks of the wagons from there and encountered a merchant who gave them some big clues as to what was going on and who was responsible for the theft of the supplies. When they reached the human settlement, they spent too much time arguing and debating in the woods nearby the best way to try and get into the fortified location, all the while knowing that guard patrols were in the area (because the Kobold hunter had spent three hours of game time off scouting the village, and avoiding patrols). In the end, the party of characters was forced to flee for home after killing the patrol that came upon them while they debated ways into the village, and warn their tribe mates.
Some of the highlights of play was the interaction between the various party members, especially when they were working together. The guy playing Wrunk'ha'mak using his healing on Mer'mi Lack when the merchant got slashed by a sword that the party picked up in the outpost ruins, when Arsh'val accidentally hit him with it. Mer'mi Lack trading the short bow they had recovered from a goblin body for the long bow possessed by Gath'terra, and then the goblin archer realising that he needed the "firepower" of the longer bow when they got into battle. Mer'mi Lack convincing the others to stay back when they encountered the trader, Fritz. I was afraid the three younger players were going to attempt to just kill the merchant and his family, and then loot their wagons. Mer'mi Lack convinced them to stay back, spoke to the trader, and got some valuable information as well as trading the human doll they recovered at one point for some medicine, and Fritz being so impressed with him that he gave them the orc cleaver and goblin crafted bow as "a token of his respect" for Mer'mi Lack. There was the wonderful irony of E'klaan, the Spider Primalist, being bitten by a fern spider (fortunately he survived, only due to the fact that I gave the player a bit of credit in terms of trying harder, and the fact that his totem wouldn't want to really kill him at that point).
I had hoped that the players of the Goblin archer and the Kobold hunter would work well together, but was somewhat disappointed. While the girl playing the hunter made every effort to work with the guy playing the archer, he kept trying to do her job for her, and she will ill disposed towards him, finally taking her own initiative in the second half to scout out the human village alone. Several of the other characters that I thought would work well together didn't, and the guy playing the Kobold Spider Primalist (the brother of the Kobold Hunter) gave no notice of the fact that he was that character's brother. I got the feeling that the three younger players didn't even read their character backgrounds at all, just figured on playing the other fantasy system's equivalent of the racial types. This spoiled my overall enjoyment of the game, to be honest, and the nitpicking on some of the details was very distracting for me, and interfered with the flow of the story. I gave the players in the game a neat surprise - the folks at GreyMalkin Designs had sent me some t-shirts and other stuff to give out as prizes for the game (thanks, Jamie, you're a real mate!), and that came as a neat treat for the players. Ray and his daughter told me when we finished the game just before 11:00 pm that the two of them had fun, but that they were frustrated at times. Two of the younger players said that they liked the game, had a good time, and that they liked the "strangeness" of the game world and the uniqueness of the beasties, as well as the simplicity of the game system. Douglas also told me that he enjoyed the game, and liked the difference in terms of playing the so-called monsters, the Oruskan races. So all of their comments made me feel a bit better.
Anyway, spross had finished his game a bit earlier, and looked absolutely haggard when I saw him after finishing the game of Desolation. He told me that the game of Hollow Earth Expedition that he ran on the kids was just wild, with the children out of control, and that he didn't really want to talk too much about it. We gathered up our belongings, packed everything away, said goodnight to some of the convention staff who were still working, and headed for the car. It was a relatively cool evening. On the way back to my place, spross said that he was considering never running another of the children's games at CanGames again, as the day's game had soured him on them quite a bit. We talked a bit about the Desolation game and some of the highlights and low lights.
spross and I agreed that he would meet me at the house around 10:00 am or so, as I was running a game of DW: AiTaS at 12:30 pm on the Sunday. After he dropped me off with the stuff at the house, I went inside to unpack the stuff, and then made some supper. It turned out that this week's episode of Doctor Who, "The Vampires of Venice", wasn't on Space because of the Victoria Day weekend, so with nothing else to watch that night, I sat back and relaxed with a bit of music. Even managed to read a couple of stories in the alternate history sf anthology book that I'm reading at the moment. I planned to go to bed early that night, and after packing most of the stuff for the Sunday game of DW: AiTaS, crawled into bed, and read another story from the book I was reading.
And then... I couldn't fall asleep. I had been feeling somewhat off most of the day, with the dripping nose and irritated throat and eyes that I attribute (and still do) to my allergies. I finally got to sleep around 2:15 am, and then woke up from a coughing fit and dry throat. Went to the bathroom and had some water, and fell back to sleep finally.
And that's the Saturday at CanGames. It turns out this report was a lot longer than I expected. Not riveting stuff, I know, but what the heck. Sunday's report will be covered in one of the next posts.