Saturday, May 18th, 2013
I woke up on Saturday morning about 3:20 am, unable to get back to sleep until around 4:30 am, and the alarm then woke me up at 6:45 am. spross was supposed to come by and pick me up for the second day of CanGames 2013 around 10:00 am, as we both wanted to go into the convention Marketplace before running the games we had set up for the afternoon. I ended up having cramps and a bit of diarrhea for part of the morning, but was able to get through breakfast and showering, before starting in on putting the gaming materials into the tote bags for the two games that I would run on Saturday. That said, my feet were hurting but not too bad this day, although my lower back was bothering me just a touch in the morning. I felt a bit better after the hot shower, and went upstairs and made up the snacks for the day - crackers, carrots and celery, and some Gouda cheese for the afternoon, a bagel with lox and cream cheese for the evening along with a couple of snack bars just in case.
One of the better decisions that I made for this year was to carry all the game scenario specific material in one tote bag, the chips for Story Points, dice for the players, extra pens and pencils, and tokens for use as Threat markers in a second tote, my personal stuff in my trusty Basilisk Dreams Books tote bag, and the snack stuff in spross's cooler. Since I had to pack two scenarios for the day, one for the afternoon and one for the evening game, this method of carrying the gaming stuff was much easier to remember and simpler as it allowed the carrying of lighter loads of gaming stuff. I debated two separate binders for carrying the two Primeval RPG scenarios for the day, and that's what I settled on. That way I could leave the evening scenario materials in the locker at the Curling Club while taking the afternoon materials with me, and then switch them out between the two games.
spross came by the house around 9:45 am, and he helped me carry out the gaming stuff to the car after packing up the snacks in the cooler. The weather was somewhat warmer this morning, with indications of a relatively warm day to come. Once we were ready to leave, I locked up the house and we headed over to the Hunt Club Subway to pick up lunch. I bought the usual turkey six-inch sub sandwich on whole wheat, and then we headed out for downtown. We arrived at the CanGames venue shortly after 10:00 am, and there wasn't a lot of places to park. In the end, I convinced spross to try our luck in the parking lot of the nearby Funeral Home and that turned out to be a good decision. It was only a walk of just over a block (albeit a large block) to the convention site. A bit problematic with the gaming material (as he was running a game in the afternoon as well), but we got to the convention site easily enough. When we entered the Rideau Curling Club, the building was already somewhat warm, even with the air conditioning on, and the scent of gamer (to put it politely) was already in evidence. As I mention almost every year it seems, some folks really need to learn the convention rule of 3-2-1 (and if you don't know what that is, ask me in the Comments section).
Once inside the Curling Club, spross and I dropped off all the gaming material and stuff for later use into the lockers on the lower level of the Curling Club, and then went back upstairs where I sat in the convention lobby area chairs for about five minutes, just soaking in the gaming atmosphere, and massaged my left thigh for a couple of minutes, while drinking the first bottle of water of the day. The gaming had started around 9:00 am, so there was a lot of stuff already going on, and lots of people present at the convention. I chatted with a few friends whom I saw in the area, and had a conversation with one of the players from the previous night's Primeval game, and she reiterated that she really enjoyed herself during the game. I went by the Events section of the Registration area to see how my Saturday games were shaping up, and was pleased to see two people had signed up for the 2:00 pm game, and that a second player had signed up for the 7:00 pm game. Promise of good things to come. I also remembered to hand in the sign-up sheet for Friday night's game, and received my $5 voucher; it's good for food, drink, and the Marketplace at the convention.
By that time, I was feeling somewhat hydrated, so took a trip to the lavatory and then walked around a bit to see what games were going on. As I was coming out of the lavatory, I realised that my convention badge had a mistake on it; the Attendee badge gave me the "A" middle initial, the GM badge gave me the "M" middle initial. Since I've always had the "Michael" middle name, I needed to take care of that, and proceeded to the Registration desk where they found the error on the computer entry for my registration, corrected that, and then hand corrected my Attendee badge. There were quite a few good games going on from the morning sequence, notably Outpost, Diplomacy, Britannia, Iron Dragon (all board games), and on the roleplaying side, WitchCraft, the Spark RPG, Hollow Earth Expedition, Dread, and Pathfinder. You can see a couple of photos of stuff pertaining to these games below.
When I went to the upper level to see what was going on, I found my friend knightbane sitting with some of the folks that he'd brought up from Smith Falls with him. knightbane was supposed to be at the convention on Friday, but couldn't make it due to situational stuff that you can read about in his blog. He looked tired, somewhat angry at the world, and a bit stand-offish, but he was civil and friendly and smiled somewhat when we shook hands and spross and I sat down with him and the others and chatted for a bit. knightbane was going to pick up a copy of the Legend of Anglerre and its game supplement from me, that I had put aside from the stuff that I was selling at the CanGames Booth (I'd been carrying the stuff around all day Friday as well), so he paid me for that and my carrying load was somewhat lightened. :) One of knightbane's friends, Amanda, expressed an interest in the Primeval game that I would be running at 2:00, and said she might sign up for that. We chatted a bit more, and then spross and I excused ourselves and wandered around a bit more, finally heading for the Marketplace.
The usual dealers and vendors were present, though there were a couple of booths that surprised me. Fool's Moon Entertainment had a booth this year, and I was pleased to see them here. Run by my friend tashiro, they offer some excellent products in the form of The Grimoire, Mhar, and the Fox Magic roleplaying games, but I kind of thought they would have gone to Ottawa ComicCon the previous week and had a booth there. shiftercat, tashiro's wife and also involved in the company, explained to me the lack of viability of that, but that things might change. Another surprise was Jaded Raven Creations, who sell punk retro chic, with retro/vintage accessories, jewellery, and knitted items. Saw some lovely stuff there, but nothing that really struck me as being right for me. I checked out the CanGames Booth, and saw that very little of the material that I had submitted on consignment had sold, but still had hope as it was relatively early on the Saturday and the booth had only opened around 10:00 am. I found that a couple of the vendors had copies of the game that I wanted to pick up this weekend, Ticket to Ride: Asia, and planned on coming back to the Comic Book Shoppe booth on Sunday to pick that up.
By the time spross and I finished checking out the Marketplace, it was close to 12 noon, so it was time to start thinking about eating lunch. We went back to the main registration area, but my table for the afternoon game still had stuff going on, so spross and I went up to the second level overlooking the curling sheet area where the miniature games (and a few rpgs) were being run, and found a table to sit down at and have lunch - the Subway sandwiches and another bottle of water. It was a relaxing time, and chatted with several folks who passed by that I knew. My friend, knightbane, had taken some photos from up there of the second level as well as the curling sheet area being used for miniatures, roleplaying games, and board games, so here are those three shots (mine didn't come out well).
After lunch, I went back downstairs with spross and grabbed the gaming stuff for the afternoon game of Primeval. As I bent down to take the gaming stuff out of the locker, I knew something was wrong, as I felt my back tweak somewhat, but the pain wasn't too bad. With spross's help, I went back upstairs and was able to start setting up stuff at my gaming table around 1:15 pm. While taking a quick break, I saw a fellow eating a large dish of what seemed to be Chinese style beef with fried noodles and vegetables, and I politely asked him what it was and where he'd gotten it. The smell was enticing, and I convinced spross to go the two blocks up to the restaurant on Somerset and pick this up for us for supper, rather than eat the Curling Club cafeteria CanGames food. He was amenable to this, for which I was grateful. I didn't have too much trouble setting the gaming stuff up, though a couple of folks wandered by to ask me if I was running the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space RPG, which I wasn't; they seemed disappointed when I told them, but I mentioned that I was running the Primeval RPG, and that sparked some interest. The convention staff put out the sign-up sheets at 1:30 pm as per usual, and I only needed to talk to a couple of folks looking for games to play in the afternoon and they signed up quite willingly, giving me another full table of six players for the game. spross headed off to run his own game for the afternoon, Teenagers From Outer Space, so he wasn't going to be able to take any photos of the game table for me.
The Saturday afternoon scenario of the Primeval RPG that I was running was "Message in an Anomaly", a scenario that debuted at GenCon in 2011 and that I'd also run at CanGames in 2012. So I was pretty familiar and comfortable with the scenario. This one takes place during the second series of the tv show, and 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 quite an entertaining little adventure with a neat premise of a note coming through an Anomaly that reads, "Help Me...".
When the players arrived at the table, I found that I had five guys, and one girl. knightbane's friend, Amanda, had decided to play in the game for the afternoon, and I was pleased at that. Of the other players, I knew three of them - Scott (a friend of mine from the Cubicle 7 forums, and an avid Primeval fan), SteveA (who had played before in several games that I've run at CanGames in the past), and Dan (also a player who had played in stuff I've run at CanGames the last few years) - and the three newbies had never played the game, and had little experience with the tv series. I really like running games when one has some newbies to the game, so this was somewhat gratifying for me. Only one glitch happened with the players... Shannon (who had played the night before) had signed up to play in this game as well, but she never showed up. I gave her the benefit of the doubt and waited until 10 past the hour, but when she didn't show up, I had to give her spot to another player; that turned out to be Mark.
I'm not going to go into detail about the scenario for obvious reasons, as the scenario is being run at various conventions and I plan to run it at other conventions so..., but I will discuss some of the game elements here. Bear that in mind, so there are SPOILER WARNINGS below.
Once all the players arrived at the game table for the afternoon game of the Primeval, I handed out the player character sheets for them to choose from, and after going through an explanation of the game rules and mechanics and explaining some more about the tv series and the like, I started the adventure with them. I thought the game went extremely well, and I managed to keep up the flow of the story and was able to give the players a hand with stuff when they needed it. There was one problem with the game that I'll go into below, but bear with me.
From the point of view of the player characters, the players did a really good job for the most part. Scott played the role of Nick Cutter, the leader of the player character group, and did a good job portraying Nick's interest in Jenny and his set of issues since the Claudia/Jenny business began. He took command of the team right from the start, played off the Stephen Hart character nicely, had a good rapport with the Abby and and Connor players, and didn't take any guff from the guy playing Hemple. SteveA took the Stephen Hart character, and did a good job with him, playing him as somewhat antagonistic with Scott's Nick Cutter, working well with the Abby player on the matters of the creatures, and not letting the Hemple player and character undercut him in any way. Ken played Connor Temple as the geek that he is, and made sure that he kept following the Abby character around, several times saying that he was looking at her with "puppy dog eyes". He didn't get a lot of response to the whole thing from the Abby player, but I'll get to that in a minute. The fellow playing Abby, Mark, really struggled with the game in some ways. While he did an adequate job with Abby and got involved in the discussion of the tranquillisers to take with the group when they left the ARC on the job, he struggled with the reality of the Primevalverse, and served to be quite a distraction from the actual game for the most part, several players expressing annoyance at him during the break and not reacting favourably to his Abby characterisation for the most part. (On that note, during the snack/drink/bathroom break, I took a couple of Robaxacet, as my back pain was getting pretty bad by that point.) For my part, I wouldn't say that Mark was disruptive per se, so much much as he interrupted the game with ceaseless mechanics questions and sidebars, and questioned the reaction of people to the presence of creatures coming through the Anomaly constantly, not to mention the Armour rules in the game. Amanda, knightbane's friend, played Jenny Lewis, and she did a remarkable job with the character. After asking me a couple of questions at the beginning about Jenny's background, she put on the fake English accent for most of the game, worked well with Scott's Cutter, and kept the team in communication at all times. She came up with the neat cover story that allowed them access to the hotel at the beginning of the story, and kept covering for the other player characters the rest of the way. Brilliant job. :) Finally, Dan played the Jake Hemple character. He did a nice job of portraying Jake's military nature, the fact that he resented the suspicion the team regarded him with as the newbie to the team, and did a good job of being protective of the rest of the player characters, even when they didn't want him to be!
The really odd thing about the scenario and how it came out was that the players actually never bothered to investigate the business of who had sent the message of "HELP ME..." through the Anomaly, preferring to focus on the hunt for and dealing with the creatures that had come through the Anomaly. That made for some interesting moments in the game. Some of the highlights include: SteveA's attempt to shoot the electrical wires so they would fall near the garbage bins and shock the predatory dinosaurs that were fleeing back that way; he managed to accomplish what he wanted, sort of, but didn't realise there was an Anomaly behind the bins, which the electrical current fed into it, increasing the Anomaly in size. Scott's Cutter reacting very well to the death of the little proto-mammal that followed a hotel patron out into the street and got run over by a car. Ken's Connor being trapped in the security room of the hotel temporarily when the power went out, with one of the creatures stalking him; he handled it in the manner that I really expected geeky Connor Temple to handle it, and both the player and I had a good laugh about it when all was done. The players debating how they were going to carry these large predator dinosaurs into the Anomaly so as to send them back to their time. The marvellous sequence with Amanda's Jenny having to deal with both the public and the two predatory dinosaurs that were stalking the civilians in the hotel ballroom. Dan's Hemple being seriously annoyed at the deaths of several of his men at the claws of several of the dinosaurs when he sent them to scout out the exterior perimeter of the hotel.
The game wrapped up a little bit early, with about 15 minutes to go in the time slot. Overall, the scenario was quite enjoyable, marred only by one of the players not being able to suspend their disbelief about the Primevalverse and debating too much of the reality/lack of reality of some of the game mechanics and the social and political aspects of life in the Primevalverse. However, Mark told me that he had enjoyed the game quite a bit, as had the rest of the players, and Scott said that it was really good to finally get to experience the Primeval RPG game system and how the game actually plays. Amanda said she enjoyed herself tremendously, and living now in Ottawa, expressed an interest in joining my Sunday gaming group. The various players hung around for a bit while I packed up some of the gaming stuff, asking me a few questions about aspects of the scenario and the game system and rules. A good game session overall, despite some of what occurred.
By this time, spross had set off for the Chinese restaurant on Somerset, so leaving the majority of the gaming material at the table, I went down to the lockers and switched the scenario binder and the pre-generated player characters for the evening session of Primeval, the "Earth Serpent" scenario. I sat at the table for a bit, massaging my right leg and the muscles of my back in that area, as I had definitely tweaked my bulging disc and the whole area was very painful. I was suffering from a bit of nervous tension too, as "Earth Serpent" had not been playtested and I was tense about running it. Shannon, who missed out on playing in the afternoon game of Primeval RPG, showed up around a quarter past six as she was bound and determined to play in "Earth Serpent". spross got back around 6:20 pm with the food, and we sat down at the gaming table, and started in on the Chinese food. Hot, delicious, but a bit too...oily/greasy for me. I worried whether I'd get stomach ache from the food, but it was so tasty that I didn't concern myself about it, though there was soooooo much food on the plate that I was able to put the rest of it away so as to take it home with me.
I finished eating by around 6:45 pm, and after spross and I cleaned away the dishes, I started to set up the gaming stuff for the evening running of the Primeval RPG. I went up to the sign-up bar table to see what was happening, and was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the slots for the evening game had filled quite nicely. spross decided to play in the game, and filled the final slot, so that was nice. I knew that he was going to play simply because he was intrigued by the scenario and had not been part of any playtesting of the adventure, so that worked out well. I was a bit nervous to find that Roderick Turner (the fellow GM who was running Hollow Earth Expedition) and John Swan (the fellow GM who was running Don't Rest Your Head, Mummy: The Curse, and The Final Girl RPG), both of whom I admire as GMs, were playing in the game as well. Believe it or not, that made me somewhat nervous.
The evening scenario of the Primeval RPG was one that will be appearing in the Primeval Companion sourcebook for the game, called "Earth Serpent". This scenario deals with an impossible fossil, mysterious metallic pillars, the Ministry of Defense, and of course, dinosaurs. The scenario was set up for the main Series 3 cast - Abby Maitland, Connor Temple, Jenny Lewis, Captain Becker, Sarah Page, and Danny Quinn - and has a different feel to it than may of the other scenarios for the game.
Again, 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, so I'll discuss only some of the elements here. Bear in mind there are a few SPOILER WARNINGS below, so be warned.
First off, we have the players and the characters they played. spross took on the role of Abby Maitland, and he did a pretty good job of playing the animal expert and herpetologist. He played the character, developing a good relationship in game with the Connor, Jenny, and Sarah characters, tried to protect the dinosaurs to the best of his ability, and stayed out of the way when the crew were dealing with the military. Conrad played Connor Temple, and while he didn't have a good grasp on the series or the character background, did the best that he could in terms of relating to the other characters, notably spross Abby and the Jenny Lewis character. He used Connor's computer geekiness to good extent, was able to share information about various stuff that he found out, but played the character in a low-key manner. He didn't give SteveR as much interaction with Abby as he could have, but the two managed. Shannon, who had missed the afternoon game of Primeval, took the role of Jenny Lewis, and did she have a lot of work ahead of her in this game. Aside from encountering an eco protestor former journalist and friend, Jenny had to deal with the animosity between Captain Becker and the regular military forces at the site of the discovery, a cover story for the presence of the characters in the area, and overall did a good job of using her diplomatic abilities to smooth the way and things over for the player. She also got the feel of Jenny Lewis just right, and did a great job overall playing the character. Roderick played Captain Becker, and his experienced roleplaying really gave the Becker character a good feel for a change in one of the games. He established a good relationship with the other characters (other than Connor and Danny Quinn), worked with Shannon's Jenny on a lot of stuff, but still kept the military edge and feel the character needed. JohnS played Sarah Page, and did a really good job with her. Sarah was the main means of talking and dealing with the 13th Century monk, and he did a fine bit of roleplaying in this role, and she also served to defuse several situations with Abby, Connor, and Becker. JohnS also did a lovely job roleplaying off Shannon's Jenny, and really gave the party some stability and calmness of thought during the course of the adventure. Finally, Andrew, a rather young lad, played the role of Danny Quinn, and this was the worst casting of the night. Danny tends to be brash, arrogant, somewhat of a maverick, and a bit impulsive, and Andrew played the character anything but, being shy and quiet and reserved. While he was instrumental in finding out what the military did with the artifact from the excavation site, he didn't really do any fighting nor did he contribute in a large way to the gaming experience, and the scenario suffered somewhat in terms of Danny's lack of activity during the adventure. Andrew did have a few good moments of roleplaying with Shannon's Jenny, but as mentioned he played very quietly for the most part. I thought that perhaps he was inhibited by the presence of the adults, but otherwise, he did a decent job of the character using game mechanics when coerced into activity by the other players.
The scenario itself and how the game played out was interesting, though there was nothing that really stood out for me among the events during the course of the evening. The players established themselves in the character roles to start with, though I could see the young man playing Danny Quinn was going to be somewhat difficult to engage, as he seemed a bit shy or intimidated by the other players. The players handled their arrival on the scene of the discovery of the mysterious fossil well, dealing with the military present as best they could, and Shannon was surprised when a friend out of Jenny's past arrived on the scene as part of the eco-friendly group protesting the desecration of a historical site. The players enjoyed the seeming inconsistency of what was going on, and I loved their consternation when the military and a shadowy group that they learned later seemed to know something about the Anomalies got involved. Once the characters had to deal with the sheep slaughter several miles to the north the next day, and saving the vacationing family at the farmhouse, the game took a more serious tone to it. When spross realised as Abby that they needed a stronger dose of tranquilliser than they had, the players came up with a good plan that was not without risk to compensate, and executed it well. The arrival of the Chinese monk surprised the player characters, but all the players seemed to enjoy their interaction with him, and that made the scenario strike a soft spot in my memories of gaming that will last a long time. Since I'm not going to give away the rest of the scenario or anything else about it, suffice it to say that the rest of the adventure went quite well, with the players getting seriously involved in the game.
I managed to wrap up the adventure around 10:45 pm or so, and the players all told me that they had enjoyed the game. Roderick and JohnS told me they had enjoyed themselves thoroughly, and that the game was one they had both enjoyed playing a lot. Shannon and Conrad talked to me for a few minutes after the game about the events that occurred, but I wasn't about to spoil any surprises about the plot, so really couldn't tell them much, although Shannon did say that she would be playing in any Primeval RPG adventures I might be running at next year's CanGames. When the rest of the players left for the evening, spross helped me pack up the gaming materials for the night, and I had my bagel with lox and cream cheese and a bottle of water for my evening snack. Overall, I needn't have worried about running the "Earth Serpent" scenario at the convention, as things went smoothly. I did have to cut several major scenes as there just wasn't enough time to run them all, and the scenario would have gone another 45 minutes to an hour longer if I hadn't. The players had a good time, there was enough action and talky scenes for the various characters to have fun with, and the players mentioned there was an excellent mystery in this scenario that started things off.
By this time, it was close to 11:20 pm, and I was pretty tired after the long day at the convention and the back-to-back games in the afternoon/evening time slots. I went and delivered the sign-up sheet over to the Event booth area and got my $5 voucher for the day. After that, I said goodnight to several folks at the convention site before getting ready to head home for the evening. spross went down to the lockers and gathered up everything that was still there, and I gathered up my jacket when he returned with the stuff. The two of us then proceeded to head back to the car over at the Funeral Home with all the gaming bags and the like. It was a crisp, clear evening with a hint of rain in the air, but I was just too tired to worry about the weather and all.
By the time I got home Saturday night, it was around midnight, a bit later than I expected to get home. After spross dropped me off, I had a cup of hot peppermint tea and a pair of celery sticks with a slice of Gouda cheese, and took two of the Robaxacet tablets; my back was in serious pain from the tweak that I'd given it earlier in the day. Before heading off to bed, I prepped most of the gaming stuff that I needed for the next afternoon's game, and made a few notes about the events of the Saturday at CanGames. I crawled into bed around 12:35 am, and managed to fall asleep relatively quickly. I think. I don't honestly remember.
There's the wrap-up of Saturday at CanGames 2013. As you can see this entry was a long one, but there are a few photos for the enjoyment of those reading the blog engry. Hope folks enjoyed this journal entry to comment on this stuff. All I know is I'm just tired from typing this up! :)