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Gen Con Day Four: Who We Are Now

Sunday is always a bittersweet time at Gen Con. It’s officially branded as “Family Fun Day,” so you’ll often see harried parents herding children through the crowded vendor hall.

But for many of us gamers, it’s the last day of the convention, and everything will be torn down and packed away for next year.

For John and I, Sunday meant one last trip through the vendor hall, one last wait in the line at the Marriott for coffee at Starbuck’s, and one last game–this time, Pathfinder in the Legacy of Mana setting, run by our friend (and game designer) Cameron Parkinson.

Honestly, it mostly turns into a fun shooting-the-breeze session of gaming. It’s pretty relaxed, and this year we only had one other person show up for the game: a nice man named Greg who seemed down to game and enjoy chatting. Sundays are chill, after all.

Well, they’re chill for some people. We were constantly beset by trolls from a group of gamers who seemed very upset that we were assigned to a table in “THEIR” space. They were afraid that we were going to be interrupting them, but they actually kept passive-aggressively interrupting us with nary an “excuse me.”

I love gamers a lot, but when they act like THEIR gaming is the most important thing ever, it gets tedious. Anyway, we ended up moving because they were super loud, but they kept butting in anyway. One guy apologized, but sheesh.

After the game ended, we parted ways and walked through the halls, watching chairs and booths being packed up. A weird, sad ending, but there is always the promise of gaming for next year.

As John and I left Indianapolis, our drive home was quieter than normal. We discussed a bit what we want to do next year and what we want The Cool Ship to be.

All in all, I think we had a pretty good, chill Gen Con this year. I’m already counting down to the next one.

 

Gen Con Day Three: Space Intrigue and Bros

Four-and-a-half hours of sleep seems pretty par for the course for most Gen Cons, but I was really feeling it today when I woke up. I love gaming, but you cram so much of it into this weekend that it almost loses its meaning.

Anyway, we had a nine o’clock event at the Marriott hotel. We thought it was a Babylon 5 RPG (Babylon 5 is John’s favorite show), but it was actually a weird, hodgepodge, homebrew board game. There were ELEVEN players… and the game was definitely not optimized for it. There was a lot of downtime where I was trying to read the hand-written rules or just playing Pokemon Go on my phone. I think there was a kernel of a good game there, but it was a bit exhausting. Luckily, someone won the game early, so we had a little extra time to visit the dealer hall.

The dealer hall used to be the main attraction of the convention for me, but it’s kind of lost its luster. I had this thought a couple years ago that I was standing in a lot of lines to spend more money than I would at my local gaming store or one of the great online gaming store options… Anyway, ever since then, the dealer hall has become this weird, uncomfortable shrine to geek commerce that I just can’t really get behind. I guess I’m not the type of person anymore who has to be THE FIRST to play new, awesome games. I can wait for the reviews and prices to drop. Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe I’m getting more cheap. Maybe I’m changing. Is my enthusiasm for this media waning a little bit?

Next up, Fantasy Age! I’ve been wanting to play this one for awhile, and we had a lovely GM who ran us through 3 hours of fantasy action and roleplaying. We played the role of teens attending a coming-of-age party on a local island… when an eclipse happens and an ancient evil appears. I had a blast roleplaying as a halfling bro who was trying (and mostly failing) to be the life of the party.

Turns out, my love of RPGs hasn’t waned very much… but Gen Con is starting to feel like a very board game-centric convention. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I get the appeal of board games… but do I ever love telling a story with a group of friends.

jokerAfter that, we had steak dinner and saw Suicide Squad, which I didn’t think was very good, but I love Jared Leto anyway.

Last day is tomorrow. Bittersweet. I’ll fill you in.

Gen Con Day Two: Demigods and Starwarriors

Day two started with one activity that almost never happens at Gen Con: sleeping in. Oh man. We slept until 8:30 and it was glorious. Granted, we probably slept too late (we were late for our game due to traffic and weird parking troubles), but we made it to our first game of the day: Exalted.

Exalted is a game where you roleplay as, for lack of a simpler term, demigods. As powerful beings tasked with… well… really nothing, it’s your job to give your character meaning in a world full of mythical monsters and magic.

I ended up building a character who was a pastiche of a drunken master from a whole bunch of my favorite kung fu movies. Casey, the GM, was a vivid storyteller who led us through the depths of the abyss and back. I had a great time. The system seems a bit overly complicated, but I think the storytelling aspect more than makes up for it.

Next, our wanderings brought us back into the dealer hall. I didn’t spend any money today, but did get to spend some time with the great guys at Big Potato Games. They’re some blokes from England who are just starting to distribute into the US (Target has picked up there games on our side of the pond). I was really taken with their game “Obama Llama,” but I’ll wait to give you some of my more in-depth thoughts about it when I spend more time with it.

Our stomachs then led us to St. Elmo Steakhouse, where the shrimp cocktails flow and the steaks sizzle. The food was good. The staff was friendly. What else can I say? It’s been open in Indianapolis forever, so you should probably just visit it if you’re in town.

Finally, Conquest of the Starlords end our day. Man, I can’t tell you how much I like this game. I suck at strategy, but this one somehow transcends my terribleness into something near-magical. I couldn’t wait to attempt to conquer the galaxy after my failed attempt last year. This year, I came much closer to winning, but we simply ran out of time. Rogue Judges, please put this game to Kickstarter soon. Really. I have my money right here. Just take it.

Now, I’m back at the hotel and ready for bed. See you all tomorrow.

Gen Con Day One: Starships and Superpowers

Our phone alarms went off at the same time: 5:30 AM. I, groggily, got up and limped to the shower. I had pulled a muscle in my foot when I was mowing the lawn a couple days before. It hurt… a lot. But gradually loosened up as I bathed and started moving around. Foot pain and Gen Con don’t really mix very well, but I’d just have to do my best not to whine about it too much.

rabbleI treat day one of Gen Con like a dog treats a new room. I like to look around–figure out the space. Get a feel for the people, the smells, the noises. Learning how to RPG again in a room full of other groups of people playing took some getting used to, for sure.

As we drove to the Indiana Convention Center we got a glimpse of a beautiful sunrise shining through the thin clouds. I had a feeling it was going to be a pretty good day.

The parking situation this year is weird. Gen Con has contracted a company to relieve some of the parking pressure downtown, so we bought a 5-day parking pass. It wasn’t a bad deal–the parking is farther away, but it includes a shuttle service.

Of course, we found out the shuttle service consists of 2-3 buses or vans. It’s not too bad, but there are a lot of people to serve.

So we arrive at the convention center at about 7:15. I get in the press line, and begin talking up Trent from The Board Game Family. It’s his first Gen Con, so he’s come alone to check out the sights, sounds, and overwhelming amount of games. I’ve heard some of his stuff before because of the Dice Tower Network, but I keep it coy. I mean, I’m not really the type to gush over the work people do, but as the conversation went on, I told him that I had heard of his site and the work he’d done, and marveled at the success he was having. I highly doubt he’ll ever read this, but he was a nice dude, and I hope he enjoyed his convention.

Next up was wandering around waiting for…

Mutants & Masterminds.

This is, by far, my favorite RPG. I love superheroes. I love wacky adventure. I love that the system can be tailored to whatever superhero story you want it to be. John and I played Captain Metropolis and Bowman, respectively. Captain Metropolis is to cities what Swamp Thing is to swamps. He’s super amazing. My character, Bowman, is not all that spectacular, but I really enjoy playing underpowered heroes for some reason. It turns out to be a really good time. Bonus points for Steven, our GM, actually showing up to run the game… We’d struck out three years in a row previously.

Next up was a run at the exhibit hall where I bought way too much Pokemon stuff for my kids (and, okay, for myself). If you would’ve told me ten years ago that Pokemon would become a thing in my life again, I would’ve laughed you out of the convention center. But here we are.

Following that, lunch at Circle City Bar and Grille. We got free mugs for being in the first 30 people to ask for one. Free mugs! The food was good, but a bit overpriced.

After realizing that we had misread when our X-wing game was going to take place, we ended up jumping into Empty Epsilon: Multiplayer Starship Bridge Simulator.

The game is really fun, but the presentation was plagued with a lot of first-day issues that seem to creep up when a new group is trying to put a Con game together. There were some networking issues and the staff seemed to be a little frustrated (they were all finding their legs), but we ended up getting grouped with some nice guys from Austin, TX and a guy from right here in Indianapolis, so it worked out okay. Also, we were totally better at running our ship that our co-op bridge crew across the simulation. We’re just that good.

After buying more Pokemon stuff (because I have a problem), we set off for the hotel, where I sit now. I think steak is on the menu tonight, and then we’ll be back to bed to hit Gen Con tomorrow. Hopefully my foot will feel better and I won’t be such a hobbley mess.

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Gen Con: Day 1 – What Am I Doing Right Now?

Bug monsterToday started around 5:15 AM, which is weird because I really like to sleep. I, however, had a Geek Monolith to feed, and I had to drag my friends there with me. As with all days of Gen Con, before going into the convention itself, we needed to find parking. Luckily, at about 7 AM, it’s a pretty simply proposition.  Next up was the press line: it went quickly, and I got to talk to some other press people about our thoughts on the convention, how big it’s getting, and what exactly our expectations were. We were all in agreement about one thing: there were going to be more people than last year.

Our first game of the day was Damage Report, a pick-up-and-deliver game by Break From Reality Games. I thought it was better as a concept than as an execution. I love the idea of a real-time game where there are no turns and everyone has to work together, but I simply felt like all I was doing was getting in the other players’ ways. I was constantly reaching over and around people to pick up stuff… Even though I had my morning coffee, I just wasn’t easing well into it.

After that, we explored the Exhibition Hall to see all the booths hawking their wares. I couldn’t believe how busy it was in there for a Thursday. The new game Titansgrave (an RPG setting by Wil Wheaton and Green Ronin Publishing) sold out in about 3 hours. So crazy. Also, I felt like Magic: the Gathering was everywhere. Absolutely everywhere.

Next up, we headed to the Marriott to play some Pathfinder in Lynnvander’s Legacy of Mana setting. It was a wild and twisted ride, and I have to give props to our GM, Cameron, for rolling with the punches even as we derailed his game. It was a great time.

Finally, after some snafus trying to play some Magic, we played a GIGANTIC version of Battlestations, a cooperative board game/RPG that makes you feel like you’re on the crew of a starship. I’m going to be absolutely honest… I didn’t really feel like I had a lot of agency. I didn’t understand the game until about the last ten minutes of our session, and even though we won the game, I didn’t feel very fulfilled by doing so.

Dinner at the City Bar and Grille in the Marriott (which was a pretty bad experience overall, unfortunately), and now I’m back at the hotel writing this. Day One is over. Maybe now I’ll go for a swim. I’m hoping that Day Two can build into a better day.

PS: I have poison oak on my face. It might be affecting my Gen Con. Still, hanging out with my friends is pretty awesome. I’ve got a great group of dudes with me.

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Gen Con: Day 0 – We Can’t Stop. We Won’t Stop.

Gen Con 0I’m currently sitting in the back of a van full of large men. This is the commute to Gen Con. We’re just outside of Columbus on the way to Indianapolis: listening to a terrible playlist I put together based on the suggestions of the guys on the trip. I’m feeling a bit of existential angst.

The day started pretty normally with my daughter yelling, “Daaaaaaaaddddyyyyy!!!” in order to tell me that she was awake and that I should also wake up and get her out of her crib (she is currently possesses too much trepidation to climb out by herself). Windows 10 was ready, so I upgraded my laptop… probably a terrible idea before going on a trip, but I’m nothing if not brave/stupid when it comes to these things. I’m liking Windows 10 quite a bit right now, actually. Not that you care about my opinion about it. That’s not why you’re reading this.

Anyway, we’re five geeks in a van heading out to play games with 50-60 thousand other people for a long weekend. The plans are much the same as other years: games, steak, water, aspirin, swag we don’t need. The thing I’m realizing about the Geek Monolith is that it must be fed. And we feed it by buying stuff. A lot of stuff we don’t need. We want new games. We want video game-themed shirts. We want toys we can put on our shelves and look at as they gather dust. We want different games. We want more games. We want. We want. We want. Money. Money. Money. Cash in. Cash out. Day in. Day out. And I’m torn. I love the Geek Monolith. I want to see it flourish.

Yet, there’s a part of me that feels a bit guilty participating in this mass edifice of want. I think of the lines at San Diego Comic Con… people waiting for hours, even days, in order to see actors in a movie that’s coming out this winter. SDCC exclusives that geeks will trample other geeks in order to get. I think of Gen Con, where people stand in looooong lines in order to get games a few weeks before everyone else can get them. The Geek Monolith doesn’t just demand that we buy things to feed it; it demands that we get them as soon as we can so it can be fed quicker. And we scamper towards it to feed it.

We love the Monolith. But does the Geek Monolith love us? Will the tabletop gaming mouth of the Monolith be satiated this weekend, as we look for Wil Wheaton and Jen Page and Geek & Sundry and Wizards of the Coast and Paizo and Fantasy Flight Games? As we look for those elusive exclusives? Or will it leave us empty… just demanding that we keep feasting on tabletop games until we are satisfied? But, will it ever truly satisfy us beyond that couple of days? Are we happier for feeding the Geek Monolith? Does it do anything for us? Probably not.

Maybe there are mental benefits. I’m sure there are studies if I wanted to look hard enough. I don’t think the Geek Monolith promises us satisfaction. Only temporary satiation. But still we feed and feed the Monolith. We won’t stop. And we wouldn’t even if we could, would we?

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Gen Con: Day 3 – A Little Bit of Weird

The third day of Gen Con is always a bit bittersweet. Yes, it’s fun, and you’re still wrapped in this wonderland of games and geekery, but the cracks start to show through a little bit, and this gaming paradise starts to appear a bit tarnished.

Take our first event today. I was pretty excited for it. We were planning on playing some kind of space-based RPG that I had never heard of. But, then we sat there and waited. And waited. And waited.

Our DM never showed up. After asking the RPG HQ of the JW Marriott what was happening, they informed us that our event had been canceled. They were apologetic, but couldn’t really answer exactly WHY we weren’t informed of the cancellation. Seriously, we could’ve slept in for a few hours today. It would’ve beenphoto 3 photo 4 photo 5 photo 1(4) photo 2(3) photo 3(1) photo 4(1) photo 1(5) photo 5(2)glorious.  When we finally inquired of the people who are running events like this, we were told that they used to have a system that automatically told people when an event was canceled, but that they didn’t anymore. Weird.

photo 1(3)Also, I can’t help but consider the Disney World-sized lines that form around the simple act of buying something. To be the first to have and play something. It’s getting weirder and weirder to me the older I get, too. Here’s the thing, for most of the stuff I bought, I could’ve gone on the internet in 3 weeks and ordered it at 20-30% off retail. And yet, even today, I saw lines that would stretch around booths twice.

There was a weird contrast I noticed today as well. There was a Colts pre-season game tonight, and it was fun seeing the differences between the game dorks and the sports dorks. On the game dorks side, for one thing, there was an awful lot of cargo shorts. Lots of cargo shorts.

On the good side of the day were a couple recommendations. One is Set (and its little sister, Set Junior) from the good people at SET Enterprises. Not only was the woman running the SET booth super nice, their games are also really fun. Check them out.

Also take a look at the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. I’ve always wanted to play a card game that felt like an RPG and this fit the bill nicely.

Also, try a Brazillian Steakhouse. I don’t even want to tell you about it because I want you to experience it.

In closing, here’s my gallery for the day. Today’s theme was selfie quest. photo 4(2) photo 3(2) photo 2(4) photo 1(6)

GenCon: Day 2 – In Comic Con’s Great Shadow

Every year GenCon is more popular. With better than 50,000 this year, the event is on track to be the largest ever. I’d like to think it’s because the things that we love to do – playing games – are more popular. Geek fair’s stock has never been higher.

And that comes with good and bad. Greater popularity means more products that we get to try and, for those with the ambition, more opportunities to earn a living doing something they love. It also means a far better chance of finding people to play with when you go home. One of my great laments every year is how many purchases I make that will never be played.

But that popularity also comes at a cost. TJ and I discussed at some length if GenCon could ever be too big. The annual struggle our sisters and brothers in geek pursuits face during the great pilgrimage to San Diego Comic Con is a passing interest to us. It is nothing short of what I imagine hell looks like.

The lines. The waiting. The endless hours in an amazing city camped out hoping to see/get some swag. I usually draw comfort from the differences between these two conventions. Where SDCC is about seeing celebrities and sitting in on panels, GenCon is a game-driven show – the guests reserve their events ahead of time. Theoretically, GenCon can expand infinitely and because most of the events are run by businesses trying to promote their products we’ll never see insane lines. As consumers grow, events should grow with them.

And it’s a comforting thought until you try to buy something from Fantasy Flight on opening day. Words cannot describe this line. I could tell you how long it is in minutes (3 hours) or feet (thousands) or people (also thousands) or Cthulhu sanity points (10), but it doesn’t really express what your mind experiences when you walk the length of this line. And those lines are becoming a more regular thing.

And there’s the other stuff too. Gen Con’s opening ceremony this year included a lengthy (and obligatory) notice about harassment. And there are those moments when you step out of the charm and you see the people for who they are. While exploring the exhibits today, one of the cosplay girls schilling sexiness for a business looked down at her bust line (which was quite low) and made not-quite-a-frown. I couldn’t help wondering what she was thinking.

Was she reflecting on the outfit? Or maybe thinking about how much money was changing hands or how sex sells? Maybe she was checking for a nipple slip or just wanted to go home. I’ll never know, but up until that point, I only thought of her as scenery.

As our pastimes become more popular andgen-con-logo more mainstream, it raises the profile on what our communities do, right or wrong. If we’re good, it’s an opportunity to face those questions. Will we drive the money, or will the money drive us? How can we be better? What kind of community do we want to be?

I don’t have the answers to these questions. I’m busy buying loads of swag, but I think GenCon’s next 10 years are going to show what we’re made of.

Gen Con: Day 1 — Today We Win

photo 1(2)Gen Con was pretty awesome today. And busy. The busiest Thursday I’ve seen in my four years attending the con.

It started with waiting in lines. The press line today was pretty long, and that’s okay. I think a lot of people were trying to get into the exhibition hall early so they could buy all those sweet, sweet new game releases. The big release today seemed go be Warhammer 40,000: Conquest. At least, I couldn’t get it when I finally got through the line. Better luck tomorrow, eh?

Our first big event was a Call of Cthulhu LARP by the good people at Novus Ordo Seclorum. In my opinion, this might be the best multi-GMed game I’ve ever played. There was so much to do. So much to discover. There were between 35-50 players: all with different goals and sets of skills. I won’t ruin the story for you, but if you enjoy really slipping into character for a few hours, I highly recommend their big LARP game.

photo 2(1) Our final event for day one was Artemis: Patrol Station Zebra. It was a GMed Artemis: Space Ship Bridge Simulator game. Again, this is a game you should be playing with a group of friends if you can. If you’ve ever wanted to be a part of the Enterprise’s crew, this is the best way to do that.

All in all, day one was a good time. Not too busy. I had a really delicious Italian beef sandwich from one of the food trucks on Georgia st. Great day. can’t wait for tomorrow.

Gen Con: Day Zero

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Don’t play games with this guy. He’s the worst.

Well, I’m (mostly) packed and ready to go on the big trip to Gen Con. I’ve been going since 2011, but I’m not sure exactly what to expect this year. I always tend to find something new, find something I’d like to do but can’t, or just get sad about not having enough time or getting tired.

This year, as normal, John and I will be attending, along with 6 other people. Some of these peeps I haven’t even met yet, but I’m sure everything will go smoothly. Gaming tends to bind people rather than divide. Unless you’re an awful person.

Things often happen organically at Gen Con. Normally, our group finds a theme song (Sail! last year; Payphone [WITH WIZ KHALIFA] the year before that). I’m hoping we find a new place to eat that is delicious.

Getting away is pretty nice. I’m a work-at-home dad that makes money on the internet while watching my children. It’s a good life, but it’s exhausting being in “dad-mode” constantly. Gen Con is a good time to just be a person for awhile.

So, coverage starts tomorrow night. We’ll be arriving in Indianapolis, getting our badges (those of us that can) and maybe finding a gamer gathering somewhere. Maybe we’ll get to play some Pathfinder. That’d be awesome.

I hope I’ll see you there.

Missed Adventures: GenCon Day 4

So concludes our 4 days of GenCon coverage. Day 1  Day 2  Day 3

Coming up on the last day of GenCon, TJ and I decided to sleep in. We skipped our first scheduled event, Zombie Dice, and arrived a little too late for Munchkin. While I’ve never heard about Munchkin before, Zombie Dice is something TJ tells me is kind of a big deal. Wil Wheaton covered it on one of his shows for Geek & Sundry, so I’ll let the video speak my peace.

While the game does look pretty cool, I’ve come to terms with sleeping in until 8:30am on a Sunday.

Yeah, that’s Robert Baratheon about to murder Rhaegar Targaryen at the battle of the Trident.

We did, however, find some time to play the the Song of Ice And Fire Roleplaying Game, and I have to say that Green Ronin really has its shit together. While Artemis was the single most fun I’ve had at GenCon… ever, both DC Adventures and SoIaF are produced by Green Ronin Publishing. Hands down DC Adventures is my favorite genre/system, and this game was just as much fun.

We started the demo by selecting characters. I chose to be the bastard son of a minor noble beholden to a lord that was, himself, beholden to the Tullys. Seeing my decision, TJ chose to be the young heir of the house. Upon selecting our characters, we decided to christen ourselves members of House Johnston. Our banner was a great ape, arms outstretched, falling from the sky. Our family oath: “Ours is the banana.”

Our first assignment, my half-brother and I were sent to Lord Wisend to appear on behalf of our lord father and discuss some issue. As it turns out, Lord Wisend was seeking our father to explain why a large cart of grain and gold hadn’t arrived at his hold. Upon seeing our father’s decision to send us in his stead, Lord Wisend decided to… entertain my brother as a guest while I went back to our father to explain the situation.

Engaging the intrigue system, we argued with the lord until his Maester got nervous and sided with us. At that point we asked for a handful of men so that we could seek out the cart and get to the bottom of the situation. From there we had at it with some bandits in the name of the great ape of our house.

Truly this was a fun game. Combat was pretty standard, but the intrigue system is far more than rolling a bluff check or doing an opposed insight contest. It was very engaging, and I suspect our DM was dumbing it down for us. Actually, I haven’t played a single game based on George R. R. Martin’s book series that I haven’t enjoyed. I proceeded to buy all the books. Our DM for the encounter, who happened to work on the game, Joe Carriker, was kind enough to sign my books.

We also played a little Castle Panic and Bears! Both games were pretty fun, although I preferred Castle Panic. They had the kind of artwork and game mechanic that would be pretty friendly to children learning to game, and both enjoyed a cooperative element that I really like in multiplayer challenges.

After that we wandered The Con and made our way back to the car. The convention ran until 7pm or later, but we decided we had enough. Most of the events were winding down and that feeling you get the day after Christmas was settling in.

Observing The Madness

I had a pretty great time at the convention. There were some ups and downs, but overall it was another great year. Observed a few interesting trends during our weekend.

1. Are You Hot Or Am I A Pedophile?

I’m of an age where the difference between 15, 20, and all the numbers in between is getting harder to distinguish. Luckily, I don’t date 15 or 20 year-olds so it’s not much of a factor in my day-to-day life. However, throw hundreds of cosplayers into a gaming convention and it quickly becomes a Where’s Waldo of appropriate dress.

2. Sweat Pants Cancel Corsets

Pretty much any convention is an excuse for ladies to whip out corsets for their costumes. That makes sense, given the popularity of steam punk and Victorian-age settings. What doesn’t make as much sense is seeing someone wearing a corset with sweat pants and sneakers. Or a corset with shorts and a t-shirt. I could take a couple stabs at why this happens, but I’ll leave it to the readers to decide.

3. Disproportionate Hotness

For whatever reason, normal, plain, or fugly looking guys can and do end up with beautiful women… if they are gamers. We saw dozens of instances where a beautiful girl was hanging on the arm of someone we’re pretty sure hadn’t bathed for the entire weekend. Maybe it’s personality, true love or that gender equality is especially lagging in the gaming community, but, however you slice it, it’s proof anything is possible.

Wrapping Up

What happens at The Con stays at The Con

This was a great weekend, but we have to make it better next year. TJ and I realize that just two of us isn’t cutting it anymore. We need to engage The Con with a sizable force. With that in mind, we will be inviting all of our friends while excommunicating everyone that turns us down. You’ve been warned.

We will also be looking for housing closer to the event. Expensive – yes. Worth it – hell yes.

Finally, we’ll be arriving earlier. Some events begin as early as the Wednesday before and we’re ready to make almost a week of it.

Are these goals realistic? Given the hours I work and the number of children TJ has, probably not, but GenCon is a magical place where dreams come true; if you’re smart enough, brave enough, and lucky enough anything is possible (see: Disproportionate Hotness). While we’re sad to go, we’re already scheming for next year.

 

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Con Men: GenCon Day 3

I’m just going to get this out there and say it.

If you knew about Gen Con, and you didn’t go, you lose. Plain and simple. You lose.

Know what I did today? I hung out with Green Lantern. I sang my way into battle alongside a warhammer-swinging Paladin. I served with Captain Malcolm Reynolds and a sexy assassin aboard the mighty starship Artemis.
The day started early. John and I got up around 7 o’clock (after about 4 hours of sleep), and headed out to the Con. We walked nearly the entire length of the Indiana Convention Center to get to the JW Marriott hotel, where our first event was being held. Let me say that every gaming session that happens should be in a meeting room of a fancy hotel: comfortable seating, hard candy, ice water, big tables, pens/paper provided.

Anywho, the game was called “Dead End” and was built using Mutants & Masterminds/ DC Adventures. We got the opportunity to play as many of the members of the Justice League, but mostly all the players picked B and C-list heroes. Our team consisted of Green Lantern, Batman (played by John), Dr. Light, Plastic Man, and our only D-list hero, Booster Gold (played by me, because I think he’s hilarious).

The team had their work cut out for them. Lex Luthor, Clayface, Sinestro, Deathstroke, and Gorilla Grod had all teamed up to build a dimensional portal… but our terrible Justice League team managed to fight them and send them to jail… except for that slippery Lex Luthor… he jumped through the portal. On the other side… we found Marvel Zombies.

Hands down a great game. I wish I could remember the DM’s name because he did an amazing job. He was part of North Coast Gamers from Ohio. If you’re reading this, DM, email me. I would love to ask you some questions about your DMing style or just chat. And I will definitely look for your event next year.

Next up came some Pathfinder Society action. This one… was a little disappointing, I have to say. The DM was really, really tired. And we had a really loud, jerky power-gamer incarnate sitting at our table. The guy couldn’t relinquish control of anything.

Other than that awful, harassing person, the other people at the table seemed legitimately cool, and I mostly had a good time. I felt bad for the DM, though. He looked like he needed a nap. I wonder how many games he had to run that day.

Pathfinder Society is a lot of fun. I’m going to be looking for ways to play nearer to home. I’m pretty sure there is a group in Columbus that plays. I need to start leveling up my character!

Next came the movieMisfit Heights.It’s a zombie puppet musical that we went to see because we liked that Vampire Puppet show fromForgetting Sarah Marshall.I don’t consider myself much a film critic… but I was a little disappointed. It’s ultra-low budget, and you can really tell. The picture was OFTEN too dark to see. The singing wasn’t really great. The sound editing seemed a little off. It also seemed a little overly long. However, I did laugh out loud more than a few times, so I suppose it was certainly worth seeing. And it was free, so the price was hard to beat.

Finally, the highlight of my day. Artemis, a starship bridge simulator. I’m going to try my best to adequately describe to you how amazing I think this game is.

How it works: Artemis is basically a program that runs using a LAN or internet connection. 6 displays are linked together, and each display represents a different station on a starship: Helm, Tactical (John got to shoot the bad guys), Communications, Science, Engineering (this was my specialty for the evening), and the Captain.

The Captain has the job of overseeing all the stations and giving orders. He’s the macro-organizer of the ship, and you mostly have to depend on him to organize all the stations to work together. The guy who volunteered to be our Captain was pretty amazing. He seriously took to it instantly, and by the end, we were all calling him “sir” or “captain.” Pretty impressive.

The Helm steers the ship by controlling the maneuvering engines, the impulse engines, and the warp engines. Our Helmsman started off a little shaky, but by the end was controlling the ship like a pro.

The Comm officer monitors communications throughout the star system and relays them to the Captain. Our comm officer was played by a cosplayer dressed as Malcolm Reynolds. It was weird to have the Browncoat hero sitting in the comm, but he did a great job. Comm officers are also able to get enemies to surrender and can also taunt the baddies into attacking us rather than one of our allied ships or space stations.

The Science Officer is responsible for keeping tabs on approaching ships and scanning the many anomalies in the darkness of space. Our Science Officer was played by the girl hanging out with Malcolm Reynolds (wife, girlfriend?) who was dressed as a sexy assassin. She did a good job keeping tabs on the bad guys.

The Tactical Officer is responsible for shooting bad guys and defending the starship. John was our guy, and he was the king of setting off nukes in such a way as to kill 3-5 ships in one fell swoop. After learning how to manually control the lasers, he basically became the boss of killing bad guys. Seriously.

Represent.

Finally, my part the Engineer. I was the guy responsible for shunting power into various systems, making sure those same systems don’t overheat, and sending engineering teams to fix any damage to the ship. I don’t want to toot my own horn too much, but I think I did a pretty excellent job of Scotty-ing (I’m giving her all she’s got, Captain!!) my way through the game. By the end, I was a master of repairing shield damage and shunting enough power into John’s lasers to cut enemy warships into ribbons.

Basically, everyone should play Artemis. Now, I’m trying to figure out how to turn my shed into a starship bridge. I was so impressed with the game, I’m even considering getting an Engineer’s badge to show off my love for both the good ship Artemis and the lonely Engineering station.

After that, we headed to BW3s for some chicken wings, and we got to watch this woman at the bar have a terrible date.

All-in all, a pretty awesome day at the con.

Editor’s Note: John ended up remembering the DM’s name.

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We Live For The Con, We Die For The Con: GenCon Day 2

After yesterday’s complications, I woke up ready to engage GenCon like a man takes to water after any day in Phoenix. My job keeps me very, very busy, and it’s hard to get out and play any kind of game. So we got up oh so early to join the masses in all the games.

At least I thought we were early. As it turns out, when you’re in any city leaving less than 2 hours early for anything is asking to be late. We pulled it together and got my pass and like that (BOOM!) we were playing Settlers of Catan. Even though I’ve played the game a bunch–TJ owns the game–so I don’t really need to buy a $2 ticket to play it, I had a lot of fun.

Part of being at THE CON is meeting people and playing games you both enjoy. There’s room for new goodies, but just settling in with some strangers and SCHOOLING THEM in iron age resource management is fantastic. Incidentally, I did win with a friend’s favored strategy – longest road!

We then made the rounds of the vendor area. I have to say that I love the vendors because they always have soooooo much cool crap. Star Trek was really pulling down the cross merchandizing. We saw a featured card game, board game, and a minis game. Actually, Nichelle Nichols and hil Wheaton were there signing autographs. No doubt Nichols was there for Star Trek, but Wheaton has a prominent gaming channel on Geek & Sundry and has become a kind of icon in the geek community.

We came out with some swag. Chief among the goodies for me was a new edition of the Game Of Thrones board game. The game, based on the series of novels by George R.R. Martin, is one of the best tabletop games I’ve played in years. I actually owned the first edition, but various expansions and changes were made to fix balancing issues and better replicate the intrigue and strategy found in the novels.

We also walked out with some World Of Warcraft trading cards, some RPG books, and some miscellaneous swag. Tomorrow, time allowing, we’ll be able to jump into some of our favorite goodies.

We did, however, take a couple hours to try the Battle of Westeros board game. This was an enjoyable, co-op field strategy game. The kit comes with different forces and scenarios based on battles from the history of the setting of George R.R. Martin’s most treasured novels. We fielded our troops (House Lannister) and set out to make the “false king” (Stannis Baratheon) pay. As it turns out, charging my own general directly into battle proved a critical folly, costing my team the game.

Oops.

After that we found word that there was a speed dating event happening at a local bar attached to the convention, so I decided to sign up. I thought it would be a good way to meet some folks to play games and, heaven forbid, maybe engage in some romance. Unfortunately I accidentally purchased a ticket gendered for ladies. Unless I wanted to interview all the guys, which could have actually been interesting in its own right, I was gonna have to sit out.

So instead we made our way to Ruth’s Chris Steak House and had what was, hands down, the best steak I’ve eaten ever. It was amazing. The sweet potato casserole was also amazing.

While setbacks were minimized today, I’m realizing that going to a convention is a lot of work. More often than not my instincts about when and how to deal with mundane issues like parking or purchasing are wrong. Still, I give the day a 7/10 and tomorrow should be stellar.

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Gen Con Adventures: GenCon Day 1

None of this bad stuff would have happened if Peyton was still here.

Well, today has been… pretty weird/terrible.

It started out pretty well. I was packed and out the door by 6 AM. John and I were on the road and discussing life, politics, etc.

Finally, after what seemed like an extremely short drive, we were in Indianapolis. Gen Con was just within my reach. All the games were going to be played.

But I suddenly realized that I forgot the tickets. They were sitting on top of my microwave in my kitchen in my house. I called my wife, John and I turned around, and away we went. We met at an A&W somewhere between Albany, Ohio, and Indianapolis, Indiana. We decided to have lunch at said A&W, and the service was absolutely atrocious. The food wasn’t spectacular either, but John declared that the root beer was delicious.

Back to Indy we went. All the games were before us. Nothing could stop us.

Except the insane amount of road construction. We literally spent nearly an hour and a half within sight of our hotel… but we couldn’t get to it. A bridge was out for road construction… and there were no signs for a detour. An insane amount of driving ensued, but we got checked in. The room is really nice!

So, off to the convention center we went! All the games were again before us. But…

John couldn’t get his press badge. I actually watched as the press coordinators left the room, but I was too far away to do anything about it or say anything to them.  John thought about buying a day pass… but at $50, it was a little too steep a price to pay.

So, I played some Pathfinder… Which was fun. But, John went back to hotel and slept.

A super late dinner at Scotty’s Brewhouse after that, and now I’m writing this piece; I can barely keep my eyes open. So I’m going to sign off. Hopefully, things are better tomorrow.

 

 

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7th Sea Second Edition Review

7th_sea_cover_v1When sitting around the table with an RPG, I am the game master probably 95% of the time. I don’t have any qualms about it; it feeds into my sense of self worth and importance (kidding). In the 20 years or so that I’ve been running games for people, I’ve become pretty good at reading them at the table, reacting to what they’re going to do, and doing my utmost to maximize fun.

Sometimes, though, you need a challenge.

The good folks at Gamerati and John Wick Presents were gracious enough to provide me with a review copy of 7th Sea, a role playing game set in a Europe-like land of swashbuckling and backstabbing. Here’s where the challenge comes in for me: the holidays are coming, and that means that for the next two months, it’s going to be difficult to get a group together to play. I had a play session coming up, though, and a player had to drop out of our regular D&D game, so I invited the others to play 7th Sea. The challenge: I only had 36 hours to learn the new system, be able to teach it to others, come up with a story, and run the game… Oh. And I needed everyone to have fun.

36 hours for a married guy with two kids and a job, actually becomes about five hours. Luckily, the presentation in 7th Sea is beautiful. The art is very easy for your eyes to fall upon, and the text is uncluttered and uncomplicated. I also love learning gaming rules, so flipping through the rule book was a pleasure.

That said, I’d often completely forget about learning how to actually play 7th Sea when I’d get caught up in reading about the ins and outs of the setting. I love alternate Europe scenarios, and this one combines the Renaissance with mythology in an easy-to-grasp package. This is a very fluffy game, and that’s fine by me. I’m much more of a storyteller than a dice roller; I revel in lots of world-building information.

If I’m to be honest, I’m still not entirely sure how the dice mechanic works in the this game. I know, I’m a bad reviewer, but again, I had five hours. It doesn’t look complicated, but it definitely takes a backseat to building solid, believable characters and a setting that feels fresh and real.

Character creation in this game is so deep. Characters are heroes and can’t really die without good reason, and that’s okay because this game forces players to really think about their hero. There’s even a section of 20 questions to more deeply consider the role you’ll be playing at the table. Yes, there are skills and talents and attributes, but while playing the game, it didn’t really feel like they mattered very much. What matters in 7th Sea is creating a character with a soul. The attributes might say that your character is strong, but these 20 questions will tell me if your character is meek, or bombastic, or prone to boasting. Your hero will end up having defining character traits and virtues  This, to me, is so much more important than what the numbers say how many dice a player gets to roll. These characters get to drive the story in a meaningful way, and the players get to create heroes who are more than just a math problem.

I spent five hours frantically reading and learning 7th Sea, and game time finally arrived. My confidence in my ability to learn the system may have been misplaced, but I understand storytelling and had enough of the setting information under my hat that I could fake what I needed to.

I had two players that evening: people who were experienced role players ready to try out the brave new world of a brand new system. We started with character creation. We didn’t get super deep since this would be a one-off game (for now), but they created two characters: one was a soldier from a terrible war that destroyed his homeland. The other played a sailor who had made a Faustian deal to bring retribution upon his enemies.

We played the game on November 5th, and with the Gunpowder Treason fresh in my mind, our intrepid team was drafted into saving the queen of Avalon from a mysterious plot by Church loyalists who were unhappy with her stance on religion. Both the characters were imprisoned for piracy, but the Crown’s agents knew of the heroes’ competence, so they were willing to cut a deal.

This plot quickly went off the rails. The characters, as created, were  pirates, so they chose messy freedom over having to work for someone else. They picked locks, they let out terrible criminals…

And then I had the idea that maybe their tower prison wasn’t exactly what it seemed, so they began to descend an endless stairway, dotted with rooms that would confront the “heroes” with their sins. I got to play with English mythology, introducing a character based on Merlin, a giant talking baby, swamp witches, and other barely sane characters as they moved deeper into the rabbit hole.

The game basically ended up as a way to just let our imaginations run wild. There were a lot of laughs, a lot of careful moves and counter moves, and we all had a ton of fun.

I know I’m not the perfect reviewer here, but I want to say this: 7th Sea is really, really good at facilitating fun storytelling for mature role players. As my two friends and I started getting lost in the story we were telling, the dice and mechanics took a back seat to pure role playing. I actually found myself exhausted by the end of the session, but I was also exceedingly happy from having such a good time.  There are very few games where I found that to be the case.

In a world where throwing dice seems to be the main point of RPGs, 7th Sea gave me a breath of that fresh ocean air of storytelling. I cannot wait to visit it again and dig a little deeper into the rules.

 

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Gen Con Continued: Wrath of Con

Indy at nightWhen you last left me, I was itchy, angsty, and a little bit torn about this whole Gen Con thing. Well, after little sleep, some canceled games/no show GMs, and meeting some very cool people, I am happy to announce that Gen Con 2015 finally won me over and was a complete success.

Day 2 was a good one because we were able to sleep in a little bit and only had a couple events. That led to a scouring of the exhibit hall for swag and trying out Lynnvander‘s Deep 5, a game of space and betrayal. I didn’t get to play, but my cohorts said that it is super fun. I hope to be able to try it as soon as possible.

I also worked the booth for 3D Virtual Tabletop and AdventureAWeek.com. I was super, super impressed by how smoothly 3D Virtual Tabletop worked and absolutely loved volunteering to help out. One of the things I love about Gen Con is how its basically built on the backs of volunteers… Gamers working to give other gamers a great time. Sometimes it doesn’t work out (like when your GM doesn’t show up), but when everything goes smoothly, it is a thing of beauty. AdventureAWeek is also a solid service, providing all kinds of adventures for a low price. Seriously, if you want to DM some games and want to save time, the combination of 3D Virtual Tabletop and AdventureAWeek.com is a surefire winner in my book.

I also wanted to briefly give a shoutout to Mike Myler, who is going to be Kickstarting his Hypercorps 2099 cyberpunk setting for Pathfinder. He’s a nice guy and has a lot of hustle.

After volunteering, we went and played a game of the Doctor Who RPG… And had a crazy amount of wibbly-woblly, timey-wimey fun. In our group, we had a fellow who didn’t really know the show very well, but he immediately decided to play The Doctor, and he played a very dark, violent version of the Time Lord. It was hilarious. John played Clara Oswald, the Doctor’s “conscience,” and he had his hands full keeping our Doctor under control. Would definitely play that again.

We finished out Day 2 by playing Conquest of the Starlords, a game that has been in development for 10 years. If the creator is reading this… Kickstart that thing. It is a beautifully complicated game for hardcore tabletop gamers: both complicated and treacherous, Conquest of the Starlords should be a “real” thing.

Saturday, Day 3, we were running on very little sleep after getting back to the hotel at 2:30 AM to get up at 7. But we had to get moving to watch Tracy Hickman’s Killer Breakfast. A gloriously corny comedy of errors and death, Killer Breakfast is the perfect way to watch low-level player characters die in hilarious and dangerous ways. I loved it, but I think the corniness of the event wore on me a bit after two hours.

Next up was the event we were really looking forward to, a game of Mutants and Masterminds, my absolute favorite RPG game. Unfortunately, the GM no-showed. So, over 5 years, we are 1/5 for playing Mutants and Masterminds. John and I were discussing running somewhere around four games of M&M next year, just so we could play a couple times. We love the system, and it seems like it sells out every year. There really should be an organized play option.

Tragedy struck again on Saturday when another one of our events was canceled without any kind of notice. I would love for Gen Con to have system that would email you when your event was suddenly unavailable. I’m actually surprised that something like that isn’t available yet.

We ended the night with a party at BL&Ts hosted by Lynnvander, CoolMiniOrNot, and GeekChic. There was so much candy. And gaming. And just having fun with new friends. Looking forward to hanging out with those guys again next year. We played a game of Zombicide with the creator of the film “The Rangers.” It looks really great. Give it a watch when it’s available.

Today. Sunday. Day 4. The bittersweetness of Gen Con ending. I’m never more simultaneously distraught and relieved than when it’s time to pack all my stuff (heavier due to some exhibition hall swag) into the car and check out of the hotel.

Dice BagWe learned how to make scale mail dice bags. I didn’t finish mine because I just straight got lost in the middle of it, but I plan on going back. I’ll show you a picture of John’s, however, since he actually persevered and finished his. Our group is 2/5 for completing dice bags so far.

And with a couple laps around the exhibition hall, the Con ended. Congratulations to Gen Con for running another successful one, and to all those who won Ennies or were just brave enough to follow their dreams, make a game or movie or some piece of art, and come to Indianapolis to make their dreams come true. Best of luck to all you crazy people; I’m pulling for you. And I’ll see you next year.

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Itchy Face — Before Gen Con 2015

In less than 24 hours, I’ll be in Indianapolis for Gen Con 2015. It’s already been quite a week. I somehow got poison oak on my face, so I guess this year I’ll be cosplaying the part of the stereotypical geek with bad skin. I got a steroid shot, so hopefully I won’t scare people away while I’m working the booth for AdventureAWeek.com and 3D Virtual Tabletop (which, if you want to see me, I’ll be there Friday 1-4pm. Booth 3039). I decided to volunteer a little of my time this year so I could write about it. Gen Con is a massive convention, so I’m hoping I’ll get a wide variety of experiences while working the booth.

My anticipation is tempered somewhat by the Benadryl I’ve been taking; it’s been turning me into a semi-narcoleptic. I’m glad I won’t be driving this year. I’m actually really excited about not driving. I’ll get to see more of the Indianapolis sights!

So, what am I looking forward to this year, you might ask. Well, honestly, Gen Con is a time where I can be away from my kids and feel like an adult for awhile. I’m the kids’ primary caregiver, so I often end up feeling like “Dad” and less like “Tj” most of the time. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE being a dad. However, I also like to feel like an adult capable of having fun without cleaning up a juice spill.

John and I will be keeping you updated on the stuff we see, the people we talk to, and the games we play. And we’re playing LOTS of games this year. Stick with us. And if you see us around, come say hi.

Black Friday Must Be Stopped!

Welp…it’s that time of year again, folks. No, not Thanksgiving. Well, it is but that’s not exactly what I mean. Just stay with me. It’s the time of year that almost every person working in retail dreads (and even some shoppers)…BLACK FRIDAY. Or as I like to call it, The Special Kind of Hell.

And you wanna go shopping because why?!

And you wanna go shopping because why?!

It’s the time when seemingly normal people lose their damn minds over some cheap shit that no one really needs. Sure there are some good deals from time to time but for the most part it’s not really worth it. Seriously, why the hell would you wanna waste precious family time or wake up before the ass-crack of dawn to save some money on sheet sets or a damn Xbox One? Even if your family sucks or you actually enjoy being up that early, fighting the hordes of psychotic moms fighting for discount towels makes it not worth leaving the house. It’s winter, my least favorite season, so my ass would rather be home, in bed, wrapped up in a warm blanket, sound asleep. Unfortunately for me, I work in retail. Dammit.

Unlike last year, I have to work during the insanity. I was lucky enough to miss it before but this year, I guess my luck ran out. I have the fantastic displeasure of getting to enjoy the “company” of all of the “wonderful people” who will make the decision to forego Thanksgiving festivities to trudge and fight through crowds of others just like them in order to fork over thousands and thousands of dollars for junk that will probably get returned for things that the gift receivers really want. What makes it even better is that I will miss Thanksgiving celebrations with my family (not by choice) to spend time with these brilliant folks. Oh joy.

Remember when Black Friday was ONLY on Friday? I do and I thought that was just fine. There was no need for an extra day. But then some genius or geniuses got a the “bright” idea that they could sell more shit if they started the sales even earlier, like maybe the day before. Ya know, on Thanksgiving. I mean, no one is doing anything important during the evening of Thanksgiving anyway. No one is slipping into a turkey coma or catching up with family members they might not have seen in a while or watching football or getting an early start on setting up their Christmas tree or just enjoying a break from work. Nah, no one is doing anything like that. So they should be shopping. Yeah, that sounds like a logical thing to do. If waking up ridiculously early to stand in line to wait for stores to open wasn’t crazy enough, skipping out on the majority of Thanksgiving in order to wait in line for under-priced junk definitely takes the cake.

At what point did a majority of the human race decide that standing in line, either outside in the freezing cold or inside among a cesspool of human “existence”, rather than relaxing at home with loved ones, was a good idea? Dammit, people! Check your priorities! Enjoy this time away from the insanity of the world. Take time with the people you love; your spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends, partners, kids, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. DVR the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and watch it over and over again, play some board games, sleep off that food coma, decorate for Christmas, have a few too many drinks and sing some karaoke…terribly. Enjoy life for once. Save Black Friday for Friday and leave Thursday to Thanksgiving. Be thankful for what you have, not for the things you can save a few bucks on. Maybe if enough people stop shopping on Thanksgiving, the stores will switch back to a one day sale. Probably not but a man can dream.

And if you get the urge to go shopping on Thursday, remember a few things:

1. A lot of people do not shower before these events and they will stand in line all night long. You may end up next to one of them. Some of these people will not even leave the line to use the restroom. They’ll just go where they’re standing. I’ve seen it. It’s not pretty.

2. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is awesome. It can be watched on repeat and never not be awesome. Same goes for A Charlie Brown Christmas.

3. If you drink, don’t drive. So spike your eggnog or punch or whatever, curl up on the couch with a blanket, throw on Christmas with The Rat Pack or Michael Bublé Christmas, and just chill.

4. I enjoy spending time with my family and relaxing and watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and listening to Sinatra and Bublé sing Christmas tunes. However, I truly DO NOT enjoy spending my holiday at work with YOU. I don’t care who you are. It’s the last thing on my list of things to do on the holidays, right below watching every single Casper Van Dien movie ever. Believe me, it’s a long list.

So just do the right thing and stay home this holiday. Besides, most of the deals are online anyway. Buy all the crap from the comfort of your home. Boom, done.

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Terminator: Still Waiting on Judgment Day

Remember the early nineties when most everything was great, and we only had two Terminator movies? Two films about time traveling cyborgs trying to change the future by altering the past. Terminator and Terminator 2 were a rare offering in film: a story in two parts with a complete resolution. When Terminator 2 closes we are given a complete story, an ending. Somewhere along the way the series ceased to be “self aware” and in pursuit of an ongoing franchise started pumping out sequels that made me wish Skynet had just wiped us all out in the nuclear fire in 1997.

Image property of 20th Century Fox

Image property of 20th Century Fox

After Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines succeeded in making little sense and less money, the franchise took a break. A break that many of us thought would last forever. However once the dust settled someone realized that since the continuity was already fractured Fox could do whatever they wanted. Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles did the only logical thing, operating in the space between Terminator 2 and 3 allowed  the showrunners to explore the importance of John Conner’s mother. The show wasn’t perfect, but if there had to be additional stories wrung out of the original concept at least original writer and director James Cameron was involved with the project.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles lasted for 2 seasons. After the 2nd season ended in a fascinating cliffhanger, it was canceled. Not because the numbers were bad, but to avoid confusion with the new prequel/reboot Terminator: Salvation.  This movie sought to explain what no one cared about; how did Skynet construct the Terminators and make them look human?

If you haven’t put it together this rant is building to a new rant about a new film in the franchise due out in July.  The poorly titled Terminator: Genisys, because when Skynet took over all of our computer systems spellcheck wasn’t compatible.  Genisys sounds so unbelievably terrible that it will most likely do this dead horse of a franchise in, despite the fact it has been optioned as the beginning of a new trilogy of films.

Terminator: Genisys is expected to begin with John Conner sending the Arnold Schwarzenegger  model terminator back in time to look after his mother as a teenager. With that one sentence we have effectively destroyed the only  two movies worth watching in this entire series. This won’t be the tidy universe creation of the 2009 Star Trek reboot. Oh and how does the model T-800 look so old? Time travel aging his organic tissue. Gotcha. makes perfect sense. Especially give how awful the one film without Schwarzenegger turned out. Even director Mcg saw the problem and created the CGI puppet seen in the films climax.

I think I feel worst of all for former Doctor Who star Matt Smith. This is Smith’s first mainstream American film role, and it is going to be in a terrible movie. Casting Smith at first gave me a shred of hope, but that has passed. Now I can only pray that this franchise can and will “self terminate”

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When Players Are in Control

swcombineJohn and I often write about the kind of MMO we want to play. And it generally comes down to giving us the options of a tabletop RPG in digital form. We want the power to control the governments, the economy, etc. in the game.

But what happens to a player-controlled game when the player base is dying?

Enter Star Wars Combine.

Star Wars Combine is a browser-based MMORPG set in an alternate Star Wars timeline. Nearly everything is player controlled, and it has some neat system to balance that. Travel is real time. Want to jump across the galaxy? You’re going to be on your ship for two weeks. All in all, I like it. It has some good ideas.

But it’s been in development for over 15 years, and it’s not complete yet. Combat has yet to be fully implemented. The interface is bulky and hard to understand (I don’t think it was made by native English speakers).  But, the roleplaying has made it worth it to me. I joined a group of people calling themselves the Falleen Federation (you might remember that Shadows of the Empire villain Prince Xizor was a Falleen, but these guys purport to be more virtuous). I even made some friends.

But the player base is dying. You know what happens when people are in hyperspace for two weeks? They don’t log in for two weeks. And if they have some major responsibilities within their guild or faction, those can get neglected. Case in point, my faction gave me a mission to complete, but I haven’t been able to finish it yet because I am waiting for a person from a separate faction to give me access to a space station. She hasn’t logged in for nearly 8 days. So, what do I do? I wait. And it makes me not want to log in since I can’t do anything. And I can’t force my way in… because that hasn’t been implemented yet.

I like the people, though, really. It’s just… it’s kind of a boring game. An economic simulator, really, right now. And there’s no threat of physicality to balance the economics.  And because of those basic things not being implemented, more people are leaving the game. It’s like watching an entire mini-universe gasping for breath.

It’s an odd situation, but maybe when it comes to having players control everything, we are getting exactly what we asked for. And a lot less.

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