another misAdventure

"We are all of us living in the shadow of Manhattan."

Friday, August 31, 2007

4DVENTURE ! (Gencon: Thursday, August 16)

Balloons! A walk or two around the Dealer's room. Realization strikes. The announcement, and the clues missed. True Dungeon. A busy Thursday at Gencon.

This is probably going to be the longest of the Gencon reports. Take a deep breath!

I woke up Thursday at a reasonably civilized hour -- actually other got up and hit the shower before I did. I wasn't in any particular hurry since the only thing I had planned for the morning was the dealer's hall, and I found out from someone (Kathy?) that it wasn't opening until 11am.

I was content to loll around even longer, but Kathy and I were the last left in the hotel room and Kathy wanted me to walk to the convention center with her so she could look around a bit before her shift in the True Dungeon tavern (at 11:30, I believe). First stop though -- the CVS next door so I could buy a toothbrush. I also considered getting a razor there, but decided to not worry about it and just be fuzzy for a few days. Probably the longest I've gone without shaving my head in the past two years.

Kathy and I meandered a bit around the convention center. I returned a couple of event tickets that we weren't using (but got the word in time NOT to return my extra badge, so that Tony could use it). We decided to go past the dealer's hall even though we couldn't go in, to browse some of the stuff that gets set up in the halls.

That's when we ran into the mass of people.

I didn't know about this, but not only was the dealer's room opening late (except for VIPs and press), there was also an elaborate opening ceremony for Gencon (especially for the 40th anniversary, I guess). So, there was a crowd near the doors into the dealer's room waiting for that ceremony. We could see balloons in a net above the area, waiting to be dropped.

That area was also below the balcony/skybridge from the Marriott. So, I took Kathy in tow and back-tracked, going across the street (at street level) to the Marriott, up the stairs there, and back toward the sky bridge. We could at least get on the balcony overlooking things there, though we still had people two deep ahead of us lining the edge.

From there, I could see red carpet up to the entry to the dealer's room. Oooh. Maybe even some of the guests of honor were wearing fancy gowns, but I couldn't see anything like that. Hopefully not Gary Gygax.

Kathy's feet were bothering her standing, so we retreated a little way back on to the skybridge, to a spot where we could sit and wait for everything to be over with. We knew that the festivities had reached climax when we heard lots of popping noises -- the balloons had been dropped and the crowd let loose onto them!

We waited a couple more minutes for things to clear. There was still a large and steady stream of people going into the dealer's room from the left (where we were originally), but coming down the escalator from the balcony we could easily get to the right-most doors and walk right in. Kathy collected a couple of the non-popped green balloons to take back to the tavern, and we strolled a bit.

Kathy left again after a few minutes, and I started my usual methodical coverage of the dealer's room -- up and down each aisle so I could check everything. The dealer's room was bigger yet this year -- they opened partitions and added the ballroom A space that had been used last year for card games, and the previous two years had been the RPGA space.

I found the Wizards of the Coast area in the far right back corner of the hall. It was a bit busier than I'd hoped, though, so I didn't start collecting marks on my card (or even a card) to show what I'd gotten a demo of there. Instead, I checked out other bits of the hall. Nothing excited me too much this year, though. I wound up in the Paizo area where they also had the Looney Labs games. Andrew Looney was demonstrating "Zombie Fluxx", which I wanted to sit in on. While I was waiting though, I got pulled (by Kristin Looney) into another demo, first of "Aquarius" (which I won) and then of "Treehouse" (which we played with Narf last year at the KoDT live read - I didn't win that :-) ).

So, then I played a game of "Zombie Fluxx". I think I won that game, but now I can't remember. It was great fun, though, and I got the author's autograph (on a special, playable game card). "Zombie Fluxx" isn't out yet (he says he keeps tweaking it), but I decided to buy a copy of the original "Fluxx". Which we then played several times over the rest of the weekend, at pretty much any opportunity I had.

I then hung around the Wizards area for a while collecting demos and marks on my card (see Friday recap when I write it for explanation, if you don't know). Then I saw the computer screens in the Wizards area with that same "4DVENTURE" graphic that was on our hotel key card, as well as a countdown and a hand written sign about a D&D announcement at 6:30 in the Sagamore Ballroom (the RPGA room). And then all the pieces fell into place in my mind -- 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons.

I met Matt for lunch, then did demos with him most of the rest of the afternoon (as I remember - I don't really remember now), and then went with him to the Sagamore Ballroom at about 6:00 to check out the big announcment. They were handing out T-shirts with the new Dungeons and Dragons logo on the front, and a beholder and "4RRIVAL - May 2008" on the back. Well, that pretty much gives the major part of the announcement! They were also handing out USB flashdrives (which want to connect to, and I haven't totally got working yet (in a couple tries)). Matt says it's a tiny flashdrive anyway, so not particularly useful in iteself.

As for the other clue I'd missed: on the "4DVENTURE" image on our hotel keycards it has a bunch of dice of different types. I hadn't noticed they were all showing the "4" face. I'd also pretty much expected 4th edition coming when Wizards wasn't renewing the licenses they had out to other companies. But for some reason I wasn't expecting them to announce the new edition quite yet.

Anyway, many of the aspects of the announcement were largely met by the huge crowd with a giant "Meh". Not the overwhelming show of enthusiasm that I'm sure Wizards wanted. Most everyone was taking a wait-and-see attitude (as am I). The best reaction was when they said that if you purchased a hard-copy book it would unlock an online version as well. What's not clear is if that also requires a subscription to their new online service, and no real details are available on that yet.

Moving on, the big announcement meeting took us right up to our True Dungeon start time. We had the core Tjarks team: me, Kathy (token-mistress), Kalen, Ryan, Matt, as well as two other TD volunteers that Kathy knew and recruited for the team since others weren't available to join us (Tony, Narf, Rob, either Amber). We also said we were willing to pick up a walk-in 8th player, and we got one (he said he had zero wait time, so the 8th player slots were in higher supply than demand, at least on Thursday).

The did the adventure on the puzzle side rather than the battle side, since I'm really in this more for the puzzles. And they were HARD this year, or at least we rarely got that Aha! moment in solving them. One turned out easier because we got the right clue (way to go with the rumors, Kathy) and had females that knew birthstones (I'd have been lost). Others we weren't looking at right (literally). I'm not sure they played quite fair with the last puzzle, and Matt and I both sacrificed ourselves guessing the solution until Kathy guessed it right and got the rest of the party through. I played the rogue this year, and I only got one of the rogue traps unlocked properly. I had better luck on the sliders combats though -- I didn't land the solid blows myself but I did purposely knock other sliders forward to hit the '20', so we got two good hits from that that we wouldn't have otherwise. And I think I get credit for getting most people to have mirrors tokens in their supplies -- they've done that bit too frequently, this year with a live-action medusa, to not be prepared for it.

Overall, the effects in True Dungeon were great this year and, yes, I'll be looking forward to it again next year. Pricey, yes, but worth it to me.

After True Dungeon we mostly (all except Kathy) retired to Houlihans for a nice dinner (with a couple games of Fluxx), and then went back to the hotel to crash. Matt, Ryan, and I had to get up early the next day for the Living Greyhawk special in the first slot.


Need I say it? To Be Continued!

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pre-Gencon: Wednesday, August 15

The day at Verbobonc Pre-Gencon Madness -- and the first inkling of something happening.

We got up Wednesday morning (oh, yeah, for those following the whole timeline, this would be when I discovered I didn't have my toothbrush) and drove into downtown Indianapolis to start the real festivities. Wednesday was the day that I judged mods all day at Verbobonc Pre-Gencon Madness.

A note for those who don't do RPGA: Verbobonc is a region in the Living Greyhawk campaign. Modules set in specific regions are meant for play only in a fixed geographic area. For Verbobonc, that's Illinois and Indiana, so that's the home region for most of my characters (another example, Iowa/Nebraska/Kansas/Missouri are grouped a region that is the City of Dyvers in Living Greyhawk).

As a practical matter, that means that a lot of people coming into Indianapolis for Gencon don't normally have a chance to play modules set in Verbobonc, because they live in a different area. They come in a day early so that can play Verbobonc regional mods at the ad-hoc convention "Verbobonc Pre-Gencon Madness" (VPGM or VPGCM). And, since I have lots of other opportunities to play Verbobonc regional modules, I come in a day early so I can run those module for people from other regions, thus sharing the joy. (End of Living Greyhawk primer)

VPGM actually had it's own room this year, with dedicated tables. Since this con runs on less than a shoestring budget it doesn't rent space from the hotel, relying on the hotel allowing some space to build goodwill with the gamers in town for Gencon. In the past couple of years that meant we scraped together space in the lobby of the Westin hotel, and some people then went to guest rooms, the halls of the convention center, etc. This year, the con was in the ballroom of the Hyatt, and had tables set up to accomodate all the games.

While looking for table before the first slot I ran into Rudy. He didn't have my green folder with my judging tools. But, he did point out where Alexander was (since I'd mentioned him).

Alexander didn't have my green folder, but thought Marlene might know. Marlene, at the next table -- had found my green folder! She even brought it with her (though smuggled in Alexander's pack) since she figured it was mine and that she'd see me today. Yay!!

I started by judging a table of "Faire Trade" and didn't have enough people at first so we weren't sure it was going to go off and we were trying to scrape together enough people to either play that or another module. Some others showed up about 30 minutes late, though (one of the problems organizing this con is late-comers for the morning slot), and "Faire Trade" happpened and all had a good time and I challenged the party well (as in, they were afraid for their character's lives, but all prevailed).

"Faire Trade" took me all the way through to near the beginning of the next slot. I grabbed a sandwich from McDonald's (just downstairs in the Hyatt), and proceeded to my table of "Storm the Dragon's Bastion", the third part of the Skyroad series. This is a very good, fun set of mods, but the story definitely benefits from having played all the modules in order, and being sufficiently invested in the regional storyline to know some of the other background and remember all the characters that you run into in the module. Playing with folks from outside the region dulled that a bit. Only half of them had played the earlier mods, and those that had didn't remember everything. So, two things that happen in the mod didn't have quite the same impact as they have at other tables I've been at (as player or judge). Plus, they went a different direction than previous tables that I've been with, and that direction was a bit less of a challenge. And they did something which avoided much of the challenge of the last encounter. They had a good time, though, and the module was done quickly so I had plenty of time before the next module.

Which was good, because that gave me a chance to get checked into the hotel and get lost for a minute on the way there (I got turned around from the exits from the Hyatt). We were staying at the Sheraton a few blocks away, right on Monument Circle, and I should have known where it was since we parked there at the beginning of the day. Anyway, we got there, checked in, and Ryan and I unloaded most of the stuff from the cars (leaving some things that we didn't know about from Kathy's car, since she had some things bound for school rather than Gencon).

Our hotel key cards had the word "4DVENTURE" on it, and some dice pictured. I didn't have a clue what that was, but I figured some game company had that as a promo for a new game. I missed the first clue.

Matt, Ryan, and I decide to go to the chili place in the base of the Hyatt, only to find that it wasn't open (must be only open for lunch now). So, we instead went to the Italian/pizza place next to it (which was only "meh").

I then went over to the convention center to pick up my "Gamemaster" badge and my judging shirts. I managed to get into the RPGA room to get those things because I had another Gencon badge that I'd purchased (and later sold to Tony). The convention center security was being over-zealous, blocking people without badges from getting into the area where they could pick up their badge. With my regular Gencon badge I could get past one guard to get my Gamemaster badge, but when shifts changed the new guard was blocking anyone who didn't seem to have more official status. Fortunately, my newly acquired "Gamemaster" badge was deemed as official enough by him, and he let other people past to pick up badges on my say-so, so long as I vouched for each one! So, I sat there for a while getting others past the guard because I could say I knew them (most I didn't) and that they were picking up badges from the RPGA. After the other guard returned from her break, I convinced her that anyone who came to that post and said the magic letters "RPGA" were legit and should be let through. I then went into the RPGA judges meeting at 8:00.

Judges meeting usally says pretty much the same thing and re-iterates stuff we got in e-mail leading up to the convention. There was a bit of interesting info though that I'd missed, and a couple bits that were new. The part I'd missed (because it didn't effect me) was that Thursday slot times were changed. The second slot was to finish an hour early (and HAD to finish at the given time), and the third slot was pushed back an hour. The new part was that this was to accomodate a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT that was to happen at 6:30pm on Thursday. The nature of the announcement was a big secret, but they did let slip that there were a lot of boxes of swag in the back for those attending the announcement (so I immediately decided to put that I my schedule). That was my first inkling (after the missed clue). I wouldn't figure it out until the next day.

From there, I returned to VPGM. The organizers had pushed back the last slot a bit to accomodate the RPGA judges meeting (which affect both some of our judges and some of our players), though the promised 15 minutes was a bit more than 30. I judged a table of the Verbobonc Special from Winter War, the segment "Shadows of the Past". The table was pretty over-powerered for the module, though, and the big-bad at the end was particularly ineffective (didn't scale up well). A party that can throw around several Force Cage spells per day could pretty much walk through this module. So, though we started late, we got done on time. So, back to the hotel (I was the last back, IIRC), crash and get ready for the start of Gencon-proper the next day.

To Be Continued!

Tomorrow: I'm finally struck by the clue bus.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pre-pre-Gencon: Tuesday, August 14

I'd forget my head if it wasn't screwed on too tight.

This is the beginning of the Gencon 2007 saga.

I had been lazy on Monday and didn't get everything done that I should have. I spent the first part of the morning on Tuesday organizing clothes: I packed a bag for Gencon (shorts and T-shirt mostly, along with underwear and socks), set aside one change of clothes to take into the Super 8 on Tuesday night, and organized things enough to know that I had sufficient clothes for Cleveland, washed what I needed to (jeans) and packed the parts that I didn't care about wrinkling (underwear, socks, shoes, jeans). I set aside the bag for Gencon and the airbed and went about other preparations: mainly printing out any info I needed and organizing gaming stuff.

A couple days earlier Ellen and I had gone out to dinner and then stopped at Office Despot to find something for her. We wound up NOT finding her stuff, but did find a cheap rolling file crate that would be good for carrying gaming books. Not so much at Gencon, but at Pre-Gencon Madness and later local cons. So, we got that and I got my gaming stuff into it.

Here's where I noticed the first missing item. My green binder with various DM tools (mats, marker pens, spell templates) was missing -- probably left accidentally at one of my gaming spots from the previous weekend (either Rudy's or Alexander and Marlene's). So, that was a pain -- I could either bring my big mat or borrow Kalen's flipmat, and I had neither wet or dry erase markers. Eep. I decided to carry on and pick up markers later (using Kalen's flip mat as I didn't want to carry more).

The girls took off in Kathy's car while I tried to finish getting a few things ready. The boys and I took off about a half hour later, I suppose.

Though we talked on the phone a couple times, we finally caught up with the girls at the Super 8 on the north side of Indy. We checked in, unloaded a bit, and then set off to the next-doot Texas Roadhouse for dinner (and excellent country-fried steak, though the ambience is a little too loud/country). We got back to the hotel and I called Ellen to let her know we were settled for the night.

That's when she gave me the bad news: I left my Gencon suitcase at home (as well as the airbed). I thought I'd gotten them carried downstairs and that the kids had loaded them into a car. My fault for not double-checking. So, all I had were one change of clothes and my razor/toothpaste/etc.

(Note I didn't say toothbrush there -- not to be discovered until later)

So, at 10pm, I figured out where the nearest Wal-Mart was (only about a mile, fortunately), and I set off to do clothes shopping. One pack each underwear and socks, two pairs of jeans shorts (cargo shorts, which I was happy for on later days), one pair of gym shorts (sleeping gear), and three polo shirts (I needed some more anyway). I just got three shirts because I knew I'd also get judging shirts at the con, so I could get by. Also, a set of dry erase pens and a set of wet erase pens.

So, I got back to the hotel and crashed so I'd be ready to get up by 7:00 to head to the pre-con the next day. Which we did.

Leaving my razor behind.

To be continued!

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Monday, August 27, 2007

The Other Shoe

An addendum to yesterday's post: a link to the Vintage Base Ball Association.
The game I watched was between the Akron Black Stockings and the Canal Fulton Mules.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Shoeless Joe's Shoes

I had the weekend mostly off. I had to work late into Friday night (as in, I finally got to bed at 4am), but was able to sleep in late on Saturday. And today, I checked out the museum.

Specifically, I went to the Great Lakes Science Center. I didn't spend a lot of time at the science exhibits -- it's a pretty standard set of exhibits though it must be fairly new and the exhibits thus in very good shape. I went for the "Baseball as America" touring exhibit. I hadn't gotten to the exhibit while it was in Chicago last year, so took the time today.

It took about two hours to go through the whole thing, and there were a lot of interesting bits. Yes, including Shoeless Joe Jackson's shoes -- so that's where they went!

They also had a special exhibition today -- two local teams that play baseball using 19th century rules. Pretty much the same game, but the differences were pretty interesting -- no balls, strikes only counted for swinging and missing, the "striker" is out if the ball is count on a single bound off the ground (as well as caught on the fly). Really interesting: the ball was called a foul if it hit the ground first in foul territory -- even when it first hit a fielder (in the hands) in fair territory. The third baseman wasn't trying to knock it foul -- it's just that it was hit so hard he couldn't field it, and it bounced off his hands.

After that, I came back to the hotel and did a load of laundry (just jeans, actually, as I'm fine for other clothes). And... that about sums up my exciting weekend.

I'll try to do my Gencon report in the next couple of days, assuming the work doesn't absorb all my time.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Cleveland Again

Yep, I'm back in Cleveland. And today it was busy, though less so the previous two days.

This is a quick post as I need to get to bed and need to get up sort of early in the morning. So, the recap of the past almost three weeks (eep!).

Let's see -- after getting home from Cleveland (on the night of the 7th) I worked a couple days (not too hard) and then took the days off I planned, starting the 10th. However, where I had been planning to take the 10th to go to Chicago Comicon (yes, yes, Wizard World Chicago), I decided to ditch the con entirely this year and instead relax, get a few simple things done at home. Never enough time for that.

On the weekend I got in some Dungeons and Dragons (because there's just not enough of that at Gencon, of course). Actually, I played a long-planned session of a regional Special (along with another core mod, while we were playing) and then a quickly arranged zero of the new mod premiering at Verbobonc Pre-Gencon Madness. Monday I tried to get some organization done at home (not getting as much in as I would have liked, due to my own laziness/fatigue). Tuesday, as usual, I was trying to get stuff ready for Gencon quickly, and again pushed the time limit as far as I could. Drove to the north side of Indy. Bought a weekend wardrobe (more on that in another post).

Wednesday - Verbobonc Pre-Gencon Madness, where I judged three slots. Not really much more to say about that, but if I decide to it will be in the next post.

Thursday through Sunday - Gencon. Has to have it's own post.

Monday - ehh, mostly collapsed from post-Gencon decompression.

Tuesday - fly to Cleveland. Get immersed in the work here again. And it's been pretty solid until now.

My best guess is that I'll have some time this weekend. If so, I'll spend a bit of that time actually writing a Gencon post. There's lots to write about.

Kalen needs to blog about actually getting her bachelor's degree now (yes, she is officially graduated). Ryan needs to blog about starting school at COD and his job interview. Kathy needs to blog about school starting at ISU. Matt about moving and job applications. Everybody owes a Gencon post. Ellen --- is relatively up to date.

Oh, and Tony -- Gencon post! Exclamation Point!

And I need to get to bed.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Clan Rock Hall

It was busy with work yesterday, busy-touristy today.

The work week has been busy and lots of long hours, decently productive, and not anything to talk about.

Yesterday I was on-call in case of an outage, filling in for a co-worker who had a wedding to go to. Outages have been a lot farther between in the past few weeks, so I knew a call was unlikely, but I didn't stray far from my computer anyway. I spent part of the day putting together a 'zine for Legends, and part of it dealing with an issue that came up here due to a feature that was turned on Friday night. So, it was good that I was around to check on that and provide some coordination on how to handle the problem.

Today was a rainy day in Cleveland that turned out to be a good day to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's worthwhile to do on a half-day -- If I'd spent the whole day downtown there's a science museum right next to it that would probably fill the other day (tip for someone planning a tourist day in Cleveland). There are lots of show costumes and guitars. I was a bit more interested in the written artifacts -- pages where lyrics were being worked out, set lists, letters, John Lennon's doodles and cartoons (doing "Onion"-style tabloid parodies as a teenager). I also really enjoyed the stage props from Pink Floyd. Browsing the gift shop at the end, I found a copy of Pink Floyd's "The Division Bell" (the gift shop has a lot of regular record store stuff - it's run by FYE - but it has a separate section just for CDs by Hall inductees). Since the sculptures used to create the album cover for "The Division Bell" (see picture) are prominently on display high in the Rock Hall, I decided that I'd get that CD as one of my souvenirs (also a thimble for Ellen, a magnet for me and a postcard of one of the props from "The Wall").

Tomorrow: work. But two days from now I'll be home.

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