Friday, June 29, 2012

James M. Ward Got Me Pregnant At The North Texas RPG Con.

Well, that should make for some interesting Google hits.

In the nearly four weeks since I started this update, I misplaced my camera, worked an obscene amount of overtime, and came down with walking pneumonia (which may or may not be linked to the aforementioned overtime), so that explains the tardiness.   I hope you'll find it worth the wait.

From June 7-10, a gal-pal and I went to Bedford, Texas for the 4th Annual North Texas RPG Con.  Being so tiny—only 153 attendees this go-round, and its largest attendance yet—I had never heard of it until a few months back.  And given that I keep my fingers in all things con-related (particularly when it comes to my own backyard), I am still shaking my head that I missed years 1-3.

But as a guy who's done GenCon about a dozen times, I can say this with absolute conviction:

My NTRPG weekend was the most fun I've ever had slangin' dice in a convention setting.

And the key component of said fun?  Hobnobbing with—and gaming under—some of The Living Legends Of Our Hobby.

Thursday was registration, and then a 6pm-12am round of Moldvay Basic D&D.  GM'd by con co-organizer Mike Badolato, our group delved into the classic B1: In Search Of The Unknown.  This was a hoot AND a holler, as not only did we use the pre-gen characters from the module itself, but Mr. Mike customized the experience based on the desires of the group.  ("So, do y'all wanna venture in to fight the necromancer...?"  "Do you want to start off captured, and work your way out...?"  That kinda stuff.)  This game was a Big Deal to me because, I say with considerable embarrassment, I've never really played through any of the Classic Big Gun modules.  (I was one of those pretentious grade-schoolers that "perferred my own material," you see.  Ugh.)

And he provided The Most Iconic Of Snacks:

Only Gamescience (tm) touch these hands.

Highlights included:  my companion's PC dying within the first 20 minutes from a failed Saving Throw Versus Poison from the ol' spider-in-the-kitchen-chimney gag, but then grabbing up a henchman and not only making it to adventure's end, but attaining Level 1 in the process; our thief disarming every trap throughout the session...until he got both arms severed [dis-armed?  Heh.] at the final treasure vault; Fighter #2's wardog dying (more zombies), and his player toasting a shot of bourbon in his honor...until the bottle was half-gone, and he all but fell asleep at the table.

Friday was "Green Acres", an 8am-3pm Gamma World 1e session run by THE Steve Winter.


It involved the party—which we rolled up at random, right there at the table—investigating the Pylon Of Wholesome Nutrition, an Ancient food-processing plant still churning out eats for the mutant masses.

Highlights included...

A super-genius chimp benefactor.
Mutant hippies with atomic hacky-sacks.
Militant pigmen that turned into telepathic pangolins.
Narcotic food additives.
A Brutorz who took Orwell's Animal Farm a liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittle too close to heart.
Zen sewer-worms.
A war between the sane AI who ran the top of the Pylon, and the unhinged Sentient Reactor that powered the joint....

A war which we PCs may or may not have triggered....

Okay, was TOTALLY our fault.

Choice quotes from the session:

"Oh, is THAT what it does.  We've always been curious." — A Sleeth vagrant, on the DO NOT CROSS signage that vaporized a party member in the first 30 seconds of play

"That looks delicious." — a fabric-eating Obb [not a Yexil?], on our clothing.  You'd feed him, then he'd give you a bit of info...then repeat.  We realized we had to leave him quickly, or we'd be naked in minutes.

"I need the pencils back." — A Survey-Conducting Robot

"Those, they can learn a lot from us computers." — The Same Robot, on the Brutorz

"If Apple made a tractor, this is what it would look like." — The GM, on an Ancient Artifact

"Go with the flow, man...follow The Great Pipeway to The Great Beyond." — The Zen Sewer-Slugs

"Well, that's uncalled for!!!" — That Same Beleaguered Robot, to Clarabelle, our violent barbarian-type PC

"But we have the white [security clearance] cards!" — The PCs
"THAT DOESN'T MAKE YOU GOOD!!!" — The Poor, Poor Robot, after we accidentally disabled, well, everything that we shouldn't have in the whole freaking tower

"This animal farm is under new management!!!" — The PCs

"I must object to this in the strongest possible terms, Fusium Pile."  — The Unhinged Sentient Reactor's Major Domo-bot

"ALL HAIL THE FUSIUM PILE!!!" — The Unhinged Sentient Reactor Itself

(I have notoriously busy hands.  Note his smile!)

In addition to Mr. Winter's just amazing improvisational skills and outright hilarity, another highlight was how useful the random character process was in play.

Our party leader—a mutant bedbug named Posture Pete-Ick—had Shapechange, and was able to morph into one of the composting sewer-slugs and basically shimmy and slither his way up the entire tower.  Granted, the team was left behind to twiddle our thumbs (which translated to "cause mayhem and blow shit up") for about an hour, but we basically bypassed 5 levels of the dungeon and backdoored it all the way to one of the climactic zones.

This game was just amazing.

That night, we were supposed to play in the 6pm-12am Villains & Vigilantes run by THE Jeff Dee, but we were too exhausted to roleplay any more.

But we really had our hearts set on we went and saw The Avengers.  My fifth time!

Saturday was THE day for me, because I got to sit at the table of the man who made me a life-long roleplayer, THE James M. Ward.  I've waxed rhapsodic many times on this blog about Gamma World 2e being my introduction to the hobby, and this was the opportunity to participate in the science-fantasy game that spawned it:

Metamorphosis Alpha.
For six hours straight.
Serious.  Plotzing.

The Granddaddy (3rd Edition, That Is)

Within the first 5 minutes, our team encountered 400+ cyclopean slugs, and my character was blasted by ONE of them with enough radiation to almost kill me outright and induce severe mutation.

Mr. Ward rolled some dice...and I blew up like a balloon...

...due to sudden-onset pregnancy.

Technically, one of these was the father.

I'm calling it a Gamma Worm.
You know, in tribute to That Other Game.

Which ruptured my abdomen...

...because of the insta-birth of a baby boy.

A crystalline baby boy..

A crystalline baby boy that talked telepathically.

A crystalline baby boy that talked telepathically and incessantly about HOW HUNGRY IT WAS.

A crystalline baby boy that apparently fed off the life force of everyone in, oh, a 500 ft radius.

A crystalline baby boy that seemed immune to any and all forms of attack.



We fled the slugs, and went straight to the brig to lock up the baby.

He happily sauntered into a cell, plopped down, and started mucking with the wiring inside the obligatory vid-screen (the Starship Warden doesn't believe in "cruel & unusual", I guess).

We ran shrieking from the brig level upon hearing the ship's speakers say, "Override initiated."

The Crystal Baby Wants A Hug.

We went to another level, and fought some metallic trees, and had to run from it, too...because we threw grenades all willy-nilly and blew up our own hovercraft and protective suits.

It was at this point that the con overseers surprised the ENTIRE room—celebrity GMs included—that everyone at their tables had to switch to a nearby game.


Turns out, the whole block in that room was a "Quantum Leap"-ean event.

The MetAlpha players were sent into the wild west of Boot Hill.
The Boot Hill types went to the future of Star Frontiers.
The Star Frontiers-men went to the savage days of Cavemaster.
The Cavemaster hominids went to MetAlpha.

And everyone just "jumped" into the PCs of the ongoing game,in medias res.

Cute in concept, but really, really annoying for those of us that wanted—and, when it comes down to it, paid for—Jim Ward exclusively.

But I got over it really quickly, because I'm a helluva sport, and love a good story.


I don't have a whole lot to say about the Boot Hill game run by THE Frank Mentzer.

Just straight up rootin' AND tootin'.

Mr. Mentzer was completely flummoxed about how his entire game got derailed by the player switch, and spent almost the entirety of the 90 minute block explaining the game mechanics, setting, history, politics, technology, etc.  When all was said and done, I think the only thing our group had time to do was dig a concealed wagon out of some mud.

If I may be so bold, I'll quote what I G+'d on the day of the event:

So, nertz. I only got 90 mins of MetAlpha, and sent to Frank Mentzer's Boot Hill. 

And I can't decide on what I think of the game.

Because on one hand, it's been a 90 minute history lecture about the Civil War, the commercial development of aluminum, the crisis of the 1880s Mexican presidency, and Native American cultures.

And on the other hand, it's been a 90 minute history lecture about the Civil War, the commercial development of aluminum, the crisis of the 1880s Mexican presidency, and Native American cultures.

But a cool thing about the event?  Turns out my ladyfriend is a "black powder reenactor" (which I think translates to "SCA for cowboys"), and she and Mentzer just talked shop the whole freaking time.

Which kinda irritated the rest of the bored, already-annoyed-at-the-switched table, but I found it endearing.

Sooooooo much combined Wild West knowledge.

We moved on to Star Frontiers by THE Aforementioned Steve Winter.

That game went smooth as silk, as we just plopped into some ice caves and started battling rocket-powered robots and laser-blasting yetis.  (And everyone already knows my fondness for laser-blasting yetis!)

Grenades were thrown, robots were exploded, laser-yetis were lasered in return, and icy stalagtites proved invaluable in all our combats.

Turns out the Sathar were responsible for everything.  Of COURSE they were. 

Close-Up Of The Screen
All the grenades made it impossible to hear.

CaveMaster by THE Aforementioned Jeff Dee was a nifty little game.

The mechanics boil down to "have more rocks in your hand than the GM, and you win; have less, and you lose", and it was really fun for a con game.  Our cavemen beat up some other cavemen, and my "mammoth-shaman" stomped some dudes heads in with pachyderm-ian powers.

I bought the book (in part because I felt like a jerk for bailing on his game the night before), and while I haven't given it a thorough reading, it looks like it may have plenty of "crunch" to expand the rock-holding mechanics. 

The gimmick is that this is the RPG that cavemen actually played.

After that fourth table-leap, everyone returned to their original game to see how the PCs were faring.

Turns out the crystal baby had run amok, and destroyed an entire level ("Aquatic Zone") of the Starship Warden.  And slaughtered plenty of PCs.

[Interesting aside:  the con seemed to have instituted a "Don't Kill The PCs" edict over the whole con, and that didn't become totally clear until sitting down again at Mr. Ward's table. Turns out that there had been SEVERAL TPKs since we left—all thanks to my mineral offspring, in fact—but everyone kept getting cloned back to existence, albeit imperfectly (more mutations, crappier stats, etc).   That explained why, in the prior  D&D and Gamma World games, the GM's were quick to pass out henchmen or clones and such.  Seemed kinda...weird...given the entire OSR vibe of the show.]

Anyhow, our group was about to be courts-martialed due to the other players' antics, so I just up and ordered my monster-child to kill every senior officer above our rank on the ship, so we'd be top dogs and not have anything to worry about.

"Can I feed, Daddy?"
"Can I kill them, Daddy?"

But then some security robots showed up, blasted the baby with some funky rays until it collapsed, and took us all prisoner.

Game over, man.  

After that long day of fun, we went to mingle a bit, and I overheard some of the con organizers discussing the "Quantum Leap" event.

And if I heard and understood correctly (which, me being bleary, may not be the case, but...), turns out that one of said organizers really, Really, REALLY wanted to play under both Mentzer AND Ward some time over the weekend, but there was no way to do it, given how everything was ultimately scheduled.

He simply couldn't make it work, and be in two games at the same time.

Until *lightbulb* he found a way to make it possible....

So, back to ANNOYING.

Sunday was spent making the rounds and just generally gushing over every celebu-type I'd already bothered enough.

I almost forgot to mention some of the neat artifacts at the show.  There were plenty of vintage gaming materials on display, and a gallery of original advertising stills from TSR's glory days, all framed and beeyootiful.

As if there was any doubt this was my favorite:

Belongs in The Louvre.

And here's where I swapped business cards with Mr. Ward.  Mine has mutants on it.  He approved!

It was his idea.  AWESOME.

Oh!  Almost forgot.  In all my gabbing with Mr. Ward, I brought up My Esteemed Colleague Tim Snider, and re-told Mr. S's tales of GaryCon and such.  And about the write-up of the brainblabla.

Jim [I get to call him Jim!!!  SQUEEEEE!!!] was ecstatic, and insisted I send him all the relevant linkage to The Savage Afterworld.

Here's some more of my favorite random quotes from the weekend:

"I come mainly to dispel the rumors, and prove I'm still alive." — Frank Mentzer

"You're not allowed to be funnier than the GM." — Jim Ward, to me

"He takes after his mother."  — Me, on my bloodthirsty crystalline offspring

What an amazing, amazing show.

And my gaming contingent is already planning on a mass roadtrip for next year.