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Part two of my ramblings, review, and summary of the recent Gateway 2011 gaming convention (part one is here).

Got a solid 6 hours of sleep, quick shower, bananas and an apple for breakfast, boogied on down to my first game of the day.

Note: there may be spoilers below for some of the games I played in! Be careful if you are a regular Strategicon attendee and might play them in the future.


Slot: Sunday, 9am – 1pm
Game (System): “Deadliest Catch” (Trail of Cthulhu)
My Character: Tom Hawkins (professor of Anthropology)
GM: Steve
Players: 6/6
Dice mechanic: a single d6

I was looking forward to this game, having played in some of Steve’s games before and being a fan of the fine folks at the Dead Gamer’s Society – and I wasn’t disappointed.

Based loosely on the reality show “Deadliest Catch,” our characters quickly found themselves at the center of a Cthulhu-esque mystery in Dutch Harbor. There were fish men, family secrets, betrayals, suicide, patricide, pacts with evil – in short, it was a Cthulhu game. Had a really great time, and was once again pumped up for running my Jem game.

Perhaps the highlight of the game for me was one of the characters, already teetering on the edge of sanity, realizing that his father was part of the secret pact with evil that led to his sister’s suicide … and pushing his father to his death off the same cliff his sister jumped from (right in front of the town sheriff no less!). Brilliant.

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Can’t believe it’s already been 3 months since the last game convention!

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend the Strategicon Gateway 2011 convention here in LA. Just like Gamex in June, I had an awesome time – probably even better than before, because I knew more people and faces, and this time I ran a couple of game slots too instead of only playing.

I got there Friday at noon and came home Monday evening. In those 3.5 days I played 8 different games and ran 2 sessions of my “Jem: License to Kill” one-shot, 4 hours for each slot, for a grand total of 40 hours of gaming. Yes, I basically put in a full-time work week in a weekend of gaming – and it was glorious.

Again my suitcase was crammed with food aplenty: 18 cans of Fresca, apples, bananas, bread, salami, bologna, cheese, peanut butter, jelly, mustard, mayo, and wheat thins. Oh, and clothes. Annoyingly the Sheraton charged me $20 for the mini-fridge (it was free last time), but I guess it could be worse.

The layout was the same: RPGs on the 2nd floor in the conference rooms, board and card games in the 1st floor ballroom. I literally only set foot in the ballroom one time, and really that was only because I had to in order to reach the dealer’s room. It’s not that I dislike board and card games – I don’t, in fact I go to a weekly meetup (Friday Night Dice) to get my fix. But when I’m at a convention, it’s all about the RPGs!

Check in time wasn’t until 3pm, but thankfully my room was ready when I got there at noon. I grabbed my con badge (Yay! It says, “Volunteer: RPG GM”!), unpacked, and relaxed in the room for a bit.



Note: there may be spoilers below for some of the games I played in! Be careful if you are a regular Strategicon attendee and might play them in the future.

continue reading…

My writing project has finally been completed (and on deadline!), so I have time to write up an overview of the recent Gamex game convention.

As a warning – it’s long.

I haven’t been to a gaming convention in probably 15+ years, and Gamex didn’t disappoint. I had a great time! The people were fun and friendly, the games were varied and well-run, and the hotel room was quiet and comfy. It was an awesome little vacation.

I got there Friday evening and came home really, really late on Sunday. In those 2.5 days I played 7 different games, each 4 hours long, for a grand total of 28 hours of gaming.

The hotel had more than enough room, and seemed happy to have us – they certainly treated me well. I had preregistered for the convention online, so all I needed to do was pick up my guest badge. The only difference I noticed between this and the conventions I went to in New England was pricing structure – in New England there was an admission fee (usually about $25-$30), then an additional fee per game slot (usually $2); Strategicon has just one cost for general admission (depending on how many days you register for), then you can play in as many game slots as you can cram in without further cost.

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Nearly 2 years ago, I emailed a query to my favorite game publisher about a possible PDF book. I was 90% sure I would get back a polite form letter thanking me for my interest and sending me on my way.

Instead, they asked for more information; then an outline of what the book would look like; then a 5,000 word writing sample.

A few months after that, I signed a contract promising to deliver a 54,000 word book for PDF sale. I submitted a first draft, received a ton of great editorial advice, then submitted a revised second draft. That was submitted to open playtest and review by a small group of their established writers, resulting in even more advice for improvements.

And today, finally, I emailed in my completed final draft, weighing in at 55, 222 words, along with suggestions for artwork and marketing blurbs.

It was  a lot of work, but I really enjoyed doing it. The hard part now will be waiting – and waiting, and waiting – until it is finally done and ready for sale!

Been back for a couple days now. The convention was a ton of fun! I’d like to put together a decent “After Con Report” in the next few weeks, but this week I’m scrambling to meet a June 6th deadline so it will have to wait.

Quick version: I loved it, played a whole bunch of great games, and am enthusiastically looking forward to running some GURPS games at the next one (which is in September).

This weekend I’m taking a mini-vacation to hug my inner geek at Gamex 2011, a gaming convention here in LA. Oddly enough, while the economy Travelodge down the street offers free Wi-Fi, the Sheraton where the convention actually is does not (though they’re happy to sell you ‘net access from your room for $12/day).

I’ll try to post some occasional updates on how the con is going from my phone – you can follow along through my Twitter page.

Seems like one of the few things that ever gets me to post is the death of someone I admired. Today’s turn of the wheel is Frank Frazetta, who, from early reports, appears to have passed away this morning at the age of 82.

Frazetta’s oil paintings were the very definition of fantasy to me growing up. We all made AD&D characters based on his works, used them as enemies to battle in our games, or princesses to be rescued. His paintings were pure awesome, there’s really not much more to say.

Most folks probably know Frazetta best for his Death Dealer series, but here are a couple of my other favorites. Rest in peace, good sir.

Princess of Mars

Princess of Mars

Alien Crucifixion

Alien Crucifixion

So Gary Gygax died yesterday, at the age of 69.

I know that for very many of you reading this, your first thought is ‘Oh that’s too bad – who is Gary Gygax?’

He was the co-creator of the role-playing game ‘Dungeons & Dragons’; which gave birth to a galaxy of other role-playing games like Traveller, GURPS, Vampire: the Masquerade, and literally hundreds of others; which directly paved the way and provided inspiration for countless computer role-playing games, novels, and movies over the past 30+ years.

It’s hard to overestimate the influence Gary had on the landscape of modern entertainment – things would be very different today were it not for his ‘little game’.

But it’s much more than that – I’m not sure I can adequately explain what gaming meant to me growing up, or the impact it has had on making me who I am.

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