Archive for August, 2013

The Game Train

GenCon has come and gone, and I’m surprised to see how quickly it passes even when I’m not there.  As we continued to pack up our belongings this weekend Jenn and I chatted a little about GenCon, and I voiced a crazy idea that’s been lurking in the back of my head for a few years now.  For context, it’s important to know that Jenn hates flying, and I mean, she really hates flying.  We basically have to pull a B. A. Baracus to get her out to GenCon each year.  The drugs Jenn takes actually leave her sedated not unconscious, so she’s able to make it through security and off the plane to check in to the hotel, but the Wednesday evening lead-up to the convention is kind of oddly colored by the fact that Jenn behaves mildly drunk and sometimes has conversations she does not recall the next day.

So, perhaps now with the title to my post above you’ve put together my plan: take the train.  Just now while thinking of what to write for this post I looked up trains between Boston and Indy, and it’s actually not that bad.  You can get a ticket to Chicago for about $100, which is actually much cheaper than flying.  Oddly the final leg is a bit tricky with Amtrak often showing an 8 hour lay-over in Chicago to wait for a train up to Indy, which is pretty silly given that Google Maps shows it as just a 3 hour car ride.  Perhaps it would make most sense to then just rent a car in Chicago and drive the final stint.  But I digress…

Obviously the major downside to the train is how long it takes: about 36 hours just from Boston to Chicago.  That’s quite a difference from the 3 hour plane ride.  But here’s the best part: you make the journey part of the convention.  Even when taking the plane I’m always amused to watch the airport gate slowly collect obvious members of the tribe.  I’d say at least 50% of the people on that flight from Boston to Indy are going to GenCon.  So why not leverage that and game on the train?

The best part of train travel is how unrestricted the space is.  Planes are packed tight, trying to eek out every extra ounce of weight savings and cram in every extra customer possible.  Also, they’re super loud — listening to music or watching a movie is almost impossible without noise cancelling headphones.  Not so on the train, the train is spacious and relatively quiet.  Every car has at least a few seats on either end that face each other, and the dining car has table space if required.

I figure, if I could get at least four other friends on board (or aboard?) with this idea, that would be plenty to have an awesome day of game playing on the train to and from the convention.  Of course the more the merrier, and if we’re lucky perhaps we could even draw in some extra chance travelers that are also on their way to GenCon.  Naturally we would have to come up with some train themed games to play.  Deadlands is the first thing that springs to my mind, as I’m pretty sure I’ve read or played a couple scenarios that heavily feature a train.  Max says he wants to do a murder-mystery LARP and not inform the rest of the train riders that it’s not actually real.  Clever to be sure, but also I would think an easy way to very rapidly get yourself tossed off the train just a couple hours into the ride.

I know it’s all a silly pipe dream, but I think it’s kind of a neat idea.  Maybe some day I’ll have enough vacation time saved up and have enough gaming friends crazy enough to make it a reality.  Or as long as I’m fantasizing, maybe some day this country will figure out that the rail system has been neglected for far too long and make the train a more enticing alternative.

I left my heart in Indianapolis

Had things gone by original plan, I’d be in Indianapolis right now, probably just about to sit down to my first game of GenCon.  Ultimately I know I made the right choice in cancelling those plans — even last night I was signing and scanning things for my mortgage company, there’s still a good many things in my house not yet packed in boxes, my darling wife is suffering from a nasty summer cold, and today the oil company comes to take a final reading of our oil tank.  Flying out to Indy yesterday would have been the height of foolishness, and yet I can’t help feeling the waves of disappointment knowing 40,000 gamers are out there rolling dice without me.

This has simply not been a good year for gaming conventions for me.  I barely made it to TotalCon and didn’t make it to GenCon at all.  Fortunately HelgaCon was pretty solid, though for some reason it appears I didn’t post a word about it here.  That’s very odd.  I think I’ll just have to make 2014 the year I refocus on gaming conventions.  I just noticed on facebook that TotalCon event submission will start soon.  Time to start dreaming up some good stuff to run.

The Feminist Barbarian

Making a game rooted in 30’s era pulp fantasy presents some tricky situations for the modern developer. Let’s be straight (or not, whatever) — I wholeheartedly agree with modern ideals of equality for all, regardless of race, religion, gender, or any other detail that makes us a little different from each other. This modern ideal though sometimes works at cross purposes with the source material. Barbarian themed fantasy if full of slave-girls, savages, and other very non-PC portrayals. How can we avoid being offensive to our player base without cutting the legs off our genre?

It’s a tough line to walk. In some cases we allowed ourselves to play into old stereotypes. Yes, the main character of our game is a powerful, brutal, white guy. There is some content in the game where you can go rescue a swooning captive woman being sacrificed to evil demonic gods. That said, two of the more powerful allies you can get to join your band are a tough female Aesir warrior and a deadly spell-packing sorceress. I can also promise you that neither of these characters will be wearing chain-mail bikinis or other skimpy unrealistic articles of clothing.

There are slaves in our game, though they are not of any specific race or culture. We made the conscious decision to not have any case where you end up buying or fighting a slave. You can free them or you can ignore them, but we shied away from everything else. The difficulty was that we do want the game to feel like an old school roleplaying game where you can “do anything”. That said, we still have to author all possible outcomes, and we were just not comfortable going down those roads.

I hope our players appreciate the game for what it is and enjoy the stories they create with it. I hope we can attract a wide and diverse player base who all enjoy pillaging the lands and declaring themselves king. What is best in life? Hopefully just crushing your enemies without the lamentations of anyone.

DemonWars: Reformation

My apologies everyone, there was a brief spurt of posting and then I seem to have fallen off again.  The idea had been to distract myself from the woes of house selling by posting here about anything non-house related I could come up with.  Naturally that’s when things with the house took off, and now all my free time seems to go towards all the little minutiae involved in moving.  Fear not though, the move is scheduled for August 27, and hopefully come September I will become a regular poster again.

In the meantime, I want to share a link for an RPG some friends of mine are developing.  You may have heard of them before, they’re R. A. Salvatore and his son Bryan.  I worked with both these guys back at 38 Studios.  Bryan was a systems designer back there, and he’s got a real knack for making intricate yet approachable systems that will surely appeal to all you folks that love tuning your characters just so.  Bob on the other hand is a real OSR kind of guy, or would be if he ever took time away from writing and playing to dig into the OSR scene.  I’m seriously interested to see how the intersection of these two approaches comes out, and I have the added benefit of knowing these guys well enough to be pretty sure it will be awesome.

So check it out, and maybe help these guys hit their goal.  Then you can follow along in your copy of the book when I post my thoughts com April.