Category Archives: Conventions

NaNoWriMo 2007: Day 11 – Where are all the words?

How Not To Grow A Beard: Day 11
Hey, wasn’t I writing a novel or something? What happened to that, anyway?

Yeah, I took a few days off to attend Con on the Cob 2007 in lovely Akron, Ohio. I had a lot of fun, got to do some gaming, purchased some dice (nerd!) and a piece of artwork and pre-ordered a fantasy novel. I also interviewed some very interesting people, including legendary fantasy illustrator Larry Elmore.

But I didn’t write. Well, not my novel. I wrote about 1,800 words about a game of The Savage World of Solomon Kane one day and blogged at length about the convention, but unfortunately not a word of it counts toward the 50,000 I need to have written in just over two weeks.

This should be interesting.

Con on the Cob 2007: Day 3 – Interviews

Con on the CobThough I was presented with numerous opportunities to get my game on again today, I abstained. Today was all about earning my press badge, so I wandered around the convention with a digital recorder and badgered people until they agreed to talk to me. Alas, due to a compatibility issue between operating system and digital recorder, I am unable to retrieve the interviews, or I’d spend a little pre-party time editing and uploading them. For now, I will provide a teaser list:

  • Brannon Hollingsworth of The Wandering Men. Brannon is one of five authors who collaborated on the upcoming, novel Skein of Shadows, and tie-in RPG setting, Crown: City of the Fallen.
  • Matt Duhan of Gozer Games. Matt designed Collateral Damage: The Anime Board Game.
  • Larry Elmore, legendary fantasy illustrator. Larry’s paintings have appeared on numerous roleplaying game source books and novels, and he helped define the look of Dragonlance. Recently, Larry did the cover for the final issue of Dragon magazine.
  • Sean Patrick Fannon of Talisman Studios. Shaintar is Sean’s forthcoming fantasy setting for the Savage Worlds system.
  • Steve Kenson of Green Ronin. Steve was the lead designer for Mutants & Masterminds: 2nd Edition and is currently working on the Wild Cards setting book, due to be released in August of 2008.
  • Evil Mike of Pinnacle Entertainment Group sat down for a few minutes to talk about The Savage World of Solomon Kane, the new licensed Savage Worlds game based on the works of Robert E. Howard.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll score another interview or two before I leave tonight.

Once the interviews have been retrieved from the digital recorder and edited (to add intro and outro material as appropriate), they’ll be up on the Con*Live blog/feed and where ever else I can put them.

Con on the Cob 2007: Day 2 – Solomon Kane

The Savage World of Solomon KaneThe Savage World of Solomon Kane
Game Master: Evil Mike
Scenario: Schläfrige Höhle”Schläfrige Höhle” (which translates roughly to “sleepy cave”) was the title given on the sign-up sheet for the game, though I suspect that Evil Mike changed the actual adventure at the last minute.

If you (like me) aren’t a Robert E. Howard fanI have nothing at all against Robert E. Howard; I’ve just never read any of his novels., you may not be familiar with Solomon Kane. Fear not! Wikipedia has a very informative entry about the character. In a nutshell, he’s a gun-slinging, sword-wielding Puritan bent on vanquishing evil in 16th century Europe and Africa. Sounds like he’d be fun at a party, right?

Solomon Kane mixes muzzle-loaders and swords with witches, warlocks and the horrors of the undead. In The Savage World of Solomon Kane, player characters follow what is called “the Path of Kane”; in our particular adventure, we had all at one point met Solomon Kane and were being guided by Kane’s shaman friend, N’Longa. Our party consisted of:

  • Erlich Goettler (played by me), a German woodsman who wields a two-handed great ax.
  • Montigue Bonet, a former thief. The Frenchman wields a short sword and an intense curiosity.
  • Richard Pettijohn (played by Gus), an English bowman.
  • Enigo de la Vega, a rapier-wielding Spaniard.
  • Joseph Smith, an English hunter armed with a mighty blunderbuss.
  • Sven Jammerhagen, the mighty Norwegian whose two-handed sword deals death with every blow.

After an adventure in Germany’s Black ForestWas there cake? No. I do not believe there was cake., the heroes travel to the English farming village of Chelsea. Enigo has his rapier sharpened by the town blacksmithI swear that is not a euphemism. while Sven and Erlich quench their thirst at the local tavern. Meanwhile, Montigue and Joseph seek forgiveness of their recent sins at the local church. The priest and the blacksmith reveal that several of the townsfolk have disappeared in recent months, apparently vanished without a trace while working in the fields outside the walls of the town. Enigo and Richard visit the sheriff, an elderly man clearly unsuited to deal with these mysterious disappearances. The sheriff asks Enigo and Richard for their aid, and they agree, recruiting the remaining party members to the cause.

Though it is already dusk and they learn that all of the apparent abductions have occurred after sunset, the party decides to investigate the cornfields, enlisting the aid of the sheriff’s honorary deputy, though he is only willing to assist them after assurances that he will be protected and no small amount of intimidation.

As they travel to the fields, the deputy relates the legend of Jack Harrison, a warlock who was supposedly burned alive in those very fields by French marauders who sought to destroy Chelsea’s mint. The deputy’s tale is scarcely finished when the party stumbles upon three mutilated corpses, who the skittish deputy identifies as Mr. and Mrs. Johnson and their young son.Hmm. That’s a little unsettling.

The sharp-eyed Montigue spots something unusual on one of the bodies: fresh pumpkin seeds, still wet and covered with pulp. Eying the nearby scarecrows, Sven marches into one of the fields with Montigue following close behind. As Sven nears the scarecrow (whose head is not, as the Norwegian suspected, a pumpkin, but a burlap-covered bundle of straw), the horrible hodmedod comes to life, pulling a scythe from behind its back!

Montigue steps around Sven and delivers a quick blow with his sword, rendering the scarecrow to little more than tattered burlap and scattered straw. Enigo runs to assist and the very ground seems to come alive, a hulking creature with a glowing pumpkin head rising from the soil to strike at the Spaniard. As quickly as the creature appeared, it is gone again, melting into the cornfield without a trace.

“Pumpkin Jack!” the deputy cries, seeing the enormous being with its glowing head. The nervous little man faints dead away and his lantern goes dark. Richard Pettijohn readies his bow and sends an arrow through the air toward another scarecrow, while two more of the animated creatures—these, like Pumpkin Jack, with orange gourds atop their shoulders— advance on Joseph and Erlich. The creatures are quickly dispatched, but Smith is unable to accept that they were animated by supernatural means; surely, the hunter says, the scarecrows were carried by bandits who fled into the darkness when the straw men were destroyed by arrow, sword and blunderbuss.Smith has the Doubting Thomas Hindrance, which was played quite nicely by his player.

Once assured that the immediate threat has been vanquished, Goettler and Jammerhagen examine the tattered remains and discover strange gold coins, which Bonet identifies as having been minted at precisely the time when Jack Harrison was said to be burned alive in the fields. The deputy notes that the mint is nearby, through the woods at the edge of the field, but Pettijohn insists that the body of the young boy be returned to the village before the party continues to the mint. The deputy volunteers to carry the body back to the village, allowing the party to carry on toward the mint, and perhaps the warlock.

In the dark forest, the adventurers hear strange noises that they are unable to identify. Without warning, eight massive spiders descend from the trees and, after alighting on the forest floor, ensnare several members of the party with their webs. Soon, swords are swinging once more, some with the purpose of cutting away the sticky webbing, others with the intent of destroying the attacking arachnids.

In the heat of battle, Joseph Smith’s mighty blunderbuss misfires, sending a shot directly at Enigo de la Vega. Acting with near-preternatural speed, Sven Jamerhagen throws himself into the path of the blast, taking a near-fatal shot that would surely have killed the smaller man.During this game, we made use of the Savage Worlds Adventure Deck. Each player began the game with a card that could alter the course of events at some point of his choosing. In this particular instance, I was holding the “Noble Sacrifice” card, which would allow me to take all of the damage dealt to one member of the party standing adjacent to me. Unfortunately, Erlich and Enigo were not adjacent to one another. Fortunately for Enigo, players are allowed to trade cards with one another and the hardy Norwegian was standing next to him. Sven’s player and I switched cards and Enigo was spared from death, much to the dismay of Big Mike.

Erlich’s massive ax swings again and again, first freeing the woodsman from the sticky silken strands, then smashing two of the spiders. Steel blades flash in the light of the waning moon and soon the eight-legged horrors are all dead.

In the aftermath of the battle, Erlich heals two of his companions’ minor wounds, but is unable to repair any of the damage done to Sven Jammerhagen by the mis-fired blunderbuss. Despite his wounds, the Norwegian presses on, unwilling to rest until the malevolent spirit that terrorizes the villagers has been defeated.

When the adventurers arrive at the abandoned mint, they are met by none other than Pumpkin Jack himself. The pumpkin-headed warlock mocks the men, unwittingly revealing a weakness that the sheriff’s deputy had either forgotten in his retelling of the tale or simply did not know: magic weapons that the warlock himself forged.This was an exceptional bit of cooperation by Joseph and Montigue’s players, who played a combination of adventure cards that resulted in the villain running off at the mouth and revealing his weakness. Each player can play only one adventure card per game, so the timing on this was perfect. Montigue slipps into the mint, hoping to find one of the weapons hidden within, while Erlich, Joseph, Sven and Richard prepare to do battle with Pumpkin Jack.

Enigo, who did not approach the mint with the others, wheels around when he hears a noise behind him. A monstrous spider, easily ten times larger than those the men fought in the forest, is bearing down on him! The swordsman turns tail and runs, shouting a warning to his companions as he leads the giant arachnid directly toward them.

Sven Jammerhagen, faced with horrors beyond his ability to comprehend, flees Pumpkin Jack’s glowing visage and finds himself instead locked in combat with the massive spider. Though he is severely wounded, the Norwegian still wields his sword skillfully, cutting the beast down even as two more trundle out of the woods.

Meanwhile, Montigue has located precisely what he sought: a finely forged French rapier hidden in the mint. Drawing the blade, the former thief races back into the fray and finds his hopes realized as the enchanted sword deals incredible damage to Pumpkin Jack, where Enigo’s efforts with his own rapier had proven ineffective only seconds earlier. Weakened by the eldritch energies coursing through the French sword, Pumpkin Jack is destroyed by a blast from Joseph’s blunderbuss. Its master slain, the remaining spider attempts to flee back to the safety of the woods, but is cut down by Sven’s mighty sword.

Evil vanquished, townspeople safe once more, the six adventurers once again resume their journey on the Path of Kane, not knowing where N’Longa will send them next, nor what horrors they’ll face once there.

If it’s not immediately obvious, this game was a blast to play. Evil Mike was a great Game Master; he kept things fast and fun, rewarding players when they did something particularly clever and punishing them when they were playing Enigo.Evil Mike and Allen (Enigo’s player) were well acquainted, and Evil Mike apparently had a history of killing Allen’s characters. Under some circumstances, targeting one player for death might seem…well, dickish, but I think everyone at the table would agree that it was done in such a way that it kept the game fun and didn’t take away from anyone else’s (or even Allen’s) enjoyment of the game. Having witnessed the Savage Worlds combat system in action earlier in the day, it was great to get the opportunity to dive in and give it a go myself.

Con on the Cob 2007: Day 2 – Savage Worlds

Con on the CobI’ve written a few posts about our Savage Worlds game, which is just getting started. In fact, it’s so early in the game that full-fledged combat has yet to ensue.

After buying some new diceGaming geeks can never have too many dice, so I picked up a full set of polyhedrons: black and red w/gold numbers. I also grabbed a black-and-red velvet dice bag. Gus bought a new set, too, but I was disappointed that he didn’t spring for the hematite set; is forty bucks too much to spend for seven or eight dice? this morning, we stumbled on a game of Savage Worlds in progress and combat had just begun.

Savage Worlds by Shane Lacy HensleyInitiative is determined by a deck of standard playing cards, with the Joker being wild (the player who is dealt the Joker can go whenever he wants, even if it means interrupting another player or NPC). This seems to work pretty well and saves the Game Master the hassle of having to keep track of each player’s initiative; a quick looks around the table (cards are dealt face up) tells him who goes next.

Combat was handled very quickly, and soon lead was flying every which way. The Englishman sauntered to the center of the bar and whipped out his twin pistols, putting down two of Val Resnick’s goons before their guns cleared their holsters. Sledge and The Swede burst in the back door, and soon the barking of the six guns was joined by the thunder of a shotgun and the rapid tattoo of a Thompson machine gun.

Each time a gun was fired, the player rolled two dice—his attack roll and a six-sided “wild die”—and used the higher result of the two. Any time a die rolled its maximum value, that die was re-rolled and the new value was added to the total. The base target is 4, and a successful hit may have one or more “raises” depending upon how well the attacker rolled (every 4 points over the target results in a raise). These raises may cause additional damage and certain Feats add attack and damage bonuses or even allow multiple attacks in a single round (e.g., Double Tap). The result was usually quite dramatic as bullets and buckshot peppered the gangsters and their foes alike.

Savage Worlds game in progress at Con on the Cob 2007
The whole thing was fun to watch, and each player added his own cinematic flair to the gunplay, be it a snappy comment, a twirling pistol, or even offering a helpless, trussed up accountant a cigarette. I walked away with a good feeling for how the Savage Worlds system works and a strong desire to have my grizzled gumshoe kick some ass.

Con on the Cob 2007: Day 1 – Gaming

Con on the CobThe first day of Con on the Cob 2007 wrapped up at just after midnight.For Gus and I; when we left there were still several games and the con suite was still abuzz with activity, including Larry Elmore and one of the convention volunteers bouncing some sort of ball back and forth across the table. Was it a game? I don’t know, but they seemed to be enjoying it. Following four rounds of the Quick Draw competition—the first three I’ve already mentioned, the theme of the fourth was “A Sentient Tub of Butter Fomenting an Agrarian Uprising Against the Cow From Whence It Came” and resulted in two equally fantastic drawings—and some pizza, Gus and I adjourned to our first roleplaying event.

Mutants & MastermindsIntroduction to Mutants & Masterminds
Game Master: Steve Kenson
Scenario: The Wreck Room

The intro to Green Ronin‘s Mutants & Masterminds setting was a (relatively) short one; only two hours. Game designer Steve Kenson gave a brief overview of the game, explaining character stats, powers, feats and skills and how the basic game mechanics work. Mutants & Masterminds uses a single twenty-sided die for all skill checks, so there’s never any fumbling around and wondering which of your many colorful polyhedrons apply to the task at hand. Roll a d20, add the appropriate modifier and report the result to the Game Master. Piece of cake.

After explaining the game and answering a few questions, Steve launched right into the scenario. We were all members of The Freedom League, training in The Wreck Room, a highly advanced danger simulator designed to put our powers and abilities to the test. In this exercise, we were split in two teams and pitted against one another in a game of Capture the Ball, in which the object was to simply find the ball and possess it for eighteen consecutive seconds. A complex array of interlocking steel rods turned the Wreck Room into a jungle gym, just to complicate things.

Team One: Bowman (played by gus), a deadly accurate archer; Dr. Metropolis, who embodies the spirit of Freedom City and bends the very environment to his will; Johnny Rocket, a man who moves even faster than his namesake.

Team Two: Daedalus, immortal Greek inventor who uses his mighty power armor to dispense justice; The Raven (played by me), the dark detective who has several clever tricks in her utility belt.

The game was very quick and a lot of fun. Everyone got plenty of chances to show off their powers (or, in The Raven’s case, the contents of her utility belt) and the ball changed hands quite frequently. Johnny Rocket was able to grab the ball in the first round, but Daedalus took it by force two round later. The Raven used a smoke bomb to conceal Daedalus and then Bowman accidentally plunged the Wreck Room into darkness with his EMP arrowThe EMP arrow wasn’t in Bowman’s equipment, according to his character sheet, but Gus spent a Hero Point to declare that he had one. A moment later, I spent a Hero Point to declare that The Raven carried a pair of night vision goggles on her utility belt (which, again, wasn’t on the character sheet). In the introduction to the game, Kenson had likened this method of expending hero points to the scene in Batman: The Movie, where Batman just happens to have Bat Robotic Shark Repellent when he is being attacked by a robotic shark. Other ways to expend Hero Points include re-rolling in the event of a bad die roll at a critical time or immediately shaking off the effects of being Stunned.. Ultimately, The Raven failed to learn the lesson that it’s nearly impossible to catch Johnny Rocket off-guard; she failed to dazzle him with her flash bomb or trap him with her adhesive pellets (another Hero Point expenditure) and wound up on the receiving end of his whirlwind vortex, which rendered her unconscious until the end of the game.

We ran out of time before either team had managed to hold the ball for the required eighteen seconds (three game rounds), but the adventure was a good way to introduce the Mutants & Masterminds system and showcase some of its unique features.

Now that we’d been introduced to the system, it was time for Gus and I to dive into a four-hour session with power-level 14 characters.

Mutants & Masterminds: A.G.E. of Heroes – “The Walls Come Tumbling Down”
Game Master: Sean P. Fannon

Characters: Shiva (played by me), a four-armed martial artist; Incendus (played by Gus), a fire elemental; Nerys, the Excalibur-wielding modern-day incarnation of the Lady in the Lake; PDQ, a speedster with the ability to turn himself insubstantial; Sarge, a living weapon; Alexander Running Wolf, a Native American powerhouse, strong enough to throw a garbage truck into orbit.

The game began with the heroes gathered in Washington, D.C. as a host of punk angels assaulted the Washington Monument to the sound of heavenly thrash metal. Though outnumbered at least two-to-one, the heroes made short work of the winged vandals and discovered that one was not quite who he seemed to be.

Joseph, the angel whom Running Wolf captured, revealed that the marauding seraphim were members of the archangel Gabriel’s army, and that their attack was but a diversion, meant to keep the heroes of Earth busy while a dark force known as The Shadow Host attempted to use an ancient and powerful artifact to free a powerful ally and ultimately to destroy all of mankind. Joseph, an agent of the archangel Raphael, infiltrated the ranks of Gabriel’s army to learn more about his nefarious plot and to enlist the aid of Earth’s heroes.

Joseph and the heroes journeyed to the UNISO base on Storm Island, an underground facility that houses the Storm Gate, a carefully controlled wormhole. With the assistance of UNISO personnel, Joseph enabled the Storm Gate to transport himself and the heroes to a strange dimension where the angel used his sword to rend a hole in the very fabric of space. Explaining that he would die if he entered the Dark dimension where the ancient prisoner was held in eternal stasis, Joseph sent the heroes onward.

The heroes found themselves in an eerie and unsettling landscape of rocky platforms, over the edge of which was the Dark abyss. In the distance, the glimpsed a mighty castle, surely their destination. Without a second thought, Running Wolf split off a large section of the rocky platform and, holding it above his head, invited those heroes lacking the power of flight to climb atop it. Once PDQ, Sarge and Shiva were aboard the stone slab, Running Wolf took to the air, still holding the rocky platform over his head. Nerys and Incendus, both capable of flight, led the way to the castle, where Incendus blasted through the werewolf guards and ignored the door in favor of melting a large hole in the wall.

Inside the castle, the forces of evil were already at work. A mighty battle ensued and the villains (whose names I cannot recall, save for The Ghoul and Baron Gnaw) were forced to flee, leaving behind the Spear of Longinus, the artifact they had planned to use to free a being so vile that he had been ejected from Hell. Spear in hand, the heroes returned to Storm Island, victorious, if only for the moment.

And that about wrapped it up for our first day. Two gaming sessions totaling just over six hours. On the menu tomorrow: the exhibitor’s hall and…more gaming.

Con on the Cob 2007: Day 1 – Quick Draw

How Not To Grow A Beard: Day 08
The third annual Con on the Cob has officially begun! The Quick Draw competition is underway, pitting two artists against one another in a rapid-fire, grueling duel to illustrate wacky suggestions suggested by the audience. Round One: Nazi Potatoes (3 minute time limit). Round Two: Monster Truck Square Dance (4 minute time limit). Round Three: Oh My God, The Second Best Thing Ever! (60 second time limit) Round Four: Jabba of Starfleet (3 minute time limit).

I’ll see if I can get photos of some entries and post them soon.

Nerdstuff: Con on the Cob 2007

Con on the CobCon on the Cob 2007 starts in about two and a half hours and ends Sunday evening. This is good news for my inner geek and bad news for my aspiring writer. On the other hand, maybe a little geeky distraction is just what I need to push through to 20,000 words. Ideas come from the strangest places, after all.

There are a handful of reasons I’m going to the con instead of writing:

  • Miscellaneous G™ is one of the organizers.
  • Fantasy artist Larry Elmore will be there.
  • Green Ronin’s Wild Cards expansion for their Mutants & Masterminds RPG. If you’ve been reading for a while, you probably know that Wild Cards is my favorite sci-fi/superhero/alternate history series in the history of ever, and it’s a perfect setting for a roleplaying game.

It’s after 1:00 already and I’m carpooling with Gus, who’s going to be here in 30 minutes or so. I’ve got to get ready. Beard pictures when I get home tonight (probably after midnight).

NaNoWriMo, Day 05: Confuzzled

Let’s take a quick look at the numbers, shall we?

Given an optimal daily output of 1,667, today’s target is 8,335. When the zero words I wrote today are added to the zero words I wrote yesterday and that number is added to my Wednesday-through-Friday total of 2,762 we see that I have made absolutely no progress since Friday, and I am 5,573 words off the pace.

Thank you, Con on the Cob, for being a convenient excuse. Had I not attended, I would have had to conjure up some sort of lame reason that I didn’t get any writing done this weekend.

One of the things I picked up at the con is a print of “Responsibility” by Nigel Sade. It’s a stylized version of the emblem Spider-Man bears on his chest. Sade has done similar works titled “Vengeance” (Batman), “Power” (Green Lantern) and “Justice” (Superman). If I’d had another thirty dollars in my wallet, I would have bought the “Vengeance” print as well. All four works can be seen at Studio de Sade. Click the image on the left for a much larger version of the graphic.

I also bought Savage Worlds, a roleplaying game from Great White Games. The entire idea behind Savage Worlds is to make roleplaying “fast, furious and fun”. I’d probably classify the system as “rules-light”; the core rules are contained in a single 139-page book rather than spread out over separate weighty tomes for players and game masters. Leafing through the book, I see information on everything from orcs and elves to aerial dogfighting and car chases. I’m already imagining a crazy blend of Crimson Skies and The Road Warrior and I haven’t even read the chapter on Game Mastering yet.

Captain America by RAK

Last and least (in terms of size), I bought three of Robert A. Kraus‘ Superfreeks. These were available in several different sizes, but I opted for the $100 bill. Each Superfreek (I bought Captain America, Batman and Optimus Prime) replaces Benjamin Franklin’s head on the $100 bill, and each mock bill is signed by the artist. You may be wondering what wise old Ben Franklin ever did to deserve such treatment. Well I’ll tell you one thing he didn’t do: transform into a semi-truck.

Tomorrow night, the gang is getting together to record the second half of The Round Table Season Two, Episode 5, which we had to postpone Friday night due to technical difficulties. Wasn’t I supposed to be writing a novel this month?

NaNoWriMo, Day 04: Confounded.

In lieu of writing today, I took Laura and Kyle to Con on the Cob in Kent. Today’s target word count is 6,668 and I’m roughly four thousand words off the mark. To make matters worse, I’m going back to Con on the Cob tomorrow to get a couple more interviews and bear witness to Eternal Jamnation, the Guitar Hero tournament.

I may not have gotten any writing done, but I did get to interview fantasy artist Jeff Easley, whose paintings adorn the cover of not only the AD&D 2nd Edition Player’s Handbook I’ve got in my garage, but at least a half-dozen Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms novels on the bookshelf in my office. I only wish that I could have been a better interviewer, for I fear the end result of our conversation will not do Mr. Easley justice.