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February 15, 1999
a year ago

DunDraCon '99


The annual tradition has once again been played out, and for the first time in years, I actually caught up on sleep, a little, at the Con. Mind that with the binder search and the previous night's craziness, I was about six hours into sleep debt by the time I was on the plane to Oakland. So I slept on the flight there.

Carl got me at the airport, as usual, and it was very nice to hug him solidly and talk with him again. I always enjoy talking with him, as the ideas flow so marvelously. Then we went out to the parking lot and I got a really cool surprise! Carl had bought a new car! The BMW 540i! Hoorah! I guess the M3 weekend made a good impact and impression on Carl. It's a lovely, marvelous car, much of the line of progression from the Z3 to the M3, the 540i has more mass, yet, and more handling and more power, though, for Carl to drive it he did get the automatic, it had the option to do some manual control of the transmission with a no-clutch shift setup that looked intriguing. Though, in the end, even in that setup, the automatic would shift, though at further range of rpm than normal.

A very nice car. I was too zonked to drive, though, so Carl took me to the hotel, and I napped while he went home, packed up his stuff and brought it all to the hotel. Hubert was there when we got in, and came to the room with me, Bryant showed up soon before Carl did, and only reappeared at the room when it was about time to go. I was sharing the room with Bryant and Hubert, though I'd gotten my reservation in late enough that we only had a single room, it was possible, especially with a roll-away bed. The only problem was that the room seemed to be a smoking room, and had enough smoke smells in it to make my asthema start up from simply the nap. Carl, Bryant and I then went to the South Bay to meet up with Brad, Gretchen, and Earl to go to dinner at a little Japanese restaurant, where I had a Super California Roll, an order of Saba nigiri, and one salmon skin hand roll. All with plenty of miso. Yum. That was really good.

Earl came back to the Con with the three of us and I found out that he had a room, himself and I asked him if it'd be okay if I roomed with him, instead. He said it'd be fine, and when he checked in I did the juggling necessary to move my credit card over to Earl's room, as both Hubert and Bryant had put theirs on the other room. At first they couldn't even find Earl's room, and Earl had brought Odysseus, a plush lobster of large proportions, as a traveling companion. I was holding Odysseus when we got to the counter and the counter ladies were giving him covert glances, so I showed him to them, and Earl and I agree that Odysseus then did a mind control thing to them because, immediately, they found our room. It was even a non-smoking room! So Earl and I roomed together happily.

I even got to sleep around 1 a.m., after the four of us had sat around talking over games, possibilities and plans for the weekend as well as trying to write up an Unknown Armies character for the planned-for game on Sunday. Earl was running a game Saturday morning, Bryant was running one Saturday evening, and Carl was running one Monday morning. It was very cool, in many ways, sitting in on their conversations because I learned a lot about how to run a game and what made a one shot game fun, i.e. games that would only be run once with characters that the players would likely never see again.

I am somewhat odd in that nearly all my roleplaying experience has been with one-shots before Genevieve's Fiat Justitia. Now I've played one on-going character, nearly everything else has been either one-shot or a guest appearance in someone else's campaign.

But the mechanics of putting one of those games together was fascinating, and even more fascinating after getting a good dose of being on the player side in Earl's game, the Awful Specter of Leister Wood. It was a game that mixed elements of P.G. Wodehouse British humor with the horror of Lovecraft to an alarmingly effective degree.

What really made the beginning of the game was the players. That's the coolest and scariest thing about playing in Con games, playing with people that I've just never played with before. One guy appeared at 9 a.m., wrote a note saying, "Pleeeeese, may I play in your game?" to Earl. He'd really wanted to get into the Wodehouse play and it turned out that only one of the folks signed up for the game didn't show up for it, which was cool because it meant that the guy that really truly wanted to play in it got to get in. Another guy showed up wanting to play as well as another half a dozen folks, but they all were friendly about not getting in when all those that did sign up were there as it was pretty evident that folks wanted in.

The game was hilarious and marvelous as well. Especially since all the Drones, i.e. the upper class British males, were especially good at playing the ineffectual, confused, and ever gallant lordlings. That was really, really keen. Earl also did a great job of letting the PC's wreak their own types of havok on each other as well as on the house and the social situation and the whole nine yards. That was so very cool. It started with the simple social situation where Algy, a poet, lazy and literate young man was engaged to Nikki, a fiery huntress eager to go out early in the morning and bag a few more prizes. They were distinctly unsuited for each other, but breaking off the engagement involved a loss of face for whomever initiated it. So the social problem was to figure out a way to break it off without a mess on either side.

On one side were the Drones, three British members of the Drones' Club, Algy, Speedy and Bunny and Bunny's cousin from the states, Joe. On the other side were the Fiances, Nikki, Cordy, Nikki's sister Ronnie, and Trish (me). All were invited to Nikki's Aunt Amelia's country estate and all arrived in the afternoon. There were plans for a hunt the next morning, but that was about it.

Shorthand notes on characterization, as each player did a really good job of portraying the characters as written. Speedy and Cordy were NPC's. Bunny looked very strong, but was constantly confused and the player of him did an excellent job of giving Bunny the attention span of a gnat's wing, completely messing up everyone's names, occasionally going into long rants that all ended with 'what was I talking about? Oh. Never mind.', and forgetting things he'd done. Joe was the All American Threat, and played a really crass, loud, and obnoxiously jingoist American beautifully while still giving all the other players thing to interact with, so he didn't steal all the screen time. That was great. Ronnie's player and Nikki's player decided to make the sisters twins, to up the confusion in the social interaction bits, and the two sisters couldn't have been further apart personality wise. Ronnie's player decided that she'd be like the girl in Beetlejuice, completely in black and infatuated with death, as she was the spooky poetess, who had some capabilities with magic.

Amusingly enough player interaction started with tea, then moved into a race between Nikki and Joe around the Aunt's estate, with Algy and Ronnie walking on the estate. And did I mention that there was a single-lane bridge in the middle of the circuit? They went around once, sedately, to scope out the terrain and give Joe a chance. Then Nikki pulled out around Joe and they started to race in earnest. About which time Algy and Ronnie had reached the bridge and were standing on it as the two cars barreled towards the bridge.

Nikki noticed in plenty of time to stop. Joe didn't seemed inclined to stop, so I grabbed the handbrake and pulled. Wooof. Algy froze in the middle of the bridge. Ronnie tried to push him into the water, but accidentally tripped and just dove over the side. Nikki tried to drive-by push Algy into the water, but missed, and then Algy dived in after Ronnie to save her. Talk about a lovely comedy of errors. That was really funny as a sequence.

The whole interaction setup was like that, folks deliberately getting in each others way, mistaking things, and having fun with the *characters* which was really, really cool.

The horror entered by the back door, through things that happened, first with a hunting accident, then through the fumblings of Bunny, who forgot half of what he was doing, and what he'd done, so it was just amazingly funny. I am a tremendously goal-oriented personality and there is absolutely no way on earth I could have played him the way his player did; but I enjoyed how he did it so much I am going to have to think about all this some more. I think it goes with the 'you idiot Ivan' in the Vorkosigan books, there has to be some comic relief. And things worked out in the end.

Okay, I'm not spoiling the game for those that want to play it. It's just too fun. And Earl may run it next year, for all I know, as all the times he's run it it's come out completely different. What was really, really funny was when the Horror came, I was going Agh! Agh! Agh! while the rest of the players were merely intrigued. I realized then that by playing with Earl and the Horde for so long I'd become familiar with what they could and would do in a game, which these players had no idea. It was really intriguing to see just how little idea they had, and how it affected how things finished.

They did, however, greatly admire how things were set up once all was revealed.

That was really cool.

So we got into a game, that had like twelve people, after dinner, and both Earl and I found that we were mentally fuzzy from the all-day version of his game. So we quit and let Carl play and then got to talk with Chrisber and Trip and Bryant for quite a while before they had to go. We made up Unknown Armies characters and talked and talked and talked until well after midnight. That was very good indeed.

Morning was good, with breakfast at the waffle place with Bryant, Earl and Carl. Again, I got treated to a nearly all-GM conversation, which was fascinating. A lot of the things that they were discussing would also work well for story plotting. How to keep the interest of the participants, though was pure theater. How to make sure that folks got good or equal or effective screen time, and how to make choices matter. That was very cool, too. Maybe it's more gaming with other people kinds of things.

Bryant left soon after, as it was Valentine's Day and he was a good sweety to his sweety and was going to take her out for the afternoon and evening rather than game. Wow, what love will sacrifice. Gretchen and Chrisber arrived soon after and there was some debate for a while as to what was to be played and how. Earl got to go through his run, in detail and they got to laugh a lot at how things turned out. I think that they'd been in the first run of the game. That was pretty cool.

Just before dinner we decided on what to play, which was the Unknown Armies scenario at the end of the book, and Carl set up the situation with the characters that we'd picked. That was pretty cool. I decided to play a co-dependent bodyguard. What I loved about the character building system was the fact that you're supposed to start with the descriptions, first, then fill in the numbers. Though, admittedly, this makes it harder on those that want to find out who the character is from the numbers. I've always been someone that liked having the capabilities then figuring out the personality in situations with other characters.

Yeah, I guess this is sounding more and more like radio theater or something that's more like impromptu acting without all the visual props.

Anyway... dinner was in the hotel, and it was good, and then we played until about 2 a.m. and came to a very successful and interesting solution. Basically, there was a book on board that everyone wanted, and we mainly got all the NPC's to beat each other up and then hid the McGuffin in our stuff, and sent a decoy package out for everyone else to fight over. Eventually they took the decoy away and thought it was the real thing gone from everyone's grasp, so they didn't look for it on the ship anymore. We were connected to the Vatican's library, so they eagerly took charge of the book, and book scholar with us (Chrsiber's character) gained access to the library! So it worked out in the end.

Sleep was nice, again, after 2 a.m..

We woke around 10 a.m. to breakfast, see Carl's game for a while, then loaded everything into Carl's car after he finished The Great Rescue with all the toys. Turns out that the game was much shorter with the toys as player props because they could quickly think of what they wanted to do with the cues right in front of them. That was pretty cool. The toys really made a difference, it seems. The players said that they couldn't think of how it might be played without. So that was cool.

The afternoon was spent dropping things off at Carl's, watching Batman's "A Girls' Night Out', watching PowerPuff Girls!, eating at a Mexican restaurant, and then they dropped me off at the airport. Tired, happy and gamed out.

Another most Excellent Dundracon with Carl and the Horde. Yay!

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