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September 19, 1998
a year ago

Jay is Cool

The coordination of Friday afternoon was most impressive. Carl had me to pick up at 2 p.m., Gretchen to pick up at about 5 p.m., Earl to pick up sometime between 5 and 6 and then Jay to pick up at a quarter 'til 7. We were all picked up and all happy and all at sushi by 7:30, after many adventures.

Adventures to finding the Goodwill to drop off stuff, wandering through Dead Tree Row (Lee's Comics, Gamescape, and Future Fantasy: three bookstores with many fine books made from dead trees, which helped, significantly, in the increase in volume of my luggage), getting Thai City (which is a *most* excellent restaurant) in Mountain View to sell us Thai Iced Coffee to go, to finding a restroom at the right time and in the right place, to talking over many gaming adventures with much speculation as to what the next game might involve, to wandering about in the sun looking for lunch and finding a great Chinese Chicken Salad, and going right past the restaurant because of really odd and funny directions from a Web mapping service.

But we got to the Caltrain station on time, just as the sun was slanting towards the horizon, turning everything gold. We got there in plenty of time and were sitting on the benches talking as the train pulled up. Jay said, later, that seeing my blue hair outside got him to realize that it was his stop. He came off and we made eye contact and then hugged hello.

We then all piled into Carl's car and drove to the sushi place. Yum.

Jay's quiet, cool, nice and... well... okay, in all honesty, cuddly. I actually called him earlyish that morning to confirm that everything was happening, and he sounded so utterly cute and sleepy and definitely like someone that ought to be cuddled when they sound like that. I was just a bit worried about meeting him with a bunch of the Horde gamers, as I didn't want him to get overwhelmed by the other people, so kept the numbers down a bit. It worked out pretty well, as there was plenty of background conversation, but not so much to completely drown out getting to meet him. That was cool. He held his own when he wanted to.

After dinner, we were going to meet up with Amit and hand Jay over to him for the overnight stay and stuff, so we decided to meet at Bookbuyer's in Mountain View. There was plenty of time before they were going to be able to get there, so we stopped off at an ice cream shop, I think it was Rick's, that did really rich ice cream. What was really cool was that they had a cinnamon ice cream! It was rich and spicy with cinnamon and really yummy. There was strawberry ice for Jay and it was pretty yummy all around.

Bookbuyer's is the main reason I should have packed about again as much luggage space with me. I'd just brought a simple cloth backpack that held all the stuff I needed for the weekend and then some. A weekend does not require much from me if I'm not dressing fancy. But Bookbuyer's specializes in used and overstocked books, as in other stores' overstocks, so they have just about everything at cooly cheap prices. With how much I love books, it just wasn't fair. It also didn't help that Carl and Earl and Gretchen were giving me suggestions, recommendations and Gretchen even found a used CD that was something that I'd really liked listening to from the M3 weekend.


Jay was like me, browsing about, and we talked about books, about interests, and about things that were cool to read and think about and it was fun. That was very cool. Earl found a book I was looking for, simply due to his height and ability to reach shelves I could just squint at.

Jay's friends met us there, and it was fun to see 'em. I belonged to the f**kers mailing list for a while, which was made up of a bunch of Pearl Jam mailing list folks and basically were Jay's Horde. It was fun to see him with them. They are, on the most part, much, much younger than I am, and far more involved in the music scene than I likely ever will be. They're energetic, crazed, happily crass sometimes, and really cool. Made me feel old just being around them. It was kinda keen. They ran off, as a group to do something, while I went off with Earl, Carl, and Gretchen to have tea. I got to give Jay a solid hug before going, and it was very nice to get to meet him. I should do it again.

There is a tiny tea shop in Mountain View, down an alley. It's a small place that sells traditional Chinese teas prepared in traditional Chinese styles, including the iced tea with the Giant pearl tapioca. It was very good. It was fun to talk through what makes worlds work for books and makes them less workable for gaming. What advanced technology does to ruin plots.

That was a very keen conversation. There are some players that will basically use technology and their interpolations of what advanced technology can do to ruin gaming plots. Mostly because they really want to be effective. Any gamer wants to be effective, but sometimes, and it's something I'm learning in detail from Genevieve's game, it's better if the characters have to work out of a situation.

Carl's had this all along, but as a kind of side note or implicit ruling with his games. He's always been good about setting down boundaries of consequences. It's not, "Don't do that." or "If you do that..." it's simply the actions that follow choices. Sometimes, with the longer running game, Genevieve has to force certain plot sections, so I am gaining quite a lot more appreciation for Carl's methods. Not that the things Genevieve does are bad or anything, it's just the degrees of freedom are different. So it's more fun to adapt to the GM'ing style and see what kinds of stories come out.

But the basic idea is to figure out how character capabilities *don't* mess up a GM plot. Or make it boring or too easy to solve. The trick is making it hard without making it frustrating. And with out just some Magic Gizmo making the whole problem moot. The best way, of course, is making the plot depend on human emotion, not logic, technical knowledge, or anything physically specific. It's one of the reasons why Carl hates information hounds on the Networks of the future, in game mechanics it often boils down to 'roll the dice and see if you get all your answers', rather than it being a give and take of questions to answers and what it is that needs to be known. Where technology shortcuts the plot if the plot was simply to get the answer. So plots cannot hinge entirely on answers that can be calculated or looked up. Though it doesn't hurt to have some of it like that.

The other thing is simply limiting access to tools, weapons, and the like, especially if the technology of the time is world-changing in level. Either through lack of funds, lack of availability (legal, physical, or social), or simple lack of proximity. Lots of lovely detail about the possibilities...

Anyway, we talked until late, sent everyone home, and then drove back to Carl's. Earl was staying with us as he was gaming with us in the morning. So the three of us were likely going to waffles in the morning, and Gretchen was talking about meeting us. We got to sleep nice and late, but not quite insanely late.

The morning unfolded and it turned out nicely as well, though Brad had gotten sick and Gretchen couldn't make breakfast, the three of us did make it to breakfast just fine and, for once, I managed to get just enough to eat instead of way too much. The Country Waffle place was as good as ever, and we wandered into Trader Joe's afterwards for yummy things to munch while gaming and afterwards.

While breakfasting, Earl decided to run the game that he and Carl had been discussing for part of the previous evening and most of the morning, and so we arrived back at Carl's with a plan. Both Bryant and Gretchen showed up at about the same time, but Gretchen was way sleepy. Which actually worked out okay.

Earl ran a really great game with grad students, pirates, effective astral projection, warrior Maidens, and lots of explosions. Which fit the Feng Shui system to a T. It was also a lot of fun and I got to play Jordan as a complete Techie fix-it girl. That was cool.

Afterwards, we all piled into cars to head back to Mountain View, and since Gretchen was so wiped out, I drove her car back with her in it, to Temple Square, where we met people for dinner. Pizza and talk and meandering about until Bryant came up with the idea of going to see Six-String Samuri. We had about half an hour to get to the Towne 3 in San Jose, and it took a lot of sheep dogging to get everyone going, and Gretchen was somewhat dubious, given her exhausted state, but we managed to get there anyway.

It was worth it. It was massively, completely, and totally worth all the effort, trouble, and tiredness. For the first twenty minutes, I'll admit, I was wondering, is this really worth it? But at the end, all of us just sighed a soft "Wow."

After that, we dropped people back off at Temple Square, managed to finally pursuade Gretchen that she should go home and go to sleep, and Bryant, Carl and I went to have coffee and dessert at a Ken's coffee shop. Simple stuff, and we sat, drank, ate, and talked until we were tired enough that we weren't making much sense and then Carl and I drove back to Carl's to get some sleep.

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