Monday, August 18, 2008

GenCon - End of Day Three

The D&D Minis Community Draft is a much-anticipated event, one where players from all over North America (and sometimes Europe) gather to engage in the hobby they all enjoy. In addition, the tradition of providing one's own prizes for the Community Draft has led to some very cool prizes being offered for those who do well (including an amazing 3-D representation of a popular tournament map in this year's prize pool). Lastly, since it's not a DCI-sanctioned event, it's one of the few minis events that employees of Wizards of the Coast can participate in, and they choose to do so quite frequently -- this year I personally saw both Rob Heinsoo (the lead designer of D&D fourth edition as well as the head muckety-muck of D&D minis design and development) and Peter Lee (the newest member of D&D/DDM R&D) participating, and have seen other WotC employees (and not all design employees, sometimes marketing folks too) participating in past events. And, for the second Community Draft in a row, I came in dead last. I wasn't quite as disappointed this time as I was at XP, largely because I had more fun -- the guys around me were having a good time, and we were all yukking it up since we weren't playing under any pressure to grab one of the 'elite' prizes. It would have been even better if I hadn't been paired with a local (Matt McMillen) in the final round, not that I regretted playing him, but simply because it's sometimes frustrating to realize you travelled 1200 miles to sit across the table from someone you see at every major local tournement, too. After the Community Draft, we went back to the hotel and crashed. The next morning, we got up, packed, checked out, and drove home, and by 10pm I was safe in my own apartment again, once again standing on the precipice of real life. Except that now I have a Flash T-shirt I can wear underneath my shirt and tie...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

GenCon - Day Three

It's amazing how time can get away from you around here. Day Two continued with the World of Warcraft miniatures premiere -- one of many being run this weekend. What I was unaware of when I accepted the ticket from my friend was that, in order to get the ticket in the first place and even have a chance to go to a premiere tournament, you had to play in a demo, which I hadn't. Thus, while everybody else got their minis and seemed to have some idea what was going on, I was utterly clueless, and it showed in my play and in my warband selection as I ended up 0-3 before dropping. I ended up giving the minis back to Bill, as he'd provided the entry for the tournament. Also, one of the problems in letting time get away from you is that sometimes you discover you can't reconstruct what you did. For instance, I know the WoW minis event was over before 6pm, at which time I went to grab dinner with Chip, one of my travelling companions. Later, a bit before midnight, a number of us went to do True Dungeon. (Capsule review: it was still very cool, even if our party this year felt less successful than the party the previous year -- had any of the monsters managed to hit us, and I mean hit us at all, as the highest roll I remember on a monster die was a '5' and the only damage I recall was from a no-roll-required magic missile.) After stumbling back to the hotel by 2:30, I struggled back to consciousness at about 7:30 to fly off to the Day Three events. First up: 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons. And yes, I've discovered that 4th edition is really Dungeons & Dragons. We're playing the initial adventure in the new Living Forgotten Realms RPGA campaign, and we're entering the underground ruins of Zhentil Keep (the 'new' Zhentil Keep was apparently built over the ruins of the old). We defeat a few shadow-creatures and rummage through a pile of treasure where the party discovers a magical staff of fire with an interesting fire-related power. Well, it just so happens that my wizard character has taken staff implement mastery and has some fire spells, so I grab the staff, and I then spend the next 30 minutes bouncing in my chair over all the cool things I can do with this staff. That's Dungeons & Dragons, no matter how else you want to slice it. Another trip through the dealer room (only costing me $50 this time, since I skipped the really pricey areas), and then off to dinner. Later tonight is the DDM Community Draft, a traditional event organized by players, for players. More on that later.

Friday, August 15, 2008

GenCon - Day Two

Day Two begins with breakfast, as all good days should. Unfortunately, unless you bring breakfast with you, it's not always easy to find breakfast at a convention. I had been stopping at Crawford's Bakery, just down the block from the Methodist Tower Hotel where we're staying, and picking up doughnuts and juice for breakfast, which makes a nice start. Unfortunately, with the early end last night, we're trying to get an early start today, so we're off for the convention hall before Crawford's opens. Karma continues to pull in my favor, however, and I stumble across a Starbucks selling ham-egg-and-cheese croissant sandwiches that are surprisingly good for sitting under a heat lamp. I get one of the last three on the table and head back to eat. Morning is Delve, Delve, Delve -- the D&D Delve is a quick, combat-oriented version of the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game where you try to complete three encounters in 45 minutes or less. It's not as easy as it sounds, because the new 4th edition rules make each enemy monster tougher to compensate for the fact that player characters are somewhat more resilient and have more options in their attacks than earlier editions of the game. Also, playing the Delve earns you prize tokens that you can then trade in for prizes. The big prize, for fifty tokens, is a T-shirt based on the 'gnome and tiefling' 4th edition preview video, but I'll happily settle for a 15-point RPGA compaign card that gives my character a bonus ability, since I'll be playing in an RPGA event tomorrow morning. After Delving, I settled back into the minis area and discovered that the woman I'd taught the game to yesterday was back and playing League, so whatever assholery I'd perpetrated on her the day before hadn't taken. She even let me take a picture of her corset! Then I discovered that I had a raffle ticket for the World of Warcraft Miniatures Premiere Sealed event, so I hustled off to a completely different part of the convention hall to register. The event officially starts in about two minutes, but I've learned from my experience in this neck of the woods that such things never actually launch when they say they will. Nonetheless, I'm going to wrap up this update quickly to get back in the game.

GenCon - Day One (continued)

The evening brought a number of interesting things: - A couple of friends who came to GenCon were participating in the first of the 'last chance' championship qualifiers for D&D Minis, where the top four participants get invites to play in the championship tournament on Saturday. One finished eighth, the other fifth. - A friendly, attractive woman responded to my flirtateous comment about her hair color (red, which I LOVE, btw) by sitting down in front of me and asking, 'Can you teach me how to play this game?' Holy crap! What untapped source of karma did I suddenly open up like a fire hose? Unfortunately, though I tried to give her an entertaining intro to DDM, I think I ended up kicking her ass and driving her from the minis hall; I haven't seen her again. - We ended up leaving the con early, as our long road trip on Wednesday caught up with us. We headed to a nearby sandwich and pizza shop for dinner. The city of Indianapolis has not shown its best side to us on this trip. Granted, part of the reason is that we're staying in one of the 'bad' sections of town, but we haven't yet experienced a 'good' section of town, even the area around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. When we got out of our cars to go into the restaurant, two very aggressive drunks/panhandlers latched onto us and didn't leave, even after we went into the restaurant, until Vic bought them sandwiches. (The store proprietors ended up giving us a free sandwich, perhaps as a 'thank-you'; I thought that was cool, and the sandwiches were really good.) Day One ended with my roommate and I camped out in the room watching Olympic women's beach volleyball and drifting off to sleep. Day Two is about to begin, and the end of the day promises True Dungeon adventure, so a wildly gushing post tomorrow morning is already penciled onto the agenda.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

GenCon - Day One

There are two theories when it comes to going to a big gaming convention like GenCon: 1. Go as hard as you can, doing as much as you can, until you drop from sheer exhaustion. 2. Pace yourself, getting in the stuff you want to do, but leaving time for spontaneous discovery and occasional fallow periods during the con. Theory one tends to be practiced by younger con-goers who have the stamina for such a marathon sprint; it also helps to have a good idea of what you're already planning to do, because you can schedule yourself to within an inch of your life. Theory two is the one I currently subscribe to, not just because of advancing age, but also because this year I didn't have a firm idea of exactly what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to do different things, and though there were a few events I knew I wanted to repeat from last year (True Dungeon, the D&D Minis Community Draft), for the most part I wanted to do things I hadn't done before. So far, I've hobnobbed with a bunch of old friends and acquaintances, showed a friendly and attractive woman the basics of D&D Minis, and spent nearly $100 on the show floor buying dice and novelty T-shirts; in other words, I'm doing what almost everybody else is doing, and loving it. We'll see what the evening brings.

Gen Con - Day Zero

I'm at GenCon for the next four days (or what the GenCon marketing folks call 'the best four days in gaming'), and am looking forward to a few different events (that I'll hopefully be able to chronicle here). As it stands, though, the first day of any convention is the travel day, or Day Zero. Each travel day has its own stories and frustrations, and this one was no different. It started well before the actual travel day, when our plans from last year fell apart because Senior decided he couldn't afford to go to GenCon this year. Victor picked up the ball and ran with it, and four of us decided we'd travel cross-country in a rented Lincoln Town Car from Minneapolis to Indianapolis. Then a good friend, who we'll call Bill, asked if he could ride out with us, and we agreed. Victor's wife frequently gets motion sickness on long car trips, so we'd agreed to let her sit in the front seat. Unfortunately, this meant we had three reasonably good-sized men (or more accurately, two good-sized men and one huge one) squeezed into the back seat together. After a few hours, it was clear that we weren't ever going to be comfortable, and Vic's wife, bless her heart, agreed to move into the back seat to help us all out. In order to try to keep her from getting nauseated, we occasionally broke out a deck of 'Would You Rather' cards and asked each other questions. (The game developers will be glad to know that the car was frequently filled with raucous laughter during these sessions.) We arrived in Indy without further incident after about a 12-hour drive, checked into our traditional hotel, and crashed. Today is day one -- more updates as events warrant.