Follow Me And Die!

Ramblings of an Old Gamer

GenCon 2014

I made it to GenCon for the first time. I had planned to go to the whole thing this year, but I had a major presentation that I had to do near St. Louis. However, I decided to go anyway.

I did not get there until after 6:00 PM on Friday as I visited some friends near St. Louis that I had not seen in a long time.

I missed out on the Exhibition Hall, as it closed at 6:00 PM. (This was a hazard of deciding to just do it and registering when I got there.)

The benefit of this is that I was able to figure out where everything was. WARNING: The Indianapolis Convention Center is HUGE! If you have never been take advice I read last year from a first time attendee, I forget who it was. Have a bottle of water and a snack,just in case. I suggest also comfortable well-fitting shoes. I got a blister on one toe. I also suggest having a room at one of the downtown hotels and planning to stay until the morning after your last day, so you can get cleaned up as you go. The mid-west is usually very hot a humid in August, but it was very mild this year. However, thousands of bodies in a huge convention center pressed together make it very warm. I sweat through my shirt, socks, and underwear, making things very uncomfortable today.

I did not sleep more than a couple hours last night. I just laid there not sleeping, so I got up and wandered around.

The Exhibition Hall opened at 10:00 AM and I wandered all over until about 12:30 PM. I bought a d30 and battle mat from Chessex and a second set of Game Science dice, and a poster from Inkwell Ideas, and art from Jeff Easley and Larry Elmore. I saw a lot more I wish I could buy. I’ll post pictures of my goodies later.

Overall, I thought it was just too big. I think that is mostly because I had never been and a lot of volunteers did not have answers to my questions, and I showed up late Friday.

The thing I most disliked is for either $50 for a single day, or $80 for four days, MOST of the events other than the Exhibition Hall, auction, and a few others, required paying MORE MONEY to attend. This INCLUDED the organized game play. I can agree with paying to be in a fancy tournament if it has decent prizes, but pay to play just rubbed me wrong. Because I got their late Friday, it was too late to get in on most events I was interested in, so I wondered and observed. I liked that I could at least wander around and observe all the game play.

If there was a sanctioned or organized way to arrange pick up games or anything, I never found it. My impression is that a pick up game would most likely occur if your friends from your regular group, or your GenCon buddies decided to get together.

I have been to other game conventions, and there was no additional fees to join in organized play or even tournaments. I don’t know if the fees at GenCon are only secondarily about the money with a primary emphasis on trying to organize 20 or 30,000 players.

As I mentioned earlier, I wandered the Exhibition Hall until 12:30 and got all the things I limited myself too. I could never afford all that I wanted…. By this time I was starving. They have food inside the convention center, like pizza, subs, etc. I was tired of this, so I went out to the pedestrian mall outside the convention center, where they had a dozen or so food trucks. I found an excellent BBQ truck, I forget their name, but it is local to Indianapolis. If I can find the name, I will add it.

Getting food helped. I recommend not getting to the point of tired, sweaty, and hungry. I should have taken a break rather than do a marathon session of seeing all the exhibitors. I ended up very frustrated that I could not find Howard Taylor of Schlock Mercenary. I conflated the last convention he attended with GenCon and thought he had a booth. He was actually joining Tracy Hickman of XDM games, I see now that I am home. He also did a signing that I learned of about a half hour AFTER it ended. Part of that was my confusion and I did not pick up on the book signing reading the guidebook/schedule. It is probably in there correctly, I think I just had information overload.

I was cranky. I felt a lot better after I ate, but I was still sweaty and had a blister working on on toe. Solving hunger did not help. I decided I was past the point of having fun, so I headed home. On my way out, I passed Frank Mentzer who was going in the opposite direction. I had wanted to talk to him, but by that time, I did not care.

I drove about an hour and had to pull over at a rest stop and snooze for a couple hours. After that I felt like a new man. Thus my recommendation to keep a room in a hotel nearby until the day AFTER you are done with the convention. Have plenty of clothes so you can go to your room and shower and get a nap.

I left thinking I never wanted to attempt to go back. A lot of that was brought on by being tired. After my snooze I wished I wasn’t an hour away from the convention and started thinking I might actually try to go again next year.

I now know that I will need to save up for a fancier hotel downtown for at least a couple nights, or more if I do all four days. I will need money to attend all the things I want. I will have to review the activities BEFORE it starts so I can plan what to do. As long as GenCon is in the same place, one can plan for the next year. I am also thinking that I really should go to GaryCon, since I always wanted to go to GenCon when it was still in Lake Geneva. Being a smaller Con, I am sure it will have a lot less of the chaos and frustration that a megacon has.

I’m not 100% set on GenCon next year. I will be a grandfather in January, and I expect to be spending a lot of time with my new grandchild. Five years or so  until Disney World, maybe ten until a major Con, time will tell.

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RIP Robin Williams

I wrote the following on my IRL Facebook page:

With all the terrible things in the world, we can always use those who can help us laugh.

We lost a man who had a great gift in helping us laugh.

We need to find the joy in life and never forget to laugh.

There are no fancy words of wisdom to answer all the whys.

The world can be a shitty place.

People can be mean, nasty, and evil to others.

There are problems much worse in other parts of the world and in someone else’s shoes.

Don’t let the darkness win.

Stand up for what is right, and fight when you must; but don’t forget to live, love, and laugh.

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Guardians of the Galaxy

I finally saw Guardians of the Galaxy tonight.

It is very good and I recommend it.

I had not hear of this comic book series until the movie.

I’m not big on comics. I will read them if they are available to me, but I never got into spending a lot of money on them. I had my brother doing that, so I enjoyed his comics. Late 80’s/ early 90’s X-Men, The Dark Night, and a few others I don’t recall.

My one complaint was it felt rushed.

It definitely left me wanting more.

I like towards the end of the credits, there is the line: “No raccoons or tree people were harmed in the making of this motion picture.” LOL

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Printer Friendly Version of the New D&D Basic Rules PDF

They put out a printer friendly version with a white background that I find easier to read. I did find the original with a “parchment” colored background a little easier to read on my tablet, but this is even better.

You can find it here.

I haven’t had time to actually read it yet.

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Cursory Impressions of 5e Basic PDF

It’s great that 5e has the basic rules for character creation available for free. As I understand it, the free PDF will be expanded to include more rules.

I paged through the PDF on my laptop at work and two things struck me:

  1. The print over a shaded background was a little hard to read. I think that they should have had input from player’s with “older” eyes, or less than “perfect” eyes give some input.
    I confirmed on my monitor at home that it is better, but still hard on the eyes. I am hoping my tablet is better.
    While it may look “cool” if it is harder to read, it will make it harder to comprehend. Am I the only almost 50 year old (in September) player with this issue?
  2. I need more time to read and digest rather than flip through, but the character generation process seems  complex. It give a point buy option for speediest generation. But there are still lots of other options. I think it will be less confusing when I have time to read it.

The experience progression for all classes appears to be the same for all classes. I read on another site that gold doesn’t count for x.p. It still seemed way too easy to level up. It also topped out at level 20, I did not see if beyond level 20 is possible. Ability scores top out at 30.

There are not as many spells as in 1e, and they call a lot of 1st level spells in 1e are now cantrips. Both clerics and wizards have 9 spell levels. There are a few new and some re-named spells. There are a few different things about spell casting and magic, but I did not completely follow with a skim.

There is the taking a level in different classes for multi-classing. I believe I read that that was a 3e thing.

I did see glimpses of a few things that I can at least adapt to my campaign, but I want to read it before I elaborate.

There may be some aspects of this that I can see using as it’s own game, but character generation was not clear to me from the play test materials what I now have in this PDF. I did not keep up with the play test, but have the final bundle and created a character for a D&D Next Roll 20 game. It took forever to figure out how to generate a character, and I missed out on understanding some things.

I was without power from about 2 AM Monday until sometime Wednesday afternoon due to a big storm. I am behind on household chores, so I’m not sure when I will get to read it.

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Pop-Up Miniature Terrain

This is an interesting Kickstarter, Pop-Up Miniature Terrain.

For those with the miniatures to use with it, I can see the value.

I have less than ten miniatures, so it doesn’t make sense to get these.

I can see how “easily” one could make there own if they had the skill, etc.

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Nuclear Chili

Way back in high school, I was either a junior or senior.

I made chili for supper one evening during the school year.

My family was big on chili and making sure we all knew how to cook.

We always made a big pot of chili. We were a family of six and my two brothers and I were teenagers and eating everything in the house.

I kept adding chili powder and other things to it. I added chili powder to taste.

After it simmers awhile the degree of oomph to it increases.

It was good and we all ate a couple bowls.

Later that night my brother, Robert, woke up in pain and ended up in the hospital.

It was discovered that he had an ulcer.

Robert blames the ulcer on me.

I told him that I saved his life because my chili irritated it before it got bad so it could be taken care of before it got bad.

Robert didn’t see it that way.

Robert said, “You nearly killed me with that nuclear chili.”

The term stuck, even my Mom refereed to it that way.

Ah well.

I have only made that style of chili a half dozen or so times since then. The first few times I made it, I was still married and didn’t make it that spicy. I think my reputation is worse than reality. I mention nuclear chili and the boys are like, “Oh Yeah!”, and my ex was, “Don’t you dare.”

Kind of like Jimmy Stewart in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” See the movie to avoid spoilers.

I’m trying to think of another example. In D&D if you have someone who is feared for some legendary feat, but it didn’t quite happen that way, that’s what I mean.

There is no exact recipe. I just brown some hamburger, use some canned beans and some chili beans, then add a chopped onion or two depending on size, and add other spiced or other tings that are good in chili. It is season to taste. If I can’t eat it, I’m not wasting money. I got canned beans to make it quicker. For the beans and other ingredients and a few other groceries, I spent over $60 to get ready to make it for Sunday, when my son, David, and his girlfriend, Cassandra come over to play.  Dang is food getting expensive.

I can remember when bread was four loaves for a dollar and when it went up to three loaves for a dollar, it was a big deal. Especially for a family with growing boys.

I also make homemade corn bread to go with it. YUM!

Chili will fit right in, there are in the midst of a battle with some Kobolds and they have a scroll with several Stinking Cloud spells….  :/

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Busy Weekend

I have plans to play with my oldest son and his girlfriend again on Sunday. Plus they want me to make my nuclear chili. [NOTE: I finally wrote up the story behind that.]

My laptop is acting like the hard drive is going to fail, so adding to the preparations I need to do for Sunday, I have to have a good system backup disk and make sure all my data is backed up.

I need a new computer. I had a really nice desktop, but a few years ago during a thunderstorm, the boys didn’t unplug it like I told them and it got zapped. The hard drive is still good, but the motherboard or something got fried.

I got a laptop before that happened, but now the laptop is a few years old, it came with Win7, so it’s not that old, but hard drives fail.

I have other older computer about, but all with WinXP, which is not secure, and I need to get online. One of them dual boot Linux, but it is still an old and slow computer.

I fired up an old Dell desktop I got used and the CMOS battery is old, perhaps shot and it won’t boot. I can’t find my Knoppix boot disk, so I’m downloading a new one, but the latest version is not online yet….

I have another old desktop with WinXP, but it doesn’t want to boot.

I have another old desktop that I think is WinXP, it will be the next one I try after I see if I can get these others working. It may just be cards have wiggled lose and need to be re-seated.

I used to work on computers on the side and picked up a few spares. only two are old computers we used regularly.

I think it’s time to make sure I’ve got all the hard drives and scrap some old PCs. It will make a lot more room around here. At least I finally have a couple of flat panel monitors so it doesn’t generate so much heat in the warm months.

I am hoping to get something functional so I can avoid buying a new computer for a while.

Ah well, the best laid plans.

I am making such great headway on knocking off my debt. I’m only two years from only having a mortgage. I hit the big 5 – 0 in September, so I’d really like to have my debt dwindling faster and my savings growing even faster.

Anyway, if I go dark online for a bit, you’ll know why.

I hope I don’t I really want to keep playing in my regular online AD&D game on Wednesdays. It’s a blast and most of us are ready to train for third level, but we want to wrap up a dungeon that has a time limit before we can’t get at it easily.

Well, my Knoppix image is about half way. Time to get out my computer tool set. I need some new tools because the dog chewed up my case and some of the plastic tools and rubber handles…. I just remembered that happened a couple years ago when she was younger. UGH….

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The Good Guys Are Not Stupid Wimps

Rick Stump over at Don’t Split the Party has an excellent article:

Good Isn’t Stupid, or weak, or nice.

Paladins don’t have to be simple, weak minded, naive fools. They can have depth and edges to them that makes them both interesting and far from an easy kill.

They should be a threat to evil and a threat to anyone who stands in their way.

Just as the evil villain is a threat to the forces of good.

Any DM who allows paladins, and any player who has, is, or wants to play a paladin should read this.

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How Many Hours of Daylight?

Recently in play, the question came up of when does it get dark?

I had to make up something.

It happened to be early summer in the game, so I could use the approximate times from this time of year.

However, time progresses quickly in the game, so it is now mid-Autumn, so there is less daylight. When the players are running around outside, the amount of light tends to be important. Rather than make something up on the fly and it be radically inconsistent with past rulings, I built a chart for use at the game table.

I have put together a sunrise/sunset and hours of daylight for each day on my game calendar – Calendar And Random Generation.

I use twelve months with twenty-eight days for simplicity of generating random date. This is a game, so it does no have to have total verisimilitude with reality, just enough to make sense.

Google is your friend for esoteric information, but I wanted a chart I could print out for the game table and have ready without having to have my tablet or laptop available.

I picked a location that was in a temperate zone analogous to the current area in use in my campaign. I looked for sunrise and sunset times for Spring and Autumnal Equinoxes and Winter and Summer Solstices. I then determined how many days were between each and the difference in times between each and determined the number of seconds sunrise and sunset was earlier or later depending on the season. In reality, there is not exactly 59 seconds earlier sunrise each day, but again, this isn’t reality.

Of course, closer to the poles have more light certain times of year. I don’t know the formula but each degree of latitude N/S is approximately 69 miles for an Earth-sized planet. You can add or subtract minutes to the rise and set times based on the formula. I am sure Google has it. Based on Sturgis, MI and Kansas City, MO being about 2.7 degrees apart, the Spring Equinox sunrise time in Kansas City, MO is about 24 minutes earlier than Sturgis, MI. Sunset the same day is thus also earlier in KC. It is close enough to a 24 minute difference on the Autumnal Equinox and the Solstices, that one can extrapolate about an 8 minute difference for every 69 miles north or south. If you want to get fancier with your own calculations that’s cool. If you want a table for a world that is messier and more like reality, that’s your choice. I made the choice to spend as little time on this as possible at the table.

I have shared a PDF of my efforts – Sunrise & Sunset Times.

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