Fanboy/Girl Moment(s)

Dragon Con is coming soon.

DragonCon2014_logo
Rejoice!

For those of you that are unaware of what that means, I invite you to go here so that you can see why this is a cause for celebration. It’s an opportunity to be amongst my fellow nerds and geeks, as well as catch up with many friends that I often times only get to see at these sorts of things. It’s also a great time to have a random celebrity encounter or two.

Here’s my story!

This had to be close to 10 years ago, but I was riding in the elevator to head back to our hotel room after a good bit of aimless wandering in the Dealers’ Room. The plan was to relax for a sec, grab something to drink and then return to the sea of humanity that was the convention. There were a few other younger folks on the elevator heading to their own various destinations. The elevator stops, and a rather distinctive older gentleman makes his way on and gives a friendly greeting before pressing the button for his floor. I’ve done a bit of research and online sleuthing since that moment, and after lots of intensive labor I was able to track down his photo.

GeorgeTakei
Yuuuuup!

Now as famous as George Takei is, this was during the years before he became the Lord and Savior of the Internet and easily one of the most influential personalities in existence. You youngsters might not believe it, but there was actually a time where people didn’t know who George Takei was. And here I was on an elevator with such a group, as no one paid him any semblance of a mind or even flinch.

Be cool, Mani. Be cool…

He starts cracking jokes, because of course he’s going to start cracking jokes. There was some laughter from the masses, but still no sign of recognition. He doesn’t seem to mind, and he just keeps smiling and chatting away. Finally, the elevator comes to my floor. As I’m making my way out, I quietly extend my hand and smile.

“Huge fan of your work, sir.”

He returns the smile and shakes it. “Oh, thank you very much.” And after the door closes, I practically power-walk to our room, throw the door open and announce to my roommates that I had just run into George Mother-effin’ Takei =)

I’ve had other friends have some pretty cool celebrity encounters at Dragon Con as well. So, my people, let’s hear it- have any of you had any sort of celebrity encounter? Who was it? Where was it? I’d love to hear about it!

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RPG Sidenotes: Versatility

dice

I wanted to try something a little different here.

A while back I was poking around on The RPG Guy’s Facebook page, and in one of his videos he was discussing advice for newbie Game Masters. The suggestion that stuck with me was to remain loose when plotting a gaming session, and to be prepared to deviate from your notes at a moment’s notice. I though it was pretty funny because it totally reminded me of one of my group’s sessions back in the day where I learned that lesson first-hand. I’ve been wanting to do a video for a while now, so here’s my retelling of said incident.

Apologies for the shakiness of the camera early on as I accidentally bumped the desk with all of my random hand-movements. I’ll definitely had a steadier surface for any future vids. So sit back, and enjoy a tale of an army of kobolds vs. our brawl-happy gaming group!

Of RPG’s, Publishing and a History of Geekery

I have a secret.

BAM! Book!
BAM! Book!

A buddy and I self-published our own role-playing game by the name of Glenshire Abbey late last year. It’s been an exciting and interesting road, to say the VERY least! Recently I was asked about my personal history with RPG’s, and what exactly possesses a man or two to create their own. Pull up a chair, and let me tell you my story.

I actually didn’t start playing RPG’s of the pen-and-paper variety until after high school. Now, I WAS aware of these crazy and supposedly-evil games that involved weird dice beforehand. I always found the whole concept of RPG’s to be intriguing and made it a point to try and read any that I could get my hands on. I believe I was in 10th grade or so when a buddy (who was really into Palladium) let me borrow several of his books. While Robotech and TMNT and Other Strangeness were both cool in their own right, it was Beyond the Supernatural that really captured my imagination. Beyond was pretty different from anything that I had come across so far- the whole concept of supernatural horror in a modern day setting was very intriguing, and I absolutely loved the world-building that Palladium had done with the setting.

Beyond the Supernatural

I read up on and dabbled with a few other games over the years, but my first actual gaming session with an actual group occurred when another friend invited me to join in on an anime-styled campaign using Big Eyes, Small Mouth (BESM). Everything changed for me at that moment; RPG’s became more than just a curiosity, but a hobby that I thoroughly enjoyed. Our gaming group also liked to switch things up from time to time, which was a wonderful opportunity to learn about other games, systems and mechanics. One day I got up the courage to start Game Mastering myself, and found that I rather enjoyed the creative aspect of being on the other side of the table.

Some time later, Guardians of Order (the company that created BESM) announced that they were starting a fan imprint called Magnum Opus, where an aspiring writer would be able to publish a gaming supplement under their banner. Benefiting from Guardian’s marketing and presence in the industry was a very intriguing concept to say the very least. I was currently running the campaign that would eventually become Glenshire Abbey at the time, and after some encouragement and a lot of thought, I decided that I would apply for the licensing fee. I took my tax return that year and put it towards the project, and within a few days was told that I had been approved!

The next few months were spent fleshing out the world that we had begun to build within the gaming sessions, as well as gathering artwork and figuring out the logistics of layout. Which, for the record, is a huge pain in the butt if you’re not sure of what you’re doing. I had the benefit of having taken a couple of graphic design courses in college at the time, which I’m sure saved me all manner of headaches in the long run. Eventually I got to the point where I felt that it was ready, so I shot an email to the guys at Guardians to let them know. Communications had slowed somewhat between us; I knew that they had taken on several new projects at the time, so I dismissed it as them being pretty busy. And then, this happened.

Hulk would not have approved of my language that day.
Hulk would not have approved of my language that day.

I don’t think “devastated” accurately coveys what I was feeling at that moment. To me, this was akin to having run an entire marathon and seeing the finish line, only to have the entire thing disappear before you could cross it. I felt betrayed, and I felt angry. Good lord, I was angry. But more than that, I was confused. I had no earthly idea what to do next. Not knowing what to do next, I quietly put everything to the side and tried to forget about the whole thing.

Of course I couldn’t do that for very long. Some time later I was talking to my friend Tony (who was part of our gaming group) about everything, and we joked that we should create our own gaming system and go the self-publishing route. The more we talked about it the more we laughed, but at the same time, the more it seemed like a good idea. It was a throwaway comment one Halloween, but I challenged Tony to come up with a system using a 12-sided die. Why a D12? I had always joked about them being the most neglected dice in the bag, and that it was time that they were shown some love.

A couple of days later, Tony pays me a visit at work and tosses me a notepad with the basis of what would become ISys. His job involved a bit of travel, so during his last road trip he managed to work out the concept.

It was a slow day at work for me, so we spent the next few minutes going over the notes and refining them. This also happened to be the day that another associate of mine decided to swing through for a quick visit, as he had a job in the area as well. He was a longtime gamer and had a hand in introducing me to a lot of RPG’s over the years. He too was pondering the prospect of self-publishing his own setting, but was also a bit of a perfectionist; I couldn’t tell you how many times he had started, stopped, and restarted his own project.

After a moment he noticed the notebook sitting on the counter and raised a brow. I swore that his head turned a full 45 degrees as he gave it a quizzical glance. Eventually he realized what he was looking at, and gave the notebook a good once-over before asking a single question.

“Who’s needlessly-complicated role playing game is this?”

He then spent the entirety of his visit running down the rough-draft-of-the-rough-draft. He told us what he would do differently, why this part was redundant, and gave a completely incorrect analysis of why a D12-based system would not work. I’m not above taking advice and well-meaning criticism, but all of this was done with the condescending gusto and arrogance of Zeus stepping down from Mount Olympus in order to impart a lesson to us mere mortals.

He couldn’t stay for very long, but he did leave Tony and I each with expressions consisting of equal portions of shock, pure amusement and really, mutha@#$a?

jules-winnfield

There was a few seconds of silence after he had left. “Wow,” I calmly stated. “He absolutely hated it.” Tony smirked and nodded in agreement. I laughed and slapped the notepad, resting on the counter.

“Good. We’re sticking with this.”

So yeah, that’s the horse that brought me to the dance. This ended up being a little longer than I was expecting, but I guess there was quite a bit of ground to cover =)

Of Nerf Guns, Mods and Pink Spartans

So, a few months back I was stuck working a bridal show on a Sunday afternoon that was much more suited for not doing a damn thing. This usually sucks, but the best thing about getting roped into the Sunday shows is that I get a chance to talk to some of my buddies from some of our other stores that I don’t get to see as often. During one of the lulls of the day, one of my equally geeky buddies asked if I was familiar with the Nerf gun modding community. He proceeds to pull up a few sites on his phone and show off some pretty epic paint jobs that people had done; some where as simple as making it look realistic, while others went absolutely nutso with full Steampunk conversions.

“Well crap,” I said. “Why are you showing me more cool ways to waste time?” And so, a few days later while at Target, I decided to pick up the Nerf Strongarm.

There are some folks out there that will fiddle with the innards in order to up the range and/or make it capable of hobbling a rhino, but being an artist my interest was more in the updating the cosmetics on this sucker. I kicked around a few ideas and was leaning heavily towards a Steampunk look until my inner smartass decided to take over.

“There’s plenty of Steampunk mods out there… why don’t you go some something crazy? Everything else out there is trying to look all hardcore and ish… why don’t you paint that sucker pink?!”

I laughed, but then thought about it. Yes, this is a good idea. It reminded me of playing Halo 2 with a group of friends many years ago- for deathmatches I would always use a Spartan wearing bright pink armor just to mess with folks because I found that few things are more hilarious than witnessing the sheer unbridled rage that comes from seeing someone get taken out by a dude in bright pink cybernetic armor. This plan eventually backfired as I learned wearing bright pink armor in a fire fight also makes you a VERY easy target for anyone with a sniper rifle. But I digress.

It wasn’t until I was talking to Lily one day and just casually asked, if I was going to color this Nerf gun, what color should it be? Without a moment of hesitation, she responded with “Pink”. My path was now laid out before me.

Between finishing the lawn and Lily still napping, I had a few moments to finally get started on the project earlier today. The good thing is that the Strongarm can be taken apart quite easily with the right screwdriver. The weather was nice so the paint also dried pretty quickly as well. With this being my first attempt I didn’t want to get too fancy (going for a simple pink and silver motif), but all in all I think it came out OK.

BEHOLD!

Things I’ve learned-

1. When painting with a color as light as pink, PRIMER IS YOUR FRIEND. If not, prepare to add some coats.

2. Not only take pictures of the inner workings to make putting things back together easier, it helps to actually pay attention beforehand. This will come into play later.

3. Nerf apparently has several gorillas on steroids on their payroll, as some of those screws didn’t want to budge at all.

For this being my first time doing this I have to say that I’m happy with the way The Pink Ranger (as I’ve dubbed her) came out. In retrospect I can see a few details I’d like to change (silver for the trigger and on the grip), but I’m definitely doing this again. Next time, however, I’m paying closer attention to those pesky inner workings. While The Pink Ranger might be nice and pretty I apparently don’t have a spring in the right place, so the firing is now… sporadic at best.

Back to work!

“So My Game Master’s A Jerk…” (Parts II and III)

So, Ryan’s committed the cardinal sin of being nice to a girl that the Game Master likes. How will this effect the group and the lifespan of his character? I was originally going to post these two chapters separately, but #3 is a little on the shorter side, so I figured that there was no need to drag things out another week.

Also, remember that warning I had about language earlier? That definitely applies here, especially in Part III where the ish really hits the fan…

Enjoy!

PS: Thanks to my friend Lannie for pointing out a couple of things needing to be tweaked in Part I. Good eye!

Part I (in case you missed it)
Part II
Part III

“So My Game Master’s A Jerk…” (Part I)

Over the years I’ve learned that gamers are a special breed. I’ve heard all kinds of stories of some of the random stuff that has gone down around a table, for better or for worse. With all of the shenanigans that has taken place at various tables over the years, I figured that would be an awesome spring of knowledge to pull a story or two from.

BEHOLD!

My original concept was to do a series of short stories detailing the miscellaneous details in the life of a group of role playing gamers, focusing on their lives around and beyond the table. This was the first chapter that I ended up writing; as time went on, I decided to make this more of a stand-alone story. However there’s still plenty of geek-fodder to explore with these guys, so I’m pretty sure I’ll end up revisiting this group.

So, what happens when a real life crush starts to interfere with a game? That is the question indeed.

Now, I’m going to repeat a few things that I’ve said to everyone and their respective mommas about this-

1) This is a work of fiction.

2) None of the characters are based directly on anyone I know.

3) It is, however, influenced by different incidents and stories I’ve heard and experienced over the years. However, I repeat that this is a work of fiction.

Also, be wary- the language gets a wee bit salty, especially later on. Hopefully you’re not offended by the occasional three, four or twelve-lettered word.

Now, with all of that out of the way, I present Part I of So My Game Master’s A Jerk. Parts II and III will follow in the next few days!

Part I

Night of the Flesh Golem (Part 2)

 

It’s amazing the series of questions that will run through your mind as you’re fleeing in terror from a foe capable of manhandling you three times over.  You find yourself thinking about things like- shouldn’t there have been a script in place to keep this from happening? There’s no way this was the intended result. Also, who in their right mind thinks that a Flesh Golem is a suitable foe for a duo of lowly noobs? And, perhaps most importantly, shouldn’t have at least one of the Admins on this server noticed by now that Death itself was running after a couple of players in a supposed safe zone?

No matter.

So Rock and Lily found themselves fleeing into town with the Flesh Golem hot on their heels, and with nary a plan except to continue running. Perhaps there were other players in town of that were a higher level than us, because it had already been established that there was no way the two of us were going to be able to handle that thing. It was also pretty safe to assume that being outside of the arena meant that death would probably have more ramifications, since we were pretty sure that we wouldn’t be able to respawn like before. As our heroic duo fled as if they were in the world’s scariest Benny Hill sketch, another player (a Wizard) saw our plight and began casting a spell. Our friend the Flesh Golem, not being the sporting sort, noticed this and decided that it was the perfect opportunity to sucker punch him mid-spell and break his concentration. A couple of swings later, and the abomination has claimed his next victim.

Spellcasters- Spend a few points on the skill ‘Concentration’. The ass you save could be your own.

Apparently we weren’t the only ones to witness this as we suddenly see a heavily armored warrior come charging at the beast from nowhere, weapons at the ready. He actually managed to land a few blows and prove that this creature could actually be hurt. He also served to reinforce the fact that the golem was entirely too high of a level to be allowed to run about the city unchecked, and it was only a matter of time before he too fell victim to our horrible friend.

"NONE SHALL..." *HURK!*

While we were planning to turn around and assist in the brawl, it was apparent pretty quickly that things were not going to end well, so G and I took refuge behind a building not too far off from the carnage. You could imagine our shock when the Flesh Golem actually stopped his murderous rampage against the living and stood his ground right smack-dab in the middle of town. It was a rare opportunity to catch a breath and attempt to come up with something that resembled a plan.

We also couldn’t help but notice that those two poor characters that had gotten taken out most heinously had dropped something upon their untimely demise. It was actually pretty cool feature that the designers had incorporated into the module, as it seemed that characters left a little headstone at the spot they had fallen in battle, as well as a little loot. While I don’t remember the exact wording, I do recall that there was a conversation between G and myself along the following lines.

G: “Man this sucks. What are we going to do now?”
Me: “I don’t know, but do you see those headstones? I wonder what sort of equipment they dropped.”
G: “Hmm…”

You see it as disrespect to the fallen. I see it as staying in character.

As we’re sitting there planning our next move, the strangest thing happened. The Flesh Golem, who had been standing his ground for the last few minutes, suddenly took off running in a random direction away from us. It was a strange thing to have happen and despite the fact that we had spent a good portion of the evening avoiding this thing, we had to follow and see what had gotten this freak show’s attention.

But not before quickly checking out the headstones and collecting some extra EXP and gold for the action. Er, we take our role playing quite seriously, and do what we can to stay in character.

We slowly began to creep across the bridge that the Flesh Golem took off over moments before, curious to find out what happened but at the same time not wanting to trigger his wrath once again. All seemed clear and good until we saw the one place that he must have bolted into.

He had run into the tavern. Oh sweet mother of crap.

The tavern was the starting point of the module where new players spawned in at. New players, complete with their BRAND-SPANKING-NEW LEVEL ONE CHARACTERS. The most morbid of curiosities beckoned us as we knew that we had to see what was going on inside of that tavern.

“Save yourselves! He aims to murder us all!”

Bodies, strewn about all over the tavern floor. The Flesh Golem was camped right at the portal and laying the smack down on anyone that dared enter the module in a display of malice and disdain rarely seen on this mortal plane. A few lucky souls managed to avoid the initial attack, but it was only a matter of time before the beast would run them down and add them to his growing body count. Without a word, we exited the tavern and went back into town. If we could have programmed a script for it, both Rock and Lily would have been whistling innocently as they did so.

It would seem at that point we had finally gotten the attention of the module’s Admins, as a rather simple question was suddenly broadcast across the entire server.

“WHO LET A FLESH GOLEM IN THE TAVERN?!!”

It was at that moment where G and I decided that it would be a good time to call it a night. And thus we logged off of the server, leaving behind the horror of the Flesh Golem, violently slaying mortal noobs in the tavern within the Town Built in the Worst Location Ever. There was a lesson to be learned from all of this, but G and I were too busy laughing to figure out what it was.

But we mustn't forget the fallen...