Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gen Con Indy 2012 -- Part IV

Meanwhile in the dealers' room
I'd dug my heels into the floor as hard as I could to slow the passing of time. Saturday already, and I felt I hadn't scratched the surface. This morning, I was to participate to a seminar on adding color to game worlds through creative writing. That was even worse. If felt like good old times all over again, and that seminar ended in a blink of an eye.

Mage-Something demo game
George Strayton was the moderator. George is a screenwriter for Universal Studios and a really nice fellow. I was floored when he told me he was and still is a fan of Mystara. How cool is that? During this event, one of the panelists whose name I shall not divulge demonstrated strong opinions about what in writing was “right” or “wrong.” Shades of gray? Nah. Who needs 'em? The dissent was about whether to include narratives in game material, which was promptly referred as fluff vs. crunch. I didn't like that. I qualified it as color vs. dullness. And since this seminar was about adding color, you get the picture.  The other guy thought that such color was utterly wrong and superfluous in game design. He favored cramming more rules material in that space.

It never ends
I argued that color material wasn't wrong as long as it remained tasteful, imaginative, to the point, and it illustrated directly applications of the game mechanics. There is a market for both styles of writing. I now use my blog to have the final word: “Vive la Différence!” I'm all for tolerance, see? Disagree with me and I'll rip out your guts, you misbegotten pig-dog, and gag you with my Gazetteer. Colorful enough for ya?
Fortune & Glory

After the seminar, I connected with David Olsen (see the Mystara Reborn page on Facebook.) He and I had a talk that went on nearly an hour. Never a dull moment when talking about Mystara and old TSR!  Now, if more Mystara fans show up at Gen Con, I promised to run a game just for them.  Gotta show up though.

Later on, I had two more events scheduled for Battletech. One was the “Bootcamp,” necessary since I'd never played the game before, followed in the afternoon with “The Grinder.” The latter was an on-going combat arena. You'd start with a light mech, and if you got blown up, you'd pick another, heavier machine, and so on. Of course, I played this for a couple of hours and only made it to my second tier mech. There were another two or three tiers above that, inferring you'd have to play session after session (days?) to get totally eliminated.

This is how it went. I entered the arena, a wide-open expanse with rock outcroppings and small forests affecting line of sight. A real “baddie” stood nearby who'd played the game since much earlier that day and ran a humongous mech with guns and stuff out the wazoo. In a blaze of flames and smoke (sorry for the colorful fluff) I ignited my rockets to jump into a forest. Not that I'd thought that would save my worthless steel-clad patoot, but a gosh-darn +1 bonus is better than no bonus at all. Gears whirring and grinding, I rotated my top half and brought my ordnance to bear.

An entire city made of cardboard elements
The computer's impersonal female voice informed me all weapons were locked as the glowing crosshairs at the center of dashboard centered on the target. Ranging resolutions flashed green. Heat sensors and energy readings were all “go.” Ignoring my impending doom, I squeezed the triggers in rapid succession unhindered by the soft synthetic leather of my gloves. There was no time for hesitation. The muffled rumble of missiles soaring from their launch tubes and the hiss of lasers barely penetrated the busy cockpit. The smell of brand new electronics heating up for the first time pervaded its claustrophobic atmosphere. Displays flickered. The mech recoiled slightly as branches and tree trunks were blown asunder in the firing line.

Another fancy-looking demo display
I'd fired all I had at the big, bad, mech aiming at me. Forget about accumulating heat points. I didn't think my Bruce-piloted "Jenner" would survive long enough for heat to matter one bit. A fine shot indeed. All my attacks missed pitifully. Damn budget cuts! They stuck me with one of those cheap, knock-off mechs! I should have known. The target fired back, and I took most of its attacks directly to the head. Big-Bang. No armor left up there. I'm feeling dizzy. Kapow-Boom-Crit-Crit-Rattle-Fizz-Pop. . . Okay, he killed me dead. Quick! Run to the other table and get another mech.

Hah! We'll see now! The guy who'd just blown up my wimpy Jenner-Yugo still towered twice my size and nearly untouched. But he had to leave and gave me some pointers on dealing with my fast-approaching neighbor. The other player enjoyed the same machine as mine, although he'd been running and his internal heat was building up. I opened up on him with much of what I had, and lucked out big-time. My shots blew away one of his legs, a few gyros, and some other inglorious innards. The moderator gave me a few more pointers and suggested I keep dishing out as much damage as I could, since heavier mechs are hard to “kill.” Besides another bandit was approaching.

How about some gear to carry the miniatures?
So picture this. I sprinted to the prone enemy, gleefully fired rockets, and blasted him at point-blank range with medium lasers while he lay on the ground. Battletech made chivalry obsolete a long time ago. Shameless technological crassness now rules! And then, for good measure, I rammed my twelve-ton steel foot-landing-gear-whatever into his chest. Take that! Ahh, the sweet sound of crumpled metal early in the morning! Although leaking oil badly, he still wasn't dead, far from it. He managed to fire a rocket and laser at me, propping himself up with an arm. Meanwhile, the other bandit was shooting at both him and me.

But once again, the game neared its end. Good sport, the downed player elected to eject from his wrecked machine to give me the kill. What a fine fellow! I raised my Snapple in his honor. I had the better stuff!

New mission instructions flashed on my dashboard: Janet to tactical mech operator. . . rendez-vous at HQ for dinner out in Indianapolis, on the double. I left the bemused attendant at the hotel's valet parking put away the mech, connected with Janet, and proceeded toward our selected dinner haunt. A motorcycle convention was taking place in Indy that weekend, so the streets were very, very noisy with engines roaring and rock bands playing here and there. Terraces outside restaurants and pubs were packed with bikers, Gen Con gamers, and a few odd tourists lost somewhere in the middle.

At the Claddagh Irish Pub
At last, Janet and I reached the Claddagh; as the name indicates: an Irish pub. Love at first sight. Love at first sip, too. Not being much of drinker, I opted for a light beer and ordered a Harp lager. I'll have a pint next time. Janet ordered a Fourteen Hands Chard' vintage which turned out to be an excellent choice as well. For dinner, she had a delicious pork loin and I, plain simple fish and chips. All of that was terrific and came at a decent price, although the kitchen forgot our appetizer, a Scotch Egg.

The manager offered to serve it anyway, at no charge. It turned out, that was a very good decision. I loved the thing—a warm hard-boiled egg encased in banger meat, breaded, fried and served with a very tasty sweet sauce and mustard-mayo. Dessert came in the form of a bread pudding to die for, tender and moist, with Sabayon sauce and whipped cream. We're going back there next year.

Janet offering a tantalizing bite
Not much later, we rejoined once more our friends from the Writers' Symposium, at the Marriott's bar. We promptly took over half that place, stealing coffee tables chairs and couches to form a big, round camp. It was an occasion to take more pictures. I didn't want to use the flash, but of course, several pictures turned out fuzzy as a result. Mea culpa. 

A great convention was nearing an end, already. Tomorrow would go just as fast or faster.  Before I post another series of random pictures from the convention, I'll show the illustrious members of the symposium still hard at work after a fruitful convention.  My apologies for those I missed.  I'm still hunting for all the names.

Patrick Tomlinson, foreground

Kelly Swails & Brad Bealieu
Steven Saus, standing
Marc Tassin, right
Don Bingle
Janet Deaver-Pack
From Left: Steven Saus, Elizabeth Vaughan, Patrick Tomlinson
From left: John Helfers, Kerry Hughes

Back to the dealers' room:  I forget what this demo was.
Swords and helmets
Leather goods, none too bad
Costumes galore
Neat stuff.  I wanted the mask.
More swords and weapons
No idea.  Some sort of mechanical warrior
A drow?

That's gotta be Lolth
Notice the stick-on, self-adhesive AC +10 bra
My Normandie-Niemen Russian Yak fighter at the demo area
Wings of Glory demo area (South is for WWII, North for WWI)

Got spare Magic cards?  Build something cool!
Came back later, and someone had built a huge tower, 8-10 feet high.

Click HERE to continue. . .


  1. ::Trying to post again since I don't intend to by anonymous, but apparently, I have no choice::

    A pleasure talking to you Bruce. Thanks for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to chat with me. We'll have to do it again some time.

    ::In support of fluff::
    Oh, and that guy on the panel was totally wrong :)

    -David Olsen

    1. Hi David! I'm glad you agree with me. You aren't the only one.

      I'm not sure what's up with Google not recognizing registered users. Herve Musseau, a regular on this blog, has the same problem.

  2. Hi Bruce,

    I'll chime in with you and David in the whole fluff vs crunch debate. Rules are great... but if the designer of those rules can't even come up with some colorful descriptions/scenarios to wrap them in, then what's the point?

    Also not sure about your dietary restrictions (if any) but one of my favorite places to go in Indy was a steak house called St Elmos (they also served up a pretty amazing shrimp cocktail ;) ).

    1. This guy's point was that players create color by applying the game's mechanics. Mine was that in-text color helps illustrate mechanics in the first place so players can better create their own feel for the game, but also that well-calibrated narratives have an entertaining value of their own. A mental image at the onset can go a long way to get people started in the right direction. Either way both styles exist with successful results, including either extremes, so there's room for both approaches.

      Re. restaurants around Indy's convention center -- yeah, there are plenty of good places to haunt!


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