Category Archives: Con Season

Empress of the Geeks Day and WorldCon 1984

Mother’s Day Story

Every year for the past many years, I have for Mother’s Day told a story about my mother, Empress of the Geeks. Most stories I have told more than once. About how she was a GM for a group of young boys not because she was a fan of RPGs, but because we wanted to play and no one else would run a game for us. About how she used those opportunities to sneak in educational missions at the end of each game, making us look up a definition of democracy to negotiate with lizardman tribes, or have to know all the States and their capitals to represent researching into ancient kingdoms.

Or the story of her saving Christmas by figuring out what to give an entitles little brat (that’s me) who refused to tell her what he wanted for Christmas other than “adventure.”

But I don’t think I have ever told the story of my mother and my first WorldCon.

I was introduced to D&D in 1982, and by 1984 I was buying D&D, Gamma World, Tunnels and Trolls, Arduin Grimoire, Boot Hill, Star Frontiers, Dragon Magazine, miniatures, dice, and so on. I was hooked.

My mother took me to my first science fiction convention in 1983. It was a tiny affair in my home town of Norman, OK. I’d guess attendance was 500 or so. It was a one-shot con that never took off.

And then in 1984, she took me to WorldCon, in Anaheim, CA. My sister didn’t want to go. My father didn’t want to go. But I did, and my mother did, and she set a financial goal for me (to be met mostly mowing yards, mostly for my grandparents) early in that year. I met it, and she booked flight and hotel rooms… and gave me half the money back as spending cash.

She set down ground rules… but they were amazingly lax given my age. And then she… trusted me.

This was a 4-day convention. Cell phones were not an option. I was barely a teenager. And she trusted me to set my own schedule, get my own meals, handle my money, and not do anything stupid.

Well, not do anything TOO stupid.

I listened to panels with Gordon R. Dickson and Jerry Pournelle. I shared a bus-ride to Disneyland with C.J. Cherryh. I saw Robert Heinlein. And I gamed.

Oh lord, how I gamed.

Homebrews. Boardgames. Card games. Miniature games. As I recall, my first introduction to Car Wars, Warhammer 40k, and Champions. I had my first TPK. I had my first game that ran past midnight. I played a Gamma World game where the PCs ended up going back in time, coming to the convention center, finding the room we were playing in and, under a cloak field, debated whether nor not to kill us, the players and GM, to prevent us from thinking up their cursed world—WHILE we roleplayed that event. And I won’t lie… at that age, with that much Mountain Dew in my system, at 2am… the idea my own PC was arguing to kill me freaked me right now.

I ordered my first steak dinner by myself. I took my first taxi ride by myself. I went to the release party for the last issue of the first series of ElfQuest comics, got into a drum circle, met an older girl, and had a puppy love weekend con romance with her as she made appointments to hit specific games with me.

I saw my mother every day, at least once. She made sure. She asked how I was doing, checked that I had money for food, made me tell her my approximate plans. We had a legal pad in the hotel room, and we each wrote down where we were going… at least roughly.

The freedom had a major impact on my ability to trust myself, and it all came from the fact my mother trusted me. But her main accomplishment in this regard wasn’t that weekend.

It came in the weeks and years before, when she raised me to be a child she felt she could trust. I didn’t make that easy. And I know she must have had reservations. In retrospect, I can see some of the slack-giving moments that came before, and at, that con.

And while yes, I did some stupid things, I survived just fine.

And it was a major watershed in my life.

And she made it all possible. She knew when to hold my hand… and when to let go.

Thanks, Mom.

Patreon

My mother’s also pretty pragmatic. She absolutely won’t mind that I use a story about her to boost my patreon, where you can support me in writing these stories, and my other geekly productions.

My One Gygax Story

My one and only Gygax story.

Overheard at Gen Con 2010

I can’t do an overheard at Gen Con this year, because I didn’t go.
So, reruns!

Here’s my list of things overheard at Gen Con 2010!

Overheard At Gen Con

One of the amazing things about Gen Con is being completely and constantly surrounded by gaming culture. Restaurants offer you meals with Apocalypse Ale or Black Pudding for dessert. Random people in the elevator opine on the likely ENnie winners. And everywhere you go, people are talking games and geek culture. Every year, I hear snippets of conversations I wouldn’t hear anywhere else, and I do my best to write them down. It often takes a few minutes to get pen to paper, so these may be more paraphrased than quoted, but the gist is intact. (I’d say the intent is clear, but ofttimes I have no idea what the intent was!)

These were al jotted down on my Guest of Honor schedule. In no particular order, Things Overheard at Gen Con.

“My waitress just gave me the bird.”

“It was the most heroic death I’ve ever been cheated out of.”

“If you can’t get rich with a time machine and Orac, you just aren’t trying.”

“Yes, I’m a girl. Yes, I know how to play. No, you can’t touch them.”

Voice 1. “Can my paladin be weary of all humanity, and believe the gods are cruel assholes perpetuating a lame joke?”
Voice 2. “Man, just get the divorce already.”

“You boys need to be taking that plastic weapon stuff to your mother. If you need dice or minis I’ll buy you some, but I ain’t got no money for larping crap.”

“The wish has now been vetted by twenty people, and is more than twelve pages long.”

Voice 1. “The problem is, none of the campaign’s female NPCs are believable.”
Voice 2. “Wait, isn’t your GM a woman?”
Voice 1. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Next year, we need to try the Sailor Shoes on before we hit the costume contest.”

“The DM said we could use any sources, so I went all Mongoose on his game.”

“It’s a lot like playing at home, but with less bugs and poop.”

“If I can’t cheat, I don’t play.”

“If that next card is what I think it is, I will eat your face. With ketchup.”

Voice 1. “Is it savagaed?”
Voice 2. “Very savagaed.”
Voice 1. “The most savage?”
Voice 2. “Well… it’s pretty dang savage.”
Voice 3. “What the hell are you two talking about?!”

“Oh my god, your napkin is yellow. Ours are all white. You’ve been marked for death!”

“Satanism must not be as profitable as it was in the 90s.”

“If I put it in my cleavage, do you think he’ll sign my dice?”

“What’s the over/under on being eaten by rats?”

“If your gnome isn’t a spellcaster, you’re doing it wrong.”

“The GM didn’t cry until the second hour. With us, that’s a record!”

GOLEM CHESS (1.1)

Since almost no game design is perfect with just ten minutes of work:

GOLEM CHESS (1.1)

A chess variant with 20 minutes of design time. (Traditionally played on a black-and-purple checkerboard)

Each side has one golem, one hero, and one wizard. These are determined randomly, and have special powers. Other than that, the game is played as normal chess.

Each player should do the following:

Number you rooks, bishops, and knights each, 1-2.

Create a deck of cards (index cards work). This is your “court deck” that has two rook cards (1, 2), two bishop cards (1, 2) and two knight cards (1, 2).

Before play, shuffle the court deck. Then, without looking, deal one card each in the golem slot, hero slot, and wizard slot. Remove the remainder of the court deck from play without anyone looking at it.

You may now look at the cards in each slot. Do not reveal them to your opponent.

Golem: The top card in the golem slot determines which of your pieces is a golem. A golem can only be permanently captured by specific opposing pieces. When a golem is captured by most pieces, it is removed temporarily from play. You may, as your entire turn on any turn thereafter, return it to a space on your back row. The space must be one from which no opposing piece can immediately capture the golem, and from which the golem could not capture a piece if it were to move immediately. Also, the golem cannot be palces in a space that would prevent the king from being in check.

A pawn can never permanently capture the golem. The king, queen, and hero automatically permanently capture the golem if they are used to capture it. For any other piece, the golem is captured only temporarily unless a piece of the same type (bishop, knight, or rook) has previously captured it.

Hero: OInce per game, before or after its normal move (or in place of its normal move), a hero may move as a knight. If a hero captures a piece, its turn ends with no further movement. Each time a hero captures an enemy piece, it gains the ability to move as a knight in this way one additional time during the game.

Wizard: A wizard may do do one of the following things during the game.

Fireball: The wizard captures one adjacent enemy piece. This cannot be used to capture the king, and the threat of this ability does not place a king in check. This counts as the wizard’s move.

Polymorph: The wizard becomes any one normal chess piece, and then moves as that piece. It captures as that piece. After moving (and capturing, if appropriate), the wizard goes back to being its normal piece. This counts as the wizard’s move.

Summon: The wizard summons a pawn into any adjacent space. This counts as the wizard’s move. The pawn can move, capture, and be captured normally (but cannot move two forward on its first move). You must have lost a pawn to use this ability. If the pawn reaches the row that allows it to be promoted, it can only choose to be a bishop, knight, or rook.

IN PLAY

You do not have to reveal that a piece is a golem, hero, or wizard until it does something a normal piece of the same type could not. When a pawn is promoted, it cannot choose to be a golem, hero, or wizard.

Golem Chess!

Since a bunch of people asked me for the rules after an offhanded comment this morning:

GOLEM CHESS

A chess variant written on a 10-minute break. (Traditionally played on a black-and-purple checkerboard)

Each side has one golem, one noble, and one wizard. These are determined randomly, and have special powers. Other than that, the game is played as normal chess.

Each player should do the following:

Number you pawns 1-8, your rooks, bishops, and knights 1-2.

Create a deck of cards that has 8 pawn cards, numbered 1-8. (Index cards work)
Create a second “court deck” that has two rook cards (1, 2), two bishop cards (1, 2) two knight cards (1, 2) and a queen card.

Before play, shuffle the pawn deck. Place one pawn card at random in your court deck. Do not look at which pawn it is. Remove the remainder of the pawn deck from play without anyone looking at it.

Shuffle the court deck. Then, without looking, deal two cards in the golem slot (the one on bottom upside-down), one in the noble slot, and one in the wizard slot. Remove the remainder of the court deck from play without anyone looking at it.

You may now look at the cards in each slot. Do not reveal them to your opponent.

Golem: The top card in the golem slot determines which of your pieces is a golem. A golem can only be captured by one specific opposing piece. When any other piece attempts to capture a golem, the piece fails (and shares the same square as the golem until one of the two pieces moves). The first time this happens, the player of the golem must reveal both that this piece is a golem, and which piece can actually take it (by reveals the upside down card in the golem slot). A golem must move into an enemy piece’s space to capture it – it cannot capture a piece that moved into the golem’s space on the opposing piece’s move.

Noble: A noble may move as its normal movement, or as a knight. Each round it can only move one of these two ways.
Exception: If your knight is the noble, it may take two knight moves in a single turn. If its first move captures a piece, it cannot make a second move.

Wizard: A wizard may do each of the following things once per game.

Fireball: The wizard captures one adjacent enemy piece. This cannot be used to capture the king, and the threat of this ability does not place a king in check. This counts as the wizard’s move.

Polymorph: The wizard becomes any one normal chess piece, and then moves as that piece. It captures as that piece. After moving (and capturing, if appropriate), the wizard goes back to being its normal piece. This counts as the wizard’s move.

Summon: The wizard summons a pawn into any adjacent space. This counts as the wizard’s move. The pawn can move, capture, and be captured normally (but cannot move two forward on its first move). You must have lost a pawn to use this ability.

IN PLAY

You do not have to reveal that a piece is a golem, noble, or wizard until it does something a normal piece of the same type could not. When a pawn is promoted, it cannot choose to be a golem, noble, or wizard.

 

 

 

Adventurer-Formal

Quick story, as Gen Con looms.
When I went to interview for a staff job at Wizards of the Coast in 1999 (they flew me from OK to Seattle), I wore a suit. Slacks, dress shirt, tie, jacket, black shoes, the whole 9 yards.
One of the things everyone made VERY clear to me during those interviews was that WotC had a casual atmosphere, and there wasn’t really a dress code at work. I felt overdressed.
OTOH, I a: got the job and b: later heard that another candidate showed up in a fast food uniform. No one ever told me that made a difference… but no one said it didn’t. And one person tad me that the fact I showed up in a suit proved I was taking the job seriously. I have never regretted wearing a suit to that.
When I went to a dinner at GenCon that Sword & Sorcery was having to see who they wanted to work on the EverQuest Tabletop RPG, I wore a polo and jeans. I didn’t feel either overdressed or underdressed, and I got a lot of work from that meeting. I have never regretted wearing a polo to that.
I always recommend looking professional and tidy, and give the impression you take every opportunity professionally and seriously. If you later get told you can dress down, feel free.
But first impression really can count.

My 2016 PaizoCon Schedule!

PaizoCon is coming!

So every year after the con several people IM me and say “we never saw u!! Where were u??”

So if you want to find me this year (perhaps to have me sign things, or buy me a drink, or just chat!), here is the schedule of when to find me, where, and what role I’ll be taking.

Friday, May 27

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Delve! (sadistic GM ready to kill you!)

01:00 PM – 02:00 PM: Writing for RPGs: Getting Your Start (panelist) (Olympic 3)

03:00 PM – 04:00 PM: Game Mastering on the Fly (panelist, with PaizoCon guest Nicolas Logue!) (Olympic 3)

04:00 PM – 05:00 PM: Delve! (sadistic GM ready to kill you!)

05:00 PM – undetermined: Mysteriously Unavailable (host)

Saturday, May 28

01:00 PM – 05:00 PM: Third Annual “Into the Emerald Spire” (Part 5!) (reasonable and creative GM) (Cascade 8)

05:00 PM – 06:00 PM: Delve! (sadistic GM ready to kill you!)

07:00 PM – 11:00 PM: PaizoCon 2016 Preview Banquet (eater) (Grand Ballroom)

Sunday, May 29

09:00 AM – 10:00 AM: Delve! (sadistic GM ready to kill you!)

11:00 AM – 01:00 PM: Pathfinder Compatible Publishers Workshop (panelist) (Olympic 3)

02:00 PM – 03:00 PM: Mysteriously Unavailable (redacted)

05:00 PM – 06:00 PM: Distant Worlds: Pathfinder in Space (panelist) (Olympic 3)

Monday, May 30

09:00 AM – 01:00 PM: Third Annual “Into the Emerald Spire” (Part 6!) (kindly but tired GM) (Olympic 3)

 

I Call BS

It’s gatekeeping elitist narrow-minded BS of the worst sort to cowardly hint that a drive for diversity has caused the Industry Insider program to mysteriously lower its standards and result in a slate of lesser-known designers. And yet, many people are doing so, and some leaders in the industry are winking and elbow-nudging rather than taking a stand and calling BS.
So for the record, claiming diversity was only achieved by lowering standards in the program IS BULLSHIT. Of the highest order.
I was an Industry Insider once, with more than a decade of experience under my belt. Most of the other *PANELISTS* had no fucking clue who I was.
Next time someone makes that claim, I want to grill them about who the people who were in the program over the past decade were, and see how many of them are known, as compared to multiple salaried developers and managers for one of the most popular RPGs in the world, who are on it this year.
The Industry Insider program have ALWAYS had people with a range of experiences and time-in-grade, and it has no lack of people with major credentials in professional gaming.
Claiming otherwise is a sign of the huge fucking problem with recognition in this industry.