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Trip's Life (Recent episodes)

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2020-10-17:  "unfair opinions" by marithlizard
2020-07-24:  "Re: Martha Wells story" by Trip
2020-07-24:  "Martha Wells story" by marithlizard
2020-07-06:  "Monday 7/6 what even are  dates" by marithlizard
2020-07-09:  "Thursday 7/8" by marithlizard

13 October 2019 - Sunday

09-13:00 Princess World! I knew nothing about this game, but it sounded good and also had room for another player!

I was a little worried because the GM and all the other players were women and at least two of them trans (unless there's another way to take comments like "my parents used to think they only had sons"), but no one gave me a hairy enough eyeball that I noticed, so I guess it was okay? Probably?

Anyway, we had all five of the playbooks from the current beta version of the game:

  • Harvestbell the Fairy Princess
  • Princes Prism Sundown, the Skateboard Princess from the Digital Realm
  • Captain Princess Ruby, the Pirate Princess
  • Princess Anastasia, the immortal Proper Princess
  • Xeda, Explorer Princess, the Space Princess, here to appreciate Earth's diverse flora and fauna

I was Captain Princess Ruby, the Pirate Princess! My hat was inherited from my mother, the Pirate Queen! My coat was made from the hide of the first sea serpent I slew! My harpoon was never far from my hand! Nobody could stop me! I had two threads from the Proper Princess, because I told her where a treasure that had been stolen from her family was hidden, and two threads from the Skateboard Princess because I saw her fall when the viruses invaded her digital realm. I gave two threads to the Fairy Princess because she'd sailed me (once not even as a stowaway) and one to the Proper Princess because I had stolen something from her (her heart, though Ruby didn't know it).

The Princess Council had many problems to deal with, including droughts, hurricanes, necromancers with bone towers, low bandwidth, and agitated capybara people ("do capybaras even have an 'agitated' setting?"), but when the Weaver threw in "the Maiden of the Moon is unhappy", we decided to address that first. The Moon affects tides, so it must affect weather and such (as was said several times during the game, "that's just science!"), and that way we could clear up many problems at once. The Space Princess took us there in her Even Bigger Rocket, but the signs were badly placed or something, because we ended up on the dark side of the Moon, with a werewolf who didn't like visitors because he had mild social anxiety. There was some blustering on both sides but eventually we just parked our flying saucer somewhere else. We were still on the dark side of the moon, so the Fairy Princess had to stay close to the Skateboard Princess to get enough light from her LED jacket to photosynthesize an atmosphere for us. ("That's just science!")

From there, we hitched a ride with mouse truckers hauling cheese through the express tunnel to the light side of the moon, caused a commotion in the city of lunar animals, argued with an officious ferret cop, stuffed the Maiden of the Moon's chameleon butler into the Skateboard Princess's pocket when he wouldn't let us in, and climbed a very tall staircase. The Proper Princess was lagging behind due to her modest skirts, so Ruby ran back down and carried her the rest of the way up, completely unaware of the effect she was having on her. Finally, we talked our way in to the dark room where the Maiden of the Moon was lurking and found out that she was hiding because her girlfriend had dumped her.

Montage scene of cheering up the Maiden of the Moon by magic tricks (Fairy Princess), trash-talking her ex (Skateboard Princess), inducting her into the Princess Council (Proper Princess), and flirting with her (Pirate Princess). Hurray!

We only made like half a dozen rolls the whole session, so the mechanics didn't get a workout, but that was fine. We had a lot of fun anyway. In fact, I think this game was the most fun of the five I played in. It wasn't serious or intense, but that's fine. I'm not a serious or intense kind of person, really. I wonder if I could run Princess World next year?

End of the con! Even on Sunday, travelling back during the afternoon was fairly efficient and I got home and fell over in a slimy heap.

So what did I think of Big Bad Con? I think it was great, and definitely plan to go again next year! Apparently this year we completely filled the space in the traditional hotel, and all other spaces are more expensive, so I don't know exactly what will happen next year, but I am pretty sure the con will still happen.

Next year, if the schedule is the same, I will stay an extra night in the hotel so that I can game on Sunday afternoon and go home Monday morning and not die.

I was a little disappointed that the dealer's room didn't have more than I wanted to buy, but really that's my fault for having already bought everything.

Carl and the people he knows wanted to go to barbecue every night, which is not ideal, but there are many other tasty foods within walking distance of the hotel, and even more within complimentary hotel shuttle distance, so it need not always be that way.

But what about the games I played? I have thoughts!

Dungeon World (GM): I have run DW before, and people even enjoyed it, but I think that I have finally done it somewhat correctly. Map with blanks, fantastical world, etc. I didn't use fronts/grim portents in these games because they were so short, and I haven't ever done followers, but the things I did use I think I got right. Except ranges in combat, maybe. Also, using miniatures or meeples to illustrate battles is good.

Likelihood of my running this game again next year: high.

DIE: I'm sure having to pack the entire frame story and campaign into one four-hour con slot did not show this game to its best advantage, but I'm not as excited about this game as I thought I would be. Maybe it's that I never experienced a long-running campaign world until I got to college and I'm still gaming with some of those people, so I don't have the feels for the getting together again after many years. Maybe it's that I haven't watched all 46 seasons of Arrested Development or otherwise immersed myself in media where all the plot and humor comes from every character being terrible and dysfunctional. Or maybe I just don't know how to make a realistic character. Whatever the case, I didn't get into the emotional drama as much as other people seemed to. I'm also dubious about the system, since it seems to result in everyone being mortally wounded multiple times per battle, or maybe one person being untouched.

Likelihood of my playing this game in short form again: low.

Likelihood of my playing this game properly: moderate.

BFF!: Apparently I can't play kids. Or, again, maybe I just can't make realistic characters. I didn't have any great ideas for scenes, and I didn't get picked for many scenes because my character didn't have enough hooks.

Likelihood of my playing this game again: I mean, I would if someone asked.

Royal Blood: This game only tells one story, but it does it well. I tried to be clever with the junk magic and ended up too abstract to ever come up with good descriptions, but I will know better next time.

Likelihood of my playing this game again: high.

Spire: It's about elves and oppression! And although it's not Forged in the Dark, it's clearly a near cousin. The setting might be a little too well defined, but I'm sure it would be fine to pick and choose from the huge pile of fantastic weirdness rather than making everyone memorize all of it.

Likelihood of my playing this game again: high.

Princess World: This game is the general case of She-Ra, yet somehow I did not play Catra! I did play a pirate, though, so that was good. There are only five playbooks right now, but there are more on the creator's Patreon, and he plans to Kickstart an expanded version with art and stuff next spring.

Likelihood of my playing this game again: high.

Likelihood of my running this game next year: high.


    The Good Place 4.3: Are things going well? But then... OMINOUS FINAL SCENE! Shirobako 1: Okay, so making anime involves a lot of running around. I knew that. The drag races are a surprise, though.

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12 October 2019 - Saturday

9-13:00 Dungeon World, run by same bozo as yesterday!

Again one person just never showed up, but Liralen and Jet (wait, when did Jet become a grownup? what even is time?) made it, along with a couple of people I didn't previously know.

  • Dr Theward Savage, MD (Xander), British imperialist barbarian, born on safari and eager to publish while the wogs perish.
  • Prof Jadaia (Liralen), the wizard who invented the Astral Resonance Tuner for SCIENCE!
  • Allestra (Jet), moon-worshipping paladin.
  • Trixie (Andy), halfling thief determined to get rich selling moon rocks.

It was interesting to see how many of the same choices the completely disjoint sets of players made: having the wizard in the group, the ART being a massive installation in the wizard's tower that made a portal, going to the Moon to rescue someone (in this case, a grad student who had from the locked Astral Tuning lab overnight), heading for Copernicus (although this time, they said that the crater wasn't there before they first tested the ART and now it was locked to that spot).

I had better pacing this time, and just had the Lunars kidnap the wizard and try to use telepathy crystal arrays on her to open communications, which turned out to be the right approach with this group. They were all for talking with the locals and explaining the benefits of being colonized. Dr Savage and Allestra even let the Lunars' minds grow together with theirs, which certainly wouldn't ever cause problems. ("This system of exchanging notional tokens for goods and services seems like it would inevitably lead to perverse incentives.") But they didn't get distracted (much) from trying to rescue the grad student from the clutches of the Reassembled. This time I remembered to mention the poison from the Reassembled, and that was enough to have Dr Savage cutting open Allestra's chest and pressing her lungs to the crystal ground while Prof Jadaia poured on their entire supply of healing potions. I didn't even have to have any mechanical effects! Fortunately, instead of waiting to be rescued, Trixie was busy luring her captors into a landslide-based trap.

The grad student had to be killed, unfortunately, but at least then he was accounted for. The PCs went back to tell the Lunars about what happened instead of immediately running for the portal, so I had them finally get to the portal only to find it being occupied and fortified by the Reassembled. Roll credits!

This time we did use some of my office supplies, although not the easel pad, and many of the cider donuts were eaten, so that was good. When we needed to show what was going on, Trixie's player broke out some little wooden meeples, which was brilliant. I need to get some of those!

13-14:00 Dealer's room, picked up only a few things this time, but did get my copy of BFF from the Kickstarter all those ages ago.

14-18:00 Royal Blood, also run by Carl.

Royal Blood is a Tarot-based magical heist game. The PCs are Royals, half-human and half-idea, but wanting to be more, and this is the one night that one of the Major Arcana is vulnerable to having their power stolen. You have from sunset to sunrise (plus flashbacks) to displace them from the Tarot.

You can redraw, but we all took what the deck gave us for characters.

  • Effervesence, "Ves" (Kona), Prince of Cups, icy manipulator.
  • Helen (me), King of Cups, passionate seductress.
  • Lady Chaos (Pedro), Queen of Wands, ass-kicker.
  • Knight of the Mountain (Jet), Knight of Wands, action hero, the least magical of us and (as it turned out) the only one with a moral compass

We also took the first draw for our target, the Star. Effortless mastery, glamour, glory, we hates them! We hates them so much! (Also we determined a reason why each of us hated the specifically, like dissing Lady Chaos's beloved dive bar.) Then the GM drew for the four obstacles that we would have to overcome before we could confront the Star directly: a skilled minion (the best PA in the world), a loyal bodyguard, vast wealth (embodied in the best security team in the world), and a rival band of Royals also trying to steal the Star's power (which we decided was the Princesses of the four suits).

The way Royal Blood works is that you apportion N×3 tokens among the four obstacles, and then have to go back and remove them, so you get to pick which one(s) you want to see most of in play. Some instinct toward symmetry made us put three on each, but really we should have put most of them on the Four Princesses, because what's more interesting than Carl NPCs? But it worked out in the end, because the Princesses were going after the Star for the hell of it, and were content to try again later. (That will be next year, when Carl does the Four Princess Run as his Royal Blood game for BBC 2020.) We found out what kind of person Helen was when she was willing to hospitalize an innocent bystander to get the Star's PA out of the way, but the Knight of the Mountain wasn't willing to shoot someone in the head, which is a definite moral victory.

It came right down to the wire (we got some good draws at the very end, and the next few cards after that were... not so good), but the Star went down, and the Burning Heart replaced them in every Tarot deck in the world.

That was pretty intense, even though we had very little Tarot lore among the five of us. I would play Royal Blood again, if I had serious gamers and a 4-5 hour slot.

18-20:00 Apparently barbecue is the theme for this year's BigBadCon, or maybe just this year's Carl, because we went to Sauced. The house special is "burnt ends" which are not actually burnt but like twice-spiced and twice-barbecued brisket cubes, and they aren't always available, so I felt that I should have them even though I normally eschew mammal meat. My mouth liked them a lot, but later my stomach was sad that I had not packed antacid.

20:00 Pokemon Go tried to make me late, but couldn't quite! I got into Spire, a game I own but have never played. It is about elves and oppression: the PCs are drow living in a fantastical mile-tall city which has been conquered by the "high elves" with their creepy masks and draconian cruelty and daylight gods, and are all members of a revolutionary/occult cell that worships one of the illegal aspects of the drow triple goddess and plots the overthrow of the oppressive aelfir.

I don't remember any of the names, but this pregen cell had

  • Idol: enchanting art (ours was a dancer), with the power to start a party anywhere.
  • Firebrand: full-time revolutionary soapboxer and fighter against The Aelfir.
  • Knight of the North Docks: more of a knight-themed gangster with an affinity for pubs, but also legally entitled to carry (if not use) a big honking lance.
  • Inksmith - detective pulp writer, with the occult ability to make reality more like pulp novels.
  • Mask: skilled at passing in masked aelfir society, and disguise in general.
  • Azurite: priest of wealth and commerce.

Our assigment from our handler was to steal something from a particular aelfir and make sure she never reported it stolen to anyone. In theory we could have done something clever to deal with the second requirement, but Jenora Ride-The-White-Lotus was busy "improving" the traditional drow art of blood opera by murdering drow on stage, so we were all fine with treating it as a straight hit. We came up with a multi-pronged plan that used everyone's talents whether needed or not, and somehow it worked. The Mask got everyone lots of bonuses, the Azurite procured a duplicate of the object, the Idol made the switch and also got everyone in the theater sloshed, the Knight (me) got cast as someone in the climactic battle, the Firebrand turned off the lights at the crucial moment so a tragic accident could happen, and the Inksmith had a visit with the costar our target had recently dumped, leaving behind a gun that the costar used to shoot the target dead (and a good thing too, we would have had a lot of trouble taking her down on our own, stupid aelfir). Despite the complexity of the plan, we finished by 23:00, which none of the players were really sad about.

With pregen characters and a short session, we didn't get into even a fraction of the occult weirdness that is Spire.

23-24:00 Getting to bed early is not a terrible thing, even if it seems like a waste of precious con hours. I didn't have anything scheduled for tomorrow afternoon because everything was full, but now there's an opening in a She-Ra game (using Savage Worlds, which I don't know but could learn). It's very tempting, but according to Google, if I try leaving Walnut Creek after 18:00, I will end up having to walk home from the San Jose train station carrying all my stuff in the middle of the night and probably die, so apparently I should just go home after the morning gaming. Next year, I will stay over Sunday night and go home Monday morning, which will mean both an extra game and much nicer travel.

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11 October 2019 - Friday

09-13:00 Dungeon World, run by some bozo!

One person didn't show, but it's not like they came in, saw what was happening, and left, so whatever. Life happens. The fewer people to witness my shame, the better, right?

Our PCs were

  • Fender Fink, a very sketchy thief with an intermittent accent who finds it advisable to get out of town again.
  • Ignis, an enby immolator who has never burned a moon.
  • Gerda, a cleric of the moon goddress Lunificence, who rules over mysteries and secret knowledge, along as theological advisor. She believes that the Moon is made of crystallized hopes and prayers.
  • Halwyn, a wizard with a tragic moon-related past. It turned out that all Halwyn's wizard colleagues had disappeared at some point in the past while researching moon magic, and ever since then he had been burned by moonlight. Determined to face his nemesis head-on, and maybe rescue his old teachers and friends, he obsessed over reaching the Moon until finally the Astral Resonance Tuner was complete.

When I showed them an unlabeled map of the Moon and asked where they wanted to end up, they agreed unanimously that Copernicus crater was it. (Gerda said it was a meeting place for astral travellers.) Ignis and Halwyr powered up the portal, and through they went!

Naturally I worried about not having prepared enough, and also about having prepared too much, but it turns out that for a four-hour con run, my collection of images and fragments about the Moon and its inhabitants was just about right. I was able to give enough description of the mountains of white crystals and craters full of mirrored liquid and floating disks with tentacles underneath that the PCs could get traction and start causing trouble almost immediately, and once they made contact with the Lunars, I was able to provide ominous hints about the Red Mind that came crashing down from the sky and its habit of remaking people into violent monsters. I hadn't consciously planned it, but having strange creatures or maybe even a whole world within/through/virtualized on the crystals gave me a good excuse for what I had planned not matching what the moon-worshipping PC believed should be there.

I had been hoping to have a confrontation with the Red Mind, but there just was not enough time, so we had to make confronting Halwyr's mentor (as possessed by the Red Mind) the climax. I did waste some time having them taste the sand trying to communicate with the first Lunar, but even without that I don't think there would have been time.

Other mistakes were made! I vastly overestimated the amount of munchies a gaming table can eat, so I had to take almost all of them back. BigBadCon provided character name/pronoun tents so I didn't need the index cards I brought all the way from San Jose, or indeed any of the office supplies, including the big easel pad that was such a pain to transport. Someone took photos of us. But overall it was not as traumatic as it could have been.

13-14:00 Decompressed in my room. Ate leftover donuts.

14-18:00 DIE run by Carl!

DIE is complicated because you have to make (terrible, or at least dysfunctional) people who are gamers, and also the characters they will play. We ended up with:

  • Bear (Jon), screenwriter about to launch the hot new show on Disney+, playing Tristan the Godbinder
  • Roger (Aaron), prescription drug abuser, playing Halfar the Neo
  • Fletcher (John), seedy private eye, playing Fletch the Trust Knight
  • Brock (me), whose football and schooling ended up going nowhere, playing Caerleon the Fool
  • April (Carl), Fletcher's little sister, playing May the Master

Once, all of them played in the Dragonia campaign, run by Bear, where dragons were kings and they were the loyal knights of King Thelonius when he was a runt trying to gain his throne, but then high school ended and life ensued (with a lot of sordid adultery and overmedication and general failure). Now Bear is about to have the premiere of the show he has developed, Dragonia, and April has gotten everyone back together for one last session. It's using the game that those kids from England were playing when they vanished, but what gamer wouldn't go for that?

Magic dice! Now everyone is in Dragonia, being attacked by horrible dragon-monsters! Fortunately everyone gets their dice and powers before being killed, although almost everyone goes to the "will die at end of scene" level of damage at some point. Once that gets sorted out, Tristan and Halfar learn form their powers that the world will end in 42 hours unless all surviving people from Earth unanimously agree to either stay in Dragonia forever or return to Earth. May has hidden out in a forbidden cave at least two days' travel away, but Halfar can overclock his teleporter with all the rest of the fair gold they got from the first fight.

Volcanic labyrinth, I roll about a million dice using the Fool's special power and Brock leads them right to May, there's some combat with dragon guards and the wicked vizier, and then they have to talk down May. All of Dragonia was her ideas, Bear just appropriated them to run the game and then passed them all off as his own to make the TV show, and she is understandably resentful. Plus, Dragonia is awesome! Brock is good with staying, since his life is a wreck, but Roger and Bear have children back on Earth, and Brock is not okay with killing May or anyone else in order to stay. Finally Bear offers April the co-creator credit that she always deserved, and she agrees to return to Earth.

DIE is supposed to play out over at least a few sessions, so one con timeslot wasn't enough for the full experience, but I think we got the idea. More time for people's motivations to drive them to murder would help a lot.

18-20:00 Walked with Carl and Liralen and a bunch of people Carl knows to Kinder's, which fortunately had barbecue chicken as well as other kinds of meat.

20-00:00 BFF, run by one of the creators!

BFF is a very tactile game, with lots of heavy cardboard pieces. You get to pick one of about twenty standees to be your character, and then put charms on your charm bracelet to signify things that someone likes about your character. It is also very heartwarming, and doesn't even have a concept of failure: everyone takes turns framing scenes at some location within the larger place/situation (summer camp, the mall, etc) with whatever other characters they like, playing a card with a goal like "ask about a crush" or "make a promise together", and then RPing the scene until it's done. Every larger location ("hangout") has some rule for determining when you have to stop setting scenes there, then you move on to the next. When you feel like stopping, you're done.

All of the players were adult guys, so I feel like we were probably missing something, but I think we had fun anyway. We did Summer Camp (before every scene, choose to advance the day marker until you run out of days at camp), sleepover in Tiffy's Room (move the decibel meter up or down depending on how noisy you think you were in the scene, until Tiffy's parents come and make you go to sleep), and Lulu's Basement (roll 1d6 to find out what Lulu's dad is doing during this scene, and if you roll something he already did, he makes you all go home). I was playing Tiffy, the girl in an eggplant costume, so I was quite surprised to find out that her room had a telescope, a shrine to Wandy (apparently some kind of pop star?), and cereal dispensers loaded with strange things from Japan. Someone managed to poison herself with shrimp chip cereal and chocolate milk.

I think this game might be too heartwarming for me, but I'm glad I tried it.

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10 October 2019 - Thursday


Despite sleeping in stupidly again, I did make it to the T-Mobile to finish getting my number transferred. (It finally worked when we inconvenienced a manager on their side.) Then I hustled over to Office Despot to get all the character sheets and basic move sheets printed on nice cardstock and buy lots of pens and pencils and markers and index cards and easel pads Just In Case and made it home to finish packing and set out for Walnut Creek.

Four transfers and a hike later, I made it to Big Bad Con, where I found and then promptly lost Liralen.

I never had the gumption to pick a random person and say hi, even though it would probably have been fine, so I ended up watching the boffer combat lessons for a while until someone who didn't have a sparring partner pulled me in. No one cared that I hadn't signed up! It was fun, but I am super-terrible at all forms of melee combat, so I could only reliably beat the little girl.

Tomorrow I have to run Dungeon World! Gaaaaaaugh!

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Previously in Trip's Life

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