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Journal of No. 118

May 28th, 2007

Maxicon @ 03:05 pm

All hail popepat! The only pope that has any hold on my allegiance. And of course, we must hail his wife and child as well. For once again, the papal residence was opened up for Maxicon. The sights, sounds and (yes) smells of a hard-working gaming con on the road is not for a host who is faint of heart. But Pat is large of heart, Elly has a surplus (if not an infinite supply) of forbearance, and Tanya is her father's daughter in more than the tautological sense. I sense the effect of sleep deprivation in my prose, so I'd better just get into it.

If you like pictures better than words, here they be.

I showed up late afternoon on Saturday. The beer and pretzels I brought disappeared rapidly into the ravenous collective maw. I got in one practice round at Guitar Hero to gauge the A/V set-up. Then I had to get ready for my game, which involved cutting several sheets of paper into little schnibbles.
I was running Casino Arcane: a LARP-lite/card game. The players were members (or aspiring members) of the Major Arcana, a secretive society of occultists who derive some of their power from the occasional playing of a mysterious game: Fool's Errand. Boiled down to its essentials, Fool's Errand is seven-card stud played with Tarot cards and with the addition of magical powers that effect the cards and the other players. Not to mention the fact that if players leave the table, they can be mugged by other players. Oh, and in addition to the $1 million brought by each player to the table, they are all potentially risking their souls.
I was very happy with the first run. The players brought a great deal more role-playing than I deserved to get from my minimal character info. As for the game, I only tweaked one relatively minor thing halfway through to help speed things up. Certainly, a couple of the powers are a little too powerful, but it certainly provided for a game fraught with dramatic turns of fortune.
I think the funniest thing is that I was sort of an NPC. I was representing the Fool, the host of the game. Since I am the Fool, although I'm in the game, all of my cards are dealt up. Everyone can see exactly what my hand is. Also, since I am the Fool, I always call bets & raises. The game is played until there is just one player and the Fool left in the game. When that occured, hagdirt was the last one standing, with $1.8 million to her name. I had the remaining $4.2 million. Of course, money ain't the only thing - various souls had traded hands, making some happier and some sadder.
The game ended at 11:30 or so. As it approached midnight, I prepared for Maxi-Axey, a Guitar Hero competition. Sadly, although Guitar Hero had been played incessantly all day long, the competition was sparsely attended by players. I put on my magic pants only to discover just two other competitors, Pat and Bino. The pecking order was rapidly established. Mike > Pat > Bino. Pat brought his A-game and some well-practiced songs, but I emerged victorious.
General Guitar Hero-ing ensued and I segued my way into aaronjv's Dangerous Games, which included various traditional party games, many with a dark element. I am really disappointed that I missed Snapdragon. Ever since I read about it in an Agatha Christie novel, I've wanted to snatch raisins out of a flaming bowl of brandy.
Aaron had lots of other games on tap: Ouija, La vache qui tache , and some light-as-a-feather, stiff-as-a-board, wherein we discovered that Brandie's head is preternaturally dense. I missed half of the games, and we never got around to Russian Roulette or Are you there, Moriarty?, but Aaron did a great job having a dozen or more games on tap. But by that time it was, I dunno, three-ish and most of us were half-dead. I finally camped out in the garage in my sleeping bag. On the whole, I was happy with my choice. It was quiet, dark and cool. The only drawback was that, apart from the sleeping bag, the only thing between me and a cement slab was a length of carpet. I must have slept on my side with my fist underneath me, because I still have a huge sore spot along my ribs.
In the morning, I gulped down a couple granola bars, some peanuts and some OJ and got ready for the Pat Slot: "Be prepared for something wonderful. Something different. Something that could only be run at Pat's House."
We players rushed into the game room when we heard a struggle going on. It was Pat wrestling with Evil Pat! Although Pat nearly got the better of Evil Pat, Evil Pat disappeared into one of the games in Pat's extensive game library. Eager to help Pat defeat Evil Pat, we allowed him to send us into Chutes and Ladders, in the guise of some ancient characters from Pat's youth - old Tunnels and Trolls and Top Secret characters with ridiculous stats and equipment. Anyway, in Chutes and Ladders land, we found the children crying, the ladders broken! What to do? Well, perhaps we could mend the ladders. Perhaps we could just slog our way to the top without benefit of ladders, arduous but certain of success.
As we discussed our options, Pat's face finally crumbled and he held his head in his hands. Our poor host had had one hour of sleep last night and, well, the Pat Slot was as ready for prime-time as Live Paranoia had been. And yet, like Live Paranoia, fun was rescued from the ashes as Brian caught Pat's punt and ran with it, taking over and leading us through an encounter with some hobgoblins and eventually into Alpha Complex, where the situation got stickier and sillier by the minute.
I won't say the game ended, but after a while, it stopped happening anymore, and we dispersed. This gave me an opportunity to play a little Carcasonne, and play a little Court... a card game designed by Rich. It was a fast clean game, but this was sort of a playtest. It was fun, and I played several hands. When Rich asked for feedback, he got all sorts of contradictory and ridiculous advice.
But now it was time for me to start cutting up more schnibbles of paper for the Sunday run of Casino Arcane. We didn't have the game room, so distraction was a much greater factor this time, since other people could (and often did) draw the players away from the game. But, although the run was a lot shakier than the Saturday game, it was still I think satisfying. Especially for the Fool. This time, I wound up with $5.1 million, while Charles 'won' with a hundred grand less than he'd started with. Of course, I think he had also obtained three souls of the other players, which may well be far more important.
I think Casino Arcane went well enough that it may well appear at future Maxicons and similar events. Some suggested that I should 'box' Casino Arcane for sale, possibly with Rich's help. I may well do that. I can already see how I could produce a slightly more vanilla version that would be (I imagine) a tidier package than the nonsense I actually produced for Maxicon.
There was a little breathing space, and then....

Brian ran another memorable session of HōL (Human Occupied Landfill). The Bush Administration had looked virtually everywhere for the Iraqi WMD. They had to exist somewhere, so logic dictated that they must exist in the one remaining place that hadn't yet been searched... HōL.
Brian started with a brief multiple-choice quiz on Bush Administration history, with questions like "Before becoming Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice was... A) National Security Adviser, B) a concert pianist, C) a university provost, D) a cyborg." This being HōL, well, it's pretty obvious what the answer is.
aaronjv had the highest score on the quiz and thus became President Bush. He rather willy-nillily distributed the rest of his Administration positions to the rest of us. Although I would have loved to be Scott McClellan, I wound up as Alberto Gonzalez, with skills such as "Spurious Legal Argument" and "Justify the Infliction of Hellish Agony." The rest of the crew included McClellan, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, Tenet, and Rice. Oh and Pickles. Brian had made paper masks from official portraits of these people, and we wore them off-and-on through the adventure. And then there was the tequila hat, Colonel Sanders, Operation Friedom, the Sodomy Bikers, Ashcroft in assless chaps, an airstrike on our own position, a press conference where McClellan finally snapped and turned into the Hulk, my own justification for reportercide (citing a seldom discussed footnote in Marbury v. Madison), skinning of said dead reporters, W being forced by a fortune cookie fortune to make friends with his own penis, who soon replaced Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, a brief OOC interlude on mother/daughter threesomes that netted me five extra hit points, an ill-advised decision by the decider that (as it's an intergalactic transport) Airspace One should be able to go anywhere in the galaxy - including underground locations. In the resulting crash, I was saved by my HōLmeister granted points and the relaxing effects of a drink, while most everyone else perished. It was my solemn duty to inform Secretary Rice that she was now to be addressed as Madame President. Tenet went berserk and tried to assassinate the President with his secret CIA laser, but Mr. Pickles and I successfully drove him off. Mr. Pickles was rewarded by becoming the new Secretary of Agriculture, a decision announced by McClellan, who though he was nigh unconscious, had the ability to deliver press announcements regardless of sucking chest wounds.
The horrible thing about this whole phantasmagoria was how easy it was to translate this whole mess into a metaphor for the actual Administration.
After HōL ended, I made an ever-so-cursory attempt to clean the game room before thanking Pat and departing for home. But the gaming was still going strong when I left.
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Date:May 29th, 2007 01:13 am (UTC)


It should be pointed out that Donald Rumsfeld, with an extraordinary roll of his "Blame military failures on current personnel and have them replaced" skill did manage to regain his job as Secretary of Defense after the inevitable failure of the mission. Or at least that's what Brian promised me when I left the game an hour early.
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Date:May 29th, 2007 04:39 pm (UTC)
Argh! I was so frustrated that I couldn't make it down for Maxicon. Unfortunately my employers had me scheduled over the holiday weekend, making any real travel impractical if not impossible. The pictures are great though! And HoL is everything I remember it to be.
Date:May 29th, 2007 06:57 pm (UTC)
Snapdragon could and should return to more parties. If you want to do it yourself, here are my recommendations:

1. Get a big bowl; doesn't have to be deep, but wide.
2. HEAT THE BRANDY PRIOR TO IGNITION! My first attempt to light the fire (accompanied by the song "Fire" by Prodigy, which has the great sampling of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown bellowing I am the God of Hellfire, and I bring you...) ended when I dunked the lighter in the brandy, killing it. However, after a minute in the microwave, the alcohol fumes were floating nicely above the liquid, add one touch of the lighter and FOOMF!
3. Yes, it does hurt to have flaming brandy on your skin.
4. Nevertheless, it is NOT a good idea to shake your hand, sending flaming droplets into other people's nearby faces craning over the bowl.
5. It's a good thing we were on a tile countertop, because there was a lot of flaming spillage, and a few seconds would go by before someone would think "Oh, I guess I'll put out that fire."
6. The flames go out very nicely with just a strong puff of breath.
7. The true test of the game is to see who can hold the burning brandy-soaked raisin in your mouth so the eerie blue flame lights up you canines. However, in practice, none of us had the tolerance to kiss fire, so our game consisted of: reaching in and scooping out a raisin (which conveniently settled on the bottom of the bowl), pulling your hand out (and often, a few tablespoons of flaming brandy), extinguishing your burning fist (again, shaking is not advised), and then popping the warm squishy raisin into your mouth.
rizwank won (there was a kernel of allspice in one of the raisins to signal the winner), and had the prize of picking the next game (which was Psychiatrist, where he was the doctor, and us patients all decided our ailment was that we were characters in a Star Wars movie).

Casino Arcane would have been much better (for me) if I could remember the rules of poker (a full house means three of one number, not one suit!), or I had the patience to hold off on the powers until the stakes were higher. Honestly, though, my goal was to get my soul back, so hitting the guy who had it early on meant he'd just have a small amount of cash to play with, and, theoretically, would be closer to offering the soul up to auction (as I thought the only way to get a soul on the table would be after you run out of chips), but instead, he stepped away from the table for hours, while I squandered my meager earnings.

HøL was (again) one of the greatest, funniest games ever. I now realize how Bush thinks: he NEVER considers, nor really comprehends, consequences. In his (limited) mind, nothing bad can ever happen (like the Oingo Boingo song). It was fun playing a character with a NEGATIVE TWO intelligence (graymatta).

Thanks for running/playing, sorry we didn't have you in for more Dangerous Games (although it would have been frightening to have you on the Stool of Repentance).

Interesting...there's a little caption under the picture for "Stool" that reads: From a compendium of games designed for “family amusements,” this game of “fancy intelligence” warns the players that they should not base their role-playing accusations on the real failings of the accused player before them on the “Stool of Repentance.” That kind of capricious playing, it cautioned, “leads to ill feeling in games of play as in all other social relations” – a lesson in good sportsmanship.

"Stool of Repentance" sounds like a VERY fun addition to a live game!
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Date:May 29th, 2007 08:03 pm (UTC)
We SO did not adhere to that advice!
In retrospect, I should have intentionally failed to guess my accusers to that I could have gone on to witness a couple more rounds of yummy, good natured truthfulness.

Journal of No. 118