So one advantage I had at origins this year that i've never experienced before was the wonder of having an exhibitor's badge. Marcelo from Playroom Entertainment had been exceedingly generous with these and every playmaster who was going to be running events received on. This mystical and much sought after artifact allowed one to enter the exhibit hall one hour early (read: before mere mortals) and also stay for a hour past the closing time when everyone else is escorted out. The benefits of this are many and varied, but I figure the best is that you simply get to shop and wander at your leisure without hoards of people crowding in from all over the place. I woke up early on thursday morning and went off to take advantage of that little gem.
Almost immediately I ran into Randy who was already hard at work pimping gencon. It seems that chaosium had bailed and so this slot was a last minute fill that he worked out with gencon so he could attend. I of course signed up for the mailing list and in return received a little dragon head plushie keychain. It turns out that the dice bags had already gone, which must've meant there was quite a stampede for them given it was 9am or thereabouts. I also got a raffle ticket for which there were daily drawings for additional gencon gear.
Anyway, after a bit of chatting with randy I made my way to the exhibit hall at last and made my way past the poor peasantry, waiving my exhibitor badge about like a sceptor. Upon entry to the hall, there was only one place that could have qualified for my first stop. On my way there however, I passed Starwind Designs and Bob sold me a truly spiffy foam d20. Much better than the plushie ones IMO. Not only does it roll correctly but it also bounces. I spent a good chunk of the rest of the con bouncing this thing as I walked along, occassionally scrambling after it as it richocheted off a foot.
Bob made a comment that he and his boothmates had been using it to play football and dodgeball. I counseled against trying the latter with the general gaming population. I mean, we are talking about geeks here. There might be a good share of PTSD associated with memories of dodgeball. Anyway, after that quick stop, it was on to my primary goal.
Order of the Stick! The new book has finally been released, though there will be limited copies at gencon and origins. After having stood on that line to blasted hell last year, there was no way I wasn't going to jump at the chance to skip right to the front. Even more scary, the person running the booth actually recognized me and was able to quote back what I had purchased last year at gencon. Scary considering the sheer number of people that must've filtered past the booth over the con.
So I picked up my book purchase and also grabbed a christmas ornament. They had been released the past year and were supposedly out of print, but apparently a few had been located. It was hard to convince myself to fork over $15 for one of them, but I rationialized it by telling myself I wouldn't be buying any more gaming t-shirts while at origins. My closet has become filled with nothing but gaming shirts it seems.
Another nice thing about getting in there before the rush is I was able to get my picture taken with Rich without the glares of angry line-standers behind me. I can't do anything about the fact that he blinked in both pictures but it was still pretty spiffy.
This picture falls into the whole 'it's a small world' category. I met Peter (I think his name is peter) at a local convention here back in november. Betacon had been _tiny_. I think in the end there were something like 130 paid attendees. I had signed up to run games and most of the time there were more GMs than players. Considering there were only 3 GMs or so, it was generally just chock full of boredom. Anyway, Peter was there pimping a card sorter for settlers of catan. It was a molded plastic stand with different sized cavities to hold cards of various sizes. On his behalf, I had broached the possibility of having Game Base 7 use the item in their Catan games when I was at SoCal but it apparently came to naught. I hadn't seen him since and it was quite a surprise to find him at origins with a booth.
Woooo, pretty. I next wandered over to Dwarven Forge to oooh and ahhh at their dungeon sets. This stuff is always amazing. If I ever hit the lottery or something along those lines, I would love to pick up a gigantic set of these so I could make my own dungeon. The fact is though, it's just not something that I can either afford or get much use out of at the moment.
It's Mr True Dungeon himself, Jeff Martin. After you've seen the products that dwarven forge churns out, it comes as no surprise that Jeff would also be the brains behind true dungeon. It becomes just a difference of scale overall. I wish that TD had a little booth of its own, if for no other reason than I'd love to get my grubby little hands on a promo treasure token or two.
With only 10 minutes or so before the exhibit hall opened to the general public, I wandered over to the Hidden City Clout booth to look for jirel and found her. After boasting about my recent OotS acquisition, I was given the task of going back across the hall to the booth to pick her up a copy as well. When asked what character she would like drawn on the inside cover by Rich, the response of 'the female one' was a bit ambiguous. I of course broached the topic with Rich but he took the pansy way out and just drew Haley. A sketch of V with those instructions would have answered a lot of questions.
It was 10am by then and people were starting to stream in. As they were streaming in, I was trying, like a salmon swimming upstream, to get out of the hall for my first event. I was signed up for an amorphous blob RPG and arrived to find a full table with no empty seats. Curse you origins! Oversell!! Instead of making a stink about the whole situation, I just gave in to fate and wandered off to refund my ticket. After all, this just meant more time for exhibit hall wandering, right? I could also sign up for an extra session of the Killer Bunnies Nationals Qualifier at 11am instead.
While wandering the exhibit hall waiting for the 11am event, I found the pokemon booth and a giant inflatable Blastoise. Not as good as if it were a bulbasaur or a venusaur, but spiffy nonetheless. I of course had to get a picture of me with it.
When I arrived for the 11am qualifier, I found that the only other person there was chelle. Either no one else had signed up for the event or everyone had ditched it. I thought that perhaps the 'EXPERT' flag had scared off all comers and that I would have a generally easy time of making it to the finals. Marcelo had been saying for months that he was certain I would be one of the people to beat for the national tournament and had even made jokes that he had $5 riding on me. I was far less certain about my chances not just because of the random nature of the carrot draw. Out of the goodness of my heart, I decided to let Chelle take the win and not challenge her for the qualifying slot. After all, if these games were pretty empty of players, I would have a good chance of making it through on my own and how bad could it be?
Bad. Very bad.
So this was the 2pm KB qualifing table. Hardly the no-show group I had been anticipating and hoping for based on the earlier session. Even better, out of the group of 7, 2 of them had only played with the basic set before and 1 had _never_ played the game. AHHHHH! If I was smart, I would have just called it quits right there. Instead I decided to stay and it just got worse from there on in. A good chunk of them seemed to know one another and added to that, the guy in the lower right was playing with his mommy. Mom spent almost the entire last half of the game passing him cards and anything she had that she thought would help him win. Here's one exchange.
Mom: Oh, you could really use this [passes son the ORP]
Son: That wouldn't help me right now. I've got the most carrots.
Mom: Ah, well you can have this too [passes son a Zodiac card]
The girl on the right is the one who had never played before. Some other joker thought it'd be hilarious if he played the Conch with this table full of newbies. That's the card that requires 2 turns of silence from the players. I'm sure you can imagine just how entertaining that was with all the gesticulating and scribbling on paper. It was right in the middle of that I began to contemplate suicide or, upon further reflection, mass murder.
So anyway, the guy on the right had been leading the entire game and it wasn't until the very end that I managed to catch up and pass him in the carrot count. It wasn't an easy thing and involved a Cool Change, 2 CaC cards, that Bill and Ted's Continuum card, and Retrieval. I think I edged him out by 1 or 2 carrots but to no one's surprise, the carrot draw gave me the shaft. It seemed that there would be no advancement and marcelo would have to kiss his bet goodbye.
I'm not sure exactly what I spent the rest of the afternoon doing, but I'll wager anything it involved bitching and complaining and muttering under my breath. I think this was also when I stumbled over the Tokens booth, a company that had just started and was going to sell collectable steel cards of d20 magic items. The idea sounds ridiculous on its face, but I bought some and then found I couldn't stop. They were having huge collating errors, so usually at least the top two 'cards' in each pack were usually duplicated. This led to some poor schlubs buying a box of 125 for $75 and only getting like 5 different designs. The collating error also led to oddities like promotional cards being included when they weren't supposed to be and artifacts as well. The latter are only supposed to be avaliable when you trade in other cards to reach a certain gold piece value (250k for minors, 400k for majors). So, it was really pot luck in what you found. I didn't end up doing all that well for my initial $75 investment, but that didn't stop me from coming back a couple days later and buying another $90 worth.
Here are two examples of the cards that I eventually received. Both are artifacts that I traded in a crapload for on saturday. The deck of many things on the left and the shield of faith is on the right. Sweet, eh?
On the back is then the name, description and stats of the item. There are 400 items in the first set. Gotta collect 'em all.
After a long day in the exhibit hall, it was time to go and find something to eat. I was supposed to meet up with jirel, Chelle, and Todd for dinner at a local bar/resturant, but my rampant popularity threw a monkey wrench into the plans. I kept getting stopped by people I knew the conversations dragged on and on. Meanwhile, Todd grew more and more anxious since Chelle was already waiting for us at the resturant and we all figured she would blow her top.
First keeper flagged me down to tell me that my raffle ticket had 'won' and that I got to pick a piece of swag. I had a choice of t-shirt or badge holder. Keeping to my vow of no more gaming t-shirts, I picked up a spiffy blue badge holder. Rennie was also there and offered up the somewhat cryptic 'You've been banned form the forums?' or something to that effect. I have no clue if he was playing ignorant as a joke or if he really had only just found out. I never got a good oppertunity to inquire either since Randy got off on a slight tangent about how he felt there were two me's. A forum me and the real life me, the latter of which he got along well with. I've never been a fan of that particular point of view however many times I've heard it expressed. IMO, I'm pretty much me no matter what the medium is. At most, what changes is not my personality nor my comments, but what people choose to perceive them as. At that point, Auction Jane showed up and it became a little mini reunion of sorts.
By this point, Todd was practically doing the pee-pee dance of anxiety and we still hadn't managed to track down jirel who apparently had either gotten lost or otherwise wasn't where she was supposed to be. I rang chelle to apologise and took full responsibility for the delay and we left to find jirel and finally make it to dinner. Chelle wasn't too pissy or upset (at least not noticiably) and the meal went fine overall. Our waitress was dumb as a stump however.
Here's a shot of Jirel and myself after din-din.
I have no clue what in the world this was supposed to be a picture of. Maybe she was paying her membership dues for the SSOTWWTLM? Soon to open a membership branch near you. It's always amazing the number of people who want to sign up. I've ended up telling the story so often and in so many different venues, I'm waiting for it to develop into folklore.
What's that? We're going to be late for the Festival of the Damned event? Oh Noes!
Chelle, Todd, and I headed off to the FotD after dinner, and yes, we were a wee bit late. The room was packed with people playing everything from blackjack to some whacky version of All Wound Up. The basic idea was that each person got 50 zombies from Zombies!!! and then played various games against other players through which they had to chance to win more. At the end of the night there would be prized based upon how many zombies you managed to accumilate. I had planned to pay for the event and pass my zombies to chelle in order to atone for being late, but she graciously declined my offer. Given that, I basically just ignored the entry fee and sat down with Paul who was demo'ing the NBC CCG. I eventually took over and ran a demo for some additional people and showed off my giant binder of cards while I was at it. I did earn one zombie that night, though it just happened to be one that I found discarded on a table, which I presented to chelle. It turns out that she had pretty much crapped out and so it was her sole zombie by the time the prizes were announced. The plus side was that the room had emptied out to a large degree leaving only the diehards. The number of people was so sparse that even 1 zombie ended up netting her a prize, for which I take full credit.
By the time the event wrapped up it was past midnight and I wandered off to my room and bed. So ended the first full day of origins.