The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (in no particular order or sense)
One of the hazards of modern travel is the fact that it makes it a lot easier to spread infectious diseases both minor, middling, and major around. Unfortunately, I fell victim to this, possibly on the plane ride to Detroit…for by Friday night, I started to show the first symptoms of what has turned out to be a cold nasty enough to keep me home sick from work today.
Such is life. I shall thus persevere and now give the lowdown on what the ACUS 2002 experience was like.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Bridgette and I were travelling companions (likely for the last time), and flew Northwest Airlines from Newark to Detroit. Northwest had built a brand spanking new terminal at Detroit Metro, and Bridgette and I were stunned at first upon arrival, not sure we were in the right place. It was clean, fresh, and the architecture was pleasant. The only downside was a distinct lack of cellular service inside the terminal, which caused the both of us to miss phone messages from our kindly ride, Keith Cripe.
The Livonia Embassy Suites was/is in the midst of a $5,000,000 renovation project which lead to no end of problems and concerns. The pool was closed, the dust and such were prevalent on the lower floors, and in the final indignity, the convention banquet was held in a room so freshly finished, the air was thick with the stuff, with bits of plaster and stuff on the floor. Unpleasant is a good word. The Hotel Staff, from the experience of myself and my roommate Deb Atwood, was abysmal, culiminating in a not very funny case of mistaken property acquisition–one of Deb’s cookie’s plates being claimed by the maintainence staff and removed from the room, even though it was with Deb’s personal effects at the time. Getting it back was a hassle but eventuall accomplished.
The Con staff
Once again,. fighting against a tide of problems, Liz did her best to keep things relatively sane as things went a little crazy. A last minute cancellation of a game on thursday night threw a few curveballs, and there were strange anomalies in the dispensation of games. I don’t like the sunday banquet idea, but by then I was feeling unwell anyway and my perceptions were colored by same.
This year, since Miss Bonnie was not in attendance, I found myself as the roommate of Deb, and her four month old son, Ryan. He was, overall, remarkably well behaved, and found himself with more than a few ersatz uncles and aunts for the duration. Ryan especially seemed to bond well with Bridgette and Keith, and with Jennifer Jackson and Michael Curry (both of those had seem him before, I think). Felicia was up and about with her camera, the Groves actually commuted to the hotel from a friend’s house, and Michael Levay filled out the list of people I know fairly well. I want to thank Deb, Michael and Jenn for their hospitality as far as their annual cooking goes. I couldn’t enjoy it very well on Saturday thanks to the cold but otherwise, it was quite pleasant indeed.
Games People Play
The heart and soul of the con, of course, is the games. The rearrangement of slots meant that Bridgette and I could not attend the Sunday slots at all, and so we were restricted to five slots. We did not attend the Costume Ball, either.
Slot One, Blue Moon by Randy Cox
My first game turned out to have a large proportion of people I knew in it. Besides myself, Bridgette, Mike Levay, Keith, and Deb all decided to sign up for it. It was a rather amorphous character-driven scenario at first, revolving around a special night in Tir. Every three years in Amber, a second full moon in a month, a Blue Moon, occurs. There is standing decree that visiting Tir on a Blue Moon is verboten…but the point of the scenario was that all of the player characters were going to go up anyway.
While my motivation never really came into play, I was playing, in a PC debut, an NPC from Strange Bedfellows–Pollux. My thought was that he was going up to Tir to find his dead brother, Castor. However, the game quickly turned from individual plans to the mysteries that abounded–why was there a King in Tir who did not know his name? Why were the inhabitants of the city so hungry for blood? Why was there a hall of Trump carvings in the basement, and what was Dworkin looking for?
Pollux did not have too much to offer, but at least was able to keep up with the real plot drivers, as we determined that Dworkin was looking for the Jewel of Judgement, to place in his own head. It was eventually found, and given to him, even as the night ended. It was also determined that walking the Pattern of Tir that night would MAKE you the new King, and fortunately, this was determined before Deb’s PC, Jenny actually did it.
Slot Two: Three Amberites and a Baby by Deb Atwood and Jennifer Jackson
This slot, I brought Lorius to the fore, but once again found myself in another low-key role, which was disappointing but understandable. The plot revolved around, mainly, the appearance of a baby which had unusual powers which seemed to tie into previous episodes of the game, and it was those continuing characters which really moved the plot along. Lorius did, however, actually play with the mysterious quick-growing baby, as he ran into it after it had transported her/himself out of the nursery other players had established. A few chaosian delegates just added to the mix. It was eventually learned that the baby was a child of Ygg, and the scenario culminated in replanting the baby beside its mother. The game turned out to be entertaining even if not very participatory on my part.
Slot Three: Rites of Passage by Deb Atwood
I feel that this slot is where I shined as a player best. I recently joined this campaign, and due to the vaguaries of time and space, only three other players, Bridgette, Keith and Andi, although the campaign is much fuller than that. Thanks to this low amount of players, and Deb’s focus on player threads and plans, Cadmus, my PC, got as much screen time as the other three, and Deb skillfully brought us all together to meet with hardly any sort of manipulation. Scott Olson’s theory of Development in Play definitely was applicable here, as I grew more comfortable with Cadmus as I went along, coming up with plans and ideas with facility. I am very interested in the further adventures of my son of an unknown Amberite who is sort of a protege of Fiona, but smart enough to realize that she is manipulative of everyone, including her own daughter, Cadmus’ best friend Persephone. As usual, Bridgette’s Rhiannon had to be experienced to be truly appreciated.
Slot 4: Ad Amber per Astra, by Paul Weimer
My own game this year, and as usual, I have a blind spot as to how my games do. I was somewhat bummed that one player (Michael Curry) dropped out before the game because of a preference for another game (understandable though given circumstances), and Felicia was not feeling well and left early. The rest of the players were Bridgette, playing Calico (Bleys’ wild daughter) , Keith, playing Honor (Corwin’s son), Michael Levay (playing Rhionde, Brand’s daughter), Deb (playing Melisanthe, Random’s daughter), Bridgette’s friend James Puckett playing Cedric, Melisanthe’s half-brother, Linda Duncan playing Peregrine, Caine’s daughter, Janet Vandenabeele playing Julian’s daughter Allegra, Felicia played Benedict’s daughter Lorelei.
I had 6 hours of plot in a four hour slot, and so I had to cut a lot of corners to get the game to finish, but in basic, the idea was that Finndo had been long trapped in a shadow by Oberon as punishment, and could only get out once he felt he had been redeemed. Finndo responded to this by managing to turn his shadow prison into a shadow of destiny and drew all of the PCs inside a space-opera themed universe, where Finndo was a casino and under-the table dealings magnate. Each of the PCs had, with their own minds, the thoughts and ideas of a person in this universe, which aided them in adapting to this situation, and Finndo seemed to regard all of them as who they seemed to be.
After exploring the casino, all finally reached Finndo and he proposed looking for the equivalent of the Lost City of Atlantis, a space asteroid named Amber which appeared aperiodically. He offered a rich bounty for same, and the PCs soon made plans to locate the planets where it had last appeared, in order to figure out where it would appear next. Each planet had a piece of a key needed to enter Amber, and I had to really cut short the adventures on each world, which I had tailored to each PC’s ability. Finally, at Amber, a few deals were struck between PCs which did not entirely trust each other, enough so that they could escape the shadow, and keep Finndo inside, alive.
The scenario’s universe is open ended enough so that there is an obvious idea for a sequel, once Random learns of what has happened. I know Bridgette and Keith would like to revisit Calico and Honor, and I wonder if I should run a sequel to this at the next con. Who knows? Maybe I will run it again at the next con, and run the original in a longer slot. We shall see.
Slot 5: Dark Journey, by Felicia Olson
Felicia’s game was set in a future Amber where, with most of the elders gone, Benedict had become the progenitor of a new line of Amberite children, who with him ruled the Eternal City. Chaos was nearly forgotten as were any remaining aunts and uncles who might be still alive. I played Romulus, and right off want to point out that I designed him badly for what he was designed to do. As a battlemage, his stats did not really match what he should have been doing. I once again took a back seat supporting role, and am convinced I disappointed the GM this way. I had good ideas and questions, but what I could so was a lot less spotlighted than his siblings plots and plans. What Romulus did and saw was important, but it wasn’t very flashy and he couldn’t BE flashy with the stats that he had. The plot revolved around a strange delegation of Chaosians, and the determination of what they wanted, and why. It turned out Benedict was dying, and that he hoped that either the Chaosians might cure him, or that bonds of marriage, alliance and blood might help invigorate both poles. An invasion by Julian and Brand’s armies was ably thrusted by Romulus’ martial siblings, who raised large armies and thrashed the plans of our Uncles. Even though Romulus did not shine, I enjoyed the milieu and ideas Felicia put on the table and Romulus’ other children helped flesh out. It turned out that the eldest brother, Iago (player’s name not recalled) plotted behind our backs to his advantage, managing in the end to become a Emperor with the head of the council of Chaos as his bride.
Slot 6: Midnight in the Garden of Pain by John Davies
By this time, i was really punked out, with my voice gone, and my energies ebbing away like a vampiress was feeding on me. I played Scipio, son of Flora, and did very little of consequence. The plot revolved around the reappearance of Fiona after being gone a few weeks, screaming and thrashing uncontrollably. It seemed that she explored a forbidden analogue to the Hall of Mirrors, called the Corridor of Torture, which led to the Garden of Pain. The PCs resolved together to explore it, and find a cure for Fiona’s malady. After Brand’s unusual daughter Elaine was instrumental in helping us find it, we by turns found ourselves in an alternate, gothic, decadent amber, where Corwin and Eric ruled. Family members were bizarre and dangerous at every turn, with Caine as the head of secret police, Benedict a robotic version of his counterpart, and torture, orgiastic sex, and violence the norm. After attempts to find a solution, common cause was made with the alt-amberites, who disliked the idea of contact between our Amber and theirs. However, it took an ambush of the same to retrieve their jewel of judgement, which contained Fiona’s lost soul in order to provide solution to the problem and end the connection forever. Although many of the PCs took grievous wounds (Scipio excluded in this), all were saved in the end.
And those were the games at ACUS 2002, and the con in general. And now I need another nap.