Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Notes on Absinthe

A few days ago, the Missus and I celebrated my birthday going out for dinner at local Italian restaurant Zambri's and then having drinks at one of my favourite watering-holes: Clive's Classic Lounge. It was a splendid evening with my new top hat and my best gal. This post doesn't particularly relate to gaming, but it does cover one of my interests, and hey it was my birthday and this is my blog. :{p

That interest in particular is Absinthe; that (in)famous distilled spirit. I got the idea of doing a blog post about the drink and my own personal experiences with it after replying to some comments and questions I had received on a few photos of the absinthes I had tried at Clive's.

The Absinthe Drinker by Viktor Oliva

First, a bit of my own history with Absinthe: Many years ago, when I first started getting into Steampunk and was thoroughly researching the Victorian Age/Belle Époque, I first became interested in the beverage and the controversy that surrounded it then and still does today. I soon after chanced across a supposed bottle of Absinthe that came with its own spoon and glass at a local liquor store, which I purchased and brought home to try.

It was bloody awful.

My hopes were dashed; how could've this been popular, even back in the day? I later discovered that my ignorance/lack of research had led me to what was actually was is known as Bohemian or Czech-style Absinth (Note the lack of 'e'). I'd been duped! I hadn't tasted real absinthe at all! I, along with many others I believe, had been suckered in and spent hard-earned dollars on a bottle of vile mouthwash! I wasn't able to track down the exact brand I had the misfortune of experiencing, because the bottle itself was poorly-labelled and simply branded Absinth (makes sense, I wouldn't want to put my own brand on that crap); nevertheless I think it was Strombu Absinth, or at least very similar. The linked review pretty much sums up my thoughts on it. The only way my gal and I finished the bottle over the course of a year was by mixing it with various things in an attempt to make it palatable, with little success; although it did kind of go well mixed with Mountain Dew..

A year or so after the ordeal that had left me wiser, I was gifted (possibly on a previous birthday) a bottle of Taboo, a genuine absinthe that is Canadian produced in the Okanagan. I still have that bottle right now, unopened. The reason why I haven't opened it yet is this: I wish to host my own absinthe tasting to introduce people to absinthe, and to do so I need to acquire the proper accoutrements, or Absinthiana, used in the preparation ritual to do it up right! Until then, my bottle of Taboo is to remain sealed.

But that preference doesn't prevent me from enjoying absinthe at other environs! Indeed, I've had the real stuff a number of times, although I can't recall where and when that first was unfortunately (possibly a side-effect of the drink?) I did however have the fortune to attend my first absinthe tasting hosted at Veneto Tapa Lounge for the second Victoia Steam Exposition several years ago.

It was there I got the chance to taste three different brands of absinthe, as well as learn a great deal more of the rich history behind the beverage from a master raconteur.

The three makes were Taboo (Canada), Lucid (France), and La Fée Parisienne (France).

[Please pardon the picture quality; these were taken with an obsolete phone-camera and poorly filtered through Intsagram. Also we were given brown sugar cubes for the tasting, which further altered the drink colour.]

The first was the Taboo. Personally, Taboo is probably my favourite absinthe from all that I've tasted. I feel it has the best flavour and highlights overall; not to sweet, not too bitter, not too strong, not to soft. It also happens to be the one I've had the most, so that may play a part in my favouritism, but may also only go to show how much I do enjoy it since it's what I usually order. It being produced in BC also makes it more ready available/stocked in local establishments.

Next we had the Lucid. I can't quite remember the details of that tasting, but I seem to recall enjoying it the least of the three. That's not to say it wasn't good, I just enjoyed the Taboo and La Fée more for their own reasons.

Finally, we had La Fée Parisienne. As suggested, I tried my sample sans sugar because La Fée is said to be quite sweet already on its own. It tasted quite good, and agreed it didn't need a cube to sweeten it.

Also worth noting is that La Fée Parisienne contains some additional colouring to create a more vivid green. Most absinthes I've seen have a slight green tinge that turns yellowish once water is added and the drink louches.

My first absinthe tasting was a splendid and informative night.

Numerous months later VSE hosted another absinthe tasting, this time at the gorgeous Union Club.

VSE III Absinthe Tasting

Again we sampled three brands: Taboo and La Fée Parisienne as before, and Hill's Absinth; a Bohemian-style absinth (Czech). Needless to say myself and my lady, who was able to attend for the first time, disliked the Hill's.

Bohemian-style absinths lack many of the herbs such as anise and fennel that give it a traditional flavour, making them less aromatic and more bitter tasting. Additionally the technique used to produce such absinth is a cold mix process where high-proof alcohol is combined with artificial colourants and herbal oils. (I've heard that one can make a very poor grade pseudo-absinth by infusing vodka with such herbs, which I highly advise against; stick with professionally produced absinth if you really want a Bohemian-style taste.)

This differs greatly from traditional-style absinthes that were/are made through a process where macerated botanicals are infused in a distilled base alcohol, which is then re-distilled to remove bitterness and reach desired flavour texture and complexity. The green colouration of many traditional absinthes (though some varieties are not coloured), get their natural pigment from the chlorophyll in the herbs.

These differences in process not only impact both the quality and flavour between the two styles, but can also help visually identify a Traditional-style from a Bohemian-style in most cases: because of its creation process, Bohemian-style absinths lack the herbal oil profile and density of Traditional-styles, thus do do turn cloudy or louche when water is added. (Although the opposite is not exactly true; I'll expound on this shortly.) Thus for the need for the popularly portrayed "fire ritual" to replace the traditional water one. I feel such a change in preparation and presentation is another reason why I consider traditional absinthe to be superior to Bohemian-style.

Which finally brings me back to the other night, where I had the esteemed pleasure of sampling another 2.5 absinthes: Devil's Club (Canada), Taboo Gold (Canada), and a bit of La Clandestine (Switzerland)

Pemberton's Devil's Club
Browsing Clive's libation & spirit guide, I was delighted to see another Canadian-produced absinthe was available to try and ordered it. I was also surprised to find that Devil's Club did not louche; though I later confirmed that it was a distilled absinthe and not cold-mixed. Thus perhaps not all traditionally distilled absinthes louche; it must still depend on density of the herbal oils.

Nevertheless quite I enjoyed it; it was very mellow compared to most other absinthes I've tried, and had a flavour similar to the scent of wet herbs or a very old wooden building. My lady said it reminded her nostalgically of a hay loft, and one bartender described it as the smell from cutting through a bramble-thicket. Very appropriate considering it contains devil's club root bark as an ingredient.

Its mellow profile makes me envision sipping it on the porch on a hot summers day. I'm definitely going to see if I can track down a bottle for my own.

Taboo Gold
Next the missus ordered the Taboo Gold, which is limitedly produced in small single batches per year. Compared to regular Taboo, we found the Gold much lighter on the anise and wormwood flavours, and heavier on the other herbs like angelica. It was somewhat fruitier, with a cinnamon spiciness. It was quite enjoyed, and made an excellent follow-up to the mellow Devil's Club.

La Clandestine
Our bartender was generous to offer me a sip of the Swiss-made La Clandestine, which he and the other bartender said was their favourite. I found it rather strong undiluted, and am unable to give a informed opinion of it given I judge my absinthes when mixed with water, but it did taste promising. Next time I'm at Clive's I'm going to order one with water.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few questions I've been asked: 

  • "Why drink Absinthe?"

I find this question akin to asking why someone drinks wine or single-malt scotch: because they enjoy it, or rather more so because they enjoy the flavour. For myself its very much the same, I enjoy the anise/wormwood/fennel flavour; but it goes beyond that for me (and likewise for most oenophiles/scotch enthusiasts). There are several anise-based spirits, but Absinthe is unique amongst them and indeed most liquors by it's preparation ritual. The ritual can be as important as one wants it to be, but it almost feels like taking one's time with it just the right way to do it. Kind of like uncorking a fine red wine, pouring it into a wine decanter, letting it breathe, and smelling it before you taste it. With absinthe, by smell and tasting it undiluted before you slowly add water to it and watching the spirit slowly turn cloudy allows one to enjoy it to its fullest. Absinthe is a drink where you take your time and enjoy your company.

  • "Isn't/wasn't Absinthe illegal?"

Absinthe was banned in several countries after the turn of the century for various social and political reasons, although some countries such as the UK, Canada, and Australia never banned it (although Australia did briefly ban/restrict products containing wormwood oil). Many countries which banned Absinthe have within the last 10 or 20 years repealed such bans and created a modern revival, although regulations do vary by region, particularly on thujone content.

  • "Doesn't it cause hallucinations?"

Absinthe has commonly been attributed to causing hallucinations. Unfortunately for those looking to see green fairies are going to be disappointed to hear these rumours have been confirmed false.

  • "What should a beginner try?" and "Among connoisseurs what is the best 'froggy' juice? I have tried it twice, once I liked it, the other, definitely not. I'd try it again though, with proper advice."
First of all, I think a beginner should ask themselves if they enjoy anise-flavoured drinks such as Ouzo or Sambuca; strong aperitifs that taste like liquorice. Because if they don't like that flavour, they probably aren't going to enjoy most absinthes.

Before hunting down a bottle or finding an establishment that carries it, a bit of research should be done before hand to know what is being purchased and/or if it is properly served. (A poor brand/serving can sully first time experience.) As far as the best, I believe its a matter of find one's own favourite. Personally I'd avoid ersatz Bohemian-style 'absinths' (the lack of an 'e' at the end is generally a dead give away) and you should do fine. My recommendation: try Taboo or La Fée Parisienne. Both are somewhat widely carried and are generally well received.

Cheers! ;{١

Monday, 18 February 2013

Warhammer 40K: Deathwatch - Play Impressions

Yesterday our usual Sunday gaming group got to play our first session of Deathwatch, FFG's Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying game where you taken on the roles of a unit of superhuman soldiers called Space Marines.

My buddy did a really good job GM'ing the game and brought us right into the grim darkness of the Warhammer 40K RPG line. I'm the only one for our group who has never played Warhammer tabletop, and knew probably the least amount of in-universe lore. But I did do a bit of research into the general history and themes inherent therein to attain the proper mindset. Aside from reading up on it I've listened to an audiobook, watched the mediocre Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie, and even built an appropriate music playlist. (A possible future Music To Roleplay To segment..)

Our kill-squad consisted of a Storm Warden Tactical Marine, a Salamander Librarian, a Dark Angel Apothecary, and my Dark Angel Devastator Marine. Our GM provided us with the Space Marine bitz, pieces, and paint to craft our own custom PC miniatures. Here's a snapshot of my dude, Glaucus, painted up Deathwatch style:

Glaucus, Deathwatch Devastator Marine

I'm hoping to spend a bit more time detailing him. I'm not a huge tactical/war gamer and the cost to buy into 40K is far too high IMHO, though I did enjoy painting my own mini. Alas, I can also see that enjoyment wain when one has to spend time painting an entire army. I'll stick with my one mini and the RPG. :)

Our squad attempting to rescue a group of Imperial Guardsmen from a Tyranid hoard.

And although I'm not a player of tabletop 40K, I can totally see the appeal for those that play it to also play/GM Deathwatch, particularly being able to get additional use out of their miniatures! :)

Our final battle with a Hive Tyrant. We were victorious!

I found the d-percentile based system a little crunchy, but gameplay flowed pretty simple otherwise. There are a number of Space Marine Chapters and career specialities to select from, along with a decent helping of starting XP to customize your character and differentiate him from your fellow Deathwatch battle-brothers. The game gets a little bogged down having to reference what certain abilities, weapons, and/or special ammunition deal versus a variety of things; a similarity with the amount of referencing to most d20-based games, but the same could also be said for many other RPGs. 

An interesting feature is Solo mode and Squad mode; certain abilities only work in one of the two modes. Solo mode works best for individual combat and is very similar to how most PCs function during combat in most RPGs. Squad mode allows your team to link together and function as a single cohesive unit, gaining access to specific abilities, actions, and/or attack patterns. Quite novel.

All in all, I look forward to continuing with our Deathwatch sessions.

Glory to the Emperor! ;{١

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Perhaps the Doctor will help us...

So this past Valentines Day I went out and picked up an RPG as a gift for my better-half, with the intention of playing it with her.

We've been happily together for a number of years now, and despite the shy interest my girl has shown at times in my chief hobby, I have been unable to coax her into any of the roleplaying games I've run or played in.

I've pondered upon this for sometime. I am convinced (or perhaps just hopeful) that she would enjoy partaking in roleplaying in-spite of her shy reluctance, as I see the great talent she has for gaming. I know a few couples whom game together, who seem to share a mutual interest in roleplaying. If this mutual interest isn't immediately apparent, could such a bond be cultivated I wonder?

I believe our situation isn't a case where one member has no interest in gaming, and the other is trying their best to bring their partner into that world. But nevertheless, there were degrees of uncertainty I felt on several points: Such as one being unsure of the degree or genuineness of the other's interest? Is your partner just humouring you, and/or trying to please you by going along with it? One might be worried about bringing their partner out of their comfort zone. Or facing the potential hard truth that they just aren't interested or comfortable in joining you in your hobby.

Such thoughts had arisen in my mind, but instead of spending my time worrying on the possibilities, I decided to find out once and for all if there may be shared interested in roleplaying.

As my girl has alluded to, she believes the prime reservation she has for joining us gaming is that she is worried about not knowing what to do/how to play. I've explained the general tenants behind most RPGs, and I believe she's seen and heard us play enough to know the basics for sure; so I believe the other, possibly larger reservation is the social nature of the game. This, too, I wouldn't initially think as a huge concern given how familiar she is with many of my fellow players; this isn't the case where she'd be playing with complete strangers.

But despite such reservations seeming somewhat unfounded or absurd, one needs to remember that these are thoughts coming from someone who hasn't played an RPG in their life, and has yet to work around the personal/social barriers that experienced gamers take for granted.

So I decided the introduction to RPGs should be personal; just the two of us to ease any concerns. This is a new concept for me, as I prefer running games with several players. Heck, I can even play/run games with a group of total strangers. But a 1-on-1 game is different. With multiple PCs, you have a certain table dynamic with input from other players; whereas with a single player and a GM that table dynamic is sort of lost. Sure the GM could run a PC alongside the player's, but essentially that's just another NPC for the player to interact with. It feels like the focus is still greatly on that one player given there is no other input except for the GM.

Mind you, I'm not saying this change in dynamic is a bad thing. I'm sure there are many successful single player and GM RPGs out there. (Macabre Tales has caught my eye.) My concern is that it doesn't feel like you're giving a player new to RPGs the full/correct experience when there aren't other players available for them to interact with.

But perhaps introducing them to RPGs singularly is a good way to introduce shy players to the game. If they take to the personal sessions, perhaps you can introduce them to other players later on.

And that's what I'm going to try with the Missus. :)

Anyway, to get down to it, I mulled over what RPG would be the best to introduce her to. In the end I settled upon Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space by Cubicle Seven.

Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space Core Set

This seemed a good fit to me for several reasons:

  • First, I read it was a fairly simple system and easy for novices to pick up and learn. 
  • Second, it seems like the system and the setting effectively supports single-player-and-GM play. 
  • Third, it has pacifistic bent to it that I believe supports roleplaying and clever thinking better than say the way D&D and several other RPGs use violence as a chief means to solve problems. 
  • Fourth, the set contains pretty much everything a beginner needs to play or use: dice, pregen & blank character sheets, introductory adventures, tokens, etc. 
  • Fifth, and perhaps the most important, my girl is a huge fan of Doctor Who, particularly the Tenth Doctor. (Which is why I passed up the more recent release of Eleventh Doctor set for the older one featuring David Tennant.)

When I handed her the box set, with a degree of trepidation on my behalf, my fears were swiftly swept aside by her excitement and enthusiasm.

The Two Main Rulebooks

This looks to be quite promising. :) I'm in the process of reading though the gaming material and sample adventures, and catching up on my Doctor Who lore.

A brief overview of the contents

Allons-y! ;{١

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Scaling Escape from Mos Shuuta for 4+ players

Howdy All,

As some of you may well know, a week ago I ran the Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Beginner Game at GottaCon. The Beginner Game, as some of you may also be aware, it is designed to be played with the four pregen characters that are provided with it. Two additional pregens are available on FFG's EotE website in PDF format, but mostly for the option of providing a bit more variety as you're still supposed to play with four PCs.

Play with all six!

As I chose to run the game at the convention with six players; each player ran one of the provided pregens, and the pregens PDFs my buddy had printed off. I had to make a few adjustments to the adventure, Escape from Mos Shuuta, to scale and balance it out. For those interested in possibly running The Beginner Game with more than four players, here are the changes I made along with session notes:

Encounter 1: As a suggestion, try to limit the number of PCs that can attempt a certain skill check if they all attempting the same method of hiding. For example, in one game I ran, each player followed suit when one of them tried to be inconspicuous by sitting a table; or they all piled into the backstage during another. I'm not saying these are bad ideas, just that I think the intent of the designers was for everyone to try different methods of avoiding their pursuers. In-game reasons for limiting each option could be that there is only so much space backstage or in the storage closest, or that too many of the PCs posing as patrons (or bartenders) would be far too obvious. Another option aside from limiting the number of attempts, is increasing the difficulty by 1 for each additional PC attempting the skill check.

Encounter 2: Is fairly easy to adjust, follow the directions in the adventure book and provide a Gamorrean for each PC. As far as the preset initiative, split the NPCs into two groups and set them along with the 5th & 6th PC accordingly:
Successfully Hid: 1st PC, 2nd PC, 3rd PC, 1st NPCs, 4th PC, 5th PC, 6th PC, 2nd NPCs.
Failed to Hide: 1st PC, 1st NPCs, 2nd PC, 3rd PC, 4th PC, 2nd NPCs, 5th PC, 6th PC.

Encounter 3: Not much to modify here. If things turn violent, Vorn's not meant to be a fighter anyway. One thing I did note was the fact that it isn't clear for the PCs to proceed from this encounter to the Spaceport Control Facility. The idea I came up with was once they've acquired the HMRI, have them each make an Easy to Average Knowledge check. For those that succeeded, inform them that even though they now have the part and could go hijack the Krayt Fang, the ship would still be grounded by the docking clamps. The next logical step would be to proceed to Spaceport Control.

Encounter 4: To balance out a potential combat encounter, add two more Security Droids. Either add one to the pair guarding the entrance or in the lobby, and another in the control room; or stick them each in one of the other rooms, and have them emerge when there is a call for alarm. Also feel free to have a squad of Stormtroopers show up if the Overseer reports any suspicious or violent activity, although don't get too ahead of yourself and skip the Interlude before heading to encounter 5.

Encounter 5: Add an additional squad (minion group) of 3 Stormtroopers if things seem too easy. Or if you're feeling ambitious, have a total of 4-5 squads divided up into pairs.

Encounter 6: If you think it needs it, have another two Security Droids at the hanger. I personally didn't do this, as in both instances each pair of Trex's droids supported him adequately in combat. (Also, I have an additional reason; see next encounter.) Keeping the PCs busy with other threats also prevents from them all from ganging up on him. Having a squad of Stormtroopers show up is a great way to keep them busy! I found that Trex himself was a decent combatant for a party of six, provided you draw him into fighting from his ship to limit the number of PCs that can actively engage or shoot at him. During the playtest and the first game, it was a no-holds-barred slugfest between Trex and the Wookiee Lowhhrick; during the second game was surprisingly different: a one-on-one firefight with Oskara, who managed to score a Critical Injury on Trex with every successful shot!

Encounter 7: There are essentially four available crew stations: a Pilot, an Engineer, and two Gunners. With six PCs this means that two will be left out of the action of starship combat. Keep them occupied by dealing with another Droid or two of Trex's that just emerged from hiding! Things get tense when there's a fight both outside and inside the of the ship!

And that's it. I hope this helps anyone who'd like to scale Escape from Mos Shuuta up to 6 players. I've run this adventure 3 times now, and as long as you keep the game action-packed and cinematic, it'll run for about 4 hours, which makes it perfect for a one-shot or convention game!

One additional note is that obviously the Beginner Game doesn't have enough tokens for all the additional NPCs (let alone for Sasha or Mathus). As I'm a fan of Star Wars Minis, I took the time searching out and gathering the appropriate miniatures that I think best suited the characters from Escape from Mos Shuuta.

List of characters, appropriate miniatures, and the set they belong to:

  • Pash, Human Smuggler - Corellain Pirate [Bounty Hunters]; Corellain Security Officer [Legacy of the Force]
  • Oskara, Twi'lek Bounty Hunter - Mission Vao [KOTOR]
  • Lowhhrick, Wookiee Hired Gun - Wookie Commando [Clone Strike]; Wookiee Elite Trooper [KOTOR]
  • 41-VEX, Droid Colonist - 2-1B [Force Unleashed], Krath War Droid, [Jedi Academy]
  • Sasha, Human Explorer - Princess Leia, Rebel Hero [Universe]
  • Mathus, Human Technician - Elite Rebel Commando [Legacy of the Force]; Bail Organa [Revenge of the Sith]

  • Gamorrean Thugs (x6) - Gamorrean Guard [Rebel Storm]; Gamorrean Bodyguard [Masters of the Force]
  • Vorn Tel-Ovis - Human Blaster-for-Hire [Bounty Hunters]
  • R5-K3 - R5 Astromech Droid [Champions of the Force]
  • Overseer Brynn - Old Republic Recruit [Legacy of the Force]
  • Spaceport Security Droids (x6) - Juggernaut War Droid [KOTOR]; Guard Droid [Legacy of the Force]
  • Stormtroopers (x6) - Sandtrooper [Imperial Entanglements]; Sandtrooper Officer [Imperial Entanglements]
  • Trex - Trandoshan Elite Mercenary [Dark Times]

May The Force Be With You ;{١

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Thrilling Tales' Derange-O-Lab

On occasion, I've been known to frequent the brilliant website, Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, to peruse their interactive series of Retro-Futuristic Pulp Sci-Fi tales.

Aside from the excellent stories that could provide great inspiration, the website boasts two excellent resources from Cornelius Zappencackler's Derange-O-Lab for any GM looking to run Spirit of the Century or any other Pulp-themed RPG:

The first is the Title-O-Tron! A random title generator of the Pulp Science-Fiction variety. The perfect tool for coming up with a Pulpy name for an adventure or the Phase 3 Aspect of a Centurion.

On the right-hand side of my blog I've inserted a simple widget of the Title-O-Tron underneath the entry tags, just because I find it so darn clever and amusing! "Captives of the Atomic Lobster" I encourage checking out the full thing on website.

And next we have the recently added Pulp-O-Mizer! A customizable Pulp Magazine cover generator. Now you can show your players the cover of the pulp rag their characters are featured in!

Featuring the Mysterious White Wraith!
You can input your own text in various sizeable fonts and select from titles, foregrounds, and backgrounds. You can save and load your covers, and even export them in jpg format.

To the right is a mock-up I made for my SotC adventure: The Secret of the Eye of Mu.

For a nominal fee can even have your custom-made Pulp cover printed in high resolution, or put on various products ranging from posters and coffee mugs to notebooks and flyers.

This gives myself, hot off the heels of running a convention game, the idea that one of these covers printed out on a few flyers, possibly with character stats or story synopsis on the reverse would make an awesome handout/souvenir for your players! You could even have your Tale's cover as a table prize in the form of a poster, mug, or notebook! I don't know about you, but that sounds like wicked memorable con swag to me!

Cheers! ;{١

Monday, 4 February 2013

GottaCon V

Wow! What a crazy 3 days of gaming that was! How sore and tired I am is a direct result of the sure amount of fun I had!


Heavy Combat
On Friday I worked my shift, then jetted off to the convention. Once I had arrived and made my way through registration, I checked out a combat demonstration by our local Society for Creative Anachronism group hailing from the Barony of Seagirt and snapped a few photos. Very cool. Unfortunately, I didn't remember to take any more photos during the convention, especially of the games I was in.

Once the 7pm slot rolled around I attended my first RPG of the weekend: a homebrew Star Wars game called HK-51: The Problematic Moments. I honestly wasn't huge fan of the percentile-based system, it seemed a little too crunchy for something as cinematic of Star Wars. Nevertheless, I had a good time; I won a box of Star Wars Minis!

Rapier Combat
Afterwards my buddy and I were going to see if we could make it into one of the Midnight Madness Pathfinder or AD&D games, but they were filled up. We met up with another friend who was running a demo for several of the Living Card Games by Fantasy Flight. I played Android: Netrunner for the first time (as a Runner) and really quite enjoyed it. I like the theme, the fact that each side has different mechanics and goals, and I found it easier to learn than Star Wars: The Card Game. I'd definitely consider it picking it up.

Yes, that is a fish in her left hand.

Afterwards, we made our way home.


Arriving a bit before 9am on Saturday, I submitted my two items to the silent auction: Unhallowed Metropolis Revised and Spawn of Azathoth, then made my way to my friends homebrew game: Otherworlds: the Ul-Zaorith RPG - A Mystery of Circumstance. As I've mentioned before, Astra has put a phenomenal amount of work into designing her world, and again it shows with how detailed the character sheets are. It really brings you in. The adventure was fun, but second time around reaffirms my disposition for the system that's being used to tell the story, and this time I am able to narrow down a few of my concerns:

First of all, your character sheet has three pages worth of stats, skills, magic & mundane equipment, spells, techniques, etc. Now I'm not saying that big character sheets are a problem but they can be a bit unwieldy, especially during a convention one-shot. The game uses a complex array of three primary characteristics, each with two sub-attributes, and another characteristic for spell casting. Each skill or spell is ranked from 1 to 5 and is associated to one (or two) of the sub-attributes. To perform a skill or spell check, you roll a number d8's equal to the associated sub-attribute, and then you consult a table to see what number you need to roll or higher based on how many ranks you have in the skill/spell. Basically rolling a skill seemed to require way too much referencing; it also meant having max ranks in a skill wouldn't help much if the associated attribute was very low; for example if I recall correctly, 5 ranks and a sub-attribute of 1 means that you need to roll a 4 or higher on a single d8. A 50% chance success rate seems a little low to me for five ranks. It seems to place more importance on the sub-attribute (i.e. how many dice you can roll) than training (i.e. the success chance).

You could spend 10 points from the primary characteristic that governs the sub-attribute to gain another d8 on a related skill roll, but each time I used this it didn't even really help me because each 1 result is considered a botch and cancels the highest result on another die, meaning the more dice you add into the mixture means the possibility of them being nullified by 1's is increased, which might seem balanced for 1-in-8 chance per die, but given that these characteristics are also a form of tracking wounds means that you are limited to doing this a few times, and the exchange just doesn't seem worth lowing a characteristic by a 7th to a 4th depending on the size of the characteristic. Essentially there was little payoff for burning a characteristic to get a less-than sure higher chance to succeed in a skill check.

Whew. That's my 2 cents.

Anyway my chief concern is that the game mechanics are hampering the gameplay and storytelling in the rich fantasy world of Ul-Zaorith.

The next slot at 2pm was another homebrew Star Wars game: Imperial Intelligence. I enjoyed this game more than the previous; possibly because I was familiar with the mechanics but more likely because our group worked brilliantly together, as we all seemed to have a good idea what we were doing, and we all had a purpose/role to fulfil. Again I won a box of minis!

After that game, I bid on a couple of items in the silent auction, then grabbed dinner with some friends. Once I returned I set up for my very first convention game at 7pm; I was a little nervous at first, but in retrospect I wasn't as much as I could've been. Heck, I was more nervous a few months ago when I was considering which game I'd run! I think because I'm so familiar with this system, and I love it so much; that my enthusiasm coupled with my ability to open up when I roleplay got everyone into it. The gamers I had were absolutely awesome and I hope they had as much fun as I did. Interest for the game was high, and at the end of the session everyone rolled off for the prize I had picked up: the EotE Beginner Game.

Now I just need PARANOIA: Troubleshooters
After my session was over, checked the auction to see if I had won any items and if anyone had bought my own. Alas, no one wanted the two books I put up, but I did win a bid for a collection of PARANOIA books: Internal Security and High Programmers. Oddly appropriate because the next RPG slot I had signed up to attend was PARANOIA!

I was really tired by this point, as I had been gaming for over 12 hours so far, and I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before. But that tiredness translated into a goofiness that was well suited to PARANOIA. We were playing the 1st edition PARANOIA boxed set from 1984, and boy did the mechanics show it. But fun WAS mandatory! I can't wait to run my own PARANOIA game.


I got home and into bed sometime after 4am, slept till noon, and got to the con sometime after 1pm. I dropped out of my 9am Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game a few weeks ago to try and let a friend get in to play, and I was interested in attending a panel another friend was speaking in, but I was just too tired from the day/night before to make it. I was also planning to join a Savage Worlds game at 2pm, but a group of gamers from Froth Barrel Sodality in Nanaimo were hoping I'd run EotE for them, and the RPG Coordinator confirmed the previous day that a table would be free for us to use Sunday.

Mwahahaha. Something to unleash on my players.

I spent the time before 2pm checking out the vendors, several whom were dropping prices on the last day of the con. I grabbed a nice black dragon mini at 50% off, and met really cool local crafter Mark Shier of Gaukler Medieval Wears who specializes in handmade replications of medieval jewellery and metalwork. I was looking for something for my better half when I noticed he had a couple replicas of authentic 13th-15th century seals and I resolved to get one. When I mentioned sealing was a bit of a hobby of mine, he showed me a collection of actual lead and bronze seals he was also selling. They were so cool, it's amazing to think the how old they are. I very much wanted to get one as well, but I only had enough funds for the replica seal, and a replica of a 2nd century Celtic brooch found in "King Mahon's Castle" for the Miss.

Can't wait to try out my new wax seal. The missus loves her new brooch.

I met up with the dude from Froth, and we had ourselves a great game. I'm glad I got introduce this game to so many new players, have them enjoy it so much, and be interested in getting their own copies ASAP. It made my day to hear that my game was "one of the highlights of the weekend". :{D

Sadly, but somewhat thankfully, the con was over when we finished our session, and we made our fond farewells.

I cannot wait until next year! Thanks to everyone who ran the games I played in, the players who attended my own, and to all the volunteers who made GottaCon run!

Cheers! ;{١