Ottawa Geek Market

The Ottawa community held its first Geek Market on Sunday, October 14, 2012. I attended the event in the morning and it was a great experience.

What is the Ottawa Geek Market? It is a flea market dedicated to fantasy, sci-fi, gaming and other pop culture subjects. There were an assortment of vendors from artists to stores selling their wares. The entrance fee was $5 and all proceeds went to the Make a Wish organization of Eastern Ontario. There was several folks in the area in costumes mostly of Star Wars theme due to the presence of the 501st Legion and several Klingons due to the presence of IKCB Dragon Fire.

I bought for myself some good stuff. I bought the two anthology books “When the Hero Comes Home” and “When the Villain Comes Home” edited by Gabrielle Harbowy & Ed Greenwood. I heard of the first anthology on the Jennisodes podcast. Marie Bilodeau, one of the authors, sold the book to me and she signed her story for me. She was nice to meet and talk to and I look forward to read her work.

I bought a copy of the board game, Dixit. I was intrigued by the game even since I saw it on the show Tabletop. It is an intriguing association game where knowing your friends both helps and hinders you. The art on the cards are beautiful and inspiring. You could just use the cards to create a story hook for a rpg adventure.

I got some novelty items like a Zatanna bookmark from Geek Charming and two fake IDs. The fake IDs are by Fun Cards Ottawa. I got the Tournament Knight Permit and Pirates Permit to Plunder.

Brenda got a signed copy of “Alice Hearts Welsh Zombies” by Victoria Dunn. She enjoyed the book when she borrowed it from the library. Victoria Dunn was a nice author to meet with a good sense of humour. Brenda talked to me about the book and I’ll have to read it since the little she told me gave me some ideas for a rpg scenario. Brenda was happy when she found 2 books from “The Kindaichi Case Files” manga series. She loves that series of mystery manga and she is always on the lookout to complete her collection. If you know a place where sells books from that series, please let me know.

Did you attend the Ottawa Geek Market? If so, how was it for you? Do you have a similar event in your area?

Dresden Files rpg: Wardens in Ottawa

On the first Saturday of every month, Fandom II, the local gaming store, holds a rpg demo. Christopher Rothwell is the GM for those demos. For October, the game is Dresden Files.

Dresden Files rpg is based on the popular urban fantasy books by Jim Butcher. The series is about Harry Dresden, Chicago’s first (and only) wizard P.I. The rpg permits you to play as the characters of the series but its strength is making your own city and characters. The rpg uses the Fate system which permits character centric stories powered through its aspects mechanics. I enjoy the Fate system ever since I read and ran Spirit of the Century.

For the demo, Christopher set the game in Ottawa, our home city, and gave us pre-generated characters. To simplify matters even further, we had all the same character. Our high concept was New White Council Warden and our trouble was In over my head! Our skills, stunts, powers, rote spells and focus items were the same. The level of customization that we had were in the 5 other aspects. We were 8 players and determining those 5 aspects permitted to customize 8 different characters. There was Jonathan, the wizard with ADD. On another spectrum we had Andrew, the nervous wizard who preferred to observe and wait before acting. Arianna, the former military officer was our only female character and she enjoyed killing stuff with fire. D-Mac was our Jamaican Canadian wizard. I made Marcel Trépanier, a French-Canadian hockey nut (Go Habs! Go!). Jenkins was a wizard from a long line of butlers. He mentioned about the Butler Council of wizards but we figure it was destroyed in the Butlerian Jihad. I forget the name of the 2 other characters but one was focused wizard who enjoyed puns and the other worked well with others. I think it is a strength of the character creation system where five key phrases determined by the player can provide so much distinction between characters.

Our story started in Major’s Hill Park where a bunch of ghouls were arranging Ottawa University students in a pentagram. As it was raining, D-Mac summoned a localized typhoon over the ghouls and students. It was a wonderful start to the adventure and showed the creative nature of casting spells. The spell became more powerful than he expected which winded him. The group mixed between handling the ghouls, saving the students and figuring out what was going on. Due to the amount of sheer amount of water, I decided to freeze it in order to make an ice rink under the ghouls’ feet and under the students. I channeled my aspect of “Always time for hockey!” to give me sufficient boosts to get all the ice. Andrew gave me a free tag of the ghouls’ aspect “sickly” that he learned through assessment. In hindsight, I could have made the ice rink an obstacle with a threshold to beat to leave the area instead of a scene aspect to tag. After the ghouls left the ice rink, I summoned a powerful wind to slide the students away from the ghouls. My aspect of “He shoots! He scores!” helped in this situation. We managed to defeat the ghouls, save the students and learned that this was part of the pre-zombie walk zombie walk (P-Zwzw?). We called the authorities to take care of the students even though some folks were concerned of alerting the cops.

We did a montage of investigating our clues where symbols were left around the city to store necromantic energy in order to be tapped for later. We modified the symbols by making them store healing energy instead. At the last location near the hostel, there was a van from the pre-zombie walk zombie walk. We stopped the van but the driver ran out and escaped from us. We cast a tracking spell on the van which lead us to an old home past Stitsville. One of the wizards used the sight and saw there were no wards nor thresholds which made us grow suspicious of what happened. D-Mac and Andrew got into an argument about going in now or waiting for later. Jenkins used that opportunity to take out some pizza to speak to local fairies about who was in the house. We learned that only a necromancer lived in the house and no one else was seen by the faeries. That was enough for Arianna and she arranged it to burn the whole house down as she had the aspect “Kill it with fire!” The necromancer did manage to get out of his house but he was so burned up that our Warden’s Sword quickly cut him up in a blow.

This was a fun and short game of Dresden Files. Christopher is a great GM who does a good job mixing descriptive horror with humour. For the demo, he started us with 4 Fate points rather than the 1 Fate point our sheet had. It gave some extra fuel to pull some awesome stunts and reduced the need for compels. I ran Spirit of the Century several times and Dresden Files twice. I find compels are hard to accomplish until you’ve become used to the characters. Christopher asked the players to point out if one of their aspects should be compelled. As this was a demo and we had several players who didn’t know the game, there were some confusion about compels. The player of Andrew tried to apply his aspect of “Wait, watch & learn” as a compel but all his descriptions had no negative aspect or ways to increase the conflict & tension. I think it was a good call for Christopher to start us off with those 4 Fate points.

I would enjoy playing in a campaign of Dresden Files rpg. I’d love to see character and story development.

My first GenCon: Saturday and Sunday

Due to being busy, I am writing this post later than I originally planned. In my final two days of GenCon, I played several Dungeons & Dragons games, listened to an interview with Chris Perkins, attended a burlesque show and played a hilarious game of School Daze.

Wizard of the Coast (WoTC) had a dice set to collect at GenCon. We started our dice hunt on Thursday by visiting the WoTC booth and then went to fold a cute red dragon paper sculpture:

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They are cute, right?

We were registered for the D&D Next playtest event which gave 2 dice. There were 2 dice left so we signed up to play those 2 events. First was Dungeon Command demo. It is a fun and quick miniature game. I played it before in Ottawa during the Dungeon Command game day. As I played it before and knew Brenda wasn’t a fan of miniature games, I played against her and provided a fun experience for her. The other event to get the dice was a D&D 4th edition adventure prequel to the season of D&D Encounters “Council of Spiders”. We almost didn’t get to play this fun adventure. We used generic tickets and thus we had to wait until all the registered players got assigned a GM. We waited in line and saw the number of GMs available dwindle. One player right behind us in the line mentioned that he’d willingly GM the encounter if they have enough copies and some other players later in line made the same offer. When the organizer came back and mentioned there are no more available GMs, I asked if there were extra copies of the adventure for volunteer GMs currently in line. There were 2 copies of the adventure. The player right behind us GMed for Brenda and I. He took about 5-10 minutes to review the adventure which gave us time to review our characters. For a two-hour adventure, they have full-page backgrounds, personalities and relationships with other PCs for each of the available characters. This was a rich adventure in story and a decently challenging encounter. We were all playing drow from various factions. Our GM was great even though he had little preparation.

The D&D Next playtest used the iteration of the rules released around GenCon. There was a 30 minute character creation session then an hour session of actual play. As I had read most of the playtest documents on the plane trip to GenCon, I had a decent idea for my character. I made a halfling wizard who ran a mystical circus. In D&D Next technical terms, he is a stout halfling wizard with the charlatan background and magic-user specialty. It took me 15 minutes to transcribe my choices onto a character sheet. For some folks who hadn’t read the rules before, they were not quite done after 30 minutes. I think they need to streamline character creation for convention play and one-shots. Most of the elements provided permit several story opportunities at character creation. I enjoy that. At the actual play, we had several scenario options. The group agreed to a scenario that had around 60% combat and 40% social interaction. We went hunting some kobolds in tunnels. It was hilarious seeing the cleric necromancer, or as he called himself “the giver and taker of life”, hunt down souls to power some of his spells. I memorized a few non-damage spells since I enjoy those. They were fun to play with. We ended the session with the necromancer chasing after a purple worm to capture its soul.

In the early evening, I attended a live recording of the show “Gamer to Gamer” hosted by Tracy Barnett. He interviewed Chris Perkins, the DM to the stars at WoTC. It was a fascinating interview about his gaming experiences. I enjoy “Gamer to Gamer” because its talks about the passion folks have for games. To me, a geek has passion over a subject and shows it. I recommend you listen to the podcast when it shows up but in the meantime, listen to the other episodes of “Gamer to Gamer”.

Later in the evening, Brenda and I attended the d20 Burlesque show. Even though I took a few pictures, their quality were not great due to my distance from the stage. My favourite act was the first one which is the Great Old One Cthulhu. The dance and performance were comical and fun. It was a surreal experience seeing Cthulhu dance enticingly on stage. Other performances included: zombie, pedo-bear, a Mortal Kombat character, an ode to Risk, and Sniper Wolf from Metal Gear video game series. There was an act based on those text-based choose your own adventure computer games. Due to our seat, we couldn’t see what was happening on stage. The line of people wishing to enter a command blocked our line of sight to the stage. Overall, the show was great entertainment and I’m happy that I saw it at least once.

On Sunday, we had an afternoon flight home but we had enough time for one last game. We finally went to the Games on Demand section. We left ourselves open to any game. We played School Daze by Tracy Barnett. It is a role-playing game set in a high school. Our GM was Tracy Barnett. Our table of 6 had five Canadians (Brenda, Chelsea, Lyndsay, Adam and myself) and one American (https://twitter.com/loganbonner). Our high school was a Canadian high school and all our characters were Canadian stereotypes while Logan played an American stereotype as an exchange student. Being the only French-Canadian at the table, I made a French-Canadian student who loves drama and is party of the improv league. The game was in preparation for a pep rally which is strange because they are rare in Canada. I don’t remember in high school ever having a pep rally & it looked like none of the other Canadians at the table ever had one either. We understood the concept and went along with it. The game was a blast. We laughed. It was crazy funny. I highly recommend you try out School Daze.

I had a great time at GenCon. It was a great experience. There is so much to see. You can’t see everything on your first try. I plan to attend future GenCons when my budget allow. I want to try different things. Brenda mentioned that she wants to try True Dungeon and it does intrigue me.