Friday, June 12, 2015

Fear & Loathing in Dallas--NorTex 2015

I am a most fortunate gamer—I get to go to several game cons each year and play games with old friends and new strangers, some of whom become friends. Each of them has its own vibe that makes it special. NorTex, formally known as the North Texas Role Playing Game Convention, is no exception. I would describe it as “collegial community”; it is small, by design, and very heavy on “name” guests. The atmosphere is ever so Texas-polite (and I mean that in the best sense possible); no brash cries and demands to sign things; instead folks wait as long as it takes as they would never be so rude as to interrupt. I have been to all of these cons now and I never tire of going. Doug Rhea puts on one hell of a con; I hope to, in the ensuing ramble, to convey some of that to you. In my best HST style, I will now try to relate my gaming experience in a mostly/ sort of chronological order.

The first thing I noticed as we started maneuvering for our approach to DFW was a hell of a lot of water; it was like coming in over a swamp or ocean in other airports I have landed in. Parts of Texas have so much water standing around they look like they ought to be growing rice or raising shrimp.

By virtue of an insane schedule, I was scheduled to land at DFW ten minutes before a game they had scheduled me to run on Wed. evening was to begin. Needless to say, that got somewhat delayed. I had sent a bunch of heavy stuff ahead to my son’s home in Flower Mound, so he brought it to me when he picked me up at the airport and whisked me off to the venue. I got checked into the hotel and informed the powers that be that I would certainly run a game, but needed a bite first and would be ready by 7 or 7:30, and we were scheduled to run until midnight, and it was not like we were going somewhere else later. So I walked over to the Jersey Mike’s and snagged a Giant #13. I ate a quarter of it. (Another qtr. after the game, then the other half the next day for lunch and I had two meals covered. Good start…)

We played an adventure that I wrote a few years back and am still tweaking. Everyone lived. (For some reason I have a reputation for mercilessly killing Player Characters in gobs. I repeat for the umpteenth time that I do not kill PC’s; in my sacred role of DM I am compelled to provide them with novel and excruciatingly ignominious means for them to do that to themselves. It is not my fault that they continually do it and that my TPK ratio is somewhere around 85%.) The fact that they woke up outside of the mysterious tower (now disappeared) they had been exploring/trying to plunder with no bleeding and wearing exactly what they went in with did not seem to do much in the way of compensating for their now-vanished dreams of wealth and easy living. Hey, they were alive…

I took some interesting figures, made on a 3-D printer, to “award” to one player in each game I ran. The figures look to be a sub-species of my signature critter that I created for Dragon #1. (I have to beat around the bush a little here to keep the Hasborg off everyone’s butt and not provoke a flurry of C&D orders; no money exchanged hands anywhere in the whole process, except when plastic stock was purchased for the printer.) I told each game that the award could be for best play, dumbest move, thinking outside the box, whatever. On a couple of them I could not choose a winner so I let them decide amongst themselves; it was very amusing to watch.

We had a nice luncheon in the hotel grill on Thursday. It is nice to get to say Hi to the other Guests and catch up a little.

By a quirk of scheduling, none of my games were scheduled to start before 6 PM. (One of my stipulations is that I don’t do anything except some sort of charity thing before noon.) This gave me ample time to wander about each day and both renew old acquaintances and make new ones, as well as watching other games being played. Watching boardgames being played is the best way I know to learn new ones.

For me, one of the best reasons to attend this con is all the time I get to spend talking to my peers in the industry, and a few betters. I won’t be so pretentious as to drop a bunch names here—what would that serve?—but it is great to be able to do so much more than say Hello in the Dealer area or Howdy as you pass in the halls. It was great fun; those I spoke with that are reading this know who they are. If they are not reading this, it hardly matters. My one regret was missing Steve marsh’s lovely daughters, Rachel and new mom Heather. They did not forget me, however and enabled me to start a new tradition at NorTex.

For a few years now I have had a tradition at GaryCon of a “Pie Game”. There is a person that brings me a cherry pie each year. I pick a game that I am running and we all eat pie and play. (Cherry pie can look like brain pie if you squint a little.) Thanks to heather, I have now started the Cinnamon Roll Game. She brought me an entire tray of yummy cinnamon rolls that I shared with the gamers that night; we ordered out for pizza about two and a half hours into the game.

The charity game was a hoot. I very seldom play on that side of the screen, but I always make an exception for Doug’s Charity Game. (It’s probably all over YouTube by now.) The entire party was made up of industry folks and the high bidders for the other seats, and for the life of me the only one I remember was Margaret Weis, who was playing a kender with a certain malicious zeal. All we did was watch our pockets and belongings and keep an eye on the kender. The party fractured 
immediately when the paladin, who thought he was leading the group, bought stew for three smelly, uncouth and incomprehensible villeins, but would not offer the same to me (I was a druid) and the other (neutral) cleric. The rift continued through the adventure and provoked a lot of fun.

As far as my games went, someone with my reputation could not ask for more: 3 TPK’s and a CHO (complete Hose-over, as in “You’ve been hosed, man.” I seem to have found an 87% effective “party-killer” attraction in Curse of the Weaver Queen, and Return to Aradondo promises to hold my rating of 8 Skulls (out of 10). The most fun I had was watching a couple of the groups decide who got the prize. Sadly, no brawling or stabbings occurred.

There was a painter there in hall across from Darlene name of Martin Jones. He paints very, very well. Check out his site at Tell him I sent you. (Maybe if enough of you do, he’ll paint me a bugbear or something.) Seriously, though; serious good painter and nice guy.

NorTex got it’s own little sample of Tracy Hickman’s Killer Breakfast, and a good time was had by all. Oh, did I forget to mention that Tracy Hickman was also there?

Now there was something that went on during the con that I am still puzzled over. I was walking by a large room holding three tables in a big “U” shape and were quite full. Standing on a chair in front of the room was Matt Finch; he was waving his arms about and seemingly talking to the entire room at once. The tables held the gamut of attendees of both sexes and all ages. A couple of hours later I walked by again and they were still there. A couple more hours had passed by the time I walked by again, and they were still at whatever it was they were doing. A couple hours passed when I saw them again! Now I am not sure just what Matt, and later, Bill Webb who seemingly relieved him at the front of the room, were doing, but I smell a rat. I think they are plotting deep plots concerning world domination and a monopoly on Moon Pies, or something equally threatening and sinister.

The weather started out fairly nice, for Dallas, where it is all relative. When we got there, it was in the mid-80’s—balmy for Dallas in June. By Sat the temp was up to 108°; more the norm for this time of year. Walking out of the hotel into that was like getting hit in the face.

If you live down in that part of the world, you really ought to look into NorTex. It is fun, very low-key and low-pressure and relaxed. Sort of makes it an anomaly of the finest kind. 

1 comment:

  1. That was a D&D game with a big party, Tim. We ran for 14 hours, which was when my voice gave out. :)