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PAX East 2011

March 16th, 2011 | Category: Uncategorized

It’s been ages since I’ve updated here, and I almost apologized for that, but then I realized that it’ll happen again, so it’s not really worthwhile for me to do so. Anyhow, I just returned from an amazing weekend at PAX East in Boston. Jana surprised me by grabbing an unneeded ticket from my friend Mike, who bought his and then moved to Germany, so he no longer needed it, which is how I was able to go. I flew out early Friday morning, getting delayed by about an hour, which made me later to the con than I’d planned, but that wasn’t really a huge deal. My friend Brian picked me up at the airport and then dropped me at the hotel, where my friends had already checked in and had left my ticket in the room so I could meet them at the convention center. Once inside the expo, it took me a while to get my bearings, get my swag bag, and then to find my friends, but with all that out of the way, it was time for the nerdery to begin!

Friday afternoon was mostly spending checking out the exhibit hall and getting a plan of attack ready for the weekend. The expo floor was intense! So many people and vendors that I didn’t really have the opportunity to take it all in. Luckily, I’m not really a PC or console gamer, so it didn’t bother me to not see most of the floor, after all, I was there for three main reasons:

  1. see my friends
  2. play tabletop games
  3. check out the panels

All of which I had ample opportunities to fulfill. I checked out a panel entitled D&D Edition Wars which wasn’t so much wars as it was several gamers and developers discussing the evolution of D&D and how it’s kept true to Gary Gygax’ original vision of the game. It was pretty interesting, and yet again made me miss regularly playing pen and paper RPGs. The next panel I went to was The Rat Bastards Guide to Long Campaigns with Dorian “Sagiro” Hart (Bioshock & more designer), Corey “Barsoomcore” Reid (Dino-Pirates of Ninja Island), Chris Perkins (D&D Creative Manager at Wizards of the Coast) and Kevin “Piratecat” Kulp (Lead Designer of Talkie, and author of adventures such as “Of Sound Mind”), which did a fabulous job of rekindling my lost enjoyment of pen and paper RPGs. It simultaneously made me terrified of most of the panelists as GMs due to how much they enjoy killing off player characters. I used to run a D6 Star Wars party back in high school that lasted for 5 or 6 years and was a lot of fun, which this panel harkened back to. The rest of Friday was spent in the Classic Arcade room playing SiniStar and Moon Patrol, the latter being an old favorite from childhood while the former was a newfound favorite. I seriously played SiniStar for at least 4 hours over the weekend, which may not sound like much for modern video games, but even the records for this game are less than 15 minutes. I pulled off the eighth highest score of the weekend on Sinistar which I thought was a decent achievement.

The remainder of Friday night was spent at the opening concert, where suitably geeky musicians performed for an excited crowd. I missed about half of the first group’s set, which is sad because the group was The Protomen who perform a Mega Man rock opera that was absolutely awesome! During the interlude, Dan and I played a game of Magic, which despite it being a nerd convention felt slightly awkward to be playing in public. Next up was the bundle of beat dropping energy known as MC Frontalot who got the floor moving! His performance was amazingly high energy and a downright blast and I look forward to seeing more of his shows in the future. To wrap up the night, Metroid theme songs. In celebration of Metroid’s 25 year anniversary, they played the music from the original game straight through, level one to final boss fight with Ridley. The highlight for me though was them playing Autobots/Decepticons Battle from the only Transformers movie, the 1986 animated original. This song was performed absolutely perfect and I’m still giddy from having heard it played live.

Saturday got off to a reasonably early start as we headed to the expo center around 10 am to discover that it was a much busier day! I checked out a few more gaming booths and chatted with the fine folks of Cool Mini or Not who had an amazingly sharp display to show off their even more amazingly well painted minis. I picked up a set of Malifaux minis so that I can finally get started with that skirmish game with my friends who already have minis for it. I’m played The Guild faction, starting with Lady Justice, and will probably pick up another box or two to add more variety.

The main agenda for Saturday was watching Mike and Jerry create a Penny Arcade strip, start to finish, on stage with input from the crowd. Jerry and Mike are genuinely hilarious and humble gamers who are just as stoked to talk to fans as the fans are to speak with them. Some really awkward questions were asked, but overall, the entire panel was phenomenal. Check out the strip they drew for us.

Later on Saturday, I finally got a chance to play a game I’ve been drooling over since it’s release, and haven’t played, despite buying the rulebook the day it hit shelves. The game I’m referring to is Eclipse Phase, a game of trans-humanity trying to survive in a harsh universe in which Mother Earth is all but dead, and the last remnants of humanity are eking out a living amongst the stars. The physical body no longer matters as humans have a “stack” implanted in their neck which allows them to upload their consciousness to the network and back into other “sleeves” as they see fit, and can afford. The demo was run by none other than Jack Graham, one of the designers and writers of the game. We used some of the pre-generated characters to play through a two hour scenario where our team boards a “desserted” ship adrift in space only to discover that it’s infected with crazy space monkeys. Think of the “rage” infected monkeys at the beginning of 28 Days Later and you’d be close to what these things were like. The game mechanics were solid, being d100 based, and Jack’s storytelling and knowledge of the game & universe were exceptional. My only real gripe was with the party I was with as they made it difficult to stay in character, but that happens when playing one-off games with strangers. It didn’t detract of the game much as it was more of a nuisance than a real problem, and despite this, I absolutely want to play and/or run this game in the future.

Dan was awesome enough to bring along a ton of Necromunda scenery, all the way from Ohio, so we just had to get a game of that in. His friend Alex joined us, so we played a three player game, my Goliaths vs Dan’s Delaque vs Alex’ Cawdor. They both went rather flamer heavy, so I went with two heavy stubbers to really lay down the long range firepower. It didn’t pay off so well since Dan ended up winning because both Alex and I bottled on the same turn, but it was still a hell of a fun game. Since we had a decent amount of scenery, our table drew quite a lot of interest, so hopefully we successfully spread the word about the game.

Later in the night, I finally got a crowd together to run some games of Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow, a card game I’ve owned for at least two years and have never had the chance to play. I was introduced to the game while still working at the Ohio Renaissance Festival several years back and fell in love with it. The downside of the game is that it’s for 8-10 players. Anyhow, I wrangled up a dozen or so players and ended up running this for three or so hours and from the players’ responses, I must have done a great job as the storyteller. I even had one player tip me $5 for how much fun he had, much to my (futile) protestation. I never got a chance to actually play the game, but running it was a blast! During this time was the only time when I encountered anyone remotely annoying, as a random dude came over and immediately began criticizing me and telling me how to run it. I played it cool, listening and not getting annoyed, just trying to get him to leave me alone while I ran the game, which worked for a bit. Eventually though, he came to join the game, and my players totally had my back, as he was the first villager lynched in the game, much to my elation.

Sunday morning, I was met at my room by Tatjana, ladyfriend of the aforementioned Brian, so that we could meet up with more old friends at a local cafe. Arriving right on time, we immediately caught up with Dave and Liz and their soon-to-be-five year old son Alex, headed inside and ordered juice/coffee/tea and started catching up. We realized it’s been over 5 years since most of us have seen one another and agreed that that’s far too damned long! Ate some great vegan food and had lovely conversation with them and I got to play a bunch of iPhone games with Alex, who slowly worked his way over towards me until he was hanging off my arm, taking turns playing games with me. Adorable. Our friend Sam arrived a little late, but immediately got into the catching up and whatnot. Turns out that he’s wanting to start up a vegan cookie distribution in Boston, which I wholeheartedly support, and he’s supposed to be sending me a goody bag of samples. Score! Following brunch, Sam drove me back to the expo hall so I could get in more nerd time.

First thing I did was to catch the last Penny Arcade Q&A panel, during which some heartwarming stories were shared. A double leg amputee had Jerry and Mike present his leg, Lion King style, to the crowd; a Japanese girl cried while Mike and Jerry took turns giving her hugs; the cookie brigade presented Child’s Play with over $8000 in donations from the weekend’s cookie sales; a man retro-actively proposed to his wife; much merchandise was signed; a man rapped about PAX; and lots lots more. This set the tone for the rest of Sunday though, that of winding down.

I got in another game or five of Sinistar before heading to the tabletop floor to run more Werewolves. The crowd this time was much more subdued than Saturday’s crowd, but they all still enjoyed it, and I certainly enjoyed running it, even if my voice was nearly gone by the end of it. I watched my friend Dan play a bit of Mansions of Madness only to realize that Corey (now my coworker) was running Dino-Pirates at the next table over, so I got a chance to see him and his game in action. Sadly, at 6pm, they kicked us all out of the expo center, thus ending the official PAX East.

My group of friends met up for dinner at a local dive burger joint, which happened to have a tasty vegan meatball sandwich, and then went back to our hotel to play games in the lobby until the wee hours of morning, trying to keep PAX alive for a few more hours.

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Troll 2, The Best Worst Movie

October 08th, 2010 | Category: Uncategorized

Where to start with such a delicate topic. I guess from the beginning makes the most sense although I’m uncertain of exactly when and where that is. In my teen “just discovering bad horror movies” years, I recall seeing at least bits and pieces of Troll 2 either on late night TV or from a friend renting it. Vague memories of confusion, hilarity, and lots of vile looking green food are there, but without much in the way of context.

Fast forward to early this year, living in Toronto, and being over at my friend Jason’s house for our weekly Blood Bowl/boardgaming nights and he decided to put Troll 2 on for some background entertainment. Needless to say, more attention was paid to this brilliant piece of Italian (yup, Italian filmed in the US) cinema than to the carnage on the fantasy football pitch. We were hooked, or at least I was. We discussed this movie quite a lot over the coming months and at some point, it was mentioned that the childhood star of the movie, Michael Stephenson aka Joshua, was making a documentary about his experience with the movie. It sounded amazing, so I did some googling and discovered that it was playing in Columbus, Ohio, my old stomping ground, so I told a lot of my friends to go check it out. To my knowledge, none of them did.

Fast forward to summer time, Jason’s birthday party, which was backyard barbecue in which it was decided to drag their 52″ flat screen television and PS3 out into the backyard, pull out some blankets, popcorn, beer, soda and cupcakes, and watch Troll 2 right there at night. It was a magical sort of night, most of us coupled up with our partners, sharing snacks and a ton of laughs at this film. As it turns out, one of the women there, Karly works for an agency handling the promotion of the aforementioned documentary on Troll 2 here in Canada! Small world, right?

Jana enjoyed Troll 2 very much, and we quickly learned that there’s a Riff Trax for it, which we immediately got our hands on. Watching it MST3K style only made the movie even more enjoyable! So, by this point in time, I’ve watched it at least four times this year, which is saying quite a lot for a movie that at the time was number 1 on the bottom 100 movies of all time!

About a week ago, Jason informed me that the documentary about Troll 2, called The Best Worst Movie is playing a double feature with it’s inspiration here in Toronto! Of course we had to go, and thanks to Jason’s friend Karly, we were able to get tickets, and despite almost not getting to see it due to it being sold out, we got in and were actually all able to sit together. The documentary was so genuinely shot and put together that it’s difficult not to love the subject matter that much more. Following the documentary, there was a Q&A with the director Michael Stephenson as well as Papa Waits himself, Dr Greg Hardy. They were super cool and answered all of the questions with great flare and humour. I am seriously impressed with how good this documentary is and with how much effort went into making it. I would talk about it more, but I don’t want to ruin any of it for those of you wishing to see it.

That said, thanks to Karly for the hookup, Jason for the invite, to our friends who joined us for such a fun night, and finally to the documentary crew for making such a wonderful film!

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