Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Back in the SPQR, again

I can't seem to resist that title whenever I get thinking about our old Imperium Romanum campaign, which I have been lately.

When I went to San Francisco and Chicago last month to talk to various press folks, I started getting really excited about D&D Insider, in general, and the D&D Game Table in particular. Chris Youngs talked passionately about "getting the band back together"—getting in touch with his old gaming buddies who are scattered around the world and restarting their campaign using the online Game Table. I've always been a little less than sanguine about that prospect because I'm a Mac guy, and a lot of my old gaming group are Mac guys as well.

Well, last week I got thinking about the old Imperium Romanum campaign again. It's that nostalgia that new editions seem to bring, which I talked about in an essay in DRAGON #360. So, for kicks, I sent an email to all the old gang, asking how many of them have access to Windows at off-work hours and might be willing to try out this game table later this year.

I got a very positive response back. I'm still not sure about the technical end of things, but I was pleased by the level of interest. The really interesting thing is where my thoughts have taken me since. I browsed through the old SPQR adventure log (including the adventure that Keith Baker ran—his sister was a regular part of our group at the time), and looked over the races and other rules we created for that game. Later I pulled out my old notebooks and folders and looked at the notes I kept on adventures I ran. 

Look at this entry in the adventure log:
Chala Does Tanis
DM: James Wyatt
Real date: 20 August 1990 
Game dates: 10 February 45–12 February 45
Characters: Chala, Tuina (NPC), others (NPC)

Chala did some independent research in Tanis in order to make some sense out of the goblins' letter. He learned the identity of the Denia mentioned in the letter: she is a human mage polymorphed into the form of a desert goblin as a result of a conflict with another mage in Tanis. Chala also learned the means to remove the spell on Denia. In the process, he established numerous important contacts among the mages of the town.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Yeah, baby—skill challenges. 

I'm thinking that 4th Edition is actually a lot more conducive to the way I used to play D&D, back in 2e days, than 3e was. And that it might actually be fun to run and play an adventure like that again. 

At this moment, I'd rather be thinking about the Imperium Romanum campaign—and the good friends I played it with—than writing Dragon War orDungeon Master 4th Edition For Dummies, which are the things I need to be working on right now. Novel in the morning, Dummies at night. 

I'm about ready for a vacation. Preferably one with some good, old-fashioned D&D playing in it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Starstruck? Moi?

I went to Emerald City ComiCon on Saturday. Not for work, but not exactly for play either. I took my sister-in-law (known henceforth as "Sis," though I never call her that), sort of as a mother's day gift for my mother-in-law, who hates going to these things. It was fun.

Comics are not my particular stripe of geekdom, but I know better than to look down on other geeks. These were close cousins, and I'm fairly sure I saw people at the show that I've also seen at GenCon. In addition to seeing several folks from my office (Bill Slavicsek, Michele Carter, Mike Mearls, Rodney Thompson, Logan Bonner). Oh, and the guy who used to be an assistant manager at the Starbucks where I used to write all the time, up by my old house.

Sis was there largely for the celebrities. First we talked to Gigi Edgley from Farscape, about whom more in a moment. Then we waited in a long line to see Wil Wheaton. We let Bill and Michele join us in line, partly because they brought 4e stuff (Keep on the Shadowfell and the new miniatures starter) to give to Wil. I sort of got lost in the shuffle and quickly dragged away, and didn't meet Wil, though, which I now regret. Not because I was ever a big Star Trek fan, but because I would have liked to have talked to him about playing D&D with our kids. Oh, well, I'm fairly confident there will be other opportunities.

Then we waited in line to get an autograph from the lovely Julie Benz, then another line for an autograph from the studly Jamie Bamber. I watched some Buffy (maybe 5 seasons on VHS) and really do think Julie Benz is lovely, but I didn't even know who Jamie Bamber was. And this was all about Sis, so I let her have her moment with the stars.

Then we waited in line and failed to get food from the glacially slow Subway, grabbed a quick bite from Tully's instead, and rushed Sis off to Wil Wheaton's reading from The Happiest Days of Our Lives. I should have stayed for that, but I had been promised two hours where I didn't have to stick to Sis like glue, so I dropped her off and took off. Chatted briefly with the folks from Penny Arcade and PVP (whom I had met earlier in the week), talked a bit to Brom (who did the cover for Defenders of the Faith), ran into Mearls and his buddy, grabbed my laptop and sat down for a few minutes. Did a little bit of writing while Sis was in Jamie Bamber's panel thing. Got food (at last) from Subway, where the line was much shorter but still glacially slow. Then a bit of last-minute shopping. Talked to Bill Willingham about his days at TSR. 

Then we waited around outside the panel rooms waiting for the costume contest to end so that Gigi Edgley could take the stage and perform some songs from her CD. I confess that I went in there with pretty low expectations, but I didn't care, because between our interaction with her in the booth and our brief bit of interaction with her as she walked back and forth past us outside the panel rooms, she deeply impressed me as a nice, warm, friendly person. Despite being hoarse from eight hours in a crowded exhibit hall, ebulliently talking to fans, she lit up the stage and did a fine job soldiering through three songs from the CD. And they were good songs, too! 

So I was left wishing I'd had some interaction with Wil Wheaton, with no real impression of Julie or Jamie, but really impressed by Gigi. (Note that I have no opinion of her as an actor, never having seen Farscape or anything else she's been in.) I hope I have the chance to meet her again.

This was probably the first convention I've been to in more than a decade that I just plain attended. Most of the time, I'm sitting behind tables talking to fans and occasionally even signing autographs. In the limited world of the conventions I go to, I'm a celebrity. I just hope I can do as well by my fans as Gigi did by hers this weekend. (Though, granted, I'll never be as cute or as effervescent.)