Geek Girls Rule! #243 – Ambercon NW!!!!!

The illustration from this year’s t-shirt, by Lee Moyer.

Ok, I’ve been promising you guys a post-con wrap up for awhile.  I apologize.  Writing has sort of eaten all my time.  That and playtesting.  So we may be on a once a week schedule here for awhile.

So, AmberconNW is the best vacation in the world for me and the Geek Husband What Rules.  We go down to Oregon, with a little over a hundred of our closest friends from all over the US and England.  We spend five days playing role playing games, soaking in the soaking pool, and drinking like they’re declaring Prohibition in the morning.  It is epic, lovely, and wonderful.  Honestly, I think AmberconNW is my most favorite thing ever.

For those of you who don’t know, AmberconNW is a small gaming convention ostensibly focused on games of the Amber Diceless Role-Playing Game by Eric Wujcik, based on the works of Roger Zelazny, or games with different systems in the Amber setting.  However, the games have branched out into a bunch of different directions and that’s not really a requirement anymore.  It’s a small convention, where you know everyone by sight, if not name.  Every single person I’ve ever gamed with at Ambercon has been a complete and total rock star.  The quality of gaming at this convention is the gold standard by which all gaming should be judged.  And it’s one of the few gaming conventions I’ve ever seen with near gender parity.

So, we got there Wednesday night.  Thursday morning we rolled into Portland for breakfast at Pine State Biscuits and book shopping at Powell’s.  Oh, I love Powell’s.  I now have the latest Steven Erikson thanks to this trip.  Then back to the hotel to relax until the opening ceremonies, and first gaming slot.

The first slot I ran “Behind the Yellow Wallpaper,” which I had run at R&R earlier this summer.  “Behind the Yellow Wallpaper” is something I came up with for the Girl Game initially, using our homebrewed “Bridge” System.  However, I’ve run it diceless twice now, successfully.  Essentially, the players are all young Victorian ladies who have been institutionalized for “seeing things and/or violent outbursts” related to religion or the supernatural.  One day, a woman in black shows up and says, “Those things they say are all in your head? I can show you how to kill them.”  I usually start with all the PCs meeting at dinner in a mansion on the outskirts of the Kellogg Sanitarium grounds, and then heading out to kill monsters.  Rodney, Pol, Mikey, Krishna, and Jarrod were awesome!  Apparently when sending out character creation guidelines, I forgot to mention the supernatural aspects, or didn’t emphasize them enough, so a couple of people forgot to add them in.  Pol, we fixed pretty quick, that wasn’t a problem.  But Jarrod asked if it would be ok if his character was there by mistake, and really, honestly couldn’t see those things.  Which led to some hilarity, as she tried to figure out when she should be screaming, or where to throw her knives (badly).

Second slot I took off to go have lunch and shop at Sock Dreams with my beloved Rachel!  Socks were acquired! Lunch was eaten! Hugs were exchanged!

Third slot, was “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” which had nothing to do with the Bradbury story.  My friends Edwin and Irene ran this as a team, and did a fantastic job.  The PCs were all people who owed a life debt to British secret agent, a la James Bond.  Everyone else made these military characters who had left the military, or were still in.  I played a 20-something geek who had been an exchange student in Germany, and he stopped her from falling off a Metro platform in front of a train.  Oh, and one guy was a shiftless gas station attendant.  However, I did choose a supernatural form of “hacking” as my talent, and described my bag and car as “Think Geek threw up in it!”  So I was able to produce useful gadgets on command, like the super bright LED flashlight.  Ben, Yi-Mei, Madeline, Jen and two other people whose names I’m forgetting, played.  It was terrific.  Edwin and Irene did a great job with a twist ending that was a genuine surprise to me, if not everyone else.  I had a fantastic time.

Fourth slot Andi ran Monster Hearts by Joe McDaldno for four of us.  I had a fantastic time, playing a werewolf raised in the woods with wolves trying to learn how to be A. Human and B. a teenager.  I managed to keep a flat affect for nearly all of the game, which is no mean feat for me.  I’m a notoriously easy crack up and chronic giggler.  Ann played a Fae, Mark played a Witch, and Jen played a Vampire.  Jen’s sire came to town, kidnapped the boy the Fae had a crush on, and also one of the nerdy kids I had chosen as my pack.  It got real ugly at the end there.  And was a ton of fun!  I always have a good time with that game.

Then, drinking.

Saturday morning, fifth slot was my buddy Jeremy’s “Pulp Chaos” game which, like many of Jeremy’s games (he also used to run the Pooh game), starts out with a direction and a plot, but is eventually hijacked by the player characters and just runs wild.  Such as when we introduced my character and I announced that I could shift to a cat-like form covered in poisonous spikes, and Cort said, “Oh.  Oh no.  I’m afraid that power is FAR too much like useful for this game.”  Cort, Michele, Karrin, Ann and Nick were in that game as well.  It was one bad sexual innuendo after another and just… I can’t do it justice.   These are some of my favorite people on the planet, if that tells you anything.

Sixth slot I ran a playtest of Guns and Glamour, the Monster Hearts/Apocalypse World hack I’m writing.  It works!  It was a bit too success heavy, and thanks to feedback from my players (particularly John, Malcolm and Mikey), and the players in the playtest the GHWR ran, I think I’ve fixed that little balance problem.  We had Mark and Charity as goblins (wheelman and legbreaker, respectively), John as a Pookha prostitute, Mikey as a troll club owner, Paul as a Dwarf bodyguard, Dawn as a Sidhe Entertainer, and Malcolm as a Red Cap hitman.  The mayor of Chicago decided to try to win the election legitimately by cracking down on speakeasies, so Capone put a bounty on his head.  The players all started out angling for it individually or in pairs, but soon it became apparent to everyone who the big players were and they fell into line.  I had as much fun running it as they did playing it, possibly more because it actually worked and was fun.  And I can’t wait to get the next revision out to my volunteer playtest groups for more fine-tuning.  We’re hoping to Kickstarter it in the spring.  I am so grateful to everyone who’s playtested and listened to me blather endlessly about it so far.

And more drinking.

Sunday is one slot, and that is reserved for a recurring game:  “Portland Titans.”  Dawn runs this every year for me, Pol and Carla.  We play Portland’s own superhero team, well, sort of the B squad.  Two of us are, unbeknownst (formerly) to us children of Amber and Chaos (me and Carla), Pol plays an actual goddess of the shadow.  Essentially, the shadow we were in was supposed to be off limits to the forces of Chaos and Amber, so we could grow up safely and then leave to go deal with our parentage as we saw fit, when we saw fit.  However, last year they started messing with us.  This year we decided to mess back.  My character, a super villain who had gone straight because of her crush on Carla’s superheroine character, had NO compunction about just killing everybody, then at a look from Pol’s character and Carla’s horrified expression, would say, “Yeah, right. Good guy, now.  Got it. Ok. Deep breath.”  We love this game because it’s a nice, low-key, funny game for Sunday, the day when everyone is hungover and exhausted because even if we haven’t been drinking, we’ve been up late catching up with people we only see once or twice a year.  Dawn is a truly impressive GM, and far more prepared than I ever am.  She spend tons of time coming up with plans and counter plans as to what she’s going to throw at us and is always up to meeting the challenges presented by our squirrelly little sleep-dep-ed brains.

Then after the last slot, and time for dinner, we all gather to eat chocolate cake, talk and have the “Obies” which are awards for best death scenes, lines, etc… After the Obies, we all head out to the soaking pool.  Except for the die hards, or people like the GHWR who don’t get recreationally wet.  They keep gaming.  The rest of us drink in the soaking pool until they kick us out or we turn into big pink raisins.

I would like to thank our friends James and Ann for making sure we got to go this year in spite of vet bills.  And I want to say thank you to everyone involved for making it the best weekend out of my year every year.  Simone and Guy who run it, and make all the arrangements.  Amber who does all the insane game scheduling.   Lee Moyer who does the t-shirt designs, and is also a damn fine role player.  I have made some of the best friendships in my life at this convention, and it is a beautiful thing.

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