She Can Fly: Severa Preview

Female-centric and female-led comic titles are becoming more common place. Indie creators have noticed the growing female audience and are responding by producing more content focused on women in strong, action-packed roles. With titles like Rocket Girl, Shutter, and Bandetta on the rise, gender issues are being addressed more readily and creator owned publishers are embracing the female audience with more respect than some of the bigger publishers.

trinity01That said, many of these comics are still written and drawn by men, and often tread the fine line of empowered female character and “strong female character” (a woman who’s only defining traits are that she is strong, tough, and often sexy). Kevin Maguire acknowledged this trope back in 1997 with his underloved tongue-in-cheek sci fi/superhero romp Trinity Angels, and artists like J. Scott Campbell, with his Danger Girls series, still play with the concept today, but more often than not, attempts at playing with gender roles and presentation of strong and sexy female characters struggle to find success with female audiences.

Sevara definitely struggles with that line. While it lacks the cartoony, self-referential fun of Maguire or Campbell, it presents a number of powerful female leads; unfortunately, it fails to really explore the characters deeper than a brief back-story and a number of confusing flashbacks.

I received a preview copy of the first “issue” of Sevara (#0) from publisher Broken Icon Comics. Releasing a full Volume 1 in April, the creator owned comic is trumpeted as being a “female-centric fanboy romp” with a “rich and engaging look at gender stereotypes, theological conflict, and ecological degradation.”

Sevara Poster 2The title character is transformed into an immortal, god-like warrior who battles evil, greed, hate, and destruction. Once the world is returned to its innately good pastoral state, Sevara and other entities like her enter a stasis and allow humans to maintain the world. Of course, this goes poorly, and Sevara suddenly awakens some thousands of years later to a world filled with greed and fear, where one machine-man (Mitan) is trying to rule over everything. Sevara must fight Mitan and find other women who have the power to become divine.

Creator Damian Wampler was originally inspired by the concept of “what Jesus and other prophets would think of how humanity had interpreted their words,” and the story was originally written to be a play. The concept is a solid one, and while the concepts of superheroes as gods and mortals being turned into gods only to die have been written within the industry, the idea of a god whose words are used against them is less common. However, that concept barely comes through in the preview pages.

And that’s where we find biggest weakness of Sevara: the writing. The story-line is too concerned with and enfolded in itself, and I was getting mental whiplash from how quickly the comic traveled back and forth in the timeline of the characters (sometimes up to three on a single page)—maybe. It’s honestly hard to tell who is being focused on in implied flashbacks, as a disproportionate number of the women in the first issue have shortish red hair. While I appreciate that much of the primary female cast has short hair—it’s a personal pet peeve when post-apocalyptic women have luxurious Whedon-wavey locks—the similar hair color, style, and the vaguely same-faced characters makes differentiation a challenge.

The art and line-work, both by Andre Siregar, is solid, but inconsistent. Part of this is absolutely because of the shifting nature of the story, but the art also struggles to show what is actually happening in a clear, concise way. Siregar’s figures are OK, with Sevara being his best drawn character, but it’s really his panel layout that is great; outstanding on some pages. You can see vague inspiration from classic the Wildstorm/Image era, with playfully shaped boxes (inspired by the movements within them) and characters breaking out of their panels on almost every other page.

Sevara’s powers are a bit baffling. She seems to have a magic suit (complete with a pin-head helmet) that, a la Empowered, occasionally turns to strips of gauze, but then immediately repairs itself when convenient to the plot. She also occasionally has a pair of beautifully rendered wings that come and go without much explanation. These, along with immortality, seem to be powers associated with all the immortal women in the book—unless some of them are actually the same women with different wings and scaly bikinis.

The place where Sevara shines most is the colors. Colorist Anang Setyawan masterful creates texture and dynamic images with his shading and color palette. The moments when Sevara is glowing, or when shining balls of immortality are being exchanged make me wonder what Setyawan did to achieve the ethereal, jump-off-the-page glows.

photo 1Though the cover of the preview is different from the interior art, I really like the look and feel of it. Joshua Chinsky’s piece is a great example of how artwork of the female body can be “sexy,” but not “sexualized.” The titular character’s eye contact and body language belay a sense of confidence, strength, and almost acknowledgement of the male gaze; though Sevara is not clothed much, her body is not presented lasciviously.
I would compare this series to Witchblade, in style, tone, and use of border-line titillating images (although the first issue of Sevara is not as bad an offender as Witchblade). Though I’ve never been particularly fond of the dark, sci-fi fan-service genre, Witchblade has been wildly successful, spawning live action and anime adaptations. Sevara, too, has the potential for success, provided it can overcome itself.

Sevara is not going to be cheeky fun; it’s clearly trying to make a serious presentation of religion in comics, but I worry that the dark, self-important tone will be the downfall of the book. While grim and gritty is always in style according to some publishers and filmmakers, I feel the book could potentially be a more successful title if it took itself a little less seriously. If you like dense, post-apocalyptic stories featuring heroines with tortured internal monologues, this is the title for you. Sevara has the potential to go somewhere great, but it’s hard to say where the story will go next.

Sevara Volume One will be available in April 2015.

Game the Game: GenCon Wrap-Up Part II: The Long Con and the Con Game!

I put a lot of thought into the games I run at conventions, this is my chance to meet some new players, and hopefully, entertain and be entertained. Three of my games had very definite structures:

An Infinivaders game (a Cartoon Action Hour setting by John Wick). The setting was outside my wheelhouse, but I appreciated being pushed to become more knowledgeable, and I came up with fun scenario involving two teams of PCs, each PC having a polar opposite. I wanted to create some tension “Working together, putting aside differences, we can be victorious” was the awesome jingle we came up with. My plot involved the Colossus of Rhodes, the people of Rome being given back their mighty kingdom, the shield Ancile, Apollo’s bow, as well as Cthulhu. There was a lot there. I like to be prepared. I like to deliver a standalone experience in the time allotted. The session closed with the samurai committing seppuku before the ninja could off him. A little bit dark for a 1980s cartoon perhaps, but that’s why we play the game, to see what happens. PCs fought, some came together, some had incredibly powerful and out-of-control abilities, and we all enjoyed sugary cereal on a Saturday morning.

Another Cartoon Action Hour game was next, this time of my own design; the Wu-Tang Clan as a 1980s cartoon! I wanted to offer a game that would be unique, even at a place like GenCon. None of my players had much knowledge of the Wu, but boy-oh-boy was it a fun time. When your session ends with the Almigty Yeezus and his witch-bride Kimye being defeated so that their baby could be saved, because “Wu-Tang is for the Children!” you know something went right!

Retrostar playtest required less prep, as the game is designed to be a far more improvisational. All the players seemed to really enjoy Galactic Run, my Convoy meets Smokey and The Bandit in space series!

For my CCVF games, players make characters at the table, and then we just go from there. I pick some villains, we have a fight so they can see how the mechanics work, the premise is they are on a reality TV show, so lots of producer–led shenanigans and false drama, but every time I run this “scenario,” awesome, memorable stuff happens, always driven by the players. Last year, it was one of the Heroes deciding he had a complicated romantic history with one of the villains. That threw everyone for a loop, and made it even more memorable. This year, one character decided he was the bumbling son of a Superman and Wonder-woman equivalent power couple, and that allowed me to use that to make that story personal and memorable and unique.

Enough about me, honestly, I don’t want you to think I am patting myself on the back. I do have a point here. I like creating snapshot games, a stand-alone session that delivers everything a game should- action, drama, humor (if applicable), danger, suspense, and surprises. When dealing with a 4 hour block of time, this requires some prep, but it is worth it. In my head-canon, all of this stuff happened. Last year’s America’s Next Super Team and this year’s team exist in the same universe.

I ran a CAH game last year: Ace Agents (Head of the Class meets Mission Impossible), one of my players showed up for several of my games this year. I like making that connection. He seems to be a big fan of Spectrum products, so I think he was most interested in playing those games. My friend Neal, who I have gamed with at two ConBusts, also showed up to play some CCVF, bringing along a friend. Also awesome.

As happens, post-game, one player and I got to chatting, he is very much an old-school gamer, runs 6 hour sessions of AD&D (1e) at GenCon, as he wants to get into some serious role-playing, and this is his system of choice. Even when things go awry, as one of his sessions did, he likes to enjoy the extended amount of time, and let things develop.

There is a group of gamers out there who enjoy long-con games, games with multiple sessions that take play over a convention weekend, having a beginning, middle, and end. This idea is great, but is not that new to me, nor is it that new to many GMs, some just approach it in different ways.

Saturday morning, I am in a room about as far from the convention center as one can be. I am there early, I have cereal on the table, offer it up to another table of gamers, who are extremely grateful, I doze a bit, and as I am finishing up my preparations, overhear another table (there were 4 in this particular room, only 2 of which had games going), I hear some familiar lingo, some familiar character names. When there is a break in the action, I walk over and talk to the GM. It turns out he has been running the same group of characters at GenCon for many, many years, advancing their story each year. My hat is off to Bob Karcher. I may try and get in on his game next year, if time allows. And, if you want an immersive old school AD&D experience, look out for Misa Bakracevski!

Roleplaying Game Throwback Thursday: Johnny Atomo

Johnny Atomo (Adventure! by White Wolf games)

Some people collect character sheets, some people throw them away. I keep them. From campaigns. From one-shots. From convention games. I have a folder filled with them.

So, here is Johnny Atomo. I think the year was 2001, the location was Milwaukee, and it was GenCon!

I think one of the other PCs was a talking gorilla.

Why am I starting with this character? At GenCon 2014, I was running a game next to Bob Karcher, who was still running the same characters through crazy pulp adventures with the timeline advancing every year and influenced by the actions of the players. I had a fun time, I remember using my Destructive facet to smash through a wall. Bob even made standees with the character’s pictures.

In the future, we will profile more characters, and share with you some of the stories that go along with them.

Back-Issue Bin: Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos

Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos (2005; w: Keith Giffen; a: various).  Read that title again. You might think this was the raucous adventures of Fury, Dum Dum, Gabe Jones and all those other awesome characters from days long ago. You would be wrong.  This series is about a bunch of supernatural/ monstrous Marvel characters working for a division of S.H.I.E.L.D. This must have taken some inspiration from that chart-selling book by the Distinguished Competition: Creature Commandos.

There was a lot packed into this series even though it only lasted 6 issues.  A lot you ask? Artists: 4. Primary characters: 7. Supporting characters: 17!

Primary characters include such monstrous archetypes as: a Frankensteinian monster, a mummy, a vampire, a werewolf, and a zombie. Add in Gorilla-Man and Clay Quartermain, and you have a roster with lots of fun, goofy potential, and a hook that is sure to appeal to fans of off-the-wall ideas (AoG EiC Mike, I am looking at you!).

bibnfhc01And likely because by issue 3, they knew they were /not/ onto something, they enlisted Amanda Conner for a cheesecakey cover, hoping to lure in new readers.

If you are looking for a series featuring Groot, Hellstrom, and Manphibian, this is it. There are so many really fun concepts here, it would be great if they could bring the team back in some way, maybe even for an appearance in a pre-existing book.

Giffen committed to the pitch, and went for it with a whole lot of gusto.

Will we ever see any of these characters and this affiliation in any Marvel titles or in their CinematicU? I would be willing to say no. But, we can all dream. Fury talking to Groot perhaps?


IMAGINE IF: Howard the Duck, Release Date 1982

Imagine if Hollywood had released tent-pole comic book movies starring their iconic characters around the time of the source material’s release date. For the purposes of this experiment, we will say that a movie would be released 5 years after the introduction of the character, and only movies that have been made would be made.

After the tantalizing tease at the end of Guardians of The Galaxy, everyone was abuzz with what it meant. Howard the Duck had premiered in 1973, and been most popular in the mid 1970s, but as a property, was considered unfilmable. Was it comedy? Parody? Social commentary?

A month after GotG left theaters, promotional material started rolling out for Howard. This would be the first R-Rated superheroic film put out by the big two, and creator Steve Gerber was even called in to work on the script.

Howard the Duck (voice)-John Belushi

The great tragedy here is that producers loved Belushi, but his death before the premiere ensured there would never be a sequel, although rumors abound that fellow SNL alum Bill Murray was approached to re-record all the dialogue and make the possibility of a sequel possible.

Beverley Switzler-Phoebe Cates

After having come for the movie Paradise, a film she disavowed immediately, producers promised the young Cates that this role would help her separate herself from the Blue Lagoon ripoff.

Dr. Bong-Gene Simmons

Producers searched long and hard for someone to fill the bizarre role of Dr. Bong when Gerber suggested Gene Simmons, who, as a member of Kiss had already appeared with Howard in the comics! Plus “he’s used to performing where no one can see his real face, the Dr. Bong helmet will not be a problem.” Many fans felt that Simmons performance raised the bar for super-villains in superhero films, as he took the source material as seriously as Gerber!


She Can Fly: A Genius To Watch Out For

On Wednesday, this year’s winners of the MacArthur “Genius” Grants were announced. Among mathematicians, scientists, lawyers, and poets, one cartoonist was also awarded the $625,000 grant. Why is this cartoonist special (after all, Ben Katchor was the first graphic novelist to win the award in 2000)? Because Alison Bechdel is the first female cartoonist to be awarded with the Fellowship.

If that name sounds familiar, it should. Aside from writing a number of bestselling, award-winning graphic novels, Bechdel also coined the eponymous “Bechdel Test:” if a work of fiction features at least two (named) female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man, then it passes the Bechdel Test. Seen as a sort of litmus test of gender bias in fiction, and specifically film, the Bechdel Test was first introduced in 1985, in Bechdel’s long-running queer comic Dykes to Watch Out For, but later became adapted by the popular culture mainstream in late 2009, and was eventually dubbed “the standard by which feminist critics judge television, movies, books, and other media” by critic Kay Steiger, in an essay on the gender politics of the Walking Dead.

Bechdel received the news while in an artist retreat in Umbria, Italy. “I actually didn’t want to pick up the phone…[but] I didn’t want to call back and pay for the long-distance call. Although now, I think I can afford it,” Bechdel told The Post’s Comic Riffs on Thursday morning.

An Eisner Award winner, Bechdel seems humble and surprised by the announcement, despite numerous awards and praise—including the musical adaptation of her 2006 memoir Fun Home being named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in April: “What a year—it’s been really crazy. I’m struggling to keep up with myself, and keep my feet on the ground. The play has been an amazing experience…I’m finally figuring out what I’m doing, and sort of feeling like now, I have to start taking responsibility [as a high-profile figure in the comics world].”

Bechdel’s win is one of a few queer wins with the MacArthur Foundation this year (a Massachusetts gay rights activist is another 2014 “Genius” fellow), but Bechdel’s win also represents the ever present issues of gender and sexuality in the comics industry. While female representation has increased in the past years, so have instances of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and orientation policing. The success of a prominent queer, female figure in comics promises more visibility to the plight that women face when it comes to comics—how they are advertised, viewed, and reacted to—as well as more support for up-and-coming female and queer cartoonists.

Because of the autobiographical nature of Bechdel’s work, more young women will have a figure to turn to when it comes to the representation of women in comics. Along with women in mainstream superhero comics, like Gail Simone, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Amanda Conner, and Babs Tarr, and the ever-growing list of female indie creators, like Fiona Staples, Amy Reeder, Becky Cloonan, and Renae De Liz, Alison Bechdel’s win just adds to the shift in the industry. Hopefully bigger companies will see this and follow suit in using existing female creators and attempting to draw in new creators as well.

Back Issue Bin: Original Sin (2014; w: Jason Aaron; a: Mike Deodato)

Yes, we just finished up a podcast series covering Original Sin, but frequently we referred to past crossover events, so we thought this would be a great time to open up the Back Issue Bin and look at these crossover event series.

But, in order to do so, we need some common criteria on which to judge them. You have heard of the ABCs, we came up with the PQRS. We will rate each of these 4 categories on a 1-10 scale, which will then give us a common language to discuss events!

P: The Premise and Potential of a series. How cool is the idea? How compelling and interesting and original is the concept.

Q: Quality. Yes, this is entirely subjective, but we will be looking at the quality of the art and the writing.

R: The Repercussions of the series. Crossovers often seek to shake up the status quo and increase book sales. Is the status quo changed after the event?

S: Significance. How many titles/ corners of the universe were touched upon with tie-ins? How consistent is the happenings of the title within the universe? If Character X is stranded on an alien planet, broken and emotionally scarred, but then in their own title are going on a second date with their longtime crush, this diminishes the significance. If the tie-ins are not directly impacted, this decreases the significance.

So, now we have a common language that we can use to discuss these events, and to give an example, we will jump right into Original Sin!

Original Sin was 8 issues, and original scheduled to be bi-weekly, although the last two issues were delayed. There were three all-new subtitles directly related to the series, and ten series that crossed over with the main title.

P: The Watcher is killed, and all his secrets will be revealed. Two teams of supers seek to discover who committed the murder, and why, and the whole of the Marvel Universe will feel have to face secrets long hidden.
Score: 7
It was pitched as a classic murder mystery. This didn’t particularly compel me, especially because there was no real build up, as far as I know. The Watcher had been a non-factor in the Marvel U for quite a while.

Q: I liked Deodato’s art, and as a writer Aaron had some moments, but overall, the execution was godawful. As we began podcasting this, we looked at several “rules of a mystery” and this followed very few of them. The characters involved were a true mishmash, the covers were deceptive, and although the concept had potential, it was left unrealized.
Score: 2
Where were the earth-shattering secrets?

R: There were a couple of reveals, plot points that will be felt in the MarvelU, but nothing too major. I don’t particularly feel any strong pull to add any new titles to my pull, and actually grew actively disinterested as several tie-ins progressed.
Score: 3

S: I still do not follow what most of the tie-ins had to do with the actual series. Deadpool? The Avengers (the reveal of which was a plot device that has already been used, and more effectively, by both of the Big Two in past events and plotlines). The tie-ins were a decent cross-section of the corners of the Marvel U, Avengers to X-titles to GotG to Deadpool to street level heroes and even Asgard. So it wanted to be big, but most of the tie-ins felt just marginally connected, and with the premise being that big secrets would shake everything up, not much happened. And the main villains, who were they, why were they involved, and why do I care? Seriously, even with the power of wiki-fu, I still do not understand their inclusion.
Score: 2

Final Tally:
P: 7, Q: 2, R: 3, S: 2; Total Score=14

More Back Issue Bin: Crossovers will be covered: some we loved, some we loathed!

She Can Fly: The Fault in Our Pages

Up until about five years ago, Young Adult (YA) Fiction was overlooked by most critics. Instead of being viewed as worthwhile books, they were regarded as teen schlock, primarily for young women who hadn’t yet “discovered” “literature.” However, since the dawn of Twilight and similar YA novels, the genre as a whole has been viewed in a whole new light of success and money making.


***Spoiler Warning***


In this time when YA novels have become significant bestsellers, there’s also been a significant trend in YA; beyond having a heroine that readers can easily project themselves on, the heroines are often portrayed as tough, cool, and “bad-ass,” only to have them ultimately sacrifice themselves in some way for the male protagonist.


Matched-Trilogy-Book-Review-at-www.thebensonstreet.com_Books like Divergent and Matched strongly reinforce the idea that first love is the only real love, limiting the world view of young women who are often entering their first relationship. These concepts discourage young women to engage in exploration of relationships, and often impresses upon them that if they break up with their first boyfriend, they may lose their “true love” forever.


Self-sacrifice can be a valuable literary device, but when it becomes a literary trope most associated with young heroines, it can be frustrating and also dangerous:


In Divergent, the heroine Tris ultimately allows herself to be killed in order to specifically save her boyfriend.


In Twilight, Bella attempts to commit suicide on multiple occasions because she was left by Edward. Later she sacrifices herself to give birth to Edward’s bizarre, half-vampire baby, only to be brought back as an undead, “perfect” version of herself.


In Matched, Cassia sacrifices her own family and livelihood for just a chance to see the boy she loves.


Even in the Hunger Games, Katniss ultimately ends up with Peeta, even though he’s been “hijacked” and continues to have the impulse to kill her on occasion.


The repetition of “strong female characters” sacrificing themselves for their relationships is upsetting, and essentially negates any of the characters’ power or strength. These characters are presented as powerful women, but they allow themselves to be un-empowered by a steadfast pursuit of the boys they love.


And that’s the thing, all of the male characters portrayed in these books are boys, not just in age, but in terms of maturity as well. Many of the relationships portrayed are specifically abusive (especially that of Edward and Bella), and almost all of the male love interests are either presented as completely insensitive (Gale from Hunger Games) or sensitive to a fault (Ky and Xander from Matched); often, the heroes fall into both categories, presenting a frustrating and almost unreal dichotomy that sets up unrealistic standards in terms of relationships.


John GreenThere’s also an issue with the John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) brand of YA fiction, which often idolize illness, depression, and the idea of “forever.” Some assert Green and others of his ilk abuse their “internet fame” to promote mediocre books, but the truth is, Green’s “style” of YA storytelling has been prominent since at least the 90s (think The Perks of Being a Wallflower and how it romanticizes mental illness, abuse, and PTSD), and is supported by quotes from people like YA actress idol Jennifer Lawrence when she told actor Jesse Eisenberg “[his] OCDs are awesome!” (She later apologized for her insensitive comments, but her momentary idolatry of mental illnesses like OCD as “quirky” and “cute” is one that seems to be shared throughout many popular YA novels).


Ultimately, as many problems as YA fiction has, it has led to an industry that views female heroines as positive characters, and that encourages female writers to produce work that is frequently profitable and well-received. These character and writers are encouraging young women to read more voraciously, and also shows that female-led movies, especially female-led action flicks, can be outrageously successful. After all, the Hunger Games: Catching Fire outsold Thor: The Dark World  in spades.

What If…the Red Ghost planned the Watcher Heist?

From the journal of the Red Ghost, Earth-53662

Dr. Richards is no doubt intelligent, but as a scientist, I find him lacking. His thirst for the unknown, to forge ahead unto uncharted territories, makes him more of an explorer. A scientist is thorough, and methodical. His rocky-skinned ally, the Thing, has on many times expressed a desire to shed his cosmic-ray infused exterior, and Reed has failed every time, because every time it was a one-shot attempt. What kind of science is that?

It was always about the moon. After having taken to the stars, Dr. Richards left behind great mysteries and wonders. His loss, strike that, his lack of vision, shall be my gain.

This Watcher resides on the moon. It is said, he sees everything. It is also said that contained within his home are items of immense power. To have those powers. To unlock the secrets of what he has seen. With this shall come great power.

My beloved apes will be of little help to me in this expedition.  To pull off a liberation of this magnitude I will need a team, a team designed to overcome whatever obstacles we might face.

Sadly, the one called Egghead has seemingly passed from this Earth.  His intellect, while not as great as mine, would have been helpful.

No one can hear you scream in space, but artificial atmospheres beg to differ. Angar the Screamer will be a fine foil for the Watcher, as his superpowered screams bring with them hallucinations. This may very well overwhelm the Watcher and his ever-watching eyes.

Rarely does the Watcher interfere, but his power is immense, I need brutes to tie him up, should it resort to unfortunate fisticuffs. Who better than the man who defeated Thor, one Mr. Hyde, as well as longtime Avengers adversary Count Nefaria?  Both have documented Strength and Durability in the Class 100 range or higher.

Of course we will want our entrance masked, who better than the normal human who managed to defeat me and my apes, master of illusions, Mysterio! I hold no ill will towards him.

If and when we are seen, our presence noticed, we may very well need a distraction, who better than that dinner theater wannabe the Jester.

Due to the presence of gravity, even artificial, a master of this most essential force, a man who reshaped mountains on the moon, Graviton.

Some individuals can not even begin to imagine the gifts they have been given. Take Spot. Why spend your time committing petty crimes and battling the likes of that Spider-Man. Spot needs to see a much bigger picture. With the proper training, and motivation, a perfect advance scout.

As great as my intellect and vision is, the ability to process quickly is an incredible asset. Speed Demon, whose thought processes keep pace with his speed will give us the ability to improvise.

It is my job to assemble the team, and offer the big picture, I will consult on the finer details with a man known primarily for his anti-government stance, of course, when I have my way, there will be no need for patriotism, as the reign of Mother Russia shall unite us all. For now, I will defer to Flag-Smasher’s twisted sense of anti-establishmentarianism. Of course, I will share with him whatever dark truths the Watcher may hold, as I have no care for such secrets, he will assuredly find information to assist him in his cause.

Lastly, magic is not something that can be overlooked, and Satana is certainly someone who is hard to not notice, but is often underestimated. Daughter of the devil herself, no doubt her penchant for succumbing to her sinful nature will appeal to her demonic heritage.

GAME THE GAME: Yet Another GenCon Wrap Up, Part I

Yet another GenCon wrap-up, how compelling, and how timely, posted weeks after GenCon was over. And look, a Roman Numeral, indicating there will be more than one of these. Woo-hoo!

This will just be a two-parter, so keep your sweats on.

Wil Wheaton didn’t even say hi to me, though he did get an early copy of the Monster Manual (as did anyone who was a platinum card holding member of the D&D club, apparently). Through my geeky network, I have heard that Wil decided several years ago to stop coming to GenCon on the man’s dime, but wanted to come on his dime, so that he could do what he wanted. I respect that. I saw some pics of him playing games with real people, go Wil! His track seemed to be the cool kids track, drinking Froth of Khan, hitting the parties, all that fun stuff. I am ok with that. But all he has to do is drop me a line, and I will craft the most amazing Star Trek adventure ever with WCrusher as a power hungry madman set on destroying Star Fleet.

Enough fawning over Wil.

tarrasque1_enworldThe night before GenCon, at an undisclosed location (because Pittsburgh seemed to be a city designed by MC Escher, I literally couldn’t tell you where we were!), me and some long-time and new friends decided that midnite before departing the next morning at 7am was the perfect time to fight the Tarrasuqe! The 5e Tarrasque had been unleashed upon the world.

So we made some 20th level characters and Ian tried to kill us all (some things never change, no matter what the system).

My friends over at the Round Table podcast are going to be doing the same thing in a couple weeks and podcasting it.

If you plan on doing this, go half-orc Barbarian. They don’t do a ton of damage, but they are a perfect foil for many of the Tarrasque’s nasty attacks.

With that said, you are all wondering, how was it?


4e combats were dynamic and ever-changing, this felt like a 2e combat, in that most characters were doing the same thing every round.

It took about two hours, but we did it. We beat the Tarrasque. Go team! And Ian was left again shaking his fist!

Onto Indy!

I drank tea with honey and lemon every morning. I didn’t lose my voice.

I ran five games (more on those in Part II).

I tried a breaded pork sandwich (it was tasty, though it didn’t change my world.)

I geeked out at the 13th Age booth, gobbling up all the stuff they had, buying copies for my pal Morgan who I met last year and couldn’t make it (I also grabbed all the Pathfinder pins for him, save Saturday because I was off in no-man’s-land running games from 10am to midnite).

I missed my chance to buy a copy of the Walking Dead branded Bang! Lesson here- if there is something you want, get it on Thursday!

I felt awful for the company who had a coupon for a very cool looking free die at their booth and had no dice to give away as they were stuck at customs or some such. They were very nice, they had a neat looking board game, but my heart goes out to them.

I picked up my copy of World of Dew that I had backed on kickstarter.

I played in half an Apocalypse World game (why half, I had to leave to run my own game, and the story didn’t need me for the second half). The MC thought the Driver skin didn’t get enough love so ran a driving based scenario. My character was the archetypal Man With No Name whose allegiances are unknown, brought in to solve a problem.  Yet another Yojimbo remake. What disappointed me was I didn’t get to see the Biker exert his control over his gang. What amused me was my taciturn interpretation of my Driver was perceived as me not participating.

I wanted to sneak into a Numenera game (I call it “vulturing”, hanging around a game that is full and hoping some one doesn’t show). Well, the GM didn’t show, we were all chatting, one of the other players was actually at GenCon running scheduled Numenera games for Monte Cook and Co. and offered to run a game for us, as we were all there. Super generous offer, but my schedule didn’t allow for that kind of time. But, this was an awesome gesture, gamers coming together and gaming! Sidenote: folks not showing up either to play or run games is more common than you might think: fatigue, family emergencies, too much partying, missed flights, etc.

I met up with my friend Andy who I had met last year, and we had quite a bit of fun. He was demoing his board-game in the first exposure hall.

But that will segue nicely to Part II. Making friends, long-form convention games, and campaign continuity!

And I came across this: