Owlcon XXXI Recap

Rocks fall.  People die.

Or so goes the motto of Owlcon XXXI, a fear-inducing slogan that seems right for the year 2012.   Owlcon XXXI is the third straight years of this great gaming convention that we’ve been able to attend, organized by the nice folks of FastWarp and Rice University.  Though there are not nearly as many events as say a GenCon, I prefer this con to the larger ones I’ve attended; it is manageable, with all events within a few buildings’ walk, and the organizers spread the 4-hour blocks of time out so that there is time for lunch, socializing, and hitting the vendor’s floor in-between games.  This also leaves ample time for pick-up games and for discussing gaming theories and mechanics and making new friends.

The first games start at 10am, providing enough time to sleep in, grab a warm breakfast at the hotel before walking the mile to campus for the day’s adventure.  We’ve found the Best Western on S Main to be a relatively inexpensive yet comfortable abode for the few nights in-between the gaming fun, and will probably be back unless we decide to crash with some of the locals next year.  If civilization makes it to 2013…

This year, I ran a rousing game of Junta on Friday night, and we had a full table, so all the cabinet positions were filled.  There was a lot of rhubarb-rhubarb going around the table, especially after the Amis stiffed us a few years running, or so reported El Presidente.  Two very bloody, effective coups transitioned the three presidencies over the four hours, shifting the ultimate power among three distinct voting blocks.  The competition was fierce with Damp pulling off a victory by a mere 3 million pesos.

On Saturday, I played three tabletop role playing games for the first time.  First, in tabletop Call of Cthulhu, I played Ed Wood, where I was trying to make a film in an old graveyard just outside of Burbank, when of course an alien vessel lands in a nearby valley.  After cutting a wall through the Scottish groundskeeper’s house into his garage, fighting off zombie hordes with a chainsaw and a pack of shovels from the back of a pickup truck, we made our way to the unidentified vessel. Sucked in by a black, tarry, tentacled monstrosity, we preceded to cut our way out and accosted our captors, who seemed to have an answer to all our inquiries and accusations.  Finally, after learning of his plan to take over the masses with media, we pretended to hook him up with an agent and made them a movie deal.  In the end I used him to profit from the production of a string of B movies.  Good times had by all.

Next, a player from the Junta game the night before brought his self-published Effigy rpg in and a group of us played a pick-up game for a few hours.  I played a burly gent known as “the Ogre” and chaperoned a party of motley freaks into the netherworld through a boarded-up portal in the back of a bar.  Of course!  Gotta love games set in the modern era, especially ones that have been hand-made by designers with artsy persuasions.  I need to find a pdf copy of the rules to run a one-off as a break from our usual campaign.  Xsemaj, you have a review copy to send us?

Finally, off to Feng Shui, a high-flying, cinematic game of Hong Kong Kung Fu.  Actions are taken in “shots”, which says a lot about the intended visuals. The story was well crafted, and the players were top notch (excessive jive talking aside), so the action had great flow, and we got in 5 solid scenes in four hours.  One thing I realized is that I am woefully behind in my knowledge of kung fu film tropes.  A mechanic I wasn’t fond of in this game is easily illustrated (and required a house mod to rectify): I ended up playing a slow character (well, two slow characters, after I swapped out of the hulk and into a wizard after one player had to leave due to an illness).  Mix this with one character being able to move every shot (usually you move every third shot), and over the course of the 4-hr session, I think I was able to make 8 or 9 moves.  This is something I would definitely change about the game.  Other than that, it’s a great setting and a simple system to learn.

Saturday night we went out after all the games were done, and had some mini excitement, then retired to the room to watch the original Star Trek pilot. Given this and my near-40-yr-old self, and I slept in on Sunday, then hit the vendor’s floor around noon, where we caught up with Michael from Skirmisher Press and Leo from Dungeonstone. These two vendors made great quality goods for planning adventures and executing encounters.  I didn’t get a shot of them, but I’m sure they’ll be back next year, as they see continued success.

As will we.

For the finale, the coup de grace of this year’s con, Adam and Damp played in my “Escape from Lost-In” Gamma World adventure.  I was surprised to see no other Gamma World games in the program this year.  It’s such a perfect one-off game for these settings.  Anyhoo, the goal was for the mutants to find various airplane parts scattered about the city of Austin after the end of civilization as we know it in 2012.  After surviving a shootout with some pigs on 6th Street, they learned form a local baron that they had to collect fuel, a fuselage, an engine, some rotors or a propellor, and a computer module to run the thing.

Beginning their exploration close to the scene of the shootout, the group explored the ruins of the UT tower, encountering a beast resembling a dracolich with lasers in its eyes.  After an intense battle where many flames torched the beast and a rat swarm’s dog turned on the rats, the mutants slew the beast, claiming the rotors in its nest as their own.

They made their way into the UT sewers using a map scribbled in a margin of a page of the Gutenberg Bible that they lifted from the wreckage of the Hairy Ransom Sunder.  After wandering the subterranean depths, they had to solve a puzzle, survive a falling ceiling,  a fend off cryogenci ooze that made its way up from the grates in the floor.  In the back chamber, they located enough fuel to fly them at least to the coast of the Gulf.

Finally, they made their way to an ambush spot along the old I-35 (now called either “dirty drive” or reverted back to East Ave.) to intercept the delivery of a few airplane engines.  After hatching an elaborate plan, they fought off the pigs driving and escorting the cargo, unlatching the flatbed from the rig, and taking the goods for their own.  This was the theme of the evening, and they were successful in their mission.  Now the big question of where to, now that the promise of a working plane is in their grasp.

We’ll be back next year, with new adventures in hand!

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