I spent most of the last week at GenCon in Indianapolis. I flew in on Tuesday August 14 and went home late Monday afternoon on August 20. There were three in our party–Richard Loomis, CEO and Chief Factotum of Flying Buffalo, Inc., me–Ken St. Andre, writer and game designer, and my son James, gamer and actor. We were there to promote Flying Buffalo products and sell some games. If we should happen to enjoy ourselves and play some other games on the journey, that was all just a bonus. Personally, I had a great time, and so, I thought I would make my customary report here on Atroll’s Entertainment, which will have the usual form of photographs that I, or people near me, took, and brief comments on each one. I counted 55 photos, which is a bit much to cram into one blog–my plan is to do the blog in 4 sections.
In the course of composing this blog, I am bound to leave some things out. If you were there, and would like to add your own comments, it would increase the utility of this report.
This is what the Flying Buffalo booth looks like before we get it set up. I am here on Wednesday, before the show started, waiting for Rick Loomis to arrive–he had to go park the car. I”m wearing an old Conan t-shirt that I acquired at GenCon several years ago, and the Trollgod’s hat. It goes on all my adventures with me.
Most exhibitors set up on the day before the convention actually starts. It is a big job–hard enough for a small company like Flying Buffalo, but larger companies like Paizo bring in multiple employees, lay down their own flooring, set up gigantic displays–some of which I will show you before I finish talking about GenCon, and generally go all out to promote product and sell tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of games. I can only wish that Tunnels and Trolls had that kind of size and market penetration–if it did, I would be a wealthy man, but it doesn’t, and I’m not.
Robin Loney (aka Christina Lea) had her own booth at GenCon for the first time this year. She is the brains, and much of the writing talent behind Peryton Press. She has created her own rpg system (Qalidar), and she also helps support my game–Tunnels and Trolls. Peryton Press has more emphasis on fantastic fiction than on gaming, but both aspects of the fantastic are well represented.
Peryton Press is part of a small press retro pulp fiction movement happening today among fans and gamers. Now that self-publishing is within the grasp of any determined author or artist, the people are taking back the creative arts from the large corporations that have controlled them for most of the 20th century. I heartily approve, and if you were to look through my book and gaming collection you would find that small press publications have Pride of Place over large company productions. Not always higher quality, but always more heart and soul in the amateur productions.
James pretends to board the train at the Victoria Station hotel. We are on our way Wednesday evening to a Shadowfist demonstration. Shadowfist is one of our favorite collectible card games. This train station adds a lot of color and interest to the Indianapolis convention center.
Here we are at the Shadowfist demo. The banner shows Zu-Mei, one of the Seven Masters from the latest faction to join the Shadowfist war. James and I are better than average Shadowfist players already–we didn’t need to learn the game, but attended in hopes of getting a free demo deck (going to conventons is all about acquiring new game stuff–for free if possible!). The demo was surprisingly successful with more noobs than expected, so, we didn’t get any freebies here. They needed them go give to beginners.
Daniel Griego, one of the owners of Inner Kingdom Games, is current publisher and owner of the Shadowfist game. I don’t know him well, but he seems like a great guy.
James and I did other things on Thursday night. When the Shadowfist demo was over we walked a mile and joined Rick Loomis who was demoing Nuclear War at the DW Mariott hotel. I got demos of three games: Tsuro of the Seas, Dragon Dice, and Snake Oil. Tsuro is the most elegant, Snake Oil the most fun, and Dragon Dice has some way-cool dice in it. No pictures of any of those.
On the following day, the Convention officially began.
Tom and Robin Loney are doing good business at Peryton Press Thursday morning. Because they are my friends, I went by their booth every once in a while to see how they were doing.
I should have taken more pictures on Thursday, but most of the time the camera wasn’t with me, and I just didn’t feel like it.
The Con is going. I have switched to my traditional black outfits. Christian Lindke, a member of Trollhalla, has stopped by the Flying Buffalo Booth to see me. On Saturday, Christian gamed with me in the Seven Challenges adventure I wrote especially for GenCon.
Here we are on Friday morning already. These brave souls adventured in Dwarf World with me.
This is the adventure I ran on Friday morning. Our combats were not quite this epic, but we did manage a Dwarf vs. Goblin confrontation.
Playing Tunnels and Trolls with Ken St. Andre. I’m the goofy-looking one with the battered fedora. The players are trying to survive in Dwarf World.
When the T & T was over, I wandered the hall and found the authors corner of it toward the end of the day. Jeremy Jaynes was giving away free t-shirts to promote his books. Here I made a charisma saving roll, and talked them out of a t-shirt along with getting my picture taken with his pretty wife. The shirts look like the one she’s wearing. Jeremy seems to be a bit of a cyberpunk kind of guy, but the books are well done and fascinating reading. I support authors who not only write their dreams, but get out into the big world to promote them. Best of luck, Jeremy, and thanks for the shirt!
This brings me to a natural stopping spot for today’s blog. I admit that I didn’t do that good a job of capturing the full excitement of the con on camera for the first 2 days, but come back tomorrow. I get better and take more interesting photos.
If you were at GenCon, or wish you had been, go ahead and comment.
I spent the weekend of August 9-12 in Toronto at the second OSRcon, organized by Chris Cunnington and sponsored (sort of) by Trollhalla member Carter Soles. It’s a small gaming con with an attendance of less than 100 people, but they flew me in and gave me a hotel room to be Guest of Honor, and I was very happy to go. I’ve never been to Toronto before. It’s a lovely megalopolis–a strange mixture of old and new side by side. The old stuff is all bricks and granite; the new stuff is all steel and glass.
It was all role-playing gaming. In the two days of the Con, I never saw s single board game or card game being played. I brought a few decks of Magic along, just in case there was nothing to do, and I needed a pickup game, but I don’t think anyone else at the Con even had a deck with them.
I brought my camera too, and I took some pictures. The order in which I took the pix is pretty much a chronological record of what I did at the Con. So let me start putting them up. One thing I have to say. Although I don’t take the best pictures, I like the ones I take better than I like the ones taken of me. I kinda hate how old and silly I look. In my mind I’m Harrison Ford. In reality I’m Don Rickles. Sheesh!
This is a very poorly organized and constructed blog, but I wanted something online before I head to GenCon for a week. This is the rough first draft of the adventure. I’ll polish it up and make it prettier when I return from GenCon in a week or so.
Some people say, if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Talking about this blog, I say, like Nike, Just Do It. This one isn’t done well, but it’s here as a record of my travels and good times. Ken St. Andre is no perfectionist.
I’m in a food court at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on my way to Toronto. I had to spend several hours there between flights. The architecture was bizarre. Dallas is so big that you have to ride a train between terminals.
The escalators are huge at Dallas. I spent a lot of time on this trip looking up.
Here’s a shot of that train I was talking about.
My flight was late. Here I’m in Toronto. These three came and got me at the airport. From left to right: Brendan, Chris, Carter. To meet them I think I had to walk a mile through the airport from where the plane landed, and go through Customs, all at 2 o’clock in the morning. Such are the adventures of my life.
Friday morning, I walked past this bizarre building. It is the Robarts Library of the University of Toronto. My path to the Con from my hotel took me right through the heart of the campus.
The little black thing in the center of the photo is one of the evil black squirrels of Toronto. It was the most ferocious wildlife I saw (not counting Man) on this trip.
Toronto seems to be full of these ancient Gothic towers. I took this shot at sunset walking back to the hotel. Should have gotten more pix from Friday, but my batteries were dying.
I ate most of my meals at the Fox and Fiddle restaurant and bar. It’s a very lively place inside at night–the karaoke there is excruciating.
Looking down Bloor Street on a wet Saturday morning. I managed to get more batteries for my camers. Thanks, Brendan!
Looking the other way on Bloor Street. It rained a lot in Toronto while I was there. I didn’t care. I was having a ball.
The strangest building on Bloor Street–the Royal Ontario Museum (the Rom). I thought it looked like Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.
The angular part of the museum was a post-modern addition to the original grey brick construction. Apparently the main attraction inside was Dinosaurs.
It appears that I didn’t actually photograph much of the gaming convention itself. I was far more interested in the library and the displays they had upstairs. Really, I did spend most of 2 days in the dungeon playing games, but when the camera came out, it was books and bizarre sights I chose to photograph. Other photographers were there, and perhaps I can insert some of their pix into my own.
Big little books featuring Tarzan of the Apes.
My favorite pulp magazine of all time was Planet Stories. I used to own some of them. This is Planet #1–Golden Amazons of Mars. What were they thinking?
The Dragon Queen of Jupiter, a Leigh Brackett story I’d never heard of before. Oh, I so wanted to take the mag out of its cellophane wrapper and read those old stories.
Tarzan in Blue Book magazine. and Tanar of the Earth’s Core. I love pulp science fiction magazines, and I got to see some great old covers in the Merrill collection.
First editions on display in the Osborne collection of the Toronto Public Library. The theme was insects in Children’s Literature.
Painted walls of Toronto. I don’t have any idea why this magnificient scene of birds and a rhino was on the wall of a cheap diner not far from the library.
Griffin-guarded entrance to the Toronto Public Library where the Con was held on Saturday around 2 p.m.
From the edge of the lobby, you can just see the skeleton of a gigantic dinosaur. The head is at the left.
Looking into the museum. Top right corner is dinosaur neck and head. I was trying to photograph something smaller and bizarre in the center but people walked into the path of my photo. Grrrr! It’s what happens when you’re too far away from the target.
I got into the lobby of the ROM. This little dinosaur skeleton was there to greet me, or perhaps to eat me.
On Sunday morning I found a troll–a great black stone troll on the street across from my hotel. He was apparentlhy sad to see me go.
Here I am at the Toronto airport saying goodbye to my friends Carter & Brendan. My bags are on my shoulder and in my hand, and there are 9 hours of air travel ahead of me.
My adventures weren’t quite over. The airport was confusing, and I wound up at the wrong gate, and after hours of waiting I hear an intercom announcement that’s last call for my flight at a different gate. I have shoes off and coins on the ground as I was figuring out what to do with my Canadian change. I gathered my things and ran through the airport, shoes untied, bags half open and made it to my gate, last person to board. On the run, the battery of my phone jounced out and so did a paperback book and sci-fi magazine. They found the reading material, and I got it back on the plane, but the battery was lost. Oh well. One pays for one’s pleasures, and it was a small price–that along with a sore backside from 6 hours in a plane and another 3 waiting in airports–for the most fun weekend I’ve had in years.
If you’ve ever been to Toronto or attended a really small gaming convention that was all role-playing, go ahead and leave a message?
I love superhero movies–always have. And there have been more and more of them lately as Time-Warner (D.C) and Marvel get their acts together. In the last couple of weeks I’ve made an extra effort to get out and see The Amazing Spider-Man and The Rise of the Dark Knight. I enjoyed them both very much. Spider-Man was more fun. Batman was more epic.
Talking with my son about them, I started to mentally compare the movies. At first glance Batman and Spider-Man don’t seem very similar, but the two heroes actually have a lot of similarities. In fact I’d argue that they’re both literary descendants of Tarzan who was the original swinger.
Tarzan was the original swinging super hero.
Then Batman got into the act.
Then Spider-Man made it his chosen mode of travel.
First Edgar Rice Burroughs had a super hero Tarzan swinging in 1912, although it was probably 1920 before he showed it off in the comics. Then Bob Kane created the swinging Batman in 1929. Finally, Stan Lee did it with Spider-Man in 1961 (and later with Daredevil in 1964.)
There are a lot of resemblances between these three male supermen. They are all orphans. Tarzan’s parents died in the African jungle while he was still a baby. Batman’s parents were shot down by Joe Chill in Crime Alley while Bruce as a ten-year-old boy. Spider-Man’s parents perished mysteriously, when he was a young boy also. Then Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben got killed by a petty criminal, so Spider-Man suffered the dead father figure twice. (Superman’s parents died when Krypton exploded. Conan’s parents are generally thought to have died when he was young; Robert E. Howard never said, but the movie scripters kill them off when Conan is young.) Is there something about being an orphan that creates heroes?
All three heroes base or get their powers from animals: apes, bats, and spiders. My original comparison was simply going to be Batman and Spider-Man. Both characters model themselves after animals that are loathed and feared–bats and spiders, and use an animal symbol on their costume.
Not too visible in this rubberized armor, but the bat symbol is right in the middle of Batman’s chest.
Spider emblem right in the middle of his chest. Granted, it is the best place to put a symbol on a costume, and all the heroes do it, but still . . . it’s a similarity.
Both Batman and Spider-Man are primarily known as crime fighters, and not just ordinary crime, although they will take out everyday thugs and such if the occasion arises, but freaky super-villains. The Batman’s arch nemesis is The Joker (whose theme colors are green and purple).
Scary looking guy in green and purple, maniac, mass murderer.
Spidey’s all time worst enemy is The Green Goblin, whose theme colors are green and purple.
Scary looking maniac and mass murderer in green and purple.
Both heroes are scientific geniuses, coming up with all sorts of inventions to help themselves. Batman does it more than Spider-Man does, but neither one is challenged in the IQ department.
Both of them have a tendency to get their girlfriends killed. I won’t go into that, but ladies, stay away from superheroes (and villains) if you don’t want to die young.
Both of them developed female versions. Batman has Batwoman and Batgirl. (many different versions of both)
Kate Kane is the latest and perhaps the hottest Batwoman. She hasn’t made it to the movies yet, but it’s only a matter of time.
Barbara Gordon is the original Batgirl, and still the best. She’s back, somehow, since DC rebooted their universe.
Spider-Man has his female imitations.
Spiderwoman, deadlier than the male.
Arana (should be a tilde on the n but not available while typing here) aka Spider-Girl.
Then there was the Batmobile and the Spidermobile, the Batcycle and the Spidercycle. And who knows how many other similarities there are between the two heroes. Is it just me, or is Marvel simply imitating D.C. as far as their hero characters go?
Batman is perhaps the most important figure in the DC pantheon of heroes. Superman might be equal, but then why are there more Bat books than Super books? Spider-Man is perhaps the most important figure in the Marvel pantheon of heroes. It just had to be that way. The two characters carry the same karma, and so achieve similar positions of prominence.
I’m not saying that Batman and Spider-man are identical, but dang, when you start to look at them, there sure are a lot of similarities.
If you can think of some comparisons that I may have missed, please go ahead and leave a comment. If you’ve seen both of their new movies, and you’d like to weigh in on which was superior, then do that too.
Today, August 1, I got a treat. I went with my sister and mother out to Harrah’s Ak Chin casino in Maricopa, Arizona to listen to my brother-in-law’s old band: Time and Time Again. They consider themselves to be a do-wop band (lots of ooh-ah, ooh-ah, and bop-she-bop-she-bop, etc.), but they really do a fine job of delivering the best classic rock and roll from the fifties and sixties. I had a great time, and took some pix, and I’d like to share them with you.
Approaching the casino. The hotel wing has the best name sign.
Looking toward the casino entrance, you see a giant bald eagle landing on the world’s largest saguaro cactus!
How often does one get a chance to take a picture of a giant eagle? I’m not sure of the symbolism here. It’s a casino. Does this show your money flying away, perhaps?
It’s a fountain in the desert–very unnatural. Organized gambling is only legal in Arizona on Native American lands. Hence the landmark out front shows this bronze tribute to the Tohono O’odham tribe.
Flashing lights, neon signs, people putting money in machines. Yep! It’s a casino, alright. Actually, it’s pretty nice inside, although the place kind of intimidates me.
First stop inside was the bathrooms. Second stop was the cafeteria. Large screen televisions were everywhere. I’m not sure what the big green thing is overhead–maybe a giant guacamole rose, but it was colorful.
My lunch–doesn’t it look yummy? Breakfast quesadilla–scrambled eggs, ham, cheddar cheese, onions, salsa, inside a tortilla. It was delicious.
The band–called Time and Time Again–was rocking out up on stage while I ate lunch. The light makes everything look reddish, but actually the suits were dark black with white ties–the singers looked like a bunch of good fellas.
Another view. They were really rocking and bopping. I think this song was “Oh What a Night!” by the Dells. That was one of the songs they did.
Ken (Atroll) is having a good time.
After the set, the band came down and talked to the audience. Jim Marsella, my brother-in-law, used to drum for these guys. He’s the one in black shirt, white pants, back to the camera. He’s talking to the lead guitarist and organist. Sorry, I don’t know their names.
When the music was over, I found a spot where I could play some video poker. Don’t I look like the perfect gambling addict? If only I could pay attention like that in class or real life . . .
The epic struggle of Man vs. Machine. I’m happy to announce that I walked away a winner. I had a couple of chances to go for royal flushes–didn’t fill them, but I did make some full houses, and that was enough to win a whole dollar by the time I had to go.
On the ride back home we saw a lot of dust devils. Look carefully and you can see several columns of whirling dust in the far background up against the Estrella Mountains. Julie Marsella is in profile and driving the car.
A closer view of a dust devil. Dusties are miniature cyclones that spawn on the hot deserts of the southwest. I’ve always liked them. I’ve heard that the Arabians thought they were spinning djinnis (genies).
That concludes the day’s adventure. It was a fine way to spend a Wednesday.
If you’ve ever listened to an oldies band in a casino, or danced with a dust devil, please leave a comment.