Ok, things started Tuesday of last week.
I worked Monday and Tuesday last week, and after work on Tuesday went and picked up Scott from his place (a half hour journey each way). Scott was able to leave his car at his home (parked around the back so it was out of site) but I couldn't, and I don't really trust this area enough to leave my car alone for long periods so I was leaving my car at Stephen's (paradigmshifty) place.
Tuesday night, my prioritories were packing, baking and sleep. The reason I was baking was that there were some banana's in the fridge that I didn't think would make it, so I turned them into delicious banana bread, using my mothers recipe. I ended up with three loaves, cooked over three days, one of which I froze for later, one of which I ate half of, and the last one, along with the rest of the one I ate going to Kolya.
So, the packing happened, as did the baking, but not much of the sleeping.
Got up at 4 in the ungodlies, drove over to Stephen's with Scott, and we packed Stephen's car. Also said goodbye to Kolya (draquin), and gave her my apology for stealing her main on her birthday weekend. One red rose, and one and a half loaves of banana bread later, I think she might have forgiven me.
We left Stephen's place at about 5:30 in the morning.
Brisbane to Melbourne via the Newell Highway is approximately 1683km, with Dubbo being approximately half way. Our intention was to get as far past Dubbo as possible on the first day, leaving as little as possible for the second day. After a small detour at the start (we ended up on the Warrego highway instead of the Cunningham at first) we ended up making very good time, even with frequent breaks and regular driver swaps between myself and Stephen.
Now, the drive this time went a hell of a lot faster and better than the last time two years ago. This is due to one simple reason: Wayne. Wayne is a depressant and he whinges. As a result he ended up in the front passenger seat last time. This made chatting between me and Stephen very hard. However, this year with no Wayne, and just Scott in the back seat, Stephen and I chatted a great deal, and the time passed very quickly. And as an added bonus we ended up writing a couple of new games in the car.
We got into Dubbo about 6:00pm, and decided to head on, and ended up stopping in a very nice little hotel in West Wyalong which meant we'd done about 1100km or so, and had less than 600km to go.
Out second day's travel had two amusing things of note. Firstly is the town of Grong Grong. I don't know what it is, but I love that name! Grong Grong! Total population is 150 people, and the road doesn't actually go through it, but instead approaches very very close to it, and then makes a sharp 90 degrees turn away from it.
The second was the fact there is a fruit fly exclusion zone just south of Grong Grong. This means that you are not allowed to bring fruit into or through this zone, with huge penalties applying to those who do. There were of course huge signs up alerting people of this fact, and a clearly signed Fruit Disposal Bin. Considering the fruit we had in the car (namely me) I'm sure you can imagine the jokes. The final sign was a huge thing with a cartoon picture of a fruit fly within the "no" slashed-circle, with the words "I Don't Belong Here" under it. There were plans to take photo's of that sign and the fruit disposal bin with me next to them looking all forlorn, but we didn't get around to it.
Our intent to do most of the driving on day one was for two reasons. Firstly, the second day of driving is going to be worse than the first simply because you are recovering from the first day. Secondly, the less driving we had to do (and the earlier we started doing it) the less chance there was of entering Melbourne during rush hour.
So we ended up getting into the hotel (Hotel Claremont in South Yarra) about 3:30 in the afternoon. After getting all of our stuff up to the room (and there was a lot of it due to the games we were running) we wandered down the road and had a bit of a look at South Yarra.
We ended up having dinner at a little "American Diner" on the corner of Chapel St and Torak Rd. I think it was called the "Soda Rock Cafe" or something like that (Stephen?). It was good.
However, the fact that it was three Brisbane people in an Californian style diner in Melbourne that was owned by a Greek man who had two Asian waitress' who were speaking in broad Yankee accents seemed a little bit surreal to me. :)
The hotel we were staying at was acceptable, but only barely. The room we were in is designed for up to six people (eek!) and it was far too small for the three of us. It was barely three single beds wide, and less than two long. Most of one end was taken up with the four bunks (2 on each side) and the rest was a small desk, and a clothes hanging type thing, not leaving much room for us. Plus the bathrooms were small and shared, and didn't do hot water all that well at night.
However it was cheap, very close to the con site, and the breakfast was a good idea.
Got to the con site Friday Morning, day one, at about 9:00 am. We were intending to turn up earlier, but getting all three of us moving in that room was not a good idea, so it took longer than expected.
I had sent in my rego form earlier that week, but of course it hadn't made it on time. I assume it was in the PO box on Tuesday morning after the con, so I filled in a new sheet, marked that I was intending to play as well as run things (but didn't bother filling in what until later), handed it in and paid my money and wandered over to my desk in the rego hall.
Due to the fact that between Stephen and I we were running something every second session, I didn't bother signing up for any games until I was sure how things were going, and I'm glad I did.
Out of 13 sessions (A to M) we were running something A, C, E, G, I, K and M. Our sessions were (in order) Goodies, Poker, Toontown Meat Market, Goodies, Village in the Sand, Garbage In Garbage Out and Poker.
Now, a slight detour. A number of people during the convention commented on the fact that Stephen's name was on a number of the games, and that it looked like emergency puncture repairs of someone roped in at the last minute because they didn't have enough games. This wasn't the case.
What happened was that originally Stephen and I were going to be running three games. I had one game, we had one game, he had one game. When submissions were called Stephen didn't know which of the three games he was considering to actually submit, so he sent them all in with a note saying to pick what they wanted him to run. They of course picked all three.
Stephen could have said no, but didn't, and I think he did a very good job none the less.
Rego saw the first of my problems. Friday Night Poker Club was an eight player game. I was down to run it in two sessions, C and M. I had 17 people pre-registered for session C, and 12 for session M, and I knew of a number of people who hadn't pre-registered who wanted to play in it. Oh dear.
While I was partially prepared in that I brought four copies of all the paperwork for a game that was meant to only run twice, I did not have enough poker chips, and I only had two table-clothes.
In the end I ended up running three games as once in session C (total of 21 players) and two games in session M (total of 16 players, with three or four others who wanted to play but couldn't).
However first in Session A was the Goodies. This game was the simplest that we had to run. The premise was simple: Graeme has been inventing again, and has almost invented a cloning machine. Not quite finished, he goes to bed to sleep on it, and it malfunctions over night, resulting in multiple Bill's, Tim's and Graeme's. Running the game took longer than writing it.
To run it all we did was get an appropriate number of Bill, Tim and Graeme name badges (with 11 players we had 12 name badges) and let the players pick them at random. Then each player had to persuade the other players that they were the real (whatever). This ran for half an hour where we stopped it, and had everyone vote on which (whatever) was best, with each character voting on the other two characters. We then got everyone to change name badges to the next one, and then we did it again, and then a third time, so that everyone got to play each of the characters.
The game took longer to run than it did to design. The game was written in about ten minutes just after Easter 2002 at lunch in a Shopping centre in Melbourne, was further refined in a ten minute tram trip the next day, and it took me about ten minutes to print up the name badges and voting slips. Half an hour to create, 2 hours to run.
Simple, yet effective. Due to the lack of regular characters on that show apart from the three Goodies themselves, I can't really see how you can write a decent Goodies game without people getting upset. Game went well, if very manic.
It was very interesting watching people in this game. Firstly people absolutely threw themselves into a character for thirty minutes, and then suddenly had to change characters. Watching people making that deliberate personality change was fascinating.
Had session B off, and then Friday Night Poker Club in session C. I ended up running three games at once, however, with the way the game works I was able to do that. Set up was a problem (setting up three poker tables at once!) but once everything was set up and the games were underway, things went smoothly, with players only needing me for poker rules clarifications, or clarifications on how the poker rules interacted with the rules each character had.
Over all enjoyable, once I got past the frantic set-up, and the player seemed to enjoy it, with a number of them saying that having a nice relaxing game on the Friday night was great.
Went back to the hotel, and got back to the con about 9:00 the next morning after breakfast. Breakfast at the hotel was pay $2 for cereal, fruit, toast and juice. While there we ran into Eric Henry and Fish who were also staying at the same hotel. Fish did not tell us that it was Eric's birthday that day, and I made sure that I didn't tell the people at rego, and as a result it wasn't my fault that everyone knew and sang him happy birthday in the rego hall!
While we weren't actually running anything in the morning sessions, Stephen wanted to get in early each day because he was selling dice/confectionery tins, and solid metal dice sets.
Nothing session D except catching up on people, and then Toontown Meat Market in session E. This was one of Stephen's games, and may run again some time, so I won't say much about the game itself, apart from that it was a Toontown singles bar, and leave it at that. :)
One of Stephen's talents in these games (apart from his sheer knowledge on the subject) is his ability to put acceptable "twists" into the characters. These are twists that, while they are things that the player would never have thought of, make perfect sense, after you think about it for a while.
One example is Super Ted. While Stephen did have a signup sheet of characters that were available, he also said that if anyone wanted to play a toon character that wasn't on the list to put it down, and he'll see what he could do. Someone wanted to play Super Ted, who wasn't on the list, so Stephen wrote the character up on Friday night and gave the character to the player Saturday morning. Her reaction (on finding out that Super Ted was an international drug smuggler) was an extremely large grin, and a very enthusiastic "cool!".
Stephen's games tend to fall into one of three categories: Manic, Mid-range or Serious. This one was definitely Manic. It went in directions that Stephen hadn't even thought of, and of course the bar ended up exploding, but I think everyone enjoyed themselves.
Nothing for F, and then for session G another Goodies game. Stephen said that he could handle this one on his own, so I went off and played in my one game for the con, a session of Roborally.
After all the trouble I went to find my set, Roborally is being re-released next year! Grrr!
Having played Roborally at Conquest the last four years running and knowing how hard it is to find sets to play on, I offered to Tarquin to bring my set and let him use it if he needed it. I'm glad I did. Tarquin's set was missing some of the boards (that he wanted to use on the final) so my complete set was much appreciated.
With Tarquin running one board, and me running the other I ended up have a good game (because Tarquin wasn't there to jinx me!) and ended up coming third in the second division.
The Goodies game didn't end up running in that session because we didn't get enough players (only got 5, need 9 (three of each) for it to run properly).
Hotel, bed, and back again the next morning. Nothing session H, and then Village on the Sand for session I. Village was Stephen's serious game, which was based around a song called "Village on the Sand" by Blackmore's Night (Stephen, did I get that right?).
Considering this was his first serious freeform, and his first original freeform (everything else was existing, known characters) he did very well. He made some mistakes, but nothing too drastic, and nothing that can't be fixed in a rewrite, so expect to see Village on the Sand at another convention some time.
Nothing again session J, and then Garbage In, Garbage Out for session K. GIGO (as it got called) was a combination of the universes of Quark, Blake's 7, Start Trek, Star Trek: TNG, Red Dwarf and Dr Who. While not to the manic levels of Toontown, it wasn't a serious game, so I mark it as mid-range.
Considering the reaction we got from people when the found out there was a Sci-Fi game (even a slightly silly one like GIGO) we will definitely be doing more Sci-Fi games in future. At one stage we were told we had just about gutted Baron Munchausen who we were up against. A good time seemed to be had by all.
Then back to bed, and finally back for day four. Nothing session L, and then a final two games of Friday Night Poker Club for 16 players, and I probably could have run another game if I hadn't have been so tired.
The suggestion was made about running Friday Night Poker Club again next year, with a different set of characters. I like the idea. Since I know I can run multiple games of it at once (once the set up is done) I'm thinking of doing a variation of the game next year, session C only, four games at once.
After that was submitting all the information to the organisers for prizes, and then prize giving.
Overall I think prize-giving went reasonably well, and the printed stickers for the trophies was a good idea.
And then of course to the post con venue, where the food is good, if slow, and the people are great. Since I only go down to Melbourne once a year, it's great to catch up with al the people I love so much. These people include nikkicat13, Mark Spain, elindal and fraerie, leadgend, Dean, thorfinn (though we didn't really get a chance to talk much), didn't get to talk enough to kitling or nigelw, finally worked out who seedy_girl is, plus Richard Allan, Eric Henry, Fish, Brendan, Travis (I have to go to Melbourne to see a local Brisbane person?), Morte, Loud Mik, Martin and Lillitu, Mark Philp, Jim Vinton, Julian, Tarquin, and I'm sure there's more, but I can't remember at the moment.
In terms of how well the convention itself went, the organisation was definetly lacking. Lack of game blurbs (I didn't know the blurbs were in T21 until Sunday night), and lack of paperwork was very telling, however I think they got away with it.
The continual attitude of the Dwarfcon people that they had a better con because they already had online-rego left me slightly disgusted. These cons are not in competition, and run at different times, so that sort of attitude was not called for.
I think prize giving went better than previous years, so well done on that.
After that was back to the hotel, pack, and sleep, and then get up at four in the morning to be out of the hotel by 5:30, and out of Melbourne well before it wakes up.
Again, we aimed to get as far past Dubbo as possible on day one, so we ended up spending the night in Narabrie, but not after stopping in Grong Grong to take a photo of the "Welcome to Grong Grong" sign, and purchasing of a Grong Grong tea towel as a souvenir for Sasha. Plus talked about a lot more games, and came up with a lot more idea's. Ended up getting back to Stephens place in Brisbane about 1:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday. Since then it's been recovery, plus working Thursday and Today (I need the money).
Plans for next year:
Much better hotel (with luck the Quest on Chapel cause it's right outside the gates of the con site, and a lot more comfortable than the Hotel Claremont).
Games for next year. I was talking about games I've run at the con with people at the after party, and mentioned the game that I originally ran for my first Conquest, "No Heir for the Throne of Amber". I mentioned that I was thinking of possibly running it again, because there are a lot of people who've heard about the game and never played it, and I was requested then and there on the spot to please do so for next years con. So it looks like I'll be doing a rerun of that.
Also, I will most likely be doing another session of the Friday Night Poker Club, probably the Fellowship of the Rings edition, but only one session.
Other than that I am probably going to be doing a Babylon 5 freeform (I told you we were going to do more Sci-fi stuff), but that will probably be a big one, so it will only be running once. Also, I am not intending to submit that game unless it's already written at the time. Considering the sheer number of people who not only love the sci-fi genre, but that show in particular, there is no way I am going to take the risk of not having that game finished for the convention.
Lastly I am looking at running one of the games that Stephen and I worked out on the drive down. It's a serious ghost game, and it's currently called "Dead Reckoning.
Stephen looks like doing two serious games. One a Blake's 7 game, and the other Westworld. The Westworld one is for two reasons. Firstly, it's sci-fi, so that will be good. Secondly, it's being written so we can watch one player in it. We've been told that Eric Henry does the "Country Boy" quite well (have originally come from the country) so we want to see Eric as a Gunslinger!
Edit: Forgot to mention I came home with about $400 of games. Oops.