Back from ACNW


We took our annual trip down to Portland for AmberCon NW (a.k.a. ACNW) last week. As usual, it was a lovely time. This is sort of the big recap post, though I may make some other posts going through some of the specific things I did/learned.

We were able to go down on Wednesday this year, which gave us an extra day of a bit of lounging about, and is something that I’m going to make sure we repeat in the future, as it’s MUCH nicer than stressing about getting down there on the day the con begins. Also, it gave me extra soaking pool time, and that is always a plus. Since we were down early, we got to go to dinner with a bunch of the con attendees. Because of the restaurant setup, we basically sat with people we knew, and only really interacted with them. The food and company were great, but it wasn’t entirely what I was expecting, in terms of interaction. Also, we found out AFTER we got down to Portland that the theater at the Edgefield was showing “Guardians of the Galaxy” that night, but we couldn’t go, since we had plans for the dinner. I think we may skip the dinner next year. We had plans to play Monsterhearts with some folks at 10 that night (the fictitious “Slot -1”), but between driving for four hours to get there and a huge dinner, we were both pooped, and ended up going to bed instead.

Thursday, we were able to sleep in a little bit, and enjoy a leisurely morning. Jeremy had a massage scheduled, and I went to the soaking pool again, because I love it so. Then we had a late lunch with some friends, and then I had told people I would run a game (the fictitious “Slot 0”). I wound up running Parsely, which is a game that one of our friends loaned to us before the convention. It’s a pretty simple game–the GM is the parser from an 80s text-based video game, and the players are the person playing the game. They take turns giving the parser commands, and the parser responds like an 80s text-based game would. Apparently, according to Jeremy, I may have gone off the rails with this from the beginning. He was sitting nearby working on game stuff, and was REALLY confused by what I was doing. I had fun, though, and I think my players did too, even if they were a bit frustrated with parts of the game. Apparently, there was a chunk of the rules section that I was supposed to read out loud, to let them know what the basic commands were. Oops. 🙂

Thursday night is the opening reception, which ends up being a bunch of people who you haven’t seen for a year or more all trying to talk to each other at once. Kinda crazy. There’s also food at the reception, but not much that I can actually eat. I got by okay on some cheese and salami.

Slot 1 is the only official slot on Thursday. I run a game called “Lady Faiella’s Finishing Academy” in that slot. The characters in that game are children (or grandchildren) of the elder Amberites, and they’re all between the ages of 13 and 15. This year’s shenanigans involved randomly appearing holes in Amber that took you to another Shadow, which the players managed to solve after some investigation. This game felt really short and disjointed to me, but I think that the players had fun in spite of that. I know there was also a LOT of time spent out of character in this game, because when you haven’t seen people for a year (or more), there tends to be a lot of chatter. I’d like to try to minimize that next year, so that we can get more playing time in. 🙂

Friday is the day of three slots: 2, 3, and 4. For the first time ever, I officially took a slot off. But in reality, I took slot 2 off so that I could run a game for “the littlest Amberites,” a.k.a. the 5-8 year old children of some of the convention attendees. I had five kids in that age range in my game, which was quite a handful. But I did have plenty of other adults there to help me keep the kids organized. I had the kids make sort of free form monster characters–they had names, something they were good at, and something they were bad at. And also pictures, because I quickly learned that giving the kids paper and crayons was the best thing ever. The characters were a Creeper from Minecraft, a dragon, a ghost with a camera phone, a tickle monster, and a skeleton that threw ice cream. There was a bit of LARPing involved, primarily from the tickle monster. And once I set them loose on the “plot” (one of your teachers is missing!), there was much running around and bouncing off the walls. They even got me to wedge myself between the wall and a wardrobe so that they could “get the teacher out of the ice”.

After that, we spent some time making dungeon maps. After two of the kids went off to have lunch with their parents, the remaining three kids and I made some keys, treasure chests, treasure, and dragons (which were origami fortune tellers, really). I ended up spending about 3 hours with the kids, and then had to go deal with a brief work issue that had popped up. But the kids apparently had sufficient fun with me that they wanted me to play in the soaking pool when I saw them there later, and I got a request on Monday morning from one of the kids that next year, our game should BE in the soaking pool. 🙂

Slot 3 was one of the games I was playing in, which was a Fiasco game. The playset wound up being one that I have played before, but every time you play Fiasco, it’s a little bit different. In this case, I got to be one of the two members of the ’80s girl pop band “Double Kreme,” which sang a bunch of songs with ridiculously suggestive lyrics, despite the reservations of our very Christian band manager. We had a ton of fun, even if most of our characters really watched their lives go down the tubes.

Slot 4 was a long-running game that I’m a player in–C.J.’s Weird West game. I play Prudence Early in that game, who is one of the two crazier of the four Early sisters. Also, we are named for the virtue we exemplify least. So yeah. I’m trouble. 🙂 In this session, Pru steered her attention way from Wyatt Earp, and instead fixated on the very fine mustaches of some new gentlemen who had joined us. She also provided a mustache to the one gentleman in the group who lacked one. And we actually made a little bit of headway on the plot, too, which is much better than last year, when we ran away from the plot. We also had a quite fine selection of adult beverages in this game, though I mostly stuck to my “totally not a martini” martinis. Because smoked garlic is amazing, and I will drink gin only if it’s appropriately disguised with other things.

Saturday has only two slots–a long morning slot (5) and a reasonable evening slot (6). And because I pretty much mostly run in the morning slots, I had another installment of my Firefly game, “Dust in the Wind,” to run in slot 5. This was the fifth year of running this game. The characters are Independents (Browncoats) who are currently trying to lead the Second War for Independence. There were many shenanigans, though a good chunk of the game wound up being the characters debating which of the horrible options offered them they might pursue. In the end, the answer was “none of them,” because they were pretty sure they were all a trap. 🙂

Slot 6 was the other game that I played in, which was a diceless Mage game in the vein of “Master and Commander” or “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Really, it’s more the former than the latter, but we went to Port Royal, so I couldn’t help but think that Captain Jack Sparrow could make an appearance. I played the ship’s surgeon, and also got to go on an exciting expedition looking for new species in Jamaica. I had a little trouble in this game, as I was beginning to feel like I was coming down with a cold, and I was also very tired. But I stayed up until the end of the game, only fading out a couple of times… I think.

Sunday only has one official slot, slot 7. For that game, I ran a Monster of the Week game set in the Supernatural universe. Nobody played canon characters, but instead made a very fun array of original characters who had to go up against the Alpha Vampire in order to prevent the summoning of “She Who Thirsts.” Arguably, they succeeded at this without even facing off with the Alpha directly. But of course, as the players played out some made up “end of the episode” bits, we’re pretty sure that one of the characters wound up possessed by “She Who Thirsts.” My slot 7 games are always one-shots (rather than continuing games), though I suspect some of the players would love it if I kept running this one. Too many ideas, too little time to actually start another continuing game, though.

After the gaming is over, there’s a closing reception (with cake! That I cannot eat …), and then more soaking, and then the late night unofficial “Slot 8,” also called “S’late”. We decided to play a free-form smutty game in that slot, but we didn’t really get things going until almost 11 p.m., and most of the assembled crowd wandered off to bed before we really got going. It was very much R-rated, and we’ll leave that at that. 🙂

Monday is left for eating breakfast and giving and receiving lots of hugs, which is a fantastic way to wrap up the convention. We drove home after that, and then basically collapsed for the rest of the day.

I’m already working on stuff for the NEXT ACNW, which is kind of crazy. But the players in my Firefly game wanted to do stuff between games, and I had to make a wiki for the Weird West game to contain our “fictionating,” so yeah, it’s like the con is still going on. Good times. 🙂