Origins 2014 Part 1: You Can’t Go Back Home

This past weekend I attended Origins Game Fair in Columbus, OH, because a) it’s been years since I’ve gone to a game convention, and b) it’s just 2 hours away from my new home in Cincinnati! I tagged along with friends and roomies Mick Bradley and Chris Heim (with roomie Wayne Humfleet meeting us in Columbus) and off we went for four days of gaming fun.

By the title of this post I’m sure you can tell something’s up, so let me be upfront: the weekend confirmed to me that who I was in regards to gaming is not who I am now, that my life has changed, and that this is a good thing.

My last time at Gen Con, 2010, was not a good one. Mom had just died a year prior, and my personal life was not in a good place. Whatever enjoyment I got out of the con was in spite of myself, and due greatly to good friends who made a point to help me get through things. After this, I went into nursing school, and that took over my entire life. I barely had time for whatever was in front of me, let alone imaginary worlds. Cons came and went, months came and went, and I simply stopped gaming altogether. I missed it, but I made the conscious choice of putting it on the shelf in favor of dealing with nursing school, and my personal life. It’s not a choice I regret at all.

Cut to 2014: It’s been a year since I graduated, became an RN, separated then divorced, moved to Orlando and then to Cincinnati, started a new job, experienced my first winter (and a harsh one it was). I’m living a new life, finally standing on my own two feet again, so why not give gaming another shot? And seriously, living in Cincinnati puts me within driving distance of so much gaming goodness; I gotta take advantage of that!

Long story short, I had fun at Origins, but things are not the same. I wandered the halls of the convention center not knowing what was going on in the gaming world, looking at games and putting them back because they held no interest to me, feeling little of the excitement I once would feel in this environment. I would see old friends from this world and be genuinely happy to see them, but feel like we had little in common anymore. Frankly, at one point it was all just depressing and I wanted to go home.

I’m glad I didn’t because I DID have fun. I played three roleplaying game sessions that were fun and stimulating, with good game masters that draw us players into the story, and fellow players that brought their best so we could all have a great four hours of play. I also demoed a few miniatures battles games, which I really like except for the collecting expensive armies part. And when I finally decided to stop feeling sorry for myself, I had a nice evening of conversation and drinks.

I used to be up at the butt-crack of dawn to play, spend as much time in the hall as possible seeking to learn all I could about games, seek out opportunities for pick-up games, enjoy talking about games and design until passing out. This isn’t me anymore. I chose to sleep-in late, to take mid-day rests or naps, to pass on a slot of roleplaying because nothing held my interest at the moment from what was being offered, to have meals with friends instead of playing a game I was only tangentially interested in. I likened it to going back home and seeing all the buildings still standing, but the people and situations be all different. I missed home as it used to be, and some point I had to make a choice of living in the past, unfulfilled, or living in the now, accepting the new paradigm, for however long I was visiting. Which is what I did.

Don’t ask me about game design, about upcoming games, about political or sociological ideas being explored through games, about who’s working where and on what, about what I’m working on; don’t ask me because I either don’t know, or have no opinion on the subject. Ask me about my character in the games I played and I’ll tell you how awesome it was to roll dice and tell a story; about other games that called my attention and I’ll tell you about the minis I moved across a cardboard battlefield and how pretty the pre-painted figures were; about myself and I’ll tell you about how exhausting being a nurse is, how draining it is to deal with life and death daily, and how fulfilling it is to help people live (or die) better.

So yeah, Origins showed me that you can’t go back home again, but that’s fine because home is not in the past. Home is where I decide to make it, and just like I made Cincinnati home after 18 years in Miami, I can make this new relationship with games home for me from here on. I can look forward to having a new relationship with games, enjoying them for what they bring to my life now: entertainment.

In Part 2 I’ll talk about the games I played, because they were cool and deserve to be talked about!

Origins 2014 Part 2: The Games

I went to Origins to play games, and to ease back into the gaming convention world. I accomplished both these goals, and I had fun to boot.

On the gaming side, I played three different roleplaying games in the Games on Demand area: Urban Shadows, Iron Edda, and Headspace.

Urban Shadows is a game of modern supernatural intrigue where mortal and immortals vie for control in a kind of shadow war. It is very much in the same style as the World of Darkness, and powered by the Apocalypse World game system. I got to play the Vampire (I know, big surprise). It was a fun couple of hours; we got to make shadowy deals with werewolves, dethrone rival vampire factions, fight off subterranean menaces, sling spells, be awesome. I loved the Debt mechanic, the currency that defines how things happen. It really underscores the political maneuvering nature of deals between characters and the world.

Iron Edda: War of Metal and Bone is a game of viking badassery where Ragnarok has arrived, dwarves unleash Destroyers upon the land, and warriors bond themselves with the skeletons of dead giants to fight off the intrusion. I played it with creator Tracy Barnett at the helm and it was the highlight of the con for me. We created characters and setting all at the table, and ended up with a neat holdfast with some conflict brewing, and characters that had reasons to fight for it. I made a Bonebonded warrior bound to the bones of the giant Freya, who also turned out to be the impossible love of the town’s matchmaker priestess. The way the story of Ragnar and Bryn came up organically at the table was simply fantastic, and it made these one-shot characters quite memorable. Tracy made a great game, and I’d love to play this again.

Headspace is a cyberpunk game where a team of operatives bind their minds together to achieve total unity, for better (they share skills and memories), for worse (they share psychological trauma and fears), or forever (if one member is killed, the consciousness remains as part of the linked headspace). The premise is intriguing, but the game was a playtest, and an early-ish one at that, which means the basics were there, the core idea was expressed, but it needed work on truly highlighting that one unique feature. Still, I enjoyed myself, and made the most of playing a flamboyant parkouring wiseass named Nike. I’ll keep an eye out for this game in the future, to see how it has evolved.

Other than RPGs, I demoed the miniature combat games Golem Arcana, and D&D Attack Wing, played random card games, and walked the hall a few times checking out all the neat merchandise.

Click on the link to see my pics: Origins 2014 photo gallery.

A Bad Day

Yesterday was a bad day.

Not only was I already feeling sick, when I went to work I found out State was all over our facility. I had a surveyor follow me during my morning med pass, and although I tried to be cool and just do my job, enough things went wrong that I got rattled and nervous. The State surveyor then latched on to me and started hovering, questioning everything I did, making me even more nervous, and late. Eventually he nailed me on two 8am meds that I failed to see when I did my check of the MAR after report and had to skip, since it was already 11am. This led to a citation for the facility, and a Medication Error write-up for me.

My coworkers and superiors were very nice and supportive. The administrators in particular were understanding and stood by me, even when they acknowledge that I had made an error and would be sanctioned. I still felt terrible; I hate letting others down. So now I need to do some Continuing Education credits on Med Administration before my next work day this weekend.

I was late, I admit it. I was late because of a lot of factors, starting with morning report taking an hour, to me helping out my fellow floor nurse while she was also Nurse Supervisor for the day and had to deal with call-offs, to me orienting the student nurses we had on our floor on the patients they would be able to learn the most, to me taking the time to listen to my patients as I deliver their meds. Not to mention being unit secretary and answering phone calls as well as making them for a myriad of reasons.

The really sad part? The State surveyor wasn’t even a nurse himself, so there was no understanding from him about what it takes to have 12 patients under your care.

[Game Idea] Wizarding Resistance

2 May, 1998. Outskirts of Hogsmeade, Scotland.

The Battle of Hogwarts is over. The school lies in ruins, ancient stones that had seen generations of wizards and witches now lie in rubble, many covered in the blood of giants and spiders, Death Eaters and wizards. When the spellduel begins in the courtyard, everything else stops. When the wands explode in an eldritch fireball, everyone closes their eyes. When dust settles, everyone gasps.

The Dark Lord lives. The Boy Who Lived lives no more.

A hundred sickly-green curses fly, instantly killing every muggle-born wizard and witch visible by the front rank of Death Eaters. They miss one, the one they most wanted dead, Potter’s friend. The attack snaps everyone out of stupor, and the battle is resumed. It lasts only a few minutes, long enough for a some students to escape deep into the ruins of Hogwarts. Everyone else is summarily executed.

The Dark Lord lives. And so begins the New World Order.

Three years later, the battle has moved underground. Once known as Dumbledore’s Army, the members of the new Order of the Phoenix have scattered all across the globe, hiding in wizarding and muggle cities alike, where they organize local resistance cells, train new fighters, and act as beacons of hope to those oppressed by Voldemort’s Death Eaters.

You are one of these new recruits. Grab your wand, and join the fight.

I came across these WWII-style propaganda posters for a Harry Potter alternate universe where Voldemort wins. The creator also made these awesome WANTED posters for the kids as they would be a few years into the resistance. These are all very evocative  images, and as happy as I was with the ending of the Harry Potter series, this is an alternate universe that I think would be awesome to explore. Not being one to wrote a lot of fan fiction, I’d do it via a roleplaying game, one where the players all get to explore the world along with the characters, where we get to make things up as we encounter them and are surprised by them.

The WANTED posters gave me the idea that the players are *not* the members of the Order. They are too high-profile, too known (and in meta terms, too laden with history and expectations). They act great, however, as focal points, mentors that the characters would have met, can look up to, maybe even call on once or twice. The members of the Order are the public face, drawing attention away from those carrying on the day-to-day fight: the new bright-eyed recruits eager to join the resistance and help liberate their world.

As for Potter himself? I prefer to keep the mystery. The NWO Ministry of Magic released this WANTED poster recently, so make of that what you will.

Yes, I realize this is basically a mashup of Harry Potter and Star Wars with a dash of Lord of the Rings thrown in, but I’m perfectly okay with that.