Monday, December 17, 2012

When Gaming Matters

Some events are difficult to work through. Sometimes, instead of worrying about the how’s and the why’s, it makes more sense to get back to the basics; focusing on things that matter. So this weekend we spent quite a bit of time doing things as a family – both work and play.

Fortunately, it’s the holidays, so there was cleaning to do and a tree that needed trimming. When the necessities and the niceties of the season had been addressed, we turned to the other great family bonding activity…we played games. The kids were doubly excited due to the fact that I had invited one of my good friends, Paul, to join in the festivities.

We started off, after pizza, with Liar’s Dice. Lo and behold, Paul won – his first time playing! Then we switched to our homemade Zombie Dice and gave it a go. We played two games and my daughter won both. She has this uncanny ability to get six, seven, or eight on the first roll of the game and everyone else gets pressured into chasing her for the rest of the game. Unfortunately for my son, this meant he Jodi'd* two full games.

We finished the dice games around 9:30 PM, rested for a few, and then broke out the next game. Last Christmas I gave Paul a game called Zombies! from Twilight Creations. It is an “older” game from 2001 (apparently), but Paul and I joke about the Zombie Apocalypse all the time so I figured it would be a good game for him. Without being asked to, he brought it last night. Turns out since he received it as a gift he couldn't really get a group together to play it – something he was bummed about.

Skach’s to the rescue!

The game took a little getting used to. For our family, it started a little on the complex side. But one we got into the rhythm it started to get easier. Basically you follow a set of steps on each turn:

  1. Pull a new tile – each is a section of the city – and place it.
  2. Battle any zombie in your current square.
  3. Draw cards to make your hand three cards full.
  4. Roll and move – fight any zombies you run into along the way.
  5. Roll for the zombies – for each pip on the dice you move a single zombie one space.
The Town Center is placed first and all the players tokens are placed in the center square.

You can see in this picture the center square (circled in red). You can also get a sense for how the city gets built - all the tiles around the Center were drawn as part of those aforementioned steps and placed.

The zombies get on the board in two basic ways. First, whenever a tile with a building on it gets placed, it outlines a set of zombies and life points and bullets that go in that building.

In this picture, you can see a hospital building placed on the map. The yellow circle shows the text that informs the players how to fill up the hospital - in this case 8 zombies, 4 life points, and no bullets. you can see the little zombie figures in each square and the red tokens are the life points.So if you want those life points and/or bullets, you have to go kill some Zombies…or someone does as you can always sneak in after someone does the killing and “vulture” them.

The other way zombies get on the board is through the Event Cards. At the start, each player gets three cards, and then replenishes  them each turn. A card can be played at any time, but only one card per player per "round" - from the beginning of a player's turn until the next beginning of that players turn. There are many of those cards that allow a player to load the board up with zombies, while others give weapons and such - some even allow one player to cause another to miss a turn.

Battling zombies is a simple matter of rolling a six-sided die and getting a four, five, or six. If you do, the zombie is yours. If not, you either have to use a life point to roll again, or add a number of bullets that will raise your roll to success – so if you roll a 3, you can add one bullet and make it a 4 and succeed. You do not get to walk away. Once you enter a square with a zombie (or if you start with one in your square) you have to keep battling until either you or the zombies are defeated. Death means you lose half your zombies and are moved back to the town square, where everyone began the game.

After quite a few turns, you end up with a board that looks like this:

As you can see, everyone was having a good time.

At some point, the most important city card is flipped over and placed on the board: The Helipad.

The circle in the lower left is the helipad. As you can see, as our luck would have it it was going to be an arduous task to get there. Once played, it becomes the place towards which everyone rushes because winning is getting to center square of the helipad and killing the zombie there. It is possible to win by being the first to kill 25 zombies…though that proves very difficult.

We played this game for three hours easy. That's right, my kids were engaged at 1:00 AM and playing just like it was 7:00 PM. In fact, my son formed and alliance with my friend Paul and the two of them very nearly won. My wife ignored the helipad towards which the rest of us were working and went for the 25 kills. At 1:30 AM we called it a night. with no clear winner. The kids were tired, but had an absolute blast.

So much so that the kids and I went to Games Plus today and bought ourselves the base set. We bought quite a few games and expansions today, though some will end up under the tree, so I don't want to divulge. Heck, while at Games Plus we got pulled into a game of Seven Wonders and had a great time.

So I think there will be even more regular gaming even if it's not RPG's. It's not only fun, but a great way to reconnect at the end of a busy week and restrengthen those bonds that really matter.

* Jody'd was a term coined at LokiCon for the player who kept getting zero brains because he would shotgun out.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Secret Santa is Awesome

Because this is what he sent me:

That's right. The 2nd Printing of the DCC RPG, complete with Index, errata, and my son's name still wrong (Still a not upset, Harley!). Oh..and if that wasn't enough, the next four adventures I didn't have...70 thru 73. That crazy so and so almost completed by wish list single-handed!

Thanks reveal...your generosity is much appreciated. Merry Christmas to you, your lovely wife, and your brilliant son. I hope we can all get together for gaming again in the not too distant future!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Night Dice

LokiCon (see previous) made me think about how well some of the dice games I played would translate into things to play with my kids. When I returned home, we started almost immediately with Liar’s Dice…and the kids are getting really good at it. The other game I wanted them to try was Zombie Dice. I explained to them how it worked, and they were both very interested. So I figured I’d get them/us a set for Christmas.

Only today they both brought home some pretty good report cards. I wanted to reward them and started looking around for somewhere local I could pick up a set. Unfortunately that was much harder than I thought it might be. I even considered driving to Game Plus, about an hour or more away (during rush hour). But a sudden headache took me unawares and the thought of leaving the house vanished with its arrival.

Zombie Dice

So I should probably explain Zombie Dice. It’s a set of 13 six-sided dice – 6 green, 4 yellow, and 3 red. Regardless of the color, each die face will be one of three things …a brain (yum!), footsteps, or a shotgun blast.  One takes three dice from a cup and roles them. You keep the Brains off to the side – those are your points. You keep shotgun blasts off to the side in a separate pile…those you want to avoid – you’re a zombie, after all. Footsteps are kind of like a tie…you’re still chasing. So those you set in a third pile. Now, add more dice from the cup to that pile of footsteps until you have three dice again and repeat. At any time you can stop the cycle and add up all your brains. However, if your total number of shotgun blasts reaches three, you lose everything – you get no brains that round.

So, for example, if on your first roll you get a brain, a footsteps, and a shotgun blast you would have a pile of one brain, another pile of one blast, and a third pile of one footstep. If you wanted to stop at this point, your score after this round would be one brain. If you wanted to roll again, you would add two dice to your pile of footsteps (bringing that set to three) and roll….and hope to not get two more shotgun blasts making you lose any brains you've accumulated.

You repeat this process for each player in turn. The first one to 13 wins (for simplicity’s sake – there’s actually a way to beat someone who gets to 13 first, but I don’t want to complicate things further).
The twist? Each color dice has a different number of the three possibilities making some dice more likely to get shotgun blasts and others more likely to roll brains. Green dice have 3 brains, 2 steps, and one blast. Yellow Dice have two of each. Read have 3 blasts, 2 steps, and one brain.

Rolling Your Own

I had a thought while I let the headache recede. What if I just made my own temporary set to use until the joys of Christmas morning brought us a Real Set ™? What would I need?

  • 13 six-sided dice – no problem.
  • Stickers – also no problem.

These two were the minimum. It would be really sweet if I had the proper colors for the dice and stickers that resembled the originals.  I figured I had the dice, I just wasn't sure about color – but I’d fake that.  I knew we had a metric s**t-ton of stickers in the house. The kids have been receiving them for years. I just didn't know if we any that were small enough and, if so, if we had enough of each kind.

I started by separating out all my six-siders from my set of dice. Then I tried to find dice that would best match a basic set of Zombie Dice.

Oh look, over to the left! Three reds (Squirrel Dice, ironically), four yellows, and six near-greens. Incidentally, the sets of black and sets of blue dice near the top of the pic were set aside for Liar's Dice. So now I have the 13 dice I need:

Now all I needed were the appropriate stickers. My lovely wife dug through the crafting...stuff...and found the drawer with many of the sheets of stickers. From them I noticed these sets:

After some perusal, I settled on some red hats to use for brains:

Onto the dice with them, I say!

Next, I found on the same sets of sheets a whole bunch of sandals and other footwear. Imagine I have the footsteps! Here's the dice with both:

Last I had to find something for the shotgun blasts. Honestly, this proved the most difficult. There were some snowflakes in a set of Christmas stickers, but not enough of them. With the headache still bearing down on me, the kids and I settled on the dreaded Candy Corn. So the kids set about making it happen:

And here are the final sets:

Roll 'Em If you Got 'Em

And so we got down to using the dice. They worked like a charm. The shapes were easy enough to distinguish. the only thing my kids immediately figured out was the dice were shaped a bit differently - the red ones have rounded corners so you could pull out squared-off corners by feel. We had to institute the rule that you poured the dice into your hand to avoid being able to pick and choose the dice with better odds.

The dreaded Candy Corn:

Storm chooses her dice carefully...

 To no avail:

Collin faced a difficult choice.

His sister had 12 and she was next after him. He had 5, so he needed to get to 13 or more in a hurry.

At this point, he has reached twelve (8 on the books, and 4 on the table) but he has 2 shotgun blasts. He was always the risk taker in games, so he went for it. yo can see the results:

We played two games of Zombie dice with our makeshift set. We had a lot of fun. My wonderful wife won the first game after tying my daughter and winning the dice-off. My daughter won the second game. Then it was time for a milk and cookie break and on to Liar's Dice:

My daughter won both games of Liar's Dice - I have a monster on my hands.

All in all a good fun night.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving SIGPUP

So a few years ago, I coined, in jest, an acronym for a fictitious organization called SIGPUP – The Society to Increase the Gamer Pool Using Procreation.  This was, at the time, my way of summing up my thoughts that one of the ways to ensure tabletop role-playing games lived on was to pass it on to the next generation…to the point of making your own next gaming generation.

Those of you who know me know that I've already got my kids on that track, playing games at home when time allows, at GenCon, and at GaryCon. They've played The Warriors RPG, D&D 3.x, Gama World (4e), AD&D, and their current favorite, DCC RPG…among others.

I am fortunate that for the past four GenCon’s, I have been able to stay at a very nice condo in downtown Indy – my sister’s "vacation" place. On a few occasions, she and her two young boys have joined us in Indianapolis for a part of the weekend and we've done touristy things like the zoo, or the Children’s Museum. The last two years they have even gone to the convention hall on Sunday.

So this last year, I decided it was time to get her kids hooked. As a token of appreciation for allowing us the use of The Condo, I purchased a game my wife, kids, and I found in the Dealer Hall –“ Rawr! TheMonstrous Adventure Game”.  It’s a game geared towards kids and families involving good monsters – the PC’s – that battle the bad monsters. I figured it would be simple enough for my non-geek sister to pick up and would be a fun hook for her boys of eight and six.

About a month after passing the gift on, I received a call from my younger sister asking about…well…essentially how to run a game. The boys had been harassing her about playing since they returned from GenCon. Unfortunately, I was not familiar enough with the rules to offer anything more than general advice. “If he wants to pick up a rock, then let him. You just have to figure out what that means with respect to the rules…or hell, just wing it! It’s more about them having fun than anything else.” Stuff like that.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving a portion of which I spent at my Mother’s house in Michigan. My sister and her boys were there and they brought “Rawr!” along so either my son or I could run it for them. After dinner on Saturday night, while I was introducing Liar’s Dice to the adults in the gathering, my son took a stab at running the game:

Unfortunately, he didn't have a lot of time to get acclimated and so, I think, ended up in the same place as my novice sister did when she attempted to run it. So after my loss in Liar’s dice, I grabbed the rule book, took about ten minutes to get a feel for the rules, and went to it (unfortunately, no pics of that!).

We played through the first sample adventure of the game. I saw where my sister and, subsequently my son, ran into their first question. We had barely begun the first encounter when my nephew says, “I pick up a rock and throw it at his head!” Consistent little guy…

When it was over, my sister said something that struck me as interesting. “It wasn't that I couldn't figure out the rules, but when you ran into something, you seemed to know where to look for the answer much more quickly than I could figure that out.” Huh.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Last of LokiCon - For Now

So this will be the last word on LokiCon (at least for this year)…and only because some of it needs to be said; just not this first part.

So a portion of my time on Sunday (before Dread) I spent gathering up as much as I could get packed and put in the car as possible. I had originally intended to leave in the early afternoon…but given the ride down to GA, I adjust my schedule, deciding to leave early in the morning. I didn’t want to wake the entire house Monday morning, so getting everything possible in the car would kill two birds…saving time and avoiding making noise.

So after Dread I said my goodbyes to the “Chalet People” - because I’d be gone before they returned on Monday morning – and hit the sack. I woke at about 4:30 in the morning. I tried to go back to sleep, but m mind kept running through the list of things that remained to be collected and worrying about my vehicle’s ability to get me home.

Finally I just said, “Screw it!” and got up, packed the car, and left. I was pretty confident I would be jacked up on worry-adrenaline and my suspicions were realized. Though I have to say, I had also convinced myself that the trip down the mountain was no longer my biggest challenge. No, it was the first jaunt up a significant incline near the infamous black gates, and then the winding, vertically-challenging road to Clayton with little transmission fluid.

All the drama was, fortunately, for naught. The Ford made it over the river and through the woods without incident. I stopped at the gas station at which I had last stopped on the way into the hills and topped off the transmission and the oil and checked all of the other fluids. Soon I was making my way through North Carolina and fearing only the weather front predicted to move through the south/southeast.

And, ironically, it was the rain that was the most troublesome…the rain and the strong, swirling wind that accompanied that front. One of the reasons I left early was because I thought I had heard the rain when I first woke up. I did beat the rain out of Georgia and most of North Carolina – most notably, through the mountains. But the precipitation harried me from just outside of Knoxville until I passed through Lexington. This was a challenge because in the craziness of getting everything ready to get to LokiCon, I forgot to check the tread on my tires…and on my front-wheel drive minivan, the two front tires were essentially bald.

The GPS had me continuing on to Cincinnati, but I had my suspicions that heading west would get me beyond the storm…and the decision paid off. Fifteen minutes outside of Lexington, the weather broke, the road dried, and I was happily back on track. I didn't stop for food – I barely stopped for anything. I cranked the tunes, hit Chicago right around rush hour, got lucky with traffic, and made it home about 13 hours after quietly rolling down the mountain in Georgia.

OK…enough of the travel log. For heaven’s sake it’s been two weeks and I’m typing this from yet another road trip. But I wanted to wrap that up so I could really do the following:

Thank you.

Thank you to diaglo for being a great and gracious host, for allowing us to invade his newly built getaway, and for always being one of the nicest guys I've met through gaming.

Thank you to all the people who took the time to teach me new games like Liar’s Dice and Zombie Dice. The former I've played dozens of times since returning home – my kids love it. In fact, I “introduced” it to a group of nieces/nephews at one Thanksgiving dinner and just tonight to adults in my family after the second Thanksgiving celebration. And Zombie Dice will be purchased before Christmas.

Thank you to the great GM’s/Keeper’s who ran games in which I played – dshai for Mammoth Vikings, Keeper of Secrets for CoC, and Rodrigo for Dread. Your time and effort is greatly appreciated.

Thanks to all my gaming cohorts who made every game I played in a riot.

One of the reasons I go to GenCon and do something crazy like drive almost 800 miles to LokiCon is because I know the games will be top notch – it’s always like an All Star event and I feel privileged every time you let me play in your games.

Thanks to all the people who brought and cooked food. I brought some food and was happy to contribute, but I was spoiled by the cooking.

And finally, thanks to all of you who welcomed me into the fold and made a weekend of gaming into a weekend of friends and fun…and all of it worth every moment of the drive.

Thanks all…I hope to do it again some day.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Mind of LokiCon - Nothing Left

Honestly, at this point, I’m beginning to forget what took place when. From the time I finished my lunch on Saturday onward, I played so many games that I have, in the interim, lost track of what I played when. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think I was wrong about Friday – I think I played Deadfellas on that first night…maybe before Werewolf? In fact, I know this to be true as there's a picture of me playing Deadfellas and I'm wearing my Friday-just-drove-all-day clothes.

So I think I'll take a different approach. Here are the games I know I played and likely when I played them.

Mammoth Vikings of Cowboy Peninsula - at least I think that is what it was called. This is Klint's game of Western with Magic based on girls in a school in the old west....girls who are really quite special. The resolution system is custom and pretty slick. Each player has a full deck of cards. When resolution is required, the player and the GM essentially play War - that is, cards are flipped and high card wins and on ties you do the old "One, Two, Three, War!" there are variations where you play three or five (or even seven) cards face down and the GM does the same and best of three (or five or seven) wins. This was loads of fun - particularly with Vermicious Knid playing Crazy Old Pete who loved sticks of dynamite. Played in this one on Saturday.

Call of Cthulu - The classic game of horror and going insane, with a true master at the helm, Keeper of Secrets.I played a 1920's Yankee Lawyer and we were in the Deep South. Keeper squicked us out with one the creepier portrayals of a disturbing NPC. It was a blast, even though I died in the end. With two dead and at least two others of questionable mental stability, the professor of the group (diaglo) did succeed and return to the University with the book. I think we played this on Sunday mid-day.

Dread - Zombie Apocalypse - Dread is an interesting game. I've only played a couple of times and I this second time really got me thinking...and arguing with Loki about it! In this scenario we were in the classic zombie apocalypse setting. We had started late waiting for the Archer Fiasco game to end so Rodrigo could run Dread for us and so, I think, ended a bit short. And many of use were drunk. This is the game that gave us the line "I'm here to eat Twinkies and have sex...and I'm all out of Twinkies." Played this Saturday night...I think.

In between these three RPG's, I played:
Dungeon x 2 (see Spleen)
Zombie Dice x 2 or x 3
Liars Dice...a lot. 

Deadfella’s is a card game where you are playing Zombie Mob dudes trying to Hit other Zombie Mob Dudes.  It was a decent game – but I remember when I was playing that I was having trouble focusing and getting into it..and now that I recall when I actually played - Friday - I know it was because I was dead tired. 

I can tell you this - of those non-RPG games, at least three have/will make their way into our house. For example, we've already played Lair's dice here with the kids (substituting "Show 'em" instead of the expletive used in the adult version). I've explained the Zombie Dice to the kids and they keep asking when we will get it, and Dungeon will likely be under the Christmas Tree...

Games I wished I'd played? I missed out on some BSG, and apparently Lord of Waterdeep is supposed to be pretty good. I also would have liked to try Ticket to Ride...and they used some Monster expansion this time that seemed to impress at least one Dad in the crowd. Lastly, as I mentioned before, I'm still going to get into a Post Apoc game Rel runs. But I feel overly greedy for even mentioning these things given the bounty of fun and friends I got to experience...

The Stomach of LokiCon

I hated….simply loathed…losing any gaming time. But I had to pay the piper for the trip down. It was a small investment and worth it in the long run.

One of the things I had done was bring a metric crap ton of food. The list is as follows:
16 ¼-Pound Hamburger Patties
5 lbs Italian Sausage (hot!)
5 lbs Frozen Chicken Breasts.
2.5 lbs Bacon
8 lbs Fries
28 oz Garlic Bread
2 Bags Tortilla Chips
2 Bags Pretzels
2 Bags Potato Chips
1 pkg Oreos
2 Bags Animal Crackers
24 bottles water
24 bottles Propel

This is a small list compared to what diaglo brought. I think he got something like 15 dozen eggs, pounds and pounds of bacon, and a ton of other stuff. There was so much that the freezer did not have room for everything. So we put a bunch of ice in my cooler to keep my stuff chilled. This worked better than I hoped…but not everything made it. I think we went through just about all of what I brought except for a few things. Strithe brought his own chicken for his chef work, so that did not get touched. One bag of the animal crackers was left as was a bunch of the water and Propel. Fortunately, the chicken that made it until there was room in the freezer, so I was able to bring those back home.. The fries, however, did not fare so well, so I had to dump them on the trip home. I left the bacon behind for folks to enjoy on Monday morning and brought the left over water, Proper, and animal crackers home.

I bring this up because before I had allowed sleep to overtake me, diaglo and I had discussed cooking up that Italian sausage. When I woke, it had all been cooked up. There was a whole pan left – most everyone else ate while I was crashed. But I was able to wolf down a bunch. It was delicious. Asking around, it seemed that everyone enjoyed my sausage…


The nap brings one of my few regrets – the sleep did cost me a spot (I think) in the Old School Hack Fallout/Post Apoc game run by Rel. I played about 30 minutes of OSH when it was in the final stages of development in an online combat run through. I was interested to see it in a different genre and in the hands of a GM I know can run a good game. Alas, I’ll have to wait a bit longer for either/both…

I have to say, we ate really well. Things like BBQ Pulled Pork, Chili, and  a Rosemary Chicken dish (I never did get to taste) for dinner. Biscuits & gravy for breakfast with scrambled eggs and bacon. Hamburgers and Italian Sausage on the grill for lunch. All kinds of booze and soda to drink...chips, cookies, was awesome....

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Spleen of LokiCon - Saturday Morning

I shot up at 7:42 AM....I'm pretty sure on the time because I immediately picked up my phone to check. The sun was streaming in through the wall of windows that make up the back of the cabin.So I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, threw some clothes on, and made my way downstairs. Within a few minutes, pretty much the entire house was up and about. Breakfast was in process, our gracious host making bacon and eggs by the bushel.

But what really woke me up was the view that slapped me upside the head when I ventured out onto the deck.

So...yeah...not bad, eh?

Now, I need to back up and explain that of the 16 folks who attended this shindig, two couples stayed at a nearby "chalet". Every day those folks would come over about 9 AM and this would signal Game Time.

So on this first day, the gaming started fast and furious. Being a bit slow on the uptake, I missed out on the first two games out of the gate, Battlestar Galactica and Dungeon Lords:

I've played Battlestar Galactica one time at GenCon. It was a blast. Some players are secretly Cylons and are attempting to sabotage things to kill off the humans. Humans are trying to survive and figure out which of the other players are Cylons. All the time the clock is ticking.

Dungeon Lords, however, was new to me.

In this game, each player has a dungeon tableau. Each attempts to use various resources - food, gold, etc. - to build a dungeon and battle adventurers that are attempting to thwart the Dungeon Lords' plans. I checked in a few times and it seemed pretty complex but, at the same time fun and interesting. I know when I checked in at the end all of the folks who had played said they enjoyed it immensely.

So I gathered up the rest of the folks and we decided to play the re-release of Dungeon. I had never played the original, so I was interested not only in playing this new version, but in getting some sense of how it differed from the original. I was fortunate to be playing with a couple of folks who had played the yay!

This second picture provides a sense of the board. It's a series of rooms connected by hallways. The players move their characters around the board and "encounter" rooms. Each room has a monster, determined by drawing from a pile of monster cards. Each monster card indicates what each character class needs to hit/defeat the monster (rolling on 2d6).The character attacks first and, if successful, defeats the monster and gains a treasure. If the character does not succeed, the monster gets a shot, rolling 2d6. The results run the spectrum from a miss to death. In most cases the character is forced to drop a treasure in the room - often for someone else to come and get, if possible! The rooms are color coded to level and each character class has different chances based on those levels. So, for example, the Thief is best in rooms of level 1-3 while the wizard does the best in the deadly levels of 4-6. Once a character gets to a certain threshold of gold (the number is based on class), he or she needs to head back to the Entry Hall to win. The game was straightforward, relatively simple, and fun. I'm definitely looking for this for a possible Christmas gift for the family.

After Dungeon, I socialized a bit, and then took a quick ride into town to get some things. On that trip, I started to get light-headed and the previous day's adventures in finding the cabin seemed to close in on me. So upon returning I laid down to get my bearings...and woke up almost two hours later...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Heart of LokiCon - Friday Night

People arrived, bottles of alcohol were opened, and the weekend settled into its pattern.

The first evening consisted mainly of board and dice games. The first game I recall playing was Bang! This is a card game where you take on one of four roles - Sheriff, Deputy, Bandit, and...Psychopath or something like that. There are different win conditions for each (for example, The Bandits win if the Sheriff is killed while the deputy wins if the bandits are killed and the Sheriff survives). You keep your role secret from the other players who have to deduce your role through your actions. There are all kinds of cards that determine things, most notable the Bang! and Miss! cards that you play to essentially take shots at other players. Lots of fun. I was a Bandit....we won...

Then we played werewolf. This was hilarious. This is the game with other names (and genres) like Mafia. Everyone picks a card that determines if they are a Villager, a Werewolf, or the Seer. Each night we all go to sleep (close our eyes). Then the werewolves awaken (the Mayor, the title of the person running the game, tells them to) and they choose a victim. Unfortunately for that poor soul, when they awaken (are allowed to open their eyes) the victim's card is taken and they are out of the game. If the Seer survives, they are also allowed a time to open their eyes, point at another player, and get feedback from the Mayor as to whether the player is a Victim or Werewolf. Unfortunately for us, the Seer kept getting killed...because, you see, there's one more wrinkle. Each morning, after the werewolves' victim is removed from the game, the remaining players (some of whom are Villagers and some of whom are Werewolves) get to accuse someone of being a Werewolf. The entire village votes and if there are enough "down" votes, the accused player is removed from the game...and the remaining players find out if the accused was innocent or a guilty. We played..I think three or four rounds of this game. It was a blast, fueled as it was, by this point, by copious amounts of alcohol.

By this time it was after 11 PM...I think close to 12:00 AM on Friday night. I had been awake since 5:30 AM on Thursday with only the short nap on the drive down (see first post). I was in a daze. So I called it quits. Six or eight of my companions decided to break out Trivial Pursuit. I honestly would have loved to play but just could not see me staying awake for the entire game. So I stumbled up to the loft and collapsed on my air mattress. I heard them playing Trivial Pursuit in the great room below and was worried I wouldn't be able to fall asleep - not because they were being loud, but because I feared my mind would start working on the answers and I would get vicariously hooked into playing. I grossly underestimated my fatigue....I'm not sure I even heard the first question and answer.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Devil is in the Details - Part II

At this point, there was nothing I could do. I mean, I could panic I suppose. I did panic a bit, to be completely honest. But everyone already there - diaglo, Joe Blank, Loki, Strithe, biorph - they were all very supportive. Strithe knows a bit about cars it seems (an understatement of ironic proportions) and seemed to be only slightly concerned. In his estimation it was the transmission venting fluid because it had become so heated on the drive up the mountain.

This did, however, mean I wasn't going anywhere until it was time to leave on Monday. I mean, getting down the mountain is almost completely a matter of stopping your vehicle from plunging headlong in the ravine ahead of you at any given point. Once down, I could always call AAA if needed. So I checked the levels of the transmission fluid, the oil, the power steering and, seeing all of them at or near proper levels, left it for Monday and turned my attention to the purpose of the trip. Let us start with the Devil's Cabin, or diaglo's retreat.

Beautiful. Gorgeous. Stunning. Most of us might envy diaglo for the fact that he has a dedicated game he has two. Only this one comes with views that are truly spectacular.

Here's the "cabin" from the front drive (this was taken later in the trip after some other folks had arrived):

And this view is from the right of the previous picture (where that white van is located):

See that back deck? It runs the entire length of the house. There are access doors on the first level from a screened in porch near the kitchen, the great room, and the master suite. Windows dominate the walls on that side. Mostly it's because you get to see this...wait...I'm skipping ahead....

Now, I was scheduled to get there around 11:30 AM....roughly. But my nap in Dandridge and my three trips between 76 and the Black Gates, including all of the phone calls and checking of emails, added some time. So I got settled in around 2:30 PM or so. I unloaded all the food I brought, put my gaming stuff downstairs in the basement gaming area, and took my air mattress upstairs to the loft. I picked a spot near the window (fortuitous for later events) and set up. I laid out on the air mattress and called home - the irony being that while I was unable to get a signal anywhere down below - when I needed it to call to get directions and such - I got a nice strong signal on top of the mountain.

I could not fall asleep, however. I was in that weird dream-like state where my body was ready to collapse at any moment but I was not tired. And I knew that once I did fall asleep it would be a long time before I woke up - possibly the next morning missing gaming time...

diaglo fired up the grill, I think, and he threw a bunch of hamburger patties on. I say "I think" because I'm honestly still a bit fuzzy on this time. Some of it seems to have gone missing in my head. I do know that it grew darker and people started arriving. Soon we were kibitzing and drinking and eating and chucking dice...

The Devil is in the Details - Part I

I left home around 9:30 PM. I did not want to leave in the morning and arrive in the evening - showing up in the dark. This was one of my good decisions as I ended up getting lost even arriving in the daylight. When diaglo said it was in the back woods of Georgia, he was not kidding.

I started to fatigue early...much earlier than I expected. I also found myself missing my wife and kids very soon in the trip; usually not the case for me. I thought for sure I was going to have to stop early on the I-65 stretch of the trip.

If francisca had joined me, I could have turned it over to him just a bit of a stretch down the road. Alas...

I plugged the iPod into the car stereo and cranked some tunes and suddenly found myself waking up. Amazingly this blast of alertness lasted until just outside of Knoxville. The weather was gorgeous - clear night skies until I watched the sun peak over the tops of the mountains between Lexington and Knoxville.

I called the house about 6 AM Central, knowing that my wife and son would be awake preparing to get him out the door for school. Everyone was awake including my daughter (who usually gets an extra hour and a half to sleep) - seems I was missed already as well.

I finally hit the wall just the other side of Knoxville. I called my wife after finding and pulling into a rest area near Dandridge on I-40 and let her know I was going to sleep for a bit. It was not easy to get comfortable, but I was exhausted enough not to care. I fell asleep and stayed that way for about an hour and a half. When I woke up to the sounds of the landscapers doing their jobs, I could not fall back asleep. I figured it was just as well, shook the cobwebs out of my head - I was groggy! - and got back on the road.

This part of the trip starts tricky and gets worse. For a Flatlander like me, these mountains were interesting to say the least. For my twelve year old minivan with 120,000 miles, they were a challenge. But with perseverance and patience, I was soon in Clayton, GA - the nearest large town to the Devil's Mountain Hideaway. And here is where the fun began.

So, other than the names of the roads themselves being different than what appeared on the screen, my GPS did a pretty damn good job of getting me there. In fact, it got me right up to the very road on which the Devil's Retreat resides...kinda...

You see, I missed the part in the directions diaglo had sent that said after I turn left onto the first dirt track, I needed to bear right on the next dirt track. I exaggerate only slightly...the first "road" was paved for about 20 feet....

So on my initial venture into the final stages of the trip, I ended up at the very end of the first gravel track - after several hills that made my poor old Ford Windstar work well beyond her capabilities. Unfortunately, I had not found the given address, or anything close for that matter. This run up the hill and the subsequent twenty-point turn to get back out was on me, however, as I had not properly read the directions.

So I drove back out to the main road. I had to, because ten minutes down these back roads - roads that had barely enough room for two vehicles of any considerable size to pass each other - left me with absolutely no cell signal. I felt I should call my wife and let her know I was near my goal. I also wanted to look up the directions again to find where I had gone wrong.

Once my wife had been called and the mistake in mapping understood, I returned to the back roads and the gravel tracks. I followed the directions, as counter-intuitive as they might have been given the actual address, and found myself staring at three possible paths. One looked unfinished while the other two were nicely decorated - including names of the folks that did not remotely resemble diaglo. Of those last two, one even had black gates. None of the addresses were even close to the one given in directions - hundreds off and a different "street" name.

Back out to the main road. Without further clarification of the directions, I decided to call diaglo and find out what the hell was going on. When he answered, my first words were, "This was all an elaborate troll to see if you could get me to drive for 13 or 14 hours, right? This is all just a joke or prank and you guys are laughing your ass off right now?"

"Just come through the black gates," diaglo assured me. I was relieved that I was not 100 miles away from where I was supposed to be and that this was not, in fact, an elaborate hoax. Little was I to know the relief would be short lived.

Because, you see, after the black gates, the "road" - a one lane gravel affair of ill repute - began a climb that can only describe as, well, steep...steep as in I was not sure my old Ford would make it...steep and winding...around and up the mountain. But I had come this far and would not be deterred.

After a half mile climb that seemed to stretch for about 3 hours, Old Bessie and I reached the top. I parked the car and got out. Folks came out to greet me and immediately noticed I had trailed some fluid behind the car. I feared for the worst...Bessie had finally succumbed to her limitations after safely delivering me up the Devil's Mountain.

Loki, Strithe, biorph, Joe Blank, diaglo...all of them came out and greeted me and unpacked the back of my van in about 60 seconds - for which I remain grateful given that I had turned to worrying about that fluid. The trail was not made up of black liquid, but seemed t o be a bit lighter. There was no large pool. The trail began right at the top of the hill - in fact past the top and into the parking area for the cabin. It turned out to be reddish in color.

Luckily it did not appear that I had torn the oil pan off whilst climbing the mountain. Unfortunately, I did not know if I had a transmission left, and if not how I was even going to get the vehicle down the mountain to get repaired, much less 800 miles back home....