April 10, 2005: 4:50 pm: Cons, GMing

I just submitted my first game for this year’s The Black Road.

The Mountain of the Sorcerer-King

Players: 3-6

Even at the best of times, the life of a mercenary has been a hard one. You have traveled from shadow to shadow, looking for whatever jobs you could find. Often hungry and lonely, you have seen some of the few you’ve counted as friends die on the field of battle. You’ve known that one day you too would bleed out the last of your life’s blood in some foreign land, dying for a cause you cared nothing about, for a payment that you would never collect.

Perhaps that is why you so were so quick to accept this latest offer, not taking the time to really understand what you were getting into. The payment would be enough to buy a chance at a normal life; that was all that truly mattered. Now you find yourself far from help near the top of this cold mountain, preparing for an assault on the Sorcerer-King himself. At your side are men and women you neither know nor want to know. Men and women who all carry a story similar to your own.

Who knows what the dawn of this day will bring? How will desperate warriors incapable of trust react when their only means of survival is to rely on each other?

The Mountain of the Sorcerer-King uses the rules from Timothy Kleinert’s forthcoming game The Mountain Witch ( Rules will be taught, and dice will be used. Part of character creation will take place via email before the con.

Now I just need to figure out a description for Nine Losers in Tijuana (the sequel to Nine Losers in Akron).

April 6, 2005: 9:11 pm: Cons

This was my fifth ACUS, and pretty much every aspect of it went well. The driving to and from Livonia was pretty much trouble free, the games were fun, and it was, as always, great to see friends old and new.

Slot 1: “Le Cygne: The Oracle’s Light”

I played in the first installment of Ginger & Michael’s Le Cygne series at last year’s TBR, and managed to get my character killed by the ship’s doctor (though not until after some nice swashbuckling occurred). That got me the first pick of the new pregens this time around, since I was a returning player without a character, and I chose Skate, the ship’s bosun. I don’t think that ended up being the best choice for this particular scenario, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to see a way to better involve him in any future adventures. This time around though, I ended up….well, the fact that less than a week after the game I can’t actually recall anything my character did makes me think I didn’t do very much. I had a pretty good time despite that though, watching the other players take some creative approaches to trying to deal with the issues presented. I know my lack of involvement caused a bit of worry for the GMs, so I apologize for that.

Oh, and Chime, the ship’s owner, is crazy. In case anyone wasn’t sure.

This was actually the first time since I started going to ACUS that I played in the Thursday night slot though, and I’m thinking that I’ll plan on skipping it next year. After spending most of Wednesday and then a chunk of Thursday travelling, I think I may just not be up for a Slot 1 game.

Slot 2: “Nine Lives in Amber”

This was Jack Gulick’s cross of the Amber setting and John Wick’s Cat, with the characters taking on the role of cats trying to protect Amber from bogguns while most of the Elder Amberites were off fighting the Patternfall War. It was lots of fun, and there were plenty of interesting cat concepts and nice RP. If you’re going to be at TBR 2005, and Jack actually runs this game again, I highly recommend it.

Slot 3: “Nine Losers in Akron” (GM)

This was my second try at running a kill puppies for satan game using recast Amber Elders, and, much like the first time, lots of sick fun was had. This time around the game more closely resembled the loosely organized “plot” that I had planned out, but still with much wandering and sick behavior. I still have no idea why the best way to dispose of a zombie is to bring it to the mall food court, but it seemed to work. Judging by the comments I’ve heard since the game (like the ones here and here), most everyone had a pretty good time, so I’ll count this as a success. My thanks to all of the players, who were a bunch of sick fucks. I’ll end up sending the quotes off to Kris once I’ve got them all compiled.

Slot 4: “Ill Met in Amber”

There was a very nice party on Friday evening during which some people apparently roleplayed to varying extents. Oh, and Jenn and I brought a bottle of Bowmore Darkest which was well received by the single-malt drinkers in the room.

As someone later pointed out to me, IMiA has apparently become an email game with a con element (rather than it being the other way around). It’s hard to complain too much though, even if I did almost nothing in-character all evening, because both the scotch and the company of friends were very enjoyable. I might have to look into increasing my efforts on the email side of things though, to get Captain Wesley Hobart more involved.

Slot 5: “The Mysterious Affair” (GM)

This was an attempt at what was basically a Victorian police procedural set in Amber City. Jenn and I had tried to come up with a mystery that didn’t need to be solved in a linear fashion, and we told the players that all their characters needed to do was arrest someone for the crime by the end of the slot. In other words, they didn’t have to arrest the person who’d actually committed the murder.

We ended up with three intelligent and motivated players, who worked their way through the various bits of evidence and managed, by the end of things, to arrest the actual killer (and with enough proof in hand to likely get him convicted). Frankly, it all worked out better than the GMs had thought it might, though whether that was due to the cleverness of the scenario design or the skills of the players is debatable. This game may end up getting run again at TBR 2005, but at the moment we’re not sure how it would go with more players (or with players who chose not to be so actively involved).

Slot 6: “Equalizer”

My second Ginger & Michael game of the con, and this one ended up going better for me. I played Conrad, who had, during his time in Shadow, been what was effectively a pulp-era superhero (think The Phantom or The Shadow). Things went pretty well, though Conrad’s decision to ignore a wounded teammate in order to assure the capture of one of the bad guys may not have been particularly well received. In the end, Conrad was able to avoid the need to messily throw himself on a grenade in order to save several of the other team members, which was certainly a relief to him. It was a fun game overall.

Slot 7: “Blaze of Glory: The Shadows Attack”

The insanity continued, with the Elite Guard getting to fight invasion forces from another world led by the evil twins of current and past members of the Guard. There were many strange devices and plenty of swashbuckling action, all at the usual BoG breakneck pace. My character, Amir bin Muhammad bin Ibrahim bin Nasir bin Safwan Al-Majid (aka The Mad Arab) fired himself from a catapult to intercept an incoming glider, and ended up proposing to its pilot just before she died. He also made another attempt to fall to his death, this time in order to bomb an enemy airship, but his life was saved by the skilled piloting of Ewan. All of this after his very lovely (and useful) wives arrived from back in his homeland. I’m definitely looking forward to the next installment of Blaze, which continues to be a very fun way to wrap up the con (since I don’t play in Slot eight).

It was, overall, a very good con indeed, though it definitely felt weird not to see Sarah there. I’m looking forward to next year’s ACUS, and to this year’s TBR (and hopefully ACN too).

Here are some of the other con summaries that I’ve run across so far:


March 28, 2005: 9:56 pm: Cons

My prep for this year’s Ambercon is nearly done, which is good, since Jenn and I are starting the first leg of the drive to Livonia early on Wednesday morning.

Le Cygne: The Oracle’s Light

No preparation needed, as I’ll be choosing a pregenerated character at the con. The last time I played in this series, my character, Peet, was wounded in battle and then killed by the ship’s doctor, who was (in theory) trying to treat him. Oops.

Nine Lives in Amber

My character is approved, my character sheet is filled in, and my copy of Cat is printed out and given a quick read. I’m all set for this one.

Nine Losers in Amber (GM)

Pregenerated characters were sent out to the players back on Friday evening, and all of my scenario materials are now printed up. I may add a few more things to entertain the players, but, since I’ve already run this once, I think I’m ready.

Ill Met in Amber

As always, I intended to write some things up between sessions, and, again as always, I never quite got around to it. In any case, I found the character sheet and notes, so I’m as ready as I’m going to be. Oh, and a fine single-malt has been purchased.

The Mysterious Affair (GM)

Jenn and I wrapped up the last details of the scenario this evening, and the characters have been sent out to the players. We’re planning on a lot of player (and character) freedom here, so I really have no idea how this will end up turning out. Hopefully everyone will have fun though.


My character is almost, but not quite, approved, as the GMs had a couple of questions that I hope I’ve managed to address to their satisfaction. I printed up a modified version of the character anyway, and if I need to change it before I leave, I will.

Blaze of Glory: The Shadows Attack

Waiting to hear back from the GM about whether or not Amir’s wives will be joining him, but otherwise The Mad Arab is ready to go.

January 14, 2005: 7:31 pm: Cons

Both of the games I’ll be running at ACUS 2005 got submitted this week. The first is a new Victorian-influenced mystery that Jenn and I will be co-GMing in Slot 3 (Friday afternoon) Slot 5 (Saturday morning). It might end up being the first in a series.

The Mysterious Affair
Number of Players: 3-6 (pregens)

The Metropolitan Police Force of Amber City are the enforcers of
justice of which all others are but shadow. Together with the Crown
Prosecution Service (CPS), they target criminal activity to keep the
streets safe. The officers of the Special Section of Amber’s Criminal
Investigation Division are called in on those cases requiring elite
skills and delicate handling.

Lady Margaret Chantris is known to be one of the premiere hostesses
of Amber’s polite society. Admired by all, envied by some — not in
the least for her dashing and handsome husband William, the third son
of the noble house — it comes as a great shock when she is found
murdered at the Red Lion public house in what appears to be a crime
of passion. As it happens, Police Commissioner Victor FitzJames is an
old school chum of Lord William’s, and he taps a few members of
Special Section to handle the case.

Then in Slot 6 (Saturday evening) Slot 3 (Friday afternoon), I’ll be running the kill puppies for satan scenario I ran at TBR this past year.

Nine Losers in Akron
Number of Players: 4-8 (pregens)

f***. looks like one of the f***ers who hates dad finally decided to do something about it. granddad says he was down at the 7-11 last night buying his f***ing lameass porno mags, when he saw a couple of big guys dragging your dad into some beat-up panel van and driving off. a**holes. you could call the cops, but those f***ers don’t really like anybody in your loser family, so they probably won’t f***ing do anything. f***. looks like it’s up to you to get dad back.

[This is a kill puppies for satan game centering around a family made up of recast Amber Elders. Rules will be taught, but taking the time to check out the kpfs site before you sign up is strongly recommended. The game involves far too much foul language and plenty of things that are very wrong (like, you know, the puppy killing part), so consider yourself warned.]

I’m hoping the new game goes well, and the kpfs re-run ends up being just as fun for all involved as it was the first time around.

Looking ahead to TBR 2005, I plan on running a new kpfs scenario (which will be a sequel of sorts), Jenn and I will likely run “The Mysterious Affair” again (or another game in the series), and…. well, I need to come up with a third game. Right now I’m leaning toward something that mixes Amber and The Mountain Witch.

[Edit: Changed slots for both games, though those changes are still awaiting Kris's approval.]

December 13, 2004: 8:45 pm: Cons, GMing

I am now officially registered for ACUS 2005, which means I should probably be giving serious thought to submitting games too. Right now I’m planning on running Nine Losers in Akron, the Kill Puppies for Satan game I ran at TBR earlier this year, and I’ve been threatened with all female players this time. We’ll see how it works out. I may also be co-running a new game with Jenn, if we can get the idea we’re talking about to coalesce into an actual game.

November 21, 2004: 9:00 pm: Cons

For those who haven’t seen the news elsewhere, I thought I’d mention that we’ve opened registration for The Black Road 2005.

The Black Road 2005 will be held from June 24-26, and we will once again be at the Embassy Suites Marlborough in Marlborough,MA. Registration and game submission are now both open, and you can register at — please note that early bird registration closes on Jan 31st, at which point the prices go up. There is a $5 discount for those that register as GM’s and submit a game to run (see The final deadline for both registration and game submission is April 22nd, but it’s never too early to send in your games.

Other details are available on our website, and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. We hope to see in you in Marlborough in June!

October 3, 2004: 4:05 pm: Cons

I recently attended the 2004 edition of Ambercon North, which was held September 23-26 in Toronto, and, despite the hotel problems that the con had, I had a good time again this year.

For Jenn and I, the annual trip to ACN is a vacation in Toronto during which there’s an Ambercon, and we go up early to enjoy the city for a couple of extra days before the con starts (plus it gives Jenn time to get in a business meeting). This year that meant we arrived on Tuesday, and were the first to deal with the problems at the Town Inn. I don’t want to dwell on the details of our hotel issues, but I’ll say that we managed to stay in three different rooms during our stay, and they ranged from utterly horrible (the cramped, shabby second floor suite right over the entrance) to rather nice (the recently renovated suite on the 19th floor). We still fared better than those attendees who were forced to hike from the tiny rooms over at the Isabella Hotel every day, after the Town Inn managed to bump them all from the rooms they’d reserved. My opinion of the Town Inn at the point is that, no matter what they might promise, they simply can’t be trusted to give the con the rooms or facilities agreed to, and so we’d be better off moving to another hotel.

Anyway, enough about the hotel. Since Jenn and I treat ACN as a vacation, I was only in a couple of games:

Slot 2: Nine Princes in High School
GM: Jack Gulick

This was TFOS meets Amber, and it was a lot of fun. I ended up with a TFOS version of Caine (thanks to Jack throwing together the character for me at the start of the slot), and I had a blast playing him. Caine was a pirate, and had a ship that sailed on the school’s swimming pool, crewed by people recruited from those sent to detention. He raided the halls in his longboat (carried by those hoping to join his crew), breaking into lockers to get at the treasures they contained. Yar! Once the adventure got rolling, he managed to steal a doughnut truck (brought by the workers who’d come to tear down Amber High) and hoist the Jolly Rodger over it. There was plenty of silliness and swashbuckling after that too, ending with Caine pulling a terribly timed betrayal at the very end of the slot. I highly recommend this one if Jack ends up running it at one of the other Ambercons.

Slot 6: Lean Times in Amber
GM: Chris Kindred

Lean Times is basically an IMiA session run at ACN with a somewhat different cast, so I ran my usual IMiA character, Captain Wesley Hobart, Privateer. We’ve been asked by the GM not to reveal the details of what went on, but there were some interesting new characters and some big changes for a couple of the older ones. Oh, and a lack of single-malt scotch, which made the whole exercise seem decidedly odd. I’ll have to remember to remedy that the next time there’s a Lean Times session.

There was also a lot of good food to be had during the week in Toronto, where we hit many of our favorite restaurants and tried one excellent new one, and some fine spirits as well, as Jenn and I made our way out to The Feathers and tried some of their 430+ single-malts (which I’m sure Jenn will post about soon). It was great to see some of the friends I only see at Ambercons, as well as those I’m lucky enough to see more often, and I’m already looking forward to ACUS in the spring.

EDIT: Jennifer has posted about our trip to The Feathers here.

June 30, 2004: 9:01 pm: Cons

Now for the games themselves, the descriptions of which can be found in the TBR 2004 gamebook. My thanks to all of my GMs and players for helping to make it a fun con.

Slot 1: Le Cygne: The Lost Swan of Amber
GMs: Ginger Stampley and Michael Croft

There was a slow period for me during the first half of the game, which is hardly a rarity for me in con games (especially with unfamiliar GMs), but things picked up considerably during the second half, and Peet was able to get in plenty of swordplay and swashbuckling before he met his untimely end. Apparently, poison, an unskilled medic and leeches just don’t mix well. I was glad to get a chance to play using the Amberway/HoC system, and Ginger & Michael did a fine job with the GMing.

Slot 2: If You Can’t Take the Heat
co-GMing (with Jennifer Jackson)

This was the second time Jenn and I had run this game, so we thought we were well-prepared….and we probably were, until Frederic van Coppernolle unexpectedly stabbed NPC Tyler Florence (who recently replaced him on How to Boil Water) to death about 15 minutes into the slot. In an attempt to get him back into the main plot after he was thrown in the dungeon, I sent Fred off on a Bourne Identity style plot of his own, which I’d hoped would get him back into things by the end. It didn’t exactly work out that way, and I think it distracted me from helping out with the rest of the game as much as I should have. There were a lot of fun moments in this game, and everyone seemed to have a good time, but I don’t think it ended up going as well as the ACUS version did.

Slot 3: Nine Losers in Akron

Okay, I knew going in that this was going to be wrong (after all, it’s a kill puppies for satan game), but I hadn’t reckoned with it being as wrong as it was. Everyone got into the spirit of things pretty quickly, and the first half of the game was a lot of sick, twisted fun, with plenty of grotesque violence, both against small, furry animals and between the PCs. I played things pretty fast and loose with the rules, which seemed to work just fine.

Things didn’t go as well after the lunch break, as I’d let one of the characters (Brand, played by Jeff Trumitch) accumulate a heaping pile of evil, which he used to short-circuit the plot. He had a good idea, and it worked within the game as I’d set it up, so I let it happen and then tried to wing things from there. It didn’t go terribly, but, in retrospect, I should have jettisoned what remained of the plot, since clinging to the burning wreckage probably dragged the game down. Plus, having the plot remnant driving them along meant the PCs spent less time just randomly being sick losers.

Overall though, the players seemed to have a damned good time, which is the important thing, and there were calls for a sequel to be run next year, tentatively titled “Nine Losers in Tijuana” (as that’s where Oberon and Eric were headed on their stolen fire engine at game’s end). I’ll likely give this first scenario another shot at ACUS, where I’ve been threatened with having all female players (rather than the all male crowd I had this time). This scares me.

Slot 4: My Life with Corwin
GM: Jack Gulick

Despite Jack later admitting to having been less prepared for this game than he’d have liked, I thought this was a fine introduction to My Life with Master. Corwin, in his role as the Sorcerer-King of Avalon, made a perfect master, and everyone managed to come up with creepy and tragic minions. It was also a really good group of players, all of whom were able to do some great RP when their turn came around. So, despite the fact that we weren’t able to start the endgame before we were all ready for sleep, I’d still call this game a success.

Slot 5: The Jewel of Zhong Kui

This was the game I was least prepared for, and that, combined with me being pretty darned tired by this point in the con, resulted in a game that ended up being over far too quickly. I also didn’t make very good use of Kirt “Loki” Dankmyer’s Success system, which I had decided to use at the last minute and which I still think it was a good fit for a Jackie Chan Adventures game.

On the plus side, everyone seemed to have a good time, so I suppose that’s the most important thing. I’m definitely going to try and go a better job of preparation in the future though, especially at cons where I’m running more than one game.

June 28, 2004: 8:12 pm: Cons

The Black Road was this past weekend, and it was another successful con, despite the fact that the committee (by which I mean Jenn, Deb and I) wasn’t exactly at full strength. Deb had broken her foot last Wednesday, and Jenn started in on a cold the same day, which got much worse as the con went along (and was diagnosed as a nasty URI/bronchitis combo today). Still, the show (or, in this case, the con) must go on, so both of them made the best of a bad situation, while I did what I could as the official lackey. In the end, I think things ended up working out pretty well, and most of the attendees seemed to have a great time, but I’m sure both Jenn and Deb would have enjoyed the con more without their respective medical issues.

As for my own TBR experience, I had a pretty good time, even if there was more work involved than there was last con. It was great to meet some new attendees that I only knew from online (like Bryant, Ginger & Michael, and Kris Kunkel), to spend time with some people I pretty much only see at Ambercons (including Liz T., Matt, and Jenn W.), and to get in more gaming with those friends I am fortunate enough to see on a more regular basis. I enjoyed both of the games I played in, and the three games I ran seemed to be a lot of fun for those who played in them. I’ll save the details on all of that for another post….

June 6, 2004: 8:55 pm: Cons

A reminder about the important dates for ACN 2004 was sent out today:

Thursday, September 23 – Sunday, September 26, 2004
at the Town Inn Suites in Toronto, Ontario

Major Dates:

June 30
Deadline for Early Bird Registration
Deadline for Event Submission

July 26
Event catalogue released

August 8
Deadline for Standard Registration
Deadline for hotel reservations

August 20
Deadline for Event Selection

September 1
Deadline for cancelation refund requests

September 23-26
AmberCon North!

I think that maybe having game submission close almost three months before the actual con, and at a point where some people aren’t even sure yet whether or not they’ll be able to attend, is a mistake, as it’s got to cut down on the number of games that get submitted. Still, I’ll be there whether there are a lot of games or not!

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