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Extra Experience Points: Gaming Satire

Dragon Con is For Kids?

Greg Chatham
September 11, 2001


So I said, "How come when I joke that some people make me want to pull out an AK-47 and mow them all down, I'm kicked off the student newspaper? When Harlan Ellison says it, it's cute. What if we all went out right now and shot up a roomful of people because of what Harlan Ellison just said?"

And Isaac said, "Then there would be a lot less people for Harlan Ellison to hate."

In the weeks before Gen Con, the forums were filled with posters planning to meet in Seattle, play Little Fears, drop by the White Wolf booth to mock the layout of Exalted, and then flame Gareth-Michael Skarka with real flames. It looked like fun. I anticipated the end of the month, when I would engage in similar activities with regulars at Dragon Con.

But no one ever brought it up.

So I inquired if anyone else was going to be in Atlanta besides me and Harlan Ellison. "I'll be the guy in all black with the guy who looks like Jesus in glasses," I wrote. "Let's crash the open gaming room and replace everyone's d20s with d6s."

The response I received could be exaggerated like this: "Gen Con rulz! Only loosers are going to Dragon Con. There is no gaming there and I hear there's a Klingon kiddie porn pageant. I have a cuter ass than the people who wear thongs there. I'm going to stay home, read Knights of the Dinner Table, and see Jeepers Creepers instead. Besides, I already spent all my money on Adventure! so I could write a review for the game without ever playing it-in 50 words or less."

Dragon Con was just for kids? There wouldn't be any gaming there? I reacted to these accusations the same way horror fans react when their favorite authors tell them that they don't consider themselves horror authors and wish that people would stop calling them that so more people would buy their books. I felt betrayed. I refused to believe it.

Besides, my friends and I were bringing our own game, and I had other things to do as well, things that Dragon Con was made to do them at. 1) Drink margaritas. 2) Meet David Mack and not babble like idiot fanboy this time. 3) Watch Harlan Ellison ream an audience, physically or verbally. 4) See how much Bella Morte has changed from the scratchy demo tape Gopal's ex-girlfriend gave me 4 years ago. 5) Hunt vampires-the cute Asian ones in short animal print dresses.

I accomplished all of these goals, and I got in a tiny bit of gaming, too. The complaints I read about Dragon Con were greatly exaggerated, though not as greatly exaggerated as I exaggerated them above. My only real disappointment was with that the vampires. The Camarilla really needs to step up its efforts to recruit a more ethnically diverse group of children of the night.

And segueing from children, of the night or otherwise, there were kids there. Laurell K. Hamilton was a guest, after all. But there were also adults who attended the Strong Women in Comics panel to hear Peter David discuss the next issue of Justice Teens. They weren't there to listen to David Mack talk about Kabuki and how his characters were personal metaphors that allowed him to tell stories from his experiences without making the characters too much like himself. No, they wanted to hear about Supergirl, the Christ figure. Even if they didn't want to hear about it, Peter David wasn't going to let that stop him.

If I could get rid of one room of adults like that and send them to Origins instead, I wouldn't care if the entire con was full of fanboys like the one behind me in the pre-registration line.

"The game I'm playing right now is pretty dark," the girl next to him said. "It's called Alice."

"American McGee's Alice," he corrected her-like it really mattered, like he knew something she didn't, like she left out something so important, like the "Wes Craven's" in front of "Wishmaster"-with all the subtlety and manners of an ashtray the size of really fucking big brick.

A fucking really big brick, I mean.

Aside from that, I had only one negative child-related experience the entire weekend. Waiting in line at the nearby Mama Ninja's Mexican Restaurant, I sat for more time than I spent on I-95 Thursday night in a hailstorm as families of 4 (who were not there for the con) were seated before me. They had kids. The kids didn't do anything, but the fact that they were kids was enough to put me in a bad mood.

A few sangria margaritas fixed that. The margaritas were cheap, too.

Yeah, there are kids at Dragon Con, but how many depends on your definition of kids, and how many you see depends on the events you attend. I'm 23. To me, anyone who looks under 22 is a kid. Maybe your definition is a bit broader. Maybe you think anyone who would wait in line to see The Cruxshadows is a kid. Well, then put on your Dreamtheater T-shirt and you and 10 other people can go listen to prog rock instead. I'll be waiting with the everyone else in black shiny clothes, listening to the 3 Guys With 3 Synthesizers in the lobby, debating whether Voltaire is gothassaince or golk.

So Atlanta wasn't crawling with preteen girls in funny foreheads and Sailor Moon costumes, but what about the accusation that Dragon Con isn't a gaming convention? Well, that's true. The Dragon Con schedule isn't conducive for gaming, and the presence of game companies is minimal. Besides White Wolf, there weren't any major players there. Atlas Games might have been there, or it could have just been a booth that sold their games. I saw a lot of guys who looked like Gary Gygax, but when I asked them to tell me about Dangerous Journeys, they looked at me funny and asked me if I knew where Peter David was.

There were some smaller companies there. I talked to the IS guy from the company that publishes the Magi Nation card game. It has a difficulty level "somewhere between Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering." At another booth, I learned what superpunk was. It's the dark post-apocalyptic world of today (Today?) where you play super or supernatural powered heroes struggling to be heroic in a non-heroic world.

I learned about Morton's List, which I had confused with a whiny fanclub that had been banned from Gen Con. Isaac picked up Zombies!!!!, the board game of zombies!!! (When we went back to ask for rules clarifications, the guy told us that they had left out some rules because they figured we'd be playing it drunk and that we wouldn't notice. So that's what we were doing wrong.) And of course, there was Bionicle, the card game of LEGO selling out.

We had planned on the low gaming atmosphere and we had brought our own game, but the con conspired against that, too. We got in an hour of Feng Shui on Friday, but the DM was tired and I was drunk on Japan's oldest beer. We got through a bar fight and went to sleep. The rest of the weekend our schedules divided us. I had to go to a concert at 10. Nate had to see the Web Cam Girls at 8. Isaac had to meet Donnie Yen at 6. There was no time for my Magic Cop to finish his last day on the force, or for Nate to discover the doctor who could complete his Cyborg's operation.

Dragon Con defeats all gaming, but that's no reason not to go. I didn't go to Dragon Con just to play games. The margaritas at the satellite bars were pretty good for drinks that were $7 and came in plastic cups. I didn't babble like an idiot fanboy in front of David Mack, though I might have spoken so highly of his work that he now believes me to be a devious stalker who has a roll of duct tape with his name on it. Bella Morte performed a wicked cover of My Heart Will Go On. I learned that to Peter David, feminine logic is allowing a man to beat you up, and that Harlan Ellison likes to push the handicapped around.

I'm not surprised by either of those last revelations.

Dragon Con isn't a place to go for hardcore gaming, it's a con where there's fun to be had by all as long as you're in the right place at the right time and that place isn't Women In Horror or the Star Wars Light Saber Tournament.

Ten years from now, when my novel "Steal Your Girl Con" has made me a fan favorite, I'll have my choice of cons to attend as a guest. I'd choose Dragon Con, where the guys who look like Gary Gygax aren't Gary Gygax, over Gen Con, where the guys who look like Gary Gygax might be Gary Gygax (or Justin Achilli-I don't know what he looks like). Sure, I won't get any gaming in, but one of my goals in life is to be on a panel with Harlan Ellison and have him tell me to shut the fuck up. Just like Laurell K. Hamilton.

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