Amber Account

‘And you’re shining like the brightest star, a transmission on the Midnight Radio’

Some came as the Denton Drama Troupe intent on staging their very… special version of RENT, others as orphans given homes by a hard-working Nazi Scientist. There were private eyes and ponies, revenge-minded Spanish swordsmen and monomaniacal mantises bent on animated intergalactic destruction. Sometimes Westworld, sometimes Austenworld, sometimes Deep Space Nine, but always McMenamin’s Edgefield – once poor-house and hospital, now our annual Halloween Hogwarts – replete with restaurants, rest and relaxation.

4 days, 7 game slots of varying length each with 20 games, and 140 or so people.
Another year, another Ambercon NW.

As usual, after the opening meet-up and t-shirt distribution, I opened Slot 1 with drawing.
And while I didn’t draw so much myself this year, I helped others (including many of the second generation of attendees) where I could. This year’s shirt design:

2: This marked my last year as a bit player in Mr. DeMille… er, Simone’s epic Amber game Court Dances. Andros was little more than background color amid a full-on Cosmic pageant, but I at least enjoyed the color.

3: May I please play the Man-in-Black in The Princess Bride game? I felt that this game was a risk – that it could have easily gone pear-shaped. But Ambercon-NW-newcomer Suzette Marioti’s direction was fabulous, and the players (Jason, JP, Chris) were too.

4. A game over two long slots is a major investment – essentially a full quarter of the convention when all is said and done. I’d never done it before, and may not manage again. In the hands of Children was absolutely horrible, and I mean that in the most complimentary way.

“In a war-torn countryside, orphaned children scrape together a meager existence with begging and theft. Some of them accept transport to the isolated farm of Dr. West, where it is promised that they will be fed, clothed, and educated. These promises are certainly kept — for those who survive childhood. Those survivors are changed in ways their younger selves could not have imagined, and tasked with leading their countrymen to victory and power. No one — not these children, and certainly not Dr. West — could have foreseen the true cost of the work, and what was set in motion when the first child crossed his doorway.”

Poor Evelyn, Cora, Thomas and Henry. In a world where living was only marginally better than dying, these boys and girls got by as best they could.
And as horrific as this one was, it was only part one….

5. A Firefly game can be challenging to run at the best of times, but 9 players with two captains and 3 ships? Yikes.
While I was delighted to be captaining the Hunter, I was grateful I wasn’t running the show.
Happily, Monique had chosen a character in perfect harmony with my own, and the mechanics of rumor-generation were particularly entertaining (and nothing draws attention like a missing eye). My real-world knowledge of neuroplasticity got a surprising workout too!

6: Bloodshadows
A chance test-drive detective Sam Rivers, a character I plan to write more about (and from the point of view of). The places we end are always dependent upon the places we begin, and while this proved interesting in the short term, Sam is not really much of a team player. The long game will require a more starting point more in line with the SF earthquake and fire. And a lot more research.

Great turns from all my fellows – Amanda’s as a mysterious femme fatale, Jen as a Vampire Rights activist with an interest in salmons and grizzlies, Thaddeus’ Jazz player and Malcolm’s corrupt Irish Beat Cop were pure theatrical delight.

7: In the Hands of….Dr. West’s Nazi Super-Soldiers?

There’s a war on, and the Eidolons of Ian Tregillis’s astonishing Bitter Seeds are more threatening than anything else the children of the Reich could ever imagine.
And an alliance with a figure from Evelyn’s childhood nightmares is the key to a dark victory after the destruction of Paris. Gracie is the second suicide. Cora frees Dr. West and sets the Reichstag on fire. Henry punches Goering and collects long-lost Robbie in a telekinetic run to the Channel. Thomas and Evelyn remove their batteries. Enochian is sung by the children in Dover, and while the Eidolons are stymied, they will not remain so forever…..

A deep dark rich game that combined the players and characters of Nathan’s Blood Price game with Jennifer’s In the Hands of Children. When all was said and done, it was worth every moment of play, and it stays with me in surprising ways.

Welcome to Amber


My t-shirt design for this year’s amazing ACNW.

The party’s over. But for 4+ days it roiled and raged – bringing a 150 of the smartest loveliest people to the same glorious location – McMenamin’s Edgefield.

There were, as usual, 7 different “slots”, ranging from 4 – 7.5 hours in length. While most slots were made of collaborative story-telling games, many were based on “real” commercial roleplaying games (like Amber, Over the Edge, Phoenix, Monster Hearts, Night Witches, et al.), but others were made up on the spot, or so heavily altered from their source materials that they stood alone. It was my pleasure to play in many of them, because, in addition to the 7 official game slots, some were played in Slots -2, -1, 0, and 8. So, diligent attendees (more than a few of whom travel from the UK and beyond!) might well have attended 10 games. I can only salute such focus.

Among the 150 slots, there were periods for board games, knitting, pub-crawling, and many more. I “ran” in 2 slots. And the first of those was not about playing games at all – rather it was about making artwork for games. Several of the participants don’t consider themselves artists in any formal sense, but I do not exaggerate when I say they were some of the most impressive and open-minded people I’ve ever gotten to work with. Several seemed to level-up in their respective styles and I used the 4 hour slot to create a scratchboard portrait of my character from ACNW honcho Simone Cooper’s epic game Court Dances. Happily, great reference saw me through, and the timing worked out very well!

AndrosIn my second GM slot, I ran a proper game. Inspired by the classic Big Trouble in Little China
Here’s a piece of the game summary:

“Have you Paid yer dues, Jack?”
“Yes sir, the check is in the mail.”

You’ve known Grandpa Jack for a long time now. Most of your life really.
Heck, you even remember before his hair all went gray and he lost his eye (He said it was in a poker game, but then he would say that). Any time he’d breeze back into town, he’d visit with your folks, staying up late, drinking down whatever was on offer, showing that crooked grin, and telling the most amazing stories. You got to know some of his stories pretty well, especially his favorite, the one about the ancient ghost of Lo Pan, the brides with green eyes, all those ninjas flyin’ around on wires, cutting everybody to shreds. The one that always ended with “You can bet we shook the Pillars of Heaven that day….” It might not have been the best story you ever heard, but there was something in the way he told it… Hell, he must’ve told it a million times.

You hadn’t seen ol’ one-eyed Jack for a few years (life gets busy when you get busy with your own adventures after all) but it seems Jack didn’t forget you. Where there’s a will, there’s a dead relative. And this time Jack Burton is that relative.

The Last Will and Testament of John Milton “Jack” Burton will be read at 4pm on Sunday, February 19, 2034.

Please join me and your fellow legatees in the sight of Tin How
125 Waverly Place San Francisco, California 94108 (Fourth Floor)

My sincere condolences,

Character & Player Instructions: Characters are intended to be aged 16-30, and all young legatees of Jack Burton (some might be grandchildren, others godchildren, friends’ children, et al.).

And here’s the invitation the 6 players they received when they signed up:
1TinHow1When I painted Lo Pan for Month of Fear, it was very much with this game in mind:

Unlike years past, I drew a lot during this year’s gathering. Here is the the redoubtable Erik Endress (The Marvel of Princeton), from Christopher and Kat’s massive BLACKMOOR game.
ErikAnd here, the insignia of Blackmoor’s HQ, both drawn during the game.

RedDome3Murray’s mythic game, Shih no On (The Face of Death) allowed me to revisit the deeply serious Akamu, 穴熊 badger spirit and sumi-e master:

AkamuAs the game (now in it’s 5th serial session in 6 years) progressed, my ink pen worked to sum up the elegance and beauty of the game. And while I inevitably failed, the attempt was appreciated by Murray and Emma, his wife and fellow Game Master. On Wednesday (Slot -3?) it had been my pleasure to attend the Taiko drumming demonstration and hear the renewal of their wedding vows (originally exchanged 35 years previous). I had the additional honor of being a villain in Emma’s Middleman game. I don’t mean “I got to play a villain” because her game is so popular, and can only accommodate a few players, I’ve never even gotten to play her game. But happily that didn’t stop me from being a character played by Emma in her own game. I was running Big Trouble in Not-So-Little China while she ran her game this year, and I admit that menacing two groups of players simultaneously defied expectation. But so deep was I into my own tale, that when people stopped me in the hall and mentioned my villainy I was momentarily baffled….FaceOfDeathAnd here is a portrait of Sara Mueller’s ancient dragon (who I mostly know as Jun):      JunThis is the t-shirt design I adapted for the big finish of Murray’s game:

Ambercon2015 BlackBlueDIn addition to all the art and games, there was excellent food and company, sometimes in the Soaking Pool, sometimes in restaurants and bars. And for the big unexpected finish – a glorious game of Monsterhearts that Rose ran in the previously-unexplored Slot 8.

The party’s over; most of us are already planning the next one.
But what to put on the shirt….

UnDoomed Kickstarter Games

While I do not yet have a copy of ‘The Doom That Came to Atlantic City’* I am pleased to say that many fine people are receiving theirs, and sending me photos online to prove it.
I know that some folks have already played, and several already have favored permutations!

That said, I did receive a different Kickstartered game that I worked on – ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ by Jonathan Liu and Hoke’s Games. Here’s a shot of Venetia with my winning card:


*Please have no concerns for me, I think it only proper that mine will be shipped after all the backers have theirs! Besides, after a 25 year development period, the short one that remains is surprisingly tasty. :)