I've never been one to celebrate April Fool's Day. I like seeing silly people and general overall wackiness (which I'm all for, mind you, especially since I typically wear mis-matched socks for the heck of it), but practical jokes and the like are a bit out of my range. So, to start off the month of April, I give you no trick. I do, however, give you a gem.
Feel free to take the blue gem to the right. I've been exploring graphics development recently and the first experiment was this blue gem. Lovely, isn't it? (and not shabby for a first try) I used Alien Skin's Eye Candy to get the rounded gem effect (with some clever gaussian blurs to give the illusion of depth). I also applied a new must-have plug in called "Blade Pro" that did the gold effects. I am definitely purchasing the plug-in (from flaming pear). It is well-worth the price. Although my expertise is low, I did use some techniques I've learned (along with the fab-o plug-ins) to generate the new index page to [woolgathering]. A few days ago, I was tearing my hair out about it... not feeling that I've captured the essense of Spring (and worrying that I jumped the gun too early last month with my March sakura design). However, I think I came up with something bright and colorful yet with that 'fresh spring feeling'.
Life has returned to a more normal pace. Last month with my 50 hour work weeks, I was extremely drained. To make matters worse, the last two weekends of the month were time dedicated to other things than myseld. On the weekend of the 20th-21st, I was at Mon Con.
Mon Con was very cool. I had registered weeks after Mike registered and I expected not to get into the games that I wanted to play in (some of them, Mike had signed up for as well), but strangely enough, I got an earlier badge number and got into a game or two that Mike couldn't get into! That irritated him (it would irritate myself as well, if I signed up diligently and a lazy slacker got their choices before I did).
The convention itself was quite small. I was expecting something larger but I could tell as we pulled up to the hotel that this was going to be a small affaire. It was even smaller than Winter War, the convention that I attended in Urbana-Champaign when I was a student. There was one room for miniatures, one room for roleplaying (10 tables), one room for card games, and another "random stuff" room where they did a few exhibition games. They had one small room for vendors, where they had no more than five or six sellers (disappointing to me, who likes to comparison shop to get the best deal at cons). That's about it to the convention. But despite its diminutive size, I had a lot of fun (surprisingly!).
Saturday morning, I was to play an In Nomine adventure (that Mike also signed up for but was booted because it was full). In Nomine is an interesting system where the players take the roles of either angels or demons. Most of the time, the players are all angels or all demons. For the adventure on Saturday morning, we were an interesting mixture of angels and demons. The setting was the beginning of the end. The First Trumpet of Revelations had sounded and the signs for the End were coming. We were to find out what was happening with a renegade celestial (a celestial is a creature like angels and demons that are part of this struggle between heaven and hell) that was starting some sort of highly zealous religious faction comprised of other celestials and humans. They based their teachings on the Koran and were encamped in the desert. Our mission was to find out what this celestial's goals were (the celestial was named Kali).
Well, it turns out that Kali was trying as hard as possible to bring about the End... and there was great debate as to whether or not it should be stopped (my Archangel master seemed pleased that the End was near, so the Angels decided it was a Good Thing(tm) while the Demons didn't seem to care). The game and the GM weren't particularly interesting, but the players during the game were precious! I got to see Michael Cheng again, a pretty enthusiastic In Nomine player that I've met at previous conventions. I also got introduced to the guy that won the prize for the game, Paul Wengle, a very delicious blond playing an outrageously sexy female Lilith demon. He was highly comic and played his part to a T. To watch someone like him and Michael Cheng play really make conventions worthwhile. It's not just like watching actors perform, but actually interacting with them in an adventure. Seeing these two fine specimens of gamer-hood made the game extremely worthwhile, even with the weak GM. He was bad at keeping the game flowing and I found myself prompting the GM to continue the story. The mark of a poor GM. Thankfully my afternoon game's GM was quite good.. in more ways that one.
My afternoon Call of Cthulhu game was cancelled... so I decided to wander around for a bit, looking to see if anything interesting was going to pop up. Well, it did! Paul Wengle from the In Nomine game was running an impromptu game of AD&D that he started the evening before and needed an extra player for. Eager to continue looking at his angelic face, I decided to join in on the game. What a great excuse to stare at the GM! Plus, despite the fact that the system was AD&D (which I had long given up after I graduated from high school to better systems in college like Over the Edge), Paul was an engaging and interesting GM that pushed the story forward. So, the players were never at a loss and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The other players were an asian guy (with very feminine features and played the only female character in the group), a thin bearded fellow that reminded me of my ex Bill, a round bearded fellow that looks almost exactly like Jim, and a fairly non-descript guy that remained quiet for most of the game. I played a desparate-for-money thief that recently joined the band of adventurers. We were to obtain a ring from a duke and return it for a princely sum of money (that I needed to pay off my character's debts). I rolled fairly well throughout the adventure, although I nearly knifed a fellow comrade during a knife-throwing performance (that got me booed from the reception hall) and my index finger of my right hand was cut off when I forgot to check for traps when sneaking into the duke's bedchamber (tsk tsk tsk, iko, this is AD&D... you always check for traps!). Thankfully, I was able to get the ring and sneak off into the night.
I laughed hard and heartily throughout the game, plus I got to stare at the delicious GM. I kept sketching his hair and the way it was shaped all over my gaming sheets. He had a sparkle to his eyes that grabbed on to my attention and held it. Even Mike noticed when he came in to watch the game. It wasn't just because he was good looking (I typically don't care for blonds, but he was short, glasses, and had a nerdy air about him); he was a very engaging GM.
In the evening, I was busy with an interminable Call of Cthulhu game. The premise was interesting and one could tell that the GM was clearly a huge fan of all 1920s-1930s German films. The game was set in Berlin around that time. I played a dashing jet-setter who tried his luck with the ladies all the time. This led me to quite a number of interesting encounters (none sexual, unfortunately) since all of the young ladies that my character encountered ended up getting slaughtered. The first one was grabbed by my arms into a mysterious fog that I was too cowardly to enter. The second one was killed in her room while I was trying to woo her through the door (and I ended up failing miserably to break down the door with my wimpy frame while she was screaming inside). It lasted until midnight and Mike and I grumpily drove home. The game was much longer than the 4 hour time slot it was afforded.
Sunday morning, I played in the game that Mike played the night before. Mike complained at how unprepared the GM was (they made their own characters) and how predictable the adventure was as well. It was set in the same set of islands as Jurassic Park and we had to trek our way through miles of forest evading T-Rexes. It turned out that an Alien-like creature had infected the island! I think the large acid burns on the floor should have been a dead giveaway to this. The plot was predictable and we trekked out way quickly though this average adventure. Ho hum.
I dropped my afternoon game because I wanted to watch the newest Miyazaki film which was being shown in the anime room. Typically, the anime room is a room for people who are bored and are waiting for their next game... so not many people typically frequent it. I expected a large crowd for the showing of Mononoke Hime (the highest grossing movie in Japan... ever), but I was the only one that showed up. More space for me, I thought, as I spread myself out over several chairs to watch the film. The only other person in the room was the guy who was taking care of it, a fellow anime fan that supplied the tapes. About 20 minutes into the movie, he was called out of the room.
He returned with a disappointed look on his face. "Well, it looks like they are kicking us out of this room 'cause they didn't book it for late checkout."
I looked at him with a blank stare, trying hard to fight the disappointment. "Oh, okay... err... I understand." I got up and started arranging my stuff to leave.
He continued, "But, since you did come and took the effort to watch..." He pressed the eject button and took out the video tape, slipping it back into the cover and holding the tape out to me. "... I'll give this to you."
I dropped my purse and slowly turned towards him. I couldn't contain the happiness in me. Granted, I didn't get a chance to watch the video then and there, but I get to take it home and keep it! I was so overjoyed.
"Really?" The skeptical part in me comes out, as usual.
He nodded. "I never bring my originals to conventions so you can have this copy."
"Hooray!" I snatched the tape from his hand and proceeded to give him a huge hug and a peck on the cheek. I could tell he blushed a little.
"Wow, I should do this more often."
I was grinning like a Cheshire cat as I thanked him again, picked up my things and made my way to the gaming room where I showed Mike my newest prize.