Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Origins Game Fair

Back in 1974 Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson created a game they called Dungeons and Dragons which was published by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR).  Intrigued by the thought of something that wasn't chess, monopoly or the stock market I bought a copy and played it.  It was fun.

Last weekend Big Mike and I attended the Origins Gaming Convention in Columbus, Ohio at the convention center, and things have changed a bit since the good old days of low impact dice and cheaply produced rule books.  Mike, by the way, is a bored board gamer and entered several events which he claims to have enjoyed.  I noted that a few authors were presenting writing seminars on topics that hold a great deal of interest to me and so attended the seminars, which I'll write about later on.

If you ever attend Origins, take my advice and register for your pass and all your events on line.  You'll save yourself an hour or more of standing in line and very likely a lot of aggravation dealing with the volunteer help at the registration desk.  My own experience can serve to verify this.  For one thing, the software for registration is poorly written and has an extremely slow response time, which means that when the magic go button is pushed everyone leans back with a 'smoke 'em if you got 'em' attitude, because it's going to be a while.  This is bad enough by itself, but imagine a line of convention patrons that stretches out of sight and you may have a better feel for what's going on.  Then there are the convention staff.  These are an all volunteer staff who are being compensated for their efforts in prestige (questionable value) and possibly merchandise, such as feed store cap equivalents.  Instead of full size keyboards and monitors, the staff have laptops with really tiny keyboards that do not have numeric keypads but do have a touch pad mouse along with a crappy screen.  The number of data entry errors goes up by a factor of five just due to the hardware, never mind the end user.  In my case the clerk took forever to type all four of my events into the system, then couldn't get the system to acknowledge the events.  It turned out to be a user error, but after a solid 20 minutes of waiting for something that should have taken two minutes I began to become exasperated.  Then I had a thought, and asked the man what he did when he wasn't volunteering at Origins.

"I work a lot on my mother's farm."

I considered this for a minute.  The man was in his thirties, physically fit and likely able to handle livestock, a four wheel drive vehicle over rough terrain including fixing said vehicle in the field with minimal tools, able to load a truck so the freight wouldn't shift in transit and bring home dinner with a shotgun or fishing pole.  Naturally they put this guy in front of a crappy laptop with poorly designed software.  This is an example of the organizational and planning skills at Origins.  Then we have the lines, shown below.

Line for a Day Pass

Buying a day pass allows you to peruse the trade show and nose around a little, but does not allow you to participate in any events.  To actually participate or attend an event requires a regular pass, and the line up for that one is a zoo.

I was amazed by the number of people in costume.  One thing you'll learn about gaming conventions is that they are a virtual haven for Moonbat liberals.  For instance, the prevalent costume theme seemed to be a Victorian style with a fantasy motif added after the fact, but clearly it incorporated none of the Victorian philosophy or customs, such as how women were to be treated.  One exception to this theme was the pagan barbarian shown below.

Barbarian with Coyote Pelt
I spoke to this man briefly before I took his picture and asked about his coyote pelt, and he seemed pleased to explain just how he came by it.

"Well, it was this way." He said.  "I was hiking along the trail eating my granola trail mix and I found this poor coyote lying by the side of the road, just where the trail crosses Interstate 70.  I think he got hit by a car, because he was very badly hurt and I didn't want him to die alone, so I held him a while and petted him until he... well, he passed away."  The barbarian paused to wipe away a tear - who says tough guys don't cry?

"Anyhow, I felt that the two of us had really bonded and, well, somehow I just couldn't give him up like that, so I called the Ohio Department of Fish and Wildlife and they told me about an elderly gentleman down in Hollansburg, Ohio who could cure the hide for me.  They said he was licensed and everything, so that's what I did - and here he is.  That's why I come to these conventions, because this is one of the few places where we can be together and people don't look at us funny - like we're weird or something."

I thought about this for a second.  "You know, I'm a gun owner and a shooter - " I started, but he cut me off.

"Oh.  Well, in that case - I live on a small farm just North of Dayton, Ohio and I shot the son of a bitch out back behind the barn.  I tanned the hide myself.  Like it?"

I assured him I liked his pelt and moved on.  Clearly this man has more experience with the convention than I do or than I'm ever likely to have.

The dealer show was quite large, and in addition to all manner of games vendors also had costumes and furniture.  Go figure, right?  But the table below is an excellent piece, extremely well made and reasonably priced.  If I wanted a gaming table, here's the Rolls Royce of the industry.

Game Table
There were various sizes and heights, but all the furniture was solid and very well put together.  I was impressed.  There was also luggage to cart around your miniature army.  I can't imagine actually hauling around several hundred miniature lead soldiers and other paraphernalia, but people do it.  This company sells the suitcases necessary to haul your army in style.

Custom Cases

Custom Foam Rubber Inserts
I asked if they could make anything to order for firearms, and one sales lady assured me they could.  All I had to do was trace out the shape on paper and they could cut the foam.  Although they were willing, none of them would admit to knowing what a 1911 was.  Speaking of firearms, here are a few new models for the discriminating firearms aficionado. 

Annihilator Mk II

Ready for Safari
This is actually a take off of Dr. Grordbort's Infallible Aether Oscillators which the experienced galactic traveler will no doubt recognize.  The costumes are real, as are the people.

Edged Weapons For Sale
Aether Oscillators aside, there were a few edged weapons for sale.  The caveat to actually buying one was that you had to remove it to a safe location outside the convention center right after you purchased it.  The truly asinine part of this is that you could buy a fléau d'armes (often misnamed as a chain mace or morning-star) which is far more dangerous than any edged weapon available.  For the uninitiated, this is a short wooden shaft with one or more spiked balls connected to the end of the shaft by a very short length of chain.  The weapon requires very little skill to wield efficiently and the damage is devastating, it being a class three lever.  Go and try one sometime if you don't believe me.

Edged Weapon Vendors
Not all vendors were in costume, but these were and I thought the girl was cute.

I was tempted to buy a topper and cane from the display below, but I'd never be able to wear them anywhere.  I was always attracted by the top hat and swallow tail coat, and I think I was born a little too late.  Dressing up for anything these days is more a rarity than it used to be, which is a shame. 

Topper and Cane

The luggage displayed here really made me feel my age.  You see, the bag sitting on the floor to the right is identical to the bag used by my father when he was in business.  He traveled a great deal, and that is his overnight bag which he always kept packed and ready to go.  If it's made to the same standard, the bag will be quite heavy when empty.

Speaking of heavy, here are two hotties advertising something or other.  I never learned just what it was thy were selling, my mother having instructed me to refrain from speaking to such women.  While neither of these is the kind of girl most boys would take home to meet mom, the senior prom might be a different story.  Anyway, these two looked good at 30 feet.  Getting a little closer... well, maybe not so much.  The blond had more miles on her than I-75 and her friend was tailgating.

By way of general interest, I talked to this vendor for a few minutes and got a candid photo.  She is older, about my own age, but her significant other was present so I had to hold the old Mad Jack charm in check.  That's a lot harder than you'd think, as she was friendly and very good looking.

Costume Vendor
This was one of several large costume shops at the trade show, and the items are not cheap.  Clearly the show isn't catering to children.

On our way out we ran into a line of about 30 or so waiters, all dressed in the easily recognizable 'I'm a waiter' outfit complete with bar towel held over the arm.  What's the deal with this?

None of them would talk about their job or why they were there, so I assumed it was some kind of performance for the convention.  Nope, not a bit of it.  A little further down the place was alive with security including a friendly K9 cop with her tail wagging partner.  I wanted to stop and pet the dog, but Big Mike insisted we keep moving.  The lady cop looked friendly, too.

K9 Cop
 Further ahead there was even more police and jittery people talking into their lapels.  Now what?  I expected to be stopped for being where we weren't supposed to be, and I was partly correct.

Security!  Identify Yourself
I got buttonholed by a young man with a clipboard who was collection the signatures of people who oppose State Senate Bill 5, which would remove collective bargaining rights and other things from State workers.  The security was for Joe Biden -  you can read about it here.  I had to think for a minute before I could remember just who this zero was, then it came to me.  He's The Anointed One's V.P.  You know, I just can't see it.  We spend all this money to provide security for someone who's real requirements for the job ended right after the election, and who must do nothing more than keep breathing.  What self-respecting terrorist would actually demean himself by trying to whack such a completely insignificant target as Biden?

One interesting point that I noted from the article:
With the exception of Vice President Joe Biden, the keynote speaker, the Greater Columbus Convention Center last night featured politicians with the word former attached to their names, including former Gov. Ted Strickland. At the same venue 10 months ago, the stage was crowded with incumbent statewide officeholders.
Good luck with SB-5, I guess.  As for me, I'm not going to worry about it.  I think this is that elusive spot where fantasy meets reality.


Capt. Schmoe said...

"I thought about this for a second. "You know, I'm a gun owner and a shooter - " I started, but he cut me off.

"Oh. Well, in that case - I live on a small farm just North of Dayton, Ohio and I shot the son of a bitch out back behind the barn. I tanned the hide myself. Like it?" "

That was a man who knows his audience. One of the world's commonplace genius'!

We were once staged in a hotel in Dallas, waiting to roll in to a hurricane somewhere. A sign in the lobby advertised an Anime' Convention. As I was bored, I wandered in and checked out the exhibit hall.

I figured I might be a little out of my element when I passed a man, 6'3", 240lbs dressed in a Japanese/Catholic school girls uniform, holding a teddy bear and sucking on a lolly-pop. I live in So Cal, I could live with the uniform - but the full beard threw me.

Thanks for the post.

Stephanie Lorée said...

I ran a game at Origins a few years ago. It was a good time. And the Victorian meets fantasy is called Steampunk. It's a new-ish trend--though the steampunk idea has been around for years, it's only now catching fire in literature, music, and fashion. It's definitely a modern take on the 19th century.

Hope you enjoyed the gaming!

Mad Jack said...

I could kind of see where the full beard might cause a reality check. I prefer to believe he lost a bar bet.

I didn't play any games while I was at Origins. My entire reason for going was to attend the writing seminars. I may get involved with the gaming aspect next year.

I've seen the term Steampunk being used, but I never really knew or understood what it meant. Thanks!

aaron2hot said...

Hello and thanks for having a pic of me in my furs on your blog site

Mad Jack said...

Hey! Good to hear from you, and you're quite welcome. My thanks to you for your tolerance of the paparazzi.

Anonymous said...

It is so cool that you went to Origins! Do you visit BashCon?

Mad Jack said...

I used to go to BashCon back when Mind Games (over on Reynolds Road) ran it. They closed the store in 2007. When I went to BashCon Mind Games was next to the bowling alley near Reynolds and Central. That was a lot of years ago, let me tell you. Anyway, I knew the people who owned Mind Games pretty well, and they always did a good job with the convention. The SCA generally put in an appearance and that was interesting.