Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Gaming Vacation to Michigan

Enjoying some Biggby Coffee in Grand Rapids!


Once upon a time I wrote a post about gaming vacations: visiting new and exciting places with friends and family, breaking out the dice, and playing some awesome games.  Sure, Gen Con fits the mold, but I wasn't referring to trips to conventions.  In the age of social media, when many of us RPG'ers play with gamers from around the world, often we never get the opportunity to meet up in person as much as we would like.  

Thankfully, this past weekend I remedied that situation with a trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan!

This kind of journey was EXACTLY what I was looking for when I first thought up the idea about a great gaming vacation.  I threw my eldest daughter Carrie in the new'ish Civic (so shiny, so chrome!), and we set out on a 450 mile journey across Pennsylvania, Ohio, and  Michigan (adding Indiana on the return trip) for twenty-four hours of gaming awesomeness. 

I can't take credit for cooking up this quest to Grand Rapids.  Several months ago my friend (wife of my friend and Tuesday night Cypher System player Jeremy) invited a whole bunch of gamers to Grand Rapids to celebrate Jeremy's birthday.  It was a surprise party, so we had to keep it under wraps for quite some time.  All that adventure planning over the last few weeks?  That was for this event, and I didn't even get to use everything!

Inside "Out of the Box Games"

Although we squeezed in a little gaming during our first night of the trip, it was fairly late.  We played a few rounds of Aquarius, before heading back to the hotel for a good night's sleep.  But that next morning we were ready to roll!  Carrie and I arrived at Out of the Box Games, just south of Grand Rapids, with dice and books stashed in my "Han Shot First" bag.  

Out of the Box Games is such a fantastic game store!  There's a great selection of board games in the front of the establishment, and a fairly large open gaming room in the back that takes up over half of the building.  Snacks and drinks are available, for a reasonable price, but gamers are invited to bring their own food as well.  

Biggby has some great cups


During our trip, our little "Team Pittsburgh" also discovered the taste-sensation that is Biggby Coffee.  Although I'm a Starbucks addict, I could see myself becoming a full convert given the tastiness of Biggby's hazelnut blend.

What a wicked grin

Carrie and I came prepared to run several role-playing games on Saturday, from Numenera to Savage Worlds.  But we wanted to start with something light and fluffy... like Dungeon Crawl Classics!  Grimtooth's Museum of Death may be my new favorite DCC adventure, and Saturday marked my third time running the vicious and deadly adventure.  After selecting some players, and handing out 0-level characters for a brutal funnel, we were ready to go.  

Carrie's ready to unleash 1000gp of potatoes on the party (true story)

Rather than face off with her Judge-father, Carrie opted to spend the game on the other side of the screen as a "co-judge".  I took care of running most of the actual game mechanics, but Carrie added significant flavor to the session.  She helped generate some random items and monsters (specifically a cat-sized dragon) during the quest, and generously added a few splashes of peril for the player characters.  

Bring out yer dead!

During this game I figured out a terrific way of dealing with two player characters with the same exact name.  When two players made up a "Bob" character, I opened the adventure with a pretty bluebird arriving on the scene with a letter marked to "Bob."  After fighting over who would get the letter, one "Bob" opened the envelope, allowing a holographic David Bowie to appear from beyond the grave.  Holo-Bowie instructed Bob to accompany him to the other side, causing both to disintegrate.

Needless to say, when a sixth player arrived and announced that his real, actual name was "Bob," there was a little nervous laughter around the table!

The perfect Savage Worlds table

After our DCCRPG experience, I immediately prepared for another adventure, but this time with Savage Worlds: East Texas University.  Carie had been asking to play this game for several months, ever since the books arrived over the summer.  While there are many one-sheets available for ETU, one of my favorite ways to experience the college-themed setting is with the random adventure generator in the back of the main book.  

I challenged myself to come up with the adventure in the short amount of time just before the session was to take place.  While the players selected their pre-gen characters, I randomly generated a strange selection of plot hooks, including a ritual, a mass event on campus, a weather event, and aliens.  

I could definitely wing that kind of adventure!

Carrie prefers her own character portrait

One by one I went around the table asking players to contribute pieces of their own character backgrounds.  When one of the players announced that their character had a pair of strange Aunt Jeans, and another was an archaeology student interested in weird burial mounds, I realized that I had my story:

An alien spacecraft, crewed by Aunt Jean aliens (Auntjeanians), created a snowstorm above a campus building, with "snow" that would eventually turn into a dirty burial mound.  

Initially I didn't have an ending worked out to the adventure, but the party of college students eventually ended up on an alien spacecraft, where the Auntjeanians were trying to get everyone drink water that would turn them into Aunt Jean.  Only two characters survived!

GM Greg teaching Tau

After a quick dinner, everyone was back at the table and Greg was teaching us how to play Tau, a card-based role-playing game where everyone dies...

... sort of reminded me of Dungeon Crawl Classics, in that regard!  

We all took on personas of cruise passengers trying to survive a terrible day on the high seas.  My passenger turned into a shield-wielding dolphin and lived to fight another day... woot!

Carries four 0-level characters

Our final game of the night brought Carrie and I back to DCCRPG.  I'd been wanting to run something out of the Peril on the Purple Planet Boxed Set ever since picking it up at Gen Con 2015.  Saturday was my chance!  While the core adventure is designed for higher level play, the box came with a 0-level funnel titled "Escape from the Purple Planet."  So Carrie, Allison, Tamara, and I sat down for a tale of planetary fantasy under a wierdling sun!

When all your dice work against you

Unfortunately for poor Carrie, her dice rolling was going down hill as the night progressed.  By 10:30pm we were wrapping up our adventure, and Carrie's last remaining characters had burned most of their Luck.  At least one, her French Immigrant Alyda Amadour Alouette, survived a return trip to Earth!

*     *     *

By the end of the evening we were both exhausted.  After running three RPG's, spending much of the time standing, I was ready for bed... although not ready to get back in the car and drive seven hours the next morning.  But despite the long drive, the gas fill-ups (thankfully cheap), the snack food, and the tolls, this was such a memorable trip that Carrie and I will remember for a long time.

I wonder where we'll journey next?

Ready for some birthday cake!