A weekend of gaming, from Cal & D to Power Grid

Saturday, I got together with Cal, Martin and Steve so we could finish our now-epic one-shot of Cal & D.

The plan was to start at 10, because Martin had a family commitment that we all decided (despite his disagreement, which was wrong) that wasn't nearly as important as crawling the dungeon and emerging victorious with copious amounts of treasure.

However, we all stayed up too late on Friday, so we started a little bit later, like … 1130. Well, that's not entirely correct, either. See, we got all our stuff together at 1130, but we had to bullshit and tease Martin about his family commitment for at least an hour, so we actually started at 1230.

We could have sat around my dining room table, but since Cal & D requires no maps or minis, we instead played in my living room, Cal standing on one side with his DM stuff, and the three of us sitting in different places on my two couches. It made me tremendously happy to sit around and play like this, because it's how we used to do it in the old days, when minis weren't nearly as integral to combat as they are today.

Cal recapped for us, and Martin rolled 2d12. He pointed at the result and asked, "So do we win now?"

"No," Cal said.

I rolled d20. "How about now?"

"Still no," Cal said.

It was the perfect way to start Cal & D, where the table talk — in this case, living room talk — is more important than the actual game.

We explored the Tomb a bit more, until Steve's Gnome wandered into a room and turned himself invisible before the door closed between him and us. Our characters didn't know that he'd activated some teleportation device while the door was closed, so we decided to role play it as honestly as we could: Steve's Gnome was fucking with us, so we just walked away to teach him a lesson (because that makes a lot of sense when you're in a Tomb filled with traps and who knows what else.)

"DMs just love it when you split the party," Cal said, using a tone which indicated that this probably wasn't true, or if it was, he was not one of the DMs who subscribed to this particular opinion.

We did the split party thing for close to 30 minutes, until Martin and I ran into a locked door that we couldn't get through. "Let's go back to that room at the bottom of the stairs and get L'Anklebiter," I said, "so he can pick the lock."

This eventually led us to a room filled with giant rotating knives ("Knives?" "Rotating knives, yes." "We just wanted a nice block of flats." "I see. I guess I didn't properly divine your attitude toward the tenants.") I was cut to fat ribbons by them, and Martin's little gnome guy tried to dodge them, but failed for some reason.

"Don't I have [some Gnome thing that Martin made up to get out of the way]?"

"No, that's in an older edition of Cal & D," Cal said, "it's not in this edition."

"Yeah, didn't you read the Rules CALpendium?" I said, particularly pleased with myself. "That whole system was pretty heavily revised."

"I guess I haven't picked up that particular book, yet," Martin said.

Eventually, we met up with L'Anklebiter, who was fighting some kind of nasty Hag. During the fight with the Hag, Martin's Gnome (who you may remember is the Travelocity Gnome) used his Gnomish Hookhammer (this is hilarious if you're a certain kind of gaming geek) to trip the Hag.

"You need to say some kind of trip-related pun," Cal said, "or the attack fails."

Steve and I laughed, and Martin completely froze. His face turned red, he stopped breathing, and I'm fairly sure he begain to sweat. "Uhh," Martin said.

"Come on, man! You TRIPPED her, and your whole thing is that you send people on TRIPS. You have to come up with a pun."

Martin looked as if he had forgotten how to speak, and quite possibly how to think.

"Five, four, three," Cal counted down, "two … one."

Martin blinked. "I got nothing."

"BOOOOO!!!" I hollered.

"THUMBS DOWN!" Steve said.

"The Hag gets up," Cal said, "And the Travelocity gods are so displeased with you, you are transformed into …"

An excited silence filled the room. Even Oingo Boingo, which had been playing on the stereo, seemed to fade into the background. 

"You are transformed into … William Shatner. And now you work for Price Line."

I exploded into convulsions of laughter. When I got my breath back, I said, "Oh my god, Martin. You're The Shatner now!"

Martin looked about as sad as it's possible to look while playing Cal & D. "I just … I couldn't think of anything."

"Have a nice TRIP?" I said. "You should have booked TRIP insurance?" 

"I know, I know," Martin said.

"I'm sorry, you didn't sound like The Shatner at all, just then. You're going to have to work on that."

Around this time, we took a break to compose ourselves. Then we realized that Martin had to leave for his totally-not-important thing, so we put the game on hold, to be completed at a future session.

Shortly after Martin left, Cal's wife and my wife came home, and we transitioned to board games.

First up, we played Pandemic, with the On The Brink expansion. I am of the opinion that Pandemic should always be played on the Hard setting, because we're probably going to lose anyway, and there is much more glory in beating the game on Hard or Legendary or Are You Fucking Serious than the easier settings.

We set up, and Anne said, "isn't this that game you say you never win?"

I told her that it was, and it would be a good bonding experience for us all, since she'd never played it with us before.

"Okay," she said.

"Seriously, I have had more fun losing this game than I have had winning other games."

"If you say so," she said.

"Trust me!" I said.

"Let's just play the game, okay?" Cal said.

"Good idea."

We won, with just two cards left to draw and the outbreak level at 7.

"I thought you said you never won this game!" Anne said, clearly disappointed to have been victorious.

"Well, you're just too good at it," Steve said to her, "so it's all your fault that we won."

We broke for dinner. I made Pappardelle with Vegetarian Bolognese. I was really stressed out about screwing it up, especially because Cal and his wife Raellen are incredible chefs and we usually play at their house and eat their food … but it was amazing. I was proud of myself, and everyone enjoyed it. Go me!

After dinner, we played Shadows Over Camelot. It was a ton of fun, as usual, even though we lost, because Cal was a filthy stinking traitor.

Cal and Raellen went home after that, because Cal, Steve, and I were planning to go to OrcCon by LAX on Sunday, and we didn't want to get down there too late.

I've written about OrcCon before, but a quick recap: it's a mid-sized gaming con that I just love. I've been going to it since I was in high school (not every year, sadly), and it is what comes to mind when I think of "going to a con." It has a great community feel, tons of open gaming, a great library of games to check out, and tremendous volunteers.

So Steve and I drove down to LAX around 10, met Cal, and found our friend Shane, who was volunteering to run tournaments, teach games, and generally help make the con awesome for its attendees.

We had hoped to get into the Dragon Age RPG, but we missed the start time by nearly 2 hours, and we'd missed the BSG start time by over an hour, so we grabbed a copy of Forbidden Island from the game library, and played it in Open Gaming, while we waited for Shane to finish running a tournament.

It was a seriously fun game, and we beat it on Hard (I wanted to play Legendary, but they were chicken.) My friend Paul Tevis, creator of the fantastic indie rpg A Penny For My Thoughts joined us, and we played Tales of the Arabian Nights with him. This is a great game that is truly about the journey instead of the destination. The goal is to have an interesting life that's filled with stories and adventure, even if terrible, terrible, terrible things happen to your character. It's a polarizing game, but I love it.

Paul had to leave for a game, so we wandered the dealer's room for a bit. I bought a copy of Lunch Money (finally) and considered buying coasters with dragons on them.

"I don't think I can sell these to Anne," I said.

"Hey, if the wives want us to use coasters, we should get to pick them out," Steve said.

"You know what? That makes a whole lot of sense to me," I said, and I bought four of them.

Our shopping completed, Steve headed down to the airport to fly home. Cal and I found Shane and played Power Grid Japan with him and a young couple (Crystal and Kevin) who I think Shane knows from the con. I was in the lead for the entire game, until Crystal connected and 15 cities when I had 13 and needed one more turn. Oh well, second place was fine.

I could have stayed at the con and played more games, but I wanted to have dinner with Anne, so I thanked my friends for playing with me, and left around 6:30.

When I got home, I proudly showed Anne our new coasters.

She was Not Amusedâ„¢. "How about you use those on game day, and we pick out some different ones … together," She said.

I silently cursed Steve, even though I still thought that his idea was intriguing, and I wished to subscribe to his newsletter.

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