RFW 2.0 September 1999

Above: Michael Wm. Kaluta's vision of time travel at will graces the cover of CºNTINUUM.

      MILWAUKEE--Well, we went to GenCon. God, we had fun. Barbara's hair was different this time, due to the kind offices of her devestatingly masculine hairdresser.

      Aetherco/Dreamcatcher's CºNTINUUM: Roleplaying in The Yet debuted August 5 at GenCon 1999. But the road to Milwaukee began months before, with trials, tribulations, and threats to murder one another.

      Well, never mind all that, let's just skip ahead to the convention.

      After dragging our butts for days around the continent to pick up the book, we finally all gathered in Milwaukee at the luxurious Sandberg Dormitory, at the University of Wisconsin. After experiencing a couple evenings worth of the sumptious flavor of the native tater tots, we were ready to upscale...

      We were prepared to speed into our room at the Hyatt at noon on Wednesday, and then build the booth– but we had to wait till 2 to get our rooms, we were told. Okay, we could start to build the booth for a couple hours. Two o'clock came around, and still the desk girls prevaricated. There we were, between rooms, sweaty from hours of labor and nerves, and we were told that we couldn't have our suite because the Mets were in it. Seems they had beaten the Brewers senseless Monday night, and that that night had lasted well into Wednesday for the partying sandlot professionals.

      Bloody ball players, we thought. It's all your fault cards are collectible in the first place! We considered a plan to revenge roleplayers on these fiends, by giving them knee injuries and the like, but they turned out to be very tall, and athletic. So we just let them go. This time.

      Various parts of the booth, including the cool clock gears that were supposed to move and everything, arrived in pieces, so congoers got to watch us improvise raising a CºNTINUUM banner hazardously above the throng, and hotglue wire to the back of a Kaluta standup to keep it from sagging into a wiggly pile. But another, foursquare image of the cover, plus a big orrory, stopped unsuspecting gamers in their tracks, which allowed us to tag them for future market research.

      In the end, coauthors Chris Adams, Barbara Manui and Dave Fooden were gathered together, beating the product over the heads of gamer and distributor alike, until they fessed up their desire to buy. Also present were Brian Ward and Sean Jaffe, who also contributed their talents to the book and the booth. The only absent member of the writing squad was Liz Holliday, away in London, pining to be there.

      One of our first munchie runs while searching for a Kinko's lead us to Taco Bell. There, while pulled up to the drive-thru speaker, we were assaulted by a young, stoned, but healthy-looking collegiate begging that we could feed him if we bought a second chicken taco or something. We warned him that we were from New York, and he shut up and went away. Taco Bell got our order wrong, too, and Sean didn't get his Star Wars toy. Milwaukee has to work harder if it wants to keep GenCon.

      Brian Ward recounts another Milwaukee letdown: "We go to George Webb's. They say they have Mello Yello. I almost fall over in ecstasy over the return of a childhood joy. I order it, and they say the soda machine was not hooked up. I offer to hook the machine up for them and they decline. I am rather quite saddened. And they were out of ice cream." The city also failed to provide the dapper penman a proper hat.

      The mayhem of playing began Thursday, with Pennsylvania native Mike Miller's scenario "Effect and Cause". Most of the CºNTINUUM track sold out, with one game have two extra players sitting in. Meanwhile, Aetherco roadie Dering Sprague was out at the gamer tables, proseltyzing. Sales were brisk, especially Saturday and Sunday, as people began wondering why all the ATM machines had these neat little cards on them saying "CºNTINUUM", and why we had cool stuff on the table like an orrory, an hourglass, and a scythe. More were lulled by the propect of free books and free admission to GenCon 2000, the winner of which will be announced shortly on the CºNTINUUM site.

      Further strangeness and serendipity began to unfold as one of the characters in our rulebook sprang to life and joined us at the con. One Laura Ulmer, the spitting image of CºNTINUUM's example PC, Cynthia Stirling, was discovered outside the Obsidian booth, which it was naturally hard to tear her away from, because, well, it was a cool booth. But when she saw the 5000 cards with her picture on it, we won. We had her in a Cynthia costume in no time, arrow tanktop, goggles, and all, and she was soon passing out her cards for us, with lines like, "Here, take me!" and other double-entendres which shall remain emblazoned indelibly in the minds of every gamer who met her.
      Most of the boys of the CºNTINUUM crew tried to catch the lovely creature with a bag, but she was not to be easily snared.

      The CºNTINUUM suite party Friday night was supreme and awesome as people came from around time and space to be there. Our only regret was not being able to span ourselves over to the Precedence party across town. But then, we were the ones serving SnackPacks, hence our huge turnout.

      Congratulations came from many quarters, including Dave Gross and Shauna Wolf Narciso of Dragon Magazine, the unflappable John Kovalic whose new "Sith Park" shirt is sure to win him further national acclaim, Charlie Krank of Chaosium whose Cthulhu stuffed dolls are the toast of the industry, the troopers at West End Games, Liz Fulda of Diamond, Gilbert Milner of Wargames West, dozens of gamers amazed that time travel was playable, and on and on and on. Thanks to everyone for your encouragement, advice, and everything else.

      Rumors of CºNTINUUM's runaway success rapidly became urban legend as a drunken fan on Saturday night approached Chris burbling, "Chris! Chris! Chris! Chris! Chris! Games! GAMES! GAMES!!!" While the experience was not, in itself, unusual at a GenCon, Chris was lead to believe that GAMES magazine had chosen CºNTINUUM as one of the top 100 games of the year– even though it had been out only three days. Instead, after expressing his amazement aloud to various pals in the industry, he soon learned it was Pardee Games' Chebache that the fan had been raving about, and that the Chebache creators had been pursuing GAMES for the better part of a year. Isn't it nice when things make sense?

      And isn't it scary when they make too much sense? We were all down at a bar & grill late Saturday, including Laura, Raven Mimura and Liz Black; Brian and Chris were dawdling on finishing stuff for the NªRCISSIST™ Alpha Test the next day, when a chef there named Anthony, the spitting image of the character Ray Talanthus from CºNTINUUM, began being very friendly suddenly, walked up and took over our conversation... as if he was trying to keep us there... or were otherwise trying to frag us–
      Two PCs becoming real in one weekend, especially rival protagonists, was a warning. Brian and Chris employed secret signals and magic dances to get the hell out of there before the universe imploded.

      There were other weird coincidences, too. Like the NªRCISSIST Alpha in which the action took place in Milwaukee the afternoon after the con, in which a van is crashed and the police and ambulances are called into downtown? Chris was driving his van that morning, and saw another being towed away. Its front tires were destroyed. Then around the corner the cops and ambulances were crowding the street in front of the Hotel Wisconsin. Chris had no camera with him, he was alone, and no one heard his cries. Except perhaps the angels that watch over us all.

      Back on Sunday morning, Chris was hanging around the deserted Hyatt front desk with the wicked-looking scythe that was part of the CºNTINUUM booth display, when convention guest Walter Koening came down to complain that he never got clean towels. The veteran science fiction actor, best known for single-handedly saving his career against the eternal stigma of being fused to his Star Trek character, was left alone that morning to once again, fend for himself. The front desk was apologetic, but it was too late. The actor was already prepared to depart for the airport. ...Hyatt Hotels had failed.

      As Koening began to angrily depart, Chris offered some words of condolence. "You think that's bad, we didn't get our suite for hours because the Mets were in it."

      The combination of Major League Baseball, and that darn, disconcerting scythe stopped Koening in his tracks. "The Mets? The New York Mets? They're here?"

      "They were here," Chris added. "But they left." Koening looked to the front desk girl for confirmation. "Yep, they trounced us!" she smiled, hoping to cheer him. "That was last week, though."

      "Oh," sighed the beloved thespian, and tread away to get a cab. The chance to just be a fan, himself, for once, eluded him again. Disappointment would pursue Koening the rest of the day as all flights out of Mitchell were booked, and he would have spend another night in that towelless, Metless, godforsaken hotel.

      Actually, we had a great time at the Hyatt and look forward to having a ripping suite party there again next year.

Above: Having been brought back across to life, Persephone knows the gravity of trying to keep that old black magic alive.

      STONE MOUNTAIN, GA--It was observed by many onlookers at the GenCon 1999 Game Fair that the presence of industry mainstay White Wolf Game Studio was considerably more subdued than previous years.

      Not only were the massive, forbidding booth walls of previous cons missing, but rumor had it that no major White Wolf all-stinking-night party was going down this year. Was something the matter?

      Perhaps tucking off to bed at a reasonable hour is the marketing strategy of the new White Wolf, as the youthful goth clubgoers that are backbone of vampire gaming find that they are getting long in the tooth, in all the wrong ways. "Yeah, it used to be all the best bods were in the clubs," pined one White Wolf freelancer, "but then everyone wound up getting pregnant, and now they bring their strollers and brats along."

     And so as the changing face of Gen X gets more fleshy and lined, the question naturally arises: Does this eternal youth from pretending to drink blood really work? How far can this suspension of disbelief go, before it needs to lie down for an afternoon nap?

      But the company has rushed to meet this perception, with consideration for the feelings of their increasingly dowdy followers. Display ads for the latest Prince supplements show elegant, successful vampires of middle years, graying a bit at the temples, and with that refined tightness of skin that only the passing seasons can bring. And similar consideration is seen in the ads for the Hunter series, where the hunter and the corpses of Vampire, Garou, Elf and Mage he's strolling over are nary a day under 35.

      And of course, let's not forget the family! Can Toreador finger painting sets be far behind? Malkavian toddler leashes? Nosferatu-themed prams, nightlights and mobiles? Perhaps a creased Geraint Wyn-Davies can be dragged out of obscurity and appear as a White Wolf special guest. Instead of the "Jeffrey Dahmer Walking Tour of Milwaukee" from previous years, White Wolf may sponsor "Eat Like A Kine!" Saturday, where Wisconsin's famous beer and cheese industry can laden the tables of veteran vampires who are just too tired and heavy to gad about anymore, and whose feet hurt. Speculation runs rampant that if White Wolf successfully taps into the swelling midlife chic, theme parks and burger joints will hound them for licenses.

      Kudos must go to everyone on the White Wolf design teams for handling a sensitive issue with taste, decorum– and marketing savvy. With any luck, the culture's perceptions of vampires as debonair, eternally youthful evil demigods can be expanded to include the image of vampires as chubby, cuddly befanged aunts and uncles, or as wrinkly old coots with bad eyesight, and Vampire: The Masquerade sales can remain bouyant.

      Wraith, on the other hand, should experience an automatic windfall of sales in a few more years, as withering players experience hair and tooth loss in the real world, and other symptoms of fleshly rot.

      Tempus Fugit.

Above: Claudia Christian leaves the chintzy world of syndicated TV for the bright lights of the big time gaming industry.

      TEMPE, AZ--Little over two years after Claudia Christian's character on Babylon 5, Susan Ivanova, announced to the evil Earth fleets that she was God Almighty Herself, Precedence Publishing has brought omnipotence one step closer to her grasp.

      By making her cover girl of the new Immortal: Millennium 2nd Edition rules, Precedence is the first company outside the Bab 5 production houses to acknowledge Christian's claim to godhead. The fan support has been there for some time, in the form of t-shirts, and the glassy stares the actress earns from pilgrims and devotees enraptured by her pulsing glow.

      Is Precedence toying with a power beyond its comprehension? Are they aware of the consequences to their, well, Immortal souls? Barbara Manui, president of Aetherco, speaks:

      "Claudia can be a god if she wants to. And she's certainly latched onto a good crew to bring her there. Ran and his team know more about gods than just about anybody in the gaming industry. Of course, there are always consequences to this kind of activity, as well as finders' fees, indulgences, green stamps and the like. Just as a gun in the first act gets shot in the third, so a god in the Precedence booth will inevitably lead to war in heaven. I have yet to choose Aetherco's contender for godhead. I'm vacillating between teen heartthrob Jonathan Brandis, and bat-sensualist Adam West. I think either of them could take Claudia in a fair fight."

      But Christian moves in mysterious ways, and already she's on the road with Marina Sirtis and will be singing with Billy Mumy and his band. "It's official! I will be appearing in the October issue of Playboy which hits the newstands the first week of September," announced the Supreme Divinity of Heaven and Earth on her website. This could be her big break.

RFW 2.0 September 1999

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