AmberCon NorthWest 2016

         This was my twelfth straight year going to AmberCon NorthWest (ACNW), my favorite American convention. There remained a good crowd of over a hundred fifty - which was a full twenty or more over the previous year, though it remained mostly long-time comers, as shown by the opening ceremonies. My full list of events were:


Short Form: Best Moments

Slot #1: The Fall of the Jade Throne?
Best moment -

Slot #2: Sunnydale Psi-Run
Best moment -

Slot #3: Hnefatafl
Best moment - The story of how Blackjack won back the king's daughter by proving his wife was even more ugly than the ass end of a cow, and her ugliness stunned the trolls that had kidnapped her.

Slot #4: You've Come a Long Way, Baby
Best moment -

Slot #5: Stop the Madness
Best moment -

Slot #6: Sons of Ambarchy 6: On the Devil's Path
Best moment -

Slot #7: Studying the Passage of Time
Best moment -


Slot #1: The Fall of the Jade Throne?

GM John Kim
Thursday - 7pm to midnight

This was the fourth year of this game - my first and only continuing campaign game thus far. It is a re-imagining of Zelazny's Amber around a Chinese theme, where all civilizations and universes are merely reflections of the great Jade Empire, and the Pattern is housed deep in the Forbidden City within the capital. There are many relatives since the first emperor long ago, and those in whom the imperial blood runs true are superhuman - able not only to walk the Pattern, but to leap to the tops of buildings and engage in fantastical swordplay. It merges Amber with the Chinese wuxia genre. My players the their characters were:

Important NPCs included:

The plot in brief: Another secret society known as the Yellow Turbans has apparently been infiltrated by Chaosites. They were previously opposed by the Knights of Heavenly Purity, but with free reign they established a fortress deep in shadow. An imperial force successfully found and defeated these foes.

I didn't keep good notes, but this was a less satisfying episode of the series.


Slot #2: Sunnydale Psi-Run

GM Virginia Lore
Friday - 9am to 1pm

This was a run of Meg Baker's game, Psi-Run, with an alternate setting. The original setting is psychics on the run from mysterious agents; while this variant was instead set in the town of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We created characters on the spot, along with a possibly-remote connection to the canonical characters from the TV series. The players and their characters were:

We all started together, stowed in coffins in the back of a truck. At first we made a break for the woods, which turned out to be highly spooky, with the trail disappearing behind us. Then we made our way along the road to town, where we were briefly attacked by a vampire - cutting on , then cut through a graveyard into the town proper. Conflicted, we eventually went to the Magic Box shop, only to find Anya and Giles unconscious. The chasers caught up to us there, and we defeated the four in front, but more in the back managed to capture Anya. At that point, we wrapped up into end-game to answer the last few questions, and resolve the characters' crossroads.

I think we had good characters and good character questions - something that Virginia helped pull out of everyone. There was a lot of good interplay in playing out the characters and the answers to their questions. Sam found out that he was pledging to a fraternity, and that his tuxedo was a break-away costume for his hazing. Marisol found out that her father was among the grey-suited chasers, and that her mother was crazy. My telepathy a few times gave answers - but more often, my telepathy side effects made all of us uncontrollably learn secrets of others. My full character questions and their answers were:

  1. Q: Do I want this power? A: (answered in end-game as no, he just wanted a normal life)
  2. Q: Where did I get this black eye? A: From Marisol after she was stalking me, when I recognized her and acted patronizing and she hit me - after which we were both captured.
  3. Q: Can I make a perfect throw? A: (answered in end-game as no, my father pressured me to always try it, but it isn't my thing.)
  4. Q: What do girls think of me? A: (mixed - Cordelia said I wasn't worth it, but Marisol still had her crush.)
  5. Q: What was stalking me in the locker room? A: Marisol, in her wolf form, with a crush on me.
  6. Q: Can I help people with my power? A: Yes, I used it to find out who was bullying a classmate, and then shut them down.

On the bad side, ....


Slot #3: Hnefatafl

GM Julian Morley
Friday - 2pm to 6:30pm

This was a a playtest of a storytelling system that Jules was developing, about viking warriors sitting around a fire and telling stories. We would go a number of times around the circle of players, where each player tells a story about themselves or one of the others. Each story would change the collection of Regard points that each player has, where at the end of the night, the player with the most Regard is the leader. At that point, the traitor (...).

....

....


Slot #4: You've Come a Long Way, Baby

GM John Kim
Friday - 8pm to midnight

This was my run of a modified version of Julia Ellingboe's game of this title. The basics were still the same, but the original game is supposed to run in 45 minutes, but we played for about 3 hours by delving more into both the film and the actor relationships. Notably, I played the director and created a scene of my own for the opening - a clear break from just being GM.

(....)

We also added in the character of "Burt Breaker" - the 28-year-old American stuntman for the Old Flame.


Slot #5: Stop the Madness

GM John Kim
Saturday - 9am to 4:30pm

This was a diceless, statless game of playing quasi-government agents in 1950s America, stopping and suppressing paranormal threats to the country. The players and their characters were:

I ran this as two independent episodes.


Slot #6: Sons of Ambarchy 6: On the Devil's Path

GM Clint Whiteside
Saturday - 7pm to midnight

This was the sixth of a continuing series of diceless games using a loose variant of the Amber Diceless system set in a close parallel to the Sons of Anarchy TV show - where the characters are the family members of Zelazny's Amber. I had joined in season three along with Rose. She played as Ron's son Cory (based on Corwin), while I played her "old lady" Didi (based on Deirdre) - who was pregnant. Didi is a kind of psycho, gung-ho biker chick who definitely did not intend to become a mother.


Slot #7: Studying the Passage of Time

GM Jennifer Schwarting
Sunday - 10am to 4:30pm

(....)


Conclusion

         ACNW remains my favorite role-playing convention. The community is a big part of that, which is helped by the shared culture - and also by pre-convention organizing.