Steven S. Long is a writer, game designer, and all 'round great guy. According to the secret files of the KGB, he once singlehandedly defeated the Kremlin's plot to attack America with laser-powered Godzillas.

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StellarCon 36 Report

This past weekend was StellarCon 36, my local science fiction/geekery/gaming convention. I’ve been going since StellarCon 7 — it’s one of those annual events on my professional/hobby calendar, and it tends to be great fun. This year was certainly no exception.

The first day of the con, Friday, was pretty much an ideal con day for me. The thing I most like to do at cons is talk with interesting people — whether that’s through the medium of a panel (I did one, a general discussion of gaming) or ordinary conversation. After the panel I went out to get some dinner with Patrick Rothfuss, the con’s Literary Guest of Honor (see my Links page for the link to his website, and be sure not to miss his superb Fantasy novels). After that I ended up spending some time hanging out with Laura Haywood-Cory and her husband Paul Cory talking about almost every geeky thing under the sun while enjoying some excellent scotch. When I left them, thinking to make a relatively early night of it, I passed by the bar on the way to the parking deck, and there I chanced to see John Kovalic and Mike Stackpole having a drink. Can’t pass up an opportunity like that! So instead of getting home early I was actually out really late talking with them about Kickstarter, writing, publishing, cartooning, the Conan movie, and more. ;)

Fortunately, my first event Saturday wasn’t until noon, so I got to sleep in and still made it to the panel on time. It was about character development, and we had a nice mix of literary and gaming panelists and thus plenty of different perspectives on the topic. Pat Rothfuss entertained us all with a nice summation of the early parts of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac as a way of illustrating some of the points he was making.

After that came one of the highlights of the show: the special charity gaming event Pat Rothfuss and I were doing. He ran a HERO System game set in the University of his Kingkiller Chronicles books, and I was one of the players. Three of the seats were auctioned off prior to the show on eBay, the others were bought via silent auction and lottery at the con itself. Most of the players were relatively local, but one came from Boston and one from Atlanta for the chance to play with Pat — and it was worth it!

We spent about 90 minutes creating characters. Pat went with a sort of “modular” system where he had a basic framework/concept for each character (the Strong one, the Clever one, the Charming one, and so forth), and then a whole bunch of additional abilities written out on colored index cards. Some were fairly standard abilities that might crop up in any game (like being observant, knowing how to fight with a sword, or having lots of money); others were specific to the Kingkiller setting (like knowing sygaldry, artificery, naming, or the like; owning a sympathy lamp or poor-boy; or having one of the Masters as a Contact).

Once we’d all picked the abilities that seemed best suited to the backgrounds we’d thought up, the six of us proceeded to get into some arcane student misadventures. With several of us in need of money to get through the Admissions process, we ended up delving in the depths of Mains for an old master’s long-lost private workroom. We figured we’d either find something so cool the Masters would look favorably on us and reduce our tuitions, or something so valuable we could sell it and pay the registrar regardless of where the Masters set our respective fees. When we found the lab we discovered the old master’d been experimenting with some highly dangerous and forbidden lore. In the process of exploring the place we almost unleashed a very destructive being. Overall it was a lot of fun, with one of the highlights being Pat’s depiction of a drunken Master Elodin. And among other things we learned that, no matter how skilled one may be in Naming, one is not allowed to learn the name of pants.

After the game came another panel, this one on D&D 5th Edition. Since neither I nor any of the other panelists had any information about D&D5, it was mostly speculation back and forth with the audience, mixed with some discussion of the launching of previous editions and suchlike.

Sunday, as usual, was the slowest day of the con, but still plenty of fun. After doing a panel on story development in games (mixed in with some discussion of Kickstartering), I spent most of the rest of the afternoon talking publishing and swapping stories with Mike Stackpole before taking him to the airport to catch his flight home.

As usual, attending StellarCon has refilled my tank of optimism, so now I have the fuel to chug along for a few more weeks before all once again goes black. ;) Looking forward to next year!

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Reader Comments (5)

I forgot to mention that Pat said one of the ideas he'd considered for the game was to have Kvothe, the main character in the novels, be the antagonist. The idea here is that Kvothe tends to stir up trouble wherever he goes, so that for the rest of us students, getting caught up in his shenanigans might not be the most welcome sort of thing. "Oh great, not that guy again!" That would've been a lot of fun, and I'm almost sorry Pat discarded the idea. OTOH, what he ended up using was hellafun, and involved a drunken Master Elodin, so I can't really complain. ;)

March 5, 2012 | Registered CommenterSteven S. Long

"He ran a HERO System game set in the University of his Kingkiller Chronicles books"...

Now that would make a great kickstarter. Took me about a week to get through Day 1 and Day 2. Those books were so awesome and I am axiously waiting Day 3. Sounds like the kind of game that would just be awesome to play in.

March 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRob T

It was a heckuva fun game. As Pat himself pointed out during the discussion while the players were designing their characters, if you want to set a game at the University it's difficult and requires planning. The standard adventure frameworks -- kill something dangerous (and perhaps take its treasure), or stop some great disaster from occurring -- won't work. Students only have access to so many resources (even at a university where they're learning to be arcanists), and anything too attention-getting means the Masters and other Important Folks get involved. The GM has to find things students can handle that are just under the threshold of what would attract the Masters' attention.

Another idea he had was to make the PCs one of Lorren's retrieval teams, on the track of some rare books. That could definitely lead to a more "traditional," and equally fun, sort of scenario.

March 5, 2012 | Registered CommenterSteven S. Long

As soon as Kvothe sees the retrieval agent in the library while waiting to see Lorren. I thought man that would make for a fun campaign, with tons of possibilities. Kind of like “The Librarian” made for TV movies but with a more competent PC, who knows a retrieval agent may even know a Name or two.

PS: Did you get a chance to find out how to pronounce Kvothe?

March 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRob T

IIRC, Pat actually tells you somewhere, in the book or on his website, how to pronounce Kvothe: it's like the word quoth, just with a V sound rather a W sound. I was doing that correctly, though he says it in a much more flowing, natural way than I do -- no doubt as a result of having to say it out loud thousands of times more than I've ever had to. ;)

OTOH, he pronounces Devi as "davi" and Sleat as "slate," both of which I hadn't expected. One of the players at the table suggested that he should publish a pronunciation guide on his website. ;)

March 7, 2012 | Registered CommenterSteven S. Long

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