Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Baked goods, hats, Cthulhoid monstrosities, hats, bearded pirate Cylons, hats, waistcoats, hats and more hats.

Alright, this blog post has been a week in the making (By which I mean it's taken me a week to sit down and start writing it, not that I've been writing it for a week), and now I have to get it done while it's still fairly relevant and before I have to make posts about other important events in my life. I don't like missing the opportune moments, in blogging or anything else.

So, a meetup happened on the 4th of February. To be precise, the tenth UKitP meetup. It was really rather cool. If you recall my last meetup post (Which was actually the ninth UKiTP, not the eighth as I stated in that post), you'll know this will probably end up quite stream-of-consciousness-y. Though it lacks some of the elements which really brought that about in the last one - namely that I wasn't writing the post on the train going to and returning from Peterborough, because we got driven down instead.
Detrimental as this may have been to my blogging, it definitely added to my meetup experience, because it made me the point of contact for all the people arriving at the train station who wanted lifts to the Travelodge. Compounded with the fact the Travelodge has no lounge area and we were therefore congregating in my room, and I really felt at the centre of the meetup. I guess it was a similar feeling to actually hosting a meetup, and I enjoyed it greatly (So, yeah, next meetup should be in Newcastle, right?)

Well, actually we missed one train arrival because he somehow lost my number in the past year and a half, but in any case he probably got there before we did, as we were a little later than anticipated, mostly because I was still packing right before we left. Yeah, I could have packed earlier, but there was important internetting to do, and the night before there was important baking to do.
Baking, man!
Next point of note would be the arrival of the Scottish contingent, just for this sentence in Serpentine's account of the meet: "Then we got to the hotel, and were greeted by half a dozen faces pressed up against a window." We were all sitting in my room, it overlooked th car park, so what else were we to do when we saw them arrive?
Oh, I forgot, we also successfully fit five people into Qwaz's tiny car. Still quite astounded that we managed that. Not the most comfortable of car journeys, but we fit! Somehow... (Usually we have up to three in that car - sitting in the back, I sit on one side and put my legs on the other because otherwise there is NO SPACE for them)
If you were expecting another fancy overblown description of dithering about getting dinner, you will be sadly disappointed. Once the Scottish contingent arrived, we set off, and were much more decisive when the alternative was standing around in the cold. We found an Indian restaurant with an elephant outside. We wanted to climb up onto it, but on the other hand, food. And antics.

Hat stacking was to become something of a theme through the course of the meetup.

Roses, not so much. Perhaps another time.

What else... Oh, Fred's sanity-draining powers seem to have waned significantly since summer.
Anyway, we went back to the Travelodge, hung out in my room until about 2am or so, then people went to their respective beds. I took a look at how extortionate the wifi was, played Terraria briefly, then went to bed. Sleeping proved somewhat difficult though. Bed felt kinda weird for no discernible reason. Eventually I got to sleep for some amount of time, but not very long. Dozed somewhat. I don't really remember. I don't think I remembered by an hour or two into the next day proper, because MEETUP. Who cares how much sleep I got, so long as I was functioning resaonably? Which I was.

Got up bright and early, or at least early, or at least early by my standards, when Archie came round knocking on everyone's doors to get them out for breakfast. We went to Morrison's. Though confusingly, the building near the Indian restaurant with a big Morrison's sign on it was not, in fact, a Morrison's. It was an office block. So that was pretty confusing. We managed though, people satisfied their cravings for bacon (brought on by a lengthy conversation on the subject the previous day), and then we realised the meetup was supposed to have already started, so Grlump would be sitting all on his almost lonesome and we'd better get there.
On arrival, I encountered the one disadvantage of making myself the sort of central hub/point-of-contact person as I took it on myself to wait for the car to return with the second lot of people and therefore couldn't start playing games immediately, thus missing out on my chance to play Ankh-Morpork, the Discworld board-game. D=

But it was still nice enough, especially once the others had arrived and we got going with things. Including, but not limited to, games.

I'm really having to restrain myself from just posting loads of photos.
But, before the next few, I should explain something: when sorting out the venue, of course Grlump told us, being reponsible, that we weren't allowed alcohol (There was a bar two floors below us, but we weren't allowed booze in the rooms we were using for the main meetup - though if we had taken some, I don't think anyone official would've noticed), but also that we weren't allowed Daleks. Unfortunately, I didn't actually see the sign saying Daleks aren't allowed, and for some reason no-one got a photo of it. Our fairly predictable response, however, got photographed quite a bit:
Eight Daleks, one Cyberman. Overkill much?

Wait. There's something on her hat. IT'S A TRAP!

So, yeah. It turns out that if given a reason to do so, a bunch of UK-based geeks can rustle up quite a number of model Daleks, not to mention a Doctor costume (To be clear, in case you can't tell - it's not actually an Eleventh Doctor suit, just a T-shirt which looks like one. The fez is real though).

Since I brought up the lack of a photo of the sign forbidding Daleks, I guess this is also a decent time to mention that sadly I forgot one of my ideas, which was to get video clips - if nothing else, a brief video tour of the meetup would have been nice. I specifically took the charger for my camera so I could recharge the battery if it ran down too much from video-ing, but then I forgot to video. :(
Other things I failed to get photos of include the Star Wars session, which happened at about this point. Not, I think, as long as the last one, but possibly even more fun. The scenario was entitled "The Call of Canraki", which should be setting off warnings in the minds of anyone familiar with popular geek culture...

For this, I think I'm going to copy in Lensman's own account of the session, adding my own comments after each paragraph:

Star Wars – The Call of Canraki

"Five heroes (Koorly (CKG), Amasa (Grlump), Ayreon (Archie), Torgul (Hamish) and Oren (Thufir) are on Zaradim to rescue that “shining light” of the rebellion, Canraki. After fighting off rampaging deep ones, and worrying at the non-Euclidean architecture, the five met with Arkael, who was holding Canraki in durance vile (cue a cameo from Ku, bemoaning his dreadful situation, all the time with two gorgeous women draped around him)."

I really should've got a photo of that cameo, but I was rather distracted by actually participating in the scene.
Also, the non-Euclidean architecture. Most of us just disregarded it. Koorly actually took an interest in the carvings, tried to figure out what they were, leading to SAN rolls. And rather neatly, rather than using Knowledge for SAN rolls as a substitute for a kind of strength of will thing, it was directly Knowledge, and good results were bad. Similarly to how it works in the Call of Cthulhu RPG, the more you know about this stuff, the more likely it is to drive you insane. Ignorance is the best way to avoid sanity loss. Unless you're Amasa, who seemed pretty crazy to start  with, stealing the Deep Ones' loincloths and constantly trying to find a use for them.
Oh, also, on the subject of that encounter, Oren really needs to learn not to wear his best clothes on missions. No mud this time, but they did get ripped.

"The price for Canraki's release was dealing with Fafnir, the other local warlord. Fafnir had a statue that gave him power over the locals. The heroes took a skimmer to the ancient temple Fafnir occupied, and landed Ayreon and Torgul in the security centre. The staff came to a sticky end, and Torgul unlocked the access for the rest of the team, watching their progress over comms systems.

Koorly, Amasa and Oren sneaked into the central temple (after bluffing their way past a punk security officer). In the temple, which was dominated by a monstrous idol, they confronted Fafnir; with him was Koorly's nemesis, Calya."

Lensman neglected to mention that on our way down to the central temple, we triumphed over our true nemeses: ladders (Seriously, Calya has got nothing on ladders).
Also, I can't quite remember how we originally - oh no, I do remember. We originally attracted the attention of the punk security officer by Amasa holding his headset around the corner so we could use the camera in it to see what was round there safely. Anyway.

"The alarm had been raised in the security area. To stop the approaching troops, Ayreon blew up the lift and half the security centre, including one rather strange and alien and ancient electronics panel.

In the temple, Koorly tried to threaten Calya, only to find her gun had been nicked by Amasa. Amasa had been “bought” by Calya who had paid him to capture the rebels. Koorly trolled Calya, claiming she didn't remember her at all, which just wound the nemesis up more, until she made a stupid mistake, giving the heroes a chance to jump the villains. Torgul put out the lights, and a firefight ensued. The wrecked electronics panel had been holding the “idol” frozen – it began to break out of its prison. Fafnir went insane instantly, and began worshipping and praising it. It accepted his worship – and tore him limb from limb."

When Amasa initially held Koorly's gun to my head (Though it wasn't yet specified thatit was hers), I assumed he had some stupid plan of pretending to hold me hostage or something, keeping up a disguise as someone actually supposed to be there who'd captured us, or something stupid like that. It didn't occur to me that he was actually betraying us (I mean, really - he's still carrying around those loincloths, would you credit him with much intelligence?)
And Koorly's trolling of Calya was truly glorious. Including her being really, incredibly gratified that someone cared about her this much, that they went to such great lengths to capture her and exact revenge, really incredibly touching. It was a beautiful moment, followed up by again denying remembering who Calya was and Calya almost losing control and shooting her immediately. (Incidentally, Koorly had actually specifically asked what her nemesis' name was before we started,  but as I think I said at that point, it was funnier with her not remembering, or at last pretending not to remember, in character)
And then, I think Lensman was a tad imprecise on the sequence of events here: Torgul killed the lights, we ran around trying to hit each other in the dark, then lights back on to finish up, and then the idol started moving, I think. Certainly the lights were back on by the time Cthulhu killed Fafnir, and Koorly got Calya whiel she was distracted staring at it.

"Meanwhile Koorly finally shot Calya, Amasa got wounded but changed sides again, Oren dodged blaster bolts, and everyone still alive scrambled to get out of the temple and away from the monstrous creature breaking out. They slammed a skimmer into it and fled in the other handy skimmer, collecting the team at the security centre and returning to recover Canraki. They might not have recovered the statue (in fact, they never even found it) but they had disposed of Arkael's rival, for which he was grateful.

They didn't bother to tell him that they had left a Great Old One rampaging across his world...

Amasa did survive the episode, but he is in big trouble with the rest of the rebels."

At one point, Koorly tried to shoot Amasa in the groin, while he was grappling me. That was somewhat concerning. She didn't hit either of us though. I think that was the point when Curly added "Not a very nice person" to the notes on her character sheet.
I had to spend my force point just to run away from Cthulhu. That was annoying. And, yeah, we unleashed Cthulhu on the planet. Whoops?
"In big trouble" is putting it lightly. Koorly, in her more lucid moments, was all for castrating Amasa, either before or instead of killing him. When we got back to Arkael, we asked if we could put Canraki's slave collar on Amasa, and did so. Unfortunately the people on our rebel base were less happy about the idea and decided to punish him through more official channels. On the other hand, Coorli still has that potential castration in mind for the next session...

"<I had expected the finale of the scenario to be their battle with the GOO, but the players decided discretion was the better part of valour! Koorly had failed more than one Sanity roll, and may well have been a little bit barking by the end. Fortunately, she will probably recover... >"

So, my views on this:
I was the pilot. Nothing I could really do to fight Cthulhu other than ram it with the skimmer (Which, given the original story, might have worked... but still only might, and  it would be metagaming for Oren to know that anyway). The one idea we had which might have worked was if we could put all the remaining explosives into the remaining spare skimmer and fly it into Cthulhu's mouth before detonating. Given how close it was though, we would've had to lure it away, double back, land, sort out the explosives, have Torgul sort out the autopilot since none of us was feeling suicidal, and then get away again. Complicated. In retrospect, it occurred to me we could've taken this opportunity to employ Archie's idea of using Amasa as an explosives delivery system, except he would've resisted. Which leads onto my next point.
We had a traitor on board. Granted, he'd switched back to our side, but he was clearly just out to save his own skin, and I didn't want him thinking that'd be easier if he were to betray us again, particularly since at this point his opposition would pretty much have been... hang on, character name... Ayreon. Since Torgul's not great in a fight, I was busy flying the skimmer, and Koorly had gone binkers at this point. Which leads onto my next point:
In this campaign, I've certainly never been keen on the idea of leading the party myself. I'll try to help, but I'm happy to let others call the shots, specifically those who act more authoritatively - so Koorly and Canraki - but also seem to have decent common sense and reason - so just Koorly. Plus, she's a senator, therefore actual authority, maybe a bit of IRL bias influencing me too; and of course in this instance, Canraki wasn't there anyway. Koorly is the one in charge as far as I'm concerned, and at this point she was sitting on the floor gibbering. So, yeah, I'm gonna (bravely) run away at this juncture.

And that was that. On to other things.

Quite an impressive fall of snow. This meetup being what it was, the result was pretty inevitable.
Yeah, we made a snow Dalek.
I got exterminated.
 I wanted to get a photo of two people facing off with big stockpiles of snowballs, so I could caption it "Cold War", but we never managed to keep snowballs long enough to stockpile them for some reason...
Oh, I got a certain amount of snow on my hat...

The waistcoat brigade rides again!
We need more waistcoated attendees.

On to the post-meetup meetup in the bar downstairs.
Battlestar Galactica with ponies.
So, yeah, Battlestar Galactica. I really need to watch that show at some point. As it stands, all I really know about it is from the board game, and accounts of it being played at Trogland meetups (Reinholdt is a Cylon).
Have some of Kurly's account of how the game went:
"Thufir is the worst Cylon ever. From round one I had him or Archie pegged as the Cylon. And by round two I knew it was Thufir. Rarity then took over the ship with her massive amounts of fabulosity. Can't really blame her for that. We should have lost in turn two or three to be honest."
We were definitely lucky Archie wasn't the Cylon. Since he had actually played the game before and knew what he was doing. As it was, I was looking at things and going "OK, I can do this. Is that useful?" I think I was getting the hang of it more by the end. Also I was amused by how despite the fact they all knew I was a Cylon, they couldn't really do anything about it.
Though I'm curious as to what gave me away so early (Other than the fact Archie got to look at my loyalty card - obviously that meant he knew, and was able to hint to the others). Fun times were had anyway. Also Corly tried and failed once more to get drunk, merely succumbing to tiredness.
Ia! Koorlithulu fhtagn!
And then there were werewolves. Well, the werewolves already started during Battlestar, but obviously I wasn't participating in them until it finished. Sadly, I rarely survived for very long, because I was a Bearded Pirate Cylon (All genuine reasons given for why I must be a wolf). Shortly thereafter we decamped to Grlump's house for more werewolves at the post-post-meetup-meetup meetup. Things got a bit more varied - rather than werewolves and villagers, we had Danes and Swedes, Mackems and Geordies, New Zealanders and Australians, and so on. Also, at one point Grlump confused everyone by making himself a wolf as well as the narrator.
Playing WW IRL is interesting. Different to forum play, obviously, but fun in different ways. More casual. Though there are some difficulties which have to be overcome, in particular the fact that being so close together IRL, you can sometimes hear or feel the people next to you moving during the night, thus identifying them as a wolf or power role, depending on when they move. The solution? Sing! Which just added to the silliness of it all. Though it still wasn't infallible, as on one occasion I could identify that Cassie's singing got louder as she turned in my direction during the night. Humming might be better, but less funny.
Post-post-post-meetup-meetup-meetup meetup back in my room at the Travelodge was then fun. Sadly Ku went straight to bed, so I couldn't use the wifi from his phone to make a post-post-post-meetup-meetup-meetup meetup meetup post, but it was still fun enough, just sitting around chatting about all sorts of things. Curly did Cassie's hair, obviously very important at 4am, and in the end we were up until about 5 I think? Rather tired of course, but again, who cares? We were having such a good time!

Alas, the end had to come. Post-post-post-post-meetup-meetup-meetup-meetup meetup consisted of breakfast at Morrison's again, though sadly the girls were too sleepy to get up when their door was knocked on. Meanwhile I, thanks to my minimal sleep, was freezing. I was much better after having food though. At some point the idea of potentially changing up the meetup schedule to three a year was briefly raised (by me - this should not come as a surprise). And then? Well, we had to leave. Saddest face. I really wanted to stay with everyone a bit longer, particularly given there appear to have been some very interesting things at the media museum they then went to:
Sadly, by the time that photo was taken, I suspect I was already back home. :(

Just going to quote the start of my first post after arriving back home:

"So, we arrived back home before anyone we left behind will have left Bradford. At least by train, I suppose Ku may well have set out before we got quite back here. Regardless, it makes me kinda sad, thinking of that extra time I could have been spending among many of my favourite people. Much as I love the internet, and the Playground, being in the same place is kinda better.
Frickin' distance. Geography has some sort of a grudge against me, I swear."

So yeah. All that was things which happened. On the other hand, we appear to be arranging a mini-meetup really soon, a couple of people are coming to Newcastle to see me in Pirates of Penzance (Which is this week) and hopefully we can make more of a habit of mini-meets, because I really love you guys/these guys and want you/them to be in my life more.
I'm sure I could go on about this for much longer, there are other things I could definitely talk about, like how great these meetups are in general, and how I'm still reading people's posts in their actual voices as a result of the meetup, but I think this post is long enough, and I have to get it posted.

Oh, quick acknowledgements, thank you to Serpentine and Lensman, whose accounts of the meetup I've quoted in this post, Serpentine again and Guy, who I've borrowed photos from for it, and Kurli, who took many of my photos for me (I love it when people do that - saves me so much effort).
I hope to see a number of you soon. <3 all.

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