I am here.
This place is awesome!
I am here.
This place is awesome!
GT US has finished. One more night in Mythic Taho before heading home to mundane Chicago.
IMO, this has been the best GT thus far. The games were magnificent, my sodales were wonderful, the dicussions were intriguing and the whole experience was simply wonderful. There are several people whom I have been freinds with for many years that I never get to visit with outside of Grand Tribunal, and people I met at GT that have become best of friends whom I would have neverhave met or get to visit with otherwise.
Special thanx to Erik D and Toshi for getting me here. And many thanx to the rest for such a fabulous time.
Ars Magica Awesome Est
Glad everyone had fun and I'm sorry I couldn't attend.
The world (well, me) waits for details . . .
Hello world (sorry, I couldn't resist!),
Erik or Toshi will write anything official, but I can say that this really was a very spectacular time. Games were great. Location was awesome (ESPECIALLY for the price). Lots of good food. New ideas ran around the room. A good time had by all.
For myself, I particularly enjoyed the hunting demons (SG: Mark Faulkner) and fae (SG: Erik Vesbit). Both gents were amazingly well-prepared and each story was fascinating, wonderous, and fun without involving flying castles as well as just gritty enough to make it feel "human."
As for the Verditius Contest, we had the closest contest yet. The winner was decided by only one vote and everyone agreed that the decision was tough. The level of creativity and improvisational flair was truly excellent and generated a lot of ideas for everyone to go home with. For those interested, the contest was as follows:
"There is a very special child. One you believe to have the Gift. Tell us a story why this child is special to the parens, why they can't simply take them as an apprentice immediately (minimum of two years), what plan they have (including a device or set of devices they create) to protect and keep tabs on the child for at least two years, and the plan to extricate the child at the end of the monitoring time. You are constrained to spend no more than a total of 6 pawns of vis on any enchantments but they may be of any type or types."
While everyone there thought they would happily attend yet another GT at Tahoe, other proposals are being solicited and any who want to host are welcome to submit a proposal to Erik D and Toshi. Currently we have five people willing to put together proposals for different locations but more are always welcome. Key point: If you want it near your area, then you have to be willing to lead the charge and put the team together (or convince someone else to do it for you).
Oh, and John P, I have your swag. We have to set up lunch anyway!
This last weekend, August 20-22 was the Grand Tribunal America convention for 2010, which was held in Mythic Tahoe within The Village at Squaw Valley. It was an immensely successful con. From what I can tell, everyone who attended had an incredible time, and we really had to dig deep to find things to complain about when we had our little nearly-post-con wrap-up Sunday morning. The organizers worked very hard to make it worthwhile, and it paid off. I wish every con could be as much fun as this one. I'm going to try and summarize what happened for those who would like to know more.
Although the con didn't officially begin until Friday evening, several folks arrived Thursday afternoon, and spent the evening in the Auld Dubliner, an Irish pub that apparently is actually Irish, in that it was brought to Tahoe from Ireland. I have heard tell that there were several $25 shots taken that night that were so good they stayed with the participants the whole weekend.
I arrived Friday morning, picking up another traveler in Sacramento who had flown in from Southern California. We made very good time and were able to assemble most of the group who had come early into three cars for an excursion into the wilds. We had about four hours until the convention began, and our plan was to locate the fabulous Vikingsholm ( vikingsholm.org/ ), a Viking-styled summer home built on the shores of Emerald Bay in the early part of the last century. Many of us were hungry, though, so we first needed to gather at a public house in Tahoe City. We agreed that everyone would follow my conveyance, and that I would stop at the first familiar restaurant I could find, preferably something that would be quickly prepared.
There was nothing like a fast-food restaurant, but we had almost made it through the whole town, driving along the north shore of the lake, when I spotted a place I had heard made good sandwiches, called Fat Cat. They had a big sign that said "Great sandwiches to go!" which was promising, and were next to a small convenience store that sold sodas, sunglasses, hats, and souvenirs that many of our party went to purchase while I ordered lunch. Unfortunately, we had two problems. Firstly, due to mis-communication (and my overemphasis of the directions we would eventually have to follow) the third car in our caravan had turned down the road that led to the south side of the lake, and though we were talking on cellphones we didn't realize this is what had happened until they had already driven for about 15 minutes. Instead, we were sure they were almost with us, and we decided to order sandwiches for them, reading them the menu over the phone.
The second problem was that, uh, the kitchen was a little "backed up." It might be 15-20 minutes until they were ready. That was regrettable, but we decided it would be harder to find another place to all meet up again, so we decided to wait. It was actually more like 40 minutes, and after we'd been waiting a while, one of us noticed a guy dressed in a white cook's outfit run across the road from over by the lake and into the restaurant. The food was ready about ten minutes later. It was nourishing and kind of bland, I thought, but very welcome by then. So we lost about an hour before we were all back on the road.
It was about 35 minutes of driving before we reached the parking lot in the mountains near the base of Emerald Bay. There was some worry at first that there were no parking spots, but luckily three cars left at just the right times, and we didn't lose much time circling. We had a journey ahead of us; from the lot it is about a mile hike, mostly downhill. We gathered at the peaks with a breathtaking view of the water far below, collected our water bottles and gazed at/avoided gazing at a huge party of raucous college-aged boys and girls all stripped down to bikinis and boxers who had presumably just returned, and set off.
It was a very enjoyable walk downhill. A little dusty, but there were several beautiful shaded areas where little creeks filtered down the rocks and occasional benches beneath huge shady trees. Mostly we talked about Ars Magica the whole way, some very enjoyable discussions. At one point where there was a bench and a crevice with a stream in it, we all noticed how much cooler the air was there, and one of our number talked a bit about how in Europe such a location would have almost certainly been made a shrine by all the pilgrims who would have stopped there.
Vikingsholm itself was really fascinating. It's a big house that is designed to look like a Viking hall, or perhaps a medieval home in Norway, laid out in a big square with a courtyard in the center. It's built out of stone and carved wood, with sod roofs. We didn't have time to take the tour inside, but we got to walk around it for about 30 minutes, and I took lots of pictures. Others of our party wandered down to the beach and waded into the water, which I heard was extremely refreshing and pleasant.
The hike back up was harder than the one coming down, but we took it easy and slowly. It felt very much like a medieval pilgrimage, with us all breaking into smaller groups to chat while we walked and stopping regularly. At the top we all gathered again for a group photo, and then we climbed back into our cars and drove back to Squaw Valley.
The Village is basically an outdoor mall that winds around incredible views of the surrounding mountains, and is nestled right among them because it's intended for skiing. The first floor is all shops and restaurants, with chairs and tables and fountains and all sorts of pleasant places to just stop and sit. The second, third, and fourth floors are condos that are rented out as hotel rooms. Our conference room was right on the mall, right across from the hotel lobby. It was an unbelievably nice location.
Everything was set up and ready to go by 6:00, when we reassembled. The packets included a number of interesting surprises. For one thing, the Praeco had gotten a friend of hers to make these beautiful and tiny dragons out of oragami (I believe he calls them dragami). Another member of the planning committee had prepared a Scavenger Hunt, where a story in a series of envelopes told of a king who wanted his friend a wizard to turn him into various things, and we were instructed to take pictures of these things, or bring the organizer to see them. Once each was accepted, we could then open the next envelope. What a great way to fill up the occasional free time we had, wandering around the village looking for a bird, or a rock that gives life, or a dragon's teeth, or something twisted.
Everyone also read a revised version of the Oath of Hermes, which had been written by John and Michelle Nephew for the first GTA. It was quite amusing, everyone promised to try and not frighten the mundanes with talk of geeky stuff in public, not deal with devils who distribute stolen copies of Ars Magica books, not harass the organizers and to properly thank them, and not to use portable scrying devices at the game table and so disturb our sodales. While we were waiting for everybody, I also performed a funny medieval-esque song I had prepared on the little zither I brought. That might become a regular thing, everybody seemed to really enjoy it.
Friday evening consisted of a LARP, a live-action roleplaying game. This was so that all the participants of the convention had an opportunity to gather in the convention hall, and good reason to interact with each other, get to know each other and slowly immerse themselves into the world of Ars Magica. I ran the game, a story that John Post and I wrote for DunDraCon earlier this year called Carcares et Dracones. In it, a group of magi gather at a strange covenant in the mountains where all sorts of fantastic creatures are brought to life in a sort of magical tournament. Players were either organizers of the tournament, contestants in the tournament, or in a couple of cases spectators. I brought a bunch of costumes for everyone to wear, which really helped create a sense of camaraderie and family. I heard only positive things about the game, though it also sparked a lot of interesting and interested discussion. We finished up at about 11:00, and proceeded again to the pub. We had access to the room all night, but decided to lock up and go get sleep instead.
Saturday morning we gathered again and had bagels, doughnuts, fruit, juice, coffee, and tea. Another member of the committee ran the annual Verditius contest, where the participants are asked to design an item for a particular purpose. The goal this year was for everyone to describe themselves as a mage interested in an apprentice that they cannot take right away for whatever reason, and to design an item to help them watch over, protect, and ultimately win over the child. The winner described a child who was a prize in a chess game between two powerful magi, who designed an item that would allow him to switch places with the child, but was ultimately undone by the other magus having done the same thing first, leaving him trapped in the child's body as the other magus took over his life. (Actually, I'm not sure that's quite how it happened, but that's what I picked up about it while I was helping set things up.)
Then we had live linkups with our sister convention in the United Kingdom, and another author for the line in Australia (it was 4am for him!). We read a statement from the game's line editor, David Chart, which revealed all sorts of secrets about the books Atlas intends to publish this next year, and gave us good questions to ask of the folks we could see from afar on a tiny computer screen. Not surprisingly, there were some technical limitations, some things were difficult to understand over the microphones and apparently the UK couldn't see us while we could see them. We made them chuckle by saying that they talked funny, and they replied that they didn't just speak English, they /were/ English, which got loud cheers and grins.
After the Q&A sessions, we divided into two gaming groups. The first game was The Jupiter Stone, and from what I heard it involved a location in Dacia where a great pagan king was buried, that produces magical power. Some of the players were ghosts attempting to prevent their essence from being taken, and trying to stop the endless replaying of the events of the burial ceremony where they were sacrificed, while others were magi and other types trying to collect the resource and find out what was going on. It was incredibly fun, I heard. I played in the second game, an enjoyable sandbox where we spent several pleasant hours interacting with each other and meandering around the plot, which we unfortunately hadn't quite unraveled by the time the session had ended.
Dinner was provided as part of the con, a collection of pizzas that the committee members cooked in their respective rooms and that arrived at just the right time. I also got to stretch my legs a bit and stroll around the Village for a few minutes. I should have suggested we move one or both games outside, actually, because it was so pleasant in the crisp mountain air.
The two games that night were a social and almost LARP-like murder mystery run by Marko, and an official playtest of an upcoming Ars Magica book that I ran. I heard Marko's went really well, and ours went surprisingly well too. I had been nervous about it, because I couldn't really prepare much for it as it was going to be a sort of collaborative effort with all of us switching off storyguide responsibilities and covering multiple characters, but it came together and not only did we all have a great time but we came up with a lot of great comments for the line editor to pass on to the authors. I wish I could say more about it, but I am sworn to secrecy...
Sunday morning we had more doughnuts and bagels, and while we were all looking a bit tired, there was still enthusiasm and warmth. We discussed how the con had gone so far, and options for what we could do better for next year's con. Several folks are going to do proposals, but of course the committee welcomes them from anyone who would like to take the lead on making it happen. I don't think we have a deadline yet, but we probably need to figure out the details before winter. We also talked about possibly doing it again up there, or even just a gathering of friends, which I admit is quite an appealing idea.
The raffle was almost embarrassingly fulsome. I believe we ultimately gave away more than 50 prizes. I can't even remember who got what, but I believe everyone got at least one thing that he or she was really excited about. I got a T-shirt (showing a flaming d10 crashing into Lake Tahoe), which worked out great because I hadn't bought one for myself. But the most incredible prizes went to the winners of the scavenger hunt-- Belladonna gave the winner a 600-year-old silver coin, and the runner-up an antique compass. Everyone was speechless at how beautiful they were.
When we finally settled into the afternoon session, one was Only the Strong, a very rambunctious game featuring six apprentices of House Tytalus, all competing in a sort of summer camp event. Apparently no one succeeded at the event, though one apprentice came really, really close. I participated in a workshop where we discussed ways of improving Ars Magica to make it easier to run for storyguides and new players. It was very sad when everything wrapped up, however; a lot of folks had to take off at about 4pm to get to various airports or back home to children and family members. We posed for a group photo, though, before about half of our number left.
That night, the few of us remaining (two parties, really) relaxed in one of the suites over scotch and Mountain Dew (not together, that would be disgusting) and shared a peanut butter, bacon, and jelly sandwich (it wasn't disgusting though you might think it would be). Mostly we discussed movies, though there were some last vestiges of Ars Magica discussion. We were all pretty tired. After an eight-hour hiatus involving sleep, we finished the movie panel at a sandwich and hot dog place with a Double Rainbow sign, and said goodbye. I was taking Mark to the Reno airport, and the others were driving back to the Bay Area to make evening flights.
We had one last adventure planned, however. On the way to Reno I had noticed a sign for the first city over the border, called Verdi (as in the Verditius domus magna). So we had to pull over and take a picture of the sign, and then try to find out if there was anything else of interest. There's not much to it, though. There's one wacky building in what Google Maps says is the center of town, which might have been a saloon at one time, but could also be a Hermetic covenant. And there's a library, and a guns store, and a history center that was unfortunately closed. (There was a great train robbery that happened in Verdi, which we learned from a plaque at the town marker.) We stopped to get a drink at the combination Jack in the Box, Chevron, casino, and Bonnie and Clyde exhibit, and decided that was pretty much it for the weekend.
It was really a wonderful time. Everyone involved really outdid themselves this year, and everyone reading this who thought about coming but decided not to should eat themselves with envy at what an incredible con they missed, and should do everything they can to make it next year.
Man oh man, I had a great time.
Many thanks to Toshi, Erik D., and the rest of the planning committee for organizing an effortless con. (All the effort was behind the scenes, and once we were actually hanging out and gaming, it was a extremely easy to have a good time.) Triumph!!
Thank you Erik D. for your redcap duties. It was so much fun to drive from the Mundane Sacramento Airport, do that strange switcharound ritual to enter the Regio (read: miss our exit and have to turn around), and then drive the rest of the way through such magical countryside. Tahoe is gorgeous, and I for one would love to hold the con there again.
It never ceases to amaze me the amount of creativity and gusto that this intimate little con produces. The ideas zinging around the room were quite inspiring, and I left quite invigorated to bring new life into my saga.
Jarkman / Lachie -- it was great to meet you via Skype!
The sneak peaks at the upcoming books leave me salivating. Can't wait.
This con was just fantastic. Thanks again to all, and I look forward to next year already.
Well for my part it was great fun to meet some of the people I've been communicating with by email for the last few years.
Names to faces, that sort of thing. I appreciate it and hope I can make it out from Oz one year.
I enjoyed being able to reveal a bit about the supplement I've just finished for the line - it's been 2 years+ since I started writing for it.
Looking forward to being able to say more when it comes out.
Since Mr. Dahl has done such an excellent job in covering the details of the weekend, I have been saved the task. It was a fantastic weekend, and Tahoe was everything I hoped it would be for the attendees. The team putting together this event deserve so much of my gratitude, Erik D., Eric V., Debbie W., Mark P., and Kurt K.--THANK YOU! The team effort is what made the whole event seamless and organized. We wished more people could have attended this year, but there were some last minute cancellation due to various reasons. The hotel is already asking if we'd like to come back...
I'm up for it. I really wanted to be there this year but events got in the way. I know you guys are looking to mix things up a little and check out other locations but I'm definitely interested in the Tahoe option.
It was a really fantastic location, and it definitely a place that is worth a trip to California to see. Plus the is a pub that has $25 dollar shots of whiskey! I can't remember the label, but the free sips were awfully fine. (I suspect faerie involvement)
I wish I could fine the time and more importantly the greenbacks to attens this at some point. But it's quite a bit of distance from Denmark. But I could try out the GT in England, that's not very far...One of these years...