Carnage XX: 20 Years of Tabletop Games in Vermont

Picture of the four horsemen of the apocalypse pointing in different directions, corresponding with a sign-post reading "Board Games, Card Games, Minatures, RPG." Text reads, "20 years later, they still can't decide what to play first at Carnage."

Planning for Carnage has been under way since early this past summer. With less than a month to go before the convention kicks off, things are starting to feel truly real. This year feels different to me, for several different reasons.

To start, it’s Carnage’s 20th anniversary. The convention was first held in 1998 in a small hotel ballroom in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Since then, it’s grown to the point of taking over entire resorts. I’ve been attending the convention since 2005, so I have quite a few under my belt, but there are still plenty of people attending this year who can proudly say they have been to every single Carnage.

Last year, the convention offered an online registration option for the first time, letting people skip printing out and mailing in a paper form. This year, Carnage took the next step forward, using an online, real-time registration system custom built for game conventions called Tabletop.Events. Having a dynamic system that facilitates customer self-service — people can see what games are open while lounging in their PJs, instead of having to pad down to the convention information desk! — has been huge for both the attendees and the organizers. Adding games to the schedule after the initial launch no longer means they’re on an addendum sheet that not everyone may catch.

In fact, the automation of registration has given me the mental bandwidth to work on something I’ve wanted to do for a while: work on more graphical elements for social media, like the one above. They may not go viral, per se, but I’ve seen the metrics on the few that have published so far and their visibility has been significantly better than text-only posts, or links to the Carnage website.

Plus, getting continuous seat time in Photoshop has been a help for me finally getting more comfortable in that space and learning what the tools really do as I’m following along with tutorials to achieve this effect or the other. Graphics for social media are a low stakes area for Carnage, so there’s room to play and get creative to see what sticks.

Lastly, but by no means least, for the first time ever Carnage will host live comedy games of Dungeons & Dragons featuring not one, but two groups. Friday night, Improvised Weapons is an actual play podcast featuring improv comedians from the Burlington area that I’ve been enjoying for a while now, and this will be their first live show with an audience.

Saturday night, Victory Condition Gaming hosts the next installment on their ongoing live stream game run by Joe from Gemhammer & Sons with a cast of characters from the regional convention circuit. And yes, you read that right, it’s a live stream game, available through Victory Condition’s YouTube channel. Victory Condition is also kindly providing live stream coverage of the Improvised Weapons shows and other games at Carnage this year.

Now, because you’ve made it to the end of the article, here’s a  sneak preview for something launching on social media tomorrow:

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Carnagecast 58: A Recap Full of Carnage

carnagecast-rss-image-300After a nice post-convention rest, we are back with a new episode of Carnagecast, talking about how A Fistful of Carnage went. Ray and I spent most of our weekends in the Snowshed, so we have the inside skinny on role-playing games and card games. The new Dungeons & Dragons edition turned out to be the most demanded game in the role-playing hall, which says a lot for the name’s ability to outlast nerd rage.

It’s a nice little conversation, and I’m glad to be back in the swing of recording episodes. Listen in!

A Fistful of Carnage Recap

” . . . and it has tomatoes.”
“Tomatoes. Are those the soy or the lent in soylent?”

The grim reaper rides a pale horse, wearing a tall cowboy hat and a rifle in each hand.Another Carnage has come and gone. I spent most of the weekend working in the Snowshed, where the role-playing and card games were based, but I did manage to play some games:

  • Stetsons Are Cool was Robin Lea‘s Doctor Who-based adventure, in which we Time Agents tracked down a highly dangerous zygma beam device in ancient American west. I may have gone a little goofier with team leader Kip Brannigan than was appropriate, but I think he and medic Hanso had a good back and forth repartee going.
  • Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game was a nice mid-slot game to play while working the information desk with Rod. He’s picked up the core set and Sleeper Below, so he played cultists and Cthulhu against the Syndicate’s tricks, and then Yog-Sothoth’s discard effects.
  • The Great Snowball Battle is a cute card game of little kids slinging snowballs at each other until everyone gets called inside for losing their hats, boots and gloves.
  • Ticket to Ride‘s Switzerland map is annoying.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse was played with another old hand and two newcomers who originally thought we would play Citadels because I mumble; one of them dug it and the other one I probably ought to have handed a deck other than Bunker’s.
  • Gygax Magazine Pub Quiz, Saturday night in the bar, was a hoot. Our chief heckler of the last two years became the fill-in host, so the tables turned in a way. Next year, though, I look forward to James and Mary slipping back into the hosting duties.

The Game with No Name math trade netted me some great stuff, too. I turned HERO books, Gamma World and Revolution! into Netrunner cards — hello, Grimoire playset! — and a classic copy of Wiz-War, which I’ve wanted to try more of. Plus, after the trade concluded, I got to help a lady rebuild part of her Cheapass Games collection, after a tragic loss to fire. So this year’s trade was a win on multiple levels.

Our second year at Killington was good. We had a better idea of what to expect and how to do things. There were unanticipated questions, of course, with the resort and our attendees, but nothing outside the usual stretch. In the end, we had a great convention, and folks had fun. Mission accomplished!

A Fistful of Carnage Opens for Preregistration

The grim reaper rides a pale horse, wearing a tall cowboy hat and a rifle in each hand.Carnage posted their convention booklet yesterday afternoon. The convention’s just over a month away, taking place at the Killington mountain resort in Killington, Vermont.

We’ve got an astonishing number of role-playing games this year. Pathfinder Society remains a powerhouse. Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition has its Adventurer’s League getting into gear. We’ve got more cool game designers than I can fairly mention in this space, awesome GMs who have devised adventures in the games they love and a schedule full of all the other tabletop games you might want to enjoy in a single weekend.

The only thing missing is some Call of Cthulhu: The Card Game. I’ll have my decks, so come find me this year for a round!

Carnagecast 53: A Fistful of Carnage

carnagecast-rss-image-300A new episode of Carnagecast posted last night. Carnage staffer Ray joined me to talk about the upcoming A Fistful of Carnage game convention in Killington, Vermont next month, November 7th through the 9th.

We talked a bit about what’s on the schedule — keeping it spoiler-free, of course — and some things to keep in mind when planning a trip to Killington. It gets cool up there on the mountain in November!

The convention book should be mailing out and appearing online imminently, so I took this episode as an opportunity to get back into the swing of recording, as well as recognize the culmination of a great deal of background work is about to pay off for all the attendees who have been looking forward to another great weekend of playing games at Carnage.

And seriously, I will be hanging out at the Snowshed information desk most of the weekend. Come say hi!

The Game with No Name Math Trade at Carnage

I am pleased to hear that Matt Golec has again stepped up to coordinate the no-ship math trade at Carnage this year. He’s done the legwork the last four years, and every year the selection of games gets wider and more appealing. The math trade’s a little funny in that the hot and heavy part comes before the convention ever happens, when everyone fills out their want lists, then anxiously waits for the news of how the algorithm determines who trades what. During the convention itself, it’s a pretty sedate “pick up what you scored, drop off what you traded away.”

One math trade, I scored a pair of Call of Cthulhu starter decks, which sent me down a path to the living card game incarnation, which I’m still enjoying today. So I’m always hopeful that I’ll stumble on some unregarded gem that I wind up really enjoying.

Most of what I have to offer in the trade are role-playing books. I can’t recall if I’ve ever successfully swapped any of them, but I’ll keep making them available. This year, I’m also going to take a hard look at the card and board games on my shelves, and figure out what I’m likely never going to play again. That number is probably going to be higher than I want to admit.

GenCon Panels on Role Playing Public Radio

Role Playing Public Radio boasts an embarrassment of riches from GenCon this year. In addition to their own wrap-up episode, where you can see the very impressive banner that called listeners to the meetup, they captured Diversity in Gaming from the staff of Paizo and the Campaign Doctors. I’m looking forward to hearing Luke Crane vehemently disagree with almost everything Caleb says.

And because that’s not enough, host of RPPR Ross Payton produces Unspeakable!, where you will find two GenCon panels on Delta Green. I particularly dug “Lovecraft Meets Tradecraft,” which was half Q&A and half reminiscing among the Delta Green luminaries Glancy, Stolze, Detwiller, Ivey and Hite.

#RPGaDAY 15: Favorite Convention Game Played

#RPGaDAY prompts.

The #RPGaDAY prompt was concocted by Dave Chapman of Autocratik. Grab the list and join in!

I am utterly perplexed by this one. There are plenty of convention games I’ve enjoyed a lot. One session in particular I’m holding onto for day 17. I cannot, regretfully, pull one particular game as my favorite. I’ve run plenty of games at conventions, and never been especially happy with any of them, though the players certainly had fun, such as Band on the Run, in which the Pratchettian tooth fairy took to his appointed task with a glee and reckless abandon that took me totally by surprise, because obviously I did not think “a player is given a character whose motivation is to steal teeth” through to a full conclusion.

There’s the Vampire: the Masquerade game that Gaylord ran at Carnage that I totally did not expect to enjoy, having an instinct bias against Vampire and yet enjoyed immensely, in part because I was playing with some friends and in part because we banded together instinctively and righteously against a player who’d decided to turn the session into a player-vs-player massacre. It was also my first effort at doing some physical mannerisms and a voice for my Nosferatu Jakob. It will not surprise anyone that maintaining an Orlok-like hunch for four hours is more than your typical squeaky, round-shouldered nerd can pull off.

I’m also reminded of that Mutants & Masterminds game run by designer Steve Kenson which gave rise to the adage, “I don’t have any of your flash super powers, like super speed or super strength. I turn into bees, okay?”

The highlight of OGC for me was always John Terra’s games. His Call of Cthulhu games are always a great mix of humor, horror, storytelling and a good play experience. He does a damn fine Paranoia, too.

Having spent days dwelling on this question, I feel no closer to answering it effectively than when I began. I’m going to have to call this good, so we can all move on to the next big thing, whether that’s an #RPGaDAY prompt or convention game.

Carnagecast 40: Gygax Magazine and Gary Con

carnagecast-rss-image-300There’s a new episode of Carnagecast up over on the Carnage site.

This week, James Carpio of Chapter 13 Press and more recently games editor of Gygax magazine joins us to talk about putting together a role-playing periodical in the modern age. Plus he’s just back from Gary Con and rather jazzed by all that he got to see and do there.

Carnage Noir

Carnage Noir happened over the weekend. It was, in short, good. I ran my Ghostbusters adventure — more on that in a later post — played Igor in a Discworld game with a lisp deemed incomprehensible, hooted and hollered during the Cube of Death geek trivia game show in the theater, caught up with many friends I hadn’t seen in a while and generally had a very, very good time.

2012 was a little bittersweet for me. Carnage is leaving the Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee to take up residence in Killington come November 2013. So all weekend, I had little “this is the last time” moments: the last breakfast at Gilman’s Diner, the last sprint through the hotel’s warren-like halls with its inexplicable nooks, zigs and zags, the last pick-up game in the lounge and many more. Conventions move from hotel to hotel all the time and I recognize there will be some new lounge in which to hang and play games, but Lake Morey will always be special to me.

The prospect of going to Carnage came completely out of the blue in 2005. Days beforehand, a friend asked, “Hey, do you want to go to this?” I had no idea what it was, but signed on. I’ve gone every year since, as a player, as a GM, as a staff member. Clearly I am stuck in deep with the Carnage culture and community.

And that’s where Carnage shines. It has an air of conviviality, the feeling of a far-flung clan of kindred souls — now flung as far as Arizona and British Columbia, thanks to Monk and Munk — gathering for three days out of which everyone’s going to wring what they love best. It’s not just about playing games. That’s the vehicle. What that vehicle transports is community, shared joy and a good time.

In my eight years at Carnage, I’ve watched lasting friendships form and children grow up. The kids playing in the pool a few years ago are now playing games and running them. The newest generation of Carnage GMs stepped up this year with Dungeons & Dragons and Clay-O-Rama. A couple of adults hovered nearby, but you know, they weren’t needed. Those young GMs knew exactly what they were doing. And that’s pretty awesome.

Here’s to Carnage on the Mountain at Killington next year. We’re going to help make it exceptional all over again.