I’m the Only Nerd in the Office Yankee Swap

Yesterday, my office held our annual Yankee swap. You, like Wikipedia, may instead know it as a white elephant exchange. This was my second annual swap with this group, and I had vengeance up my sleeve.

Last year, my contribution to the swap was the fancy Steve Jackson Games edition of Give Me the Brain. Now, I will admit, I was pretty sure going in this would not be received well by anyone in my office. I’m the only nerd on a team of designers, writers and other creative types. One person has ever copped to knowing who Tom Baker is and no one recognizes the Miskatonic pennant I keep on my cube wall.

The Yankee swap recipient was appropriately baffled, yet effusive in their excitement about playing games with their family. And yet, sometime in the summer months, while I was looking for thumbtacks or something in a supply cupboard of the office, what did I stumble across? Nothing else but the Pepto-Bismol pink box of Give Me the Brain, with a hapless Friedey’s employee gazing out in benevolent confusion.

Clearly, we had a booby prize on our hands. With luck, this thing could circle around the office for years and years as the Yankee swap gift no one wants, or was willing to say, “Hey, ditch that thing and throw in a growler of beer like an adult.” So, cackling with glee at taking revenge on such outright rejection of a terrific awful gift, I tucked the game away in my own little cupboard to wait for December.

Now, December 2014 rolls around. I start getting cold feet, worrying that recycling Give Me the Brain, even though it was so cruelly abandoned in a cupboard, is a poor contribution. So I make things twice as good by wrapping it up with the fancy edition of Chez Geek. At the very least, that puts something new in the mix of the Yankee swap.

The swap itself is pretty uneventful. There isn’t much stealing. The most contentious items are all chocolate or alcohol, and only one or two of those get swapped at all. My colleague who opens up Give Me the Brain and Chez Geek is completely bemused by this. She’s opened a stinker and no one’s going to grab it from her. As she opens it, at least a few people recognize that the bright pink box has come around again, and are reminded of the person who left it behind when leaving the office, so they’re guffawing over that.

The poor, puzzled owner of the board games wonders out loud if anyone who has kids would enjoy these. I’m not about to give any extra hints it was me who put them in the swap, but someone else seems to know enough to say they’re not kids’ games.

So the upshot is I got two more games off my shelves — more to go to little free libraries — and I feel a little bad about spiking the office Yankee swap with stinkers two years running. There just aren’t enough nerds — meaning there’s just me — in my department to make it seem like anything more than spoiling the fun of the Yankee swap with stuff no one’s going to want to steal.

Next year, I’ll choose something more square. Unless I go through with the garden gnome idea.

Beware the Krampus

A pretty impressive Krampus mask.

Insertname brought it up on RPG.net: using the Krampus as an antagonist in one’s role-playing games. Coming out of eastern Europe, particular Austria and Hungary, Krampus accompanies St. Nicholas on his journeys, warning children to behave and punishing those who don’t. So he’s the bad cop to St. Nicholas’ good. It’s the classic buddy situation.

Krampus Comes to Town

1901-1910 saw a wave of over two million immigrants to the United States from Austria and Hungary. With so many believers living beyond the old country, St. Nicholas and Krampus expanded their travels to include the land of opportunity. When reports of a shadowy demon-like figure stalking St. Nicholas circulate among the “they know just enough to be dangerous” portion of the occult set, they undertaking the capture and banishment of the fiend lately come to America.

Doing so throws the balance of Christmas dangerously askew, of course. Without the threat of the Krampus’ punishment to keep them in line, children run amok in New York City. St. Nicholas correspondingly declines to travel the land. It’s a huge mess, one that can only be resolved by freeing the Krampus from his Leyden jar prison — and convincing him not to take it out on the well-meaning, if foolish occult investigators.

The League of Extraordinary Companions of St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas, it transpires, has a whole entourage of companions, scattered all across Europe. Typically they work alone or with Nick himself, rarely collaborating together. Every once in a while, though, there’s that one child so recalcitrant, so truculent, so incorrigible who requires the attention of an entire pantheon of corrective spirits, with Knecht Ruprecht corralling their efforts. They’ll put that child through metaphorical Hell before the night is over. It’s the preventative maintenance version of A Christmas Carol.

Dark Ascension

In the world of Unknown Armies, some clued-in goon has decided to scoot into the Invisible Clergy as the Dark Companion, the shadowy figure of questionable means and motives that follows so many more visible characters. Come Christmas-time, that means he’s emulating the behavior and signs of the Krampus, including terrifying the local children. This is not going down well in the community, never mind the occult underground. Representatives from the different factions present on the scene come together to put down this would-be Krampus before someone other than him gets hurt.

Happy Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in the United States. Yesterday was the big day of giving thanks and celebrating the harvest — which I guess is a little nonsensical now, since global transportation allows us to take advantage of growing seasons all around the world — so Friday is, for me, a day of recovery and rest. Others have their own shopping traditions. Good luck to ’em.

See you all on Monday!

Happy GM’s Day 2010

March 4th is GM’s Day — “march forth,” geddit? — a time to give recognition to the hard-working game masters who put the time and energy into creating the imaginary worlds in which our characters run amok — and, in the convention world, care enough about their game of choice, role-playing, board or otherwise, that they’ll teach it to a table of strangers.

He's Gary Gygax and he is *roll roll* . . . pleased to meet you!

The idea for a day to recognize GMs came up back in 2002 on ENWorld. Gary Gygax‘s passing on the same day in 2008 cemented the date . Now it’s become not only an occasion to thank one’s GM — possibly with the purchase of role-playing books, as RPGNow would like you to do, given their massive sale; so massive, in fact, I’m having difficulty finding anything I want amidst the torrent of niche material — but a day commemorating the role-playing hobby on the whole and remembering its proud parents, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. The hobby wouldn’t be what it is today, or maybe even exist at all, if not for Gary, Dave and everyone else who participated in the conception of Dungeons & Dragons.

I plan to mark the occasion with game night in the traditional sense tonight: friends getting together at someone’s house for food and tabletop fun. It’ll be board game tabletop fun, in the shape of Age of Empires III, but still. And this weekend, a Savage World of Solomon Kane one-shot in Rutland.

One of these days I will get on the ball and have something really appropriate planned to run on GM’s Day, or get the local store involved or something. TARGA‘s International Traditional Gaming Week isn’t that far off. If I’m industrious and persuasive, I’d like to get some people together for an old school dungeon crawl. There’s no dearth of dungeons and retro-clones to utilize, after all.

Thanks again, Gary and Dave. You invented a truly unique hobby, which I and so many others love dearly.