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Warpcon 2005

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This was my third Warpcon, but the first I've had a chance to write up, after the first took place in the gap between the final (so far) issue of Critical Miss and the starting of this blog, and the second basically failed to happen due to my spending most of the weekend in my hotel room coughing myself to death.

Which makes this a rather strange convention report to write, because unlike most of my other convention reports (Conception 2002, Gaelcon 2002, K2 2004, QCon 2004) it describes not the thrill of experiences new, but the nostalgia of revisiting the old.

But I still had a damn good time, and hopefully this report will let you know why.

General Notes

Note 1: I've written this whilst operating on backup brainpower due to an unfortunate and still ongoing encounter with the common cold. I fear that because of this, the resulting text is neither particularly interesting, nor funny - and full of mistakes to boot.

Note 2: As always, I have a terrible memory for both names and faces, so many names will be incorrect and some "people" mentioned in this report might be composites of a number of actual persons. If you're one of those so treated I'd ask you not to take offence, and would instead suggest "pity" as the most suitable emotional response.

Note 3: I've illustrated this report with a few shots taken by new handy-dandy new camera phone. Unlike my bulky old digital camera it's always with me, allowing me to take pictures that I'd otherwise be unable to take. There is of course a downside to this, which is that the picture quality is so shit as to render them near unrecognisable, but I will be compensating for this problem by providing captions that will inform you what the picture would be showing if it wasn't the size of a postage stamp.

Note 4: Did you know that Nokia is now the largest manufacturer of cameras in the world? That has absolutely no relevance to anything in this post but I just thought it was too cool a fact not to share.

Friday

None of the other CM guys were able to make this trip, citing a variety of reasons that ranged from being unable to get time off work to having apparently acquired a life since last year's trip. But while this meant I was travelling solo, I wasn't worried, because I'd been able to get myself adopted by the Contested Ground Studios guys, producers of the fine RPG a|state, and was staying with them at the Fairy Lawn guest house.

I was flying out early afternoon, which gave me time for a quick buzzcut before throwing a load of food and clothes into my suitcase.

As an aside, I think people think I'm joking when I say that when I travel half my suitcase is full of food. Well here's a photo taken midway through the packing process, after putting in the food, but before adding the remaining items (clothes, washkit, chargers and so on).

The flight was pretty uneventful, leaving on time for once, and after a cab journey consisting largely of awkward silences punctuated by occasional observations on the state of the traffic (I'd picked the only cab in Cork driven by an English guy, and it's a basic truism of life that two Englishmen who are strangers to each other does not a conversation make) I arrived at the Fairy Lawn, which turned out to be a nice place and - once I'd realised that there is a side entrance to UCC - quite conveniently located for the con.

I was a bit non-plussed when the landlady gave me a form and asked me to fill it in, because one of the sections was for my car's license number, and given that it was currently parked outside my house in Hounslow I wasn't quite sure why she needed to know. However, a quick enquiry established that I didn't have to fill all the boxes in and was simply being stupid, and by around 5pm I was out on the streets and heading for Cork in search of sustenance.

Eating, Drinking & Attempting To Make Merry

There are two vegetarian restaurants in Cork, Cafe Paradiso and the Quay, and whilst Cafe Paradiso don't do vegan food (bastards), the Quay, fine bunch of people that they are, do.

So I had a nice filling meal...

...and then headed back to UCC and the Old Bar, which previous con experience had told me is where people generally end up when they're not doing anything in particular. I had a good chat with various old friends, including Natural20, CoffeeLifeform and Stephen, but then found myself temporarily alone when everyone drifted off.

Now I've heard about a technique some people use in which they make friends by striking up conversations with complete strangers, and whilst it's not something that my southern English upbringing inclines me to do ("Stranger talks to me on a bus, he's either a pervert or a retard!") it does seem like quite a sociable pastime, and seeing as how a girl had spent the last ten minutes or so sitting on her own with a pint at the table beside ours, I figured maybe this was the chance to try this "talking to strangers" lark.

The girl turned out to be LostPerdita, who was from Pennsylvania (and not Transylvania, as I'd originally misheard) and who, after a spell studying in Cork, had found herself deep in the heart of the sheep-worrying territory formally known as "Wales". She asked if I was part of the "London contingent", to which I replied that I wasn't aware that there was a "London contingent", at which point she introduced me to the friend she'd been waiting for, Howard, and a friend of his, who I think was called Tom.

So hey, I'd gone for one new friend and ended up with three! That's like bonus extra replay!

After a couple of hours the CGS gang (RPGActionFigure, BoxNinja, UbiquitousCat, TimeForTea, and the LJ-less Janet) turned up, after a journey that I later found out involved a small turbo-prop aircraft and much nervous humming of the "Dambusters" theme.

The Pub Quiz

The main event of the evening was the pub quiz. Now at the risk of appearing immodest, I'm usually pretty good at quizzes. I remember with some nostalgia the time several years ago when I played the guys at Trivial Pursuits - me in one team, and the six of them in the other - and won, an act that so enraged Mark that he attempted to throttle me.

(To be strictly accurate, it was my telling them that the final question was "easy" and "could be guessed" that pushed him over the edge).

But as my ego has learnt to its cost, Irish con quizzes are not as other quizzes, consisting entirely of questions mined from pop culture seams that I'm totally unfamiliar with. In this quiz though, I ploughed new depths, as over six rounds of ten questions each I managed to contribute a grand total of zero answers. (There were a few questions I knew the answers to - but those were the questions that everyone knew the answer to).

Much to everyone else's disgust, I eventually made my excuses sometime after midnight and headed back to the Fairy Lawn with RPGActionFigure.

Saturday

There are many ways to be woken in the morning. By a bird, singing its dawn chorus. By the hum of traffic in the street outside, or by the slam of a car door perhaps. Or you can awaken as RPGActionFigure did, to the sound of a vegan giving the toilet a stiff early-morning workout.

Oh and apparently, I snore.

Never heard it, myself.

Anyhow, after a pair of breakfasts, cooked in the dining room for RPGActionFigure, pot noodle thing and pita bread for me, we headed on down to the convention centre to register. RPGActionFigure had various GMing duties to attend to, so he headed off, leaving me to study the list of games that were on offer. The morning games had already started, so I selected an afternoon game, RPGActionFigure 's own game, a|state. Then, having paid my two Euros for the game and put my little ticket safely away in my wallet, and having checked that I'd put my little ticket safely away in my wallet, I headed off into Cork city centre to have a look around before getting a spot of lunch from the Quay.

Cork

Now I wasn't expecting to find anything particularly thrilling in Cork city centre, although there is a fort thing that I keep on thinking I should check out. But we'd learned during our first visit that there isn't anything particularly thrilling in the town centre itself.

Flashback to 2003...

We (me, Bog Boy, Mark, and Stu) had flown into Cork a day early, on the Thursday night, and had met up in a bar with some of the local crowd after a fortuitous "bumping in the street type meeting" with Mytholder. We ended up in various conversations, one of which was between Mark and a guy called Stephen (who I must stress is a great guy).

Stephen: [Conversationally] So what you are planning on doing tomorrow?

Mark: Well we thought we might look around, see the sites, that sort of thing.

Stephen: [Deadpan] There aren't any. You bastards burnt them all down.

We spent the next day walking around Cork town centre, finding, well, a town centre, with shops... and more shops. And not much else. That night, we met up with everyone in the Old Bar for the start of the convention, and Mark again found himself in conversation with Stephen.

Stephen: [Conversationally] So, what did you do today?

Mark: Well we had a look around, but we couldn't really find any interesting places.

Stephen: [Deadpan] There aren't any. I told you. You bastards burnt them all down.

The final postscript to that was that at the time, we all thought he was talking about an incident from the dim and distant past, probably involving that paragon of religious tolerance, Oliver Cromwell. So, whilst we thought that what had happened was terrible, we were thinking it was terrible in an abstract kind of way and laughed it off in the manner you do when you are talking about things that happened during your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather's time.

So I was a bit freaked out when, several months later whilst reading a bit of history, I realised that Stephen was actually referring to an incident that occurred in 1920, during the Irish War of Independence, when British forces torched the centre of the town.

More details on the burning of Cork.

I'm not quite sure why, but an incident that took place when your grandfather was nearly old enough to vote somehow seems a lot more like something you should feel personally bad about than something that occurred several hundred years ago, and which can now be mentally written off as "history".

So I wasn't expecting to find anything particularly thrilling that Saturday morning. But as I wondered around, killing time until I was hungry enough to head for the Quay, I found something very interesting.

The new Other Realms shop.

Other Realms

I'd visited the old shop during previous trips to Cork, and found it a nice enough place, but not particularly inspiring. And I'd been aware, from reading Fluffworld's blog, that they'd moved into new premises. And I was even aware, from seeing pictures she'd posted, that it was quite large and spiffing.

What I hadn't realised was that it was more than spiffing.

It was stunning.

It's not just that the main shop occupies a single, reasonably large floorspace, but that this floorspace is in fact a mezzanine level within an indoor shopping centre, making it feel both distinct from the other shops - by virtue of being reached by it's own private staircase - and yet also open and airy.

But that wasn't all that impressed me. Beyond the standard geek fair of games, comics and collectables, it has two extra elements that I don't recall ever seeing this side of the pond:

- A dedicated gaming area.

- A cafe-bar serving coffees and shakes (with a row of tables along the balcony, overlooking the shopping plaza below).

I just think it would be incredibly cool to have a place where you can go and buy your geek stuff, settle down with a coffee, and just watch the world go by.

How highly would I rate Other Realms?

Well it's true that both Leisure Games and the Games Shop in Aldershot might have more roleplaying games, and Playin Games might have more board games. But then unlike Other Realms, they're specialised games shops.

And certainly, a Forbidden Planet branch would probably have as strong a range or stronger in the area of comics and collectables, if not perhaps in games. But a Forbidden Planet never made me proud to be a geek. A Forbidden Planet's not a place where you can go and game, nor a place where you can sit and drink a coffee with your fellow gamers. It's not a geek place, merely a place where geeks go to shop. You go there, you buy your geek stuff, and then you leave, knowing deep down that you've just been the victim of a commercial transaction.

So my verdict on Other Realms? Well it's not as though I'm any kind of authority, and it's not like I'm writing a Michelin Guide, but for what's it's worth, my verdict is this:

"Other Realms in Cork is the best geek emporium this side of the Atlantic."

So it was both awed and hungry that I set off for the Quay...

...before heading back to the convention centre, and my a|state game.

a|state

a|state: Dangers on a Train by Malcolm Craig

Pulled from their regular jobs in the elite Flying Squad of the Transit Militia, the PCs find themselves once again donning their shabby old uniforms and arresting muggers on the 20.15 Victory Line All-Stops service. The crammed, stinking carriages provide little in the way of satisfaction for militiamen used to the cut and thrust of investigations. Until tonight, when a sealed guards van is hitched to the train and the ghosts of the past begin to catch up with the Flying Squad...

I don't want to say too much about this scenario, because I don't want to spoil it for anyone who plays it at later conventions. But I will say that it's a good scenario, and I'm a big fan of a|state - and I'm not just saying that because the author was nice enough to put up with my snoring and farting without killing me. We had a good time, lots of fun was had with various firearms, and though I'm pretty sure I was the only character to survive, albeit minus a hand, everyone involved had a really good time.

There was one particular incident which involved a bit of rare quick-thinking from me, and which I was pretty chuffed about. Some lads had got onto the train and were being obnoxious, so I headed on over to the ring leader and told him to stop (our policeman PCs were guarding the train).

The young hooligan of course refused, so I decided to hit him in the bollocks with my truncheon, which would have looked pretty impressive if I'd succeeded but was sadly less so with the fumble I'd actually rolled.

RPGActionFigure (GM): Your truncheon goes up between his legs, but gets caught up in baggy trouser material!

Me: [Thinking quickly for once in my life]: I'll look him in the eye and say, "Next time son, I won't miss!"

And the scroat bought my bluff and sat down! (As RPGActionFigure pointed out, he was probably thinking that I must be pretty hard to walk up to him and his mates, alone, and attack them with a truncheon).

After the a|state game I headed back to the Quay to buy my third and final meal there of the weekend (they're closed on Sunday)...

...and then headed back to the Old Bar for the auction. Now I have to say that I'm not a huge fan of the Warpcon auction - or at least, I prefer the Gaelcon one. The auction at Gaelcon is more structured and organised than at Warpcon, whose auction takes place in a crowded bar that's full of conversation, most of whose occupants are probably only dimly aware that an event is taking place at one end of the room. As a result, I feel that the Gaelcon auction has a sense of theatre which is missing from Warpcon's.

But the Warpcon auction is still pretty cool, and of course, the amount of money raised - whilst not usually as much as at Gaelcon - still puts British conventions to shame. And I have to say that the auctioneers, HedgeTrimmer... and another guy, did a sterling job of getting in the cash. (Around 12,500 Euros this time).

Unlike at Gaelcon 2003 , where I shelled out around 1300 Euros (somewhere out there, there's a movie clip of me counting out the cash), I managed to largely restrain myself on this occasion. (Although I have to say, it's much easier to restrain yourself when you're at the back of the room, can hardly hear what's going on, and would have to fight your way through the crowds if you wanted to bid for something - by contrast, at Gaelcon, it's very, very easy to accidentally make eye contact with the auctioneer and get sucked in).

But I did want to bid for something, so when a unique (unique, because it was drawn the wrong way round) hand-drawn a|state map from the hand of none other than BoxNinja came up, I was pretty interested. I'm into maps (I originally trained as a cartographer), I'm into a|state, I'm into stuff produced by friends of mine, and I'm into stuff I can frame and put up on my wall.

There was just one slight problem.

It was part of combined lot, the other bit of which was a haggis.

Which was a bit of an issue for me, what with me being a vegan, and believing that the correct place for a sheep's stomach is inside the sheep, containing its lunch, and mine. By this time I was up near the stage with BoxNinja (he'd gone forward to tell the auctioneers about the item, and I'd basically followed him), and I began wondering aloud if I could perhaps bid for the map, and then hand the haggis back in to be re-auctioned on its own.

At which point BoxNinja leant over to the auctioneer and whispered something, with the result that the following announcement boomed around the hall a few seconds later.

"The a|state guys have stated that the haggis can be exchanged for a vegan haggis upon request!"

Then there was another whisper.

"And they've also thrown in three vegan condoms!"

(And yes, normal condoms aren't vegan - see here for details).

I'm not quite sure why BoxNinja three the vegan condoms in, but I suspect they might be part of a plan to embarrass me at Conpulsion in March.

Well I then got right into the bidding, and 200 Euros later was the proud possessor of a hand-drawn a|state map (and the promise of a vegan haggis and three vegan condoms).

Club Warpcon... And Someone Who Partied A Tad Too Hard

The final event of a Warpcon Saturday night is Club Warpcon, out of which always emerge tales of wild debauchery lasting into the early hours. But I was already pretty tired, and knew that if I stayed up much later I'd be trashed for the Sunday, so pausing only to tell RPGActionFigure not to worry about waking me up when got back in, I left the guys to it and headed back to the Fairy Lawn, where I spent a little while watching CNN - with the sound turned down very low so as not to disturb whoever might be next door ("What's that Christine? Something's happened in Iraq?") - and then went to bed.

My attempts at late nights are always plagued by my over-anal body clock, which takes no account of when I might have happened to go to bed when it decides to wake me, and this Sunday morning was no exception, for I woke up at a time that my mobile told me was a couple of minutes after six, and which happened to be about thirty seconds before RPGActionFigure arrived back from Club Warpcon.

I muttered a quick hello, but seeing as how I still had ambitions of further sleep, I kept my head down as he went to the loo and headed back to bed. At least I'd thought he'd headed back to bed, but that was before an outpouring of sound effects that erupted from somewhere in the general direction of our bathroom.

Now I'd consider myself quite an expert in the art of vomiting, both on account of having a weak stomach (combined with tragically lax kitchen hygiene), and on account of being a bloke who might charitably be described as someone who "practices worrying to a professional standard." (I've always said that when the going gets tough, I get puking).

So I know how it's supposed to sound when a human being vomits and what was happening next door didn't sound human. If I were to describe in text a typical vomiting session I'd usually lead with something along the lines of:

"Keithhh..... Keithhhhh... Keithhhhhhh..."

But this was:

"Ruth! Ruth! Ruth! Ruth! Ruth! Ruth!"

And I have to stress that these were no dry heaves. Each call to Ruth! was accompanied by a precise, measured splash - retch, splash, retch, splash, an even beat once a second, that continued for a period of time that was at least thirty seconds and possibly nearer sixty. It was like a Terminator puking.

"Malc... Is that you?" I asked, concerned.

"No. I think it's next door," he replied. We continued listening in silence, to this, the most epic display of sustained vomiting either of us had encountered in each of our moderately long lives.

And then it stopped. Dead. Precise. No lengthening pauses, followed by intermittent coughs. No spluttering. Just sudden, horrible, silence.

By now, I was pretty much awake, so I figured I might as well take a slash. Just as I was finishing a couple of minutes later (I'm afraid I'm not one of life's "splash and go" merchants) we heard the sound of next-door's flush.

"Well I guess he's not dead then," I announced as I headed back out of the bathroom. I can't remember much about the subsequent conversation, except that it involved the mental picture of the bloke silently hugging the toilet for two minutes following his vomiting fit, too traumatised to even flush, that RPGActionFigure mentioned the immortal phrase "worshipping the porcelain god" and that we were pretty soon convulsed in such hysterics that it took us several minutes to come back down.

But if the vomit machine from room number eleven happens to be reading this then I have only one thing to say. Sir, I salute you, both for a display of metronomic vomiting that would have done Schwarzenegger proud, and for still being alive afterwards to pull the flush.

Sunday

After the complaints of the day before, I left the anal trombone in its case and after a mostly quiet piss, followed by a reasonably quiet shower, headed downstairs leaving RPGActionFigure to sleep off his late night.

I ducked into the dining room on the off-chance someone might be there, and found TimeForTea and Janet tucking into breakfast. I asked TimeForTea how the night before had gone and was astounded (astounded in the sense of, "how come you're sitting up, tucking into a cooked breakfast, and not slumped comatose across the table?") to find that he'd only arrived back at the guest house at around 8am, or about an hour and a half previously.

It's my opinion that the tale he told perfectly sums up our current reality of living in a post-industrial information age, where we purchase not manufactured goods, nor labour-driven services, but pure, raw information itself.

Why do I think this?

Well because at about 7:55 am him and UbiquitousCat were wandering the streets of Cork, lost, having first missed a turning and then failed to notice a bridge while attempting to make their way home from the party they'd been invited to after the close of Club Warpcon. In desperation, they'd hailed a cab, who for a fee of five Euros drove them the two hundred yards to the hotel, pausing only to tell them, "I passed you ten minutes ago heading down the wrong fork... If I'd known where you were going I'd have stopped and helped you out!"

A little while later, UbiquitousCat arrived, looking much more like a man should look when he only got home at eight am (i.e. fucked), followed shortly after by BoxNinja, who it turned out had come back at six with RPGActionFigure, and had also heard the vomiting from room eleven, despite being at the other end of the hotel, with several walls and fire-doors between himself and the eruption.

Various Happenings... Not Necessarily In the Order I've Described Them

Sunday morning was spent mainly wondering around the convention centre, buying a ticket for the afternoon's D20 Call of Cthulhu, playing a game of Poker skilfully run by Natural20 (and managing to not come last!), paying off my auction debt, meeting up with various people, and eventually ending up going to a pub with a bunch of the guys (TimeForTea, Janet, BoxNinja, UbiquitousCat, LostPerdita and someone else whose identity I'm afraid I've forgotten entirely, and whose existence I've deduced only by a forensic reconstruction of the seating patterns) and watching them eat breakfast.

I then had to leave them there and hurry back to the convention centre, pausing only to ram two packets of ready salted crisps down my gob on the way, in order to make my 2pm Call of Cthulhu game.

Which turned out to be at 3pm, all sessions having been pushed back by an hour due to everyone being trashed after the night before. (As an aside, I seem to recall that previous years had slots of 11-2 and 3-6, rather than this year's 10-1 and 2-5, and I have to say that the later slot pattern does seem more appropriate to an event like this).

But after wandering around for a while, and failing to get into a second game of Poker, I ended up at the D20 CoC table, which I was pleased to find was to be GMed once more by RPGActionFigure. (I know it's not the done thing to compliment your mates - at least it's apparently not the done thing for my mates to compliment me - but he is actually a very good GM).

Call of Cthulhu

Cthulhu d20 - Without a Trace

by Gary Labrecque

A wealthy Bostonian, Mr. Mathew Jennings, vanished while vacationing at the posh Greystone Inn in the heart of the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. In desperation, his elderly uncle turns to you to locate his missing nephew. Will you find him... or share his fate?

This was an RPGA module, and perhaps the most charitable thing I can say about it is that it was perhaps designed for a four-hour time slot and "tactical problem solving" players, rather than what it got: a three-hour slot and a bunch of guys trying to roleplay.

At the time, RPGActionFigure had some rather choice words about the scenario, but by the time he'd got to blogging it they'd matured into a rather more generous form:

Had four good players for the game but sadly the adventure could not be shoehorned into a 3 hour slot. No way. In fairness, the amount of stuff contained in it could be used for an extened campaign (as the other GM and myself agreed later). Even with some judicious railroading and cutting of large parts of the adventure, we only managed to get through under a third of it after three hours. I must stress this was not the fault of the con, as they were given the scenario by the RPGA as an official D20 convention game.

Full post.

But I had a really good time, and I felt the game ended on a good note, when my English aristocratic war veteran first tripped and accidentally fired his rifle after fumbling a move silently roll...

(I did point out to RPGActionFigure that D20 skill rolls aren't subject to critical failures on a roll of 1 - as has been pointed out to me on numerous occasions - but he was unmoved, even after my shout of, "I'm fucking writing about this, Craig!", stating that a) he didn't know the D20 system, and b) he didn't care, because this was funnier - which I did concede was true)

...and then in an attempt to slow down the resultant bunch of hilbilly farmers who'd swarmed out of their farm and were pursuing us back through the forest, successfully shot out the lantern they were using to light their way.

Top tip: In 1920's games, lanterns will typically be powered not by electricity, but by kerosene, with the result that shooting Billy-Bob's lantern is likely to turn Billy-Bob first into a human torch, and then into a corpse, with only a short, but action-packed interval between those two states.

By then we'd pretty much run out of time, and besides, it seemed like a good point to stop, so we did - and headed off to the Old Bar for the closing ceremony.

The Closing Ceremony

As with the auction, the closing ceremony is a much more chaotic and less formal occasion than its Gaelcon equivalent, but in this case it bothers me much less because it's not something I'm anything like as into. But it all went pretty quickly, and as the people heading home on Sunday evening headed off home, the rest of us settled down for a drink.

At one point I got into a conversation with a fan of a|state (he'd actually been one of the players in the a|state game the day before, but shameful session amnesiac that I am, I'd managed to forget that) which made me think that maybe I'd been pushing the "I'm with the a|state guys" theme a tad too heavily.

a|state Fan: So you're one of the a|state writers then?

Me: No.

a|state Fan: But don't you own some of it?

Me: No.

a|state Fan: But weren't you one of the playtesters?

Me: No.

a|state Fan: But the a|state guys live in your house, right?

Me: No.

A|State Fan: Oh. Right.

I did at that point explain precisely who I was relative to them - i.e. some bloke they know, who lets them crash at his place when they're attending London conventions - but I don't think he was particularly impressed. I did end up having a pretty good chat with him though, so I guess he didn't hold my lack of a|stateness against me too much.

I ended up speaking to quite a few people that evening, including a discussion on setting up a Diplomacy play-by-email game with Howard and a discussion with LostPerdita about a town in Pennsylvania called Jersey Shore (named after the region in New Jersey called the Jersey Shore - I guess this is from the same school of naming that bought us New South Wales) which is apparently known only for a particular incident, in which a guy unwisely shagged his dog in his garage with the door raised, and was then arrested after his outraged neighbours called the police.

(I tried doing a Google search for this anecdote, typing in a search query of +"jersey shore" +dog +sex +garage but all I got was results like: A CHRISTIAN GUIDE TO DOORS ... His in-laws had a small pet, a dog or a cat ... in my basement bedroom down at the Jersey Shore, I saw ... The debasement of the opposite sex through viewing images of ... - so I guess the truth or otherwise of this story will have to remain unproven).

The Bar

After the closing ceremony, we all went down to a bar somewhere in the centre, although to be honest it was so packed when we arrived it was difficult to see just who was there - and besides, I think most people decamped to a club after a little while.

I ended up watching the New England Patriots stuffing the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC title game with LostPerdita, something which was not only the cause of much distress (that's the stuffing, not me watching it) to her, but also to an American guy who happened to be sitting next to us, and who turned out to be, like her, from Pennsylvania, and thus a fellow Steelers fan.

I have to say that he was a very nice guy, and I hope that I wasn't too patronising when we were discussing his stay in Ireland (he's studying at UCC for a year as a post-grad student), and I said something along the lines of, "That will be really useful in the future if you're working in business and ever have to deal with non-Americans, because with the cultural knowledge you've picked up here you'll be able to interact with non-Americans without, well, pissing them off!").

It honestly wasn't meant to sound quite that bad. What I was trying to say was that because America is such a big country that it's inhabitants don't ever really need to go anywhere else, and because non-Americans consume a lot more American media (i.e. books, TV, films) than Americans consume non-American media, Americans are inevitably more insular and less knowledgeable of the outside world than non-Americans. And the less you know of someone's culture the easier it is to inadvertently offend them.

Basically, us non-Americans have a much easier time dealing with you guys than you guys have dealing with us, because we know so much more about you than you know about us.

For example, I know that what we Brits call a "bum bag", you guys call a "fanny pack". Equally, I know that if an American lady gets off a plane and tells me that she has a "numb fanny", her meaning is that her backside is numb from so much sitting, and not what the strictly literal British meaning of that statement would be - that she's had sex with so many men on the plane that she no longer has any sensations left in her vagina.

But I have to confess, that I did (later, the next day) feel a bit guilty about one particular conversation that I, and TimeForTea, had with this poor guy, on the subject of the popularity, or otherwise, of American Football in the non-American world.

Me: [Says something along the lines of American Football being popular in the United States only].

Guy: But people watch football all over the world!

Me: No. A few people will watch it, but the vast, vast majority of people won't even know it's on. Not even the Superbowl itself.

Guy: [Pointing at the pub's 2m square TV projector screen] But it's on the TV!

Me: Yeah, but do you see that little logo in the corner of the screen? The one that says Sky Sports X? It's not Sky Sports One, it's not even Sky Sports Two, it's Sky Sports Extra!

TimeForTea: [With some relish] Yes! This is the channel they show competition ice climbing on!

Guy: [Bit crestfallen] Oh.

(For American readers, that's a bit like the difference between a sporting event being shown at 8pm on NBC, and one being shown at 1am on ESPN3 - where they're just looking for anything they can pad out their schedules with).

Gregor Tries To Convince Me I'm Someone

We eventually got chucked out around two, after the pub turned the TV off mid-match - much to the disgust of the assorted Americans and drunkards who were watching - and turfed us out into the street, where we met up with the people who'd earlier defected to the club, and had been similarly evicted.

Now BoxNinja had been trying to convince me all weekend that I'm someone, a campaign that all stemmed from my earlier mentioning to him something that JonnysFriendIan had said to me, which was that I'm supposedly the "UK's leading roleplaying humour writer", a statement that I countered by pointing out that a) this was a ridiculously niche category, and that b) Jim Desborough (author of Munchkin's Guide To Power Gaming, Slayers Guide to Rules Lawyers, Slayers Guide to Female Gamers, Encyclopaedia Arcane: Nymphology and Macho Women with Guns) was perhaps a tad more famous than me.

So he devoted quite some effort to the task of asking people if they'd a) heard of "Jonny Nexus" and b) heard of "Jim Desborough" and initially, the results were looking good, if totally flawed from a statistical point of view.

But then he overreached himself by asking someone else, and got the following, rather classic response:

"Yeah, I have heard of you, and if I'd ever read anything you'd done I'd probably be really impressed right now."

Story of my life really.

Monday

"And I'd have got away with it if it wasn't for those pesky flight delays!"

My flight wasn't until 12:15, meaning that I didn't have to be at the airport until about 11, but I figured I might as well share the much earlier cab the guys were getting to catch their 10am Edinburgh flight, figuring that I could just get my laptop out and start writing out this con report.

But as it happens, I only had to spend about five minutes on my own, because their flight was delayed a couple of hours, which gave us a good opportunity for chatting.

Perhaps too much.

You see, one slightly unpleasant aspect of my personality is a tendency, when at conventions, to collar a random Scotsman and proceed to hold him personally accountable for every, single shitty thing that Gordon Brown has done to the London Underground and to the people of London, something that TimeForTea has been unfortunate enough to encounter twice. (Although our Warpcon 2003 discussion was very civilised, and we were able to agree that I'd been wrong to refer to Gordon Brown as "that bastard Scottish Chancellor" and should have referred to him instead as "that bastard Chancellor who happens to be Scottish").

So before I left for Cork this year I made a resolution that no more would I rant at random Scotsman on the subject of Gordon Brown and what he's done to London.

And I would have made it if it wasn't for that bloody flight delay!

I managed to keep going until about 11:30, and then something snapped and I went through the whole "they wouldn't even let us have bloody fireworks!" routine.

Oh well. Sorry guys.

Maybe next time.

That was pretty much that, except for bumping into Omentide and Hrafen, who'd I'd somehow manage to totally avoid meeting in the departure lounge, but who happened to be sitting just across from me on the plane, and spotting John Kovalic, who I'd also managed to avoid meeting, further up the plane:


John Kovalic stowing his luggage in the overhead bin. You'll have to trust me, he's in there somewhere.


John Kovalic sitting down after stowing his luggage in the overhead bin. You'll still have to trust me, he's still in there somewhere.

A few minutes later the CGS guys took off (at what looked like a rather alarmingly steep angle - I guess these little turboprops don't piss about)...


The CGS guys begin their retro, white-knuckle ride home.

...and apart from having a quick conversation with John Kovalic at the baggage carousel at Heathrow, that, pretty much, was that.

Conclusion

I once declared Gaelcon to be "Probably The Greatest Roleplaying Convention In the World" and so an obvious question would be how I rate Warpcon in comparison to its Dublin cousin.

But the reality is that they're different enough that any comparison would be meaningless. It's often said that while Gaelcon is a gaming convention with drinking, Warpcon is a drinking convention with gaming, and although that's a joke truism, it does neatly sum up the difference in both style and attitude between the conventions.

So my recommendation? Go to both.


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