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Metatopia Rising

As I do every year they'll have me, I shall this year once more adorn the greatest game design conference/protospiel/empanada marketing scheme known to mankind, the glorious Metatopia convention in idyllic Morristown, New Jersey. This year's show occurs November 8-10, so if you're in the tri-state area and interested in game design, playtesting, delicious fillings in fried dough, or hearing ME, you too should head on up and do some or all of those things. And to my beloved if slothful interlocutors, YES these panels will all be recorded and eventually put up on the Web somewhere unless something gets screwed up as it in fact did with my panel on the numinous a few years ago. So maybe think about coming out anyway.

FRIDAY NOVEMBER 8

12 Noon - 1:00PM "How To Pitch Your Game" presented by Darren Watts, Kenneth Hite, Geoffrey Engelstein. You made a game! Congratulations! Now explain your incredible game in one sentence. That isn't as easy as it sounds. You want people to buy into your game as players, as investors, or as retailers. You will only have one chance to make that first impression. It needs to have impact. If you want to see your game successful on a crowdfunding site, or sold by your local game store, then you need to know what kind of pitch types and styles to maximize both what you say and target the right audience.

9:00PM - 10:00PM "Creating Mysteries in RPGs" presented by Kenneth Hite, Darren Watts. Mysteries are among the hardest genres to run successfully in tabletop games. How can designers structure stories to meaningfully involve players, guide them to clues and help them put them together to solve a crime without spoonfeeding them? How can GMs control pacing to duplicate the feel of classic whodunits?

SATURDAY NOVEMBER 9

3:00PM - 4:00PM "Integrating World Building Into Traditional RPGs" presented by Ryan O'Grady, Kenneth Hite, Brennan Taylor. There's something satisfying about taking ownership of a piece of the world as a player and watching it flourish (or not). There have been various approaches to this over the years (Ars Magica, Microscope, The Quiet Year, even D&D!) Let's discuss what player involvement of world building really means and different approaches for incorporating it into traditional RPGs.

6:00PM - 7:00PM "The Three-Ring Setting: Scope in Game Design" presented by Kenneth Hite. A METATOPIA tradition - Kenneth Hite rambling about game design. In this case the notion of scope: How big should your setting be? How can you design a setting to contain multiple core game activities, and should you? As always, Ken has notions and questions, and hopes you have more of both as we explore Bigness (and un-Bigness) in games.

SUNDAY NOVEMBER 10

12 Noon - 1:00PM "Procedural Play In RPGs" presented by Darren Watts, Kenneth Hite, Clark Valentine. RPGs that have heavily procedural elements about them: part of the game that represents some part of the fiction that is resolved in a very procedural, step-by-step manner. Mini-games or games-within-games might qualify. Examples include things like Blades In The Dark and elements of Burning Wheel. Tachyon Squadron's space fighter combat system might count also. What sorts of fictional elements lend themselves to this? What makes for a good, fun, engaging procedure that doesn't feel contrived or tacked on?
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About Last CIFF

So this year's Chicago International Film Festival lived roughly sidelong to expectations, which is to say the films I saw were slightly above Good on average, and once more there was but one (1) South Korean film which had there been more obviously would have turbocharged that average Goodness a good bit.

Also this year, my boon companion his_regard scaled back for job-interview sorts of reasons so despite much stepping up by young boon c.s Colin, Darcy, and Isaac I managed to only see seventeen films this round. (I strongly suspect that either the Chilean political thriller Spider or the Iranian policier Just 6.5 might have goosed that Goodness number a bit; I shall have to keep an eye out.) Speaking of the films I saw, then, I speak of them below. I could make a case for either Bring Me Home or Buoyancy as Pinnacles, but in the moment neither quite had the vertiginous seventh sense of perfection that I look for so avidly.

RECOMMENDED

Bring Me Home (South Korea, Kim Seung-woo) Nurse and mother Jung Yae-on (Lee Young-ae) searches for her son, who went missing six years ago, following a lead to a fishing station and its corrupt cop enforcer Sgt. Hong (Yoo Jae-myung). Korean films do not generally soften their blows, and this genuinely harrowing psychological thriller is no exception. Even the inevitable violent climax avoids Western-style catharsis, becoming yet more chaotic horror leaving unease behind. Just another powerful triumph from by far the best national film culture on the planet.

Buoyancy (Australia, Rodd Rathjen) Impoverished teen Chakra (Sam Heng) leaves his Cambodian village for work in Thailand but gets enslaved on a fishing boat. Gripping drama of character and situation fully digs into both, becoming a modern-day Jack London story complete with the sea, exploitation, and brutal violence. Sam Petty’s sound design exacerbates and completes the experience.

Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway (Spain/Estonia/Ethiopia/Latvia/Romania, Miguel Llanso) CIA agents DT Gargano (Daniel Tadesse) and Palmer Eldritch (Augustin Mateo) must enter the Psychobook cyberspace to defeat the Soviet virus “Stalin” (and the Beta-Ethiopian dictator Batfro, who yes dresses as Batman) in this gonzo mashup of spy-fi, martial arts, cyberpunk, lucha, and every other genre with “-sploitation” added to it. Shot in three different formats plus stop-motion, Llanso’s inspired PKD-WSB bricolage somehow hangs together around its many many curves and triumphs, backed by a killer free-jazz soundtrack by Bill Dixon.

Once Upon A River (US, Haroula Rose) In 1978 Michigan, teenage Annie Oakley-wannabe Margo Crane (Kenadi DelaCerna) heads up the Stark River to find her mother. Rose (and her cinematographer Charlotte Hornsby) pulls off a tour de force of tone, balancing and adjusting natural beauty with good and evil, growth and fear. DelaCerna commands the screen in every scene despite barely having any dialogue; John Aston makes a superb foil as a dying misanthrope.

Varda by Agnés (France, Agnés Varda) The beloved filmmaker assembled this documentary montage of her lectures on (and excerpts of) her own work just before her death this March, and the portion of it that unpacks her cinematic creation does so with the genius and generosity that became her trademarks. Most of the last half of the film deals with her post-2000 career as a digital installation artist, a less interesting and more remote body of work that leaves you wanting more of the first half.

Mr. Jones (Poland/UK/Ukraine, Agnieszka Holland) Curious about the Soviet economy,  Welsh journalist Gareth Jones (James Norton) follows a lead to Ukraine where he witnesses Stalin’s terror-famine. After a long takeoff, the movie gets to the USSR and becomes a wild blend of Carol Reed and David Lean, going from the vile decadence surrounding the New York Times’ Walter Duranty (Peter Sarsgaard, beautifully odious) into the white nightmare around Stalino.

Vast of Night (US, Andrew Patterson) While everyone in Cayuga, New Mexico one night in 1959 attends the high school basketball game, late night DJ Everett (Jake Horowitz) and precocious switchboard girl Fay (Sierra McCormick) discover a strange -- dare I say suppressed -- transmission. The word “bravura” could have been coined to describe this film, and so much (including the small-town dynamic) works so well that I feel like a churl kvetching about a slight misstep in the ending.

Carmilla (UK, Emily Harris) Isolated in rural Sussex, young Lara (Hanna Rae) welcomes the presence of the mysterious Carmilla (Devrim Lingnau) although her upright governess Miss Fontaine (Jessica Raine) has her doubts. Harris soft-pedals the supernatural elements of LeFanu’s source novel almost into invisibility, playing up Lara’s naive excitement and love for the new girl. Although the script wavers between murk and didacticism, the strong acting and Michael Wood’s eager camera work (much of it in candle-lit night interiors) keep it on the Recommended side of the bubble.

GOOD

The Whistlers (Romania/France/Germany, Corneliu Porumboiu) Femme fatale Gilda (Catrinel Marlon) inveigles corrupt Bucharest cop Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) into learning the whistling language of the Canary Islanders to break her partner out of jail, and no it doesn’t make a lot more sense than that after you’ve watched it either. Porumboiu’s deadpan style blends unevenly with the crime thriller genre, and Cristi (and the viewer) only learn he’s not the protagonist far too late in the proceedings. But it still racks up plenty of great sequences on the way to not at all being Charley Varrick with whistling.

Knives and Skin (US, Jennifer Reeder) After teenage Carolyn Harper (Raven Whitley) disappears in Big River, Illinois, her mother and schoolmates remain haunted. Very ambitious blend of David Lynch and Richard Linklater ultimately drowns in a too-large cast of characters, most written in the same voice; intriguing story notes appear only to vanish like Carolyn. But the luminous color-high cinematography by Christopher Rejano, Badalamenti-esque score by Nick Zinner, and compellingly sharp edits by Mike Olenik enhance your experience throughout.

Miyamoto (Japan, Tetsuya Mariko) Young schlemiel with anger issues Miyamoto (Sosuke Ikematsu) hits the rapids in his relationship with Yasuko (Yu Aoi) as we follow two halves of their story to inevitable confrontation. Ambitious plotting and roller-coaster emotion (and a viscerally unsettling fight scene) almost distract from what a drip the main character is throughout, but help drive the endings to almost inevitable anticlimax.

OKAY

Paradise Next (Japan, Yoshihiro Hanno) Two gangsters -- taciturn, cool Shima (Etsushi Toyokawa) and smirking punk Makino (Satoshi Tsumabuki) -- hide out in rural Taiwan with bartender Xiao En (Nikki Hsieh), who eerily resembles a dead girl linked to both. Look, I’m as fond of beautiful yet oblique emotional collage as the next Taiwanese director, but you’ve got to give me something we can agree is a plot before you’re getting out of Okay.

La Llorona (Guatemala/France, Jayro Bustamante) Mobs of protesters besiege the house of elderly, genocidal general Enrique (Julio Diaz), while the vengeful spirit La Llorona (Maria Mercedes Coroy) infiltrates it. Regardless of its virtues as indictment of Guatemala’s actual past genocidaires, it fails as a horror film because the contemptible General never has the remotest audience sympathy and La Llorona (a beautifully creepy portrayal by director and actor wasted) never really threatens anyone else. Promising threads about the General’s Alzheimer’s and elderly weakness drop unused.

The Great Green Wall (UK, Jared P. Scott) Documentary follows Malian singer-songwriter Inna Modja across the Sahel collaborating with local musicians on an album to raise awareness and funds for the titular wall, a planned reforestation belt from Senegal to Djibouti. It provides a 101-level overview of the area's various interlocked crises from an unabashedly activist point of view; those seeking a close or hard look at the challenges and promises of reforestation (or full versions of the songs) should look elsewhere.

8: A South African Horror Story (South Africa, Harold Hölscher) When Lazarus (Tshamano Sebe) shows up at the farm inherited by hapless white folks, he fixes their generator and befriends their daughter Mary (Keita Luna) so of course he’s got a demon in a bag. “Single Black Handyman” doesn’t deliver much but rote plot ratchets and gratuitous misogyny on the way to a wildly colorful but nugatory ending. Bump it up to Good if the African lore and setting really move you.

The Moneychanger (Uruguay/Argentina, Federico Vieroj) Somewhat ambitious and totally venal, Humberto Brause (Daniel Hendler) oozes to the top of 1970s Uruguay’s money laundering and offshoring business. Somewhat ambition isn’t enough to drive this lackluster film, though, despite a game cast and a suitably grainy color palette. Like its main character it gets partway somewhere but doesn’t have nearly enough fun along the way.

The Hypnotist (Finland, Arthur Franck) Olavi Hakasalo reinvents himself as Olliver Hawk, Finland’s missionary hypnotist -- but what of his relationship with longtime Finnish President Kekkonen? What of it indeed? In this mix of recreation and archive, of self-aggrandizement and shrugging guesswork, somewhere there could be a gripping documentary about the relationship between politics and hypnosis and showmanship. Not here, though, in what my friend Emily describes as “the world’s most conspiratorial ASMR video.”
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The WhisPDX in the Darkness: My HPL Film Festival Schedule

Once more the Veil parts, granting me a glimpse into the Hideous Future, and once more I share a portion of that vision with you, to wit, that portion involving the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in scenic, cloud-shrouded Portland Oregon this weekend.

Once more, I predict someone asking about streaming or recording or whatever, and once more I respond with the cryptic Yithian expression "I dunno, lenses and mirrors I guess. Rods, maybe?"

THURSDAY OCT 3

7:00-10:00 p.m.
Guest and VIP Reception

I know nothing about this, except that it's usually a grand time and that the theme this year, I am told, is "Occult 60s" so that should be a thing. [Lola's Room (part of the Crystal Ballroom downtown)]

FRIDAY OCT 4

4:00-6:00 p.m.
Meet & Greet With Filmmakers and Guests

Come mingle with visiting filmmakers and guests before the festival begins! Grab a refreshing drink, so food, and get acquainted with your fellow Lovecraft enthusiasts! [Sam's Billiards]

7:00-8:00 p.m.
Terror and Terroir: The Geography of Horror

Lovecraft famously incorporated real places, and the real feelings and geography of imaginary places, into his fiction. How does location strengthen horror, in Lovecraft and in others, and how can geographical realism help feed horrific imagination? Kenneth Hite (moderator), D.B. Spitzer, Robert Lloyd Parry, Sean Branney, Adam Scott Glancy [EOD Center Main]

SATURDAY OCT 5

10:00 a.m.-Noon
Carb-Load for Cthulhu: Group Author Signing

Your favorite Mythos authors gathered in one place! This is an excellent opportunity to buy books, get them signed, and meet the people who wrote them! Free doughnuts, coffee, and bagels (while supplies last). [EOD Center Main]

1:45-2:45 p.m.
M.R. James and H.P. Lovecraft

Lovecraft cites James as a great weird writer in several of his letters. What relationship does this master of the ghostly tale have to Lovecraft's brand of cosmic horror and the Weird? Andrew Migliore (moderator), Scott Connors, Kenneth Hite, Robert Lloyd Parry, Richard Stanley [EOD Center Main] (I'm not listed on the main schedule for this so perhaps I shall only appear as a ... g-g-g-ghost)

8:30-9:30 p.m.
Deep Time in Fiction

Humanity doesn’t seem to understand the true horror of time and what it holds. Panelists talk about time as horror in different media. D.B. Spitzer (moderator), Sean Branney, Amanda Downum, Adam Scott Glancy, Kenneth Hite [EOD Center Classroom]
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A Dance of DragonCon

From beautiful Providence to sultry Atlanta, I whisk from convention to convention, a migrant lanyard-bearing luminary and look that up in your Audubon why don't you.

So here, then, as is my tradition, is my DragonCon schedule for the delectation of all who plan to be there (Atlanta) then (Labor Day weekend). As is also my tradition, I maintain a blithe ignorance on the eventual recording, streaming, or carving into butter of the proceedings.

FRIDAY, AUG 30

2:30-3:30pm: GenreTainment: Are There Any Good Endings?
Location: Galleria 7 - Hilton
Description: This year alone, Game of Thrones ended, Endgame closed an era, & the long-lived TV series Supernatural will soon have its last season. Lost, Battlestar Galactica, & so many other series had controversial endings. Join a live episode of GenreTainment as we discuss the best & worse endings.
Panelists: Marx Pyle(M), Jeff Burns, Kenneth Hite

7:00-8:00pm: The Horror! Scaring the Crap Out of Ourselves in Gaming
Location: Augusta 1-2 - Westin
Description: A Year of the Bard panel! We talk about horror gaming & specific techniques when it comes to scaring ourselves. We talk about horror methods, building suspense, how far to go with gore or jump scares, & those things that give us nightmares in the dark.
Panelists: Eloy Lasanta, Kenneth Hite

SATURDAY, AUG 31

10:00-11:00am: The Most Dastardly Villains of All Time!
Location: Augusta 1-2 - Westin
Description: A Year of the Bard-themed panel! We will discuss crafting memorable & exquisite villains for your campaigns. Are villains truly evil or just misunderstood? We also talk about role-playing as the villain.
Panelists: Jason Bulmahn, Keith Baker, Kenneth Hite

4:00-5:00pm: Game Mastery Tips & Tricks
Location: Augusta 1-2 - Westin
Description: Learn about advanced techniques on creating campaigns, whipping up characters on the fly, or speeding up combat. We talk about the basics--getting started as a game master as well as more advanced techniques. This panel is for both beginning & veteran game masters!
Panelists: Kenneth Hite, Devon M Chulick

8:30-11:00pm: Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror
Location: Peachtree 1-2 - Westin
Description: Join us for an evening of vampiric terror! We examine F.W. Murnau’s silent classic Nosferatu in a round-table discussion before screening the film with a live score by Valentine Wolfe!
Panelists: Kenneth Hite, Valentine Wolfe, Dacre Calder Stoker, Bill Mulligan, Thomas Mariani(M)
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Getting it in the NecronomiCon

Rushing toward us like a foetid wind from a Tartarean abyss, except nicer, comes NecronomiCon Providence 2019, at which I have the honour (as the Old Gent would say) to be a Guest of Honour! And here, then, you can find my schedule, should you dare to gaze upon it.

Shane Ivey and I may also mount a guerrilla Robert W. Chambers/KING IN YELLOW panel at an as-yet-undetermined time and place, given that the con in its wisdom decided to not have an official Chambers panel.

Yadda yadda streaming audient void yadda yadda. Or rather, Iä-dda! Iä-dda!

Friday, August 23

4:30-5:45pm: GUESTS OF HONOR [Biltmore Ballroom, Graduate 17th Floor]
Please join us as we introduce and celebrate the Guests of Honor for NecronomiCon Providence 2019, followed by a discussion with the audience.
Panelists: Peter Cannon, Kenneth Hite, Victor LaValle, Sonya Taaffe, Molly Tanzer, Dempow Torishima, Paul Tremblay, s.j. bagley (M)

Saturday, August 24

12:00-1:15pm: The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast LIVE! [Capital Ballroom, Graduate Hotel 2nd Floor]
We are going to cover one of the CM Eddy collaborations. Which one? You'll have to wait and see!

3:00-4:15pm: LOVECRAFT AND THE GOTHIC TRADITION IN LITERATURE [Capital Ballroom, Graduate 2nd Floor]
The Gothic literary tradition is expansive and was undoubtedly influential in Lovecraft's writing. However, his status as a gothic writer is debatable, given the ways in which he refined and rejected various aspects of the gothic in creating his own style. Our panelists examine his body of work in relationship to the genre, with particular emphasis on his more explicitly gothic tales and Lovecraft's own ideas on the subject.
Panelists: Ash Darrow, Kenneth Hite, Steven Mariconda (M), Marlene Miss B. Havin', Sean Moreland

8:30 to 10:00pm: The H. P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast 10TH ANNIVERSARY PARTY [L'Apogee, Graduate Hotel 17th Floor]
Join Chad Fifer and Chris Lackey as they celebrate ten remarkable years of raising the bar for Lovecraftian and weird fiction podcasting, and generating thousands of fans from around the world. The lads will be joined by Ken Hite and Andrew Leman, and other friends and guests from over the years. Open to all attendees and guests!

Sunday August 25

9:00-10:15am: THE TASTE OF ASHES: DELTA GREEN [Washington-Newport Room, Omni 3rd Floor]
Elite government operatives fight a desperate covert war against Mythos threats and government conspiracies across the globe in this classic RPG. Panelists, including some of the founders and prominent DG authors, discuss the development, mythology, and history of the setting, as well as aspects of running a successful campaign.
Panelists: A. Scott Glancy (M), Daniel Harms, Kenneth Hite, Shane Ivey

1:30-2:45pm: HOW TO GAME THE WEIRD [Capital Ballroom, Graduate 2nd Floor]
Lovecraft's creations featured in early iterations of role-playing games, and since the emergence of Call of Cthulhu and its spinoffs, RPGs have increasingly explored -- or exploited -- cosmic horror in a Lovecraftian universe. Our experts discuss in ins and outs of designing and running a weird horror scenario. How does one create and maintain suspense when players know the Mythos and the tropes? How do different games systems either lend themselves to, or undermine, an atmosphere of horror?
Panelists: Fiona Maeve Geist, Dan Harms (M), Kenneth Hite, Shane Ivey, Badger McInnes, Sandy Petersen
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GenCon, Or, Slouching Toward Indianapolis

I may actually have run out of decent titles for these posts! We'll see next year, I guess. Anyhow, as I suspect you've already guessed, I'll be at GenCon again next weekend (Jul 31-Aug 4)! Actually, I'll be there next week, straight up, plus the next Monday for flinchin', but thank goodness you don't have to stalk my doings for more than four of those days. And what doings are those, you might ask? These doings here! And yes, I believe they will almost ALL be recorded by someone, probably Robin. Or Shane. Or the ENnies People.

If none of these doings pique your palate, know that I shall be decorating the Pelgrane Press stand, #1417 in the exhibit hall, during show hours, and decorating Indianapolis' finest drinking establishments during best-of-show hours.

WEDNESDAY JUL 31

9:00pm - ???: Diana Jones Awards Party
In which gaming luminaries seem, by some witchery, very much like ordinary drunks! [Undisclosed location]

THURSDAY AUG 1

4:00pm-5:00pm: Gaming With the King in Yellow

Robin D. Laws, Sarah Saltiel, & John Harness bring the reality-bending horror of Robert W Chambers to your table. Our mavens of terror are here to tear off their pallid masks and reveal the shattering secrets of the Hyades! (I'm not technically on the panel, but I might show up as a ringer while I still know more about Robert W. Chambers than anyone else.) [Stadium : Meeting Room 8]

FRIDAY AUG 2

1:00pm-2:00pm: Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff LIVE

Robin D. Laws & Kenneth Hite talk roleplaying, history, conspiracy, occultism, writing, food, movies & whatever you ask them about in this live edition of their award-winning podcast. (This event is technically sold out, but hey maybe there are scalpers or standing room only or people who oversleep.) [Stadium : Meeting Room 8]

5:00pm-6:00pm: Investigative Roleplaying Master Class
Mystery scenario masters Kenneth Hite and Robin D. Laws train their magnifying glasses on clue-gathering adventures to reveal the unlikely suspects behind your tabletop woes. [Westin : Grand Ballroom IV]

6:00pm-8:00pm: ENie Awards Cocktail Reception
In which gaming luminaries seem, by some witchery, very much like ordinary drunks! (I'll likely get there later than 6, but go ahead and start without me. I'll catch up.) [Union Station : Grand Hall]

8:00pm-11:00?pm: ENnie Awards!
"You know, Monte really deserved it this year. What a product. What a guy." [Union Station : Grand Hall]

SATURDAY AUG 3

2:00pm-3:00pm: Swords, Spies, & Shoggoths: The Pelgrane Press Panel

Join Simon Rogers, Cat Tobin & others from the Pelgrane team for a behind-the-scenes look at what the award-winning UK publisher’s been up to this year, & what they’ve planned for the coming year. [Crowne Plaza : Pennsylvania Station A]

8:00pm-9:00pm: Delta Green: Operations & A-Cell
The authors of Delta Green: The RPG talk upcoming projects, design decisions, gameplay tips, tradecraft, & war stories. Bring your DG questions. [Crowne Plaza : Pennsylvania Station A]
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In Memoriam

Robert Munroe (Ensign, Lexington militia, KIA 19 April 1775, Lexington Green)
Christopher A. Slutman (SSGT, 25th Regt, 4th Div, USMC Reserve, KIA 8 Apr 2019, Bagram, Afghanistan)

And all 559,234 in between.
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ChupacabraCon Carne

Once more I return to Austin just as the weather turns not-quite-ridiculous in Texas for the summery joy that is ChupacabraCon, and once more I must chatter for my chimichangas. Behold my panel schedule and be amazed! Good seats still available, guacamole is extra, no I don't know if anyone will ever ever stream any of this assembled wisdom or if it shall be lost like tears in the queso. Come on down and find out!

FRIDAY MAY 3

7:00-7:50 p.m.: Terror at the Table: techniques for evoking horror
Ed Wetterman, Jared Twing, Kenneth Hite, Mark Carroll, Shane Ivey

Join the creators of Delta Green, The Unspeakable Oath, and decades of award-winning Call of Cthulhu scenarios and sourcebooks to talk techniques for evoking horror in an RPG and ways to maintain the mood. [Guadalupe]

SATURDAY MAY 4

9:00-9:50 a.m.: Saturday Morning Cthulhu and Donuts
Darren Watts, Jared Twing, Kenneth Hite, Mark Carroll, Shane Ivey

Have a donut with Ken Hite and other Saturday morning cartoon personalities, and discuss Cthulhu and the creamy richness of donuts and coffee. A recurring nightmare, er... event. [Guadalupe]

3:00-3:50 p.m.: Alternate History in Gaming
Darren Watts, Ed Wetterman, Jess Nevins, Kenneth Hite, Russell Zimmerman

Game writers Kenneth Hite, Jess Nevins and Darren Watts get together for what will most certainly be a free-wheeling and wide-ranging discussion of the hows and whys of building alternative histories into your game setting. [Guadalupe]

I may also crash the Project ARC DREAM seminar with the Arc Dream gang on it at 8 p.m. on Saturday just because I love them so very much.
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The Real Top Ten List is Classified

Apropos of nothing, here is former CIA Director William Colby's 1981 list of the Ten Greatest Spies of All Time (meaning "Ten Greatest Intelligence Professionals and Also Some Spies of the Twentieth Century"):


William Donovan (founder of the OSS)
Reginald V. Jones (British Air Ministry Intelligence, father of scientific-technical intelligence)
William F Friedman (US SIS and NSA, broke the PURPLE code)*
Richard Sorge (GRU spymaster in Tokyo)
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (NKVD spies)**
Kim Philby (NKVD/KGB mole in MI-5)
Oleg Penkovsky (MI-5 source in GRU)
Kelly Johnson (Lockheed aeronautical engineer, designed the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes)
Arthur Lundahl (CIA IMINT expert, found missiles in Cuba)
Edward G. Lansdale (CIA psywar specialist)

Of the four actual spies on that list, all were detected and three were executed, which argues that Colby's idea of great spying does not include, you know, staying hidden, which explains so much about the CIA now that I write it out like that.

* It seems to be an open question how much Friedman worked with his wife Elizabeth, but it's fairly certain that her role has been under-represented in most histories
** See above footnote, except that Ethel's role has likely been over-represented, not least by the FBI
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If Twere Dundracon Twere Well Twere Dundracon Quickly

You can tell I've been going to DunDraCon a lot from the increasingly strained headlines on these posts. And why not? This legendary festival of tabletop RPGs and adequate sunlight in the President's Daily embrace of San Ramon, California provides me ample platform for my manias, expressed as always in the form of three panels, to wit:

Saturday, February 16

01:30-3:00 PM: City Building
Michael Blum, Kenneth Hite, Doc Cross
The long-running seminar about the nuts and bolts of creating and using cities in RPGs. This year we'll discuss how uninhabited cities change and decay.

6:00-7:30 PM: Alternate Histories
Kenneth Hite, Dana Lombardy
The very popular War College panel discussion continues! Authors and game designers Dana Lombardy and Ken Hite examine possible alternate histories and what their impact might have been. Audience participation is encouraged. FREE HAND OUT: an updated guide to sources for alternate histories will be provided to attendees.

Sunday, February 17

10:00-11:00 AM: What's Cool
Bruce Harlick, Kenneth Hite
Two icons of the gaming industry present their unique viewpoints on the best in current game products, straight from the dealer room.

This year, even the War College panels are in the Tri-Valley 2 Room, so BE THERRRRRRE