This year's Mini-Con at the game store Endgame in Oakland was pretty good. I accidentally ended up in two Spirit of the Century games, didn't get into the Call of Cthulhu game I tried to sign up for, and instead played in a very CoC-esque horror game (i.e. pretty much everyone died in the throes of insanity). I also dropped some ducats on Pagan Publishing for one of their latest releases.
The Demon Run (Spirit of the Century) - A very humorous high-octane adventure of a whacky spaceship crew trying to win an interstellar race where the the winner gets bragging rights on a galactic reality show and the loser gets vaporized into debris (by a mandated time of the slowest ship being detonated remotely every half-hour). This one was played entirely for laughs, which I got into the spirit of by running my mad scientist as Walter from Fringe. We didn't use a lot of Spirit of the Century rules, but that was pretty much beside the point as everyone at the table was an experienced SotC player and we were all really just trying to make each other laugh, to which we succeeded admirably.
City in the Skull (Spirit of the Century) - I didn't plan to sign up for this game, as it was another SotC game run by the same GM. These Mini-Cons are often the best (and sometimes the only places in the Bay Area) to try out uncommon games, so I like to keep my schedule varied; and, I didn't want the GM to get the idea I was stalking him. Yet the Endgame staff inadvertently signed me up for both, and I was glad as this was a blast. The scenario used the standard pulp-era setting, and I played an Iraqi driver/pilot/assistant to an archaeologist who'd unearthed a crystal-containing skull that ended up as a portal to the Plateau of Leng. I got to crash-land a seaplane, machine-gun a pterodactyl, and listen as my Iraqi accent quickly degenerated from an understated Sayid to a campy Apu. Although it was a great deal of fun, I kinda feel bad as I went into the game intending to play my character straight and not get all outrageous. Ever since I listened to the first episode of the gaming podcast Narrative Control and found out that a GM felt I nearly ruined his Wilderness of Mirrors game because I played my role too campy, I've been trying to see if I could tone myself down when it calls for it, and have yet been unable to do so. Do I have fun going a little off the reservation and injecting humor into my characterizations? Yes. Does everyone else at the table have fun when I do that? They seem to, and I often get compliments on it. But unfortunately, I can't shake the nagging feeling that I'm spoiling other's fun.
The House on Raven Hill (Basic Role-Playing) - I failed to make it past the waitlist for a Call of Cthulhu game, and was heading for home when I ran into my regular gaming bud Matt Steele and was informed that I had indeed not played in the game he was running that evening. So I took part in that, a B-movie grindhouse horror game of teens and young adults with dark secrets trying to spend the weekend at a creepy house in the Arizonan desert, with the last one surviving to end up with the keys to the manse. It started slowly and I was worried that we wouldn't reach an ending before the store closed, but things kicked into high gear in the last hour and then satisfyingly went off the rails as doors started eating some while pictures abducted others. Good times, and it was nice to finally see the full-bore version of the new BRP system in action, with all the bells-&-whistles the collected rulebook adds to the venerable guts of CoC.
Loot - I picked up Final Flight by Pagan Publishing in the hopes that it would provide some useful rules and inspiration for my upcoming DunDraCon game, which will also involve a pre-WWII era passenger plane and cthulhoid horrors: not so much with the rules, but it did give me some ideas for my game. It's ten dollars for all of 28 pages, which leaves little meat on what seems a pretty barebones scenario. Nevertheless, the scenario, although straightforward, looks solid, and I ended spending more that day on some teeny-tiny excuse of a crab salad at a froo-froo restaurant near the store. I also skimmed through Pagan's new Mysteries of Mesoamerica, which looks really REALLY good. Its respectable pagecount is split in half between real-world data on Mexican and Central American religions, archaeological exploration, and Call of Cthulhu linkage, and the other half consisting of three short but well-detailed scenarios. That and the copious amount of Blair Reynolds' gorgeous and evocative art made it very difficult to not simply buy it there and then, but I figure I can wait till DunDraCon as that's only three weeks away.
All in all, it was a very fun con, and I was glad to hear that Endgame plans to do four of these a year now. I was rather surprised at the almost complete lack of Good Omens people, who normally populate the Mini-Cons but this time, besides a few, I didn't really see them in attendance as GM's or players. Still, there were enough good games and plenty of solid players, and, the truth is that, on a consistent basis, this was probably the best group of players I've gamed with at a con in quite awhile.