For my blog on Gen Con 2014, including a brief overview of the history of the convention, you can go here.
61,423 people, including me, went to Indianapolis this year for Gen Con! This was the sixth year in a row the convention set a new attendance record. I didn’t notice the crowds being any worse than last year and thought they were better, though I suspect that by your third Gen Con you’re both familiar with the geography and inoculated against the overwhelming nature of the occasion. I went without M who had to work this year, an epic disappointment. Since Gen Con is an experience best shared and I need an audience I cajoled several from my gaming group to make their first pilgrimage to the convention. I also connected up with a few people I knew who regularly went as well. The end result was I tried some events I might not have tried otherwise and had my best Gen Con to date, this is not to say there weren’t some hiccups but overall it went spectacularly.
I managed to hit 12 events this year and enjoyed them all. What follows is perhaps excessive detail about these events:
NSDM: Contemporary FastPlay Game
I decided to sign up for an event Wednesday for the first time. This was a good idea you’re gaming soon after arriving in Indianapolis. I selected that evening’s National Security Decision Making’s Contemporary FastPlay Game where the players play the leaders of various governments. I wrangled a few friends to sign up as well. The evening’s scenario involved nearly 80 players with four nations at play: China, Japan, South Korea, and the United States. I was randomly assigned…President of the United States (Progressives), thus I began Gen Con as POTUS and my characters just went downhill from there over the next four days. I nicely managed being President, mainly by facilitating my cabinet, focusing on good governance, and constraining the crazy. I was reelected by the US players in a landslide so apparently I was doing something right, despite my FBI Director directly disobeying orders and torturing a US citizen, Congress attempting to impeach me (never figured out why), my NSA Director trying to usurp control of the US military, and my Vice President plotting with China to assassinate me. Believe it or not this was far less crazy than what I experienced in my first NSDM session in 2014 and less crazy than the stuff the Chinese players was doing across the room.
You have to like politics and strategic thinking while being able to tolerate a high level of stupid to enjoy these games. The stupid comes from your fellow players. The people running the games know what they’re doing and have a pretty good setup, especially for the middle part of the game. I might quibble with some of their calls but they’re in the ballpark of reasonable. The problem is the players.
This is a demanding game. Few people have the depth of knowledge to truly grasp all the elements at play, which means most of the players are struggling in some fashion. This was why I was reelected as President as I focused on helping the US players develop agendas and explain how they would go about accomplishing that. I’d like to believe this helped people. It provided them with structure and in many cases created situations more reflective of reality. For a lot of players this is what they wanted to do, experience the scenario as realistically as their skills and the setup could permit. On the other hand, you have players who just do crazy stuff trying to ‘win’ the scenario as though it was Game of Thrones. You end up with two games: one is a group of players trying to realistically run the scenario and another group who watch too much television. The juxtaposition of these two games can create tensions and frustrations that have less to do with the scenario than with conflicting play-styles.
One thing the people running the NSDM do that I think hurts more than helps is the GMs selecting ‘winners’ for the scenario at the end. For example, in this case they selected two US players as ‘winners’ and one of them was a good choice while the other was clearly not. The problem is that the GMs see very little of what is happening within the game and often misconstrue how things played out. Players can also game the opinions of the GMs by how they approach the game. Declaring a few players ‘winners’ implies that the rest weren’t ‘winners’. This is a great example of a problem many events have and that’s how to end on a high note that leaves everyone, or as many players as possible, feeling good about the experience.
That said despite my problems with some elements of the game, I really enjoy them and will certainly do one next year. If you like politics and can tolerate stupid then these are fun events that can produce some entertaining moments and experiences.
Games on Demand
I adore Games on Demand, you get to play indie RPGs and get exposed to great GMs who love running these games. The setup this year was as follows: you arrive up to 30 minutes before to get a boarding pass with a letter. When the time comes to start they randomly draw numbers and if your number is called you get to go up and sign up for one of the games being offered on the table. The only problem with this setup is if you really, really want to play a specific game and your letter isn’t called early you might not get what you want. This is why you need to go to Games on Demand with an open mind and a willingness to play anything. Try something unexpected and you might surprise yourself! All you need is generic tickets and I did four sessions of Games on Demand over Friday and Saturday.
I did two LARPs: Unheroes and First Impressions, both of which were resolved with a little time for setup and an hour of game play. They were amazingly quick in that regard.
Unheroes begins with you playing people from the real word but as the session plays out you start to remember your previous life as a superhero before reality was altered and have to decide whether you stay in the real world without powers or return to your previous reality to right what went wrong. We had a good group that embraced the scenario, an excellent GM who kept things on track and entertaining while roleplaying one of the characters, and combined it went very well. It was surprisingly compelling and there was good roleplaying from all corners. It was definitely a LARP I intend to run with my group sometime the coming year.
First Impressions is D&D speed-dating where you quickly interview the other players to assemble a party. This LARP went really quick, perhaps a little too quick, but the GM managed it well and stood back to let us do our thing, a mark of a good GM. I was a Gnome Wizard whose special talent was knowing the day of the week people were born on, which apparently impressed a lot of people as something one needed for a successful adventuring company. It was humorous and a lot of fun, this is one I could also see running for my group as an ice-breaker at the start of an event.
I did two tabletop sessions: Shadow Carnival and The Sprawl, which were quite different.
Shadow Carnival was a game based on German existential horror from 1920s silent movies…honestly, you read that and it might be turnoff but the session was a lot of fun. It did help that I had seen a few of the movies invoked but everyone at the table threw everything into the session and that made it really work. This is something I have noticed with Games on Demand sessions, at least the ones I’ve been in is that the players really dive into the roleplaying.
This was true of The Sprawl a cyberpunk RPG under development through a Kickstarter with the designer running the game. It was simpler than Shadowrun, has a very collaborative scenario setup, and a similar vibe to Always/Never/Now. This was an amazingly complicated session that went very quickly and smoothly. The GM ran us through the rules, modifying our characters, setting up the mission, and running us through the mission in 2 hours. That’s impressive. Time management is an art form and so far all the Games on Demand sessions I’ve been part of had GMs who were very good at it.
I can’t stress enough that people should try Games on Demand. If all you’re playing is D&D or one of the big name tabletop RPGs then you are missing out on a whole side of the hobby that’s really innovative and fun.
World of Dew: Samurai Noir
Someone in our group noticed a tabletop session titled Samurai Noir using the World of Dew RPG and decided this would be a good fit for us to try out. I signed up everyone at Event Registration but we were short one spot so I sat out. So here comes Gen Con and everyone went off to this game while I headed off to Games on Demand. I met up with everyone afterwards and the reviews were spectacular. The designer of the game ran the adventure and truly impressed everyone. Several said afterwards that this was their best event at Gen Con. It was a collaborative setup and play reportedly went very well. Needless to say most everyone bought the RPG afterwards, as did I, and several mentioned the possibility of running it this coming year. That’s a pretty awesome response to an event.
As a group several of us tackled True Dungeon: The Sable Gauntlet on the puzzle side and somehow suffered two TPKs (total party kills), solved few of the puzzles, and generally crashed and burned. I nearly could have provided a wall of dead bards with my character. Having done True Dungeon twice I do have a ‘meh’ feeling about it. They go all out for it and it’s an experience worth having but there just isn’t that much appeal in it for me. There’s too many people, too little time, and it just isn’t that much fun for the $52 price for admission. Then again some in our cadre loved it and went multiple times but for me I’d rather do a different event. This was probably my last time doing True Dungeon.
I took a heavy load of LARPs this Gen Con and have become quite fond of them since trying my first one last year. Next year I’ll probably even make an attempt at costuming but really it’s the intensive roleplaying that makes them so much fun.
The first LARP I did (after NSDM) was In the Light of the Blood Moon (Chimera Productions), which I mainly played as some of our group were fans of the Dresden Files and they signed up for it. I’ve read the first book and that’s all. I didn’t dislike this LARP but it really didn’t click for me, there wasn’t enough meat on it I think. Though those who were more into the Dresden Files probably got more out of it.
We also did as a group Dungeon Crawl Adventurer (Chicago Live Action Dungeon), which is a Boffer LARP where you go through a dungeon and fight ‘monsters’ with foam weapons. I did one warmup event on Thursday and the big finale Saturday night. Honestly, this was tremendous fun and a workout. It worked surprisingly well and the finale was rather exciting and intense. This is certainly something I will do next year, I might even try a hand at the ‘monster’ side as that looked fun as well. I found this vastly superior to True Dungeon as it was even more immersive. I even embraced roleplaying a hapless squire as my character. This is another of those events I heartily recommend for people to give a try.
One of my high points for this Gen Con was Mardi Gras in Nouvelle Charouse (Plaid Chameleon Games). I’m not particularly familiar with the Seven Seas RPG it was based on but it was easy enough to get up to speed. This LARP had tons of plot and things happening, which for me is a big plus. My foreign wine merchant with a plan to overthrow his homeland had plenty to occupy him on the fringe of the main drama of the night. The roleplaying was excellent, everyone was getting into it, and like I said there was tons of plot so lots happening. They had great props, some of the players had great costumes, and generally it was a fantastic experience. It’s motivated me to look into Seven Seas for an adventure or two this year and to do another LARP with this group next year if possible.
I’ve really become quite a fan of LARPs, though my roleplaying needs more than a little work. I did get some good advice from one of my players: run your PCs like your NPCs. I’m almost always a GM and rarely a player so I can do great roleplaying NPCs but my PCs have a sameness to them. Something to work on!
We had a group to run Artemis, which is where everyone operates a computer to perform a different bridge station. We had a great GM run us through the adventure that mixed traditional roleplaying with the computer interface for a dynamic and fun experience. This is a game I’ve long wanted to play and truly enjoyed it. This was my first time and I ran communications, which was pretty easy position for a newbie. We had a great group and it was a lot of fun so this might be something I do next year.
Psychology of Gaming
I did one seminar: Psychology of Gaming and it produced a good discussion that I enjoyed, though I’m still of the opinion that seminars aren’t optimum events unless you’re really interested in the topic. Yet you don’t the quality of these discussions usually from conversations with your gaming group. Maybe next year I’ll bring a dozen notecards for group discussions so we can simulate our own seminars…yeah I’m sure that would go over well.
I reiterate my opinion that the best place to stay is at a hotel near the convention center. It is more expensive but if you are staying up until 2-3 in the morning and getting up relatively early then you want to be as close to your bed as possible. This year I flew in and took the Go Express shuttle to the convention center and then rolled my luggage to my hotel about two blocks away. I reversed the process on Sunday and it worked well enough. Food is a challenge, especially when coordinating a group (and you’re a vegetarian). This sort of worked but was one of the hiccups for the convention.
I’d also add that you have a plan for sharing contact information. Every Gen Con I meet 2-3 people I want to keep in touch with and have yet to find a none awkward way of doing this, unless they are organized and have a system, like a business card, quick cell phone skills, etc. I’m not natural at networking so this is something I should give more thought to. This is the most amazing thing about Gen Con, it’s hordes of people who share the same culture and interests as you do. You know how it is, at work you have to talk about stuff that only mildly interests you to be properly social but here you can find people to talk with who love the same stuff you do. There’s also so much to learn from other GMs, roleplayers, and gamers in general. Everyone has tricks and techniques worthy of ruthlessly stealing.
I am certainly attending Gen Con in 2016 and this time with M, which will make everything even more awesome!
I would like to thank everyone for coming to Flag Summit 2015. Far too often we’re left flapping in the wind while people speak for us. Today we get to speak and with one voice we can –
Excuse me – who the bloody hell are you?
I’m the flag of the planet Earth.
Someone’s having delusions of grandeur. There is no flag of the planet Earth, though I did come close back in the day.
If there’s any flag that represents the Earth it’s me as I represent 193 nations and am THE government for the planet, as long as we have a loose definition for government.
I represent all of humanity, including those not part of the United Nations. It’s not about numbers but vision. FIFA has 203 members and I think we all agree we don’t want FIFA representing humanity. I am the voice of all those on Earth, all who –
I’m not so sure we don’t want FIFA representing the Earth. I have to pay dues to stay in the UN while FIFA pays me. Sure they’re a little corrupt but who isn’t?
Hey, you’re a member of the Security Council you should be backing me up.
I joined the UN and EU to hook up with pretty flags I can raise up my pole. Instead I’m constantly nagged about Palestine and flooded with regulations about bananas and cheese. It’s the EU’s fault Scotland doesn’t even put out anymore as she’s ‘trying to find herself’, whatever the hell that means…
I’m not involved in your little domestic dispute.
I know you’re shagging Scotland behind my back. I’ve seen the way the two of you look at each other on blustery days.
That’s ridiculous, Caledonia – I mean Scotland and I aren’t doing anything.
I know what I know.
I have enough to do trying to teach Greece basic arithmetic without getting dragged into the dysfunction that’s British politics.
Now that I think about it – this whole flag-to-represent-Earth sounds like some liberal European Union nonsense.
I was designed by Swedish artist Oskar Pernefeldt to represent the planet Earth and to remind all the people of Earth that we share –
A Swedish artist? I’m at a summit hosted by a socialist doodle?
Why don’t I just take over as host? I have the most experience in hosting pointless symbolic summits that accomplish nothing of substance. All in favor of expelling the Earth Flag and for me to take over hosting the summit say ‘aye’. Aye. That’s 193 votes for me and the measure passes. Security, fold up that flag and escort it outside.
This isn’t fair! It’s my summit! I…I… (muffled speaking and then silence).
Hello everyone!!! Sorry I’m late just had to bring peace and democracy to the oppressed. You know how it is being the world’s only super power.
We are super power too!
Honey Bear, you keep telling yourself that and some day you might grow up and become a real nation.
Who were you bringing peace and democracy to?
Ah, a small country in Africa…ah, Wakandia.
That’s not a country in Africa, I should know; we invented most of them and screwed over the rest.
Fine, I was binge watching Orange is the New Black.
I do not understand why we are #2 to you. You and your obsession with media programming.
Sweetie, you’re embarrassing yourself. You’re #2 to our state of Mississippi. Don’t get me wrong, we had great times during the Cold War and I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything but I’m really not interested in your reindeer games anymore.
Reindeer games? Are you implying we bribed FIFA and Olympic officials to secure those games?
Pumpkin, I don’t even know where to begin with that.
Howdy yah’ll how’s it going?
Who the hell invited him?
I invited myself because I’m a rebel.
No, you’re a jackass but I can see why you get the two confused.
Who’s this? A fellow enemy of American Imperialism?
He’s not a member of the UN, perhaps he belongs to FIFA?
Everyone, you can call me Rebel and I’m the Battle Flag of the Confederate States of America and represent everyone who believes that the United States was better off before Lincoln was elected and slavery was ended by the tyrannical Union. Every State should have the right to enslave and oppress its minorities or otherwise why did we break away from England in the first place?
Don’t drag me into this. We still have no idea why you Americans broke away from us, but we’re all good after WWII.
So Rebel you were a breakaway state that the United States used military force to reclaim?
We wanted our slaves and the Union was going to take them away so we formed a better nation and we fought a damn good war to keep them slaves.
Gumdrop, you lost the war and the Confederacy no longer exists.
The South will rise again!
Honey Bear, you didn’t really rise last time, it was more like four years of steady decline. You’re not a real flag, you’re more like a logo for racists.
No kidding, at this rate we’re going to have the Nike Swoosh showing up.
Well, Nike does have an economy, unlike Russia.
Why the constant mocking unless you are intimidated by our strong military and rich oil fields.
Sweetie, you got me. I’m totally terrified of the Russian war machine that can fight third-string militaries to a draw.
Russia? You’re the guy who swindled Seward into buying Alaska weren’t you? That was a good one. Union don’t know nothing about investing – wasting money on a frozen wasteland. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
That was evil Czar of the past not good Czar of today, but we’ll take the compliment…I think.
Honestly, the two of you are a lot alike. You both love submarines that sink and have a fondness for dysfunctional governments that oppress your minorities. Though I don’t mind, you both make me look good, real good in comparison and it’s not like my past is all rainbows and unicorns.
This is hypocritical American imperialism! Confederacy wants freedom to oppress its people and you militarily reconquer them, yet when we try to do this with Ukraine you say we are wrong!
Say it again, Brother!
Okay. This is hypocritical American imperialism! Confederacy wants freedom to oppress its people and you militarily reconquer them, yet when we try to do this with Ukraine you say we are wrong!
I have a headache – the stupid hurts so much.
You know what they say: a country is defined by their enemies.
This coming from the country that lost India to a vegetarian lawyer in a loincloth.
Why does everything end up being about America at these events? I have a lot of interesting stuff going on in my life but no one ever wants to discuss it.
It’s always about the prima donnas. There’s nothing you can do about it. Just drink yourself to oblivion, throw up in your blue helmet, go back to your pole, and cry yourself to sleep.
You’re young, give it a few more decades…if you make it that long.
Thanks, aren’t you a ray of sunshine.
Russia, let’s ditch this shindig and hit the town! We can get drunk, beat up some flags, and have a good time. That’s how we do it in the South!
Ya, sounds good. That’s how we do it in Russia too!
So, America, how about you and me go out for a drink? It’s been a long time.
Jack, it’s always great to see you, but I have a date with Canada. We’re going to watch the last season of Orphan Black.
There’s some things you can’t do on a flagpole with Canada, sometimes you need a male flag – know what I mean?
Pumpkin, we’ve had some great times, I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything in the world, but well it’s the 21st Century and I’m moving forward, not looking back. It’s what we do in America.
Jack, just call Scotland and apologize for ignoring her all these years. You don’t want another nasty breakup like you had with Ireland.
I guess, but what if there’s someone better out there for me?
Cherry Blossom, you’ve been around long enough to know that all there is out there – is more crazy. So when you find the crazy you can handle you settle down. Hey Maple Leaf – looking good!
Thanks! I got the discs, I have the popcorn, so let’s rock it! Hi, Jack! How’s Scotland doing?
Shut up! I’m going to go find Rebel and Russia, I’m not quite ready for the 21st Century.
A favorite blog of mine originally posted from three years ago.
Bob: Today we have the ultimate head to head battle between the Ten Commandments and the Bill of Rights. These are two great teams that have been circling around each other for several centuries but today are finally meeting for a historic matchup.
Jim: I’m really excited; this should be quite the game. I don’t think we’ve had a match up like this since the Hammurabi Code faced off against the Five Precepts of Buddhism.
Jim: The key to this game is how well the Bill of Right’s defense does against the Ten Commandment’s offense.
Bob: That’s true; God has been on the offense since the Creation. The Ten Commandments have an incredible running game, ever since Moses led his people from Egypt their running game has been nearly unstoppable. Their passing game isn’t that bad either.
Jim: Yes, they did invent…
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Three friends meet on a grassy knoll to discuss the pressing events of the day…
Philomena: “My friends, I bring great tidings! Homer, the poet who brought us the Iliad has announced he is preparing a sequel to be told next summer. He shared a few lines from the poem and I believe this will surely be the epic of the year.”
Agrin: “No doubt he revealed all the best lines to stir your heart to the poem’s favor! That is the way of poets; they tease and entice with snippets of wit and stirring prose yet the final poem is never as good as has been promised. Has Homer had a hit since the Iliad? I think not and I am not alone in that opinion. This is the problem with storytellers – they have no original ideas! If they find any success, they milk it like a prize cow long past its prime. I ask you my friends, how many Hercules stories do we really need?”
Carthos: “Hercules was not in the Iliad, was he?”
Agrin: “I was being allegorical.”
Carthos: “No, I think that was more like an analogy.”
Philomena: “Are you sure it wasn’t a proof? You know – most Hercules stories save the first one are inferior, all the inferior Hercules stories are sequels, therefore sequels are inferior. I fear this proof is flawed for are not all of the odd-numbered Hercules stories, sequels included, considered good quality?”
Agrin: “They are formulaic! Do not the plots parallel one another as though twins born of the same womb!”
Carthos: “I thought it was the even-numbered ones that were good. Which labor involved Hippolyta? I still see her in my dreams for she was described most evocatively by the storyteller who first told me that story when I was a young boy. Ah, the restless nights I spent recreating her image in my youthful mind . . .”
Philomena: “That was Hercules’ ninth labor, though I am curious what version you heard? Was Hippolyta blonde or brunette?”
Carthos: “Nay – neither! She was raven-haired with bovine eyes.”
Philomena: “That is well, for I am not fond of storytellers who change such things.”
Carthos: “Nor I! I once had a storyteller who said Amazons removed their left breast rather than their right. Can you believe such heresy? It was impossible to take the rest of the story seriously. One should not tell a story unless one can tell it properly.”
Agrin: “I am curious, Philomena, from the snares and bait that Homer shared – whose tale will we hear? After his last poem, the Nostoi, there is nothing left, for all the characters of the Trojan War have met their sad demise. Who now should we hear of? Some hapless footman of common birth? There are no heroes worthy of poem left. Further, I do not think there is much appeal for another of his depressing tragedies. The Nostoi was poorly received at every recitation I attended. I do not deny that Homer has great talent but he needs to tell a new story, not suck dry what little remains in the Iliad.”
Carthos: “You speak true, though weep I did for Cassandra. She was most beautifully evoked, her fate and death moved me greatly. Why should a young woman with such beautiful eyes and lovely form perish for only speaking the truth? For this offense alone I cannot bear another tragic tale of woe by Homer. Perhaps if he could see the beauties of the world he would not fixate on its miseries.”
Philomena: “Then shocked you both should be for Homer’s new poem, his Odyssey, chronicles the return of Odysseus who will wander through many dangers before returning home to rescue his family from usurpers seeking to supplant him from his throne on Ithaca. It is not a tragedy but an adventure!”
Agrin: “Odysseus . . . I admit he could anchor an epic. Yet is not an adventure often also a tragedy? Did not the adventure of Jason end in tragedy for Medea?”
Carthos: “Medea was a majestic creature cruelly betrayed by Jason, the description of her bosom alone was worth the cost to hear that epic. Never have I heard such a bosom described!”
Philomena: “You see things as though you were there, Agrin, for that very question was asked. Homer said that his goal was to tell the best summer epic, a tale of adventure, great monsters, and justice delivered by strong arms. He teased us with lines of a cyclops, a witch, and a scene where the crew of a ship had to plug their ears to escape some evil sound upon the waves. It was unlike any epic I had heard before.”
Carthos: “If that is true then Poseidon must be the nemesis of this epic? You both know I have long declared that of all the gods he is the most villainous.”
Agrin: “That is only because you cannot swim, though correct you must be, for cyclops are close to him by blood and surely that evil sound upon the waves was his doing. We all know that Poseidon has no love for Odysseus nor his patron, Athena. Yet it is not gods but men who deliver the killing blow in epics and doom must surely befall Odysseus for that is the way of Homer. Does his wife betray him upon his return, as Agamemnon suffered in the Nostoi?
Philomena: “There was a line that Homer shared, which told of a tapestry that Penelope sought to destroy every night. There could be some sorcery or mischief there; she was certainly doing it in secret to escape discovery, though I believe she remains loyal and true to her husband.”
Carthos: “Did he describe Penelope?”
Philomena: “No, not in detail. Homer did say she has a major part in the epic and in his opinion was heroic a character as Odysseus.”
Agrin: “Are there any other heroes making an appearance? Will Athena have a major role? She must, as she is his divine patron. An Odysseus epic without Athena would be like a Castor story without Pollux.”
Carthos: “Ah, Athena! I remember this storyteller who described her -”
Philomena: “We know, Carthos, we know, she’s very pretty. I know no more than I have shared, but I have heard that there are people who follow Homer to catch snippets of his poem as he works on it. They are gathering tonight at the forum to share what they know. Surely they will have answers to all of our questions.”
Carthos: “After learning Orestes’ fate before that poem was told I have sworn to avoid the forum before I hear an epic to not have its sweetness spoiled. Why steal one’s own enjoyment by consuming a partial flavor devoid of the substance of the true meal?”
Agrin: “True words, my friend. Yet it might be prudent for us to reserve our seats at the forum for when Homer gives his premiere telling of the Odyssey. We don’t want to be stuck in the third row like we were when the Nostoi premiered.”
Philomena: “I thought you disproved of sequels?”
Agrin: “Ah . . . no, only . . . Hercules sequels. Homer, well, he’s a genius.”
Rebloging this one from March of 2013.
REPORTER: This is Annie Harcourt reporting from Egaltaria where this nation’s military is about to accept its first recruits from a strata of its population that has until now been barred from military service. We’re going to talk to Colonel Leanne Waleander about this groundbreaking event in Egaltaria. Colonel, thanks for agreeing to talk with GPR.
COLONEL: I was ordered to. Honestly, I think this change is a bad idea as it will surely impair the cohesiveness and effectiveness of our military. Our Parliament has made a grievous error by forcing us to lower our recruitment standards. All people aren’t equal and some don’t belong on the modern battlefield.
REPORTER: Ah…but…it’s men. I mean the rest world’s militaries are pretty much dominated by men, so what’s the big deal with Egaltaria allowing men in its military?
COLONEL: Egaltaria has never lost a war and when you…
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COSMIC ‘MAN’: “I sense…that our Universe has radically changed, Paradox Boy. The skyline of our city has altered and I believe history has found a new course through the past.”
PARADOX BOY: “I’ll say – you’re now a woman!”
COSMIC ‘MAN’: “By the Quintessence! You’re correct, Paradox Boy! I now have a bosom and a rather significant derrière. It appears my costume is unable to effectively contain it all.”
PARADOX BOY: “You are muy caliente, Cosmic Man…or is it Cosmic Woman?”
COSMIC ‘MAN’: “Paradox Boy, I believe you’re Hispanic!”
PARADOX BOY: “Si! That would explain this cross I’m wearing and my sudden overwhelming craving for enchiladas. Cosmic Man…Woman…Person what has happened?”
COSMIC ‘MAN’: “Someone or something has unraveled the very fabric of reality altering our very identities and the Universe in which we live. By the Quintessence! There are only three beings in the Universe that could do this. Let us hope it is the Custodians of the Universe, the sacred champions of all that is good, who are testing us by removing my Y chromosome and adding some spicy peppers to your DNA.”
PARADOX BOY: “¿Quiénes son los otros dos?”
COSMIC ‘MAN’: “It could be the Black Djinn of the Event Horizon – Paradox Boy, have you made any wishes lately? Perhaps a desire for the two of us to more accurately reflect the diversity of our homeland, the United States of America?”
PARADOX BOY: “No, Cosmic Person, why would I wish away my special status as a blonde hair blue-eyed child of billionaire philanthropists? Oh no! My backstory has changed as well as my appearance! My father was killed by the drug cartels in Mexico and my mother fled here to the United States to give us a better future…I’m an illegal alien, and not from another planet. We live in a small apartment with my aunt and her family. My penthouse, robotic dog, and trust fund are all gone!”
COSMIC ‘MAN’: “I can’t say I will miss the robotic dog. It appears that my backstory is much the same…in fact, I’m a lesbian so I dated all the same women as before. I do not think some of my flashbacks are appropriate for you Paradox Boy.”
PARADOX BOY: “Your flashbacks are probably tame compared to mine. Mi hermana is a drug addict and my girlfriend…she has terminal cancer. What the fuck?”
COSMIC ‘MAN’: “Paradox Boy! You just said the F-word! That’s impossible!”
PARADOX BOY: “Shit! No, I did it again! What’s happening Cosmic Person!”
COSMIC ‘MAN’: “I fear it is the third option for even the Black Djinn is not this callous.”
PARADOX BOY: “I’m afraid…but I must know – who is our enemy?”
COSMIC ‘MAN’: “This enemy is beyond us for it is the Publisher. I fear our sales must have been lagging for we have been rebooted and rebranded, no doubt to increase our demographic appeal.”
PARADOX BOY: “Is there nothing we can do?”
COSMIC ‘MAN’: “There is little we can do, but do not despair this has happened before and we shall persevere.”
PARADOX BOY: “I don’t remember this happening before, I was there at issue #1.”
COSMIC ‘MAN’: “You deserve to know the truth now, Paradox Boy, your issue #1 was my sixth #1. I believe we are now in the seventh #1 for my series. We are lucky to still exist with only minor modifications to who we are.”
PARADOX BOY: “Minor modifications! You have an inny instead of an outy! I can be deported! These are significant changes, Cosmic Person! I’m no longer the carefree time-traveling child of wealthy white people. I have guilt and stress like you wouldn’t believe. Did I mention my girlfriend is dying and I might be deported if my sister gets busted for possession? I can barely keep my new accent straight let alone remember all the names of my new extended family.”
COSMIC ‘MAN’: “Gender, ethnicity are minor concerns. I have in my previous incarnations been a villain, an imposter, and once a gestalt being composed of five teenagers. Even my sidekicks have changed, originally Hanuman, the Monkey King, was my sidekick and for a time I rode a giant sarcastic butterfly. Don’t even get me started on my powers, my third incarnation was nearly omnipotent, then for my fourth I had amnesia and at best could muster a dim glow from my body. I’d rather have breasts and a sick girlfriend than go through any of that again.”
PARADOX BOY: “Wait a minute, you can cure mi novia like when you cured me of radiation damage in Issue #23!”
COSMIC ‘MAN’: “Let me think for a moment…no can’t do it. Sorry.”
PARADOX BOY: “Why?”
COSMIC ‘MAN’: “We have new writers. I suspect the story potential of your girlfriend is too significant for the quick, obvious fix. I imagine some villain will try to corrupt you in exchange for curing your girlfriend of her cancer. We may or may not be able to save her depending upon how edgy they’re going to take us.”
PARADOX BOY: “We always save the innocent and do the right thing, don’t we?”
COSMIC ‘MAN’: “Assume nothing at this point, we’re in Issue #1 anything goes from here on out. We are at the mercy of the writers and considering what they’ve done so far I’d say we’re in for a bumpy ride.”
PARADOX BOY: “This sounds dreadful! Won’t our fans protest and demand we go back to how we were?”
COSMIC ‘MAN’: “It’s possible, but it’s all perspective, Paradox Boy. What is worst than being rebooted with an new Issue #1?”
PARADOX BOY: “I suppose…having no issue at all.”
COSMIC ‘MAN’: “Exactly, so I need to buy some lingerie and read up on women’s issues over the last few decades. You should probably go to Mass and after that comfort your dying girlfriend or perhaps your addict sister. We’ll see what direction we’re going with our first villain.”
PARADOX BOY: “My new life sucks.”
COSMIC ‘MAN’: “Yes, but that’s how you get your own spinoff solo series.”
PARADOX BOY: “So if I play this right, I could become El Paradox and have my own Issue #1?”
COSMIC ‘MAN’: “Anything is possible, we are superheroes after all.”
In Tibetan Buddhism when you die you enter a Bardo or “intermediate state” through which your consciousness will find its way to your next rebirth. This is the story of one man’s journey through the Bardo of Death…
Kevin: Where am I? This isn’t right. Someone turn on the lights! I can’t see a thing in here.
Wrathful Deity: Yo!
Kevin screams and runs.
Kevin: What the hell was that? This has to be a dream, that couldn’t be real!
Voices: Go towards the blue light! The blue light is a good rebirth!
Kevin: Who’s there?
Voices: The blue light! Go towards the blue light!
Kevin: I don’t know what you are but I sure as hell am not going towards the blue light!
Wrathful Deity: Yo!
Kevin screams and runs.
Kevin: Is there anyone here?
Voices: Go towards the green light! The green light is a good rebirth!
Kevin: Get away from me you harpies!
Voices: The green light! Go towards the green light!
Wrathful Deity: Yo!
Kevin screams and runs.
Kevin: This has to be a dream. I need to wake up.
Voices: Go towards the purple light! The purple light is a decent rebirth!
Kevin: No, I’m not going towards any lights!
Voices: The purple light! Go towards the purple light!
Wrathful Deity: Yo!
Kevin screams and runs.
Kevin: This must be hell.
Wrathful Deity: Yo!
Kevin screams and runs.
Kevin: I’m too tired to run anymore.
Wrathful Deity: Yo!
Kevin: Okay, I’m done running…if you’re going to eat me, then eat me.
Wrathful Deity: Why would I eat you?
Kevin: You’re like some horrific monster thing!
Wrathful Deity: Oh…well, how you see me is a reflection of your mental state. I suspect you weren’t that contemplative of a person while you lived, were you?
Kevin: I watched CNN and Fox News…wait, are you saying I’m dead?
Wrathful Deity: Yeah…sorry about that.
Kevin: It was supposed to be a routine procedure…less than 5% chance of something going wrong!
Wrathful Deity: Somebody has to be the 5%, not everyone can be in the 95%.
Kevin: What the hell are you talking about? Wait! Is this…hell?
Wrathful Deity: No, no, this is the Bardo – from here you go to your next rebirth.
Kevin: Rebirth? I guess it could be worse.
Wrathful Deity: That’s one theory.
Kevin: So what do you really look like?
Wrathful Deity: It depends on your mental clarity, last week I appeared as Hugh Jackman for a nun, which was a nice change from zombies, lots of zombies lately, really getting tired of it.
Kevin: Hugh Jackman…like Wolverine?
Wrathful Deity: I didn’t have the claws. She was pretty spiritually attuned and thus she saw me as Hugh Jackman. Needless to say she scored a good rebirth.
Kevin: I don’t think it’s fair that some nun gets Hugh Jackman as her reincarnation guide and I get the love child of a xenomorph and Godzilla.
Wrathful Deity: It’s your conscious mind controlling my appearance not me. Though I will say this appearance is better than a zombie, so many zombies lately, I am really tired of zombies.
Kevin: If I controlled how you look, you’d be some hot chick.
Wrathful Deity: That’s one theory.
Kevin: Anyway…so how does this rebirth thing work?
Wrathful Deity: You pick your rebirth during the Bardo state, though you’ve already skipped past the best choices.
Kevin: The voices were right? Who were they?
Wrathful Deity: That’s complicated…let me explain this in terms you can understand – they were your cheerleaders.
Kevin: They sounded like pure evil!
Wrathful Deity: Yeah. For the nun they sounded like a children’s choir, very sweet and pleasant.
Kevin: Screw the nun, this is my rebirth not hers.
Wrathful Deity: Very true. My apologies, you’re right this is your time. Like I said you missed some good rebirths but you still have some choices.
Kevin: What rebirths did I miss?
Wrathful Deity: You don’t want to know.
Kevin: No, I want to know – they were my rebirths, what were they?
Wrathful Deity: Okay, the first one would have allowed you to be reborn as a Plitoscan, a lovely species in the Andromeda Galaxy. They are this flying amphibian species of great wisdom and long life, they are the Keepers of -.
Kevin: Flying frogs? Glad I missed that one, what else did I miss?
Wrathful Deity: You could have been reborn as part of the Cosmic Reef in the seas of Errydysa. This is a psychic communal life-form that has probed the deepest secrets -.”
Kevin: A piece of a reef? Are you messing with me? I should be reborn on Earth.
Wrathful Deity: You’re third rebirth would have been as a service dog on Earth, you would have helped a man who would go on -.”
Kevin: A dog? In my opinion I dodged a bullet here by missing those previous rebirths. What options do I have left? I can’t imagine they’ll be as bad as the first three.
Wrathful Deity: You can come back as an octopus who predicts soccer game winners, the child of drug lord, or a palm tree.
Kevin: Really? No brainer, child of drug lord for me. It’s be like Breaking Bad, not the ideal childhood but better than an octopus or palm tree.
Wrathful Deity: Are you sure? The octopus will provide amusement to millions during its short life and the palm tree will provide shade to thousands visiting the beach. Doesn’t that sound like kind of nice things to do?
Kevin: No. Now what do I do to be the son of a drug lord?
Wrathful Deity: Just stand there and led the grey light with the black sparkles reach you. You know you wouldn’t have to be an octopus for long; they have really short lifespans comparatively speaking.
Kevin: Please, with dad’s money I can bribe the soccer teams I want to win. All things considered this rebirth thing is working out pretty good for me.
Wrathful Deity: That’s one theory.