The drive around the hills on 680 is not one I make often. It makes me think of the interstitial convention moments, when we're out foraging for food: making a ritual visit to this one Round Table we know of, or trying to prove the rumored existence of a local In-N-Out Burger, et cetera. The most important thing to communicate about the con is that, moment to moment, chances are that what we do there would be considered by people on the outside as pretty normal. We hang out, talk shit, eat, compare notes about what surrounds us, play a video game, wander around a lot, and read stuff. The substance of what we're focusing on for our entertainment might be a little different, but we don't really do anything that unusual. Going to a convention about something, if it doesn't involve your job somehow, strikes a lot of people as an emblem of unhealthy obsession, but really, it's just a lot of stuff that we think is fun, gathered up in one place. So if someone talks to you about a gaming convention and you recoil at the very mention of it, don't pretend that it's the convention part that turns you off. We know what you really think.

The next day at the con I didn't get there as early. The only big event of the morning was a new table in the flea market, where some guy set out a staggering amount of old out-of-print RPG stuff for sale: original D&D hardcovers, obscure modules for even more obscure games, you name it. I called Allan at home and asked him if he wanted me to look for anything in particular; he named one of the old D&D books and described the cover art so I'd get the right edition.

Gaming and collecting have been tied together since way before Magic: the Gathering - some people collect leads, others have collections of role-playing materials that go back all the way to when Dungeons & Dragons was just a digest-sized mimeograph (put out by a tiny wargame company that thought this boardless-adventure-game thing might be an interesting oddity to sell a few copies of on the side). Enthusiasts of any particular RPG, particularly an out-of-print one like Torg, typically have tales of the one optional expansion book that they took a pass on when they first saw it, only to search and pay top dollar for it years later. Collectors of all kinds, in all fields, are geeks of a sort. There's probably lots of psychological research on it, that I still haven't checked out.

paraMyself, I hunted down an old Paranoia module. Paranoia is the one RPG I've ever had success with as a gamemaster - perhaps because all you really have to do to run Paranoia is make the players laugh, then kill them. (Paranoia is set in a future dystopia where a benignly malevolent Computer watches over everything and the characters are its footsoldiers, generally sent on runarounds by incompetent bureaucrats. Bad puns and absurdities abound. If Douglas Adams were a drunken circus clown, he might write something like Paranoia.)


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text and drawings © copyright 1999 Mike Sugarbaker