Posted in: Community Service, Conventions, Cosplay, Fan Club, Rant, Star Trek

FanX after-con report

Salt Lake Magazine interviewed me at FanX 2021
Salt Lake Magazine interviewed me at FanX 2021

FanX: The Salt Lake Comic Convention was held at the Salt Palace on September 16-18. In my duties as Commander-in-Chief of Starfleet Command’s Seventh Fleet, I helped man the charity booth that we were running at the con. The club was raising funds for the Best Friends Animal Society of Utah.

While I was there, I was able to get some additional photos for my online photo gallery. I was also able to obtain some new Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars autographs for my autograph collection. Spending time with Larry Nemecek and John Eaves was a highlight of the convention. I was even interviewed by Salt Lake Magazine in one of their FanX video reports. The video is posted below.

Salt Lake Magazine interview

Some of the additional good things included how most people were following the health guidelines. Watching the attendees from the booth I’d say that 99% of the people were wearing masks. Hopefully enough people will take steps to make the conventions next year a safer event. I also really loved the wider aisles that were mapped out on the vendors room floor. While the con was still crowded (I was told that more tickets were sold for 2021 than 2019) it wasn’t crazy sardine packed on the vendors floor. I really hope that FanX keeps the wider aisles for future years.

I’m going to go a little bit on a soapbox here. I really think that autograph prices are getting way too high. There were several guests that I ended up skipping because I didn’t want to pay that much for a signature on a photo. I think that managers hear the term “Comic Con” and automatically hike the prices up by 30-50%. It also bugs me that the autograph prices are not advertised before the con so I can budget ahead of time. The con website posts the photo op prices, but the autograph prices are always listed as TBA. When I show up and find out that someone wants $90 for an autograph that I didn’t plan for in advance, I turn it down. Speaking of photos, what is the deal with charging for a selfie? Yes an autograph creates a value on an item that can be resold, so I can understand a guest charging for that. But you can’t really re-sell a selfie. All of the selfie-style photos that I have posted on this website were obtained without extra payment. While they are kewl and I thank the guest for posing with me, I don’t see myself paying for a selfie. If I wanted to pay for a photo with a guest, I’d get a professional photo done. End of rant.

After not being able to attend a convention for two years, it was good to see my convention friends and geek out. There are a certain number of people that I only see at these events. It was good to see who had kept themselves safe. I hope that things will get better so we can continue to have more events and conventions. The new uniform worked great and I may pick up a few more from that manufacturer.

Here are some of the photos that were taken at the con.

Posted in: Dungeons and Dragons, Quotes, Rant, Role Playing Games, Video Game

#RPGaDay2021 Day 12: Triumph

Day 12: Triumph

“To feel the thrill of victory…there has to be the possibility of failure. Where’s the victory in winning a battle you can’t possibly lose?” Dr. Pulaski- Elementary, Dear Data, Stardate: 42286.3

I’ve been playing role playing games for a long time. Probably longer than some of my readers have been alive. I’ve seen and heard about many different styles of gaming and GMing. I know these #RPGaDAY2021 posts are supposed to be focusing on the positive side of our hobby. But I wanted to make today’s post some constructive criticism.

I’ve never found “Monty Haul” campaigns enjoyable. For those of you not aware of what this is, let me quote page 229 of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 1st Edition Dungeon Masters guide by Gary Gygax.

Monty Haul – A campaign (or the DM running it) in which greatly excessive amounts of treasure and/or experience are given out.

Further insight on this is where the name came from. Monty Hall was a game show host who’s famous program was “Let’s Make A Deal”. He was known for giving away a ton of prizes to the contestants. DMs and GMs who give a lot of unique items, money or experience points to players beyond the scope of their character level, run the risk of giving too much. Thus the term “haul” in “Monty Haul”.

I know that when I’ve reached the top of the mountain, I’ve accomplished a major goal. That mountain I may be climbing could be a earning rank advancement in my Star Trek club through service, a character I’ve moved from 1st to 15th level naturally, or even enjoying the vegetables from my garden that I tended all summer. If I’m a 3rd-Level Fighter, don’t bequeath me a castle just yet, I know that I haven’t earned it. Yet I’ve had a DM try to do that. Let me work my way through the levels, role playing my way in the game. I know eventually I’ll get that castle/hideout/wizard’s magical realm in another dimension.

Giving away items that are too powerful (or quickly running us up through the levels by awarding excessive experience points) reminds me of the cheat codes in video games. I’ve had friends that would only play these games with the cheat codes. They wanted to get through the story faster is what I was told. I only used cheat codes in very difficult circumstances or if I’ve already played the game a million times and I want to get past an unpleasant level. WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness was a really popular video game that I enjoyed. I would still play it now. It is also popular when we use to hold LAN parties (I haven’t heard that word in a long time) with WarCraft II being one of the games scheduled. I recall one LAN party where we all had our computers in the same room with our speakers on. We could hear where other players were at when units were created or buildings finished. You could not use cheat codes in WarCraft II without the benefits also being applied to the other players. So we agreed not to use them. As I was managing my resources and building my troops, I was able to create three Griffin lairs. Griffins were flying troops and very nasty in large numbers. I had planned it so that all three would generate a new unit at the same time. In the middle of the LAN party the sound coming from my speakers was not one, not two but three Griffin cries (the sound the unit made when it was ready for battle) happening one after the other. From across the room I suddenly heard one of my friends exclaim: “He has three Griffins? Crap! I haven’t even made it to Archers yet.” My triumph was listening to the sounds of panic fill the room as suddenly everyone was re-adjusting their defenses to counter my upcoming aerial assault.

There is no winning in role playing games other than everyone having fun. I believe that fun should come through overcoming the challenge naturally and not having triumph handed to me on a silver platter. Don’t give me a helicopter to fly to the top of the mountain, let me make that climb with the possibility of my character failing.

Of course that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Final Thoughts:

Today’s suggestions was a difficult batch. It was days like this one that made me wonder if I wanted to participate in this challenge. Other days have been just as uninspiring. “Think” didn’t make me think of anything. Same with “Consensus” and “Deep”. I almost waited until the day of to see what other participants were posting about. But I also wanted to get these blog posts done in advance and schedule them for the day of. I was really worried that I was going to turn today’s post into a massive soapbox. I may have still stood on one, but I hope it helps some DMs/GMs with their future campaigns.

RPGaDay 2021 chart
The RPGaDay 2021 chart
Posted in: Comic Books, Cosplay, Dungeons and Dragons, Fan Club, Movies, Rant, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction, Sports, Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate

A rant on True Fans and Gatekeeping

So I got involved in a discussion on a Stargate fandom page online. The topic was the much debated Stargate Universe series. Some people stated that they liked it, others (including myself) stated that we didn’t like it. The conversation was going pretty well until someone posted the following “You are not a true fan of Stargate unless you’ve watched all of Stargate Universe.” Now this was a statement that I really had to respond to as I’ve heard this “True Fan” comment before and it bugs me a lot. Rant Mode On: I think this meme said it best.

True fan meme

As most of you know (or have probably guessed), I’m a fan of a large number of science fiction and fantasy franchises. And there are some shows that I have not found entertaining. I could never get into the Buffy and Angel series no matter how hard I tried. It seemed like every time I sat down to give The X-Files a chance while it was first airing, it turned out to be the episode of the season with the most blood. There are other series, movies, comics and books that I just couldn’t get into. Some I will talk about in future blog posts.

Even in my favorite franchises, there are stinkers. I’ve only seen the last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise once. And I only plan to watch it once again (to mine it for quotes and trivia questions) before I avoid it at all costs afterwards. If someone would have had the misfortune of having that episode be their first introduction to the Star Trek universe, I could understand why they may not like Enterprise or even Star Trek itself. They get to decide what they are fans of, not me nor anyone else.

Using the term “True Fan” is a form of Gatekeeping. Gatekeeping, in the fandom/hobby sense, is allowing only those the “true fans” deem worthy to join them in the fandom. They may use this to keep fans of a certain series in a franchise out of their club/social media group/etc. (i.e. “You can’t be a true Star Trek fan if you like Star Trek: Discovery), or they may use this to keep certain players out of their games (i.e. “You can’t play in our Battletech game with papers figures, you have to only play with painted figs). A note on this last one. A sanctioned tournament for a miniature or card game requiring certain items to use in the tournament is a method of marketing and sales, not gatekeeping. And one I see in cosplay groups is, your cosplay isn’t worthy of inclusion. Really? With how much time, energy and effort goes into cosplay you are going to get upset because it’s not “screen accurate”? Someone who puts their heart into their fandom doesn’t deserve to get it crushed.

Gatekeeping by “true fans” makes the base of participants smaller and could kill our fandoms. You never know what was someone’s introduction to the fandom or hobby. While I was manning the USS Ticonderoga recruiting booth during the opening weekend of Star Trek: Into Darkness, a new fan came up to me and stated that the previous Star Trek film had inspired him so much that he went and watched all of the original Star Trek television series. He was now a fan of the franchise itself and was checking out the other shows. Had he been talking to a “true fan”, he could have been discouraged by the belittlement and not checked out the rest of the universe that awaited him.

It’s not just geeky movies and hobbies that his plagued by this. I’ve seen this same “true fan” mentality in sports fandom. “You can’t be a true fan of the (insert team name here) unless you can name a player from their 2009 championship run.” As our Dwight meme says above: “False!”

Now when someone asks a question like “Is the new Superman & Lois television series any good?” I usually respond somewhere along the line of “I’ve enjoyed it.” If I found that I haven’t been a fan of a series, I state that it is something I haven’t enjoyed. If someone says they enjoyed a series that I have not, then I’m glad. Not everyone has to enjoy what I enjoy. I request the same respect in return. The “I’ve enjoyed it” answer is also how I avoid the bait posts where someone is trying to start an opportunity to troll fans of a series.

So to recap, if you were to say to me “I’ve only seen a handful of episodes of the anime Cowboy Bebop and enjoyed it, am I a fan?” my answer would be yes. If you asked if you wanted to cosplay as a gender-bended Robin Hood and his band of thieves in the Sherwood Forest, would I consider you a fan? My answer would still be yes. “I really like Real Salt Lake because they are a local team.” I’d say welcome to the fandom. Would I shun you if you only wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition? No, I would not and I even might ask if there is an opening in your game. You get to decide if you are a fan of something, not these “true fans.” Enjoy what you want to enjoy and don’t let anyone tear you down for it.

Now to get back to the Stargate Universe discussion. I really enjoyed the original Stargate movie ever since I first saw it on opening weekend. It took me a while to get a chance to sit down and watch Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, but I enjoyed them both to the point where I call myself a fan. Because I had enjoyed both of these series so much, I took the opportunity to get season one, disk one DVD of Stargate Universe from Netflix (this should tell you how long ago this was) and my wife and I watched the first five episodes. There was one good episode in that first set (it was about time travel). I liked the nerdy kid who’s name I can’t remember. I really wanted to follow Samantha Carter in command of the USS Hamond and see her adventures. And I thought the concept of being trapped on a living spaceship not under your control sounded interesting. But I found the writing in SGU horrendous. The acting really wasn’t up to snuff despite some good names on the acting list. The use of the tech to switch bodies to go back to Earth and spy on your ex-wife was dumb. It was dark, dreary and depressing and was practically a soap opera. Talking into the floating camera things was too much like how reality TV show contestants would react to a camera between dramatic takes (a major turn off). And the scene where some woman is talking to her floating camera making a message for her husband, and then forgets to turn it off while she cheats on him with another member of the crew really made me roll my eyes. I think I realized this show wasn’t for me when the lead scientist and the lead military guy was fighting in the fifth episode and I turned to my wife and said “I don’t even care who wins this fight.”

Now if you are a fan of Stargate Universe. Good for you, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Some of the SGU fans in the discussion stated that it got better in season two and encouraged me to sit down and give the series another try. I could see myself doing this once I’ve gotten all of my other catch-up and new watching completed. I’m really enjoying Superman & Lois and I watch it every week. WandaVision was another series I had to keep up on. I need to finish my first watch through of Farscape (yea I missed it when it first aired) and someday I’ll watch all of the episodes of Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda. There are a ton of shows in my streaming lists and interests that I want to watch. And that doesn’t even count the number of books and comics I want to read or games I want to play. Bottom line is that SGU is really down on the priority list. So yes I’d give it another try if my list has been completed, but that will not be for a very very long time.

I think I’ve said enough to end this rant. If you are still reading, thank you. Just remember, you decide what you are a fan of, not other people and not those who gatekeep with the term “true fans”.

Tally Ho