Monthly Archives: July 2016

Handicap Awareness at Gen Con

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Gen Con is nigh! With less than two weeks to go before the best four days in gaming (as of the time I’m posting this), I’m not going to rehash what so many others have put out there; there are tons of blogs and articles out there with advice regarding large conventions like Gen Con. My advice is going to be different. I am going to rehash what I’ve posted in previous years (they’re my most popular posts!). To most of it, Wheaton’s Law applies. For those of you who are link-averse, Wheaton’s Law is this: Don’t be a dick.
However, the things about which I’m going to speak, are the sorts of things people are not aware they’re being dickish about. They’re not being malicious; they just don’t have any personal experience with these sorts of issues, so when they start breaking Wheaton’s Law, they don’t know they’re doing it. My job here is not to castigate, but to educate.

Specifically, I’m talking about dealing with those who have physical challenges at conventions. The handicapped, to be blunt. People like my wife. She can walk, but conventions like Gen Con are too big for her. So, she uses a wheelchair to get around. She has a snazzy metallic red electric wheelchair, but in years past, I’ve pushed her in a manual wheelchair. This gives us a unique experience at Gen Con.

Be Aware of People Around You

The average con goer is, shall we say, Plus-sized. OK, that’s fine. I’ve been there; I lost nearly 50 pounds a few years ago. At conventions, people often have large backpacks. Sometimes, everything they brought to the convention is in this backpack. People are not always aware that this backpack adds two to three feet to their girth. They spin around quickly. If you’re in a wheelchair, those backpacks are level with your head. More than once my wife has narrowly avoided being clobbered in the head by an unaware con-goer suddenly spinning around because something caught his or her eye. When I pushed her, I watched for this sort of thing. Now she drives herself, and I worry she’s going to get beat up.

Step to the far sides or into a booth space, if possible, to have conversations with friends or on your phone, or to look at the map, in your backpack, etc.

Moving through large groups of slow moving people is a challenge in a wheelchair. Sometimes people back up unexpectedly. Worse, they often stop unexpectedly. Sometimes it’s because the crowd in front of them has stopped. Sometimes it’s because something caught their eye. Sometimes it’s because someone caught their eye, and they’re stopping to chat. If this happens to you, look ahead a bit and see if there’s a spot in a booth where you can divert to stop. Please, please, please don’t just stop in the middle of the aisle to root through your backpack or catch a Pokémon. You’re not in a high school hallway; stopping in the middle of the aisle is hugely disruptive. Also, if you’re pushing your kids in a stroller, you really need to watch where you’re pushing them. My wife almost got t-boned by a stroller a few years ago because the mother had her head turned one way, watching something, and was pushing and walking in a different direction… in a CROWDED hall way (not even the Dealer Hall). She also almost got run into by a guy walking very fast and not watching the direction he was walking. His friend yelled to get his attention, otherwise he would have tripped over my wife’s (in motion) wheelchair. She had no chance to take evasive action because he approached from an angle that was mostly behind her. Situational Awareness is a thing. You don’t have to be a fighter pilot to practice it. Seriously.

Bathe regularly. Use deodorant.

Shower regularly and use deodorant. This has been covered by almost every blog and podcast I’ve seen on the subject. I bring it up because something most people aren’t aware of: Gamer Funk is worse when your head is at waist level to the average con goer. Think about it: you sit on your butt every day during the con, often for four to six hours at a time. Frequently, walking around the city during the Con can be like walking on the surface of the sun (i.e. it’s HOT). The chairs don’t breathe. The A/Cs in the convention center will have trouble keeping up with a roomful of gamers when it’s hot and humid outside. Except for a very few, select people, most attendees have the crotch region covered completely by a couple of layers of clothes (basically, I’m talking about everyone who can’t get away with wearing something like a swimsuit or lingerie to Gen Con). Sweat happens. Funky things happen in dark, warm, moist areas. This is not shameful, it’s just a fact of bio-chemistry. Cleanliness saves noses.

Give wheelchairs a wide berth; don’t step over them.

Often, those of us using wheelchairs move a little slower than others in the Dealer Hall. Sorry, it’s just difficult to push a large mechanical object through a crowd. Sometimes, we have to stop for a moment to wait for an opening to cross an aisle. I know you’re in a hurry. I know there’s a demo you think you’re late for, or a game in another room. But FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY: DO NOT STEP OVER THE LEGS OF THE PERSON IN THE WHEELCHAIR. This happens to my wife at least once a year. Someone will get the bright idea that they can cut a corner if they just step over my wife’s legs. That is 100% NOT OKAY. For one, these people usually misjudge how much space they need and end up kicking my wife’s feet or the wheelchair. She’s not paralyzed, OK? She has feeling in the lower half of her body. In fact, because she has a degenerative spine condition, she feels these jolts acutely. IN HER BACK.

Pain is a funny thing (and I mean funny like a heart attack). In my wife’s case (and I know many people experience this same thing), it’s like gas prices. It’ll spike very quickly, and then take FOREVER to come back down. If you kick her wheels (however accidentally) or kick her legs because you felt stepping over her was quicker than going around, or accidentally knee the back of the chair because you’re standing too close in line, all of those jolts go right into her back. The extremities are ALL connected to the spine in some way. That jolt of pain doesn’t just go away. It takes HOURS. Often, it takes her lying down for hours before it gets back down to a manageable level and it’s not something that can be alleviated by popping a couple of ibuprofen. Chronic pain does not work that way.

More than once, she has missed out on a half-day or a whole day of a con because of this pain. When you are the cause because you carelessly stepped over her wheelchair and kicked her legs, causing a flare up of pain in her back, you have taken a day at Gen Con away from her. Is that worth saving five seconds to you?

Don’t tie up handicapped accessible bathroom stalls unless you have a Potty Emergency.

A comedian once proclaimed the virtues of the handicapped rest room stall, saying it was “the Cadillac” [of the stalls]. While it is true these stalls are often very roomy, there is a reason for that. Here’s a hint: the reason is NOT SO YOU CAN USE IT TO CHANGE INTO OR OUT OF YOUR COSTUME. I respect cosplayers. What they do is AMAZING. But if you’re tying up the accessible stall chatting on the phone, changing clothes, having a quiet moment, you may be preventing people who need to use it for its intended purposes from using the facilities they require. From what I hear, because I don’t have first-hand experience with the ladies restrooms, for every ten to twenty standard stalls, there are one or two handicapped stalls and one or two “family” stalls (if you’re lucky). The family stalls are slightly smaller than the handicapped stalls, but larger than a standard stall so that a mom can stand and assist her toddler. Handicapped attendees don’t expect the handicapped stalls to only be used by handicapped people. With some 50,000 – 60,000 attendees anticipated, it is understood that sometimes there will be a line for the facilities. People expect to have to wait their turn. The main point is to use a non-handicapped stall if one is available and to be aware that people in wheelchairs cannot choose one of the smaller stalls.

Look, I get sometimes you need a quiet moment, or have to change clothes, but that stall is that big so that wheelchairs can get into it. My wife told me of an experience last year where she was in a line three wheelchairs deep waiting for the accessible stall while two young ladies were changing clothes and giggling and were pretty much oblivious to the fact that they were not the center of the universe.  Apparently, of the twenty or so other stalls, only two others were occupied at the time, so it’s not like these young ladies had no choice (and couldn’t wait). One woman had to get out of her wheelchair, crawl along the floor, and into a non-handicapped accessible stall because she could not wait any longer. My wife confronted them and politely made them aware they were holding up the line and they cried and accused her of being rude.

When people abuse the handicapped restroom, handicapped con goers risk wetting their pants. That shouldn’t have to be one’s main concern in a public restroom.

It’s a safe bet that most cosplayers are from out of town and have hotels. Perhaps they see the bathroom, the handicapped stall in particular, as a more convenient place to work on their costume than going back to their hotel. Well, tough. That stall is for handicapped people to pee and poop. You don’t get to act put out when one of them calls you on it. Besides, have you SEEN what’s on the floor in a public restroom? I certainly wouldn’t want to get that on my costume.

NX_senior_man_wheelchairDon’t be a Dick

This last thing actually is castigation because this happens every Gen Con and it’s not a matter of people being unaware; it’s a matter of people being rude jerks. If there’s a person with a wheelchair waiting for an elevator and they were there waiting when you and your group of friends arrived, WAIT FOR THE NEXT ELEVATOR IF YOU ALL WON’T FIT. More than once we have had our elevator poached by a group of rude assholes who rush to get into the elevator before we can. That’s being a dick. That’s being rude. You are bad people and should feel bad. When that happens, we hope the elevator breaks down with you in it. Don’t make me be a bad person for wishing bad things upon you.

Let’s work together to make sure the Best Four Days of Gaming are the best days for ALL attendees!

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5th Edition Spelljammer – Favors of the Arcane, Session 12

spelljammer logoStraxius, Sumner, Zinniana, Veya, and Flint dragged Ra-Jareez and Kagark with them as they called upon Ulfda the Mighty. No one responded when they knocked on the door, so they attempted entry to find the door was unlocked.

Inside, was a horrifying sight. Hanging on the wall opposite the door was Ulfda the Mighty, eviscerated. It was obvious he was killed in some sort of ritualistic fashion. As they searched for clues, Flint recognized that the ritual strongly resembled a sacrifice to Orcus. They continued their investigation and noticed the man hanging on the wall resembled Ulfda the Mighty, but was not, in fact, the wizard who sent them looking for jeweled skulls and spoons.

Just then, a bear of a man burst into the room. He carried an axe larger than a gnome and demanded to know what was going on and why his brother was strewn all over the room. Cool heads prevailed and they convinced the large, angry man that they were not the murderers. He introduced himself as Ragnar, the Great Bear of the North, Ulfda’s brother.

It soon became obvious that whoever sent the crew of Boccob’s Barge on their interplanar journey was not Ulfda the Mighty. Ragner suggested it might have been Zagyg in disguise; the Mad God was fond of impersonating his brother when they weren’t around.

They explained the situation to Ragnar. It turned out he and his brother were from Faerun; he knew of another spelljamming vessel, but he and Ulfda lost it some time ago. He knew where it was, though, and believed the crew’s help could be just what he needed to recover the lost ship.

Ragnar led them into the Gnarly Forest, explaining they were looking for the lair of Feykromaar, a mighty green dragon who took their vessel. The dragon had an arrangement with the werewolves of the Gnarly Forest and his lair opened into a ravine deep in the wood. Ragner knew of a secret entrance beneath an old, dead tree, however. At least, he was pretty sure that’s where the cave under the tree went.

2016-07-08 23.24.32They found the tree of which Ragnar spoke and he led them down. Straxius passed around anti-toxin in preparation for whatever they found down there. The narrow tunnel was choked with spider webs. Unfortunately, the spiders which spun the webs were still there. They were quickly dealt with, but not before enough noise was made to attract the cave’s other denizens: a pack of werewolves.

The crew made short work of the werewolves and proceeded deeper into the cave. Finding the ship in a cave wasn’t difficult, but their hopes of stealing it from the dragon were dashed when they saw a young dragon hunkered down on the ship’s deck. Ragnar noted it was much smaller than Feykromaar; perhaps one of the larger dragon’s young. They had little time to speculate, however, because the dragon leapt to the attack, breathing a noxious cloud that caught the entire group!

Ragnar was most severely injured by the breath attack and as the rest of the group pulled themselves together, he began to change. He transformed into a bear-man hybrid and raised his axe in fury. The werebear Ragnar pressed the attack on the dragon.

Sumner summoned his elephant, which proceeded to charge the dragon, knocking the wyrm over. The rest of the crew, now sufficiently recovered from the breath attack, leapt to the attack, slashing and hacking the young dragon. Finally, Zinniana loosed an arrow which flew true and buried itself deep in the dragon’s eye, killing it.

Stam

Stampy danced a jig on the dragon — cloud giant not included.

 

 

 

And there was much rejoicing.And There Was Much Rejoicing

 

They gathered up what treasure they could find and boarded the ship. It was much like Ragner and Ulfda left it, except filled with the rest of the dragon’s hoard in addition to the deactivated clockwork automatons the brothers were forced to abandoned. Sumner attuned himself to the helm while the others tended to their wounds and kept watch for the other dragon.

As soon as they were able, they departed, using the ship’s helm to fly out of the ravine and back to Wildspace on Sea of Stars….

The idea to make Ulfda the Mighty an avatar of Zagyg the Mad God was inspired by my player’s speculations. I was playing it straight at first; he was just a kooky mage, but when their wild speculations drifted toward him actually being Zagyg, I decided to run with that.

I was amazed how quickly they dealt with the dragon, as well. I was really hoping the spiders and werewolves would eat up more resources. At least I got to use the breath weapon. How fortunate for the party that they all took anti-toxin prior to going into those caves.

Part of the issue is that there’s nothing between a Young (CR8) dragon and an Adult (CR15) dragon. If I had time to prep more, I might have been able to work something up, but I had a lot going on during the week that just ate into my prep time every time I turned around.

Oh well, at least I get to break out the Maiden of the High Seas again!

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5th Edition Spelljammer – Favors of the Arcane, Session 11

spelljammer logo

The crew wandered the streets of Sigil for a bit, utterly lost. Their distress was obvious to the planars around them. A young man approached them. His name was Gip and he said they needed a tout, lest they get taken advantage of by less scrupulous berks.

Gip knew about portals, of course, but after accidentally traveling through one and being forced to spend a week with satyrs in Arborea, he actively avoided them after that. “It was a laugh for a few days, but I was glad to get home. If you need the chant on a specific portal, you need a smarter cutter than me. I know a fella.”

Society of Sensation

Society of Sensation

The tout led them to the Civic Festhall, headquarters of one of Sigil’s many factions, The Society of Sensation. He had a friend among the Senates, Grim Barnabus who knew the chant on portals to prime realms.

After being accosted by a Sensate who begged to know what it was like to be shivved by a warrior woman (and Veya kindle obliged), they discovered Grim was not in the Civic Festhall. Another Sensate, Niles, suspected he went to Amoria to go fishing, but quickly corrected himself. Grim Barnabus went to Eronia for fishing.

As Eronia was one of the planes of Elysium, they would need to find a portal and key to take them there. Fortunately, Gip was familiar with that portal, though he never used it. There was a stall in the Grand Bazaar that served as the portal. By happenstance, the herbalist whose booth contained the portal sold the key: a vial of water from Oceanus. Along the way to the Grand Bazaar, they stopped at a tavern to have a grand meal and filled a magical bag they’d acquired with a variety of planar cheeses they belived they could sell on the Rock of Bral for a profit.

After pay 50 gold for a tiny vial of water, the crew used the portal and were transported to Portico on the plane of Eronia. As they stepped through, they saw jagged peaks in the distance and the roar of crashing waves closer. Portico itself was a short distance away, a small seaside village where the buildings appeared to be made from enormous sea shells and the people resembled tall sea elves. They were greeted with smiles and waves by the residents of Portico. They asked one resident if she could direct them to Grim Barnabus, and though she didn’t know him personally, she offered to go around with them and help them look.

They found him lounging on some rocks near the shore with a fishing pole. A fishing pole with no line.

Grim was amenable to leading them back to Greyhawk, though the portal would deposit them a day or so outside of the city in the Steaming Springs. They would have to wait until he was finished with his fishing for the day, unless they had their own foo dog tooth.

Since they didn’t, they waited. Straxius relaxed with Grim by the sea, conjuring his own fishing pole while the others found their own ways to relax. When it was time to depart, Grim took them back to Sigil and led them through the streets to a bricked up doorway in the Hive. He and Gip bid them farewell, and as easy as walking through a door, they departed the City of Doors and were once again on Oerth.

Straxius used the sending stones in an attempt to contact the crew, but only received a message back from Ra-Jareez telling them they needed to return to Greyhawk as soon as possible. A few quick conjurations later, they were cruising down the river toward the city. When they located the Nikosi sailor, he informed them that Boccob’s Barge was attacked in the night while they were gone. Fanged creatures surprised them in the night. He overheard them talking about an orc-something or another and assumed they were after Kagark, so he grabbed the ship’s strongbox and convinced the half-orc to flee.

The attackers took the ship and, as far as Kagark and Ra-Jareez could tell, killed the crew. The Nkosi suspected the young woman from the Rock of Bral, Gwen Sallas was in league with the villains, though he had no evidence.  The crew decided to pay a visit to the man who sent them away, Ulfda the Mighty, as they planned their next move….

That was brief. I intended the jaunt to Sigil and the Outer Planes to last a couple of sessions and have more encounters, but they were having a lot of trouble getting orientated in Sigil and I forgot to mug them before introducing the tout (Gip was supposed to come to their defense as the Harmonium was hassling them about killing some muggers). Oh well.

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