As you’ve probably seen, this year has been filled with a lot of off-weeks as each of our schedules mis-align for different events. In early September, though, we missed a week because we were all aligned for something else entirely.
Jim and Kara have been regular attendees at this most massive of nerd conventions for years now. Last year, they brought Chris and I along with them. This year, the combined influence of all four of us was enough to drag Jason along as well. Adventures and revelry were had by all, but here I’d like to share a few highlights of special relevance to the game.
Last year, I didn’t have much of an “official” cosplay, opting instead to wear the Roman bellydance costume I made for my troupe’s spring concert. I also pieced together a sort of fem-Tom costume (which, much like the tree in the woods, does it really count as cosplay if no one gets it?) This year I wanted to do something new, but being short on time and money, decided to kill two birds with one stone and do a new outfit that would work for dance as well as cosplay. Thus I made an outfit for Kahina Seveda, my long-time backup character, an Anarch Lasombra on the Path of Lilith, who is herself a dancer, of North African descent. (Of course, since now I’m playing Scout, she doesn’t even exist as a character except in my own head, but fuck it, I do what I want.)
That dance sword, by the way, is a real antique Indian cavalry sword that’s been dulled. During game nights, it’s also sometimes Glitch.
Sadly, I learned last year that World of Darkness does not have a big presence at DragonCon. Still, I wanted to do something to be a little more direct about what I was doing, in case somebody got it. Thus, I commissioned my friend Marie to do henna-work on my back of the Anarch logo. Originally I was thinking just a solid logo, but she brought her full artistic game and came up with a design that also honors the traditional style of henna-work. Here’s the fresh paste right after she completed the work.
Henna can be a crapshoot, depending on the quality of the powder and how your skin cells respond in that place on that day. Thus, the design never got quite as dark as I would have liked, but it was still striking. Many people complemented me on it over the course of the con. Not one person recognized it, though. Ah well. I still looked good.
I also came up with a new version of a fem-Tom costume, this one with a crop-top shirt instead of a corset so I could show off the tattoo. Someone asked, though, if Tom was really an Anarch. I replied, “Well, the problem is, the Anarchs don’t like him cause they think he’s Camarilla, the Camarilla doesn’t like him cause they think he’s Sabbat, the Sabbat doesn’t really care about him but for the most part they kind of assume he’s Anarch, so he’s stuck in this weird multivariate faction-space where no one wants to associate with him. But if he had to choose himself, Anarch would probably be the closest.”
But enough about me. There was one thing I was looking forward to this year, and I had been looking forward to it since the day I left the con the year before: bringing Jason to the con, and bringing him to The Armory, so he could point out all the various weapons and guns we have been using in the game. Kara took this picture not long after we first stepped foot in the place. Somehow, I feel it perfectly encapsulates our friendship:
As expected, he pointed out all the guns, including some ones that he’s used for Sophia in the Werewolf game she is from. Some of the weapons, though, didn’t need his guidance for me to pick out:
Panzerfaust, much larger than I thought. Probably a good thing Tom never really carried no more than two at a time.
Vera! About as large as I thought, though it’s clear an oversling must be a bitch. Thank god for Potence.
Speaking of weapons: just like last year, we had dinner the first night at the Hard Rock Cafe across the street from our hotel. Somehow, though, last year we completely missed the fact that they basically have Helgi’s guitar-battle axe right there on the fucking wall:
Lest you think that Vampire is the only thing we do, this year we discovered the Gaming Room in the basement of the Hilton. Jim and Kara were amazed, because they had no idea it was there and they’ve been attending for five years. They have an entire library of pretty much every game in existence you can check out and play, whenever you want, all con long. Here is Jason, Chris, Kara, and our good friend Jenn playing a Star Trek game (complete with tiny ships!) at roughly two in the morning:
Kara’s cosplay was also her own creation, which she calls “Steampunk Ravenclaw.” It’s wonderfully perfect, complete with corsets and tiny hats, and bears mentioning because it’s really not that far off from the sorts of things Georgia wears. It’s also why she would have no problem murdering Victoria Lovelace and stealing her wardrobe.
I should also mention, that figure on Kara’s shoulder is a dragon hand-made by an artist who sells them at the con every year. Each are one of a kind, and a real work of art. Kara gets one every year, usually just in pretty jeweled colors. This year, though, she found a steampunk dragon, complete with bronze skin, tiny gears, and its own tiny hat. Everyone agreed it’s the most Kara thing that ever Kara’d.
Also, lest you think that Jason saves all his terrible machinations for us, one evening at the con he fell into a game of Axis and Allies that, according to him, was the greatest game of Axis and Allies ever played. Every player was an expert at the game, it lasted over six hours, and Jason–after many plots and counter plots involving the Japanese taking over the Panama Canal and making a rush on Massachusetts–won.
Jim, meanwhile, reprised his most-excellent Loki cosplay from last year, and was also joined by Chris, who matched up well with a Thor cosplay. The two of them definitely had fun rambling around together, but my favorite moment was when we were karayoking and they did an entire duet together, in character, to Lady Gaga. Only they changed the lyrics to “Bad Bromance.” Here they are ironically well-positioned on stage in light and shadow:
Now, I know I’ve complained that no one got my costume, but believe it or not we did actually have fans at the con! Seth and Kira, long-time friends of the game (and Werewolf players themselves, though we don’t hold that against them) came from Colorado to join our larger group of Bay Area nerds at the con. I hadn’t seen them in person since Jenn and ChrisM’s wedding years ago, so that alone was awesome. But it was also cool to introduce them to the rest of us assholes. Kira, incidentally, had briefly considered actually trying to cosplay as Sophia, before going with other options (which may be for the better, since Jason said he may have literally died from shock 😉 ). I for one, though, would have loved the excuse to dress as Tom ramble around drunkenly with her as Sophia. Perhaps next year.
I didn’t venture into the Vendor Hall until late in the con, but while I was there I found a few game-worthy moments. For example, I found an entire rack of steampunk goggles and took a picture for Jason, saying that now, finally, he might have enough goggles to put together a Dr. von Natsi costume for next year.
I also found Marcus’s sword. Straight up, no question. Hand-carved foam with a wooden handle, with the proper hispanic leaf-blade style Jason says he would have favored. The blade was even shadow-black. An absolutely beautiful piece of work, but at almost $200, perhaps not an impulse buy just to play around with at the game table.
But the real find of the vendor hall occurred right before I left. Now, I know traditionally book vendors are part of the entire point of nerd-con vendor halls, but I usually pass them by. Frankly, I barely have time to read anymore, and the few books I do purchase I try to get from my local SF/F bookstore Borderlands Books. However, while wandering down one of the aisles past a booth for a small independent publisher, one of the people manning the tables waved me down with a pleasant smile and asked if I would like to hear about some of their books. Too exhausted to protest, I said sure and asked him what sorts of interesting or unusual types of work they have.
He scanned the shelves and was like, “Well, we have one that’s about vampires on a submarine.”
I stared at him in silence a few moments. “…I’m gonna need you to show me that book,” I said.
He leads me to the book and it’s basically everything I could hope it would be. It’s called Red Sounding, and the back cover blurb says it’s not just about vampires on a submarine, but Russian submarine vampires during the Cold War. A vampire tries to take over a nuclear submarine to use it to travel the world in relative safety (obviously coming to the same conclusions Anstis did), killing some of the crew and embracing others to join him. The whole boat becomes a claustrophobic battleground hundreds of feet beneath the waves as the two factions war with each other for control of the ship.
As I’m skimming the back, I eventually admit to the guy that I play in a long running Vampire game and we recently had a major plot beat that took place on a submarine. He was like, “Oh! Well then you totally have to get this!” I was like, “Yes, I absolutely do!”
Then things got better. He said that if I came back to the booth in an hour or so, the author himself was going to be there and could sign it for me. I absolutely did, and absolutely knew what I wanted him to inscribe:
(At this point I have actually read the book and did enjoy it. I shall try to share my thoughts in a separate review-like post later.)
All in all, it was an amazing year, a filled with lots of little moments like these amongst the maelstrom of chaos of 70,000 people. I am relatively new to nerd conventions (despite the fact that I myself am on the planning committee for a small local one) but already I am in love with them. They are special places, sacred in their way, where people who thrive on imagination and the worlds shared amongst friends can come together to build great things, even if it’s only for a few days at a time.
I think it’s only proper that I shared this experience with the people I love so much precisely because we come together to create our own shared stories, both in reality and just on the other side of it. The games we play and the stories we tell are a microcosm of the experience of life, and my life is certainly all the richer for having experienced them, and it couldn’t have happened without them.
Even if, at the end of the day, they’re still a bunch of assholes.