Dice, Dead Deer and Dire Cabin Fever: Hurricane Sandy After-Report

I, Shoshana Kessock, have never been so glad to sit at a computer and type things to the Interwebs.

It’s been a few days now since I escaped the blacked out portions of New Jersey and got to a place with power, and I’m still counting my blessings every time I turn on a light switch. The devastation of Hurricane Sandy that wrecked portions of the East Coast and walloped the Tri-State area had me sheltering in place with some friends in Jersey City for the duration. We returned from an amazing weekend at Deathcon, Dystopia Rising’s Halloween season ender, just in time to hunker down for the storm. Eschaton Media staffers Ashley Zdeb, Sean and Megan Jaffe, their roommate Shaheen, my best friend Andrea and our friend Schuyler made ourselves at home for the crisis. The story has become my favorite example for how generous and welcoming gamers can be, as the good folks opened their home to me for six days when the power went out during the storm Monday and stayed that way until Friday evening.

Now, you’d ask: what did you do during that time? Well, folks, we did what any good gamers would do during a shut-in period of a few days. In between trips to the local Target to charge our items, gather supplies and generally touch base with the outside world, we did what gamers will do. We found games we liked and we played the hell out of them. What did we play? I’m glad you asked!

  1. Fiasco: For those of you unfamiliar with Fiasco, it’s an amazing tabletop storytelling game written by Jason Morningstar. Described on Amazon.com as ‘a roleplaying game about ordinary people with powerful ambitions and poor impulse control’, Fiasco is an incredible narrative-driven game that lets you essentially play out a Coen Bros. movie with little to no prep and a lot of interpersonal insanity. The version we played was based on a horror world created by Sean Jaffe where some folks from a small town were hanging out in a bar when they’re offered $50,000 each to watch a shiny red Cadillac for one month. The catch? They just couldn’t open the trunk. But what happens when you hear the trunk a’thumping? Yeah, it was that kind of game. Sean also included some amazing horror elements in the game that had us genuinely clawing at each other’s arms and jumping at the smallest noise… which was funny, since we were playing it through the worst of the Hurricane. It’s a testament to how good a GM Sean is and how solid Fiasco is as a game that we barely blinked when the power went out – we just picked up candles and kept going.
  2. Munchkin Cthulhu– What could make a card game like Steve Jackson’s Munchkin better? Toss Cthulhu into it! The popular card game has about a dozen editions now, including one based on Firefly, on White Wolf games, on James Bond and Super Heroes, but it’s the Cthulhu one that’s nearly standard for any gamer nerd. We played the ‘kick down the door and kill a monster, but don’t forget to screw your friends over!’ game by candlelight on the third night of our forced Staycation and it was actually the most civilized session of this game I’ve ever played. Maybe we just didn’t want to get all Lord of the Flies over defeating the Dread Cthulhu, but I’ve had some wicked competitive games of Munchkin in the past. This one managed to stay fun and supportive all the way thru, like when we all let Sean beat up on Dread Cthulhu because, heck, why not?
  3. Lego: It’s not really a game so much as a toy, I guess, but I’ll include this here. Designing Legos by candlelight can be fun. Watching friends try to create a better spaceship than the other is hilarious and awesome.
  4. Super Hexagon: Got some battery left on your iPhone? Why not try an amazing game called Super Hexagon, why doncha? If you can’t get a signal out to friends and family, you might as well play this super abstract, super hard game to pass the time.

The other thing this vacation from the land of power and cell service did was give me an opportunity to prepare for Metatopia, the game design convention which passed this last weekend. Friday I was lucky to get out to Morristown for the con and had such an amazing time, it will get it’s own blog post. However, during the blackout, I got the opportunity to toss around ideas for finalizing the system for my tabletop RPG, Wanderlust. I also gave feedback for a project Sean was working on as we game designed in the dark.

All in all, I learned a couple of valuable things during this hurricane. One, when putting a car in a garage, make sure it has a way to be opened without utilizing electricity BEFORE the power goes out. Two, I can cook better than I ever imagined using just a stovetop. Three, games can make the worst situation so much better. And four, MAN do I get cabin fever in the dark. Special thanks to Justin Cronin’s new book, The Twelve, for helping me to get through it all.

Next post will talk about the amazing time I had at this year’s Metatopia. Until then, let’s wish everyone recovering from Hurricane Sandy good thoughts and much help. Also don’t forget to vote!

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