12 to Midnight

Retreat After-Action Report

08.26.08 | Comment?

Just over a week ago I took a trip through East Texas and spent the weekend with five of the seven 12 to Midnight officers on a company retreat. We stayed at a cabin on Lake Toledo Bend, where we spent the weekend fishing (didn’t catch anything), talking about where we wanted to go with the company, and of course, gaming. We left Friday morning, stopped in Lufkin for lunch and visiting with one of the members who couldn’t spend the weekend with us, and got to the cabin in the late afternoon.

The cabin was beautiful, the kitchen fully stocked, and the boat house/fishing dock amazing. We spent some time enjoying the outdoors, drove back into the nearest “town” for groceries (where we bought too much and everything was way too expensive), then settled back in at the cabin for some gaming.

Needless to say, the game of choice was ETU. I had put together six copies of the latest version of the players guide and printed them out on my laser printer the night before, so the first order of business was going through character creation. We had a 275 pound lisping linebacker, a wanna-be hippy stoner, a wanna-be rock guitarist, and a fleet-footed country boy. I have been listening to a lot of Fear the Boot podcast lately, and it has made me want to work on my GMing skills. I’m not very good at thinking on my feet, so I wanted to work on trying to be more flexible in my storytelling. Friday night I used the adventure generator to randomly create and run some scenarios on the spot.

The first one involved a party at an upperclassman’s apartment. The characters were having a good time until everyone was struck by food poisoning. Then they committed the classic gaming mistake– they split the party! Two of the characters drove home a pair of girls who were feeling sick, while two others stayed behind. That’s when things got really freaky. Someone wearing a ski mask kicked in the front door and started swinging a baseball bat. The heroes were unable to stop the assailant, but one of them was able to yank off the ski mask to reveal that their attacker was an athletically built woman. The attacker seemed to be on a mission and forced her way into the bedroom, where she started ransacking dresser drawers. Just as one of the heroes caught up with her, the apartment lights went out, and the hero felt a strange bristle as something brushed past. The young woman let out a scream, and when the lights returned, she was gone.

We finished the game at about 12:30 am, which is about 2 and half hours past my bedtime. So what did we do? Walked out to the boat dock to see if the fish were biting! If you’ve ever been camping with a group of men, you know that there are things one can say from the safety of night’s black embrace that can’t be said in the light of day. That late night fishing expedition–so dark that we couldn’t see where our lines were falling into the water–marked the beginning of the business part of the company retreat. We each took turns talking about our personal goals for joining or remaining with 12 to Midnight, and where we want to go from here. We finally wound down at about 2:30 am and called it a night. We may not have been at GenCon, but we were definitely keeping the same hours!

The next morning I was up by 6:30, made coffee, and headed back out to the dock for some early morning fishing. That’s when I took this photo from my phone. I was feeling kinda rough, but I attributed it to only having four hours of sleep. The coffee took the edge off, and it was an enjoyable morning despite not catching anything. While the other guys slept in, Ed and I took a sightseeing drive to some spots in East Texas that are evocative of Pinebox. We got back just in time for an 11 am breakfast cooked up by Jerry (with assistance from Neal?). After that, it was time to get back to business. We spent the rest of the day until about 5:30 going through a SWOT analysis and talking about our company goals in relation to our personal goals.

By breakfast and throughout the meeting, my health turned southward. I’d already gotten word from back home that the tadpoles and Mrs. Flametoad were coming down with a stomache bug, and by Saturday evening it was pretty clear that I had the same thing. Regardless, I soldiered through. Sometime near 5:30  p.m. our brains started leaking through our ears and we officially called the meeting to a close. Ill or not, as GM it was my job to lead another session. I started off with another spontaneously generated adventure that ended up falling flat, but then I transitioned to one of the plot points I wrote (and refined with Ed’s help during the drive to East Texas) for the ETU book. We had some tense action and the players said it was a lot of fun even though their characters failed at achieving their goal.

We called it quits early that night– midnight or so–and packed up the next morning to head home. By then I was definitely feeling pretty bad. Even though I was losing fluids like crazy, I was afraid to eat or drink anything for fear of what would happen during the 3.5 hour car ride back home. I had a glass of water first thing in the morning and a can of sugar-free orange soda during the drive. Once I got home, I loaded up on water again and had about 1/3 of a can of Coke Zero, which magically erased the terrible headache I’d endured since the night before.

That was my 12 to Midnight retreat. We had a lot of fun, we covered a lot of business, and I got really sick. As a postscript, we’ve already taken action on some of the items we talked about in the meeting and I think we’re all feeling excited by the possibilities in front of us. We’ve acknowledged our deficiences; now we’re working on moving the company forward. It was a weekend well spent.

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