Posts Tagged With: Gary Con

Gary Con X

Since I mentioned prepping for Gary Con X in my last blog post, I thought I should at least do my customary post-con write-up.

I didn’t go.

A water main broke under our driveway and we discovered the leak two days before we were due to depart. 3 days without water and nearly $4,000 later, it was fixed. As a result, we made the decision to cancel our trip to Gary Con. Since we’re currently building a new house, this couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Instead, I worked from home for three days while workers came and went. I also got a lot of packing done for our upcoming move. Significant progress has been made on that front which wouldn’t have been done until after I returned from Gary Con, so I guess that’s good.

This Friday, we’ll return to our D&D game for session 4 of Tomb of Annihilation. After session 5, I may have to take another hiatus to finish packing and actually move. If that is the case, games will resume around Memorial Day from my new home and new game room.



Categories: Conventions | Tags:

A Short Hiatus

One of my regular players was out with a medical issue for the last two games, so rather than continue the D&D game (we left off in the middle of exploring a druidic grove), I took the opportunity to play test two adventures I’m running at Gary Con next month.

I won’t go into too much detail in case anyone reading this is signed up to play in those games.

timewatch-logoThe first was “Recruiting Call,” an adventure for Pelgrane Press’s Timewatch RPG. This was both the first time I’d ever played or GMed a Gumshoe-system game.

Basically, the premise of Timewatch is similar to the Van Damme move from the 90s, “Timecop.” If you haven’t seen it, I won’t tell you to run out right now and watch it, but it does have Bruce McGill, so that’s a plus in my book.

So, time-traveling secret agents on a time-and-location-hopping adventure. It worked out pretty well. I found the system pretty easy to run, one of the easiest to grok from scratch I’ve experienced, in fact. Fate took several play and GM sessions before I felt comfortable with it. I’m still not entire comfortable with Ubiquity (of Hollow Earth Expedition fame), despite having played it at least once and run it twice. My players discovered that violence-based solutions were a poor choice for their characters (it didn’t help that their rolls were crappy all night), so there’s a hint for you if you’re signed up to play in this at Gary Con.

starwars_logoThe second game was “Imperial Entanglements,” a Star Wars adventure I wrote and ran at Gary Con V four years ago for West End Games’s d6-based Star Wars RPG (long out-of-print, but never forgotten). I foolishly included a character four years ago that was able to break the adventure in the very beginning so I re-vamped all the pre-gens and fleshed out and expanded the adventure even more (to cop to my mistake, I was woefully unprepared to run it that year and decided then that ad-libbing my way through most of a con adventure was a BAD idea for me).

I may have added too much material, but it certainly went better than the last time I ran it. In addition, the pre-gens I created are much more suited for the type of adventure it is and everyone had a chance to shine over the course of the evening. I didn’t even really need the miniatures I had (though I’ll probably still bring them, because not every group is as good at avoiding combat at my current home group can be).

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. Next weekend we return to our regularly-schedule, but twice-delayed Fifth Edition Spelljammer game.

Categories: Random Thoughts | Tags: , , , , ,

Gary Con VIII Report!

Gary Con: a four-day celebration of the life and games of Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons. Held in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, I have been attending since Gary Con II.

Day 0 – We arrived on Wednesday, got checked into the Grand Geneva Resort and Spa and immediately saw some old friends. There were a few things I needed to run to the Piggly Wiggly for, so I did that, we had dinner at one of the on-site restaurants, and socialized a bit before bed.

A pretty low-key start, but that’s typical and appropriate.

Day 1 – I started the con out with a DM’s Guild Workshop run by some of the folks who came out to Gary Con from Wizards of the Coast (Mike Mearls, Trevor Kidd, and Chris Perkins among them). It was about building backgrounds for your game, or more specifically gothic horror backgrounds since their current thing is Curse of Strahd. I found it more helpful than I expected and was sad that was the only workshop I could fit into my schedule. I hope they come back next year!

Next was my Paranoia game, “Bugs in the System.” I run 2nd edition Paranoia because it’s my favorite version and I’ve never seen the need to add more different complex systems to it for any reason, particuarly a convention scenario. There were several familiar faces at the table and a few new players. They all failed to kill the team leader multiple times, though. I failed, as well, as he didn’t die once. I must be losing my touch. Still, the game was a success and everyone seemed to have fun. The session ended with them aiding, however inadvertantly, the giant mutant cockroaches in lauching the Starship Warden.

After Paranoia, I managed to hit the Dealer Hall for a bit. It was bigger than in previous years, more spacious, and with more vendors. I managed to avoid spending ANY money. Most excellent.

That evening’s game was run by James Carpio of the new TSR Games. It was a playtest for their new espionage RPG written by The Admistrator himself, Merle Rasmussen (who you may remember from such RPGs as Top Secret). It was a fun game and since I wasn’t rolling a d20, I did fairly well, though I did whip out an Australian accent while undercover in the U.K…. I have no idea WHY I defaulted to that instead of a generic British accent. Or Irish. Or Scottish. No, I had to go to the other side of the planet. Still, we succeeded in our mission and I got to fly a drone into the back of a sniper’s head… causing him to fall off the building and set off a car alarm. Oops.

Day 2 – I started the day with an Adventurer’s League game. The one I signed up for was cancelled since I was the only person who signed up, but fortunately, there was another table with an open slot. Players were still working through the earlier adventures in the series, I was a non-conformist who signed up for the third adventure in the series.

I swore off Organized Play after two years straight of bad experiences at Gen Con. I tried Pathfinder Society for a while, but the GMs were hit-and-miss and generally, I found not playing to be preferable. So, I didn’t have really high hopes.

The adventure, which took place in Barovia (I also swore off Ravenloft after an incident in the early ’90s), was enjoyable, and though my tiefling paladin died, we defeated the villian. Or rather, the other two players did while I provided a convienient distraction for the attacking werewolf.

You see, all weekend, my d20s rolled like warmed over shit. Seriously, I could not succeed on a roll to save my life, whether it was D&D or Dungeon Crawl Classics. I was so digusted after the D&D game, I went out and bought a whole new set of dice. Naturally, that didn’t work. Must have been user error, an 1d10T error, if you will.

I followed the D&D game up with wandering, Dealer Hallering, and general socialization until my afternoon game: Women Only – Tomb of Horrors, played with the original AD&D, as it was meant to be experienced. The group played cautiously, and it took an hour before the first death. Well, the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth deaths. Can you guess? Look in the first comment for the answer (a few people who read this blog will be spoiled by the answer).

Also, kudos to the 9-year-old girl, whose name I cannot remember, who had the best comments of the game. To the Petrie sisters & mother: I finally met someone worse than my mother! And, her HORROR when she realized what she said: “Stop sticking your poles in holes!”

As a 9-year-old, I doubt I would ever have realized the implications of that phrase. There were also jokes made (not by me!) about the Tomb of Whores. Apparently, I don’t enunciate as clearly as Paul Harvey.

The evening was pretty much free. I think I planned to find a pick-up game, but ended up socializing instead.

Day 3 – Day three was Numenera day. I ran two events set in Monte Cook Games’s Cypher System Numenera setting and was grateful to have one player in both games who was familiar with the system. Not that I was completely inexperienced, but it had been a few months since I tested the adventures and when you bounce back and forth between wildly different systems, it can be difficult to keep things straight. Both games went well. “The Wailing Sore” got high marks for being really weird, but I think “Locks of the World” was better paced, even though I missed giving out the key clue to unraveling the mystery. I’m not sure how that happened; I must’ve given my play-test group a bit of information I didn’t have written down in my notes.

Still, the games went well, despite both being the games for which I had no-shows. There were plenty of walk-ons (or as one gamer described himself, squatters) for the first game, so I ran a full table. The second game had two empty seats when we started, but Numenera is a flexible enough system that being short two players didn’t matter.

I’m fairly certain I planned to run a pick-up game in the evening, but instead we had dinner with some friends, then called it a night.

Day 4 – I hit the Dealer Hall once last time before they closed, because someone at Goodman Games came up with these scratch-off Adventures and if you “won” 1000 GP of treasure, they’d give you a $10 gift certificate at their booth and I won! Well, I bought enough cards to earn enough loot (really, it was $5 of cards for $10 off, so I still came out ahead). Whoever designed these crack card is a freakin’ GENIUS. If they have them at Gen Con, BEWARE. Your wallet will cry DOOM. DOOOOOOM. They’re fun though!

I only had one game: a Dungeon Crawl Classics play-test. My dice, once again, decided rolling well was not as fun as being horrible to me. My first three rolls were (in order, 3, 1, and 1. I did roll a 20… at the worst possible time when I wanted a low result. So yay.

Still, the game was fun and during the short break, I ran into the Geekpreacher (who is a good friend). Running into him isn’t all that unusual, but he told me how he got into a bidding war with Tim Kask over my fantasy novels at the Gary Con auction. Mr. Kask was interested in them, but Geekpreacher knew his birthday was coming up, so he out-bid him, then after encountering me in the hallway, had me present them to Mr. Kask during his video panel. It was quite a thrill to be introduced as the author of books one of the Old Guard was interested in and be able to present them to him as a birthday gift. I hope Mr. Kask enjoys my books.

There was one other game on Day 4, but it was an invitation-only off-grid game. Bob Brinkman ran a continuation of his Mountain Monsters-inspired Call of Cthulhu game. For those of you not in the know, Mountain Monsters is a “reality” TV show on Destination America. It’s basically Finding Bigfoot (or insert crytid of your choice here) when a team of West Virginia hillbilly hunters. The show is just as over-dramatic and silly as you’d expect, but is surprisingly good fodder for Call of Cthulhu. We closed out the con with this 8pm – midnight game and it was suitably epic. The sad part is I hear our friends from the UK, Simon Todd, his daughter Bernie, and his business partner Andy will not be able to attend next year. Part 3 won’t be the same without them!

Whether or not it’s related, I saw a spike in sales that day, as well. I put all my books on sale during Gary Con, but I didn’t mention it during my brief appearance in that panel (I did mentioned at other times, especially if the topic came up).

The on-site restaurants were excellent. Of course, it is rated a 4-Diamond Resort by AAA, so quality is to be expected. Not only did I not gain weight, despite feeling like I overindulged (particularly in gelato), I actually lost a pound or two, I think. Tableside service was also excellent. I actually felt like I had options other than fried fat with a side of fried carbs in a fried basket of fried (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I ceased to be able to eat that for a meal many years ago).

Gary Con was bigger than ever, yet seemed less crowded. Mostly because the venue was much, much larger than previous years’. All the GMs and players I gamed with were excellent, and even the Organized Play, which I poo-poo at Gen Con, was good. It was the best organized and most fun OP I’ve ever experienced at a convention. So, kudos to the organizers for that.

There were a few things to complain about, no con is perfect, but I provided feedback I hope the organizers will find helpful.

Categories: Conventions | Tags:

Looking forward to 2016

You may have notice that this blog kind of went silent after I posted the synopsis for my last Star Wars session. Life got busy with the holidays, sorry about that.

I didn’t stop gaming, of course. I’ve been running play tests of the games I’m going to run at Gary Con. I’m not going to post session synopses of them just in case one of the half-dozen readers of this blog are attendees; I don’t want to spoil the adventures for them. We also played a smashing session of Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space. It was a Hanukkah special!

I can give you some spoiler-free previews what I’m running at Gary Con, though (DGS is the Dead Games Society).

DGS Presents: Paranoia – Bugs in the System
March 3 @ 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Once again The Computer calls upon you to stand up to the Commie Mutant Traitors, and dare we say, Shoot the Troubles they cause! Odd computer issues, obviously caused by Commie Mutant Traitors are plaguing Alpha Complex. Your Friend, The Computer, needs YOU to brave the deep recesses of the CPU core, root out the problems, and execute them with EXTREME PREJUDICE! Can The Computer count on you, Friend? Participation is Mandatory!
(Play test done, adventure updated, and ready to go!)

DGS Presents: Tomb of Horrors (Women Only!)
March 4 @ 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm
For generations, the crypt of the demi-lich Acerak has been the source of gamers stories the world over. Now, experience it for yourself the way it was meant to be, with AD&D! Can you face down the tricks and traps of the tomb and live to tell the tale? Or will you join the ranks of the legions of adventurers who have fallen victim to the Tomb of Horrors?
This session is for the women of Gary Con, only, please.
(No play test, just need to finish the pre-gens.)

The Wailing Sore
March 5 @ 8:00 am – 12:00 pm
A billion years in the future, a village in the Ninth World prospers, content in their little corner, ignoring the oddities and dangers of the world. Farmers grow their crops and tend to their livestock, children play in the meadows, and families work and live together. One day that all changes as a strange growth erupts around the spring that serves the village. With their water supply now endangered, the villagers turn to the explorers and adventures in their midst. The ones seeking to unlock the mysteries of the Numenera may be their only hope.
(Play test done, adventure updated, and ready to go!)

Locks of the World
March 5 @ 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Workers at a dig site near the city of Qi have disappeared. Citizens have been reporting inexplicable disturbances. Is some bit of malevolent Numenera responsible, or worse? Did the explorers unearth an ancient, forgotten evil? The Council of Spheres turns to you to find answers and determine what awaits at the Locks of the World.
(Writing now, play test on Jan. 15th.)

Of course, since event registration hasn’t opened yet, I don’t know what games I’ll be playing when I’m not running these games, but I’m sure there’ll be a ton of good things. I already know of a few; the main thing I have to decide is which VIP game I’m going to try to get into. My wife will undoubtedly want to play in one of James M. Ward’s games; I try to spread myself around from year to year so I can play with all of the Old Guard eventually. So far, I’ve games with James M. Ward (Metamorphosis Alpha), Merle Rasmussen (Top Secret), Frank Mentzer (AD&D), and Luke Gygax (AD&D). Maybe this year I’ll look for one of Ernie Gygax’s games or maybe check out Peter Adkinson’s new game.

Depending on how my time shakes out, I might run a few of these in the evening at ConQuesT, as well, though my evenings are probably going to be booked with social activities since that’s a working convention for me.

On the home campaign front, once the Star Wars game wrapped up, we started discussing the next campaign. There was a strong preference to playing D&D again, so I will run Fifth edition, though there is talk about a Numenera game after that one.

Categories: Conventions, D&D, Paranoia | Tags: , , , ,

Gary Con VII Report

So, last weekend, I was at Gary Con in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Gary Con is an annual pilgrimage for me. Firstly, it’s the only convention I currently attend during which I can play games. Secondly, it’s a celebration of the life of Gary Gygax. Thirdly, it’s become like a family reunion. My wife and I always enjoy seeing familiar faces, catching up with old friends, and making new. I didn’t have time to write up day-by-day reports, so this will be more of a greatest hits.

The Bad

  • My wife got Con Crud.
  • It was awkward when people asked where we were from and we answered “Indiana.” Thanks Governor Pence.

The Good

  • I cosplayed! First time for me, really. Dressing up for Hallowe’en is one thing. Spending a good portion of the day is challenging, as I discovered.
  • I started the con off with an Atomic Robo Fate Accelerated game, Action Scientists of Tesladyne – Issue 1: The Madness of Dr. Frankenheimer. Much fun was had by all and several people indicated they would seek out the comic. Fortunately for me, the game was full of people familiar with Fate. It was tremendously helpful in gaining a better understanding of game flow (I had GMed it 4X up to that point, but was not at all confident). So, thanks to those players!
  • After Atomic Robo, I changed into my first costume of the con. Star Trek: TOS. Except for the boots, it was about as screen-accurate as one can get. Concessions are made to studio lighting: Kirk’s wraparound casual tunic was the same color as the standard uniform, but the material made the standard uniforms appear gold instead of avacado. Everyone thinks of them as gold now.
  • It was in the Star Trek uniform that I played in my next game: Airfield Follies, a Hollow Earth Expedition game run by James Carpio of Gygax Magazine. It was pulpy and inspired a bit by King Kong. I played a slovenly movie producer that more concerned with making my final film than everyone’s lives. Still, no one killed me and I got some great coverage of the t-rex chomping down on one of us. Fun fact: those TOS pants are tight enough that they rode up and down while I was sitting, so I was constantly fidgeting. The zipper also liked to open whenever I sat. They fit, but the material from which they’re made has NO give. It’s sparkly, though.
  • I planned to switch to a TNG costume for the evening, but I’ve lost so much weight it fit me like a mu-mu, so I had to ditch that plan.
  • Ever hear of the show “Mountain Monsters“? It was the basis for my first-ever Call of Cthulhu game. It’s like Duck Dynasty meets Supernatural. I played Trapper. I was proud of not making ANY M*A*S*H jokes. We did get an NPC stepped on by a building-sized eldritch horror, though. Kinda feel bad about that.
  • Friday was Fallout Friday! It doesn’t show up particularly well in the pictures, but the Pipboy has a working screen and the laser pistol is painted to look like Pew Pew from New Vegas. Fun fact: the tire pauldron was a real truck tire in a former life and isn’t particularly suited to wearing on a shoulder. I need to line it with foam or something. I had a tender spot there for the rest of the weekend.
  • I played AD&D with Luke Gygax. I created a dwarven cleric and named him Gristle McThornbody. He ran us through a new adventure written by him and a bunch of the other Old Guard (Tim Kask, Frank Mentzer, James M. Ward, etc.) called The Cave of Wisdom. I died two rooms in, crushed by a mama troll with a large frying pan. Good times! It was actually a good thing for me, because that game ran from 9am – 1pm and I was GMing my Fallout-based Fate game from 1pm – 4:30pm. That left NO time for walking to the next game or food.
  • The afternoon was my Fallout Fate Accelerated game, Fire from the Sky. A few younger players tried to meta-game based on their knowledge of the Fallout franchise, but overall the game went well. I had a bunch of Nuka Cola bottle caps I used for Fate Points. My idea of handing out cards with items to represent a more Fallout-y style of Stunt worked well, though I forgot to print out about 1/3rd of them. Some of them need to be reworded, as well.
  • I changed back into civvies for my Friday evening game: Savage Spaceballs! I played Barf, because I wanted to be my own best friend. Lonestar and Vespa were separated with two horrible little children, but reunited to search for the stolen Family Jewels of Druidia. Yes, jokes were made. My wife played Dot Matrix, nanny to the horrible children and her East Coast accent made it easy for her to slip into Joan Rivers mode.  Dark Helmet was relegated to working at Space FedEx and Colonel Sanders took a Batman-like turn in his self-appointed role of Dark Helmet’s guardian (except chicken-themed). It was rather hilarious… particularly since Barf had developed a leg-humping problem. Mogs gotta establish dominance!
  • Saturday I was foolish and scheduled my Saturday Morning Superheroes game (also Fate Accelerated) for 8AM… after a midnight end for Savage Spaceballs. I’m getting too old for that. Plus, I found out that breakfast wasn’t officially served until 8AM. Oops. Oh well, lesson learned. For this game, I was assigned a table in the “Porch” area; the room in which Gary Gygax’s memorial table sits. It’s the room in which most of the Old Guard run their games from cushy, high-backed padded chairs. Nearby, Merle Rassmussen was running his women-only Top Secret game (FYI: Merle Rassmussen designed the original Top Secret RPG for TSR in the late ’70s). I didn’t feel right sitting in the high-back chair, especially since we already received an “Old Guard” parking permit and reserved space due to my wife’s wheelchair. Anyway, the game went well with Casper the Friendly Ghost, Yogi Bear, Captain Caveman, Grape Ape, Hong Kong Phooey, and the Smurfs teaming up to defeat The Cloaked Figure (real identity… SPOILERS! Neener, neener, neener!) after the murder of Dynomutt. Yeah, it was a little dark. But fun and perfect for a Saturday morning with cries of “CAPTAIN CAAAAAAAAAVEMAAAAAN” and someone singing the Smurf song as they hijacked an RC car.
  • Saturday afternoon, my wife played in James M. Ward’s women-only game. Out of 12 or 13 players, only 4 characters died. I first thought perhaps he wasn’t feeling well (he has a reputation), but it turns out they just played really well. He was testing a new game system he’s developing and it earned high praise from all the players. James M. Ward is the man who got my wife into gaming several years ago, and we always make a point of saying “hi” to him at Gary Con.
  • The rest of my Saturday was open. Registration issues kept me from getting into anything else that day, though I did take my wife’s ticket for Cthulhu Invictus (a Call of Cthulhu game set in the Roman Empire). Both of my CoC games were intended for my wife and I to both play in, but she got in and I did not, so I just used her tickets (not to worry… wait until Sunday night). It was a lot of fun and featured many of the same players from Savage Spaceballs. Both events were run by folks from GameHole Con. A documentary crew was filming Stephen Pokorny (the guy who makes Dwarven Forge) throughout the con and they stopped by our table, so you might see my remarks at some point (I had to sign a release and everything).
  • The group photo of the collected mass of Hawaiian shirts worn in honor of Gary Gygax was taken Saturday night. I don’t have a copy of it, but you can see it on Facebook.
  • Sunday morning, I ran my final game of the con: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – 1980s Edition! (Fate Accelerated). This game featured B.A. Baracus (The A-Team), MacGyver, Doc Brown (Back to the Future), Jack Burton (Big Trouble in Little China), Melina Havelock (For Your Eyes Only), and Sarah Conner (The Terminator). I used Karl Keesler’s Savage Worlds adventure for the basis of this game, except I changed some of the characters so they all fit into the 1980s (his PC were all from ’80s films; mine were all from 80s films that took place IN the ’80s). I also added Sho-Nuff from The Last Dragon as one of David Lo Pan’s flunkies. It went really well, with Terminators, three Jason’s (from Friday the 13th), a plethora of Wing Kong, Jack Burton’s truck, and Lo Pan all showing up at the finale. It was a good way to end my run as a GM there this year.
  • The rest of Sunday was socializing and taking it easy. My wife was invited to an encore of the Mountain Monsters Call of Cthulhu game and I encouraged her to take advantage of the opportunity. I planned to play again as a different character, but while we were waiting by the fire, Merle Rasmussen stopped by to say “Hi” and we ended up chatting about Top Secret, TSR, and writing for nearly 3 hours! That’s one of the great things about Gary Con, it’s small enough that you never know who you’re going to run into and talk with into the late hours of the evening.

That’s about it. We left Monday afternoon and drove back. As always, it was a great convention. I’m already booked at The Lodge at Geneva Ridge for Gary Con VII and have begun planning my games*!

You can see a slideshow of all my Gary Con pictures at Photobucket, including my wife’s pirate and Victorian outfits. For once, I remembered I brought a camera, though the number of pictures I took averaged less than 10 a day.

*I’m planning on running four games for the Dead Games Society next year. Two of which will be S1: The Tomb of Horrors, one general admission and one for women only (there are a lot of people who have never experienced it in the original AD&D… they deserve that experience if they so desire). I’m also writing an original AD&D adventure titled “The Wailing Sore,” and will return to Paranoia with “Bugs in the System.”

Categories: Conventions | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Gary Con VI Report

The Cosmic Bacon arrived just in time!

The Cosmic Bacon arrived just in time!

For those of you who don’t know, Gary Con is an annual game convention held every March in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, to honor the memory of the father of role-playing games, E. Gary Gygax. Their focus is on the one thing Gary loved most: gaming! I’ve been going since 2010 or so.

Wednesday is usually a quiet day at Thursday – Sunday convention. Arrival. Check-in. Settle into room. Get badges. For many, it is the longest continual socialization time of the convention.

This year, many people attended a pre-con party at Frank Mentzer’s home. While I would like to have gone, when I heard smoking would be allowed in the house (albeit confined to one room away from most of the guests), I had to decline. Any amount will play hell with my wife’s asthma, and we’re both sensitive enough to it that the lingering smells on everyone’s clothes (our own included) would be a problem. Contrary to what many smokers think, non-smokers CAN smell it on them for hours and hours and it gets on us, too, when we’re around smoke. When it induces respiratory problems, that’s an issue. Nevertheless, I’m sure everyone there had a great time, and I’m sure many stories will come out of it that will be told for years to come.

After checking in and getting settled, we decided to try to rustle up some gaming action. I brought with me Sentinels of the Multiverse, Project Ninja Panda Taco, and Edition Wars, but was unable to drum up any interest. Rather than assume it was because the games held no interest to anyone but myself, I will instead assume that my Game Master badge intimidated everyone. Instead of gaming, we joined some friends for dinner and conversation, which was just as good as gaming, in my opinion.

Thursday was a fairly low-key day. I started off by wandering around, visiting with Jolly and Barbara Blackburn of Kenzer & Co. (and Knights of the Dinner Table fame) and visiting the Dealer Hall. My first game of the day was supposed to be a HackMaster game at 10AM, but I screwed up during registration and signed up for a 10PM game by mistake! Resigned to my failure, I wandered around some more and purchased some old Spelljammer supplements out of pity for myself (they were still in the shrinkwrap, so I essentially bought NEW items from the ’90s!). My next game was in the afternoon, a Savage Worlds game run by Gygax Magazine called “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 1940.” I played Indiana Jones. The other characters in play were Ms. Fury, Doc Savage, and The Phantom. We had a few empty chairs, so no one played Tarzen, The Rocketeer, or The Shadow. There were car chases, Nazis, and zeppelins, as you might expect from a pulp-action game. It was a lot of fun and further cemented my wife’s preference for Savage Worlds over Pathfinder. I, too, have been leaning towards less crunchy systems over the last couple of years, and Savage Worlds and Fate are quickly rising to the top of that list for modern RPGs.

In the evening, I ran my first Paranoia game, “Groovin’ to the Oldies.” I ended up running two sessions of that particularly adventure, and will talk about my games later.

Friday started off with my second Paranoia session. The rest of the day was very low key and I only had one game in the evening, a Top Secret game set during the Cold War called “Operation: Good Night.” We took the role of western spies assigned to extract a Soviet defector from East Berlin. It was interesting to play an RPG set in setting I was somewhat familiar with, having grown up in Germany during the Cold War (though I never visited Berlin). Our group ended up having two moles, but we accomplished our primary objective without any gun play. It was a good game, though a little more gritty & realistic than I was expecting.

Saturday was the big day at Gary Con. It was the busiest from an attendance standpoint, and from a play standpoint for me. My wife ditched both of the games we were scheduled for (one of which was a game I was running!) because she was personally invited by James M. Ward to play in his female-gamer-only game “Monty Haul’s Lesser Tower of Doom.” I, of course, was perfectly OK with this, since when a former TSR luminary and con Guest of Honor invite you to his game, you don’t say no. Publicly, I acted hurt and betrayed that she ditched her husband’s game for another GM’s game. 😀

I started my day with “The FATE (sic) of Skull Island.” It was another pulp-action game set in the 1940 (I’m sensing a theme here), but using Fate Core. I had the books from the Kickstarter, of course, and I played in a Bulldogs! game at Gen Con two years ago, but I rated my comfort level with the Fate system at “Not at all comfortable.” This game changed that. I played a Dashing Barnstormer named Henry “Hank” Jericho, Captain USAAC, Ret., who was a veteran of both wars. From the event’s title, you might surmise that King Kong was involved…and you would be wrong, but his larger cousin EMPEROR Kong was. We had great fun and when the game was over, I had to dash downstairs to run my Star Wars game (WEG, 2nd edition Revised & Expanded), “A Simple Job.” All four of the players who showed up for my game had been players with me in the previous Fate game, so at least no one was waiting for me since I scheduled the games back-to-back. As with the Paranoia games, I’ll talk about my Star Wars game later.

After dinner, we tried to scare up some interest to play Edition Wars, Sentinel of the Multiverse, or Project Ninja Panda Taco, but again, my GM’s badge intimidated everyone. We instead got involved in a couple of games of Bang! The Dice Game and Cards Against Humanity. Never before have I felt guilty for liking a game (and I know there are folks out there who absolutely LOATHE Cards Against Humanity). We noted that the game at least took shots against EVERYONE and not just any particular ethnic group. Still, I understand the loathing some people have for the game, I just don’t particularly agree with it.

The oasis where we had to recover stolen drones.

The oasis where we had to recover stolen drones.

Sunday was Gary Con’s slow day, and my day started early with another Top Secret game, this one set in the modern day, run by the game’s creator, Merle Rasmussen. It featured a lot of trading and negotiation, but felt very action packed. It was a ton of fun and all the players received a printed version of the adventure “Operation Rendezvous Oasis” (which will also appear in issue 4 of Gygax Magazine) as well as a new-in-box, shrinkwrapped copy of Merle’s first game, SQWURM from 1979! It was a blast. Originally, I tried to get into Jim Ward’s Sunday game, but due to registration hiccups, there were a lot of games I couldn’t get in, and I didn’t even think to try to get into this one. I figured since it was Merle’s first convention appearance in 30 years, and Top Secret is still pretty popular, that I wouldn’t have a chance. To my shock, there were still seats when I finished registration, so I quickly saved my spot.

My novels at the Broadleaf Book Shop

My novels at the Broadleaf Book Shop

After the game, I ran into Harold Johnson in the Dealer Hall. I’d heard he was running a book shop in Lake Geneva, so I wanted to talk to him about what it would take to get my books in his store. When I showed him my books, he was excited and wanted all the copies I had with me. My novels are now carried in the Breadloaf Book Shop in Lake Geneva, WI. This pleases me to no end, since Lake Geneva is essentially the birthplace of D&D and without D&D, I probably wouldn’t be writing.

When we returned to the hotel, Gary Con was essentially over, but we managed to play a couple of games of Elder Sign. I now have another game added to my “To Purchase” list, and I bought the electronic version for my Kindle Fire.

Gary Con was a rousing success for me in many ways. My books are carried in a book store now, and I had a lot of fun. It was the best Gary Con yet. There were hiccups, to be sure (we never got to play in the Gary Con Joust as no one was ever officiating when we’d try to play), but overall, it was great. My games…well, I’ll consider them fun failures. All three ran too short. The length was the only failing of the Star Wars game, so I could beef it up with another encounter, and run it again with no other modifications (though I would like better miniatures for the vehicle segments). The Paranoia game, however, is a different story. I got all the jokes in there (I referenced disco, Saints Row IV (Dubstep Gun), Fraggle Rock, Borderlands, The Simpsons, and the Matrix), but the game was so deficiently lethal, it played more like a wacky Gamma World game than a Paranoia game. There were 2-3 deaths at most out of the 6 characters in play, far from the 400%+ death rate I should’ve had. I just didn’t have the right mix of pre-gens and Secret Society missions. I think if I add two more encounters and change up the pre-gens to all be Red clearance (I had a mix this time just to change things up) and re-write all the Secret Society missions to focus more on interparty conflict, I can get it to the right length. The ending though…I like the ending. As a response to criticism I received last year (about always ending with a button press nuclear explosions), I changed it so the button press either reboots the sector or [SPOILERS] ends the Simulation, ala The Matrix. The criticism was about the button press, not the nuclear explosion, so I misinterpreted that, but I really like the idea of Paranoia taking place in a simulation run by our Insect Overlords to keep humans occupied before they toil in the underground sugar caves (there’s your Simpsons reference…from the 90s). Oh well, they can’t all be home runs, and since both groups chose to End the Simulation, I have a perfect excuse to not run Paranoia next year since there are so many other games I want to play and run. I’m considering running all my games in costume next year, and I’ll have to fit the games to the costume so that would mean I need to run Star Trek, Fallout, and a western. I have a year to work on that.

Thanks to Luke Gygax, Dale Leonard, Gene Drebenstedt and the rest of the Gary Con staff for a great convention! I’m looking forward to next year!

Categories: Conventions | Tags: , ,

Gary Con IV Report

Ahh…four days of gaming and no work. That’s what Gary Con is to me. Gen Con may bill itself as “The Best Four Days of Gaming,” but I spend over half of my time at Gen Con working on ENnie Awards-related stuff. I get more gaming in at Gary Con.

The convention started off with me driving in on Wednesday afternoon. After getting settled in at the hotel and having dinner at Popeye’s (NOT the Chicken & Biscuits place, but a better, locally owned/operated restaurant that was there FIRST), I headed to the Lodge to collect my badge and see if I could get in on a Shadowrun game. I played a street samurai with a mild addiction to stimulants and a gold allergy I called Rio “Goldie” Cancíon. She really liked her guns, but sadly, did not get to use them much. We were a group of unknowns hired to provide security for some meeting. We never found out what the meeting was about, but we kept the location secure without killing anyone.

On Thursday, I was able to sleep in and, in fact, didn’t have anything scheduled until after lunch. I actually don’t remember if I went there in the morning to walk around and check things out. I might have. The days blur together. My first game of the day was a Hackmaster game. It was my first time playing Hackmaster (we were using the new rules; the PHB just went to ther printer last week). Our group did pretty well; there weren’t any deaths and we saved the town from the cultists who were kidnapping people for some nefarious purpose (either to turn them into undead or feed them to undead, I don’t quite remember). After that, I had a brief respite for dinner (Popeye’s again), then I was running my Ghostbusters game, “Bustin’ the Con.” One of the other Dead Games Society GMs had some custom Ghost Dice created and was able to give me one. It looked better than the one that originally came with the game.  The game went well. When I wrote the adventure, I had NO idea what the solution to main problem was. I trusted (and hoped) the players would come up with something, and they did. I’ll probably run this game at Gen Con in some capacity, so no spoilers.

Friday was a busier day than Thursday. I started with a game of Hercules & Xena (which I didn’t know was  game until I signed up for Gary Con this year). The game went really well and was easy to play with very fast task resolution (it was a West End Games d6 variant, Legends, I think). I played a Monster Slayer who was supposedly very good with the javelin and sword, though they way I was rolling, I was only good with a sword. Strangely (I didn’t plan this), it was the third game in a row I played/GMed featuring undead. For the afternoon, I was GMing Paranoia, “Soylent People are Green” (which made its debut at Gen Con about 4 years ago). I was once again told how difficult it was to get into my Paranoia game (it sold out in less than 10 minutes after registration opened). I even had some newbie players. My rough calculations indicated there was about a 250% mortality rate for this adventure, so everything turned out as it should’ve. The team leader (with Machine Empathy–those of you familiar with Paranoia KNOW what that means) died the most. He was on Clone #5 by the time the adventure wrapped up. The Loyalty Officer was only on clone #2. There was much wackiness and once again, I showed WHY people who can’t throw shouldn’t have the grenades. After Paranoia was another dinner at Popeye’s, then back to the convention for my second Hackmaster game. I was prepared for a late night, but my character died less than two hours into the adventure (rapidly and in a most bloody fashion). It was fun while it lasted (I played a close-talking elven mage with low wisdom…he didn’t always make good choices about what spells to cast).

Saturday was another busy day. I started off with an early morning Star Frontiers game. I played a vrusk (a two-armed, eight-legged insect guy) medic I called “Doctor Ix.” He wasn’t sure how many stomaches humans had and was sure they had at least two splanches (in practice, he was a VERY competent doctor, it was just funnier this way). I patched up my team regularly, even performing major surgery in the field. I was like a one-man MASH unit. After completing our goals, I had time to eat lunch before running my Star Wars game, “Imperial Entanglements.” In this game, I learned how one skill check assisted by a Force point could succeed so wildly it would “break” the adventure. I also had the least shootin’-est group I’ve ever run for. If there was an alternative to a straight-up fire fight, they looked for it (much to the chagrin of the Trandoshian soldier-playing 10-year-old who just wanted to blast something). They managed to complete the objectives in a nearly-completely non-confrontational way and never set foot on the resort & casino space station that was supposed to be the central location for the adventure. Note to self: remove all stun grenades from future versions of this adventure–they’re TOO useful in the enclosed spaces of an Imperial Shuttle. After the Star Wars game, I enjoyed an excellent dinner at Sprecher’s Restaurant & Pub.

Sunday was the last day of the con. I didn’t have anything schedule, but I managed to get into another Shadowrun game in which I played Rio “Goldie” Cancíon again. Our mission this time was mostly recon, so we spent the whole game casing a corporation’s compound near Puget Sound. There were some run ins with some jackbooted thugs driving a black van I dubbed “The A-Team,” but we were able to evade them without trading shots (I really wanted to open up with my machine gun, but didn’t get the chance). There was a wacky plan to have me parasail from the sound over the compound to take pictures, but once we hired a hacker and found out what sort of security they had, I’m rather glad I didn’t get that reckless (besides, parasailing over a coniferous forest just sounds like a bad idea). We didn’t get as much intel as our employer would have liked, but we did acquire a lot of nifty tech to sell, so our payday was quite lucrative.

A good time was had by all. I’ve already started contemplating what my games for next year will be. I could probably get away with running nothing but Paranoia all weekend and have full tables each time, but that might get a little boring for me. We’ll see…


Categories: Conventions | Tags: ,

Gary Con IV

There isn’t a Doctor StrangeRoll game this week due to Gary Con IV in Lake Geneva, WI. I’ll be there, so I can’t be here. See you in a couple of weeks!

Categories: Random Thoughts | Tags: ,

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