It had been years since I last tried CodCon, but this year I decided to give it a go. Getting there was super easy, since the College of DuPage campus is about a 30-minute drive from my house. I did park at the wrong end of the building, but that only afforded me the chance to walk past the LARP area and artist booths that I wouldn't have time to get back to the rest of the day. There was a little mix-up when I arrived because I was being told the game I was running was in the next room over, when my table was in fact two doors down. But I luckily ran into my two signed up players before they gave up trying to find me.
The reason I had stopped attending CodCon because there was such a small number of Old School players who show up there. Having only two people signed up to play Swords & Wizardry (the OD&D retroclone) only reinforced that nothing had changed. My players were a father and son pair and it was going to just be us until the father went over and recruited a board gamer who was sitting all alone.
I was running my Frog God Games module Jungle Ruins of Madaro-Shanti, which would have been challenging with five players -- but for three players? They spent a lot of time running from any encounter tougher than giant centipedes, while trying to piece together the source of the magical curse plaguing the land from safe distances. The father renamed the borsin (a S&W monster) "gorillalopes" -- a name I much prefer. They didn't figure out the well at all (they didn't go down), but spent a good deal of time around the palace.
I had a great time with this other S&W monster called ghoul monkeys. I allowed Speak with Animals to work on them (ghoul monkeys don't seem to be fully undead) and the players seemed intimidated by the monkeys' ghoulish talk ("We are dead! We are dead!"). After that, the players ran from the ghoul monkeys every time, unaware that their fighter could sweep attack these little guys. All this running away only ended after they figured out they had a Pipe of the Sewers with them -- after that, they went into every battle with an army of giant rats.
After four hours that I thought went very well -- all things considered -- we wrapped up and I explained to them that they had actually stumbled onto a room under the palace one room away from the monster responsible for the curse, but couldn't figure out how to get through the door to that room.
The best part of the game, though, if not the whole day, was learning who the father was -- this guy, Steve, once worked with my mother! She had told us about each other years ago, but this was our first time actually meeting and gaming together.
After that, I bought lunch from the con food vendor while enjoying a concert from Dan the Bard. I even bought my second CD from him (Bard Camp) and got it signed. That was the second best part of the day.
After that, I played in round one of a two-round Munchkin tournament. The con staffer who was supposed to judge this tournament made us all wait for nearly a half-hour for him to show up, and then he still didn't have the playing cards organized and shuffled for us! I volunteered to help, as did some others, so we could finally get playing. Unlike S&W, we had enough players for Munchkin for two tables.
My table had a nice group of players who played much as I do -- go easy on each other until level 6 and then start going after each other. Almost the whole table was tied at level 9 at the end. We just went around the table blocking each other until we ran out of cards to stop someone, just before my next turn. It was pretty epic.
The next round wasn't so much fun. Two-thirds of the players who advanced all knew each other and were more interested in attacking each other right off the bat than letting the game move forward. When I saw Steve was trying to start up a game, but didn't have enough players, I dropped out of Munchkin and joined his two players.
Steve was running Dungeon Crawl Classics, which I'd never played before. We were playing higher-level characters, so I didn't try the "character funnel" approach at 1st level. It was a puzzle-heavy scenario I like to think I was doing pretty well at ... but I had promised my family I would be home by 8:30, so after an hour I knew he was going to have to kill my character or I was going to have to suicide run him. Actually, the way I was playing my thief, it made perfect sense for him to drop his defenses around the succubus, so it all worked out.
Will I go again next year? Possibly. It's certainly worth it for the money. I hope I can get more Old School gamers to attend next year, though.
Iron Man by Bob Layton
13 hours ago