I had to miss day 3 of GaryCon entirely this year, as I had a prior commitment to the Schaumburg Library ComicCon that day.
Sunday, the Mrs. wanted to come back with me to GaryCon and give it another try. The plan was just to have her attend as a free observer. This time, there was no trouble with getting to the con on time and we arrived early to the table where I would be playing Dragon Lairds with Tom Wham. Also at the table was Kifflie Scott, wife of Steve Sullivan, and "Zenopus", who I know from the OD&D Discussion Board. Tom was great and let Megan participate. Dragon Lairds, a combination board and card game, was a more complex game than I was expecting and there were a lot of individual cards to learn about. The two hour time slot was not long enough to get more than halfway through the game at our slow learning pace, but everyone had a good time and Tom even had candy bars for everyone at the end -- so we were all winners!
Better yet, Steve sold a poster map he had made of Lake Geneva to one of the other players, and it was made to look like an Old School D&D map. I just had to have one too!
After the game, I figured Megan and I would spend two hours touring the exhibit hall and running into people...but there were a lot fewer people to run into on Sunday and we finished the hall in less than 30 minutes. I did buy some more great stuff, like the "new" version of Palace of the Vampire Queen by Pacesetter, and upgraded my El Raja Key Archive basic DVD to the standard model (which I verified I could do at the con, instead of mailing it back in, after talking to the TLB Games guys to make sure. We walked all around the convention, watching people play games and enjoying the con ambiance, something I always enjoy. But we still wound up at my table very early to set up for running James Bond 007.
While setting up the game, an old friend, Justice Carmon, came over from watching Jeff Dee play and chatted with me for awhile. Luckily, I was feeling pretty confident for my session, as I had seven pages of notes, adapting the solo introductory story from the 1984 rulebook. I had not run the game, as I confessed later to my players, since the 1980s, but I had been studying the rules a lot and felt as comfortable as I could with what I had long considered a clunky game system.
And I expected a full table too; this was the only one of my three games that had been fully booked online in advance, and had two people on a waiting list to boot! But one person was a no-show, and two people decided to leave and go find a different game to play with their friend, and the two waiting list guys just happened to be there and took their spots.
And those notes I'd carefully taken? The notes assumed they would head right away for the island (the scenario was called "The Island of Dr. No", after all), but for the first hour I had to wing everything as they did lots of serious spywork in Tobruk, Libya tailing suspects, bugging phone booths (this was the 1980's), and catching an assassin sent to kill them. That part actually went great. It was when they trailed the second assassin to the island that things started to fall apart.
Two of them went in undercover to the island, which is what the majority of my notes had anticipated, but the other three snuck onto the island the night before, including their one good sniper...but a sniper who wasn't very good at being stealthy. He was caught and taken prisoner, leaving the player stuck waiting for awhile to get rescued.
One of the two agents in the building went into the duct work to look for the captured agent and the missing agent (their original mission!), just as I had prepared for in my notes. Meanwhile, the other agent inside and the two agents outside tried to create diversions. The agent inside got in a fight with two engineers in the building and -- since his agent was more of an engineer type himself -- it was a slap fight that ended with the agent knocking them both out with a rock.
Outside, one of the two agents got knocked out and was taken prisoner, while the remaining agent was wounded, stole a golf cart-like vehicle, and was involved in a low-speed chase around the island with guards chasing him on foot. Despite my best attempts at keeping the game serious, bad rolls at critical junctures had led us into this Austin Powers-like farce. Luckily, we were getting close to the end of our three-hour time slot anyway. I let the agent inside the duct work find the prison level and rescue the two agents. They joined up with the engineer-beater and rescued the recently captured agent from a single guard, then met up with the driving agent and escaped the island together by stealing a boat. They never did find Dr. No or find out what he had planned or did anything to stop it, but we just assumed James Bond showed up on the other side of the island just as they were leaving. Most everyone had a good time (maybe not the guy who got captured earlier) and, at 5 pm, we all said good-bye to each other and to GaryCon.
But the experience in Lake Geneva wasn't over just yet. Megan and I drove around town with Steve Sullivan's map. For the first time, I got to see the childhood home of Gary Gygax, his home where he first wrote D&D, and the house Dragon Magazine was produced in. We took pictures and video at each to make the occasion, then headed back into Illinois for dinner.
I have long admired the quiet-looking communities I drive through on Rt. 12 going to and from Lake Geneva, like Richmond, Fox Lake, and Volo. I have often thought I would enjoy spending a day just driving up through those towns. But, as we drove around Richmond and Fox Lake looking for a place to eat, we were disappointed to see how few options there were other than bars and restaurants with video gaming. Eventually we settled for a gas station that had a Mr. Submarine attached. I had not eaten in a Mr. Submarine in years and it was sad to find out that, at least this one, was not as good as I remembered. So that was the one dark spot, right there at the tail end of an amazing GaryCon.
ROM by Luke Ross and Bob Layton
10 hours ago