Saturday, April 1, 2017

GaryCon IX Report - part 2

Day 2 of GaryCon started -- with me already running behind! Sluggish and unable to get out the door when I was supposed to, I headed back up to Lake Geneva from Chicagoland, arriving there a bit after 10 again. This was particularly unfortunate because the game I wanted to play that morning started at 8 am, when Carlos Lising was running a pick-up game of his own fan-made sequel to the Slave Lords modules. He had, through his connections, secured not only a quiet board room to run his game in, but roped celebrity player Luke Gygax into playing!  Better still, my collaborator and Castle Greyhawk webcomic artist Mike Bridges was there with his good friend Jayson. And David Hill, a name I recognized from Facebook groups I belong to, was there.

We had to be out by 11:30, which left me less than 90 minutes to play the illusionist I picked out. Sadly, I was the 13th player in a chaotic hunt for Markessa (the villainous Slave Lord from module A2) that had already devolved into about three separate groups. Carlos was doing a good job of keeping track of everything and role-playing familiars each character had (for some reason), but the hectic pace didn’t give me much time to shine. We also failed to find Markessa (I do like to think my ESP and Invisibility spells were integral to stopping her lieutenant, the Man in Black, though). Besides the star-studded players, Carlos had put together an adventure chock-full of winking nods to the original A series of modules.

Afterwards, Carlos, Mike, Jayson, and me all hung around each other and went to the exhibit hall. Mike got his copy of the Greyhawk map from the folio signed by Darlene. Carlos picked up a paining he had commissioned Jeff Easley to do for him that will be the cover to his fan-made module. Everyone was impressed -- I have seen professionally published work by Easley with less attention to detail than this painting. We wanted Carlos to continue touring the hall with us, but he was a little incoherent after being stunned by his amazing painting. We left him floating on cloud 9 while we perused various booths. I picked up the Hirelings board game for a steal and proudly carried that around with me the rest of the day.

Mike, Jayson, and I stayed together for lunch, leaving the con and heading to Claw’s Hot Dogs, a place I had discovered just the night before when I was briefly turned around trying to leave the con. It seemed a remarkably appropriate name for a restaurant within a short driving distance of convention focused on Dungeons & Dragons (only Claw/Claw/Bite Hot Dogs would have been better).  The food was good, served fast, and came in good-sized portions for the price.

Mike and Jayson had to get me back to the convention quick, though, because at 2 o’clock I was signed up to play “The Wyrd Museum.”  I didn’t know the DM, Robert Fredona, from Adam, but I was hooked by the event catalog’s description of “OD&D with a Victorian twist.”  It exceeded my expectations. I knew I was in for a treat when, not limited to well-known Victorian characters, I got a chance to play Carnacki, the original ghostbuster in fiction. I naturally jumped at the chance. Every detail of this scenario was meticulously, even lovingly crafted, from the custom character sheets that resembled the original 1975 D&D character sheets, to the museum brochure full of clues we were offered at the start of the game, to the table-sized map that had every major object in every room on display as a miniature. I have seldom used the word "sumptuous" with a gaming session, but this was sumptuous immersion. 

The play itself went very well, though that was equally attributable to the players as to the DM's preparation. The scenario itself was almost too straightforward for a four-hour time slot, but The Invisible Man's player wisely turned on us at the end to give us a new antagonist and a more dramatic climax. When someone's character was killed, they got to come back into the museum right away with a London bobby. Rasputin's player, who lost both Rasputin and his first bobby, was an especially good sport.

If there was one flaw in the event, it was Robert's decision to name a "best player at the table" at the end and give out a prize. This was bound to leave hard feelings, especially when the player who (*ahem*) was responsible for coming up with Plans A, B, and C for thwarting the aliens was overlooked, in favor of giving the prize to the only woman at the table, who's performance as Mr. Hyde was no more nuanced than throwing things at people constantly.  *sigh*

No matter; it was time to move on to my last scheduled event of the day -- running the Hideouts & Hoodlums adventure, "Sons of the Feathered Serpent."  And that almost didn't happen.  I had one player arrive very early, and two players arrived on time -- the same couple that showed up at the previous night's S&W game I ran. I felt, though, that the scenario would be too challenging for less than four heroes and everyone was comfortable with my canceling the event if I needed to.  And, in fact, I was tempted to do so because I might have joined Carlos, Mike, and Jayson for dinner if I had.

Exactly at 6:10, as we were all standing up from the table, a fourth player arrived. And after that, we were joined by Timothy LeMaster, who had played H&H with me last year at GaryCon and had been playing in my online H&H campaign since then. 

That is not to say that everything went smoothly once we had enough players. The beginning was a lot of fun, with the heroes all meeting at a fire, having some "Marvel misunderstanding" fights, and then coming together to save a woman. Their investigation led them straight to the hideout and they did fine on the west side of the first level. Of course, that was the easier side. When they had a prisoner lead them to the more populated east side, the heroes found themselves outnumbered and lost their courage.

Now, normally when I've run this game, heroes leave, rest up, and come back to hit the bad guys harder. But this group was keen on thinking outside the box (they were also now down a man because one of them had to leave early). Instead of bearding the villains in their lair, they wanted to find things to do that didn't require going back into the hideout. 

I had to do some physical pacing and some mental shifting of gears, but we got back on track when one of our players came up with a clever plan to offer to work for the main bad guy. This got the 2nd in command to show up to meet the heroes, and two heroes went back with him to meet the main bad guy (gal, in this case). The other two heroes tried to follow them into the hideout. One was captured. The other one was seriously beat up, but managed to escape the hideout. The main bad guys were tough, but more interested in escaping when attacked by the two heroes that accompanied them all the way down to the third hideout level. The 2nd in command was captured, the two heroes escaped out of the hideout with him, then they went back in with the third hero who escaped and rescued the fourth hero. Then they delivered their prisoner and their evidence to the FBI, and ended the game -- after four hectic hours of play -- with me saying they all reached 2nd level and went back with the FBI to raid the lair. 

It was a remarkable session thanks to my players. I expected them to sample, not beat, the whole adventure. No one had ever done it in four hours before, but they managed it. 

Now, my plan was to go home and get some much needed sleep at 10 pm. On my way back through the building, I ran into my friend Will Schumacher and his wife. But it was after that short chat that I saw a sign about a celebration downtown at the Horticultural Hall and free shuttle rides there. Well, I couldn't pass that up. Better still, I found myself alone on the shuttle ride with Allen Hammack and got to chat with him the whole way there. We talked about Awful Green Things from Outer Space and he acted as my tour guide, pointing out places I should know. 

This was my first time in Horticultural Hall, the birthplace of GenCon.  There were tables all around with memorabilia. I had my only chance to talk to Dave Megarry at the con there and I thanked him for adding me on Facebook. Carlos was there and was gracious enough to hang out with me. I got to talk to Paul Stromberg, the brains and the wallet behind GaryCon, because I was next to Carlos. I got to talk to someone about Empire of the Petal Throne. And I made a mess on my face with free cheesecake. By then, I was exhausted, and took the last shuttle back to the con with Carlos and Darlene so I could head home for some much needed sleep.

No comments: