I was getting nervous at the pub about if I would make it back in time for my 2 pm game. I was scheduled to run Hideouts & Hoodlums: The Everburning Tower. Now, just two years earlier, I had a full table of eight for H&H and had to turn one person away -- but this year, no one had signed up for my game. I hoped that someone might come by and stop out of curiosity, but no. Nor did friends who knew I was there with no players come and offer to play. So this disappointment, more than anything else, kept this from being the best GaryCon yet.
Nearby, Michael Shorten was running A Ford over Troubled Waters (har har) with a very impressive miniatures set-up, and my friend Dave Ferguson was playing in his game, so I did stick around and watched some of that. With all that extra time, I made my first circle around the exhibit hall finally. I spent way too much, and that was just keeping to purchases of $10 or less. When I was running low on cash, some people will very generous with deals.
At 6 pm, I played in Michael Mornard’s Yet Still More Magic-Users with Knives along with my friend Dave. To my surprise, we were not obligated to play magic-users and I quickly rolled up a dwarven fighter -- one of the great things about OD&D is that my character was done in just a few minutes. I intentionally kept him defense-oriented (often hanging back with a bow) so they would not get too dependent on me in the front ranks, as I had already warned Michael I had to leave at 10 to drive home and could not stay until midnight.
From my vantage point of hanging out at the back, I was able to observe the shortcomings of placing importance on tactical placement in tight hallway fighting with such a large group. Now, I was well-versed enough in Old School to know that Michael’s pie in the face gag was par for the course for the early 1970s campaigns and I appreciated that he made no changes to his early dungeon to update it with the times. However, I felt some of the players did not understand this was meant for a chuckle and then we move on, but instead took it to mean they were supposed to act silly all the time. Luckily they had Dave, who did an outstanding job as party caller of keeping them organized and effective in battle. At 10, before I left, I had a brief conversation with Michael about the challenge of keeping a large party equally engaged in the narrative, which I hope we can continue soon on the OD&D Discussion message board.
On Saturday I still managed to get there well before 10. I think this was when I got a rare chance to talk to Dave Kenzer, which went great. My difficulty with remembering people was no more evident than Saturday morning when I approached Seth Warfield and said, “I remember playing something with you,” and he replied with, “Scott, I’ve DMed for you three times!”
(I’m still not sure about the three times, but sure enough, I went home that night and found on my blog that Seth had DMed “Magick Magick Magick” for me back in 2015.)
At 10 am, I was playing Dungeon again with David and Rose Megarry. It’s been a few years since I last played with them and I was surprised by how much David had expanded his introduction before the game to include a lot of personal information about his life. It was almost like watching a one-man show where the actor opens up about his life to the audience, and the acting is the leaving himself exposed and vulnerable and, in the end, it was almost moving. But as interesting as all that was, it was only the prelude to playing one of the best board games ever made.
That said -- I lost. We did not have time to finish our game, but tallied our gold and the highest percentage of goal completion won. I had disastrous luck with the superhero, heading down to the fourth level and encountering mostly slimes and puddings that were virtually immune to my attacks. About halfway through, my luck turned around after reaching the third level and I slowly recovered to the point where I was roughly tied for second place with a player who missed five whole turns of the game because of a trap. My luck was nowhere near as bad as the player to my right, who went too deep with a hero and got beat down by a vampire. The vampire took and kept his magic sword and then (rather humorously, actually) the poor guy lost almost every dice off for the rest of the game by just one point (Dungeon players would know he would have won those battles had he tied). Meanwhile, the magic-user (who won) had a nearly unbroken run of lucky dice rolls. He was so confident that most of the time he waded into battles without relying on spells, and it still worked for him.
Afterwards, at noon, I sat in on Grodog’s (Allan Grohe’s) Castle Greyhawk and was lucky enough to land a seat when some players didn’t show. We were a group of 11 and, after my conversation with Mornard, I was really intrigued to see how Allan was going to handle such a large group. His approach was to keep the game less narrative-driven and we played more out-of-character. For the first three hours, this ran very smoothly. When Allan got distracted by a side issue (two characters were permanently blinded by a monster and we needed a way to restore them) his attention to detail started to falter, which was really unfortunate when we got to some elaborate set pieces that Allan had trouble describing. But, despite these issues, it was a well put-together dungeon level and very Gygaxian in feel.
I ate dinner alone in the room after the game and, having nothing on my agenda, decided to check out the Kenzer table again. There I found long-time Hideouts & Hoodlums player Timothy Lemaster and his wife Teri sitting with Stevil, about to play a Hackmaster demo. Tim and Teri wanted to talk business with me, but wanted to play the demo first, so I joined in the demo myself. We played through a combat with 10th level characters vs. zombies, which was still somewhat challenging because level advancement is so gradual in the current edition of Hackmaster. Stevil was very patient with me as I picked and prodded at the company’s game design decisions, but I left with a much better understanding of how the new Hackmaster is different from old Hackmaster than I did after my last demo.
Timothy and Teri talked to me about the game store they want to open near Miami and I sold them a copy of Hideouts & Hoodlums 2nd Edition Basic!
It was still early, so I went to go visit the room where Joe Bloch was running his version of Castle Greyhawk, Castle of the Mad Archmage. Turned out, he only had four players and they were eager to hand their magic-user off to me so one player did not have to double-up. They were in the middle of a troll fight which ran longer than it should have because I rolled a near-record low for lightning bolt damage. I think my spells and advice were handy for the team, up to and including, “Don’t go in there, it’s an airlock!” However…curiosity got the better of us and we all wound up going through the airlocks, without even looking behind us to see if they could be opened in the opposite direction. Oops. We were completely responsible for that TPK.
This was the day Megan came along. It was harder getting two people out of the house than one so we did not arrive until close to 10 am. Today, we had nothing on our agenda until 2 pm, when I was running Gamma World.
First thing, Megan got the Thorgi T-shirt she had wanted ever since I snapped a picture of it on Thursday. Then we moved through the artist alley and I got in one more comic book chat with Terry Pavlet. We went through the exhibit hall and spent some more money. I left with two Rob Kuntz products, which was very exciting.
I was hoping to go back and try to hang out with the Kenzer guys before they left, but Megan was feeling a little anxiety and we had to sit out in the less crowded hall while we ate “dungeon wraps.” Then we went down to the mostly empty open gaming room and picked out two short two-player games to try. One was a “reverse Jenga” game called Rhino Hero that was simple and pretty fun. The other was Truck Off, a Kickstarter game so new that the box still had its new smell (probably donated that same weekend). It took us a while to figure out Truck Off. Megan was starting to like it, but I didn’t care for it.
And then it was time for Gamma World: the Green Slime. The con was looking pretty empty when we came back upstairs, but there was a table of five waiting for me (six had signed up). It was apparently one whole gaming group from California that signed up en masse for my game. It was interesting playing with a group that knew each other because they had great camaraderie and were very funny; I had not laughed so hard for some time as I did at some of the jokes we were cracking during Gamma World. One of the nicer compliments I got all weekend was from one of them, who said he had played Gamma World before, but didn’t understand how to play it until I explained it.
Oh, and they finished the scenario and retrieved the meteor with only one of them dying in the green slime.. though to finish in two hours, they did bypass the village entirely and I had to ignore the very high chance of reinforcements coming during the final battle with the space aliens.
And then it was all over. Megan and I went back to the car and I, regretfully, ended my participation in GaryCon X.
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