There are quite a few reasons why I like conventions - the chance to meet new gamers, play new games or old games in new ways, and cool stuff to buy (i'll show off my awesome new dragon dice holder in another blog post). But there are also reasons why I dislike conventions. Besides travel hassles and potential marital strife, it can be very distracting. Noise, people walking by, interruptions for one reason or another, etc. Just the sheer openness. God help you if you're the least bit agoraphobic, claustrophobic, or misanthropic.
The first game I signed up for was Mazes & Minotaurs. By the way, I was about 24 hours late signing up for games online, so a lot of the popular and/or much anticipated games were already taken. Shortly after dealing with hotel registration problems, I sat down early at the M&M table. It was in a big room. Lots of people. Fairly loud. I imagined what 3.5 hours of that would be like and shuddered.
The GM seemed like a nice guy but he admitted within the first couple minutes that he had some kind of bug - maybe it was food poisoning, a migraine, or a virus. He wasn't sure, but he may need to leave for the bathroom and puke. I was sitting right next to him as there were only 3 players. I'm not an extreme case, but I'll admit that I'm a bit of a germ-phobe or whatever you want to call it. After 10 minutes, I made my excuses and left the game. I talked to some of the M&M players later in the day and the game broke up shortly after I left. No one said it was my fault, but blamed it on the sick GM.
I'll pin this one on the GM's frail condition, but that 10 minute session started out pretty weak. We got to pick from a handful of characters. Not familiar with the system, we got to see the class and a couple skills, equipment list, and various numbers which meant little to us noobs. Then we were supposed to buy equipment before this journey which we've already started on or were about to arrive at our destination. Nothing specific, nothing definite... it began with a whimper and who knows, it might have jumped in with swords clanking and sandals covered in gorgon blood, but I doubt it.
I vowed that when it was my turn, I would be authoritative, interesting, and quick to get to the good stuff.
Back to the hotel reservation. I won't bore you with the details. In a nutshell, I got bumped to their sister hotel a couple miles up the road. Fine. Checking in, it was a private, fancy, golf course kind of community. I only saw a couple people the whole time I was on the grounds - and those were in the registration office. There was a spacious, swanky common area to lounge around in. Leather couch and sofa, TV, fireplace, and a large round table with 8 tall-back leather chairs.
Hmm, I thought. What a great place to game. Long story short, I decided to run my game right there. Wasn't hard to set up. Got permission. Told the main hotel I needed a shuttle van to bring the group to where I was staying. Told the gamers waiting at my designated table that I had a surprise in store for them.
The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence for months. It was taking shape. I playtested it a number of times with my home group, but needed something more. I needed to run the near-final version for a group of strangers, ideally in a convention type setting. Gary Con was my chance, and I think it went swimmingly. Which is not to say it went perfect. There were flaws, shortcomings, things I hadn't thought of. Some I ad-libbed on the spot, others I just used what was written on the page knowing revisions were a-coming.
Even though some of it was shaky, that campaign world lived for just under 4 hours. The purple islands breathed. We had breathed life into it, and the party's experiences changed it forever. For that, I'm extremely grateful. So, thanks again Tracy Jo Barnwell, Jason Warchol, Amy Horton, Adam Thornton, Mark Malone, David Bresson, and especially Guy Fullerton who took a couple pics during the session and furnished me with those names. Somehow, I forgot to collect them myself in the soft violet afterglow of that crazy session. And why the hell didn't I take any pictures?!?
Strictly speaking, it wasn't your typical "con game". No, it was the first session of a wilderness hex crawl campaign using Swords & Wizardry. For those expecting a clear, concise beginning, middle, and end with lots of closure... sorry, folks. That's not what happened.
Those intrepid adventurers will always remember the hot dog rotisserie, the cleric's throat being chewed off by an insane clown (just like in last night's Walking Dead episode!!!), the coincidental dark secret / Devil's bargain / cleric resurrection ruse, and of course the Purple Putrescence itself which was accurately described as "a force of nature." While I got a little feedback post-game, I'd love to have some notes on what worked well, really well, and not at all. Since Saturday afternoon, I've written a couple pages of changes. But the evolution will take time, as well as, other perspectives.
Oh yeah, I got to play Hollow Earth Expedition. An adventure called Frozen Terror. It was a lot of fun and the GM did a good job. John Carpenter's The Thing meets At the Mountains of Madness with a dash of Return of the Living Dead. It was fairly scripted and would have been a perfect game for a convention, except for the fact that it was a two-parter and we never got past the first. Oh well. One of the four players claimed (twice!) that a lady explorer with a jet pack who punched and threw out a Nazi flying a plane, then got in and landed it herself was the single coolest thing that had ever happened in any roleplaying game ever. Which was nice.