Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Post Gary Con Analysis (part 1 of 2)

There are pros and cons to almost everything.

Rarely do we ever experience a cloud without some kind of silver lining (no matter how hidden, it's usually lurking somewhere) or a silver lining without a cloud - human nature being what it is, I think the vast majority of us would readily agree with that.

The good think about living so close to Lake Geneva, home of the Gary Con roleplaying game convention and birthplace of TSR's Dungeons & Dragons, is that I can drive there in about 90 minutes.  The bad thing is that it was easier for me to justify only going for a day and a half.  But then, it's better to go for a short time than none at all.

Likewise, attending by myself was also a mixed bag.  I was unattached, unencumbered as it were, able to do what I wanted, when I wanted... however, it would have been nice to share the experience with a friend or two (even my wife).  Though, I did get a chance to talk with a few gaming buddies and acquaintances throughout the convention.  But +Tim Virnig better come with me next year!

For some reason, and I'm not entirely sure why, I opted to only run games instead of signing up ahead of time to both run and play them.  Maybe I wanted to focus on Game Mastering for my limited stay.  Perhaps I was hoping to GM an unscheduled session or two.  Possibly I figured there would be several unscheduled games I could drop into without having to decide months in advance.  Whatever the reasoning behind it, my destiny was to orchestrate the chaos.

It took me a little while to get my bearings.  I had almost two hours before running my first game.  So, I wandered the dealer's room.  Oddly, nothing jumped out at me that I had to have.  Exchanged pleasantries with someone manning the Black Blade Publishing booth who was interested in selling my books at the next con (probably Game Hole Con).  Also stopped by and said hi to +Jeff Talanian who created Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

Just after locating the table where I'd be running both my scheduled games (Saturday's game was actually the table next to Friday's), I ran into +Jason Bossert and +Meredith Spearman.  They played in my Purple Islands game at last years's Game Hole Con.  Jason is too funny, and they're both really nice.

The first session I ran on Friday afternoon was "The Scarlet Sorcerer's Sanctuary," a one-page zine that I intended to flesh out into a full scenario months ago.  Well, Alpha Blue and Girls Gone Rogue got in the way of that.  So, I had half an adventure and my other RPG books to help me improvise the rest.

I think it went well.  There wasn't as much Crimson Dragon Slayer type 80's references and humor because that wasn't written into the zine and that stuff is harder to improvise.  So, it seemed less like the Crimson Dragon Slayer I know and more like a fast and furious old school D&D game... which was fine.  Still, it's obvious that I should have prepped more.

I believe this is also where I unequivocally decided that no damage should be left behind!

Some of the things I write are open to interpretation.  Instead of being chock-full of description, advice, and things going on, occasionally there are tunnels or "passage ways" that allow (or force, depending on your view) the GM to come up with his own ideas, answers, explanations, etc. on the fly.  Well, I've never written anything with the number of passages contained in "The Scarlet Sorcerer's Sanctuary".  It was indeed a challenge.

The following is an anecdote from that session I relayed to +Julian Bernick over breakfast Saturday morning.  Thanks again, hoss!  I can't wait to game with you and everyone else at Game Hole Con this fall.

Anyways, there was this secret room containing three statues.  All three resembled elves turning into demons.  That was it.  In fact, I made up the elf/demon thing on the spot.  All the zine had was a secret room and three statues.

The players tried to interact with the statues by moving them and looking for secret compartments.  They didn't find any.  One player said aloud, "This is the most boring secret room we've ever found."  He said it in-character to another PC, but I still felt like the shittiest GM in the world at that moment.  Because he was right.  It seemed boring, stupid, and pointless.

My mind was spinning, trying to conjure a way to salvage that weak ass encounter and/or the remaining adventure.  Then another player had an idea.  You see, the room before the secret chamber contained a pool of blessed water.  "I'm going to carry some of the holy water in my helmet and pour it on one of the statues," he said.

"The statue begins to melt," I replied.  Soon enough, all three demonic statues were puddles, revealing spiral staircases down into the darkness.  I felt much better about it then and things continued.

The scenario ended with the scarlet sorcerer's treasure room.  For saving him, the scarlet-robed gnome granted the PCs two-thirds of his treasure.  He showed them his vault of goodies - three pedestals, each holding a large, fist-sized sphere, like a pearl.  One black, one white, and the last scarlet in hue.

As the PCs talked amongst themselves about which ones they should grab, I wrote-up a super quick d6 table to handle the outcome(s)...

What Happens When They Touch A Sphere?
  1. Death
  2. Return to the real world
  3. Summons a creature
  4. Thrown into a weird dimension
  5. Magic item (such as a ring of flying)
  6. 10,000 gold pieces

The beauty of coming up with a table is that it didn't matter which of the three spheres they touched.  If they took the black pearl, it would be just as random and fair as if they handled the other two.  

I actually don't remember how it all played out, except I know that a character played by +David Bresson touched one of the spheres (I think it was black) and rolled a "1".  That was the only character death of that game and my entire gaming weekend.  At least, it happened in the closing minutes of the session, so he didn't have to sit there and watch the rest of the party play without him or scramble to make a new character from scratch.

David Bresson was a good sport about it.  He approached me as I entered the Grand Geneva resort (which was very impressive, by the way).  David recognized me (having backed all my Kickstarter projects) and we talked for awhile about this and that.  I'm glad he had been there to welcome me.  BTW, I chatted with +Forrest Aguirre shortly after.

I'll conclude part 1 by saying that Friday night's dinner was unbelievably awesome.  The convention center contained three restaurants: a really fancy steak house, a fairly fancy buffet, and a super fancy pizza and pasta restaurant.  

I finally decided on the middle one because it seemed the most casual.  I lost count, but think I had four plates of prime rib, shrimp with cocktail sauce, garlic butter mashed potatoes, and chicken along with a mountain dew.  It was fantastic!  Felt a bit weird eating this big meal all alone, but it was nice to chill out and collect my thoughts, too.  See?  Pros and cons everywhere.

Part 2 is here.  Thanks for reading!


p.s.  Gary Gygax shall be remembered as the co-creator of the first fantasy roleplaying game way back in 1974.  This was a great way to honor his memory!

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