I won’t be at Gary Con, which is starting tomorrow. But I understand that my book Burgs & Bailiffs: Trinity will be there. If you’re there, you’re probably not reading blog posts, but if you are, stop by Black Blade Publishing‘s table where I’m told it will be available in print. And say hi for me.
AnCon ran this weekend, and as I’ve mentioned I ran my Telengard campaign there, hoping to attract a new player or two, to support & enjoy a local con, and to expose Matt and Richard, who’ve never been to a con, to the dorkside of gaming culture.
I got off to a late start as I found about a petition drive to repeal the vindictive and anti-worker union busting bill Ohio’s legislature passed (it is basically a lot like that other anti-union bill that was all over the news). So me & the wife stopped by the FOP to sign, and I didn’t get to the con until about 11 AM, just 1 hour before game time! Although I got some great advice in my previous appeal for advice on including new characters into an ongoing game, I didn’t really prepare apart from grabbing my usual Telengard binder and screen, Kellri’s Old School Encounter Reference (which I did not actually crack open), Hack & Slash’s Tricks and Empty Rooms book (which I printed as a digest-sized booklet and didn’t actually crack either), and the Companion Expansion, which I do use for its treasure tables, as well as the B/X books and the AD&D Monster Manual (still the best monster book ever IMO).
Tom & I furiously generated 10 characters for any new players that might show up, and my regulars Tom, Richard, and Matt all made it, as did Marc, the new guy. Unfortunately no one else signed up, but that certainly took a load off. One 1st level M-U in a fighter-heavy party works fine. His Sleep spell was well-placed and saved the party a lot of trouble.
So, like BITD of marathon D&D sessions, we played more or less straight from noon to 8 PM. We broke for a quick dinner and shopping intermission (first time I ever left a con with no minis, but I did buy some dice from Bob who was able to make the con despite some health issues). Speaking of the vendors, there was a good mix of stuff — Crazy Egor, Spellbinder’s, Underhill’s, Bob’s own Light Trading Company, and a number of smaller vendors selling various items. I saw one of the Arduin Grimoires at Egor’s, and a pile of old lead at Spellbinder’s, but I was content with a few dice — a d16, d24, and some reaction and trap “DM” dice. I resisted the d7, which looks really weird, and the d50 and d100, which look impractical.
When we were kind of winding down the D&D game, a passerby asked about our game and wanted in, and he turned out to be a very cool dude. AJ — who is apparently behind the Nerdify Games site — ran through a bit of the dungeon as a cleric, and because the party chose to fight a chimera, also got to roll on the death & dismemberment chart (he was fatally wounded but could be saved by a healing potion) and leveled up (100 XP/HD is a real boon to low level PCs!). He had a good sense of humor and listened patiently to our banter, and lives nearby, so we were ready to invite him to the regular campaign, but he’s only available on weekends. Maybe he’ll hook up with Marc and/or Matt, who have weekends free for D&D, and who both seemed interested in his podcasting, which I will have to check out some time.
The downsides to AnCon were the crowded gaming area (we were literally yelling at times), the disorganization (the organizers could not tell me which table my game was supposed to run at, so we just squatted), and the lower than usual turnout according to folks who have been there before. Still, gift horses and mouths, eh?
Anyway in the game, the party delved yet again into the dwarf ruins to finish a few unmapped areas, so they could move on. They found a black pudding, which caused some havoc, and they also went down to the dwarven city again to try to pawn a giant silver skull, but the dwarves were aghast that the party had disturbed the thing, which was a coffin for a traitor denied a proper burial in the earth. The party agreed to rebury the body in the crypts of Telengard, but decided to wait until the cleric and/or paladin were with them again.
I meant to explain away their absence with a religious festival, but totally forgot.
Anyway the party became interested in the open pit mine, and began to explore it. There they overcame some hazards (rock slides and such) and slew a manticore, before descending further and finding that morlocks had overrun a stretch of shacks along the ramp down into the pit. These morlocks were accompanied by some less primitive albinos in plate mail and carrying great swords, but these proved to be no match for the party.
Next the party discovered a cave off the ramp, and inside morlocks were feasting on miners, while more prisoners wailed for help. These morlocks also had a pair of overgrown, ogre-sized morlocks with them. At about this time AJ joined, and the party found a secret passage that seemed to be more in line with the dungeon Telengard — unnatural and slightly surreal. The monsters here were a pair of hags (more or less a rip-off of Telecanter’s “Stitchers”) and a bantling (also one of Telecanter’s ideas). To my surprise they took the bantling to the church, and a running joke became the increased size of the thing every time the party came back to the church to drop off their monstrous prisoners. Then they found a weird machine with a pair of hoppers on one end and one hopper on the other; axes and spears littered the ground on the first end and halberds on the other. The party could not figure out what to do with the thing and moved on, finding, in succession, man-scorpions and scorpion-men (the former being composed of exactly the opposite parts as the latter) as well as fly-men with the heads and wings of flies, and man-flies with the heads of men and bodies of flies. The captured all of them using sleep spells except for the fly-men which they killed. (Marc is an M-U and Richard took an elf as well as his halfling.) The party will be trying to figure out what happened to the man-flies and man-scorpions etc., as their human parts seem to be those of known miners. And of course the pirates of Delos still loom on the horizon.
This here’s a “scheduled” post, as I should be running my Telengard game at AnCon right now.
If all goes as planned, I should have table full of mostly new players, wreaking havock and letting slip the dogs of war in my Telengard setting, hopefully not wrecking the campaign, cause there ain’t no “take backsies,” what happens here also happens in my weekly game.
In the unlikely event that the Rapture goes ahead as predicted, I’ll be busy looting.
Either way, let the looting begin!
So I’ve been blissfully rolling along knowing I’m going to run my campaign at a convention tomorrow and none too worried about winging the dungeon crawl (or more likely using a OPD plus some extra Smullyan stlye puzzles) but then it hit me:
The new players will all be 1st level characters. But two regular players will also be there, and their PCs are level 3 (a halfling) and level 5 (a fighter), which wouldn’t worry me except they both have a fair number of magic items, particularly the halfling who was given all three magic items the party found last session when they gakked a Jabberwock and now I am a little worreid they will completely overshadow the noobs…not so fun.
A. Stop worrying and let the dice fall where they may
2. Ask the regulars to use new characters for this one shot (which is kind of a bait & switch as I’d told them they could use their own and this their first convention for both of them…)
or III. Nerf the regulars a little (disable/steal/disallow their magic items for this one shot)
What would Gary do??? What should I do?
So this is another rambling post where I string together anecdotes, this time about conventions.
The first con I ever went to was sometime around 1981-1983, in New Jersey, at, I think, Glassboro State College or maybe Gloucester County Community College? I’m thinking we found out about via a Dragon magazine and it was called “EastCon” or something like that. My memories of it are pretty vague. I was only 9, 10, or 11 years old, and I went with my older brother and two friends who were twins, and probably 12 or 13 at the time. My Dad drove us and dropped us off and came back to pick us up that afternoon, so it must have been pretty close to Turnersville, where we lived. Being so young, we were unable to get into any of the scheduled games. I recall sitting in one of the classrooms, while the various DMs chose players (maybe we were on “standby”? I am sure we didn’t pre-register for anything), and we were passed over, again and again. It was because we were going to the con that Tm & I decided to write our names inside the covers of our AD&D books (I only had the PHB, he owned all the rest). I don’t remember seeing a dealers’ or exhibitors’ hall of any kind except for a gallery of fantasy prints and art, not necessarily game-related. My brother bought a poster-sized print of a Dragonriders of Pern novel cover art, and I bought a smaller print of a wizard. I wonder what happened to it.
The whole thing was really a big disappointment in hindsight, although with no real expectations I guess we didn’t realize it!
I never attended a convention in while we lived in Kansas, but we knew a lot of gamers and there were several great game stores in the area. I began reading White Dwarf which exposed me to the idea of gaming cons again, and presented a picture of a much more interesting scene: war games, huge exhibits, etc.
When we moved to Ohio a few years later, I found another gaming group and while I was still in high school I went to two NeoVentions at the University of Akron. It was a forty minute or so drive so a bunch of us piled into my brother’s car and both times, we spent two solid days gaming. We crashed on couches in the Student Union, probably sleeping in shifts, and ran amok through the graffiti-filled stairwells and even brought our padded weapons to spar outside at night. We ate nothing but pizza and drank nothing but pop and had a great time, although I don’t recall that any of us really participated in scheduled games; we played our own campaign there and roamed the vendors area and watched the freakshow. We ultimately met a few gamers of similar age from the next town over and they joined our regular group.
NeoVention was the first con I went to that had a real vendors’ area, and I could not believe what they had. I spent most of my money on a bunch of chairs, tables, and miscellaneous dungeon dressing (probably Minifigs or Asgard?) that I’ve only gotten around to painting this year. I also picked up a few Asgard minis, and other stuff I’d never seen in a store before. I always spend more time at the vendor’s areas than I do playing games at cons.
I entered the minis painting competition at one NeoVention and even won a certificate for “best fantasy diorama.” One of judges gave me the certificate and said, in a snotty tone, that he’d better not see the model I entered at another competition (it was the huge and impressive Grenadier Goblin War Giant which had been released the year before; I assume a similar model was entered last year or something. I actually finished painting and assembling it at the con! Another con-goer wondered if it was the giant from Time Bandits). Although I thought it was incredibly shitty to treat me like an ass for entering the piece in the contest, I was happy to win something. The prize was a box of Ral Partha ninja, which I never really cared for. Later on one of my friends at the con wanted a closer look at the thing and picked it up by grabbing it about the waist, snapping off half a dozen goblins. I could have killed him. That would have been about 1988-1989, maybe 1990. There are still a few goblins for that thing which I never painted and attached.
I went back to a NeoVention (or possibly NovoCon?) that was held a good ten years later, and the con was really a shadow of its former glory. I was living in Akron and only heard about it at the last minute, but I wanted to see the vendors area and look around. It was sad. NeoVention continued for almost another decade. I believe the last one was in 2009 or so.
“Neovention.org” is currently registered to Curtis Kaylor, who I think I must have met back in the late 1980s as I have a signed set of rules he wrote (“Quick & Easy Ancients” or “Cheap and Easy Ancients”?). I also had his “Frog Wars” rules from the same era but can’t find them anymore. They were just instructions on making origami frogs that could “jump” and making them battle. So it looks like NeoVention is dead and gone. Who knows? Maybe it will be back some day.
Bookended by the NeoVentions I’ve attended were BASHcons at Toledo. While I was a student at the University of Toledo, I got pretty deeply involved in the gaming club (“UT-BASH“). I didn’t know about the first year I was there, but in 1992-1994 I attended pretty much every minute of the cons, volunteering and running a few games. I helped judge a minis contest one year, which was a lot of fun, and entered the contests other years, and so on. Much later I’d even bring my future wife to a BASHcon (1999 or 2000?) which I’m afraid is the last BASHcon I’ve managed to go to. (Bringing a non-gamer to hang with my old college buddies and see gamers up close for a day was interesting and her forbearance and sweetness at that con was probably one of many things that made me marry her.)
Since that last BASHcon, I made it to Origins, I think, three times. The last was several years ago and while it is a great event, it is very expensive to make that haul, get a room, etc. The second time I went I talked my brother and one of my friends into signing up for a DBA tournament, which lasted only about four hours but it was a blast — everyone got to play out four battles. Even though my brother did better than I did in the thing –and he has probably never even read the rules. Still, good times. The vendors area in Origins was generally huge and had everything you could want. The minis area is always awesome too. Here are some pics I took one year — I think 2006 — but it’s been long enough I’m kind of foggy about what they all are:
I think “Duke” Siegfried, who has been in the miniatures industry forever, cast and paint all the minis in this game. He had poster-sized rules summaries sheets at another game; I think he was running his own homebrew system for this fantasy game and several historical games of different periods. I regret being too shy to talk to him then, although he was obviously busy running his games anyway.
Origins has a lot going for it, if you can take all that time and can get a room in the convention center.
Maybe I’ll go again some time but right now I’m much more stoked about the two local cons that are coming up this year — AnCon and Con on the Cob. They seem very different from each other; certainly their respective web sites are night & day.
Reading Chgowiz’s post about Garycon also gives me the idea that running a game set in my Telengard setting could be fun. I will be bound by honor to incorporate whatever happens into the real campaign. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get a new player or two since the con is about 15 minutes from my house.
Now it’s mostly a matter of getting someone at AnCon to return my emails…
I just stumbled across “Con on the Cob” which apparently was a convention (gaming, comics, anime, and other dorkery) held last month. I know I’m out of the loop but I’m a little bummed I didn’t know about it. Sandra Garrity and several miniatures sculptors I’ve never heard of were there. Shucks.
The graphic design of the web site is very nice. Check out the organizer’s web site (Andy Hopp). He is an illustrator of some talent, doing some very nice weird fantasy stuff. I’ve heard of his book Where the deep ones are (a spoof of Sendak’s classic Where the wild things are mashed up with HPL’s Innsmouth), but I did not know he was in Ohio. Come to think of it he looks a lot like a guy knew at Kent State in the animal rights club in the later 1990s but who knows, much of my time at Kent State is a blur.
So now I am aware of at least two very nearby gaming conventions I have never made it to (Andcon/Another Game Con being the other).
I’ve attended a number of gaming conventions in my time, but the only one I’ve ever been deeply involved with was BASHCon, at the University of Toledo when I was an undergrad. I ran a few games, played in a few, entered the miniatures painting competitions, and helped the dealers load and unload their trucks. As a member of the campus gaming club (UT-BASH — the Benevolent Adventurers’ Strategic Headquarters) I helped with some of the set-up, stuffed envelopes, and generally tried to help out, which was a lot of fun.
The auctions and dealers, at least for every year I’ve attended, have been awesome beyond what any small-to-medium convention should be able to offer. It was at an auction that I got my first Minifigs figures (from their 1970s S&S range, primitive but classic!) in a cheap grab-bag.
Almost every year since I graduated from Toledo, I’ve wanted to go back for a BASHCon, and once I actually did, although usually I just didn’t think about it until later in March (I don’t know if there has ever been a regular schedule but it seemed to fall some time in February or March, depending on when Spring Break, Easter, etc. fall) and I miss it.
This year I actually got a little advanced warning (an email last night from another old-time BASHer), and I see it will be held Feb. 19-21 this year. The convention web site is pretty sparse, but it is a non-profit, run by college students, so what do you expect? The weekend pass is only $15, which is incredibly cheap for cons these days, and I assume they are still raising money for Red Cross, which is a worthy cause. I see they are taking a page from Origin’s gamebook and offering something for the little kids too (“BASHCon Jr.”), which is a great idea.
I’ll have to miss this one, though, partly because it is short notice and partly because some major things are going on with my family, but next year…