GenCon Report – Part 1

I will now attempt to recreate my GenCon experience for you.  OK, for me really, as I like to wring this last bit of enjoyment out of the trip by writing down every bit of it that I remember.

Wednesday

It started out with a trip to Logan Airport, where for the first time we used the long-term parking.  Now that we live even further away, the economics have shifted in favor of just leaving the car right at the airport all week.  Once at the gate we bumped into Bob & Diane Salvatore, who happened to be on the same flight.  It was nice to get to chat with them for a while before leaving, and Bob reiterated his invite to the party on Saturday night.

Upon arriving we discovered that our friend Mike’s flight had been delayed, John wouldn’t arrive until the next morning, and Adam had already arrived, checked in, and was down at the convention center.  So we grabbed a cab, checked in, and headed over to meet him.  This year unfortunately the hotel was not able to get us rooms near each other — one was on the 5th floor and the other on the 19th!  Worse still, I don’t know if it was these rooms in particular or if the Hilton has changed the suites, but these rooms did not have nice little interior doors between the bedroom and the sitting area.  We always get suites at the Hilton for just this reason.  It’s nice to have an extra set of doors for privacy, or the odd snoring roommate.  The 5th floor room was just as I remember previous stays at the Hilton, but sans doors, while the 19th floor room was large and square, with the pull-out sofa at the foot of the two beds.  Fortunately we had fewer folks with us this year, so it all worked out well enough.  Still, yet another nail in the coffin of the Hilton for us.  Next year we may very well try a new hotel.

The biggest disappointment however hit when we arrived at the convention center.  We ordered our badges and tickets to be picked up at the will-call booth, as when we ordered them we were far enough from moving that we had no idea what our address would be by the time they shipped.  Reports from previous cons said the will-call line wasn’t so bad, but something changed this year.  The line was enormous, and it took us a full 45 minutes to make our way through it.  When Mike’s plane landed we were still in line, and we recommended he come straight to the convention center to get his stuff, but even that didn’t work out as the line was closed by the time he got there.  I had a brief moment of panic after getting my tickets and discovering no badge, until they pointed out that GM badges had to be picked up separately at the GM booth, which mercifully had almost no line at all.

Badges, tickets, and show magazines on hand, we proceeded to the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner, then returned to the hotel to chat, take a quick dip in the pool, and finally pass out.

Thursday

After a leisurely breakfast in the hotel, we headed off to the convention center where my first game was at 10.  We arrived pretty early, so I was seated at my table 15 minutes ahead of time: Sagamore Ball Room, Open D&D Area, 8-9.  I found table 8 which was empty, and sat down to wait.  And wait.  As 10 rolled around I started to worry that I was the only person there.  I went downstairs to find out if it was moved or canceled, but could find no such listings (really, I swear they posted that stuff in the past, but I couldn’t find it anywhere).  I went back up stairs and asked one of the volunteers, as this “Open D&D Area” bit confused me.  There was no label for such an area, but then again when I made a circuit of the room every table had a unique number or letter.

Ah, that’s the problem, it turns out the lettered area was the “Open D&D Area”, and I was supposed to know somehow to translate table 8 into table H.  Only they weren’t there either.  They were at table I.  I eventually found them and made it into my game by the skin of my teeth.  Fortunately, it was a great game.  It was a straight AD&D run of the classic module A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity.  Turns out the DM was running the entire series at the convention, and sitting next to us was another DM running A4.  At the end he passed our DM the party’s score and his email, saying they should compare scores.

All in all I’d say the game was very good.  The DM was just a tad more easy-going than I prefer, but still plenty of fun to play with and the group was pretty solid.  I think we only had 6 of the possible 9, but we did fine, even getting so far as to kill a slaver and free some actual slaves.  It was a hoot, and I was happy to say that by the end of it I had two spells left and my wand of fire was empty of charges.  Well done all around.

Then it was off to lunch, and some roaming through the dealer’s hall and auction before my own game at 7.  I will detail my experience at the auction in a later post, suffice it to say that I much preferred the auction to the dealer’s hall this year, and probably spent far more money there.

My own game went rather swimmingly I think.  It was a basic D&D intro game, levels 1-3, actually running this communally created dungeon here.  I had 8 spots that sold out right away, of which I think 5 showed up.  Mike also decided to join my game, along with another generic ticket holder, for 7 total players which I think worked just fine.  The group also included a guy with his teen-aged niece, for whom I believe this was the second RPG she had ever played.  So I did what any good DM would do for such a newbie player: I killed her.  Actually, no, it was pretty random that she got killed, and during the final fight of the night too, so I think it was actually pretty enjoyable for her.  She had a good enough time to want to come to my second game the next night (and get killed again! — more on that later.)

I’d say it was a pretty good group, they scoured through most of the dungeon, and got what felt like a nice climax.  With about half an hour to go they encountered the dryads that asked them to kill “the poisoner” in another section of the dungeon, when I realized that “the poisoner” was in fact a dead lead that nobody had ever bothered to flesh out during the creation of the module.  So I found a room in the area they hadn’t explored and I re-wrote it on the fly.  Nix five throghrin and drop in one demonic poisonous spider creature (actually just statistically a giant scorpion, stinger replaced with a poisonous bite, pincers with creepy human-like hands, and added the ability to climb walls and hide).  It fit in nicely with the hints of chaos cult and previous spider encounters, and I think the group really enjoyed having a big “boss fight” at the end and the chance to get rewarded by the dryads for doing a good deed.

Funny, I think this is exactly the sort of thing I’ve tried to set up in the past — an adventure with no clear climax but plenty of yarn to knit something together from on the fly.  Of course, in the past I’ve tried to do that with lots of plot hooks and some pre-thought out ideas, this time it was a dungeon full of completely random disconnected stuff.  If anything, I actually found this one easier to tinker with on they fly, simply because everything was so random I wasn’t tied to any idea to just toss it for something else.  Fantastic actually, I look forward to doing more like this in the future.

The game went slightly long, but I didn’t mind pushing a little past the 11 end time and then crawling back to the hotel and bed still before midnight.


Well, looks like I just ran out my lunch hour typing all that.  I’ll have to continue with the rest in another post.

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