Man, I’ve not been very good at getting these things written up, and the memories are fading. I can’t believe GenCon was almost two weeks ago already. Man, these things slip by fast.
Friday was my lightest day ticket-wise. In the evening I had made arrangements with my group to run a pick-up game. It seems odd to play a pick-up game at GenCon with all people you know, but as life pulls us apart a lot of these folks are people I now only see at GenCon. So why not at least have one guaranteed game together? I intentionally left the afternoon open when doing my schedule as my dealer’s room / auction time, and in the morning had one of those games that got cancelled. I had bought a ticket from 10-12 for “Indie Games on Demand” as a last minute replacement, but wasn’t too excited about it.
Inspecting the schedule the night before I discovered Ken St. Andre was running another Tunnels & Trolls game Friday morning from 9-12. Even though I had attempted to keep my mornings late, I knew I’d probably be up earlier than I wanted to so why not try and get into that game with some generics? If I failed, I still had my 10-12 ticket to fall back on. So that’s what I did, and successfully got into Ken’s game. An amusing aside: I was wearing my TotalCon t-shirt that morning, and who should I end up with in Ken’s game but a guy I recognized from playing in one of my games at TotalCon. What are the chances?
Ken’s game was decent. In general he does run the kind of game I prefer at conventions. I’m finding more and more that at conventions games with lots of investigation and interacting with NPCs have a tendency to fall flat. They tend to focus too much on one player (whichever player is the most assertive), and they only really fly if both the GM and the players are good roleplayers and have a good level of energy for such stuff. This was the downfall of last year’s T&T game, it was all investigation and unfortunately the GM was too tied to his material to improv much and bring in the rest of the players.
That said, Ken is a little ponderous in his GMing. I get that he’s trying to run an intro game for folks who are used to “the other game” as he calls it. Still, having a basis in “the other game” means we don’t need you to explain the fundamentals. He mentioned that when he plays “the other game” he likes to just sit back and control his character in broad strokes letting other players versed in the system deal with the fiddly mechanics. I feel much the same way, and didn’t really want so much instruction in his specific system’s mechanics. Also, he unfortunately forgot to bring pre-genned characters, and I know I’ve heard many times the idea that “making characters is part of the fun” or “my system is so streamlined I want to show off how quickly characters can be made.” Sure, sure, but no matter what directly 5-7 other people in character creation, no matter how efficient your system is, is going to be slow. We lost about the first hour of the game to character creation.
All that said, the game was enjoyable: my character got to fail gloriously in pole-vaulting a river, fought a giant squid monster and a pack of goblins, and had his arms turned into tentacles from eating magic tainted soup. All in all, a good time I’d say and probably my second favorite game I played, after the pirate game from Thursday night which I still think was extremely risky and am amazed it worked so well.
In the afternoon I did spend a fair amount of time wandering the dealer’s hall and attending the auction. I bought several modules in the auction store. I was really hoping to score copies of the G series now that I’ve played through all three with Delta, and maybe some of the later OD&D supplements. No luck on the supplements, but I did manage to get my hands on a copy of G-123, though I would have preferred the separate modules. I’ll post a complete list of the modules I did purchase and the prices later, I kept the slips but don’t have them on hand now.
In the evening I ran my pick-up game, which was full of old friends, some of whom did not know each other, and generally it was a good time. I ran James Raggi’s Hammer of the God, which is a great module. Unfortunately there was one moment where I made a choice I regret. The secret door requires two things to happen simultaneously. The party did one then the other, and I waffled for a moment on whether to allow that or wait and see if they figured out that they had to happen in combination. I think maybe I even rolled a d6 to decide. In retrospect I wish I had just pushed them through the door, as I think the encounters on the others side were more exciting than the ones the party eventually discovered.
They searched out quite a lot of the main floor, but shied from the more dangerous areas, which unfortunately I think is where the real fun of the module is. They did manage to fight the strange chaos creature, which was fun. They decided not to descend the well after discovering a giant flaming slug was a the bottom. Too bad, there was good stuff beyond. Instead, they doubled back and searched out the easier to reach areas which contained more unusual stuff that has a lot of interesting flavor but unfortunately I think just served to baffle the party more. Ultimately I think I have to go back to the advise of the original group that won the 1980 AD&D Open, which is documented in some Dragon magazine (sorry, don’t have the issue number handy). The advise is this: as long as there is a way forward, pursue it. Much like in this case of Hammer of the God, in A1 there’s a blocked way that is difficult to figure out a way past, and usually a couple side passages you left behind.
Fact is, the best stuff is always deep in the dungeon and difficult to reach. When encountering a difficult way, it is therefore always best to try and push past it. Doubling back to an easier route may eventually lead to success, but probably at the cost of a good chunk of play time. And as we know, at conventions play time is extremely limited.
Anyway, enough proselytising. Friday was a good solid GenCon day for me, though perhaps not quite as wild and exciting as Thursday. Unfortunately this would be the trend, the best stuff happened early and before I was really ready for it. Not saying later stuff was bad, but just that the energy flow of the con for me was a wild spike at first followed by a gradual decline. Hopefully next year will be more even keeled, or at least not hot on the heals of so much personal upheaval that I can properly look forward to enjoy the experience with the proper enthusiasm