GenCon Report – Part 2
Ah GenCon, how I miss you. The convention always races by so quickly. Anyway, let me pick up where I left off…
The pre-reg gods were cruel this year. I got into precious few of my first choice games, and my schedule filled in with second and third choices as best it could making it rather erratic. My Friday schedule was very busy, and started at 8:00 AM! Unfortunately I simply couldn’t force myself out of bed for that early game, which I just yesterday learned was a tournament run by the OSRG. Damn! I love how much our community does (this, the Tower of Gygax), but we’re not very good about disseminating information. I still have no idea how Tower of Gygax works (some pre-reg, some generics, is it 1 or 2 hours?) I intended all convention to get into Tower of Gygax but somehow never made it. More on that later.
More later too on how I spent my Friday morning, which was mostly in the Auction hall. I actually got to sit in on a fair bit of the RPG section that morning, and again spent far too much money. As I said before, I’ll devote an entire post to the Auction and what I picked up. I also spent some serious time Friday morning roaming the dealer’s hall. There wasn’t a ton of things in there that I was seriously interested in, but it wouldn’t be GenCon without coming home with the obligatory Fantasy Flight or AEG board game destined to gather dust on my shelf and never get played.
By the afternoon I was eager to get into a game, and was scheduled for what was as far as I could tell the only OD&D game scheduled at the con. It hinted at use of the old Judge’s Guild Wilderlands setting, and the DM actually had quite a lot of that old material on hand. The entire run in fact, which he happily let us paw through and examine. All in all our DM was a very nice guy, and if he’s reading this, I apologize in advance if the following sounds overly critical.
The game itself unfortunately suffered from poor pacing. It was a pretty straight forward hex-crawl, with the Wilderlands map right on the table as we moved our party from point A to point B. It was pretty clear that all the DM was doing was rolling random encounters and waxing poetic from the source material about the surrounding area. This was clearly a guy who enjoyed his world building, which is fine for some I suppose, but not for me. My gut reaction, which may be a bit harsh, is just “write the novel already!”
I also have a problem with adventures born of pure random rolling, whether it be hex crawl or a dungeon map populated by random charts. Random population of dungeons can be fun, but did you miss the first part of the book where it tells you to first seed the place with important hand-written encounters? Random stuff is great to fill the ranks, or even to use as an initial inspiration, but I do believe that some portion of your adventure has got to be invented intentionally to give the whole thing some feeling of purpose.
Also, our DM was all over the place with the rules. OD&D is pretty vague, and I’m more than willing to grant a fair deal of leeway to a DM if he’s consistent and authoritative about his rulings. This fellow, unfortunately, seemed to not really know his own mind and pulled from just about everywhere. He had the LBBs on hand, as well as a copy of the Rules Cyclopedia. He also clearly had some AD&D-isms in his game, but also some bizarre house rules, like allowing the magic-user to use any weapon (seriously? that’s not in any edition of the game!). In the meantime, my elf had no armor at all, only a hammer as a weapon, and the DM was being pretty overly permissive about saving throws against my spells (seriously, in no version of D&D did Dispel Magic ever allow a save, look it up!) I suppressed my desire to get into rules debates however, as his rulings were soft and his pacing so slow, I really felt it would only make the game worse.
Unfortunately, I simply cannot bring myself to leave a game early. It just feels rude, even if I downright dislike the DM (which was not the case here, just a bit bored honestly) I still feel bad for all the players I might leave behind. It’s bad enough that they have to suffer through a boring game as I do, further disrupting it with an early departure just feels mean. So I stuck it out, but bolted as soon as the clock struck 5. I had my own game to run at 7, and wanted to poke my head into the Auction again to see if I could bump into Tim and Frank (no luck).
After a quick dinner with friends (we very oddly managed to get together for dinner pretty much every night, how a-typical!) I managed to arrive to my own game a few minutes early this time. I had a few repeats from the previous night, including Mike and that guy with his niece, which quite pleased me. Not only does it say something that they enjoyed my game enough to come to another, but it also means I have a group of players that know how I run a game and can get into the flow quickly. This game was bit higher level (4-6) and involved some roleplay/investigation to start off before diving into the dungeon. Actually the investigation part dictates which dungeon we go to, though the main bad-guy can be at the end of either to provide a satisfying climax. It’s “To the Rescue!” which I also ran at last HelgaCon, if anyone reading this was there for that.
All in all it went very well. The players dealt with the witch very carefully, and were able to solve the first part of the mystery (the missing knight) through pure roleplay. She then pointed them in the direction of the necromancer’s mansion (after the party submitted themselves to no less than 2 Geas spells!) which they fairly carefully searched and ended fighting both an efreeti and the necromancer himself. Remember the niece who was new to RPGs in the last game? In this one after the party took care of the efreeti she went running into the room all by her lonesome to try and jab the necromancer with a spear. Guess she thought he would sit there quietly and take it. Of course, instead he pulled out a wand of lightning and blasted her across the room, and the young lady suffered character death #2. She managed to be the only one killed in both games, and yet somehow I think she enjoyed it. Ah, con games…
OK, ran myself out of time again. More again soon…