OK, let’s talk about TotalCon before it’s so far in the past I can’t remember anything.

Friday night, after everything, I managed to make it down in one piece.  We checked into the hotel, picked up our badges and tickets, and headed out for some quick dinner.  Unfortunately, since I was so late to register for TotalCon, I didn’t have a lot of choices when signing up for events.  I knew I wanted to play games run by Tim Kask, but since he’s now doing these cons in part to hawk his latest stuff from Eldritch Enterprises, he was signed up to run the same events multiple times.  I also knew Michael Curtis was going to be there running games, and I really wanted to play in one of his.  The end result — I had a ticket to Michael Curtis’ Saturday afternoon game, and tickets to Tim’s games on both Friday and Saturday night, and it was the same game.  Thus through all the con I had in the back of my head that I’d have to figure out what Saturday night would entail.  At least my friend Mike was in the same boat I was, so if I wanted to run a pick-up game, I at least had one player.

So we sat down to Tim’s game Friday night and it was a ton of fun.  I really like playing with Tim, he’s my kind of DM.  We got all the way to the very last encounter when it dawned on me — I had played this dungeon before.  I’m not sure how long Tim’s been playtesting it at the cons, but somewhere along the line I had already played it.  The good news is I played most of the game without any clue of that being the case, and I was the one mapping!  When we got to the last room and I realized what was going to happen I just shut my mouth and let the other players drive us into oblivion.  And thus that game ended the same as the first time I played it — TPK.  And it was just as much fun the second time around.

Last year I went to TotalCon all four days, but drove down from home every day.  I only live about 30 minutes away, it seemed silly to get the hotel room, but by the end of the con I regretted that decision.  There’s something to just being there the whole time.  There’s also something to being able to just wander down the hall and collapse into bed.  This year I wanted to learn from past cons — I was going to stay at the hotel and I wasn’t going to sign up for any early games, that way I could stay up as late as I wanted.  Unfortunately, since starting my new job I was low on both funds and vacation time, so I had to cut it shorter.  I knew I could only stay one night, so the question was whether to stay Friday night into Saturday, then give Sunday a miss, or skip Friday night and stay Saturday through Sunday.  I know Sunday tends to be pretty dead with lots of folks leaving rather than playing one last game, so I decided on the former.

And yet, Friday night came and the game ended promptly at 11 and the mood was very relaxed.  The con didn’t have the usual bustling feel to it.  There were only two games run in the old school room that night, and everyone looked inclined to just go to bed.  My plans of being able to stay up late into the night were dashed.  Well, sort of…

You see, you all know from yesterday’s post what I’ve been spending all my spare time on.  Mike, the guy I was rooming with, is one of my partners on that project.  We builds of the game with us, and intended to show it to Tim to see if we could wrangle an endorsement out of him.  Showing him the game was an eye opening experience though.  Tim isn’t exactly a super tech savvy guy — he even mentioned he’d never carry a phone around that had a built in GPS.  He had a little trouble with the interface.  But also, he discovered a variety of bugs and usability issues, all good things for us to discover, but embarrassing to find them in this context.

So when we returned to the hotel room, out came my laptop, and I started working.  After an hour or two of that, I let myself read some to wind down.  Then when it came time to sleep I made a terrible discovery — Mike snores.  Sorry to call you out on that Mike, but it is what it is.  Still, I was pretty exhausted and I did manage to fall asleep, but my stupid biological alarm woke me up bright and early the next morning, with maybe 4-5 hours of sleep total.  This was not good.

Mike was still snoring away, so I decided to go down and get breakfast on my own and leaf through the material I brought to see what pickup game I might run that night.  I opened my bag was horrified to discover I had left the entire folder of games and characters sitting on a table at home.  Doh!  I did have my laptop with me though, which had some stuff in it, so off I went to the hotel business center to see what I could print out.  I found a decent module and used my character generator to whip up a few characters, started printing… and ran out of paper.  I guess that’s not surprising in a hotel running an RPG convention.  I leafed through the trash and found some pages that were only slightly wrinkled or had not too much printed on one side only and printed on their backs.  I managed to get my three page adventure and 8 characters printed.  Phew.

By this time Mike was up so off we went to breakfast.  Then we checked out the dealer’s room, went out to the local grocery store to get some snacks and caffeine, and then back to the hotel where we tried out a demo of Battlegrounds.  It’s a game I played once or twice in the past, and I thought Mike would enjoy it, and I think I was right.  It was a nice way to fill the last hour of our empty morning.

Then it was time to play with Michael Curtis.  He ran an adventure that he hasn’t printed yet, though he does say it hides a secret entrance to Stonehell.  The guys we were playing with were many of the same guys we had played with the previous night.  This is one of the real charms of TotalCon — the old school scene there is just big enough to support about 4-5 games simultaneously, so you end up playing with the same people a lot.  And it’s the same people year after year, so though I don’t necessarily remember their names right away, I kind of know sitting down at the table who will be fun to play with.  These guys were great, and the adventure was a lot of fun.  There was a bit of combat, but mostly a lot of puzzle solving.  Lots of rooms chock full of weird stuff to try and figure out, and one case of a very amusing spatial reasoning problem to solve.  I really enjoyed that last one, and machinated a plan that came off reasonably well.

We went out to dinner, and then back to the con to try and figure out what to do with our evening.  We both knew we did not want to play in Tim’s game again.  Nothing against Tim, I love playing with him, but I did not want to run the same adventure again and didn’t feel comfortable trying to convince him to run something else.  A few years ago I would have done just that, but now that he’s hawking his wares I didn’t want to get in his way.  I had put out feelers and was aware of 2 or 3 others that might be interested in playing my pick-up game.  So we went over to HQ and secured ourselves a table.  Then I went to the old school room and started gathering my forces.  It sounded like Frank’s game was well over-full.  I’m not surprised, it was a game I wanted to play in myself but got locked out of.  We decided to hang out and see if there was any other overflow to steal.  Eventually, as time was getting close, we retreated to our own table which was in a room across the hall, as the old school room was full up.  In fact, at this point the convention had that bustle I thought was lacking earlier.  I guess Saturday night is the night for that.

As we sat down to start playing one of the guys who actually had a ticket to a different game but wanted to play with me said off-handedly “I feel a little bad for the DM of that game I was supposed to play, it looks like he only had two other players.”  I had five sitting down to my table, plus myself.  If we all just got up and joined his game, he’d have a full 8 players.  I suggested it, and everyone thought it was a great idea.  We all got up and moved back to the old school room.

Of course, all I had was a ticket to Tim’s game, not even generics, but it turns out the DM was one of those guys I’ve played with in years past and rather enjoy playing with.  I mentioned to him our ticketing issue and he said he’d love to have us play if there was room, but was worried his table was already getting pretty full.  I pointed out that I had brought half those people with me.  He laughed and took my ticket.

All in all I felt really good about this decision.  It’s sort of like the Best Gig Ever gag the improv everywhere folks did, where they gathered a huge crowd of fake fans to descend on a little known band playing in a usually dead time spot.  I was more than happy not to DM, and pleased to have turned a minimum head count game into a packed full one.  And the game was fun, I had a great time getting to play with folks I wanted to play with anyway.

The only down side was that the sleep deprivation was really kicking in.  I had downed a fair amount of caffeine, but still around 9 I had to excuse myself from the table and go outside for some fresh air.  The stuffiness of the room was starting to make me feel seriously ill.  Fortunately, the air did exactly what I expected, and I came back refreshed and ready to play.  The worst was yet to come.

I got home around midnight, and fell straight into oblivion.  I probably blacked out for about an hour, then woke back up with the worst insomnia.  I was up until about 3 AM before I finally fell asleep.  Poor Jenn suffered too, my tossing and turning kept her up and the next day we were both zombies.  Fortunately it was Sunday and we had nothing in particular to do except relax and go to bed early.  Still, it left me feeling off the whole rest of the week.

Lessons learned:

  • Saturday night is the night to stay late at TotalCon.
  • Don’t count on pickup-games, fill your schedule with pre-reg.
  • Make sure your roommates don’t snore before signing up to share a hotel room.
  • Find a sleep aid of some kind — booze, drugs, whatever.
  • Lay off the caffeine, it only makes things worse.

Looking forward to next year, and hoping that life is a bit more sane when it rolls around.