Archive for the ‘TotalCon’ Category

TotalCon 2015

Hello my sad neglected blog, it’s been a while.  And TotalCon is now many weeks ago, but I thought it might be worth recounting my experiences, hazy though the memories may be.

TotalCon snuck up on me this year, I think perhaps Carnage on the Mountain threw my schedule off a bit.  I’m used to a longer gap between convention seasons, and thus I barely made it in time for registration.  I somehow missed GM registration, so this year I was just a player.  Actually that was a nice recharge of my creative energy, as I came away with new ideas of things I’d like to run, while before hand I was starting to slag a bit.

So, let’s see, what did I play?  I played two games of Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classics, not entirely on purpose.  I signed up for them because they were run by Michael Curtis, who is a great DM, and I’m happy to play in whatever he’s excited to run.  Actually, I dismissed DCC when I first heard of it.  What do I need with another quazi-D&D game, when I have my beloved original?  And the funny dice just felt too gimmicky to me.  Actually, both games were really enjoyable, and I actually find some of the quirks of DCC rather endearing, and am going to run a game of it myself at the coming HelgaCon.  Perhaps I’ll save writing too much analysis about DCC here, as it could easily take over the whole post.  Maybe saving that in my back pocket will encourage me to come back and write another blog entry in the near future.

Oh, and one of those games was like a bizarre-o reunion from last year.  Last year, there I am sitting with these two guys Mark and David playing a Labyrinth Lord game run by Michael Curtis, and David is going on about the wonders of his space pen.  Michael goads David on and much good natured ribbing ensues.  This year, I sat down to my first game with Michael and he asks me if I’ve seen David?  No, I haven’t but it’s only Friday, and I seem to recall those guys only come down Saturday and Sunday.  Michael then shows me his new space pen, hand-delivered to him at Gary Con as a gift from David, couriered by a mutual friend.  Hilarious.  On Saturday, I sit down to my second DCC game with Michael, and who is at the table?  Yup, Mark and David.  Somewhere out there, perhaps on Facebook, is a picture of Michael and David holding their space pens under their noses like weirdo high tech Hitler mustaches.  I’m thrilled to have gotten to see pretty much the whole story unwind before me.

OK, what else did I play?  I played a fantastic game of Call of Cthulhu with the very skilled GM Scott Legault.  I’ve been trying to play in one of his games for a couple conventions now, and was glad to finally get the chance.  Actually, I also played in a steampunk themed game he ran, but the CoC was the gem.  My character ended the game with a twisted ankle, a broken leg, the bubonic plague, and severe agoraphobia.  All in all, a pretty perfect game of Cthulhu.

I also ended up playing a massive game of Car Wars, again totally unplanned.  The Swords and Wizardry game I was going to play failed to pull enough players, so I found myself at a loose end.  I wandered into the board game section where I peered curiously at the massive Car Wars game and quickly found myself behind the wheel of “Vlad the Impala” and Scott barreling down on my gunner.  Yes, that is the same Scott who gave me agoraphobia, do you think maybe he’s got it in for me?

So despite the failure to register any games to run and despite the horrible parking situation (next year I plan to never leave the hotel for meals), I had a fantastic time.  Someone said that TotalCon is like Cheers.  You barely remember any of these people all year, but then you show up at the Holiday Inn and everyone greets you like age old friends.  We play games, we drink, we play more games, and it’s just four solid days of fun with some really interesting people.

So that was my TotalCon.  I’m already looking forward to next year.  But in the meantime, there’s HelgaCon to prepare for.

TotalCon Review

OK, it’s been a week, it’s high time I reflect on last TotalCon.  I think I can honestly say: best con ever.  And I really wasn’t expecting that.  If anything I really threw this con together last minute: I fell backwards into a room with a friend that needed a roommate, the games I ran were a collection of games I’ve run at other cons because I was too busy to write any new material, and by the time we arrived I had completely forgotten everything I had signed up to play.  I was even surprised when opening my envelope of tickets to discover I had pre-paid for a t-shirt.  Wow, it was like a nice little present from my past self.  Thanks Paul of the Past!

My games ran pretty well.  Actually, oddly my Thursday evening game for which I expected low turnout, and planned an adventure that was easy to scale, had 8 people show up.  Friday afternoon, on the other hand, I had to cancel because only 2 showed up.  The last game I ran on Saturday afternoon had an almost completely full table of 9 players.  The lesson is there’s really no good way to predict how many players you get, and you just have to be ready to roll with the punches.  Thankfully on Friday Tim was running a continuation of a game I played in a previous year, and he was gracious enough to let me join his over-full table.

The games I did run were good, and the games I played in were mostly good as well.  There were some that were great and some that dragged a bit, nothing unusual for a convention.  What really made this “the best con ever” for me though was the people.  First off, now that I’ve been going for 5 years running, I’m seeing a lot of familiar faces every year.  Often times I wouldn’t remember their names if it wasn’t printed on a badge hung from their neck, but fortunately it is, and it’s very easy to fall into the usual casual conversations.  However, in addition to a general sense of camaraderie, my roommate for the weekend made an important introduction to some other folks with the casual comment of “Huh, I’m surprised you guys haven’t met yet.”

It’s a funny connection – my TotalCon roommate is an old friend from college and happens to now live in the same town as I do.  He goes to TotalCon for the board games, I go for the RPGs, so besides the occasional meal together and chat in the evening, we don’t really see much of each other at the convention.  Lara, the first person he introduced me to,  was an ex-coworker.  It just happens that he was connected in these random ways with two people who are both RPG nuts and have been going to TotalCon for years.

And so Lara introduced me to her sister, and her sister’s husband, and they being gregarious people introduced me to a whole ton of other people I had never met before.  I was invited to join them at the hotel bar after the games Friday night, which was full of good humor and great conversation.  I went there again Saturday, at which point I found myself being led through the halls from one party to another.  Who knew there were after-hours parties at TotalCon?

Well, I would if I thought about it.  A couple years ago I posted about the insanely loud people in the next room.  Was this them?  Maybe.  I get the impression there are plenty of other late night parties at this thing.  I mentioned this anecdote of my loud neighbors at one of the parties, and got the very apropos response “well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!”  And why not?  I already learned the lesson of “don’t play 8 AM games”.  In fact, I scheduled nothing earlier than 10 AM, and honestly, if I missed one of those it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  So I stayed up late, had a few too many beers, and generally just had an awesome time.

Being at a party full of gamers you don’t know is a very interesting experience too.  It’s like a normal party full of people you don’t know, only there’s this wonderful implicit topic of conversation.  I never felt awkward talking to a single person — they all had very interesting things to say, and were interested in what I had to say.  It was almost surreal.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to going back, and it seems my new friends are now trying to recruit me into GMing games at Carnage on the Mountain, a convention in November up in VT.  It’s not taking very much arm twisting at all.

TotalCon Bound

TotalCon is very soon and I’m starting to get excited!  I didn’t mean to make such a big thing of it this year, but the trip seems to have run away with itself.  Originally I was just going for the weekend, but a friend contacted me about sharing a room and was going down Thursday night.  Now, “the weekend” already included Friday night in my head, and since I wasn’t going to GenCon this year I figured I was due a day off and could include the entire day Friday in my trip.  Then we started discussing when on Thursday we should leave.  I signed up to run a game Thursday night at 7, still late enough to have a full day of work, but then I started waffling about leaving a little early or even taking a half day, and finally just threw up my hands and took the whole day off.  Now my friend is talking about attending a 3:00 PM game on Thursday, and I’m noticing there’s a 1:00 PM game that sounds kind of cool…

To soothe my sense of self-indulgence I am including a slight corporate spin this year.  I’ve printed up a bunch of post cards for Road of Kings, and will be passing them out to anyone who will take one.  They have QR codes for the iTunes and Google Play URLs on them.  This was an idea I already had for PAX East this year, and figured what the heck, why not bring them to TotalCon?  I’m actually really curious to see what effect if any these will have on sales for us this weekend.  While PAX is more specifically for video games, and has a significantly larger attendance, TotalCon feels more like our actual target demographic.  I’m kind of excited actually to really be targeting “our people” so specifically and seeing how they react.

But mostly I’m going for the games.  I’m looking forward to playing with Tim Kask and Michael Curtis again.  I loved playing in their games last year.  I think I also signed up to play a game or two run by Travis Miller, who had the balls to run some shorter 2-hour games in the 10AM-12 slot.  That’s an idea I’ve batted around myself in the past, so I’m really psyched to see how that works without taking the gamble myself.  Also Travis is a great DM, so I’m sure those games will just be dead fun regardless.

Between this trip and chatter at the office about starting up a new regular campaign, this little old blog may just be seeing some new life in the coming weeks.  Here’s hoping.

TotalCon Events

OK, after much delay I finally figured out my events for this year.  I wasn’t sure how much if any of Thursday I would take off this year, and honestly, I’m still kind of hedging my bets by only running a Thursday night game.  Still, to get there in time to check in and run my game I’ll have to leave at least a little early, and it’s a short jump from there to just saying screw it and taking the whole day off.  Anyway, here are the events I’m hoping to run.  I’ve never had any event I submitted not go through, but you never know.

Treasure Map to the Red Cave
Thursday, 7-11 PM
After months of collecting copper bounties on goblin ears your crew has finally gotten a break. You had to pool your cash to afford the map that ranger had, but he assured you it was nothing compared to the wealth it would reveal. And rangers don’t lie, right? Though, they’re usually not that drunk either… Moldvay edition Basic D&D rules, characters provided.

Tunnel Rats
Friday, 1-5 PM
Life in the clan comes with responsibilities. You have been selected you for an important mission: infiltrate the newly discovered dwarven halls underneath the warren, bring back any valuable artifacts, and find out what happened to the last pack sent to explore the area. Sounds dangerous, but what’s a loyal were-rat to do? Moldvay edition Basic D&D rules, characters provided.

Gloomwood Falls
Saturday, 1-5 PM
It has been many days since the prince and his men left on their quest to locate the tree of life. How were they to know war would break out while they were gone? You must find the prince, deliver the news, and bring him back if possible. Moldvay edition Basic D&D rules, characters provided.

I seem to have inadvertently created a theme this year: “following in the footsteps”.  The first one is actually written by Dyson Logos, and is the game I just ran for my coworkers a couple weeks ago.  It’s a nice wilderness trek game and should be a nice variation from the other two that are more dungeon oriented.  And it went over well with the coworkers, so I expect it to be fun.  It’s also the one I feel like I can run with the least number of people, and if things go as they have in past years I expect Thursday to be pretty under-attended.

The other two are both adventures I wrote. Tunnel Rats was originally a WFRPG game written for HelgaCon that I since adapted to D&D.  Changing skaven to were-rats is kind of fun, it drives the game slightly away from comedic and more into sinister, which I’m fine with.  The last one was originally an adventure I wrote for my home campaign, but then my players decided not to follow that thread and go do something completely different, and it wasn’t used on them until quite a while later.  In between I ran it as a convention game at GenCon 2012 and I think it went over really well.  And yes, this is the one that was strangely missing.  I still can’t find the digital file for this, though I did unearth a hard copy, which I promptly photocopied just so at least there would be two hard copies floating around.  I have no idea how I lost this file, the printed version was clearly made on computer originally.  Oh well.

I’m glad to finally have that all scheduled out now, and am really looking forward to the convention.  I suppose I ought to make sure I have characters prepared for these games, but it’s a long ways out still.  Maybe I’ll at least scan Gloomwood Falls to PDF so I don’t go losing it again.

Getting Ready for TotalCon

This year I will not miss the TotalCon even registration deadline, I swear!  Actually, I have all the way until November 15th to get my games in, but since I completely failed to do this last year I’ve vowed to make sure it gets done early this time around.  But what to run?  I have no pressing ideas or desires, but I know I want to run three games, and that they should all be old school in nature.  I probably have time to write something new, but before going that route I thought I’d take a spin through existing material and see what can be re-used.

Between TotalCon, GenCon, and HelgaCon, I have accumulated a fair amount of convention material.  HelgaCon has especially spurned this on, as I run three games there every year, and as it’s generally the same group of people every year I constantly have to find new material for it.  The only problem is that with three conventions a year I do get a little hazy on which games I’ve run at which conventions.  Fortunately, I have this blog!  I just took a quick look through my posts in February of the past several years and was kind of surprised at what I found.

My first year at TotalCon was 2010, at which I was only a player.  In 2011 I ran two sessions of my One Page Dungeon Contest entry Four Corners, which I think I’ve run at just about every convention possible as well as for friends at home, so I’m pretty well done with that.  I also ran Into the Forgotten Realms, which while enjoyable turned out to be a little too new school and thus it’s no longer a contender.  In 2012 I was on my slavers kick, running serveral rounds of the A-series modules at TotalCon.  And then there’s 2013, when I was so ill prepared I ran nothing.

Huh, is this right?  Besides Four Corners it looks like I’ve never run any of my own material at TotalCon?  How bizarre.  Well, that’s good news actually, as that means I have a plethora of adventures to choose from this year.  Now it’s just a matter of sifting through them and picking which ones I think will be most fun.

Of course, the one I really want, the one I adapted from my home campaign and ran at GenCon 2012, but I can’t seem to find the files anywhere.  It was a great adventure, and I know I used Dyson’s geomorphs to build it, so it must exist digitally somewhere.  It’s not in my personal subversion repository, not in my home directory on my server, and not in my dropbox account.  Was I actually foolish enough to keep this only on my desktop’s hard drive and not copy it to one of these many backed-up locations?  That’ll be really bad if true, as that desktop has been reformatted many times since August of 2012.  My only hope now is that I have a hard copy of this in a filing cabinet at home somewhere.

So, I guess I must put off registering my events at least one more day so I can go root through the filing cabinet.  I really hope that adventure is in there somewhere.

TotalCon

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.

Total Confusion? More Like Total Exhaustion

I’m clearly doing a poor job of keeping my resolution to post more frequently.  In fact, TotalCon has come and gone and I’ve said nothing about it.  Terrible!  I do want to write up some details of my TotalCon experience, but it probably makes much more sense given the context of what my life was like in the week leading up to TotalCon.  And as you can probably imagine given my rate of posting here, what my life has continued to be like since.

The weekend before TotalCon was a three day weekend, and yet, was not full of rest and relaxation.  There was some, but I was also losing sleep over an issue at work that I had to deal with over the weekend.  A co-worker, in fact a guy that reports to me, was going to be terminated on Tuesday and I got to be part of the process.  I didn’t have to do the firing myself, but I was in the meeting with the guy doing the firing and the guy getting fired.  It’s the first time in my career I’ve been involved in such a process, and it was not fun.

The rest of the four day week was full of meetings, and not at work mind you, but after work.  My personal project had a meeting via Google hangout on Tuesday night, and the members of the panel I’m going to be on at PAX had one on Wednesday night.  Thursday night I got to drive out to meet with a guy about rescuing my 401k from 38 Studios which has at last become un-frozen.  It was a productive and heartening experience, though a bit long.  I was happy to go to all these meetings, but it basically meant a solid week of no mental down time at all.  Wake up, commute, work, commute, meeting, sleep.  Not a fun cycle.

Finally Friday came, and the whole day was full of problems at work that required my immediate attention.  This on a day I had a hard leave-by time of 4:00 so I could get down to TotalCon in time to convince the hotel staff to give us a non-smoking double instead of the smoking single we had reserved (it was all that was left), eat dinner, and make it to a 7:00 game.  The stress levels were high all day.  I finally tore myself away from work at about ten after four and was driving along 95 towards Mansfield and feeling like I could start to relax and enjoy my weekend when my cell phone rang.

It was my darling wife, whom I don’t blame at all as this could happen to anyone, calling me to tell me she had locked herself out of the house.  Relaxation was gone as I raced home to let her in, all the while screaming and cursing at the drivers on 109 that seemed to think it was not just half an hour until the worst of rush hour traffic would settle in and it was OK to drive a leisurely 30 MPH.

Despite the detour, I made it out of there and back onto the road and down to Mansfield by 5:30.  My trusty travel companion had made it down ahead of me and managed to work his charms on the hotel staff and get us our room upgrade.  All in all the time lost was no more than I was allowing for traffic anyway, so no real harm done, except maybe for winding my stress level back up to 9.

And that’s where my head was at when I arrived at TotalCon.  Stay tuned for the official TotalCon report…

TotalCon: Last Minute

I finally found a few minutes to seriously make plans for TotalCon this year.  I missed the event registration long ago, and with the new job I’m pretty short on vacation days for this sort of thing anyway.  I knew I at least wanted to attend Saturday, and then when a friend also mentioned interest in going, we decided to share a room and toss in Friday night as well.

Well, our registration was done barely in the nick of time.  I managed to get some tickets for a couple games, and snag one of the few remaining rooms at the hotel.  I signed up for Tim’s game both Friday and Saturday night, which by the schedule is actually the same game.  I know in the past he hasn’t been exactly rigorous in running exactly what the schedule says, and there weren’t tickets left to anything else good in those times.  It’s possible too that once on site I’ll be able to swap into a different game or play a pick-up game on the fly.

Just in case, I’ll be bringing something with me to run myself as a pick-up game.  If there are enough people milling about the old school room that it warrants an extra game, I’ll be happy to throw something down.  In the past the problem has more frequently been not enough players, but you never know.

So if you’re going to TotalCon and you like old school games and you don’t have anything solid planned for Saturday night, come find me.  I’ll be in the old school room and will need very little persuading to run something.

You Win This Round TotalCon

Let me start off by saying, lest it appear otherwise, that TotalCon was a great success this year.  I had a really great time.  That said, you may be wondering why I’m posting this on Sunday afternoon when I should still be there.  Well, for a variety of reasons this year the convention totally kicked my ass.  The thought of being there all day today and then going right back to work tomorrow was just too exhausting to contemplate.  As I was only signed up to play one game today and wasn’t running anything, I decided to just throw in the towel a day early.

I may post more details about certain parts of the convention later, but let me start with just some quick highlights, lowlights, and observations about my time at the con:

  • Ran three good runs of the Slavers modules.  Pretty much stuck to either half of A1 as I got a unique set of players for each game (no repeats).  I’ve posted their scores to my collected scores here.  I will undoubtedly have more to say about these games later.
  • Arrived first thing Thursday an hour ahead of time and was sitting all by myself in the old school room waiting to play when Tim Kask popped his head in and chided me for being an hour early.  We then chatted for a bit, which lead to him inviting me up to his room to see some material he’s working on, and then my only barely making it back down in time for my game.  Kind of pleased with myself for having a rapport with Tim, who is a genuinely nice guy and a very fun DM to play with, tinged with a  slight disappointment that he keeps showing me material before I get a chance to play it!
  • The Friday group I DMed for really hit the module hard and had a great time doing it.  They were just 1 character death short of a perfect score.  Everyone looked really engaged, and at the end two of the players turned out to be the hosts of Not Just Another Gaming Podcast, which may include in a future episode an interview with yours truly.
  • Some players in my Saturday game turned out to be organizers of a convention in NY, and were interested in recruiting me as a DM for that convention.  I know very few details about their con but have a business card and intend to email them and at least hear their pitch.  I guess this was the convention for gamer-networking!
  • My 10-2 time slot was very awkward, and though I never had too few players, I think I may have lost some due to it.  Also, it left me with funny time-gaps between 3-5 PM each afternoon with nothing to do.  In two cases I filled my time playing some pick-up board games (Cosmic Encounters on Thursday, demo of the yet-to-be-published ZPocalypse on Friday).  Also it totally screwed up my eating schedule with very late lunches, or skipped lunches.  Next year I think I will just run afternoon/evening games and leave the mornings for sleeping in or light board gaming.
  • Speaking of sleep, yeah my plan of getting “good sleep” at home did not pan out.  Had nasty insomnia Thursday night, and then never really recovered from that.  Even though I live less than 30 minutes from the convention, driving to and from definitely gave the whole thing a weird vibe, and was not fun to do when suffering from sleep deprivation.  Also I felt a bit like a hobo living out of my car, it sure would have been nice to have a hotel room to sneak back to for an hour of TV watching or a quick nap during some of those time gaps.  Next year, I think I will definitely opt for getting a room at the convention.
  • Played in three games as well, two AD&D and one OD&D.  Two were excellent, one was not bad.  Will likely post about these as I try to put my finger on what exactly makes for a good vs. bad con game for me as a player.  Kudos to Tim and Travis, who ran my favorites and will remain on my list of DMs to make every effort to play with next year.
  • Pretty much every game I ran or played in included one or two people who had never played old school games of any type.  Typically their only experience was with 3rd edition or later.  I was gratified to hear pretty much in every case they always seemed very pleased with the outcome, enjoying how “fast” or “open” the game felt.  Perhaps they were just being polite to the DMs in some cases, and I’m not sure how many of these will become real old school converts, but it gladdens me to see people getting exposed to the old styles and discovering the exact qualities that I love so much about them.
  • The dealer’s room has one booth there every year held by a merchant called “Old Fart Games”, which I can simply not find any reference to outside of TotalCon.  Is it a store?  Is it just some dude’s old collection being personally sold?  I have no idea, but I always find good stuff there.  This year’s purchase included a copy of Outdoor Survival in excellent condition (not even punched!) for $13, and another Avalon Hill game from the late 70’s (already forgotten the name) for $20.  The proprietor even then knocked the whole purchase down to an even $30 for me, what a steal.

That’s all that’s in my head right off the bat.  Will try to post more details later, but right about now I think I could use a nap.

Pre-Con Thoughts

So tomorrow starts TotalCon.  I’m trying quite a few new things this year.  To start, I’m attending the entire convention but did not get a hotel room.  The new house is only 30 minutes from the convention, and last year I got a hotel room and had terrible insomnia combined with annoyingly loud neighbors.  I figure any lost sleep due to travel will be made up by actually sleeping well in my own bed.

Last year I ran several 8 AM games.  Frank and Tim draw the biggest crowds in the old school corner, and I didn’t think there were that many players interested in old school to go around, so I picked the time those guys don’t run anything.  Turns out Frank and Tim are not the only late risers at the convention, in fact I regularly struggled to get enough players for my games.

Actually, this was fairly common in the old school room.  Usually there were about 4 games running, which condensed down to 2-3 once things got rolling.  Good news is, by having us all in the same room if I didn’t get enough people to run a game it was easy to just join in whatever else was running nearby.

This year I decided to push my games a little later.  The next available start time is 10, so that’s what I went for, without realizing that it makes for a kind of awkward time frame of 10-2.  And of course this meant I would slightly overlap Tim and Frank’s 1 PM games.  Hmm, perhaps not the best idea, but I decided to just go with it just to see how it turned out.  Again, worst case I don’t get enough people to run the game and I go find something else to do.  Now there’s one more little wrinkle: it turns out Frank can’t make it this year.

So, I’ll be very curious to see how this all turns out.  News to follow…