Archive for July, 2012

GenCon Game: Back to Basics

With all the craziness in the past couple months I’ve been sadly neglecting my preparations for GenCon, which is now less than three weeks away.  Oh dear.  I’m running two games this year, one of which is a game I’m running specifically for folks I only see at the convention and is not in the normal GenCon schedule of events (invite-only sounds a bit elitist, but it is an apt description).  The other game I scheduled without much thought, simply because I knew I wanted to run something but had no idea what.  Thus it reads like this in the schedule:

Back to Basics
Come check out what this old school thing is all about with red-book Basic D&D, circa 1981. Elf is a class, thouls lurk in the dark, and brave adventurers search forgotten dungeons for lost riches.

So here we are with less than three weeks to go and I still know nothing about this game.  At this point, it’s clear I won’t have time to write something new, but fortunately I have a two year campaign full of stuff to reuse.  The one I like best right now was used fairly recently, which means it’s suitable for characters in the 4-5 level range.  I wonder though if that’s too demanding for the implied intro level of this game?  Experience has shown though that it’s extremely unlikely that my game will be full of neophytes.  In fact, one such person is unusual.

Usually this kind of game contains a few different types: first, folks who will jump at any old school sounding game no matter the content.  Second, folks who are active new school players but curious or nostalgic about the old school stuff, and find this an easy way to test the waters.  Third, somewhat older gamers who remember the old stuff fondly and have young children with them whom they’d like to indoctrinate.  This final group is probably also attracted to the fact that my games are almost always open to all age ranges.  Having once been a young a gamer myself (I was 15 at my first GenCon), I try to leave agism at the door.

So, the question is, will a level 5 character be overwhelming to such players?  I’m inclined to think not.  Fighter and thief characters will basically be augmented only by slightly higher numbers, and perhaps a magic item or two to understand (though often this will simply be something with a plus or two, and my character sheets always include a combat section that includes all modifiers tallied for quick reference).  Clerics and magic-users may be a bit more complex with 7 spells a piece.  I do expect some number of experienced players at the table though who might volunteer for such characters, and my practice is usually to bring along more characters than necessary so there’s ample choice on the table.  If the players want to choose all fighters and thieves, I’d be OK with that (actually it sounds kind of awesome… hmm, perhaps I should just orchestrate it that way.)

As a post-script, I noticed when reading my description I specifically mention the race-as-class feature of Basic D&D.  My character generator has been tuned though to use my house rules, which includes a race/class split.  I’m kind of torn on what to do about that.


Gaming Post-38

One piece of collateral damage from the implosion of 38 Studios that few would take notice of but affects me personally very much is my D&D game.  I sort of knew all along that I would never be part of a gamer culture as intense as the one I enjoyed at 38, but when the company started to collapse I had bigger issues on my mind.  Things like job hunting, house selling, and unemployment insurance all took the forefront of my attention, and my D&D game, much like this blog, went ignored.

Well, OK, not completely.  The thing is, with all of us now unemployed, we tried very hard to keep the D&D game going to maintain some level of normalcy.  You would think that wouldn’t be too hard when most of us had no jobs to go to during the day, but the fallacy of unemployment leaving you with very little to occupy your time is one I had dispelled very quickly.  The first two weeks saw cancelled games as players were flying about the country to go on job interviews and I spent lots of time trying to sell a house I thought I had already sold.  Eventually we managed to get it together and re-institute Wednesday night as game night, but each week since then we’ve been lucky to get 4 of the 8 players to show up.  And while I’m very proud of my friends for doing so well in finding lots of promising job leads, many of them seem to be in distant states that will clearly preclude gaming.

At this point, I only know for certain that two of my players will be staying local and be available to play (they have landed a jobs not too far away and show strong interest in continuing the game).  Three players have already flown the coop and bowed out completely.  There are a couple others that are still looking to stay in the area, and I hope very much they find something, but the future for them is less clear.  My intention is to keep the game running for as long as I can.  If we can find new blood to do so, then that will be excellent.  If all else fails, we might try to do something online using g+, but in person gaming is always preferable when possible.

I keep wanting to say that I never knew how good I had it in terms of gaming culture over at 38, but I know that’s just not true.  I was pretty aware of it, and marveled at how easy it was to recruit players and keep my campaign going.  I flatter myself that there was almost a line to get into my game.  Perhaps not quite, but I pretty much always felt confident that if someone left the game it would be trivial to recruit another player from the ranks of the office pool.  So I won’t say that I regret not taking better advantage of that, I think I pretty much milked that experience as best I could.  I had a long running weekly game, I ran occasional one-shots, I even tried to run a lunch-hour game for a time.  We had board game nights and war game campaigns.  Curt even encouraged us by providing some pretty sweet equipment and space.  For some reason lots of folks chose Wednesday as their night, and for a while Wednesday night at 38 was like a mini gaming convention in itself, with 2 or 3 RPGs running and board games as well.

So don’t feel bad for me, perhaps it ended sooner than I expected, but I always knew it couldn’t last forever.  As Dr. Suess said, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”  I will always look back fondly at my time at 38 as the golden age of my gaming experience.  And there are still conventions to attend and games to be run.  I have not given up on my Wednesday night game yet, nor will I if it can be kept going by any means.

Dice will roll.