Monday, June 10, 2013

NTRPGCon Recap: How Jim Ward Killed Me

Among the many great moments I had at this past weekend's North Texas RPG Con, it was an absolute privilege to not only play in a Jim Ward session, but to play in TWO Jim Ward sessions. Like many others, I now have my own version of "How Jim Ward Killed Me." But I'm also lucky enough to now also have a "How I Survived Jim Ward" story. Wait! Let me back up a moment...

Instead of writing what Jim said at the beginning of BOTH games (Friday's new setting Metamorphosis Alpha "Dark Visitor" adventure, and Saturday's old setting Metamorphosis Alpha adventure set aboard The Warden), let me share a quote from a post by Tim Snider at The Savage Afterworld from his post about last year's GaryCon (especially because it was pretty much EXACTLY- like word-for-word exactly- the same thing Jim said before both games this weekend):
Now, I have a rather undeserved reputation for Total Party Kills," he said. "I want to make it clear that **I** rarely kill a player off. The players usually kill themselves off." Jim made the following offer:

"Even though I enjoy signing things for people, I never give anyone a personalized signature. I never have done it in the many years I've done this. However, here at Gary Con, if you get through the next 3 hours of my game and LIVE, I will give you a one-of-a-kind personalized James Ward autograph. So far at the convention, I've given away two. Will there be a third? You just gotta survive. That's it.
Only, instead of offering the personalized autograph (a la Tim Snider's post), Jim's offer was an autographed Spellfire card featuring his picture.

Friday's Dark Visitor Session
(Wherein I Died)

I'll cut to the chase on this one. Jim was right. We pretty much owe our deaths to one player's "loose cannon" use of his EMP disruptor... which, needless to say, disrupted everything around him... leaving most everyone in the party but him without the use of the wonderful and effective equipment we'd spent all kinds of time thinking up and inventing before the game and taking on the ship with us.

Fast forward through many sequential player deaths... this same player was the only survivor of the party with only 10 minutes left to complete the session, and possibly survive the game and claim his card! But instead of playing it cautiously, he rushed back to our scout ship (from the alien spacecraft), forgetting that he had previously been breathing via a "conditional generator" of mine that was providing us atmosphere, and that gold threads were already forming around the scout ship before we entered the alien spacecraft. So... yes, he died too, with 9 minutes left in the gaming session. (And, as I understand, was talking about how "unfair" this was for the remainder of the con.)

What happens when you die in a Jim Ward game? He rips up your record sheet. Quite possibly my favorite moment from the entire con. Yes, dying in a Jim Ward game was an absolute privilege.

Saturday's "Tribal Test" Session (Wherein I Lived!)

One of the things that made Saturday's session cool (in addition to The Warden, of course) was the player group. Directly to my right were Jim Wampler and Michael Curtis. Across the far corner of the table from me was Justin Davis; I've followed his Field Guide to Doomsday blog for a while and the con was a chance to meet in person. Finally, Welbo (you know, the guy that helps me edit/copy write for things like the d30 DM Companion) had come out to watch and Jim let him join the game.

So Jim introduced the game pretty much as outlined above (with the "players kill each other" warning, and the offer of autographed Spellfire cards for survivors), and we struck out... a primitive group of tribal come-of-agers tasked with spending 20 days away from the tribe and returning with "something the tribe had never seen before"... or the tribe would kill us!

The party never really reached a cohesive whole, especially in terms of which direction to go and when. But I'm sorry... when you see a portal surrounded by skulls (mostly human), you just DON'T go into that portal. I think this bought us a little bit of time and prolonged the inevitable. But we still faced some giant centipedes and shooting pods and some acid spitting slugs and some razor grass (you know, classic old-school mutant creature stuff). With ten minutes to go, and all but one of us alive (sorry Justin), Jim looked down behind his DM screen and I could see the look in his eyes saying, "What can I do in ten minutes to allow these players to kill each other?" Instead, what happened shocked me.

He stopped the game, pulled out his Spellfire cards and begin to sign them, accompanied by a statement something to the effect of, "For those who say Jim Ward kills all his players, this will give them something to talk about on Facebook and Twitter," or something like that. I think he did it so it would get back to Friday's near-survivor and chap his hide. But that's just speculation.

(Yes, that is Frank Mentzer in the background.)

Thank you Mr. Ward! I had a blast, both dying and surviving!


  1. Good gaming with you this weekend, Richard! I'm pleased we all managed to run out the clock and walk away with an ultra-rare Wardmeister card. When visiting the Warden, any win, whether by strategy or dumb luck, is equally valid.

  2. Thanks, Michael. Good gaming with you too! Trust me, I believe evasion is always a viable strategy. Especially after what he put our party through on Friday. I also think the two un-planned additional players at the table Saturday may have been just enough to tip our favor in the combat situations we did face.

    BTW, I wrote a Shiverwhen recap earlier today that I've already scheduled for tomorrow's post. I hope I do it justice.

  3. Sorry I'm late to this party. It was great gaming with you!

    And I still can't believe I got clobbered by the party, instead of that glorious giant snail. Gah!