Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Recap of My Time at the NTRPG Con

My time at this year's con actually started nearly a week before. I was doing things like getting print copies together of Dragon Horde zines #1 and #2 (BTW, #2 will be available this coming Monday at RPGNow, and print will be available on both starting the same day), picking up the 2nd print run of the d30 Sandbox Companion from the printer (I do these in batches of 50), getting my sign from FastSigns, etc.

Wednesday night, I trucked it over for the pre-con events. There was some sort of HP event finishing up at the hotel, so instead of being in the atrium, the pre-con events were relegated to wherever space could be found. Our game of Battle Royal (under the direction of Frank Mentzer) took place in the bar (which was about as noisy as you'd expect, being full of patrons, and what with the Hewlett Packard karaoke festivities echoing from the nearby ballroom). But we did our best. Battle Royal is a sort of mix of traditional wargaming and RPGs. Each team was an identical group of D&D PCs which battle it out in an ever-changing arena until you capture the ring and return it to your starting pit, or you kill the other team (whichever comes first). We got a late start (several of the special guests inbound flights were delayed, including Frank's), I was not staying in the hotel that night, and had a 45 minute drive home, so I cut out about 12:30. They didn't go much longer after I left. Although the battle didn't finish, the arena was in a position such that everyone was trapped/blocked from where they needed to be (and who knows how long it would have been until the walls moved to allow passage).

Thursday morning started with me loading up the truck and heading back across town just around lunch time to get my table set up. I got to spend a good part of the afternoon at the table, meeting folks and hawking my wares. Then, Thursday night meant Part I of "Night's Dark Terror" with Steve Winter. It's always a slow start at con games, as all the players get the feel for each other. And "Night's Dark Terror" started simply and slowly enough, but had a nice rhythm by the end of the night, to be continued with Part II on Saturday morning.

Friday morning was my obligatory Metamorphosis Alpha game with Jim Ward. If you recall the events of last year, I died in one Jim Ward game, and survived in the other. It was the shame of surviving like a chicken last year that sparked my thought for this year's game... I would alternate;y be brave and cowardly (I wrote it off to a split personality). This allowed me to have fun doing stupid stuff (remember, Jim doesn't kill characters, characters kill themselves) and still have a chance of surviving. It was a blast, and I survived (though barely). I know take a moment of silence to remember my fellow coming-of-age tribesmen who perished in the attempt to prove themselves worthy as adults in the tribe.

Friday night was easily my most anticipated game of the con this year... Frank Mentzer's 1974 OD&D game. We relived the experience of the dawn of D&D, including monsters we had not memorized from the Monster Manual, the inclusion of hobbits before they were an intellectual property concern, and character classes that did not include the thief. Long story short, we investigated a small cave/dungeon complex with hobgoblins and goblins, and faced a final battle with an animated table (yes, an animated table). Earlier in the game, my magic user had found a diagram of the table with notes in a strange language. And when I discovered the diagram in a book, the conversation went something like this...
Me (to other characters): "Should I use my read languages spell now or later?"
Frank (smiling, astounded): "You actually chose read languages?
Look, the spell wouldn't have been on the spell list, even way back then, if it didn't get used. 2-out-of-3 of the adventures I write almost require the ability to read languages. It's a good back pocket spell, even if your 2nd-level magic user only gets 2 spells (the other was a sleep spell that was pretty much necessary). So I did actually choose read languages, and I showed my character sheet to prove it. Turns out, that was the saving grace for our party. When we met the table (and it started attacking, doing up to 4 strikes per round), and I read the diagram, Frank pulled me aside to let me know that all I could make out was that the table was possessed by elemental evil. I related that to the party and we attacked accordingly. Once we saw what the cleric's holy water did, and one of the fighter's oil/torch attack, getting the air (from a small device we retrieved earlier) and dirt (scraped from a couple of boots) returned the table to being just... well... a table. The "Table of the Elements." (Yes! That's the goofiness that, to me, is woven through the earliest days of D&D). Easily one of the coolest experiences I've ever had gaming. And it's got me jonesing to run a White Box game or two.

Saturday morning was Part II of "Night's Dark Terror" with Steve Winter again. No need to go into details here. It was a good game, and the module is very cool, has some great plot points, and some very interesting encounters. When I got home from the con to find out this is the inspiration for the starter adventure for D&D5, it does not surprise me.

Saturday afternoon was the auction and presentation of the Three Castles award (which I am still overwhelmed with having won). Saturday night was to be Shiverwhen with Michael Curtis. But only about half the group showed up, and we were all pretty beat. So we mutually agreed to forego the gaming. The activity moved to the bar with Welbo, Eric Tenkar, Erik's wife Rachel, James Aulds and myself having beers and shooting the shit and relaxing.

No Sunday morning gaming for me, but I did get to sit at the table with my wife Terri, and meet a few more folks, sell a few additional copies of Valley of the Five Fires, and then pack up and head home (after lunch at my wife's favorite Tex-Mex place as a "thank you" for her time helping me at the con").

Among the notable conversations I had while sitting at the table... Steve Marsh and J. Eric Holmes's son Chris. Both very cool. Plenty of time talking with others as well, though I wish I'd gotten to game with Tim Snider.

Okay, that's about all I've got for now, except that I left the con with a couple of new project ideas. More to come as they may/may not develop.


  1. Wish I had gotten a chance to game with you too. I'll save you a seat at the next game!

  2. A huge congrats to you Richard for the award. Well deserved. And looking forward to getting hold of your zines!

  3. Great to meet and talk with you and your wife, I need to spend more time in the hotel bar it seems. Running the con gives you so little time to actually socialize but I am going to set aside "bar time" for sure next year!