Monday, July 15, 2013

Con Aftermath: MichiCon '13

So, I had a blast at MichiCon this year. I'd never been before, but +R.J. Thompson talked the thing up and, not being the sort of person who backs down from challenges, I decided that I'd not just go, but step up and run something (or a few somethings) for the con, mostly because the RPGs being offered were of the ... better not talk about it ... variety. You know, that game, that everyone plays, like everyone and it's the whole reason you can't go to a game store anymore because everyone there's all like "Hey, have you seen the latest bazillion page splatbook from that game?" So, there was way too much of that game, and, when I signed up, only one D&D session locked in (which got jerked around, but I'll let +R.J. Thompson tell that story when it's due). Not even a single 4e event. But shit tons of that game. No Swords & Wizardry, no Labyrinth Lord, no old schooly goodness. It had to change. It was time to party like it was 1974, and I brought the wizard bong that is Dungeon Crawl Classics.

Now, there are some skeptics out there who, not fully grasping the amazing nature of DCC, talk some smack about the sheer number of tables and charts that drive the game system, as if they are some sort of fault or flaw in the game's design. If this were true, they'd serve as some form of barrier to entry into the game, a hurdle to be overcome by players new to the game. Spell charts and crit tables and funky dice, were these nay-sayers to be believed would complicate the game unnecessarily, and it would seem that running DCC at a con would be practically impossible. As usual, the best defense was a good offense and I decided to prove those smack-talkers false. Well, okay, maybe I didn't set out to do that, but I did that. And it was badass.

Friday - Tower Out Of Time

If you aren't familiar yet with +Michael Curtis's amazing Tower Out Of Time yet, I'm not surprised. It was released as a special incentive for folks like myself to run DCC World Tour events. Written for a 2nd-level party, TOOT (I love the fact that the acronym for this one is TOOT) is a short and focused romp that seeks to show off a lot of the stuff that makes DCC awesome. Crazy locations, unique monsters and an Appendix N-style plot that my players hooked right onto. Second level is a great level for starting folks off on DCC because it actually uses fewer of the funky dice than other levels; your Deed Die is a d4, as is your Luck Die. The only PC who spent any time rolling Zocchi dice was the halfling (the kid who played the halfling deserves his own post, let alone sentence) due to Two-Weapon Fighting.

The guy who played the wizard seemed to live in fear of his Mercurial Magic effects (until he realized that Psychic Focus is badass and then kept trying to find reasons to cast Mending to get it), but learned to love the randomness while casting Color Spray, a spell that I've previously discussed as having the potential to completely trivialize an encounter should a high enough result get rolled. Which was exactly what happened during our Friday night session. Twice. Including the "boss fight" of the encounter. The adventure that I thought was going to last three or four hours only lasted just over two and, while a great time was had by all, I think we all wanted a little more. (Which is good, because it lets me know how long I should make my own adventures for cons, at least with how my Judging pace works.) After this, the wife and I headed back to Ypsilanti from Rochester to catch the last few of the night's tribute artists at the Michigan Elvis Fest, a last round of drinks at the Tap Room, then home to prepare for Saturday's round two at the con.

Saturday - To Catch A Fallen Portal Under the Stars

On Saturday, I had a bit of a meltdown. The notebook which has all of my notes for To Catch A Fallen Star had come up missing, a state in which it still persists today. As of this moment, the only parts of the adventure that I can find are the images and maps from it on my computer. GRRRR! What to do! I totally signed up to run a funnel-style event and I don't want to let anyone down! I had already made my Deck of Many Zeroes (a set of fifty-two level 0 characters generated by the Purple Sorcerer funnel fodder factory), so all I had to worry about was figuring out what to do instead. I thought that Sailors on the Starless Sea would be too long (turned out it would have been perfect, I think), so I asked myself whether it would be so wrong to run Portal Under the Stars just because it's in the core rule book? I tend to avoid running adventures found in the core books because I figure that someone at the table has probably read them. Because I did. But nah, chances are none of these guys have read DCC, much less played before, right?

Well, my gamble paid off. No one (except for the two guys from my game on Friday night) had ever played DCC before and most of them didn't even know that it was an actual RPG and not just a title I was giving to a random adventure. It's game time, folks; I gave my "party like it's 1974" speech and dealt out some zeroes.

I should note at this point that, for this session, new-friend-of-the-blog +R.J. Thompson of Gamers & Grognards fame was in attendance. Thankfully, he'd never dived into DCC either, but was eager to give it a shot. Level zeroes in hand, my six players (18 total zeroes) headed into the dungeon and faced traps! Fought giant demon snakes! Outwitted more traps! Did more stuff! Died a lot! Used crit tables! Used fumble tables! Died some more! Came up with daring plans that I had to award Luck for! Thought like players in a campaign and not "I'm not keeping this guy, so I can trash him!"

While Friday night, I'd had four players, on Saturday, I had a full table of six. Some old schoolers, some new schoolers, and every single one of them was there to crush a goddamn dungeon. And crushed it was. No stone was unturned, and only one lead went uninvestigated (until they figured it out but bypassed the need for that lead, regardless). In short, we had a blast and, at the end of it all, we were all (including me) clamoring for more, partially because the game ran kind of short for the time slot we had!

So, in two sessions, none of my players had played DCC before. All of them - at one point or another - critted or cast a spell or fumbled or in one way or another had to use the crazy DCC tables and charts. None of them complained. Everyone had a mad gleam in their eye when that crit came up or awesome spell check. Everyone seemed to understand and even enjoy when they rolled poorly and gained disapproval or fumbled. It's not scientific, but to the nay-sayers, I'll quote Samual Johnson's refutation of Bishop Berkeley's Idealism by saying "I refute it thus!" Except here, I'm not kicking a rock, just trumpeting my experiences.

The Rest of the Con

MichiCon is not a big con. That is not a bad thing. Apparently, some people over the weekend were quoted as saying that MichiCon was small as a critique of the con. Fuck that. You know what I saw at MichiCon? I saw table after table of gamers gaming. I saw board games, card games, war games (WAR GAMES! That weren't GW games!) and roleplaying games non-freaking-stop. Yeah, it's not the biggest con in Michigan, but I'll be damned if it's not packed with gamers playing games rather than doing anything else.

The silent auction was pretty good and I picked up a 5th Edition CoC paperback with some supplemental material for $10. I haven't played CoC in two decades, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat. One of the books was Cthulhu Now, which seems a delightfully dated book, but the more I think about it, the 90's were really the last decade you could run CoC in before the complete ubiquity of communication technology and the internet sort of make Lovecraftian horror close to irrelevant. The copy of Dead Reckonings is in good shape, but the first adventure is all marked up by somebody who thought it's okay to use a highlighter in an rpg book. For the record: No, it is not okay. I also picked up some bits boxes of Mordheim sprues, mostly Imperial citizens and Skaven, which is cool and super-appropriate to what I'm doing gaming-wise these days.

In the end, MichiCon was a great little con. I'm definitely doing it again and I hope all my fellow Great Lakes gamers will be there, too.