Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Inevitable Post U Con 2014 Post

First, I'd like to point out that +R.J. Thompson stole my post title here. I'd shake my fists in fury if I actually had any. Besides, this guy put in a lot of work on U Con, so he gets a pass.

This past weekend, November 14th through 16th, the U Con gaming convention came to my town for the third year in a row. Last year was my first with the con and I had such a good time, I knew I'd be back this year. But why should I blather about this when you can read all about it? Let's get back to this year!

Thursday, November 13th

All good conventions start the night before. U Con was no exception to this rule. +Kathryn Muszkiewicz and I had agreed to host (special guest of the con) +Doug Kovacs months before. We weren't sure when he was coming, though, so when he told us he was coming on Friday, we breathed a sigh of relief and then proceeded to totally slack on doing all the shit that one does around the house when getting ready for guests. So, I had to finish all that (including some remarkably stinky last-minute plumbing) on Thursday. Needless to say that by the end of all that crap, I needed a drink.

Ryan was on top of stuff, though, and wanted to run a game for the folks who had gotten into town early (or who lived there) which was supposed to mean me, +Shane Harsch+Tim Snider & +Jim Wampler. Apparently, Jim & Tim were wiped out from their treks up from Ohio, so that didn't happen. Instead, I convinced Ryan to join me at fabulous downtown Ypsilanti's own Tap Room (where Katie was working) for a few beers. A few very large beers. A few very large Hideout Brewery Hazelnut Stouts. Man, did my ass get kicked. Shane joined us for a round or so, then took off to get rest. That should have been a clue to me to leave well enough alone. Nope. In retrospect, Ryan drank a reasonable amount. Me? I had to overdo it and then throw a whiskey on top of it. Good thing I live on the same block as the Tap.

Friday, November 14th

Thanks to the night before, I started this day pretty damn hung over. I never finished my pregens for my sessions for the weekend, so I was still working on them (and hung over) at noon on Friday. I had agreed to help +Roy Snyder run the Goodman Games booth when the hall opened at 2, so at 1p, I drove the whole 5 minutes from my house to the con site. On my way in to the con, I tripped on some uneven pavement, but kept on trucking (I would later realized that I had ripped the knee of my jeans wide open and had skinned my knee pretty fiercely). Jim Wampler & I helped put the last few things in place and then staffed the booth while Roy went off to run an event.

Roy came back from his event kind of early; it turned out that only two guys had shown up for it (one being the very excellent Mr. +Brett Slocum who had stopped by the Goodman booth), so he went off script and taught them the rules a bit and I think ran them through a short somethingorother before calling it good. Which was a good thing, because it let me slack at the booth and finish up those pregens.

At 6p, I was on a panel discussion along with Doug, Tim, Jim & Ryan about what exactly the OSR is. Here's the thing about the guys assembled: the deck was totally stacked against a "strictly D&D" construction of what the OSR is. Which is good. I tend to think that folks who like to believe that "if it ain't D&D, it ain't Old School" are missing the point but, as with all point-missers, they'll miss the point of themselves missing the point. If there's no room in a particular version of the OSR for Runequest or Traveller or Call of Cthulhu or any of that stuff, then that particular version isn't worth my attention. Jim recorded the panel discussion, thankfully, and it will soon appear on the Save Or Die podcast.

After that, as in RIGHT AFTER THAT, at 7p I ran DCC and the players (who included +Mark Donkers+Andrew Moss+Chris Hooker  & man do I feel stupid now not being able to remember everyone who was there) were used as guinea pigs for an adventure I'm currently play testing. I realized after my "I can't tell you what it's called" stupidity on Spellburn that if I can't say what the name of a thing is, then I shouldn't call it by that name in con programs and the like. As a result, the thing I ran on Friday night currently has the "nom de guerre" of "A Tree Falls in the Forest" (by the time it gets published, it will certainly have a new title). These gents did a commendable job, and allowed me to explore some of the nuances that my session of this adventure at GenCon had spurred me to create. Thanks gents, you were a blast to work with.

When the session wrapped up, Katie, Doug and I went back to our apartment, where we spent the rest of the night boring Katie by talking about Philosophy and drinking Miller High Life. It's cheap, y'all, don't judge.

Saturday, November 15th

This was the day of the con that we were most successful in getting up early. 10am. We tried to get Jim to come have breakfast with us at the Wolverine grill (across the street from my house) because he's a man who appreciates a good breakfast and the Wolverine always has interesting, imaginative food. Jim didn't show. That's okay.

We got to the con later than we had intended, despite our early start, giving me all of 1/2 hour to get to my game and get set up. I ran my DCC adventure (also in playtesting) "Slaves of the Silicon God." This is the one that I got all stupid about the name of on Spellburn. It's currently one of my two "con adventures" after I ran it at Gateway Games & More in Cincinnati, OH, on Free RPG Day. Again, I had great players (including some folks I've mentioned previously, but including +Pete Schwab & +Stefan Poag among others). This session turned out to be a bloodbath, possibly because they were slightly undermanned. I balanced this adventure around a large (6+) adventuring party and there were only 5 players. Many, many PCs met their end at the hand of man-apes. After (barely) surviving to get reinforcements, the players managed to take on most of the rest of the adventure, but I had to vastly rethink how to do some things and I'm not sure my ideas worked as well as I had thought. The good news is that I know how where I need to edit stuff, which is exactly why I run this shit at cons.

After the session, Stefan, Doug and I met up with Jim, Shane and Ryan (and maybe a few more folks) for dinner at the hotel bar. I proceeded to have one too many and talk about time travel. Bad idea.

Several folks were running sessions at 8pm and I tried to figure out whose game I should jump into. Ultimately, I jumped into Roy's game, which was great! The players were me, Tim Snider & Pete Schwab and we were playing in Roy's take on the Tower out of Time. If you have the opportunity, play in one of Roy's games. He does all the voices and it's a blast. The session went on way later than it was supposed to, though, and it was 1a before we got out of there.

When we were done there, Doug & I went to the Tap and had beers while we waited for Katie to get off work. Doug made friends with some Ypsi townies, including the one and only SOULTRAIN. Starved, we had a late night dinner at Abe's Coney Island, a place about which the less is said, the better. We were out far, far too late.

Sunday, November 16th

I don't think I was hung over on Sunday, just tired. So tired. We got to the con in the last few minutes of the dealer hall being open, which gave me just enough time to make some last minute purchases and say goodbye to Tim Snider & Jim Wampler. We spent more money than was smart, picking up Frog God's Monstrosities from d20pfsrd.com's own +John Reyst. It was good to see John, who I'd had the good fortune of DMing for last year. We also picked up some dice (because convention) and then stopped by Roy's booth and picked up the new Castles & Crusades black box. Now I just need their starter box.

I had to figure out which game to jump into because there were two big options for me. Ryan was running his annual Palace of the Vampire Queen shindig, which was my favorite event last year, and that was a strong contender. At the same time, +Andrew Moss was running Peril on the Purple Planet (which I have yet to read, so I had no spoilers), so I jumped into that. I'll be completely fair, Andrew got off to a great start, then things got rocky. After they got rocky, it felt like Andrew lost a lot of confidence and things dragged a bit. However, by the time we got to the end of the session, it felt like he got his legs beneath him again when he started throwing in all these awesome comic book elements. Spoiler for gaming with Andrew: he's a total comics fanatic and his games are informed by that aesthetic. The moment the game developed Kirby Dots and cosmic rays, it got awesome. Andrew, if you're reading this, LEARN TO HARNESS THIS POWER! This is where your DM voice is. Use it.

After the session, I met up with Katie & Doug in the hotel bar, where we played Nanobots with some folks and had a few beers. We went back to the house intent on calling it an early night because we all had to hit the road in the morning: Doug had to drive back to Chicago and we had to drive to Imlay City on the far side of Flint at 8a.

This did not happen.

Instead, we stayed up late listening to music, drinking beer then wine (I won the Tour de Franzia!) and having a damn good time of it.

Getting up the next morning was hell.

Final Word

U Con continues to be crazy fun for me. It was even better this year than last since so many of the folks I've met over the last year (Jim & Doug & Roy) came to my home town and because I got to meet so many other neat folks (Tim & Andrew & Pete & Stefan & Brett & +John Till & more) who I'm excited to game with in the future! If I were to do anything differently it would have been to sleep more and bring more coffee. Other than that, pretty solid success all around.