Monday, March 12, 2018

Gary Con X

The Seat of Honor

Day One

I arrived at Gary Con X around 3pm on Wednesday.  This is only my second con to attend after going to NTRPG last June.  It's a significantly larger con but still nowhere near the size of the big cons.  Whereas at NTRPG I carefully booked all my time, I only scheduled a single game each day, hoping that I'd be able to find enough extra stuff to do to fill my time.

My first game of Gary Con was an off-the-books session of Dungeon Crawl Classics.  Tim Loughrist gathered a small group in the mezzanine to explore Neblin Pendlebrook's Perilous Pantry.  I was joined by Tim's wife, Katie, for her second ever DCC game, as well as roadworthy DCC judge Joan Troyer.  We each led our four incompetent peasants into the spider and undead dog infested tunnels beneath Neblin's home but ultimately met our demise in a sudden TPK - a fitting end to my first Gary Con game.  Now I'm not bitter, but things might have gone differently had I not lost half my peasants to friendly arrows.  But that's the way of it when you put weapons in the hands of untrained serfs.

Day Two

I met Jeff Goad at NTRPG last June, playing in his Fate's Fell Hand DCC game.  Jeff is a host of two fantastic podcasts -  the DCC focused Spellburn and the Appendix N Book Club.  He's one of the best judges I've ever played with, a great person to talk to about all things RPG-adjacent, and just a really fun person to hang out with, so I was happy to room with him for Gary Con, and proximity worked out well when he learned he had an extra seat in his game this morning.  I was excited to play in his game again and he did not disappoint.  Running Shadow Under Devil Reef, Goodman Games' latest Halloween module, he sent us to explore a shipwreck and cursed island filled with Lovecraftian horrors.  This was the first time I've gotten to play a warrior in DCC and I loved it.  Mighty Deeds!  Greatest fighting mechanic ever.  I pinned a zombie to the deck of the ship in order to give our cleric a chance to escape by impaling it with my longsword into the planks.  I dealt the killing blow to the Big Bad by leaping into its gaping maw as it was devouring our wizard, cutting it open from the inside out.  We didn't all make it out alive, but it was one of the most heroic, tense, and visceral adventures I've played in.  We had two first time DCC players in the group and they said they'd be buying a rulebook after that session.

After the game, I made my way to the dealer hall.  I had to make many willpower saves browsing the wares of Goodman Games, Frog God Games, and North Wind Adventures.  Jeff Talanian called me a stingy motherfucker when I told him the PCs in my AS&SH were just hitting second level after a dozen sessions.  He's probably right.

I made my way back to the mezzanine after dinner for another off-the-books game.  This time Doug Kovacs was running Dogstorm, a post-apocalyptic squad combat game where death rains down over the battlefield in the form of hundreds of rubber dogs thrown by the player the garden gnome's spinner lands on.  Each squad consisted of 6 units, including leader, jetpacker, sniper, wizard, grenadier, and a big guy.  In addition to the random death from above, each squad could call air strikes, so with eight people playing the battlefield was very quickly cleared out.  Jobe Bittman walked away the victor of that due to his superior magical prowess.

Day Three

I was able to sign up for one Featured Event of the con and my choice was Matt Finch's Mythrus game.  Matt is the author of Swords & Wizardry, which is my favorite retroclone, as well as the extremely influential Primer for Old School Gaming, and the Tome of Adventure Design, from where I get so many of my adventure ideas.  Getting to play in his game was a highlight of the con.  We had 17 players go into the dungeon and he managed to the lot with ease.  We fought trolls and flying angler fish, pried the gems out of a giant demon idol's eye, dealt with a possession curse, and had about half the party killed and resurrected.
Matt Finch's Mythrus Tower

All of the Frog God guys were wearing shirts that read "Goddammit Zach", in deference to Zach Glazar.  In his absence, they adopted me as the target of their scorn though and shouted out their new slogan whenever the opportunity arose.

Next up was a Mutant Crawl Classics funnel.  As always with the funnel, the deaths were frequent and entertaining, from psychicly exploding heads to asphyxiation by living tar pits to being swallowed whole by giant snakes.  One of the players at the table had picked up his copy of the rulebook at the con, so I had the opportunity to look at it a bit.  It's a great looking book and I can't wait for the kickstarter to deliver.

After dinner, I snuck back into the Frog God room and joined Bill Webb's game.  Using my survivor from the morning, we went Down the Well into a modified version of Rappan Athuk.  This time we were up to about 25 players and Bill facilitated this by pacing up and down the table.  Bill's a hell of a performer and anyone attending one of these cons should definitely try to join into this chaos at some point.
When you gotta move the beer can party token.

Day Four

The exhaustion has hit me.  I can't hang with those Frog Gods, they're nuts.  I only played in one game today, an Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea game.  I've been running AS&SH the past three months so it was fun to be on the other side of the screen.  The adventure was somewhat of a create your own problems situation, which I'm generally not a fan of personally.  We created a monster and then we had to destroy that monster.  Those sorts of adventures always leave me feeling kind of frustrated.

I declined a few other game invites for the evening, just due to be tired, and decided to spectate Jeff Talanian's AS&SH game.  Jeff runs a fun game and getting into his next year will be a top priority for me.  I only stuck around for half, but that was plenty of time to see the group's fighter get smashed into such a pulpy mess that only magical items could be recovered from his corpse.  Charging solo into a pack of frost giants is a fool's errand in any game.


All in all, this was an awesome four days of gaming.  I got to play in all of my favorite systems with some really fun, creative, and exciting judges who really put a lot of effort into hosting their games.  I met so many friends who I'd previously only gotten to talk to online, so hanging out and chatting with them in person was a real treat.  Despite the larger size, compared to NTRPG, Gary Con is still small enough that throughout the event I continually ran into the same people.  The time between games was relaxing and there was always something to watch or people to chat with about our shared hobby.  I definitely want to return for Gary Con XI, and next year I intend to submit a couple events myself, so look for me there.

Frog God's Rappan Athuk has gotten a paint job since NTRPG.

A jousting tournament for the rights to duel Luke Gygax.

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