Friday, March 15, 2019

Gary Con XI

Another Gary Con is in the books.  Sticking to tradition, I roomed with the same guys as last year (Judge Jeff of Spellburn and Appendix N, weird illustrator David Hoskins), and this time we were joined by David's friend Harry, who was attending Gary Con for the first time.  This year I decided to run games as well and signed up for three games.  A bit naively I chose to run three different systems, so I lugging way too many books into the Con.

Day One
We arrived Wednesday about 2pm and made straight for the bar, where I finally got to meet Jason Hobbs in person, and we had time for a Spotted Cow beer before the badge pickup.  We gave Harry a quick tour of the resort to get him his bearings and then decided to leave the resort for dinner since we had pretty busy schedules for the next few days.  Someone recommended the Next Door Pub in Lake Geneva, and while waiting for a table I recognized a pretty cool shirt and got to meet Larry Hamilton of the Follow Me, and Die! blog.

Back at the resort we were able to join in an off the books game by Doug Kovacs, running his weird, disgusting, bizarre Meat Planet adventure.  To no one's surprise, after nearly turning on each other a few times we eventually destroyed the universe.

Day Two
My first scheduled game of the con was running the adventure Ghost Ship of the Desert Dunes for AS&SH.  I made a quick run to the dealer hall first to see Jeff Talanian and pick up a copy of the new AS&SH Player's Guide (scoring the first sale of the con).  I admit that I was very nervous to be running my first con game, but I had my roommates David and Harry in the game, as well as Dennis from Jeff's home game, who I played with last year, so I couldn't have asked for a friendlier first table.  With a four hour timeslot, I ran just the Green Diamond Mine dungeon from the module, which I've run once previously on Roll20.  The party was able to complete the dungeon, missing only a few side rooms, and defeat the big ugly without any losses.  AS&SH has quickly become one of my favorite systems and even with two players completely new to the game it was easy to run.  Immediately afterwards David and I returned to the dealer hall where David picked up a copy of the rulebook for himself.
Thursday evening I played in Rich McKee's Castles & Crusades adventure Hall of the Predators.  I've run C&C quite a bit but this was my first experience as a player in that system.  The adventure started off with a fair amount of investigation in town and Rich handled us splitting the party in a half dozen different directions like a pro.  Eventually we set off for a dungeon and faced a weird hunting clan that had some strange joined mutation thing going on.  We slew the baddies, looted the treasure, and I returned to the lounge to enjoy some more Spotted Cow with the crew.

Day Three
Doesn't get much cooler than a
custom GM screen made from
a 70s vinyl cover.
With a silver badge to the Con, I had one featured event entry and I was thrilled to get into Michael Curtis' playtest of his next DCC adventure, On Weird Waves.  This adventure is part of a mini-setting series based on the works of William Hope Hodgson and features a haunted, nautical theme.  I won't spoil anything about it, but I was proud to be a part of the first group to beat this adventure in his playtests.  Michael Curtis has been one of my favorite gaming writers for quite a while but now I can say that he is a hell of a judge as well.

After playing, I had my next two GMing sessions.  The first was the Mutant Crawl Classics adventure Evil of the Ancients, written by Michael Curtis.  He was kind enough to sign the module and offer advice before I left.  I had a pretty unique experience running this game.  My four players were all friends who have been gaming together for decades, although this was their first Gary Con and all but one's first time playing MCC.  These guys had a really fun dynamic with each other that played perfectly with the gonzo horror of the Ancients adventure.  I had to improvise quite a bit when they managed to disable something that was intended to be the scenario's finale early on.  Things devolved pretty badly for the group of Seekers as madness and terror took over.  I scored my first con TPK when they summoned some unfathomable thing which was able to dominate the will of one PC and help him flay the others.  I think it counts as a TPK anyway, if the only survivor is an utterly insane Pied Piper in service of alien entities, luring future Seekers to their doom.  The players told me the game felt just like playing old school Gamma World, which is probably the best praise Jim Wampler would like.

My final game of the day, and final game GMing, was the DCC adventure The 13th Skull.  I had two walk up players for this one, including one who had never played DCC before.  The 13th Skull is a level 4 adventure, which is pretty high powered in DCC terms, and he took on a wizard, so his introduction to DCC was about as chaotic as it gets.  The adventure is a fairly short dungeon crawl involving a demonic pact and portals to other planes and familial sacrifice.  By pure coincidence, the Warrior of the group had a magic sword that shared the same name (rolled off the naming table in the appendix) as the sacrificial dagger of a particular devil, which setup a very fun confrontation between those two as they fought to control the Blades of Abathon.  As happens in DCC, the wizard scored a critical on his Scorching Ray in the final battle on the first round and summoned magma from the earth's crust to utterly destroy all trace of their enemy.  Another successful adventure and I think I got DCC another convert.

Day Four
With GMing completed, I got to play in three games on Saturday.  The first was The Purple Pit of the Mole Man, a 1st level MCC adventure run by Marc Plourd of Glowburn.  I got to play a Mutant for the first time in this one, a rocky skinned fellow with powers of combustion that turned out to be as dangerous to my companions as to my enemies.  Although I nearly killed half my team the first time I used it, I was about to get the killed blow on the Queen of the Mole Men even after I had died due to the lingering burning flames, so that was pretty cool.

Following that, I finally got to join a playtest of Dark Trails by David Baity.  This upcoming weird west setting/supplement for DCC is a wonderful blend of Lovecraftian horror and six-gun mayhem.  The adventure, Don't Swallow the Worm, is a funnel, so I didn't get to check out any of the new classes, but we did get to play with the gun mechanics and they were quite entertaining.  I had one 0-level who had unbelievable luck, not missing a single shot the entire adventure, until the last shot he took, which misfired and blew off his buddy's head.  Tough breaks.  David also shared with us the video for his upcoming Kickstarter.  This is one I am definitely looking forward to.

Lastly, I played in a DCC funnel from Mike Evans' Hubris book run by Sarah Brown.  It Came From Outer Space involves the exploration of a fallen meteor.  I actually watched the 1953 B-horror movie of the same name not long ago so I definitely caught some references in there.  My pack of zeroes were the first at the table to be picked off and I was overdue checking on a family health update situation, so I bowed out and my Gary Con gaming was completed.  After a calling my sister back (everything's good), I joined the Cultural Exchange on the mezzanine where I tried a few Austin beers, caught up with some friends, met some more folks I knew from different online communities, then called it a night.

I didn't think I could top last year's Gary Con experience, but running games was absolutely thrilling.  My gaming over the past few years has been almost entirely online so I was definitely nervous about running public games but the enthusiasm of my players at all three of my games that it was surprisingly easy.  The feedback was so encouraging, with one player telling me my Hyperborea was the highlight of his con and one of the MCC players contacting me a couple days later online to say his group was still talking about it.  I will definitely be running games again next Gary Con, and I've also started looking for some local players to start up an AS&SH game here in Atlanta.

Some other random thoughts...
In some ways it feels like there are two different cons going on.  The mezzanine is all 5e Adventure League and WOTC panels and there are celebrities like Matt Mercer, Satine, and Joe Manganiello there, and I heard mention of all that, but since I never had any games up there I never saw any of them or any 5e/WOTC stuff going on so it could have been in an entirely different building and I wouldn't have known.
In the forums at least, I think that Goodman Games has the largest presence in the con.  My con this year was pretty dominated by DCC/MCC games and everywhere I looked I saw familiar Judge's Screens setup.  On the other hand, AS&SH was very much in high demand.  The games on the schedule filled up quickly and I was unable to get in as a player in any AS&SH game.  I had several people ask me if I would run another session of my game off the books.  It's great seeing this game grow in popularity and I hope to run multiple sessions of it next year.  But we need more GMs running this one so I can play it too.
The service of the staff of both the resort and the con is exceptional.  There are a lot of people working to make a con like this happen and providing food and information and manning the GM lounge and running the movie screenings and it's admirable how smooth the whole operation goes.  I got to chat with Luke Gygax for a while and I really appreciate the work he does running this con and maintaining the legacy he's inherited.

My thanks to everyone, players and GMs and organizers and volunteers, who make Gary Con such a great experience.  I'm already counting down to Gary Con XII.


  1. Zach it was good to meet you! And you're also a blogger! I'll have to follow along.
    Next year, we have to get a picture.
    I ran games at Gary Con last year and had a blast, so will continue every year. Most of my gaming is online too, and I really miss the face to face variety.
    Maybe we can even game together next year.
    Great write up!

  2. Hey Zach! ... Just found your blog. Nice to read about my group (your MCC game). I sent the link to my buddies. Once again, very nice to make your acquaintance, and hope to see you next year. Cheers!

    1. Thanks Don, you guys were great! Looking forward to next year.