19 April 2017

grodog’s GaryCon IX Convention Report

GaryCon IX has come and gone, and if I had to choose just a few words to summarize the show, they would be “bigger, better, funner!” (even if that’s not quite grammatically correct).  Jon Hershberger and I had an excellent time at the convention, and were well-treated by Luke Gygax’s GaryCon crew, led by the inestimable exhibitor-ninja-in-chief, Mike Noe of IronWind Metals (who also graciously filled some gaps in my range of Tom Meier troglodytes, and replaced some lost pieces to my Dennis Beauvais Bridge of Sorrows boxed set). 

Many thanks to our Goodman Games colleagues who helped to manage the booth at GaryCon this year, especially Michael Curtis, who also helped to set up the booth on Wednesday evening, and Joseph Goodman.  Our nearby neighbors included Jeffrey P. Talanian, of Astontishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea fame (who introduced us to Del Tiegler—it’s always great to meet someone in person you’ve worked with in the past!), and the Frog God Games crew—Zach Glazer, Skeeter Green, and Bill Webb—who supplemented by the two-fisted North Texas RPGCon’s own Michael Badolato, and Erik Tenkar (of Tavern infamy).  We were also able to catch up with Harley Stroh, Bill and Ben Barsh of Pacesetter Games, Shawn and Devon Hibbs of DieCast Games (thanks again for that copy of Rob Kuntz’s Garden of the Plantmaster), Paolo Greco, Tony Rosten, Jon Peterson, Jim Kitchen, and numerous other friends, artists, designers, and fans while at and away from the booth.
pre-Con Packing

Jon and I loaded up my minivan to the level of the ceiling with all of the books, boxed sets, rack shelves, t-shirts, tote bags, banners, and associated OSR bric-a-brak for the Black Blade Publishing/Goodman Games booth in the exhibitor hall.  New and noteworthy products at the booth this year included:
  • Black Blade’s DCC Adventure Index and Metamorphosis Alpha Adventure and Resource Supplement Index—both compiled and indexed by Jon Hershberger, and the new 4.25”x5.5” mini-hex pads (and the return of our mini-graph pads too!)
  • Issue #1 of The Twisting Stair, a newly-launched OSR newsletter focused on dungeon design from Allan Grohe and Tony Rosten
  • Goodman Games’ massive Judges Guild Deluxe Collector’s Edition tome, the Metamorphosis Alpha: Epsilon City boxed set, How to Write Adventure Modules That Don’t Suck!, as well as new DCC RPG adventures, such as Harley Stroh’s DCC #91.2: Lairs of Lost Agharta, a collection of new encounters for Journey to the Center of Aereth
  • David Hill’s new Mothshade Concepts setting books, Avremier and Dhavon
  • Paolo Greco’s new Lost Pages books— Burgs & Bailiffs: Trinity - The Poor Pilgrim's Almanack, Macchiato Monsters ZERO, and Mageblade ZERO
  • Thomas Denmark’s new titles—Raiders of the Lost Artifacts, Freebooters, and Beasties, as well as the new Guardians adventure, Power of Fear
  • New old-school gaming titles, including Alex Karaczun’s A1 A Forgotten Evil, Luigi Castellani’s Secrets of the Wyrwoode, Lawson Bennett and Jimm Johnson’s SS1 The Odboxx of Zoforon, and Terence Gunn’s Fantastic Worlds of Grenadier
  • And much, much more!
Tuesday, 21 March

Jon and I got an early jump on the drive up to Lake Geneva, leaving Wichita by 6:45pm or so, and driving up to just past Kansas City.  We overnighted in Liberty, MO, and shaved three or four hours off of our Wednesday drive time.

Wednesday, 22 March

We pulled into the Grand Geneva around 4pm, which was a bit later than we’d have preferred, but still two hours earlier than last year’s arrival.  The drive was unevenfully boring, which is just right! Unloading the minivan was quicker this year, thanks to the able-bodied assistance of Michael Curtis, Tony Rosten, Rich Franks, Guy Fullerton, and Joshua Ford!  Booth set up, however, still took about 6 hours of effort, which, alas, put the kibosh on our plans for a relaxed Wednesday dinner with gaming for dessert.

Thursday, 23 March

The Black Blade booth was very busy for the first few of hours that the dealer’s hall was open to all attendees, but was pretty manageable once our iPad finally re-connected to the hotel wifi.  

In my first Castle Greyhawk game at 6pm, I had a crew of 10 players, and they opted to explore my new “Diamonds in the Rough” level.  **** SPOILERS for grodog’s 2017 North Texas RPGCon events **** The party fell into a trap inspired by David LaForce’s DMG illustration on page 68 (a skeleton attacking PC in a flooding room), then wandered through the outskirts of the level proper where they battled giant wasp wandering monsters, and encountered a prism ward (a lights-driven crystalline monster from Expedtious Retreat Press’ Malevolent & Benign), an ice-magics-wielding cryosphinx and her pet dragonne (twice!), as well as a trio of hungry mimics.  The giant wasps and cryosphinx both offered some memorable and rather unexpected role-playing opportunities. While several PCs were paralayzed by wasps or blinded by the prism ward, all of the PCs in this crew survived their descent into the depths of Castle Greyhawk. 

My thanks to Skip Williams and Dave Conant and the rest of the GaryCon events staff for locating my events in a boardroom this year (although I was quite surprised to discover that the boardrooms weren’t equipped with whiteboards!), and to James Lopez, Scott Mayne, Emily Chandler, Shiv Chopra, Guy Fullerton, Eric Netteberg, Sofie Netteberg, Michael Simon, Todd Douglas, and Todd Bunn for kicking off my gaming at GaryCon right!

Friday, 24 March

The Black Blade booth was again quite busy today, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to eat lunch until 3pm or so. 

In my evening Castle Greyhawk game, a full table of 12 players chose to explore “Diamonds in the Rough.”  **** SPOILERS for grodog’s 2017 North Texas RPGCon events ****  This group entered the level from the opposite side of the NE corner, and covered some different ground than the first group, including meeting a mottled worm (who swallowed whole the halfling fighter/thief, but who was restored to life through a wish after rescue by the monk).  Soon after they were ambushed by two lurkers above while triangulating with a Treasure Finding potion, which nearly resulted in a TPK (only two PCs were not under a lurker, and in the end, four of the twelve PCs were suffocated before they could be rescued, including the recently-raised hobbit).  The PCs then wandered down into the main giant wasp nest area, blasted it with a back-to-back fireball and cone of cold, recovered some loot and then fled when more wasps arrived.  During their flight, one of the PCs drank two concurrent potions, so I was able to roll on the Potion Miscibility Table, which is always a treat; the results were miscible, however, so nothing exciting happened.  Some notable quotes:  “Quietly is for sissies”—Keith; “Caution, who needs that” (or something approximating that concept)—Tim, just prior to his halfing being eaten by an aquatic purple worm; “Is that Jim Ward?—I don’t think so” (heard in the hallway, apparently referring to me).

Thanks to Noah and Alex Guilbault, Kevin and Patrick Kelly, Keith and Brian Sloan, Dex Briggs, Tim Deschene, Jeffrey Lulac, Jeremy and Zander Ligman, and Glenn Cox for playtesting this new scenario!

Saturday, 25 March

I missed the noon Goodman Games/Black Blade raffle and such, since my game was scheduled for noon.  The morning was busy, and

For my third Castle Greyhawk game, I had a full crew of 12 players, who also selected my new “Diamonds in the Rough” level to play.  **** SPOILERS for grodog’s 2017 North Texas RPGCon events ****  The Saturday crew explored some of the same ground as the previous two teams, but avoided the mottled worm encounter.  On their return to the large octagonal chamber, they were somewhat startled to discover a door that hadn’t been there previously (it was, of course, a mimic).  Then they travelled to the SE and into the depths of the giant wasps’ nests, where they battled not only the wasps, but their demonic wasp-demon masters!  Having awoken the hives, and down at least two PCs due to poison, they decided to wish their way to safety and the largest treasure on the level.  This landed them in one of the big encounters in the main portion of the level, standing atop a small mountain of gemstones, and facing down a diamond dragon.  Behind the dragon rested the Jacinth of Inestimable Beauty.  Some excellent reaction rolls and well-timed negotiations and role-playing allowed the PCs to escape the dragon’s lair intact, save for Carlos’ magic-user who dimension doored himself into solid matter and the Astral Plane, where he was picked up by an evil elder titan and hauled off to Tartarus.  Notable quotes:  “I don’t even trust myself”—Axiom; “I still don’t trust the ceiling”—Carlos; “I cast neutralize poison on the dwarf” (repeated twice for emphasis!)—Don (I think, may have been JC).

Thanks to David “Axiom” Konkol, Steven Danielson, Joshua Ford, Patrick Baumgard, Don Porter, Tim Downs Mullen, JC Luxton, Merideth Nepstad, Carlos Lising, Mike Bridges, Jayson King, and Guy Fullerton for playtesting the “Diamonds in the Rough” level!

Between the three groups, about 30% of the level was explored, so I’ll likely adjust the starting locations for my sessions at the North Texas RPGCon in June so that they can explore the level from different points.

Saturday evening I played in Chainsaw’s Foolsgrave living mega-dungeon, using Jeff Talanian’s ASSH rules, and had a great time.  **** SPOILERS for Chainsaw’s 2017 North Texas RPGCon events ****  I ran a Necromancer, animated two previously-slain PCs as skeletons, and was able to advance to second level (although I only gained 1 hp, alas!).  The mapping was a blast, too—our crew spanned four sheets of 8.5”x11” graph paper, and passed through two secret doors into what seemed like previously-unexplored territory.  Chainsaw’s encounters were quirkily fun and deadly too---a mini-Death Star robot, some giant blue lightning bugs, living chests of wandering treasure, and the opening encounter really set the tone for the session wonderfully, as well!  The table of players was Noah and Alex Guilbault, Kevin and Patrick Kelly, Scott McKinley, Michael Simon, and Tom Trombly, and we had a great time wandering through the deathmaze that is Foolsgrave! 

Sunday, 26 March

Booth teardown went quickly, thanks to the help from our friends Guy Fullerton, Rich Franks, Joshua Ford, Kevin Kelly, Jen Brinkman, and Jeff Goad. 

I finally got to play in Joe “gizmomathboy” Klein’s Circus Maximus variant “Moebius Maximus,” which was quite fun (although we only played for an hour or so).  I’ve been looking forward to this since last year’s GaryCon!

A large group of friends usually get together to eat dinner and game on Sunday night, shutting GaryCon down in the process.  I wasn’t planning to run a game this year, but given the number of folks we were expecting I came prepared to DM, and in the end I ran six players (mostly from Handy’s NYC crew) through my version of The Black Reservoir level from the Expanded Castle Greyhawk.  You can view the original map by Rob Kuntz in the El Raja Key Archive at http://www.tlbgames.com/collections/archive, and can read Gary’s short story that I based the level on at http://www.greyhawkonline.com/grodog/gh_castle_black_reservoir1.html. 

**** SPOILERS for grodog’s 2017 North Texas RPGCon events ****  This crew explored quite a bit of the southern “shore” of the Black Reservoir before venturing out onto the raft, variously battling some pteranadons, giant crabs, and giant pikes.  They followed the line of columns out to the center of the level, then to the east.  Upon their return they discovered the lever that lowered all of the stone columns in sight, which released the dreaded dragon turtle from its cage.  The beast attacked, steam-frying much of the party, despite valiant efforts to flee it, distract it, and/or obstruct its deadly charge.  In the end, two PCs survived the battle (after the dragon turtle had been damaged to near 50% of its hit points), one swimming north into the level, the other travelling south to their starting location.  Neither survived to escape Greyhawk Castle in the end, however, so the Black Reservoir remains one of the few levels I’ve run that has multiple TPKs behind it (see Luke Gygax, you’re not the only one to contribute materially to the dragon turtle’s hoard! :D ). 

We wrapped up the game at 4am, and I crashed until we awoke for the long drive back to Kansas on Monday, which was as equally hum-drum as the drive up, thankfully!

Thanks again to everyone who made this year’s GaryCon such a resounding success, and we’ll see you again in 2018! :D


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