11 April 2024

grodog's Founders & Legends and GaryCon XVI Convention Reports - 14-25 March 2024 - Part 2

GaryCon XVI – 20-25 March 2024

Continued from Part 1 – Arrival through Founders & Legends and Interregnum Tuesday.

With the shift to Wednesday, this required the changing of the badges over from Founders & Legends to GaryCon:

Allan's Founders & Legends and GaryCon badges and lanyards, with accoutrements
The changing of the guard....

Wednesday - 20 March 

Booth Setup

I came into Wednesday having spent the day before hanging out and gaming, rather than driving cross-country, and I could definitely get used to that!  Robert Brandon graciously agreed to help me unload the minivan, and we arrived at the Forum for the 8am start of exhibitor check-in.  With Robert’s help, I was able to cede my spot at the loading dock by 8:45am or so, and to begin building the booth.  

I had planned for a similarly-open booth design like how we’d set up last year, but this process is, unfortunately, more art than science, and it’s not something anyone who doesn’t know the planned layout and the products as a whole can really help much with.  So, after Robert and I rejockeyed the tables a few times, and with some reconfiguration and fine-tuning by swapping out tables with the able assistance of the hotel staff, the booth settled into its final form, and I thanked Robert and released him to rest of his day by 9:30 or 10am. 

The Forum was reorganized this year, which was a bit of a surprise---I’d seen changes in the layout design, but they hadn’t quite clicked, given the relocation of the GaryCon merchandise to the back-right corner of the hall.  The big surprise (and a hugely positive change overall!) was the shifting of the throughways in the Forum to run the full length of the hall---this really opened the chamber up, and allowed gamers to see down the full length of the halls from the main entry doors.  That in turn gave better line-of-sight to vendors along the throughways, and helped to showcase the breadth and depth of products available at the show. 

Black Blade Publishing and Our OSR Cornucopia

For those folks who are unfamiliar with Black Blade Publishing, we publish our own books (OSRIC, Monsters of Myth, Tales of Peril) modules (Rob Kuntz’s Bottle City, Cairn of the Skeleton King, Tower of Blood), and gaming tools (graph and hex paper pads from quarter-page size up to 17x22”).  However, our content only represents about 15% of the booth’s content footprint.  

The remaining 85% is provided by third-party, old-school publishers, many of whom are friends and fellow old-school designers, including works from The Tekumel Foundation, North Wind Adventures, Gabor Lux’s E.M.D.T., Carlos Lising’s casl Entertainment, Paul Stormberg’s TLB Games and Legends of Roleplaying, OSRIC sourcebooks like Trent Smith’s Heroic Legendarium and Matt Finch’s Tome of Adventure Design, Swordfish Islands and Third Kingdom Games’ hexcrawls, and adventures from Anthony Huso, Jennell Jaquays, G. Hawkins, Paolo Greco, Robert Conley, Expeditious Retreat Press, and Goodman Games’ Original Adventures Reincarnated, among many others!

This year we brought many new-to-our-booth publishers and products to GaryCon, including the D&D documentary films Secrets of Blackmoor and The Dreams in Gary’s Basement, Merle Rasmussen’s new ally-friendly card game I Choose to Rise, Aron Clark’s Holmes & Clark clone (and his conversion of the classic level 1 adventure, “The Lichway”), Knave 2nd Edition, and last but certainly not least, Kelsey Dione’s ShadowDark. 

I can't post a pictorial review of the booth because blogger's editor hates me, so here's one image from just before the opening on Thursday morning, about 9:15am or so:

Pre-opening Thursday morning!--- and who are those VIGs entering from the left!?!
Pre-opening Thursday morning!---
and who are those VIGs entering from the left!?!

To see the rest of the booth pictures, please use my publicly-visible Facebook album entitled "Founders & Legends and GaryCon 16 (March 2024)" at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10163493148909832&type=3, which includes many fun images from the conventions as well as booth pics.  

Allan grodog Grohe in the Black Blade booth at GaryCon 2024
Allan (grodog) Grohe in the Black Blade booth
at GaryCon 2024

The back of the booth, with our graph/hex pads and more OSR books
The back of the booth,
with our graph/hex pads and more OSR books

New Empire of the Petal Throne maps from the Tekumel Foundation
New Empire of the Petal Throne maps
from the Tekumel Foundation

Empire of the Petal Throne books from the Tekumel Foundation
Empire of the Petal Throne books
from the Tekumel Foundation

Front-left corner of the Black Blade booth
Front-left corner of the Black Blade booth

Holmes & Clark clone, Heroic Legendarium, and more!
Holmes & Clark clone, Heroic Legendarium, and more!

Left-side corner of the Black Blade booth, with OARs and OSRIC modules
Left-side corner of the Black Blade booth,
with OARs and OSRIC modules

Front of the Black Blade booth with OSR books from EMDT, Anthony Huso, Jennell Jaquays, Hyperborea, and more!
Front of the Black Blade booth with OSR books
from EMDT, Anthony Huso, Jennell Jaquays, Hyperborea, and more!

G. Hawkins, Larry Wickman, Plagmada/Tim Hutchings, and more!
G. Hawkins, Larry Wickman,
Plagmada/Tim Hutchings, and more!

OSR Indies united!---Jacob Hurst, Ben Milton, Paolo Greco, and more!
OSR Indies united!---Jacob Hurst,
Ben Milton, Paolo Greco, and more!

To get an idea about the evolution of the OSR through the products in our booth over time, see John O’Neil’s wonderful photo-essays from Black Gate Magazine at https://www.blackgate.com/2023/03/26/gary-con-report-black-blade-publishing-and-limitless-adventure/ and https://www.blackgate.com/2018/03/13/the-1001-treasures-of-black-blade-publishing-and-goodman-games-gary-con-2018-report-part-ii/.

I wrapped up the booth setup by 4pm or so, leaving a few placeholders in the shelves for product that had not quite made its way to the booth yet.   

That left me free to finish moving out from 328 Center Street before the rest of Robert’s crew arrived, time to coordinate keys with Victor Raymond (my roommate again this year for GaryCon) and to bump into Carlos Lising and Erik Mona in passing at Jay Scott’s pre-con streaming show, and a peaceful interlude to find and eat some good food at the Chophouse while chatting with my wife and sons.  

"The Wolves of St. Cuthbert"

After eating, Carlos and the redoubtable Jeremy Breazeale hussled us offsite to the second (?) annual gathering of “The Wolves of St. Cuthbert”—a reunion of the GaryCon 2022 campaign crew, which Carlos eloquently recounted as part of his GaryCon 16 Patreon summary.  As usual, I had a great time playing with Gregory, Danny, Nick, Dan, Triet, Jeremy, and Carlos, and I managed not to lose any dice this year, too ;)

Thursday - 21 March 

The Exhibit hall opened early daily at 9am for special guests, VIPs, and Platinum+ badge holders, while exhibitors were able to enter to finish set-up starting at 8am.  I was able to visit for a bit with friends from the Acaeum (and Jim Kitchen graciously tracked down the last? set of GaryCon lockpicks at the main merch booth for me), and then the Forum doors opened wide.
The Thursday opening crowd proved to be the closest I’ve come to GenCon-level-chaos in nearly two decades.  On the plus side, Thursday morning was very busy from opening through about 12pm or so, which was great for business, but clearly showed the limits of what a one-human booth can manage.  Everyone was gracious and polite, but the long was long for quite some time….

We did sell out of some books even before opening on Thursday (two sets of Anthony Huso’s limited edition of Castle of the Silver Prince), which does happen when we have lower stock on more-expensive books, but I had to reshuffle the booth a few more times than usual during the rush.  ShadowDark flew off the shelves, quite literally, throughout the day, and the Knave 2e books arrived in time for opening too.  The rest of the day was thankfully less insane, and Rich Franks (our chief in the Legio V) lent a hand in the afternoon (and again on Friday and Sunday too), which was very appreciated!

Abyssal Rift 1

Thursday night I ran the first playtest for my high-level, aquatic “Abyssal Rift” adventure:  

Playtest grodog's newest high-level adventure, exploring an aquatic wilderness in the World of Greyhawk. Your mission is to pursue a set of aquatic foes into their lair beneath the waves of the Azure Sea. The ixitxachitl have captured a sea-elven princess and plan to sacrifice her to Demogorgon at the next new moons, in three day's time!  

Bring your hex and graph paper, dice, and a healthy dose of paranoid courage! 12th-17th level PCs will be provided, most with some form of aquatic survival (along with some house-ruled spell changes).

The GaryCon portion of the adventure used Mike Bridges' South Seas of Greyhawk map as the base adventuring environ, and I slapped together a quick hex grid on it using the overlay sheet from the Forgotten Realms grey box set:

Mike Bridges' South Seas of Greyhawk map +  Forgotten Realms template = instant hex grid!
Mike Bridges' South Seas of Greyhawk map + 
Forgotten Realms template = instant hex grid!

We played in Evergreen 2 in the dedicated Legio V and Legends of Roleplaying room, which ended up being where I ran all of my GaryCon games.  The PCs accomplished their mission in spite of a somewhat slow start on my part, and the noise level in the room making it difficult to hear at times (one of the players left early due to a noise-induced headache).  

Friday - 22 March 

More Booth

The craziness of Thursday morning opening did not reassert itself, and Friday remained steadily busy, which was wonderful on both counts---plenty of time to socialize with friends and to help customers find the X-level adventure or the new setting or the new zines or the documentaries, et al, that they sought.  

As with Thursday, Rich Franks came by and helped me out a bit, which allowed me to eat some food and take a bathroom break (not necessarily in that order; thanks Rich!).  

francisca and grodog in the booth (with Dirk Collins' son foregrounded)
francisca and grodog in the booth
(with Dirk Collins' son foregrounded)

Sales were brisk, and some product definitely began to ran low or out completely---many of Melan’s newest zines and adventures, including Castle Xyntillan, and the leatherbound sets of Hyperborea 3rd edition.  And by the end of the day, we had both documentary films in the booth---Secrets of Blackmoor and The Dreams in Gary’s Basement---as well as The Lost Dungeons of Tonisborg, too.

Paul’s Legends of Roleplaying Tourney

Every year for the past several Paul Stormberg has run a large (the largest?) tournament at GaryCon.  The past few years have been themed around exploring the Temple of Elemental Evil, and this year’s tourney capstoned that series, as the PCs attempted to bring battle to the Elder Elemental God itself!  

Similar to previous years, this year’s scenario included some challenging puzzles, but the overall adventure was more streamlined, which allowed more time to work through its challenges, as well as more time to complete the adventure.  My crew of players were all veterans of both the tournament format and of the ToEE background and environs (several played last year).  They fared well during the initial encounters, but were stymied in a puzzle room that permitted three of the PCs to pass relatively unscathed, but which damaged the rest of the party when they attempted to follow.  In the end, they wisely decided to split the party while working through the logic of the puzzle, which permitted the first group to advance to the semi-final encounter.  They were joined by one of the other PCs toward the end of the round’s time, and those PCs were literally saved by the bell---my phone timer went off as I was picking up handfuls of d8s to hit the four PCs with three flamestrikes, which would have insured their doom (dead PCs aren’t worth points in the tourney scoring).  

In the end, they ranked in the middle of the teams, with 100 points.  Paul’s tournament summary and the final scoring results are posted to the GaryCon blog at https://garycon.com/the-legends-of-role-playing-tournament-results/.  

Saturday - 23 March

Yet-More Booth

Saturday saw more of books sell-through, including all of the copies of the ShadowDark rules and zines that we had available—we tried to finagle another shipment to the convention, but it wasn’t feasible, unfortunately.  They were gone by noon.  

On the plus side, Saturday brought a restock from Carlos Lising with new casl Entertainment adventures, and Merle Rasmussen brought copies of his new game, I Choose to Rise, just released in February 2024 for Black History Month. 

Abyssal Rift 2, Hollywood Style

My last game of the convention was my second run-through of Abyssal Rift.  I was able to tweak the introductory portion of the scenario a bit to provide more concrete guidance to the players, which got them started in earnest a bit more quickly than Thursday night’s crew.  

And what players!—I knew two of them already (Aron Clark, who plays in my regular group, and John Roberts, who I played Titan with during F&L), but five of the remaining six were Hollywood friends of Luke’s:  Vince Vaughn, Tom Morello, Paul Wight, Dan Weiss, and Joe Manganiello; with Greg Joseph rounding us out at eight.  

I was somewhat nervous about DMing celebrities, but it worked out fine in the end:  they all acquitted themselves well in the south seas of Greyhawk, and accomplished their mission to locate the ixitxachitl lair in time to prevent the sacrifice of the sea olven princess.  (They did employ some non-standard cooperative tactics inspired by 5e mechanics, which we improved within fine).  Afterward we hung around a bit chatting about Greyhawk and its history (including some basic questions about what is Greyhawk, that they had to reign me back a bit in my responses), and the history of Dave and Gary’s work together before they took a group picture with Luke and headed off.  

Sunday - 24 March

Closing Out the Booth

On Sunday the Forum was only open until 2pm (although I think I was still closing out the our last transactions around 2:30pm), and as with Friday and Saturday, sales were steady but not crazy.  The time went by quickly, all-in-all, and before I knew it the hall was starting to shut down.

Thanks to our voluminous sales, I was able to pack the booth up and—through the assistance of some very determined GaryCon volunteers who wouldn’t take “no really, I can manage” for an answer:  Dirk Collins and his son, Mark from Wales, and Jeff MacKay; they loaded my minivan completely!!-- get out of the hall by 6pm!  Perhaps a GaryCon first for me! :D

Empty booth!
Empty booth!

The spoils of victory---empty boxes!
The spoils of victory---empty boxes!

Afterward, I gratefully grabbed a burger at the Chophouse bar, and had a fun dinner discussion with another GaryCon attendee, who opened our chat with the gambit, “Your favorite and least-favorite mega-dungeons?”  Only at GaryCon :D :D

Legio V Board Meeting

While packing up the booth closed out the Black Blade books for the show, there was still business to attend to.  Each year after GaryCon the DMs of the Legio V gather to commune with the winds of GaryCons present, past, and future by invoking the Genevan mysteries through rituals of haruspicy and the sacrifice of slain character sheets, conducted by Dionysian celebrants.

This year’s meeting ran a bit longer than usual—from 7:30pm until 10pm or so—and I retired soon thereafter, as I was exhausted from the very busy long weekend, unfortunately missing out on both the celebration and the Hyperborea adventure that Del had prepared :-/

And that's a wrap!

I crashed early on Sunday night, and slept well into Monday, which closed out another fabulous GaryCon.  

I'll conclude in part three with my Thank You acknowledgements and convention loot and swag!



  1. I had a grand time as your roommate again this year - I am very glad everything turned out so well!

    1. I'm always happy to room together, Victor, and to have more time to plot the continuing renaissance together :D


  2. love the write-up; noise is something we're taking a hard look at

    1. Thanks Josh, that's good to know.

      I know it's a hard issue to solve, but any progress in the noisiest rooms would be appreciated :D



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