When i left off last time i’d expressed my imperative to play D&D posthaste the following day. You’d better believe i set an early alarm, jumped right up and roused my slumbering (and loudly snoring!) attendee buddy.
Observing our two-day-long tradition of me making the Starbucks run while he cleaned up, we hit the road back to downtown Indy around 9 a.m. i’d be lying if i said there wasn’t an extra pep in my step, because i had no doubt that i’d be playing D&D in the not-so-distant future.
Not surprisingly, there was a line already formed at the D&D Play area. The line snaked through the divider ribbons and ended just outside the faux-castle walls. I knew the most frequently run encounter was Confrontation at Candlekeep, which ran about two hours long. No biggie.
i’ve gotta say, even standing in line for stuff at Gen Con is entertaining. Naturally, everyone there has something to talk about so introductions and conversations flowed as easily as the mead at a roadside tavern where adventurers might muster for a dungeon crawl. We chatted with an older guy who told us how he’d first come to Gen Con in the early 80s. He talked about his son, or maybe it was his grandson, who was firmly a video gamer and didn’t want to come. He remarked on the lack of security at an event this size, especially in light of the common sight of weapon-toting cosplayers.
Is that a real C-20A terran cannister rifle? Security!
That’s me in the forefront there. i cleaned house with my Elf Ranger
The play area for D&D was pretty large, and they had encounters starting basically every hour of the day. There were quite a few different “official” encounters at Gen Con and TONS of other ones going on all over the place. We had to stand in line for about 45 minutes and wait for the next round of games to begin, and naturally continued chatting with the two guys in front of us, both of whom are pictured above. So by the time we got to play, the four of us had decided to form a party together and hashed out who would play which pre-gen character. The guy to my left there settled on the human monk, while his friend Zack chose the dwarf fighter. My buddy went with the Half-Elf Paladin (he always chooses divine-powered characters). i went with the Elf Ranger for a couple of reasons. Chief among them is i looooooove me some ranged combat in any game (Long Shot – get it?). Also, i figured that a two-hour session probably meant a lot of fighting and not a lot of resting or talking with NPCs so i figured i had a good chance of rolling dice a lot of slaying many monsters. i was correct.
Before we sat down though, we had to sign up to be “official” D&D players. i don’t know exactly what that all means, but i think it’s kind of like the old RPGA. So you can go to official game sessions and maintain your character over time and stuff like that. This includes the D&D Encounters program, which are sanctioned games in local hobby stores and whatnot. There’s a store near me that runs them, but unfortunately they are every Wednesday which is the day i work a night shift. That’s a bummer. But! i’m trying to organize a regular game night on Sundays so at least i’ll get to do some gaming that way.
Also, while waiting in line, a Wizards of the Coast dude came around with copies of Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle. This is a really wonderful idea – it is basically an entire campaign to take characters from level 1 to 10. Everything you need (except dice) is in the book including the basic rules, pre-gen characters and their advancement, monsters, loot and most importantly – adventures. [i will be running this on Sunday Game Night. i’ll let you know how it goes – ed.]
Another WoTC employee approached us earlier as well. He explained a little bit about the scenario we were to play, which took place at the legendary bastion of knowledge called Candlekeep. He took a quick poll of the four of us on what sort of offering our characters would bring to the library there. My vote for the best gift went to the guy who said doughnuts, because who doesn’t like when someone shows up with doughnuts? But it was ultimately my friend whose suggestion of a cartload of students to become acolytes there that won. For that, his prize was the blessing of Oghma, the god of knowledge, that translated to a +1 bonus to all his rolls for the encounter. At 1st level that makes a huge difference!
Our DM for the encounter, called Confrontation at Candlekeep, was Nicholas. He was just a dude in the area when they put a call out for people to run games, with the added incentive of an exclusive D&D Gen Con dice bag. He was selected about 10 minutes before we started, so he barely had time to prepare. But overall he was an awesome DM. He had a great personality, he was funny and he described the action well and kept us entertained.
Nicholas Dance, Dungeonmaster
The way they had the encounter set up was pretty neat. Ultimately, the session revolved around your party stationed on one of six towers surrounding a main tower. Your mission was to protect an acolyte while he activated a Shield Stone that would protect the great library of Candlekeep from a supernatural invasion by the forces of Asmodeus. Waves of regenerating skeletons and spiked devils attacked to try and kill the acolyte while a blue dragon circled the skies overhead, occasionally swooping down to attack parties. By the way, most tables had parties of six, but we only had four. Despite that, much ass-kicking was perpetrated by us upon monsters and cultists alike.
The map of Candlekeep. We had no minis so we used 4-sided dice for our characters and mini 6-siders for the monsters (over to the left there).
The Voice of D&D attacks our tower with the deadly Blue Dragon. Also, he rocks a magnificent mustachio.
Playing Dungeons and Dragons at Gen Con was not only the highlight of the event for me, but the highlight of my gaming career that spans the last oh…27 years or so. Seriously, does it get any better than that?! Our game was just the way i like it too. There was some role-playing, but no one was “in character” the whole time or anything; the DM was pretty knowledgeable about the rules but if he didn’t know he’d just figure something out on the fly to keep things moving; the combat was fast and exciting; and everyone got a chance to shine. i’ve gotta say, i had a blast playing that ranger, Jindra Gold (or Jindragel as Nicholas called him). Unfortunately i only got to fire off two arrows, but that’s only because we were in close quarters, and his two-weapon fighting abilities were freakin’ awesome! At one point i even got some bonuses by demoralizing the enemy cultists.
Our group, despite being small, kept the action moving and we had a ton of fun interacting with each other and our DM. Since we moved along so quickly, Nicholas had to come up with some interesting twists on the fly and our little party defended the crap out of the acolyte and the tower. After a while, we dubbed our healer “Captain Paladin” because, since as we all know skeletons are resistant to slashing and piercing weapons, he resorted to shield-bashing the hell out of them, literally!
Finally, the blue dragon was defeated and a rousing cheer was made by all. We thanked Nicholas for his great DM skills, and i made sure to give him high marks on the scorecard we were given. i added some additional comments on the back in case they gave out extra swag for great DM’s – i wanted to make sure he was recognized for that. When we turned the scorecards in, we all got a set of Gen Con exclusive dice too!
The rest of our afternoon was filled with geeking out about our experience with D&D at Gen Con, and another trip to the exhibition hall to go wild on some swag. i took another pass around the place hunting for VS cards (to no avail), picked up a D&D red box t-shirt, and discovered a defunct Call of Cthulhu CCG for $4/deck and got two of those.
i could have gone buck wild on all the great t-shirts we saw but in the end i went with just this one.
Some other notable ones i saw:
Really wanted this one! Saw a ton of people sporting it but not a vendor in sight.
Tower of T-Shirts was sold out of this Zur-En-Arrh t-shirt. Drove me batty.
My friend and i thought we’d enjoy getting into a miniatures war game so we searched and searched to find one that appealed to us. Our criteria was mainly that the minis had to come pre-painted, since neither of us had any intention of getting into that as well. If i recall correct, there were rules for D&D minis combat, but surprisingly i could not find any of them at any vendors. it was around that time i realized WoTC had no booth in the exhibition hall. What up wit dat?
In the end, we decided to try out Heroclix. The Troll and Toad booth had bins of random figures as well as a box of 50 random ones for $10 so we got a whole bunch of them. More on that later.
We also agreed that Settlers of Catan was a thing that we wanted to get into. Over at the Mayfair Games booth we rolled up for a demo. They showed us the Star Trek Catan for some reason, which didn’t capture my interest if i’m honest. However, what did catch my attention and caused me to shush the guy doing the demo was perhaps the greatest mash-up costume i’ve ever seen.
Hunter S. Cthulhu? R’yleh Duke?
i spotted the above gentleman weaving his way through the crowd like he was tripping out in a Las Vegas casino bar. It was imperative to flag him over for a pic, to which he obliged while mumbling under his breath and totally nailing the Raoul Duke/Fear and Loathing mannerisms. And then he just disappeared back into the crowd as easily as Vern Troyer beneath a passerby’s gown.
Even though the Trekkie version of Catan didn’t seem all that cool, we had already made up our minds to get into Settlers so into the swag bag it went. We knew it would not be difficult to find people to play with since it’s so insanely popular.
With loot bags full and bank accounts less so, we made another trip through the open gaming area, hoping to squeeze in a few more games of whatever. i was happily surprised that my friend expressed interest in Magic: The Gathering. i love CCGs but it’s been historically very difficult to find people to play with so i was more than happy to approach the M:TG area with him. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any demos going on at the time and the volunteer suggested we give Kaijudo a try. So we did.
Kaijudo is a really simple game of giant monsters trying to destroy the opposing sides shield and deliver a final killing blow. There are five different “civilizations” (think colors of magic) – light, dark, fire, water, and nature (white, black, red, blue and green, respectively). Sound familiar? Like most games, Kaijudo is a game of math and rock-paper-scissors. i enjoyed it quite a bit though, because it was so easy to learn and a game only took about 15 minutes to play. i suppose if you got really into it, found the interesting card interactions, and so forth that it could become more tactical. It’s definitely a great game to introduce someone to CCGs with. After the demo, we walked away with four starter decks, one of each civilization except nature. We also got two M:TG starters (white and green) from an adjacent demo. They’d finished and left the decks there and our guy encouraged us to snag them.
Later on that evening we attending Mystery Anime Theatre 3000. My experience with anime is very basic. Pretty much the stuff everyone has seen. Akira, Vampire Hunter D, Hayao Miyazaki stuff, Robotech…i had no idea that subgenres like Magical Girl, which is what i believe the film we saw was. Revolutionary Girl Utena certainly was a strange film. Very surreal and full of avant-garde symbolism and such. The Wasabi Anime guys who filled the Joel Hodgson and crew role were frankly not very humourous or entertaining. i take that back – one of the sidekick guys had a few clever witticisms by the time the credits came. But if i’m honest, the film itself intrigued me enough that i was trying to keep up with the subtitles and plot, and wished it were instead a simple viewing.
My friend explained afterwards something about strange anime properties and foory coory. i don’t pretend to understand, but my guess is the script writers ate some furry curry for lunch before working on this story. In all fairness though the moving walkways, swords withdrawn from hiding inside someone’s body, and an inexplicable carwash that transforms Utena into a racecar i bet were more than a little of the animators trying new things.
By the time we got back to the hotel that night we were pretty freakin’ pooped. Despite that, the gaming spirit lived on when we agreed to stay up and play some of the many games we’d acquired thus far. First up was Settlers of Catan. i think it’s safe to say we were both hooked fairly quickly. A simple, elegant game of resource management that takes about 30-45 minutes to play. Far better gamers and critics than i have discussed this globally popular board game, so suffice it to say here that a new fan was made that night. IiRC we played two games and each won one. Since then, we’ve played several matches and i’d say we’re about even on wins and losses. My friend has high hopes of representing the United States at the next world championship, in Germany 2015 (i think?). Good luck to him!
My friend suggested M:TG next. He was familiar with the granddaddy of CCGs of course but had never played, so i had the opportunity to teach him. We had just those two starters, 30-card Garruk Wildspeaker and Ajani Goldmane decks. He chose white (of course) so i played the green one. Years ago we’d gotten into Upper Deck’s VS System together with hopes of winning a million dollars. We were going to not only finance our film idea, but also we would win a million dollars playing a card game! Never did win that million. And as it turns out, you can make a movie with no budget at all.
Anyway, he won the first game, and i won the second. i think he fought the urge to really like the game, because as we all know a cardboard crack addiction is a thing that is tough to break. In time, however, i believe i can erode his will to the point where his curiosity will get the better of him. Now that i think about it, M:TGO would probably appeal to him. He prefers all that digital stuff. i mean, i’ll do it when i’m slumming it but put real dice and cards in my hand any day of the week.
Finally, we pushed the envelope and decided to try and figure out Heroclix. And that’s where i kinda loose the thread and wrap things up. Now granted, it was something like 4 a.m. after a full day of gaming goodness. But man, trying to figure out Heroclix sucked. It just straight-up seems too complicated for me. Too much to bother figuring it all out anyway; it just doesn’t seem like a game that i would enjoy much. The figures are pretty awesome though. They’re not astounding in detail, but it’s neat to come across the unusual or extra-nifty looking ones. The 60-75 random ones i picked up contained a few gems such as these two:
In our sleep-deprived state, we decided to get some rest and head out the next morning for home. In retrospect, it would have been worth it to tough it out for the last day of Gen Con, if only to see the destruction of both Cardhalla and Balloon Cthulhu. But we would not go home disappointed. No, sir.
Over the last three days, i got to play dozens of games, new and familiar. Saw hundreds, maybe thousands of people in costumes roaming the halls and malls of Indianapolis. Met people in person who i knew only through online gaming and blogging. Really, an amazing time.
i’m already looking forward to Gen Con 2014. Not a little bit because it’s also the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons next year. So you know it’s gonna be huge.
There is a list of priorities assembled for the convention next time, too. It’s not like anyway could think i was any geekier by this point so i’m proud to list them here for you.
- Wear a costume. I’m heavily leaning towards Mister Miracle right now. But Madman is on the shortlist along with The Creeper. i also think a good back-up costume wouldn’t be a bad idea either, something more comfortable like a hobbit or something.
- Play more D&D. i’m going to look for some longer games and register for those. With four days to plan for, why not pull an all-nighter like in days of yore (<– youth).
- True Dungeon. ‘Nuff said.
- Build an all-foil VS deck to bring with me. We’re still out here playing! To go with my costume idea and because i dig the character so much, i’m working on a Mister Miracle-themed deck. It’s a difficult proposition but i think teaming up with the Heralds of Galactus is a wise move.
- Play in a Settlers of Catan tournament. In order to get ourselves in shape, my friend and i have been trying to stick to a game-a-night regimen. He d/l’ed some Catan app so he plays that all the time too. But i’m old school, man – it’s the tabletop board or nuttin’.
Whew! So there you have it – my experiences at my first Gen Con, 2013. Seriously, i’m still geeking out about it and we got home over a week ago. As an added bonus, i was also inspired to get my own D&D group together because why not? We’ll be getting together for our first game session next week and i’m excited about that. i’m proud to say that our campaign’s first officially created character was made by actually rolling dice for ability scores! Yes, that’s right. No point-buy system, or arcane die-rolling formula. He rolled 4d6, dropped the lowest, and arranged in chosen order. The character is a dwarf barbarian with the Totem of the Hawk. i really dig the way the character is conceptualized and i’m looking forward to see how he is played.
Another player might run a paladin. Traditionally, these holy warriors are seen as uptight sticklers, but i had a change of perspective the other night. In a fantasy setting like this, your typical village of 1000 people is more than likely surrounded on all sides by hordes of orcs in the hills, tribes of swamp-dwelling lizardfolk, and so forth. So the lawful good guy isn’t necessarily the uncompromising prick that alignment stereotypes suggest. Really, they’re just the people who see that their civilization is threatened by all kinds of chaos all around, and they’ll stand up to protect that. That, and the player imagined the paladin follows a god of love and peace, and he’d be just as much or more a smooth talker than a divine swordsman. This sounds interesting enough to me, and the player is a really imaginative, witty guy so i know he’ll play a fun character.
But, i digress. If you’re still here, then boy you really don’t mind lengthy blog posts. And kudos to you for that! But, you know what? All this writing about gaming adventures has got me ready to PLAY something!
i’m signing off now, but only to go login to DDO for a couple of quick runs before this evening’s Catan match.
Good gaming, and thanks for visiting!