Sunday, February 23, 2014

DunDraPost 2014

Ah, my annual adventure. While it would be nice to go to some of the other conventions out there, whether some of the other gaming cons that people go to (smaller ones like KublaCon or CelestiCon, or even the big grandaddy of them all, GenCon) or finally get to meet some of the very cool Oz people I've interacted with online at WinkieCon, it would take quite a lot of doing to make me give up DunDraCon.

(Sorry about the lack of photos this year.  We brought the camera, but forgot to dig it out for most of the trip.)

As has been our habit of recent years, we talked our friend Mike into coming along. This year, however, he found a girlfriend who wanted to come along. He's had girlfriends before, but this was the first who wanted to spend a gaming con with him. It was a little crowded in the car, with four people and their luggage, but we got along rather well and it was an overall pleasant trip.

After our typical sleepover at Mike's mom's house (which included a playthrough of the Discworld board game, which was quite fun), we headed to the hotel on Friday morning. Although Friday was Valentine's Day, there was little romance going on that night for my wife and me. She wound up falling ill rather suddenly. Even with the most potent cold remedies available at the local Target, she was still miserable and had difficulty breathing.

It wasn't until Saturday that we realized that it was probably allergies rather than some kind of flu bug. We had all of the feathers in our hotel room removed (feather pillows, down comforter) and started treating her with antihistamines and Sunday and Monday were dramatic improvements in her condition and mood. Unfortunately, the game she really wanted to play was on Saturday morning, so she wound up not playing in a game (though she was able to run her scheduled game on Monday morning).

One of the big draws of the convention is the ability to shop for games. There are at least 3 Bay Area games stores offering all of the new hotness, on top of smaller publishers and dealers vying for your business in the Dealer's Room. The only problem is that the Dealer's Room doesn't open until Saturday. This year, they ameliorated this somewhat by offering a Buyer's Bazaar on Friday. The Buyer's Bazaar lets individual gamers sell off the games they don't play anymore. So I got to do some game shopping on Friday and filled out more of my Palladium collection (Due to ethical concerns regarding the company, I only buy Palladium products used.)

Friday was also the day I attended a GMing seminar. Even though I've been a Game Master for many years, I always like learning someone else's perspective. Sometimes they have tricks you haven't heard of or faced problems that you've never had to deal with.

Saturday was the day I got to play a game. And why I signed up to play this game is something of an interesting story. 2 years ago at DunDraCon, I had signed up to play a GURPS game. The scenario was set during WWI and the player characters were pulp hero-style supernatural investigators. I think we were supposed to be investigating a time rift that let dinosaurs come through and eat people, but we ran out of time just as we discovered the vortex. But one of the players in that game made an off-hand Wizard of Oz reference and I happened to have a promotional copy of Adventures in Oz handy, so I handed it to him.

He invited me to play in a game he was running at the con, which actually seemed up my alley (a Chthulhu/ Star Trek mashup), but my schedule did not allow.  (He may have already run his scenario that year and I missed it.) Last year, both of our games overlapped each other, so I couldn't play in his game. I did manage to stop by and autograph the copy of AiO I had given him the previous year. This year, however, my schedule finally allowed me to play, so I made a point of it.

It wound up being a lot of fun. I only caught a few of the Chthulhu Mythos references (Chthulhu didn't actually show up in this one. It was all about Yog-Sothoth this time around), but the Star Trek was flowing fast and furious. He ran the game very loosely, letting players come up with ideas and rolling with them. Including the player who decided to write Making Coffee as a skill on their character sheet. That player actually wound up using that skill in the game.

There were also props aplenty. My character was the science officer of the ship, so I got a toy tricorder to play with (It made all the noises!). There were also lots of ship models, some official, some not. He's a very crafty sort, so there were a number of home-made ships as well. One of his regular jokes after he pulled out a new prop was that he should never be allowed to be bored within easy reach of a hot glue gun.

Sunday was the day I ran my game in the Teen Room. As advertised, it was the Castle of the Mad Archmage using the Adventures Dark & Deep rules. Although I've been running an old-school campaign for quite some time, this was my first experience with these specific rules. Character creation was a little more complicated than what I had done before, mostly because of the expanded options. Most of my players (2 out of 3) opted to play humans rather than wrangle with the number of races and subraces available as well as dodging the potential race/class restrictions.

Once characters were completed, play went very smoothly. Since most of the upper works of the castle were uninhabited, it was mostly exploration without a lot of mechanics. Both of my players at the time (a third joined a little later) particularly enjoyed the Charlotte's Web reference in one of the stables. One of the characters very nearly died once they entered the dungeons proper, victim to a centipede's poisonous bite. (Technically, the character did die, failing a save versus a "save or die" poison. Given the circumstances, I decided to let the character live so play could continue.)

Progress was overall slow in the exploration of the dungeons. Even though I was there for 8 hours, there were only 2 combats, the second occurring as the next group was coming in to use the room, so I began running it auctioneer style. At least part of this was the distract-able nature of teenagers, as well as my willingness to discuss the ins and outs of Doctor Who (like my ability to name every single actor to play the Doctor, my favorite companion, and comparisons of the different theme compositions).

For some reason, the last few years my wife has had her game scheduled for Monday. It's actually kind of irritating, because that means moving out of the hotel room (we always take home more stuff than we bring) and taking care of all the last minute get-in-the-car-and-go details becomes my job. Late departures are also rough on Mike, because all the twisting and turning through the redwoods that is so lovely on the way down becomes far less fun in the dark. Add on the last mad dash through the Dealer's Room to make sure I don't have any money left, and it can be pretty crazy.

We got home about 11:00 Monday night and passed right out.

Next up: My usual review of all the cool things I bought there.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

You Should Be Buying These

Well, the first couple of items are Kickstarters, but I do believe them to be deserving of money.

The first one is Adventures in the Land of Oz, an Oz RPG project from Wicked Studios. It's almost over and might not make its funding goal, but it does look like a good project. As an Oz RPG designer myself, I tend to be rather picky about the projects that I endorse. Oz is not a typical RPG fantasy world and I tend to shudder every time someone tries to make it one.

But this project shows definite promise. It uses a modified version of The Window RPG system, which looks like it could be a good fit. The art that is shown is realistic, rather than either cartoony or grim.

Then we have Tim Brannan's Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch and Warlock. I only really know Tim from his blog, but one thing that's pretty obvious over there is that he loves his witches. If you love witches and you love Pathfinder, I don't see how you can miss with this one.

Now for a product that's actually out. Joseph Bloch's Castle of the Mad Archmage has finally been released! It comes in three parts, the Map Book (maps of every level of the dungeon), the Adventure Book (The "key" to the maps in the Map Book, with descriptions of all the things to encounter in the megadungeon) and the Illustration Book (a set of illustrations to show your players at various points in the dungeon). You should have all three products for maximum enjoyment. It should be fully useful with just the Map Book and the Adventure Book, but the Illustration book is such a neat idea that I can't see anyone turning it down.

I've been using the original version of the Castle for my home campaign and it has led to over two and a half years of awesome gaming (and we're not done yet). I'm still waiting for my print copies to arrive, but I've got my PDFs and am loving the added details, including 2 new upper levels.
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