The Old Dragoon Will Return After These Messages...Before I jump back into the amazingly excellent gaming, allow me to make note of something. The Westin DFW is a very nice hotel. I mean, we even had elven soap. They went to the trouble of going all the way to the soap artisans of Alfheim to secure the bathtime bars for NTRPGCON. Extremely thoughtful of them. Problem was, going to Alfheim for soap meant the merchants of Darokin took their cut, and that had the effect of everything costing a few extra electrum pieces at the hotel. So, let me offer a bit of helpful intel on the Westin.
Make your character sheets before you go. The business center has a credit card swipe device on all the PCs and the copier. It's $5.00 just to log on. The placard on the wall says B&W prints are $0.25, but they are actually $0.50 and the hotel doesn't manage the business center, so they can't refund the difference. You'll have to call the company that handles it. The business center also lacked tape, staples, etc. Just PCs, a printer and copier. The Breakfast Buffet was $17.00, $10.00 if you had a con badge- but a lot of us didn't know that until Friday. There were only two forms of sustenance in walking distance - a Denny's that had no idea there was a con, Friday morning there was one server for the whole restaurant who was also the cashier, and a gas station with a passable selection of treats.
We stocked our room with a selection of drinks, treats and snacks. The fridge was full, and sadly one of my caffeine free Cokes exploded as the previous renter of the room turned the fridge WAY down. But I digress... Be prepared to drive for anything that isn't from the Denny's or gas station, or the hotel grill. Now, the hotel grill was a bit pricey, but the food our group tried were of good quality. I was pleasantly surprised by the sandwiches and burgers available throughout the con. $10 got a sandwich, chips and soda. The convenience of having it delivered to the game table by the comely wenches of the con was certainly worth the price tag, and I found the burger I tried somewhere on the Fudd's end of the burger spectrum, juicy and flavorful. The roast beast sandwich was pretty good, too.
So, bottom line, check your supplies before coming to the con. Office supplies, power for your devices, snacks and food, etc. Rumor has it more dining establishments will be added in walking distance by next year, but as things stand if you don't want to drive for foodage, your options are limited, wakarimasu-ka, Chummer?
And Now, Back to Our Show...Ah, yes, I was talking about gaming. So far, I'd done some pickups and a great Gangbusters game. Between writing Part 1 of this post and today, I grabbed digital copies of The Untouchables and Dick Tracey thanks to the conversations Glen had with us about inspirational material for the game. There's some interest in Roaring 20s goodness in the RDG, so I guess I'd better bone up.
FridayOn the tabletop, no one can year you scream. First up on the docket Friday was Aliens with Gary Oliver. This was the old Leading Edge board game that I've loved since high school. Lemme tell you, this game is brutal. Aliens drop randomly, and Marines drop like flies. I've played this game many times, both on the tabletop and as a Flash conversion of the game that allows for no die fudging. Maybe brutal is an understatement. Dungeon Crawl Classics at Level Zero is less lethal.
Wonder of wonders, the team came together and the xenomorphs started having a terrible time. I was the first KIA as CPL Dietrich got grabbed by an alien and mercifully dispatched by a fellow Marine with a flamethrower. During the course of the game the Marines made seven nearly impossible melee rolls to push off aliens that had moved into their squares. Most Marines have a Melee Value of zero, meaning only a ten percent chance of fending off an alien long enough to possibly avoid death. Now, just pushing the alien out of the square doesn't mean you're safe. You still have to dispatch the alien, which, if you're not armed with a flame unit, means rolling for acid spray. Then your Marine, and every Marine adjacent to the alien, has a 30% chance of taking damage up to and including instant death. Worse than death is incapacitation, which means another Marine has to carry you out.
The Marines moved carefully toward the exit, using flame units to set fires to thwart the alien advance. To say their escape was suspenseful is selling short the excitement in the room as the Marines closed on the door and the xenomorphs closed on the Marines. A wall of Aliens, a wall of fire, and a squad of Marines scrambling to escape, and with each Marine through the door one less weapon to fend off the marauding aliens. Only one casualty, but the tide could turn at any moment... What happened? One brave Marine sacrificed himself to hold off the aliens with flame while the rest scrambled out the door - total casualties: 2. What a way to start the day, and the day wasn't even half over.
Next up was the game I'd been dreading. Last year Michael Curtis of Goodman Games ran an incredible TSR Indiana Jones game. It was great. One of the high points of the con. This year, I took up the mantle of Indy Judge. I was extremely nervous - would my meager GM skill be up to the task? I had tried to write the plot for this game so many times over the last few months, and it never felt quite right. I had a full player roster, but at the last minute two were no-shows, and a third, my pal Scott, was still on the road due to weather. So I had four players- they chose to play Willie, Shorty, Jock and Indy was the last character chosen.
I took a page from the playbook of Corbett Kirkley, who runs some of the best Star Trek games I've ever had the pleasure of playing. Corbett keeps props and action figures on the table for players to fidget with, character sheets with color photos of the characters being played, things like that. My BFF Randi spend a coupla hours with me cutting out and assembling TSR foldups from the boxed set and modules. Robby helped me assemble the die roll calculators from the Judge's Survival Pack. I was ready with everything but a detailed plot- and I've got to say a great OSR product I'd just purchased helped me work out the details on the fly. Thanks to the choices of PCs by the players and a roll on a table in Raiders of the Lost Artifacts, I had a plot. Jock Lindsey was carrying a mysterious crate from Hong Kong to Hawaii, and was contacted by Indy just after he, Willie and Shorty had made their escape the Temple of Doom, and gotten a flight from Dehli to Australia. After picking Indy and friends up, it should have been a simple matter to island hop to Hawaii... except it's 1935-6 and the Japanese are on the move in the Pacific.
The crate, which Willie and Shorty were a bit too curious about, contained the Throne of Sun Wukong the Monkey God. The artifact was being tracked by a Japanese colonel who had a deal with a Chinese ghost- bring me the throne of the Monkey King and you will rule all of China. So Indy and friends are shot down by a Japanese aircraft, land at a mysterious island with an eccentric American millionaire, and Willie gets herself in trouble nosing around the artifacts. The players hit the notes of their film characters perfectly. Aaron did a great job fleshing out Jock from his three minutes onscreen in RotLA, Robby played an Indy constantly frustrated by Willie and Shorty in the same way as the spike trap scene in ToD, and James and Randi were perfect as Shorty and Willie. If, as a GM, you ever need a player whose curiosity outweighs any amount of self-preservation or common sense, try to get one or both of those folks in your game.
Due to Shorty's curiosity, Willie's avarice, and a bit of misdirection from a trickster god pretending to be a millionaire, the Japanese colonel's destroyer was sent to the bottom of the pacific by four dragons who disappeared just as mysteriously as they appeared leaving no trace of their existence. Would anyone believe Indy, Willie, Jock and Shorty? At least Willie will make it back to America with a curiously petite chainmail shirt made of solid gold...
A short breather and it was time for more action. This was my first taste of Villains & Vigilantes with co-creator Jack Herman. My game group in the 80s had the narrow vision of kids without a lot of money who didn't have the internet to tell them about all the games that were out there, so we missed out on two of the most iconic superhero games in tabletop - Villains & Vigilantes and Champions. I'd told myself I wanted to be educated on both, and how better to get into V&V than with one of the creators?
I don't think I've ever been in a convention game with such talented roleplayers assembled by fate. I knew Theron from RPG.NET and conventions past, and of course Randi and I signed up together- but the rest of the group. Incredible. The characters were absolutely portrayed with sheer brilliance. From Tattercloak's gravelly Kevin Conroy voice ("I'm a vegan..." "You're an idiot.") to the Schnoz and his Jimmy Durante intonations. Every player hit their notes perfectly, and I'd like to think Randi and I did well as Tigress and Shutterbug. It was a great game- like Mystery Men trying out for the Avengers. I liked the game so much I purchased the module, and four of us in the RDG are on the list to purchase the new edition when it comes out.
V&V turned out to be a lot rules lighter than I would have expected of a 1979-81 game design, but Jeff Dee and Jack Herman have been doing some revision and we were playing the soon-to-be--released edition. The D20 roll under system was intuitive, and I love the way a player may choose to lose power points to avoid HP loss on an attack. It gives a great sense of the durability of supers, and of the resource-management of your personal energy - do I save it to power a flame bolt, or use it to avoid being seriously hurt? V&V will definitely have a place on my game shelf alongside my other favorite supers systems, and I can't wait to run the module for the RDG when the books come in.
Holy crap, this has become 2 of 3...