Saturday!By Saturday, the con felt like it had always been in effect, and always would be. Waking up with my roomates, grabbing grub, and rolling dice felt like a natural way of life. If only.
I filled in for Corbett Kirkley, who had to miss the event, by running Starships & Spacemen 2nd Edition. Corbett usually puts on an amazing Star Trek game- this year it was going to be Galaxy Quest! In his absence, I picked up S&S and tried my best to fill his shoes. We rolled up characters at the table, and ended up with an intrepid Destroyer crew ready for more action that convoy escort duty had been giving them. We set the game explicitly in the Star Trek universe since S&S is such a spot-on homage to Trek, and the DD crew had to deal with a viral outbreak on a K-type station on the periphery of the Federation. Through great roleplay, technical improvisation and pure genre savvy, the players were able to determine the virus was a biological attack orchestrated by Orions in the employ of the Klingon empire. There was a visit to a space distillery on the way, and investigation of booze labels and vintages. It came out great, with the investigation's revelation leading the tin can into a direct confrontation with a Klingon DD that showed what an advantage photon torpedoes were in an age when the Klingons lacked them!
Saturday wrapped up with a D&D 1974 game run by Frank Mentzer, the man who wrote the 1983 Basic Set that got me into the hobby in the first place. There were a dozen players, we all grabbed pregens. Frank noted there were no Thieves, as they didn't show up until 1975. There was a lot of joking about how PCs were often not even named until 3rd level or so. The game itself was a window into how D&D was played in the past- and it made two very different impressions on myself and my BFF Randi. I saw the differences as the roots of our hobby, where the RP-centric game we play now grew from. The missing link between miniature gaming, Chainmail, Braunstein, and D&D becoming the D&D we knew - my coming into it in the 1980s and she in the 1990s. She saw it as a bit too primitive for her gaming sensibilities. While she enjoyed Frank's stories and wisdom, she felt the lack of character depth and the simple goals of the story were a bit too minimalist for her. She didn't "get" the feel of the game- and the more I think about it the more I realize that not every D&D player under 40 has the capacity to jump into a little brown book D&D game run as they were in the 70s and enjoy themselves because of the level of power that is inherent in modern D&D. I don't just mean the almost superheroic 4e 1st-level heroes. I mean the way D&D since 3.x has made low-level adventurers much more survivable than they were. Even in 5e a background is rolled, allowing players to have a connection to their PC even before they've hit the table. A very different ethos than rolling 3d6 straight down and having 1d6 for Hit Dice. Now, I know in AD&D there was the possibility of background skills as early as the original core books, so this era didn't last as long as it might seem.
The bottom line for me is that it's the foundation of where we all started. Is it how I'd like to play knowing how I played growing up? Well, yes and no. I didn't mind the style as an exercise in history led by one of the remaining experts in the field- but I have to lean a little more toward the D&D I grew up with, interestingly Mr. Mentzer's own edition. I subscribe to the idea that the PCs are heroes, and while they can and will die in the line of adventuring, their story begins with their first adventure, so they should be named and have at least a bit of history. Much like a television series, more of their personality and history can develop over the course of the series, but from Season One, Episode One we know at least an action figure sentence about each character.
So, fun was had at Frank's table, as always. I enjoyed talking to him after the game about my son's game project. I got a copy of the Red Box Player's Book signed for my daughter for when she starts gaming. I got a real taste of original D&D as it was played in the beginning. To me, it was a valuable and fun lesson. Was wicked fun, but the end of the game marked one game session left of NTRPGCON - Sunday Morning Shadowrun.
Sunday!There are parts of Seattle even Lone Star cops won't go. The Barrens, and worse. Where even the cops won't go, can you seriously expect to be able to get food delivery? That's where Pizza Panzer comes in, chummer. And Pizza Panzer had a lock on the hazardous duty food delivery market, until an opponent showed up delivering breakfast foods via aerial drone- LuftWaffle.
My Shadowrun game involved a Pizza Panzer crew attempting to deliver their pies in the face of competition from LuftWaffle. The team is issued a converted Ares Citymaster purchased due to the recent exchange of fire between an armed LuftWaffle drone and a Pizza Panzer van crew. Also - I had so many players I couldn't believably fit them all into a basic van. So I kinda created the EM-50 of pizza delivery vans. The players loved my laminated placemat-sized character sheets so much that at the end of the game I let them each take one home. The game went GREAT - I had a wonderful crew who fell right into their roles. The Rigger and Company Man shared the driving duties - when the Rigger was in a drone, the Company Man drove the truck. The Decker ran matrix cover, the Merc and the Street Sam covered the runner, who was a Burned-Out Mage. After run-ins with the Ancients, some major-league deckers, and a comical Stuffer Shack owner, the trap LuftWaffle laid for the PCs was revealed, and the players not only turned the table on the LuftWaffle ambush, they made it look like LuftWaffle fired on a DocWagon Ambulance! It was amazing. Also - the players told me they loved the way I ran Shadowrun, very rules light (if that's possible with Shadowrun 1e) and with lots of 20-minutes-into-the-future-of-1987 flavor. It was fantastic if I do say so myself, but I credit the players with making it so.
After Shadowrun we started heading home in a couple of serials. We were the last serial out, since Robby, Aaron, Raul and I hung out at Red Robin having lunch and tons of conversation with Glen Hallstrom (Ol' Man Grognard) and James Spahn (Barrel Rider Games). All in all, it was another perfect convention experience. And I'm already paid for next year, with a game on the books (and two players pre-registered! FOR NEXT YEAR!)
That wraps my NTRPGCON experience for 2017. I had a blast with my tribe. And I want to hold onto this creative energy and capitalize on it.