Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Owlbear's Seriously Late Gen Con Post Game Report

So, I started this post on Gen Con about 4 months ago, but with my interstate move just 2 weeks after Gen Con and various other Real Life insanity, I never really got back to it. No one probably cares by now, but I thought I'd give myself some closure on this post.

However, I do want to talk a bit about my experience there even if it is less than timely. Rather than a full report, I'll just summarize a few highlights.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I met the nice folks at playdragoon on layover in D.C. at the airport, but because of my own scheduling fail, I never got to play their awesome. looking board game in the demo area.

I mostly wandered around the con and the vendor room taking in the sights, taking pictures of cosplay, and trying a few demo games.

Thursday night I participated in the Mulmaster Epic (D&D Adventurers League). Baldman Games and WotC took a lot of crap over this because it had some major issues with organization. Baldman Games was running the event, but since the Adventurer's League is WotC's big organized play effort at cons, they were taken to task as well.

Also, gamers who paid extra for the Adventurer's League "All Access" pass were pretty disappointed that their extra money didn't get them any enhanced gaming experience or SWAG that differentiated from those of us who paid a lot less money. For its part, Baldman Games tried its best to make good by offering free copies of Out of the Abyss and the Sword Coast Legends video game to All Access guests.

For my part, I had never participated in an "Epic" so I didn't really notice how the events at other tables were supposed to impact what was happening at ours, which I gather is a bit of a problem because the Epics are supposed to feel like you are part of a bigger event than the typical Adventurers League game.

However, I had fun with the scenario. My group had to face off with what was essentially a 4-story, fire-spewing tank rolling through town. The DM was pretty good at keeping the action moving and glossing over whatever needed to be handled quickly for the purpose of finishing within the allotted time (and just prior to the lights going out in the organized play area).

Started out with a bang, but ended with a fizzle. I played a really excellent X-Wing game with some fellows whom I'm sorry to say I forgotten their names. Bad game journalism. It was a "capture the damaged Star Destroyer" scenario designed by the fellow in green, and even though the scenario was slanted in the direction of the Imperials (purposefully), it was great fun to try to overcome the odds as the Rebels. The whole group enjoyed it.

Later, unfortunately, I was badly burned by two poor game experiences. I played DDEX 3-2 Shackles of Blood and it was god awful. The module is middle of the road, but the DM just made it suck way worse than it should have.

First, he had a terrible issue with his throat and basically could barely talk. We're in a huge room with literally thousands of gamers and we can't hear most of what he is saying. He should have found a replacement to take his slot. The Baldman Games people must have had at least a small number of substitutes for problems like these. He should have gotten one.

Second, he was a terrible DM. I understand there is always a bit of railroad in a convention game. It's a given... but he made this adventure just suck giant, sweaty balls. We were ganked in the very first encounter of the night. It was a no-win scenario. Technically, the module allows the players to defeat the encounter, but that's not how he played it. We were going down in order to be captured so we could "ride the plot train" (which he literally said as a defense of his "skills"). It was a total waste of time because nothing we could do in the combat would alter the outcome... So why even #@$%ing waste our time with 20 minutes of dice rolling when it makes no difference?

The next encounter was an arena encounter with different levels, ropes, zip lines, a water pit... Essentially what could have been a really fun free-form encounter with different terrain elevations.

Nope. Our opponents apparently all had missile weapons with which they could simply stay in their starting area of the arena and snipe. We had very few options to take any advantage of what was intended to be a swashbuckling encounter area. At this point another player literally said to the DM, "Seriously, dude. This is no fun. I just came to play some D&D and beat up on some monsters." It was that bad. Everyone at the table was utterly frustrated by how crappy the game had

We eventually "won" the module by defeating the group we had encountered in the first combat, but at that point almost everyone at the table was having a shitty time. We had thought the encounter design of the module was just bad, but as it turns out, it was mostly that our DM was crap.

That night, I was knocked out of a miniatures skirmish game in the first 15 minutes of a 2 hour slot because the $#!%ty initiative system allowed two of my opponents to go twice in a row before my second turn. It was a house rules version of D&D Miniatures, but lacking any game design skill, apparently. When I pointed out that I never got a turn in between, I got the "bite me" eye roll from the guys running the event. I missed out on HeroScape for this garbage.

So despite a strong start, Friday just ended up sucking, and it took a lot of wind out of my sails.

Rallying, I sought to make Saturday a better time. I enjoyed a fun game of 13th Age with a GM who had been recently hired by Pelgrane. His excitement for the system helped energize the table. It's always hard to game with a group of strangers, and more especially so when they are all brand new to the rule system. The GM did an admirable job explaining how the relationship to the Icons and the backgrounds contribute to the skill mechanics in play.

I wandered around the vendor area and got to meet cool designers like +Kenneth Hite , +Randall Bills , +Jolly Blackburn, +Joe Goodman+Stefan Pokorny and the amazingly friendly, fan-appreciating +Larry Elmore (not to say that the others weren't also friendly, but Larry takes to a new level for a man as popular as he is at conventions).

By Saturday evening, I was a bit drained and depressed, but +Jim Zub  and Kevin Zim saved my night.

Sunday was mostly a whirlwind of seeing what else I could see before having to heading to the airport.

Here are some links to my Gen Con photos:

Share your con experiences in the comments below!

Final Thoughts

All in all, Gen Con 2015 was an enjoyable experience minus some bumps in the road, but its sheer size makes it a little hard to really relax and absorb the gaming. I'm hoping to make it to Origins 2016, but if not this year, then definitely next, and I would like to take in some smaller cons like MACE in North Carolina or the rapidly growing Gamehole in wintry Wisconsin. I think the smaller convention scene will be more appealing since Wizards of the Coast isn't going to have a presence at future Gen Con events.

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