After my failed attempt to blog each day of Gamehole Con, I won’t attempt it at UCon. I’m also running four games and my youngest son, Zach, is coming with me for his first con. He is 19 and not sure what he is getting into. I’m sure he will have fun seeing his dad in a different environment.
I’m looking forward to catching up with friends I haven’t seen for awhile, and some of the same ones I just saw at Gamehole last week. I will also me online friends in real life, and of course, make new friends.
I have most things packed and ready to load in the car.
Tonight is session 130 of the weekly AD&D game I play in on Roll20. Before last week’s session, I had just over 800 hours on Roll20. Now it says 810, so should be about 814 when we break at midnight. So after tonight, I will have played about 30 hours of various RPGs, and will add 16 hours of running games, and I think another 16 hours of games I play in. Wow, that will be over 60 hours of gaming in a week and a half! It’s been a long time since I’ve played so much in so short a time. Thankfully not the sleep deprived super marathon all weekend sessions we used to do in high school and college.
I’m still dragging from Gamehole Con, so hopefully, my internal clock lets me sleep in a little tomorrow.
I’ve got some articles and other things in the works with Multiverse, after meeting with Jayson Elliot, of the new TSR, at Gamehole Con, so I’m looking forward to that once I’m back from the con and things settle down.
May you all enjoy your weekend and if you’re not at a convention, may you still be able to play!
The Dire Druids of Delver’s Deep [Ready – needs polish/playtesting]
Delver’s Deep is a well known adventure location. In recent months, some mysterious druids have occupied The Deep, as it is known to locals. This order of druids wear black robes, and their tight lips have led to rumors and gossip about their real nature and purpose. It is “common knowledge” that they are an evil cult practicing human sacrifice. Like most villagers, they mind their business, hoping that is enough to protect them; yet are glad to take the coins from selling
supplies to the druids.
+Tim Snider of Savage Afterworld uses the nomenclature of Day 0, Day 1, etc when he writes about his attendance at conventions. So in the spirit of the OSR, I’ll use that idea too!
After only going to UCON on Saturday last year and dealing with a nasty storm trying to get there, when I decided that I would go for the entire con this year, I decided to arrive a day early, just in case. As it happens, the weather and roads were good and Thursday.
I got checked in and got my stuff to my room and somewhat settled in, went out for some supper, and returned to the hotel.
I soon ran into +Tim Snider, and we caught up on things since last year. He bought me a beer, Bell’s Brown Lager. Nothing like driving nearly two hours away from the local brew pub to have one of their beers. It was good! It was also a tall glass. There were two couches in the carpeted area of the bar/restaurant. The couches faced each other, one back to the bar, the other back to the lobby. I sat across from Tim with my back to the bar. We were talking enjoying our beers when some guy came up and said, “We’re playing a game when I get back”, or words to that effect. Tim and I were speculating, and were right when we decided it must be +Bill Webb. When he got back, we moved to an area in the lobby with a table, a couch, chairs, and ottomans. We rolled 3d6 in order, after that, all we needed where a d20 and a d6. Bill used a big d20 and a big d6, those were the only dice he had. It was a fun little adventure. You can read +Tim Snider’s write up here.
I had an idea for thieves picking pockets from an experience prior to my last game at UCON. The idea coalesced as I was in that dreamy, glad to be sleeping state before I woke up this morning. (I’m off all week; so I got to sleep in today to recover from both low quantity and quality of sleep the last few days.)
As I have mentioned in at least one other article, my Dad was a locksmith and I was drafted to help from the time I was about 13 until I went off to college. Dad gave me my own basic set of lock picks. I thought it would be fun to plop them down at a game, if I ended up running a thief.
I was getting stuff out of my bag, dice, paper, pen, pencil and other things so I wouldn’t have to keep rummaging in my bag during the game and slow things down. I was wearing many layers, including a jacket sort of like a hoody with out the hood. It has packets inside next to each outer pocket.
I put my picks in my pocket, or so I thought. I felt both sides of my hand feel fabric, so I thought it was in my pocket. I had just placed something else in that pocket and realized that I was about to drop it between my jacket and shirt instead of my pocket, so I corrected. I then checked and my picks weren’t there, so just as I was getting ready to bend down to get them, +Laura Rose Williams says, “Here, Larry, you dropped this,” as she hands it to me.
This morning in my dreamlike pre-wake state, this idea hit me, and I can just see a thief picking someone’s pockets and rolling 1 or 2 under what they need. So from now on, I will rule that a thief doing this, gets what they were after, or at least something, and they “pocket” it. Some kind soul will see them drop it and come up and give it to them in full view of all around. The “FUN!” will then ensue.
I did not play a thief as planned, +Laura Rose Williams wanted me to play a wizard along with her, which I did. So I got out my picks after the game to share what I was prepared to use as a prop.
Friday night, from 8:00 to Midnight, EDT, I ran my first online game using Roll20 and Google Hangouts.
I have played over 330 hours using Roll20 and Hangouts. I have also run games of AD&D 1st Edition, Metamorphosis Alpha, Gamma World, and others. As with anything, the first time you encounter all the things you don’t know and try to make sense of it based on what you already know.
I am very much a visual learner. What is easy to pick up on with body language in a face to face game is lost online. While I used a Google Hangout, it was audio only. This was to minimize the number of windows on which I had to focus. This led to my biggest shortcoming as a GM online, missing the visual queues for player involvement. I realized after one player dropped out that I really need a player turn tracker that is implemented fairly and consistently so that each player has an equal share of time.
Two of my players in this session of six players were new to both RPG’s and online play of RPG’s. I was not as sensitive as I should be to their newness to the hobby and this method of play.
This session was a play test of a scenario that I developed for convention play for Metamorphosis Alpha at UCon in November, as I mentioned a few days ago. While I have pre-gens for the scenario, I did not enter them into Roll20. Instead, I let my players generate their characters to give them a sense of ownership. I had a short session with each player to generate their character, and make sure that the technical aspect of using Roll20 and Google Hangouts were worked out before the game. I think this helped with player buy-in, as well as helped us get a head start on building that initial acquaintance ahead of the session.
I learned from play that I crammed too much into the beginning of my scenario, and need to streamline things for the fast style of play that occurs in a convention game. I took a lot of short notes about different things to keep track of what worked or did not and what needs polish, revision, or removal.
At the end of the game, I solicited feedback, and there is interest in continuing the scenario. In addition to Roll20, I created a private G+ Community for my Metamorphosis Alpha campaign. After the game, I created a poll, based on initial post game comments, to get an idea of when the group would like to play again. Most said that they would love to play next week. That is a great mood booster!
I had a blast! The players had buy-in to the scenario right away, and were engaged. I had a lot of hooks to get everyone involved from the start, with random rolls to mix things up, so that no two players would have the same story. I won’t go into detail, as I am running a second group through the scenario Saturday night. The second group are part of the gang from the Wednesday night AD&D Roll20 game I play in. It will be fun to interact with them in a different way and to see how our DM is as a player.
I was disappointed in myself for letting a couple of players sit quiet for a long time. It is the DM’s job to make sure each player is engaged. With an online game, it is especially important, since it is all too easy for one player to talk over other’s. It is the limit of the technology. I could set up one computer to display the hangout and watch which icons indicate who is speaking, but I find that I focus so much on the rolls, and my notes and maps, that I can’t even keep up with the chat comments players made.
I don’t feel too bad about missing side chats the players had going in chat right in front of me. It is that way in in-person games, but those more easily grab one’s attention. The solution is a system that allows each player a chance to speak. So whether I go by dexterity order, name order, order they show up on the screen, etc. It needs to be done fairly and consistently.
In addition to the poll for when to play again, I also put up a post on the campaign’s G+ community soliciting constructive criticism of my GMing of the session. I pointed out what I knew I needed to do better and what I felt I did well. I invited each player to contact me privately, if they so desired.
One player wrote publicly in response to my solicitation of feedback, “Well said! I can already tell that you are a GM/DM that I would recommend to anyone looking for a good old-school type of game. :)”
That comment alone is wonderful! I have a feeling of accomplishment. I can’t help but compare myself to other DM.s/GM’s. There are some that I feel are so good that I feel I can never be that good. But when I actually get to play and get into a zone where things are happening in a good way, I know that I am at least a decent DM. I think I will dare to say I am a good one.
I stress too much on needing to be prepared. It does not take much to have enough for four hours of play. Once players are put in the middle of a situation, they go off in directions one could never anticipate.
I think I set the expectations clearly up front. I pointed out that this was my first time running an RPG online, and that this was the first game of Metamorphosis Alpha that I had ran in over 30 years. I did not mean it as an excuse, just to let them know I had a lot of new going on. In the end, other than the time allotment issues for each player, I think I did very well.
I used the theater of the mind style. I had a map of an area and players placed their tokens to indicate who was where. We also used it for marching order. There was another map I had to show them a big picture of the situation, but I did not use all the bells and whistles of working with maps and tokens that Roll20 has to offer. I am a free user, but if I end up with a regular game, I will definitely come up with the money for a subscription.
Some of my players run games on Roll20 and were able to help me get settings right. That was most appreciated!
I learned a lot about the online tools I chose, my scenario and where it needs improvement, myself and my abilities as a GM, and where I need to focus my energies to improve. I can’t wait for next week when the players and I tune in to see what happens next!
If you don’t plan to attend UCon, I am trying to get some play testers to make sure my planned content flows and that there is enough to fill four hours. I have a game scheduled for Friday, September 11, from 7:00 PM – Midnight Eastern. I use Roll20 and Google Hangouts. If possible, I would like to set a time to get characters created before then.
If you are interested in playing Friday, let me know, and I will send you an invite to the Hangout and the Roll20 campaign. I have one player lined up for Friday, and others who previously indicated interest. I need 5 more players, and can run it with two or more, but more is better.
With sufficient interest, I can run it again on Saturday. I will have room for six players.
My plan is to make this a regular campaign, but the more immediate need is to play test this scenario. I haven’t ran Metamorphosis Alpha or played it in over 30 years, so I need just a bit of a refresher before attempting this at a con.
Now that I am past my busiest time of year at work*, my energy and enthusiasm for other things leaves brain power available to get creative. I also was busy wrapping up my hex for Tenkar’s Landing, and getting ready for Marmalade Dog 20.
I have been coming up with a lot of ideas and spreading them out to avoid having too many posts on the same day. It won’t be long until I hit post # 300! Wow! I started posting with great regularity in January, 2014 when I read that it was the 40th anniversary of D&D. March/April of 2014 was my 36th year of D&D. I started in 1978 with Holmes Blue Book Basic. So 2015 is my 37th year of gaming/RPGs.
My thoughts are also percolating for a possible 2015 One Page Dungeon submission.
My posting frequency will vary based on my ideas and things I want to say about RPGs. Vacations, personal issues that may arise, and work commitments can all have an effect. My hope is to keep posting a few days in advance to build up a “buffer” of posts so that my missing a day is invisible to my readers.
In addition to daily or near daily articles, and other than the April 2014 A to Z Challenge, I will write about the games I play in and run, cons I attend, and ideas I have or comments & extrapolation on the ideas of others. I will also come up with tables and other game aids as the need or inspiration strikes.
The cons I plan to attend this year originally included Gary Con, but things have changed since last year, so I will have to put that off to 2016. I will definitely be at UCon 2015 in November. I am seriously considering Con On The Cob in October, since it is within a four hour drive. I will also try to attend any online cons, if those work into my schedule.
I have ideas for an adventure based on my hex in Tenkar’s Landing, so I look forward to fleshing that out.
I may also begin posting new areas of my campaign as I develop them, but those may wait until I actually have players reach them. So far, my usual players don’t follow my blog, but if I take the plunge and begin an online game, I will want to hold onto those for later.
I look forward to the rest of gaming in 2015.
*(I support payroll and accounting software. This means that December and January are crazy busy with clients trying to wrap up end of year, print W-2’s and 1099’s, and deal with various state specific reports that have a deadline.)
I had fun at UCON and wish I had had the ability to be there the whole weekend, instead of the whole day. I did get tired and ran out of steam at about 7:00 pm, so I made the 2 hour derive home. Thankfully, the worst of the weather did not impact the interstate. This was my third con for 2014. Before this year, I had not been to a con in about 30 years.
I got there about 7:45 registration opened at 8:00. I took a chance and asked if I could get my stuff, and they were kind enough to accommodate me. I had pre-registered and prepaid for the day, so all they had to do was check my ID and have me sign something. I ordered a UCON bag, in case I needed it.
I then looked around to find where the two games I had signed up would be, they were in the same conference room at different tables. I had about and hour to kill before my first game at 9:00.
At 8:45 I worked my way back to the conference room, which was by now open, and found the table for Keep on the Borderlands, with S&W Rules. I had never player this module, or had no recollection of it, if I did. I started with Holme’s Blue Box, and modules were not a thing my brother and I could afford, so we only played modules when friends provided them. We had a father, John, and his ten year old son, Jack. This was Jack’s first con game. The other two players were friends Frank and Michael. Our DM was Forest Ray. We had a good time. We were given max hit points and our magic user, John’s character, was allowed to be third level. the magic user also hired a lantern bearer. Other than the power boost from the magic user and lots of sleep spells, we did very well in combat and the DM could not hit us for anything. We did have a couple of people get hit, but it was not knock down damage. Even if we had not had the extra spells of the magic user, we would have still done very well. Jack got the UCON token to redeem for a prize since this was his first game at a con. It was fun, but I can see where a lot of younger players would misunderstand game design and every player end up with a magic weapon or item of some sort. If there is a closet with a magic sword for every fighter in the group and other things, why aren’t the orcs using them on the players? In three hours we rolled up characters and got past the bandits, kobolds, and orcs. It was fun and I would have liked to keep going.
Next I viewed the vendor area. It was not very big at all. I had expected there to be more vendors there, but there was a bit of something for everyone.
I bought some things that I had not planned to by, but isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be at conventions? I had to have something to put in my UCON bag.
I picked up Gygax Magazine No. 2 at the Pacesetter Booth, that’s all they had. I have the PDFs but like having a real one. I wished I had the chessmen covers, those are too cool and remind me of the ones on Dragon, by the same artist. I wish I had my old collection of Dragon Magazine.
At Newera Enterprises, ran by Roy B. Snyder, I found a Blue Box Basic D&D Manual. This is what I started with. I gave my original to my youngest brother. But over the years, found myself wanting one.
I also picked up some things that I never owned back in the day: the red box basic rules that has a module in it – Keep on the Borderlands; the blue cover Expert Rules and red cover Player’s Manual with a Dungeon Master’s Handbook.
I spoke with Roy for awhile and found out that he live in Kalamazoo, and that one of the police officers in the village where I live has written for Castles & Crusades. It’s a small world. I had no idea.
While in the dealer room, I way a guy with this awesome shirt, and he was kind enough to let me take a picture of it.
I then introduced myself to Tim Snyder, of The Savage Afterworld, who was manning the Goblinoid Games booth. Tim sums up our conversation on his blog. Yes, Tim, it was good to meet you. One thing I will mention, is that it was priceless to see Tim’s reaction that I played Keep on the Borderlands for the first time that morning. [Tim – The Village of Hommlet is the module I was struggling to recall the name.]
From 2:00 – 6:00 I played in Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, DM’s by Shawn Dry. This was ran as three four hour sessions, so one player could go through the entire adventure, if they signed up for all three sessions. I played a high level priest of Odin. I had played this module once way back in high school, so I remembered bits and pieces. As the DM showed us pictures of the creatures and other things we were finding, I recalled more of it. This was the middle session, and we had done well. I was having such a good time, I wanted to play in the next session. We had one character die, and mine got knocked down. We thought for sure we had a TPK on our hands, but we prevailed and survived for the next round of players to finish the module.
My only real complaint, it that on the website for UCON when I signed up, it was not clear playing through the Peaks module was an all day thing. I did try to sign up for the third session online before I knew this, but it and the first session filled up before the second. I did go downstairs and try to sign up for the third session, having forgotten it was already filled. I did not think to ask about an “alternate” ticket, in case someone didn’t show up. The person assisting me did not ask if I was interested in another session at that time, and I did not think to ask. It didn’t help that some guy came up asking her about shirts in the middle of her helping me, so she was well distracted, as was I. (What is it about people and their social skills and waiting their turn? I find this in places other than cons, usually at convenience stores all the time where the person behind me is putting their stuff on the counter around me, before I can put my change or my receipt in my wallet and put away my wallet and grab my stuff and get out of the way.)
I would suggest that the website show filled sessions in red or whatever color it is that works for color blind people, so one can see at a glance which ones are still available. That doesn’t mean one can buy the “alternate” tickets in case someone is a no show. Also if any games have the potential to be an all day thing, make that clear, so one can decide if they want to play the whole thing or just a portion. I would gladly play another module with Shawn as DM.
My plan was to meet others I have met and followed in online RPG settings, but I ran out of steam too soon. It is hard to fit all one wants to do into a single day at a three day con.
I was impressed by this con. It was big enough to have lots for everyone. For the board game set, the ball room was filled with tables. I would say 50+ tables. The venue was big enough to accommodate the attendees with only momentary crowds in a couple of places and not the press of a horde, like at GenCon. There were all kinds of RPGs, many I had never heard of. I loved that they had an OSR track. There were several DMs using their Dave Trampier cover AD&D DM screens.
I am already looking to next year. I plan to get Friday off so I can be present from the beginning, and to get Monday off so I have a day to rest. I will also get a room, so I don’t have to deal with all the driving and weather. I just wish I didn’t have to wait until January to put in the request at work.
I found out about UCON just a few weeks ago and about two weeks ago decided that I would go for all day on Saturday. I don’t have any unscheduled days off left, so I can’t get away in time to do much tonight, and the way traffic is Friday nights, I won’t make efforts to fight it, even for a game. Yeah, I know, I’m getting old.
I live in Michigan, over near Kalamazoo, and it’s less than a two hour drive, IN GOOD WEATHER…. Famous last words this time of year in Michigan. Of course, yesterday and today, we have been hit with our first big blast of cold and snow/ice. I am blessed to be able to work from home, if I need to, so I am avoiding the frustration of having to deal with all the people that seem to forget that you don’t go fast or slam on your breaks when there is snow and ice on the road. I’m not a native to Michigan, but I grew up driving on ice and snow, in Missouri. (I am amazed at the number of people in Michigan that don’t think it snows in Missouri. Maybe in the boot heel where it stays warm enough to grow cotton and tobacco, but it definitely snows in the rest of the state. There’s also at least one ice storm, the trees look pretty covered in ice, but yuck, what a mess. It’s really great if you’re a kid in school.)
So, I will gather my dice bag, a notepad, some graph paper, and some writing instruments and my bag for the games I have signed up to play. I already gassed up the car and hit the ATM for some cash. I will get to bed early, so I can get up in the wee hours and make the drive. Not looking forward to the drive on slick roads, but I am excited to play and meet up with some other gamers from my corner of the LP (That’s Lower Peninsula, for all you non-Michiganders.).
Here’s to safe travels to all that aren’t there yet, and to all when it comes time to head home.
Now to find my checklist and make sure I don’t forget anything….