Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Throwing Rocks in Texas (Part Four)

Matt Finch runs Mythrus Tower
After “Expect the Unexpected” wrapped up, I had time to grab an early dinner before I started preparing for my Saturday night game of Dungeon Crawl Classics. Unfortunately, that meant I had to skip the Artists’ Panel scheduled right after “Expect the Unexpected.” I’d be kicking myself for this a little later.

My belly filled and my scenario, pre-gens, and accoutrements together, I slipped back to the Longhorn Room in time for the NTRPGCon Auction and—more importantly—the announcement of the winner of the 2012 Three Castles Award. Regular readers already know I won in absentia last year for The Dungeon Alphabet and was a co-nominee this year for Realms of Crawling Chaos with Dan Proctor. 

Unfortunately, I was tipped early that Realms was probably not going to win when Doug asked me to present the award since I was in town. Disappointing, but I expected my name in the mix again was unlikely to result in another award.

Jim Ward runs Dragonlairds on Sunday morning
Doug and Mike introduced me prior to the auction and I threatened the audience with reading the hour-long acceptance speech I wasn’t able to deliver last year and got some laughs. I then pointed out that if I neglected to announce this year’s winner, the award was technically still mine. All laughter aside, it was an honor to finally be able to thank some of the judges in attendance and those of you who’ve supported The Dungeon Alphabet with your dollars and glowing reviews. It was with a mixture of pride and sadness that I passed the torch on to Kevin Crawford for Stars Without Number. Congratulations, Kevin!

Having already blown most of my budget (or so I told myself), I slipped out after the award announcement and finished up the last little details of preparing for my DCC session of “The Fane of St. Toad” scheduled immediately after the auction concluded. I had my Brave Halfling Old School Game Box (the Erol cover, natch, and now signed after “Emirikol”) stuffed to the gills with DCC notes and was ready to roll.

Saturday night games at cons are always dicey (and not in the good way). Exhaustion and drinks take their tolls and not everyone makes it to the table. My game had seven players registered, but only three from the list turned up. Luckily for me, I had three other eager players accost me before the game and beg seats, which the low turnout allowed me to grant them. Unlike “Emirikol,” whose players were largely unfamiliar with DCC, five of the six players at “St. Toad” had copies of the rulebook with them and at least passing acquaintance with the rules. After a quick rules overview, we hit the ground running.

“The Fane of St. Toad” is the first full-length adventure I wrote after getting involved with the OSR and it is dedicated to Dave Arneson. I hadn’t looked at it since I started working on Stonehell, and I always get a little nervous revisiting old work. Surprisingly, it still worked for me. I updated it to DCC, smoothed out a couple of rough edges, and made some changes so that it wouldn’t be completely predictable to someone who had read the original. In my own opinion, it turned out great.

Those red words: all toads
The players spent very little time exploring the upper level of the Fane (but enough time for them to soak up the ambiance), heading down the Undercroft where they rightly concluded the good treasure was. Down there, they encounter really, really crappy mummies (my Zocchis were again rolling cold and I couldn’t strangle a poor sap to death to save my life), tore up a creepy orgy chamber (and inadvertently discovered a cache of vials when they struck off a particular protrusion from a statue), and then faced down a big honking cavern of toads. The battle was pitched against the hopping menace, but with a lot of spellburning and sleep spells, and charm spells, they overcame the toads—but not before the halfling in the party found the “sleeping” avatar of St. Toad and decided to battle it hobbito a toado.

In an eerie repeat of “Emirikol,” the elf in the party called down the power of his patron and the party was near indestructible for many, many rounds and enjoyed a healthy bonus to their rolls to boot. I did manage to get the cleric swallowed by the avatar, but out-of-the-box thinking with a Word of Command (“vomit!”) got him out of its belly and the Toad was slain, leaving the party very rich and the session at an end. Alas, I didn’t get to sic the giant Toad idol on them as they tried to leave with their booty.

The Not-Be by Jennell Jaquays
During a break in “St. Toad” I ran into Tim again and he started talking to me about something called a “Not-Be” and I honestly had no clue what he was going on about. Finally, the penny dropped. A couple months before the convention, Bad Mike sent the word out that the con was looking for funky, unique monster submissions to present to the artists during the Artists’ Panel for them to draw. The end results would eventually be judged, featured in an adventure, and the winner would have a miniature sculpted of the monster. When I read the call for monsters, I drafted up a quick entry: “The Upside-Down, Inside-Out Thing That Should Not Be” or “Not-Be” for short. It turned out that Jennell Jaquays brought the “Not-Be” to grisly, two-dimensional life at the Artists’ Panel and it was a big hit. And I missed the whole thing.

The rest of the evening, although late, was a lot of fun. I talked up my upcoming releases from Goodman Games with the DCC players and signed a few books before heading back to the ballroom. There I talked about Stonehell with Bad Mike, editing with Tim, and got the lowdown on Jennell’s next professional leap (and got to see the “Not-Be” for myself). The hour was late and after collecting my winnings from the silent auction (Call of Cthulhu 5.6.1 autographed by Sandy Petersen, Secret of San Fransico, and Cthulhu Dark Ages—what can I say? I love me some Call of Cthulhu and spent less than I would have at the store), I called it a night.

Erol, a gorilla, and I wait for the shuttle to the airport
Sunday was all about saying hello and saying goodbye. Frank Mentzer introduced me to Peter Kerestan of Palace of the Vampire Queen and Wee Warriors fame. I had breakfast with Steve Winter and my favorite fan from Gary Con, Zach Glazer (after chatting with Erol Otus and Jeff Dee while waiting for my breakfast to arrive). Allan Grohe introduced me to Chris Holmes, son of J. Eric Holmes, who turned out was one of my fellow cavemen in “Expect the Unexpected” and we got to playtest Chris’ board game of “Pirates vs. Ninjas vs. Zombies vs. Monkeys” (or something like that). The Ninjas won, but not before proving that if you really want to playtest the beejezus out of a game, Allan and I will put it through its paces.

There were of course many people I didn’t get to say good-bye to or spend enough time talking to during the con, but hopefully 2013 will correct all that. I’m going to try like hell to make it down again next year. Writing this close to three weeks after the events of the convention, there are many events, people, and good conversations I’m forgetting, but I do want to thank all my fellow attendees for welcoming this New Yorker down to Texas. The fact that so many of you took the time to introduce yourself and compliment me on my work (and demand autographs!) means a lot to me. For those of you who don’t do it as a vocation, writing is an extremely lonely pursuit and it’s usually just me vs. the computer screen. Getting out and meeting people who my work has brought some entertainment to means the world to me and so long as you keep wanting more, I’ll keep writing it.

Thank you all!



Toric said...

Michael, I had to steal a couple of your Con photos, if that's alright with you. My son and I are in the pic of Jim's Dragon Lairds game and also in your second Expect the Unexpected pic sitting at Jim Ward's table playing Metamorphosis Alpha. I did get a few pics of some of the special guests but never had any pics taken of us actually playing games or with any of the special guests and wish I had. These pics are cool, especially the Dragon Lairds pic.

As I've said in several places around the web, I greatly enjoyed your Emirikol DCC game on Friday morning and enjoyed chatting with you. I'd happily play in another of your games at a future Con!

Michael Curtis said...

No problem at all, Toric. Hopefully our paths will cross again and we'll share a table in some capacity or another at a future con. It was great meeting you and your son, and a real trip signing a 1E Players Handbook for him!

Toric said...

I'm amazed at your memory capacity! With all the people you likely interacted with at the Con, it would seem like it would be difficult to remember who was who. But you remember signing his 1E Player's Handbook, which you did indeed do. Very cool. He was really adamant about getting as many of the special guests to sign it as he could, regardless of whether they directly worked on it, or on 1E in general. He ended up with six or seven signatures and was pretty happy about that. He has shown it off to our regular gaming group already.

Zenopus Archives said...

Thanks for sharing the info on playing in Chris Holmes' game. Sounds interesting.