I think I have now recovered both physically and emotionally from Ropecon 2011 and can write about it.
The con was held this last weekend, and was the product of some nine months of work. It was all sorts of draining. As it happens, it also became the best convention ever, at least for me personally. There was a lot going on, so I will split this report into two parts.
I once again stepped into the boots of the Master of Game Masters, responsible for scheduling the tabletop offerings of the convention and assigning them tables. This year, 80 Game Masters from four different nations stepped up to offer some 165 sessions of roleplaying games in three different languages. That’s a good deal more than previous years. While there were the usual cancellations and not every game found sufficient players, I think there were still over 150 sessions that went off. The number of GMs includes our esteemed guests of honour, Frank Mentzer and Erik Mona.
Among the more curious sessions were the scenarios from the collection Unelma Keltaisesta kuninkaasta ja muita tanskalaisia roolipelejä (Dream of the King in Yellow and Other Danish Roleplaying Games). It’s a big, fat bastard of a book from the Society for Nordic Roleplaying. I participated in the making of the book as a translator for one of the introductory essays. As it says on the tin, it’s a compilation of 12 Danish RPGs meant to be played in a single evening – about two to six hours, depending on the scenario. I’ll be writing about it in more depth sometime in the distant future when I’ve read it and perhaps played a few of the scenarios.
The most interesting scenario by far in the book is “Slaaraphenland”, a fantasy scenario inspired by Warhammer Fantasy. It’s got a cake mechanic. Other than that, it’s freeform. There’s one cake for each player, sliced into six parts, and every time a character gives in to temptation, the player must eat a piece of cake. It was run three times during the convention, and each time to a full table.
I sorta hoped I’d have time to play it, but for naught. Though I had a solid complement of henchmen to work the desk in my absence, all the sessions were either at inconvenient times for me, or on Saturday.
Because on Saturday, I got my ass kicked by a sandwich.
There’s this Finnish indie RPG publisher and importer called Arkenstone. This year, they were selling sandwiches in the con area.
One of the sandwiches in their selection was the Galactus. You had to specifically ask for it, for it was not on the menu. It was said to include the kingdoms of plants, animals and minerals alike, and it was too large to fit on the plate. On Friday alone, it claimed four of the brave eaters who tested their mettle against it.
So, obviously, I had to try it for breakfast.
I was not intimidated by its admittedly impressive bulk that concealed within four different kinds of meat – including bacon. Courageously, I put the Conan soundtrack on from my cell phone and began devouring, washing it down with mead in the way of a proper Northman.
I managed two thirds of the monster before I concluded that if any more of it went down, it’d all come up. I performed a tactical retreat, packaged the remains away and rolled off.
Didn’t have to eat anything else all day. Couldn’t have eaten anything else all day. Finished it off in the evening, over 12 hours later. Tasty, but man.
Kings of Absalom
I played two con games, and the first one was on Saturday. It was a Pathfinder RPG session called Kings of Absalom, run by Erik Mona.
It was, I think, the best game I’ve ever been a spectator to. The group’s teamplay left a lot to be desired, and the gnome bard Izahh ran off to do her own thing while the rest of the party – the rangers Sam and Arendius (me), the alchemist Doctor Anthrax and the rogue Blackbird fought fell foes. Izahh’s antics also managed to raise the alarm and brought forth a bunch of hardy foes who managed to take us by surprise.
So, there I was, backing out of a room in a fighting retreat, and immediately get squashed by a guard I didn’t know was there. I later stabilize at -8, while the rest of the party engages in a running battle with a total of eight different enemies. One by one, they go down – first Doctor Anthrax, then Sam, then Blackbird. Sam dies, the others stabilize. Izahh is the only one left – and then, with luck, tactics and a loose grasp of the spell selection rules, manages to escape the foes and throw a bunch of compliant slaves at them while she tries to figure out this spell scroll she found. A scroll of lightning bolt, to be specific.
All through this, the initiative count goes “Blackbird does nothing, Arendius does nothing, Doctor Anthrax does nothing, Izahh!” We all chanted it in a chorus, as the tension ratcheted up and the slaves fell one by one to the guards and Izahh botched a Use Magic Device roll after another. Then, finally, a 16 – on the dot. The lightning bolt killed the last remaining slave and all but one of the enemies. The enemy, with three hit points left, charged the gnome. Izahh, at this point, had four hit points.
What ensued was the most pathetic duel in all history. They whiffed two thirds of the time, and Izahh chipped away her foe’s hit points ever so slowly, one at a time. Finally, at 0 hit points, it attacks one last time before keeling over dead. In accordance with all rules of art, it hits and deals four points of damage.
Izahh, staggered, managed to find a potion of cure light wounds (on my character, incidentally) and soon thereafter lifted all of us to our feet. And that’s when we ran out of time.
All in all, I spent about half the game out of the action, which I wasn’t entirely happy about, but it was a fun game, which is a testament to Erik’s ability as a game master. He managed to keep the game fun even for those of us who were out of the action for hours real time. Erik was also generally a great guy to be around, and I found myself agreeing with him in pretty much everything. We even share the same affinity for urban areas.
Also, I now have a signed Pathfinder Core Rulebook with the dedication “Arendius does nothing…”
They released a crapload of new Finnish games at the con. There’s the rules-light Pyöreän pöydän ritarit (Knights of the Round Table); the Somalia sourcebook Punaiset hiekat (Red Sands); Unelma Keltaisesta kuninkaasta ja muita tanskalaisia roolipelejä; the fantasy games Noitahovi (Witch Court), Generian legendat (The Legends of Generia) and Bliaron; the fly RPG Kärpänen (The Fly); and Yhteys (The Connection), a prelude to Vihan lapset (Children of Wrath), which is coming out later this year.
I bought all of these except Bliaron, and will be discussing them on the blog once I’ve read through them. Punaiset hiekat seems especially promising.
Unfortunately, the one thing that did not get released was Stalker RPG in English. Finishing it for printing has taken longer than anticipated, but it will come out, eventually, and when it does, it will be good.
Also, I received, as a gift, Ravenloft 3E.
The entire Ravenloft 3E. All of it, as far as I can tell (with the exception of the core book and Masque of the Red Death, but I had those already). I may be reading and discussing them as well (If I ever get around to finishing that Planescape readthrough… I’ve got a post in the works, honest!). I have awesome friends. All in all, I carried about 25 different books away from the con.
There’s also one other thing I received, but that one I didn’t get until after the con, and will be discussed in tomorrow’s post, because it is that awesome.