Ropecon 2012, Saturday and Sunday—36-Man Game Sessions and Heavy Metal Musicals

As stated, Ropecon Saturday was a far better day than Friday. Most of my critical duties had been discharged, so I could kick back a bit and actually enjoy the convention.

The biggest thing for me on Saturday was probably Blood Under Absalom, the 30-player Pathfinder Society event. It’s a feature peculiar to organized play campaigns, these big convention events with many tables running a single game session simultaneously. We had five table GMs and the overseer GM, Stefan, and the tables were packed. I think we could’ve accommodated one more table GM, at least. Something to consider for next year. Unfortunately, I had other duties and could not participate, but I popped in now and then to see what was up. Only three character deaths in the entire session, for some reason. They, at least, were some of the high-level Tampere characters who occasionally need to be reminded of their mortality. They all got raised, of course.

My view on PC death in organized play campaigns is that 1st-level characters are cheap and especially the iconic pregenerated characters, Valeros, Merisiel, Kyra and Ezren, are utterly expendable and even the softest GM has no need to play nice with them. First-time players are an exception and especially inexperienced ones probably shouldn’t be slaughtered in the first encounter, but nobody should be immune.

Personally, I netted 15 permanent PC kills in my first month as Venture-Captain, all levels 1-3, including two TPKs. I swear I did not do it on purpose.

In the evening, I moderated a panel on alternate histories. I am still not sure if it was good or not, but I hope people were entertained. I only knew two of the five panelists personally, and it turned out rather more academic than I anticipated. I know it was recorded and it will make an appearance on YouTube at some point in the indeterminate future, so we can see if it’s actually coherent.

After the panel, the auditorium was taken over by 1827 – The Infernal Musical. It was a heavy metal musical that ran in a theatre in Turku last year to packed audiences, and we were treated to a DVD recording on a big screen, telling the tale of the Great Fire of  Turku. The musical uses classic metal and hard rock songs instead of original compositions (well, there are two of those, one by Mr Lordi), so there was no fear of the soundtrack being ass. Personally, I’m a great fan of metal and a sucker for musicals, so I was an easy audience.

Remarkably, 1827 also has a good book, the most underrated part of a musical. I saw Rock of Ages last night, actually, which provides a perfect point of comparison, being another musical that uses classics instead of an original soundtrack. Indeed, the two even utilize some of the same bands. The film worked well as long as it didn’t try to have a story, because it was inane even by the standards of a genre where the plot is generally regarded as an afterthought and an excuse to belt out a couple of power ballads. 1827, by comparison, was, you know, actually written, instead of just sort of invoked from some sort of morass of the generic. Okay, I guessed the ending twist well in advance, clued in by the fact that it was a Mike Pohjola work (the reason we got the screening in the first place), but I had great fun on the way there, even when there was no Iron Maiden playing.

There were nods towards Finnish history, including the obligatory send-ups of famous Finns of the time (such as Archbishop Tengström of Turku, who turned out to be one of the villains of the piece and a Satan-worshipper, who at the end of the first act sacrifices the Russian Commandant Sinebrychoff to his Dark Lord; and the evangelist preacher Paavo Ruotsalainen, played as a Yoda-like figure). There were roleplaying game references (one of the heroes of the piece is basically a D&D barbarian). There were puns (including the obligatory joke about the fact that the fire started at the Hellman house).

Unfortunately, that probably was the last time the entire musical will be seen anywhere in public. A novel is in the works, but it just won’t be the same.

After the musical, I went to play my only gaming session of the convention. At this point, it was around 1 a.m., and I kept falling asleep during We Be Goblins!, as one by one our hapless goblins died. Full TPK, but I am told it is not unusual in that module. The bits I remember were fun.

Sunday, then, was mostly just wrapping up the convention. I didn’t really have anything to do besides handling the Game Master loot event and wander about for something to do. This was unusual, since traditionally my Ropecon Sundays have been hectic and panicky because of the scenario writing contest and determining and announcing the winners. This year there was no contest, so no panic. I could relax and sort of not completely stress out. It was refreshing.

After that, it was just the Guest of Honour dinner, the Monday afterparty and the con was a wrap.

We’ll see about next year, but I’m probably handing over the GM desk to a follower and moving on to other challenges in con organization. What they will be remains to be seen. It’ll be the 20th Ropecon. Big deal, that.

Ropecon 2012, Monday to Friday—Tag-Team GMing and Beating Up Children to Relieve Stress

Ropecon, for me, begins on Monday. While the doors of Dipoli do not open until three o’clock, Friday afternoon, the preceding week is full of preparation, promotional events, briefings and running around in a panic. I have a terribly bad habit of immersing myself into a convention—any convention—fully, mind and body, which makes it next to impossible to focus on anything else while this is going on. Ropecon week began hot on the heels of Finncon, which led to an 11-day convention, which was tremendous fun and utterly exhausting.

On Monday and Tuesday, we made badges. Every member of the convention staff gets a personalized badge, from the coat check people and logistics haulers to the game masters and panelists. These badges have to be made, all half a thousand of them. Then there are the badges we sell (at €1, excellent profit), which we also need a few hundred of to supplement what didn’t get sold the preceding years. Every year’s badges need new (bad) jokes, which someone has to come up with. This year’s jokes mostly revolved around Game of Thrones, I think. “We do not shower” and its Finnish equivalent “Me emme kylve” were the funniest, but I am also partial to “Hear me roll”. All this is traditionally accomplished during the Monday and Tuesday evenings before the con.

In addition to badges, this is the time when we also print and laminate new signs. This year, we manufactured signs for the staff dormitories that read “Don’t Screw Here”. This has been a problem in past years. It isn’t that our staff is bumping uglies during the night—they’re mostly young people and such behaviour is not only healthy but inevitable—but that they do it in a place where it’s guaranteed to disturb other people’s sleep in pretty much the most awkward manner possible. In this case, said people need to be well rested and working customer service in the morning. You can get your exhibitionist jollies in the woods. It’s the goddamn Otaniemi, nobody cares.

Of course, the beast with two backs still made an appearance in the staff dorms. We’re thinking of arming the dormitory overseers with cattle prods next year.

On Tuesday, we also had a promotional event at the Sello library in Espoo. I was there to run some tabletop RPGs, but the demographic present turned out to average five years old, far more interested in our other attraction. The logistics and PR had conspired to acquire a stack of 50 child-sized latex swords from Denmark, which were a tremendous hit with the kids. Literally, really. I managed to run one game, mostly featuring library employees, while the rest of the time was spent dueling hyperactive hobbits. I am not sure we got a single paying visitor this way, but at least the kids had fun. Their parents looked very grateful that we provided an outlet for the excess energy of their offspring, too. We had our other guest of honour, Larson Kasper, hanging out with us.

On Wednesday, the other GoH, Peter Adkison, arrived in Finland. There was karaoke. We went to this bar called Swengi. The evening was going nicely, until one of the GoH handlers blurted out that “this evening is going nicely, there hasn’t been a single moron on stage yet”, which was a cue for the universe to rain on our parade. Immediately the table group next to ours became boisterous and noisy, and a guy climbed up on stage and began to bleat out Britney Spears. We beat a hasty retreat after that.

On Thursday, we had the big staff briefing meeting at Dipoli and then the pre-convention sauna event. At this point I had some fairly impressive stress levels going on (Especially since I pretty much never stress about anything. Some would argue this includes things I should stress about.), since I still had a pile of paperwork to get ready for the convention. I finally got everything written up at an ungodly hour on Friday morning, after which I proceeded to Dipoli several hours before the convention opened, and proceeded to use up around a ream of paper at the info desk printer, as well as significantly contribute to the death of its ink cartridge on Saturday.


Anyway, the convention Friday was pretty much a blur for me. I ran around a lot and ended up dehydrated, tired and hungry. Gave Jim Raggi a lift home in the evening. My only game mastering during the convention was also performed on Friday, when Mikko, our venue admin and a Pathfinder Society GM, had urgent business in the middle of his session. I tag-teamed with him and kept the players entertained and the game running while he worked his mojo elsewhere. Good thing I’d run the scenario before and was familiar with it.

I know it’s a bit strange that the Venture-Captain doesn’t run anything at the biggest con of the year, but, being also a member of the organizing committee, I simply didn’t have the time. My Venture-Lieutenant Jussi Leinonen was one of the main organizers. Then, Tracon is coming up next month and I’ll be running  games there. Their RPG admin, in turn, was the head GM for Saturday’s big Blood Under Absalom game… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Fortunately, I got all the game masters present and accounted for during Friday and after a night spent sleeping in the back seat of my car in a sleeping bag, Saturday dawned rather more agreeable and I started getting into the spirit of things. But that is a story for the next instalment.