Thursday, July 18, 2013

GaryCon V - Day 4, Part 2

Night of the Walking Wet…the very embodiment of GaryCon…

First, a little background…So way back in year two, we started a game off grid. That is, this game was not on any schedule or anything. To be honest, it was so long ago that I’m having trouble remembering how I got into this game.

What I do know is this: Tavis Allison, of Autarch/Adventurer, Conqueror, King/Several Other Things fame, invited a bunch of us to play in a game on Saturday night. He was going to run a bunch of us through an old Judges Guild adventure that appeared in The Dungeoneer magazine way back in the late 70’s. In fact, this adventure was old enough to actually predate Judges Guild, although that company later picked up the publishing of The Dungeoneer. Written by Paul Jaquays, Randy Cox, and Tamara Wieland, Night of the Walking Wet is a sprawling adventure covering a large area around an old Castle/Keep.

Of course, I agreed.

So a few of us met up around 8PM on that Saturday night, years ago, and made up characters. There were a ton of us. The guidelines were: 35,000 EXP…the class you chose gave you your level; 2 magic items of…I forget the exact value, but I remember this: you could make up your own as long as you and Tavis worked out the specifics; Gold of an amount consistent with our levels (that ranged between 5th and 7th as I recall)…it was enough to get yourself some magic armor and a magic weapon, just nothing to crazy…

This gave us some of the longest lasting memes and enjoyable in-jokes. A couple of great examples from those very early character creation moments came from Mark Clover and David Temperado.

David, who some of you may know as diaglo on various forums, decided he wanted to be a “kind of whirling dervish” fighter. No, that’s not quite right…he was really a dancer. I’m not kidding…to the point that one of his magic items was a fold-up stage/theater (think folding boat, but with a dressing room) so that he always had a place to perform. He also had a hireling, a dwarf named Bentley. Bentley was equipped with a shield that had a kind of Light spell cast on it so he could provide a spotlight or strobe light during performances. All of Dan the Whirling Dervish Man’s fighting moves were described, and often acted out, as dance moves.

Mark, I think, took the award for most creative. He created a Halfling named Tiptoe Taggins..OK…not that creative. But the magic items/effects were fantastic. First, he has something called the Noncha Lance. This is a weapon’s power really isn’t damage. When he hits, he automatically distracts the target from attacking anyone else. He also has a pouch of never-ending coppers. Each time he reaches into the pouch, he can pull out..I forget the number, say two…copper pieces. He can do this forever as long as he puts one back in (if not, it goes through a reset process where he can’t use it for a day). So he takes two out, and puts one back…then does it again…and again…

But the real kicker is Tiptoe’s Curse…The Curse of Fourteen. Whenever Tiptoe is part of a group (of, in reality, two or more people), he is always counted last and the counter will always count Tiptoe as the fourteenth member. So if Tiptoe is in an army of 10,000 attacking a castle, and someone on the wall is counting the enemy, it would go something like, “Nine thousand nine hundred ninety-eight…Nine thousand nine hundred ninety-nine…Fourteen. Not a threat, Sir!” Likewise, if Tiptoe and a friend need a room for the night, they will be paying the incredulous innkeeper the fee to sleep fourteen.

Believe it or not, besides being the source of tons of jokes, this has come up in play several times. There were other comical things from that first year, but these are the ones that have lasted the longest and had the greatest impact. And, most importantly, the ones I remember right now.

The rules were D&D…the original. In fact, Tavis has this really cool bound edition of the little brown books – very neat and very handy. But it also included house rules (I’ll get to in a moment), smatterings of AD&D and other editions…for example, we could choose our magic items from the DMG…and the aforementioned free-form-consult-the-DM approach.

The most interesting and perhaps most difficult for us to grasp, was the fact that none of us knew our hit points. I don’t recall where Tavis got this (chime in if you’re reading, Tavis!) but it is pretty cool. Basically, you have three boxes that represent Mental, Spiritual, and Physical. When you get hit, the DM rolls the damage. Then you start rolling to see how many hit points you have. You start with the first box, which is…just a sec, let me get out my character…Mental. You roll your character’s hit die and write it in the box. Then you compare that to the damage roll and if the hit points for Mental are higher, you subtract them and what you have left is your remaining Mental hit points. If not, then you subtract your Mental hit points from the damage total, and roll to see how many Spiritual hit points you have.

So let’s say my character, Bishop Innish, is battling a hobgoblin and the little bugger gets in a great shot. Tavis would roll for, say, five (5) hit points of damage. I would then roll for the good Bishop’s Mental hit points. Let’s say I roll a three (3). I put a “3” in the Mental hit point box and then cross it off. It’s less than the five (5) I have to absorb, so now I roll again to see how many Spiritual hit points I have. Innish is lucky today, and I roll a five (5). So I write a “5” in the Spiritual hit point box, then I cross it out and put a “3” just below it. My Spiritual hit points were able to absorb the remaining two (2) damage (the original five minus the three my Mental hit points covered) and I have a little left over.

Interestingly, I still don’t know how many hit points I have. I do know that I’m down to my last three of Spiritual…and if those get taken, I have to roll for Physical hit points…and I could get a one…and then... Well, it could have happened in that example. If my first roll had been a two (2) and the second had also been a two (2), I would have only one (1) hit point left of the original five (5) damage that was rolled. If I rolled a one (1) for Physical hit points, I’d be unconscious.

When you get healed back up to “full” hit points, the process begins anew. That is, if you get hit again you have to start rolling. It’s a really cool system that I’m not doing near the justice it deserves.

That first session we set another precedent….we played until 3 or 4 in the morning. This has become so ingrained that this year, the fourth session, Tavis announced that due to real life scheduling issues, we were going to have to cut it short at somewhere between 2 and 3 in the morning.

For the most part, this year started like the others. I happened to walk by Tavis’ room on the way to the game, and found the door open and Tavis gathering his stuff….with a bum leg. So I helped him gather his things and off we went. This year, we had an assigned table! So we got Tavis settled and waited for folks to gather.

Unfortunately, the assigned table was in one of the main areas and it was LOUD. We also knew from experience that this room for all intents and purposes shuts down around 1 AM. Cleaning folks go through, tables are moved around as necessary, and at some point the doors to the banquet room are locked. So soon after we gathered, Tavis sent us one a search for a better situation.

As luck would have it, there were tables in the lobby that were open. While there were folks playing at other nearby tables, the vibe in the lobby in the evening tends to be a little less noisy (until we get going). We also know from experience that it pretty much clears out by 12:30 or 1:00 AM. And there is no time limit since it’s the lobby of the hotel.

Successful on our mission, we went back and gathered Tavis and his stuff and got him situated upstairs, complete with extra chairs to keep his foot up. Before we got started, we had to pay homage to one of our crew who could not attend…and so Dan the Whirling Dervish Man got a Jazz Hands salute from those of us who could attend.

Then it was off to the races. Well, kind of. One of the big problems about playing a single session a year apart from the last is keeping track of things. One of the casualties is my mapping. For the life of me, I could not make heads or tails of the various maps I had in my pack of papers.

We did finally get it all figured out, and delved into the dungeons below the castle. Therein we barely escaped with our lives in defeating one of the major evil characters. The loot was good and for the first time I can recall we actually had issues dividing the treasure up – some of the items were that good.

I’m rushing to complete this because I’ve been letting it sit for far too long…and I don’t want to give away any spoilers regarding the adventure. I know it is an obscure one, but this day and age anything is available.

One of the funny little highlights was when we got some new young blood in the group. Earlier in our game, there had been a huge game of Werewolf (I think that was what it was) being played behind us; there had to be at least 20 kids involved. At some point it broke up and a few of the kids were wandering around the lobby checking out what people were playing…and we were about all that was left. One of the young men asked us what we were playing. When we told him we offered him a seat at the table. He asked how long we would go…it was about 11 PM…and we told him we would be going until about 2 AM. He leapt at the chance…so we gave him a character and let him join in. By the time we ended he was all about planning for next year.

So there we were, after two in the morning putting away dice and snacks and pencils and maps, trying to collect emails and names so maybe this year we can keep in touch (progress…this year I actually sent out an email to everyone!). It truly is one of my favorite parts of GaryCon…and while I understand there will be years to come when Tavis won’t be able to be the superman he can be and we will have to miss a year, I look forward to each opportunity.

Come to think of it, as of now, I have two regular games at GaryCon, both of which started as off-grid, ad hoc games; both of which I look forward to next year as much as any other aspect of GaryCon.


  1. I was one of the new blood who was warmly welcomed to the Walking Wet and the 14. That game was the highlight for me of a great Con (and I survived The Tower of Gygax unscathed). I'm already looking forward to next year and now that I know some of the traditions I'll be sure to bring a suitable contribution to the snacks cache.

    Thanks for the write up and the pics, Jim.

    1. Cache? My goodness, that was a hoard!

  2. Good times and excellent reportage!