Wednesday, April 8, 2015

GaryCon VII.0

Day 0....Wednesday.

For me, Wednesday at GaryCon has a certain pattern to it. Things just sort of fall into place. My family and I have done this enough that even when slight changes come up, things still flow reasonably well.

As background, it might be helpful to know that I live very close to Lake Geneva, relatively speaking. Prior to last year, GaryCon seemed to fall just before the kids' Spring Break - that is the first Friday of GaryCon fell on their last day of school before a week-long vacation. Even though GaryCon's VI and VII have occurred during Spring Break, a kind of tradition built up around those earlier years when the kids were still in school...or were at least supposed to be.

Tuesday night I start to get...well...I suppose, giddy. I start smiling more. This year I actually clapped like a little kid getting ready for a Disney trip, "GaryCon is tomorrow!" But Tuesday night is still work - only it's the kind that I know will be worth it in just a few short hours. So things get put on lists, organized, packed, and crossed off lists.

Then Wednesday comes, and though officially we are all on vacation, there is work to be done...this pattern doesn't happen by accident.

First we put the final touches on the packing, check lists, and make sure the car is properly loaded. Then comes one of the little traditions from earlier years when my kids were still in school at the start of the convention. In years past, we drove up without the kids because, well, we didn't let them take Wednesday through Friday off - usually because there were tests aligned with the end of term. Often my wife and kids would come up Thursday night; Friday was a free-for-all at school due to cabin fever and the impending vacation. For GaryCon VI and VII, while out of school, they are old enough to be alone for a few hours and to clean and get the house ready for our return at convention's end. My wife and I head north, get checked-in as early as possible, and get everything unloaded. Then my wife returns home to pick-up the kids and take the dog to her sister's house to be cared-for in our absence. I remain and get the room settled - put all of the clothes away, stow all the snacks and drinks we bring, etc.

When the room is set, and after I steal a quick nap, I head down to the lobby and, depending on timing, pick up my badges - plural as I get the kids' badges as well. It's usually about this time that David Temporado, diaglo to some (and apparently tempo to others), arrives and we share a meal together. During this meal we catch up - as we usually haven't seen each other face-to-face in a year, sometimes longer - and solve all of the world's problems. All through this phase, old friends are well met with handshakes and hugs, and new friends are made.

By 6 PM, latest 8 PM, on Wednesday - the night before the convention has officially started, I'm in a game. One year that was, if I recall correctly, one of the very early play-tests of Dungeon Crawl Classics. The past two years, GaryCon V and VI, it was a Gamma World game run by Michael Curtis. This year it was a Lankhmar game using Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea run by my friend Rich Franks. This included a scene wherein an attempt to hide in the shrubs around Grain Merchants Guild resulted in an unintended distraction, complete with a John-Belushi-trying-to-cross-campus-at-night-unnoticed imitation.

My wife returned with kids in tow, and they were immediately in the pool - another tradition wherein they forgo first-night gaming to enjoy the amenities of the resort. I spent the rest of the evening partaking of a few cocktails and running from the guards of the aforementioned Guild, while the kids spent the rest of the evening swimming in the indoor pool.

I think I finally stumbled in around 1 AM. The convention was only beginning...

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

GaryCon VII - Thanks

This is a bit late, as GaryConCrud felled me for a bit...

One should, nay must, begin any discussion of GaryCon with an appropriate demonstration of appreciation for all of the people that make it, still, the best convention and by far my favorite. Unfortunately, there is almost no way, with mere words, to do so. Regardless, I will endeavor to try.

First, thanks to Dale Leonard and Luke Gygax for all of the hassle they must put up with and all of the effort they expend to continue this tradition. I know they face many challenges each and every year, and every year by convention's end all of it is, to most that attend, clearly worth it. The future holds an abundance of opportunities and challenges, but I would, and have, placed my trust in them to navigate these sometimes-stormy waters.

Second, my thanks to all of the Gygax siblings and their families who allow us - really support us by their very presence - to honor their father. Grief is all too often a solitary thing. By allowing those of us who make the pilgrimage every March to congregate and share in the legacy their father left, that grief is turned into joy. Peruse the images from this convention posted across the Internet and witness the happiness. This is a living, breathing, smiling, laughing celebration of more than a life well-played; it is a legacy that reminds us that when we gather to play games, it isn't just about the games - it's about friends and family and laughter and joy.

Third, my thanks to the "Old Guard" - too many names to list them all. These folks continue to remind me, each and every year, that there is a heart and soul that goes beyond what Rule is in Paragraph 3 on Page 37 of Book 4 of Game System X. These men and women gave, and in many cases continue to give, of themselves to create and/or support hobbies that we enjoy - and we should thank them for it every time we see them.

Fourth, my great appreciation for those folks that give of themselves by running games and/or seminars, both on the grid and off. For me and my progeny, that would be:
  • Rich Franks
  • David Baity
  • Jen Brinkman
  • Guy Fullerton
  • Bruce Heard
  • Jim Wampler
  • Edwin Stahlnecker
  • Reid San Filippo
  • Britainney Petrie
  • Mike Reese
  • Terry Kuntz
  • Brendan LaSalle
  • Michael Curtis
  • James Smith
  • Roy Snyder
  • John Bobek

You all spent hours and hours and hours of your time to give myself and my kids hours and hours and hours of fun. I can't thank you enough.

Fifth, the unsung heroes of GaryCon - The Volunteers. All of you that do all of the things that make the convention run smoothly. From registration to passing out the judges' snacks to helping run the charity auction to a thousand and one other things I'm forgetting or never see - these are the things that make the convention happen. Without you, we all don't get to celebrate.

And finally, on the personal side, to my awesome wife - who puts up with this craziness every year and supports me, and now our kids, in pursuing this passion. You are the Sun, the Moon, the Starlit Sky; without you, I dwell in Darkness.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Death & Dismemberment Table

The inestimable Harley Stroh asked that I post my Death & Dismemberment table. Not that he was implying that it was, but I wanted to clarify that while I call it mine, I do not consider it anything less than a complete rip-off. So before I post what I started to test for a game a few years back, I wanted to give a shout out to the folks who gave it to me.

Back in 2010, fresh from GaryCon II, I was searching for ways to think differently about damage - I wanted a setting with little-to-no clerical healing and I wasn't sure how to pull that off. In stepped Aos of Metal Earth. This sent me down the path of seeing "Hit" Points as everything but significant physical damage. That path, it turns out, led back through an older Trollsmyth blog post (2008) to a post by one Robert Fisher (which might be even earlier - there's no date on that post). It might lead even further back, but that's as far as I investigated.

So those are my sources. On to the explanation...

There are a few fundamental pieces to the puzzle:

  • "Hit" Points represent Stamina, Skill, and Luck.
  • "Damage" from attacks reduces "hit" points as normal.
  • When an attack reduces a character's "hit" points to 0, and for every successful attack while the character's "hit" points are at 0, the player makes a saving throw. If the saving throw is unsuccessful, the character rolls on the Death & Dismemberment table.
  • Because "hit" points do not represent physical damage they are replenished very quickly after combat - roll the hit die type for the class of the character each turn after combat.
  • Miraculous Healing, if it takes place, addresses injuries received on the Death & Dismemberment table.
The Death & Dismemberment table:

This was under development, hence the percentages and such. It is also missing the long term effects of letting some of the wounds heal naturally.

In my eyes, the benefits are:
  • Avoidance of confusion with respect to the link between "hit" points and physical damage.
  • Healing is more miraculous.
  • Interesting lasting effects (we had characters with limps who moved more slowly, one blind in one eye, etc.)
  • Deadly.
  • Clerics, if even used, are not simply medics.
While the drawbacks might be:
  • Complexity.
  • Deadly.
  • Reduces Role of Cleric.
What I'm not sure about it if this addresses Harley's original query. I think from the perspective of regaining "hit" points it does because after a battle you regain them so quickly. However, you are faced with the same issue only someone gets a wound and an attempt to miraculously repair it fails...I think...

As I'm writing this and reviewing things I did almost 5 years ago, I'm already thinking of clarifications, additions, changes, etc. For example, this table doesn't clarify how long the effects of the injury last. I think I assumed it was until healed. Also, I'd adjust the fourth column - the effects of multiples - to have more of a pattern. For example, 2 Fatal Wounds moves to Instant Death; 3 Major Wounds moves to a Fatal Wound, and so on up the line. I'd change from Fatal Wounds to Mortal Wounds.

Finally, you might have noticed Deadly shows up on both the pro and con lists. This is because for some folks it might be too deadly, others not deadly enough. When we started using this approach, we used 2d6 and a result of 12 was Instant Death. It ended up at 3d6 after some discussion about how deadly we wanted the campaign to be.. But even while remembering this, I thought about how the dice chain might be applied and how you could use that to shift the deadliness within the campaign. For example, some folks might feel that it's more devastating to lose a high level character - after all, a lot of time has gone into getting that character to achieve a high level, especially in a game like DCC. So perhaps the dice used could change and/or allow different tables for classes and levels making Mortal Wounds/Instant Death less likely.

Either way...there it is...lifted from a bunch of sources and it is to this day a work in progress...