DunDraCon 2013

Is it worth going to this con?

For a couple of years not long ago, I was disliking it, but it has been okay/decent in the past few.  The question is not because I dislike the con or think it’s a waste of money.  It’s that I really enjoyed going down to Los Angeles for V:TES last Labor Day Weekend, and, of course, NoCal and SoCal schedule conventions on the same three-day weekends.

I’m still not sure.  Obviously, I would only consider going to LA if others are going, which didn’t used to be a thing.  Does seem like that’s going to be a thing going forward, though.

Anyway, DDC 2013.

Pre-regged for a Friday night game, three Saturday morning games, Sunday night game.  Had 8 hours of running Rio Grande boardgames Sunday, so anything earlier than 6PM wasn’t possible.

Get to con after the new kickoff time for the con – 12PM.  I’m really disliking the move to start gaming at these cons earlier and earlier.  Friday is not a holiday.  May wonder why it matters to me when it’s just bonus gaming for people who have the time.

It means hotel rooms and accessories for hotel rooms are gobbled up faster.  We got a double room, so that was fine.  All of the refrigerators were gone, though.  Obviously, they are all going to be used up if people arrive later, but there’s an increasing lack of fairness to people who can’t take time off.  Then, parking lots spaces go faster.  And, there may be an effect on further depressing Monday gaming, which was already depressed.  I realize people are just doing what they prefer, people aren’t all that fond of Monday gaming anyway, but it’s just further separating those who can make the con longer from those who can’t.

I did run by Costco on the way up because gas was important.  I tried to find something I wanted to drink for the con but only found something where a frig would have been useful.

Got into the room and had nothing to do until I found out whether I got into the Friday night game.  Went to a new restaurant in a walkable strip mall.  Did not think my lasagna was remotely worth the price, but I’d go back and try something else if others wanted to go.  Yes, at some point, will get to gaming.

Got into my Friday night game – Santa Muerte: All That Glitters.  It was a Sixth Edition Champions game run by the CEO of Hero Games.  The premise was that we were all Texans who played football together in high school, doing an annual dirt bike trip along the Mexican border.  We run across a failed attempt to get gold coins over the border, leading to being chased by a drug cartel into a city that borders dimensions ruled by narco saints – unofficial Catholic saints.  We stumble around a bit until the authorities let us know that the drug cartel dudes are running around the city causing problems.  So, we pray to Santa Muerte to gain superpowers and face off against the superpowered drug runners.

The premise?  Good.  The research/detail/lesson in Mexican religion?  I love this sort of thing.  The concept of gaining superpowers in the middle of the game?  Cool.  The way you gain superpowers in this game?  Cool for some, problematic in my case.

And, that’s the thing – this game was full of problems.  The biggest problem was that the GM kept getting distracted and sidetracked into telling us things that might be interesting but didn’t have to do with playing.  That was exacerbated by one of the players actually having real world experience worshiping Santa Muerte!!  So, the GM would ask him if he wanted to add anything, but the player had a hard time articulating anything helpful, so it only wasted time.

That wasted time meant we didn’t gain superpowers until 1AM.  The game started at 8PM.  The game ended about on time at 2AM.  I’m not hugely bothered by a superhero game in which I basically don’t have superpowers, but that is not ideal and could be bothersome to people looking to play a superhero in a game labeled as a superhero game.

The game ended without a climax.  Enough people were tired or had 8AM games that we didn’t play out the battle with the drug dudes.  So, not only did I have superpowers for all of an hour of real time, it didn’t matter that I had them as the only time they got used was to provide a force wall screen for a bartender, who never took an action to run away from the fight.

In fact, I only rolled dice three times during the game.  Twice I rolled attacks in a fight that ended as soon as we took out one of ten guys (so, it wasn’t a real fight).  Once, I rolled damage and dealt zero because we were effectively fighting zombies and I was using a fist (3.5d6 normal damage not good for generating more than 4 Body Pips).

Not rolling dice could be fine.  It wasn’t.  Two reasons:  one, this is Champions/Hero System, not a storytelly/narrativisty game; two, nothing on my character sheet ended up mattering.  My character was a Texas Congressman.  His seeming role was that of party face.  In fact, his nickname was “Faceman”.  I had social skills.  I had a higher than average Presence.  I never rolled a social skill nor did my attempt to do a Presence Attack involve actually using dice – the random NPC just did what I wanted anyway.

Speaking of things on the character sheet not mattering, we spent a lot of time deciding what mundane equipment we had on our dirt bike trip.  This is precisely the sort of minutia that doesn’t remotely interest me.  We spent half an hour or so worrying about stuff like having a lighter or what sort of gun a Texan would reasonably have on a dirt bike trip.  And, it didn’t matter.  Oh, someone could argue that when we made sacrifices to Santa Muerte for our powers, what we had mattered, but it didn’t.  I was writing stuff down like Chapstick, aloe vera for sunburn, and other absurdly unimportant stuff.  We didn’t use guns, even though most of the PCs had them.

Did you catch the part about my being a Texas Congressman and making sacrifices to Santa Muerte?

This was another problem.  While asking Santa Muerte for powers is interesting, for some of our concepts it made no sense.  My character wasn’t even Catholic, nevermind the lack of clarity on why an American Catholic would be praying to a narco saint for help.  I justified everything I did by never believing any of it was real, that it was all drug-induced or that I was dreaming.  Still, if I thought the adventure could proceed without going through a ritual of praying to Santa Muerte, I would have had my non-Catholic Republican not bother.

Well, bottom line is points for effort, points for being an interesting theme to me, lots of lost points for having severe flaws with actually doing things that mattered or made sense.

Did not get into any Saturday games.  Not first choice, second, or third.  That was bummerrific, given how uninspiring my Friday night game was, given that it was the only slot with multiple games I was interested in, and given that my first choice was the game at the con I had the most interest in – Feng Shui, played as triad members.

On the other hand, I could sleep in, which I did.  Didn’t get moving Saturday until 10:30AM.  Had nothing to do.  Kept looking through the program for something to do and finally noticed an undead gunslingers game Saturday evening.  Used my priority slip for that.  Got into it.

Boneslingers is a game that the GM has been developing.  It’s essentially zombie gunslingers, though the game has evolved away from zombies and more towards revenants.  Not being a fan of zombies but being good with other forms of dead/undead, I like that.

We all had our Burdens – reasons we didn’t just die when we got killed but turned into undead.  There were seven players.  I mention this for two reasons.  One, every character had its own thing going on, so having a lot of subplots is not ideal.  Two, the GM handled the number of players well.

The GM did a very interesting thing with character assignment.  Rather than the usual “Who got here first?” or “Who wants to play what?”, he provided each of us with a scene and asked us what we were doing in that scene.  In my case, a guy was having his leg amputated in a bonesaw’s office.  What was I doing?

Interrogating the screaming patient, of course.  I needed information on who he met – height, weight, hair color, demeanor.

I ended up with Tagg Morgan, a Civil War vet who was obsessed with hunting down Ben Maverick, who beat to death my best friend and left my friend’s wife a widow.

The system is very storytellery.  Few rules.  Normal folks die from a point of damage.  Boneslingers start with 22d6 to spread over six attributes.  Every point of damage permanently takes away a die.  It’s not a game for long term campaign play.  As I was thinking about how you would do a campaign, I got to thinking about Highlander.  I can see similar issues with characters permanently going away, with characters being special, with fights being rather final.  And, flashbacks are perfect for Boneslingers, just as they are for Highlander.

Anyway, one of the PCs is running cattle to California when the rest of us run across him and the rustlers trying to steal his cattle.  We all get together for drinks, even if we can barely enjoy drinking in our undead states, after dealing with them.  A stagecoach comes into town with three dead men.  Apparently, a gold shipment has been stolen.  We track back to a ranch.  We get into a firefight with some women who stole the gold, killing them all.  US Marshals show up and we run when one of them IDs one of our group as Jim Garret, the meanest, most badass Boneslinger in the West.  We get blamed for stealing the gold and murdering innocent womenfolk.  While planning our next move, we get met by a group of mercenaries working for the owner of the mine who offer the mine owner’s help for clearing our names if we help take the mine back from the miners, who revolted and seized the mine.

Before we can figure that out, one of our party turns out to actually be Jim Garret, so we have something of a confrontation.  But, we all ride off to the mine and decide to put subplots off for a while.  To this point, I’m unclear on my motivation.  I only care about tracking Ben Maverick.  I’m unclear on the ramifications of getting blamed for stealing the gold and I don’t care about other people’s subplots.

On the way to the mine, we run across a skinned Boneslinger crawling through the salt flats.  Being undead isn’t all peaches and cream.  Turns out to be Ben Maverick, who got skinned by one of the mercs.  He die dies and haunts me and now I no longer believe he offed my friend.  So, now, I gots to go around and ask everyone not only about Ben but about my friend to see if I can figure out who really did it.  None of my asking leads anywhere.

What does lead us somewhere is getting to the mine village, talking to the villagers, and going up to the mine to talk to the miners.  Turns out the miners are dying left and right from pulverizing quartz crystal while extracting gold (all historically true, including the town of Delamar).  Eight hundred women are widows due to the mining losses.  Jebediah Mason, the mine owner shows up right about the time we are hankering to talk to him, and we barely stop a village woman from shooting him.  He is just as much of a patsy as the rest of us, turns out the mercs are playing everyone to gain control of the mine.

So, we set up shop and wait for 40 gunmen to ride into town so that we can murder them in self defense.  Which we do, including one Boneslinger shooting the dynamite she’s sitting on to take out the guy who skinned Ben.

Jim Garret embraces his Jim Garretness and kills many before walking off.  Two others join him, though they kind of branch off.  One Boneslinger satisfies his Burden and passes on to the next life.  The rest of us carry on.

Good game.  I liked the GM’s style and he controlled things well.  Unlike the Friday game, in this game we didn’t sweat what sort of mundane stuff we carried or other trivial concerns.  I talked to the GM for half an hour or after the game to provide feedback on mechanics and the session.  I think I articulated poorly.  Got too bogged down in things that didn’t really bother me.  I couldn’t nail down where I think the mechanics could be changed for the better, but, then, the mechanics weren’t all that important, anyway.

The system is like a lot of storytellery systems in that it probably has huge problems if you really care about mechanics, but, at the same time, the sort of people who play these games don’t care about the mechanics that much.  For instance, the system uses descriptors for your strength (Ace) and your weakness (Deuce).  I’m tired of descriptor games but not for one-shots.  I just don’t see them working for campaign play, even for me.  But, that’s fine.  Convention games are worth playing, and this is just fine for that, just as Dogs in the Vineyard and the like always worked well for me in convention play.

Sunday morning, got up early and got boardgames out of the car for my two, four-hour blocks of Rio Grande games.  Lot of parking spaces at 8AM, which surprised me, guess more people commute to the con than I think.

My big mistake was not realizing that I could have run multiple games at the same time.  I didn’t think about how scalable on the low side the games I was running were.  All of them could go down to two players, only one could go up to five.

I started my table off with Assyria.  It went well.  I think it’s the best of the four games I brought/learned.  Then, the players played Pantheon, which didn’t seem as good, though one of the players liked both.  While that was going on, I played a two-player of Fürstenfeld with a fifth player.  After Pantheon ended, one of the players left, we took a break, and we played a five-player of Fürstenfeld.

My boardgame group liked Fürstenfeld far more than I expected.  I think it’s a comfortable, easy game, maybe requiring a bit of thinking of the sort that doesn’t interest me a whole lot when you play the advanced game.  I kept dissuading people from Albion as my boardgame group didn’t like it, and I really think it is too limited.

Next time I run boardgames, I’ll look to have more players.  That will also cut my number of hours down, as eight hours of teaching boardgames was exhausting, especially with no real food.

In my interest in having a relaxing meal of real food and not protein bars and nut clusters, I was happy not to get into the Sunday night game I signed up for.  Brad and I hit the Hopyard, a normal thing for us as Brad likes it a lot.  They overcook their burgers, their sodas don’t have enough syrup, and I don’t drink beer, but it’s okay.  It was a pleasant wind down as I didn’t have any Monday plans that I needed to get up for.

Monday, didn’t do much until we checked out of the hotel.  Did get a four-player V:TES game in to end the con.  Decent game, though I was lending out two of my decks – lending decks out is becoming less interesting to me.

What’s the grade?

I only did two things of significance outside my running stuff.  I try to aim to do three.  That one of them wasn’t good didn’t bother me a whole lot but obviously doesn’t rate well.  Everything was just sort of middling, with my two RPGs averaging out.  Nongaming stuff went fine.

My first thought when leaving the con was B- or C+.  Since B- seems high and C+ seems low, B-/C+ … or about as unremarkable as you can be sounds just about right.

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2 Responses to DunDraCon 2013

  1. Brad Nozik says:

    My take on DDC. Really good attendance this year. Hotel full, we didn’t get our microwave nor our ‘fridge. I got there (with Kevin) at 2:30 and there were only 5 spots in the whole lot left to park in. This year they opened a satellite lot (with a shuttle) and also provided shuttles to other hotels to get people in. Also, the weather was beautiful. I applied for 9 games (1 got cancelled) and got into 2. Friday I failed to get into any games. Ian & I walked .8 miles to Firehouse 37 for Happy Hour. Good local beer and great burger!!! Eric and Tom joined us and more booze flowed. Back at the hotel bar, we followed up with some more libations. This made playing Space Cadet quite enjoyable. Not a game I’d be interested in if I was stone-cold sober, but fun with a buzz. We all died when our ship blew up.

    Saturday played in a Space-Cthulhu type game. As I was the first to show, I got to pick my character; Captain, of course. It was fairly enjoyable, I do like being the leader. However, it suffered from having one of the players being ‘in-the-know’ and having previous playing experience with this GM and having the relics and spells needed to thwart our foes. Moved to a Traveller (with strong Cthulhu element) game for the evening. We had no captain, so I took my 2nd choice, made my character the Ground Control Officer. Unfortunetly, we didn’t go to the ground. Despite the mission being to explore an asteroid. The best part of the game was when the party split. We found a derelict ship and space station. It was clear that to go onboard to explore was madness. The end result was that the boarding team, got trapped and infected. We cut them loose. Which pissed off one of the players on the boarding team immensely. The others were philosophical about it, implying they’d have done the same if roles were reversed. The GM even made out of game comments that they were doomed. However, he relented (I think) later. The end result was that a giant alien ship attacked our small craft, we go lucky and took a minor hit. But we all realized we couldnt fight it, so we ‘jumped’ out and fled. The GM tried to dissuade us, be he agreed, that in ‘reality’ we should flee. All ended well. We returned home heroes, and the crew that remained ‘managed’ to destroy the alien ship. We finished almost 2 hours early so we then played a mini-scenario. This involved actualy landing on an asteroid. Now was my characters’s time to shine. I got in to GCO mode and ran the show. It was a quick, fun game. Actually a better con game than either of the other games I played. lots of action and danger. Good fun!!!

    My Sunday game was canceled. So I played Somali Pirates. A hard-core war game with Kevin. Probably the only true wargame played at DDC. I managed a win, as the US coalition over the pirates/al-Queda coalition when al-Queada launced a “spectacular terrorist attack’ against my oil engineers protected by Blackwater. The attack was botched and that eliminated virtualy all AQ assets in Somali. Good game. Good simulation of the asymetrical aspect of modern war. Massive US firepower and mobility vs. sneaky terrorist unconventional war and the manipulation of public opinion.

    Ian and I went to Hopyard, another favorite, for happy hour. Good chicken salad and beer.

    Got a late checkout on Monday. First day I had to do a solid workout at the hotel gym. Played VTES. Haven’t played in 5 months and it was great to play again.

    Hotel was fine, but, we were put on top floor. That would be fine, as it was the Silver Elite floor (which I’m a member of). However, the concierge lounge was closed for the (Holiday) weekend. So we were able to enjoy and loot it only on Friday and Monday.

    This was a very relaxing con. I felt refreshed after. Since I had to go back to work Tuesday, I paced myself, getting enough sleep, food and excercise.

    All in all, a fine convention. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be back next year. I think I will GM a RPG, as it appears that there aren’t enough games.

    • Brad Nozik says:

      Oh yeah, room was really noisy at night. Some sort of turbine came one. Bring ear-plugs. Staff at the bar were kind of indifferent too. My grade for the Convention was B+.

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