Monday, August 15, 2016

Gen Con 2016 Post Show Part 3

Bring on Saturday!

In which purchases are made and roleplaying redemption is found...

Saturday, the penultimate day of the convention, was upon us.  Like the previous day,  I was up and moving by 6:30 AM.  Alex was passed out, having made it back to the room around 3 AM, after having had a successful night of gaming with strangers.  I had fallen asleep mid-sentence, in conversation with Jason, around 1 AM or so.

Morning Three found me on Georgia St. with a fresh cup of black coffee from...well, by now they should be paying me for the endorsement...I took up a seat at the outdoor Cafe area that would soon hold host to dozens of food trucks.  With cool morning air and a slight, refreshing breeze, I broke out my sketch book and doodled for a while whilst enjoying my morning brew.

But my thoughts were heavy.  

The last day's adventures had proven less than satisfying. What could I hope to find today, that would alleviate the mental stain that was forming on this Gen Con?

Well, first, I would buy some stuff.  I grabbed up a copy of Isle of Skye, the Kennerspiel de Jahres award winner for 2016.  I got a promo piece with the purchase and a free bag.  Then I headed over to the Haba booth and found a couple of games, Evening in the Stable and Here, Fishy, Fishy for my son. Also, bigger free bag with purchase.  I contemplated the dexterity game Ice Cool, but the price was too high.   Somewhere along the way, the hardcover rulebook for Mutant: Year Zero also found it's way into my possession.  Alex and I had been trying to demo games with little luck, but Saturday brought us Blood Rage and J'Accuse.  Blood Rage was clearly the better of those two.  Alex was tempted to try Upper Deck's series of Legendary games, again, his first experience with them being very poor.  But, again, unless you had signed up in advance, you were not given the option to play. Even with generic tickets.  We quickly vacated they're oversized, worthless booth (and yes, I am editorializing.  It was an enormous booth, probably very costly.)

I bow down to our Wooly Overlords
As the afternoon approached, Alex went off to compete in some King of Tokyo and One Night Ultimate tournaments and Jason and I made our way to Goodman Games gaming area in the Hyatt to get in on a Round Robin tournament of our own. Dungeon Crawl Classics single elimination...only, this turned out to be a beta for a skirmish style game they are developing and Oh Hey, can we move you around in line for apparently no reason other than we have friends who would like to play before one chance to use a generic ticket and I grabbed it back from the guy and went to look for something else to do.  Luckily, said guy had just the thing.  So now I forgive him.

Raptors in planes, you say?  Count me in!

"We have another game, if you wanna join that one, instead.  The GM is losing his voice, so he's playing at a bar in the lobby.  But it's really cool!"

Yeah, great.  Well, I only have an hour to kill before my real game for the day, so...what the hell.  Jason and I are led over to a bar at which three gentlemen are already seated and a very hoarse GM is extolling the virtues of a future dystopia that sounds an awful lot like the Running Man.

Prepare to enter the X-Crawl.

I hop up on a barstool, introduce myself and tell the GM that I only have an hour or so to play before I have to head over to my next event.  He's totally cool with it, promises to kill me off within the hour.

The premise is a simple one, as old as time.  Corporations have taken over, humanity has fallen back into a blood thirsty ravening mass of consumerism and voyeurism.  So, basically a modern setting. Great, big, televised arenas have been erected for the blood sport of X-Crawl, a neo-classical dungeon crawl setting with some modern advances.  Our heroes, a team originating from some town (that totally eludes me at the moment) in New Hampshire (a decision based solely on it being one of the other player's hometown) we are a set of celebrity gladiators looking to cash in on a big corporate contract by making it through this particular urban dungeon.  We were all asked to come up with wrestling names and actors who would portray our character in the big budget X-Crawl movie.  Accompanied by X-Crawlers named things like "The Bruise", "The Tin Man", Johnny Kutz and "The Wacky Weasel", my character, described by his race as a Dwarf (which doubled as his class), would earn from me the moniker of "Sweetfists" Jackson as played by this man, Tom Lister Jr. aka Zeus.  But smaller, stockier.  Like a musclebound boulder of pure rage. And hand axes.

Take that in for a moment.  Just savor it.

We exit the stadium where introductions are held and make our way to the designated arena.  The parking lot we have to cross contains a handful of new, shiny vehicles of various description, all wrapped in big red bows. Before we make it ten feet out of the stadium, a force wall shuts us all in and the announcer bellows that she is already bored and that the death should start happening immediately.  From across the parking lot, a rampaging mammoth enters the improvised arena and proceeds to trample the first vehicle it comes across. Mounted on it's back is some kind of cannon and two neanderthals, one wielding a bow, the other casting spells.  We immediately scatter, looking for cover and access to the vehicles.  Well, most of us scatter.  "Sweetfists" has a bit of a deathwish and while everyone is cowering behind cover, he charges, albeit slowly because of his stunted dwarven legs, towards the mammoth.  That's when the raptors in the balsa wood prop planes descended on the arena, and all hell broke loose.  It was at this point, and with some trepidation, that I had to go.  As luck would have it, Alex showed up and took my place (and from what I hear, "Sweetfists" to victory over the mammoth...).  Bowing out, I headed over to the game I was really there to play...Shadow of the Demon Lord.

Quick note, I would find out later that the GM for X-Crawl was indeed Brendan Lasalle himself, creator of said game and long time contributor to Goodman Games.  Just a fun little fact.

A Game too dark, even for me....

This was it.  My big game for the rest of the con.  It could redeem my experience or damn it further.  I sat down at the table, the first of my group to arrive.  The GM explained to me that the producer of the game dislikes Gen Con for some unknown reason and so had no representation at the Con, this being the sole game being played.  I found this baffling and it worried me, as this was someone's homebrew adventure and depending on the GM, could or could not be worthwhile and sufficient for the four hours.  By this point all of the others had arrived and we had ourselves a full table of five players.

And it was worth every second.

Though way too dark in parts even for my tastes.

The world is on the brink.  Demonic forces threaten to spill over and corrupt and destroy humanity (and it's fellow insert fantasy racial trope here).  The world is a dark, dark place and finding the light is the main focus for players.  Enter our group of pregenerated heroes, The Inquisition.  If there's heresy to be found, we'll root it out and smite it.  And if there isn't...well, that's not actually possible, you're all sinners and must be dealt with as such.  The system is reminiscent of Warhammer Fantasy and is quick and brutal.  The initiative system does away with dice rolling and stat based modifiers. You either go Fast or Slow.  If you go fast, you go first and if you go slow you go before bad guys that might go slow.  The bonus is that you can do more if you go slow.  I thought this concept was brilliant and it distilled the idea of initiative into one decision that everyone makes all at once and handles it intuitively and beautifully.

The game was immensely fun, with us hunting down witches and demon spawn and fighting a gladitorial battle against beast men in some darkened ruins in the middle of a forest at midnight while trying to save a little girl and her mother and I had a rifle and absolutely murdered the hell out of 20 some beastmen when I caused a wall to collapse and oh, there was an elf who wielded bone weaponry with the side effect of that if it killed you, your soul went straight to the Demon Lord awaiting you in Hell was so much fun.  All of the players were into the game, all played their parts, from the pious and self righteous High Inquisitor to the overeager Brother who liked to extract information from his, to the thief paying off his last two weeks of his penance (of a six year sentence) by serving the Inquisition, to the reveal of the possessed fire spewing baby, to the peg legged and portly lady mayor.  It was loads of fun and a very welcome sigh of relief for my RPG experience at the Con.  At the end, we all said thank you and went our separate ways, having purged the world of sin.

That last night saw Jon, Alex, Jason and I break out my recently purchased Isle of Skye, which three of us enjoyed and one of us did not.  We also blended some with Kittens in a Blender and decided whether or not the cat in the Box was alive or not or if there even was a cat in the box in the first place and just how many of any of those there were with Schrodinger's Cats.

Then we all called it a night.  I went to sleep with a smile on my face.  I went to sleep dreaming of the Inquisition.  

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