The big weekend days of TactiCon were so big and busy that it took me until Monday to be able to write about them! Thank goodness for the Labor Day holiday.
Here’s the “Too Long, Didn’t Read” summary:
- Both of the games I ran on Saturday went great – the projector was a big hit.
- I played in a very cool custom adventure Saturday night with a novice DM – another good experience.
- I played in one game on Sunday, which was marred by the most annoying player in the world.
- I got great reviews from my players and walked away with a free D&D book for my time.
- I’m looking forward to running and playing more games at the next convention in February.
Saturday: Running the first game
Saturday was the day that I was signed up to actually run two games, though I had run an impromptu one the previous night when the need arose. I got to the venue right at the scheduled 9:00 AM start time, which meant that I was later than a DM should be. I arrived at the room where I would be running the game, and my players were already there. I felt a little bit bad for running late, but no one seemed to mind.
The morning session was a repeat of the game I had already run the previous evening at TactiCon and earlier in the week at my friendly local game store: CORM 1-1 The Black Knight of Arabel. My party of six players was actually a little underpowered compared to most of the parties I’ve played Living Forgotten Realms with, and it was kind of refreshing! There was one brand-new D&D player (I love that so much!) and several characters that weren’t optimized to the hilt. It was still a balanced party, though, so there wasn’t a problem.
This party was the first one I’ve seen that decided to go into Arabel after the initial shadow attack, rather than going after the dark rider on a distant hill. This meant that I got to run the in-town skill challenge for once, and I had fun with it. The party took on the optional combat challenge in the brewer’s basement to recover the broken obelisk – a better battle than I was expecting. The final battle was run pretty much as scripted – I didn’t ramp up the difficulty at all, and it was still a good challenge for the party. They, like the last party to go through that encounter, played “Grab the Baby from the Evil Cultist”, with the party bard eventually putting the baby in a balcony to keep it out of harm’s way. Interestingly, this party never met the titular Black Knight of Arabel and finished the whole adventure having learned nothing about him. Weird, but it worked out okay.
I had an hour between games, so I dashed to the hotel restaurant to get a burger to go. The service was slow, and I was a little bit nervous leaving my laptop and projector set up in the hotel room with no one around, but when I got back everything was just as I had left it.
Saturday: Running the second game
My afternoon game was with a more experienced party, and we were playing the adventure that I was less sure about from a fun perspective: TYMA 2-1 Old Enemies Arise. The first battle is the hardest one of the adventure, and I basically told the party as much during the battle so that they wouldn’t be too afraid to use daily powers as needed. This party lacked a true defender, so the warlord played that role and found himself the target of a savage beating, ending the battle with only two healing surges remaining. The group decided to take an extended rest in town, and since that made sense within the story I decided to allow it.
I ignored most of the scripted skill challenge because it just didn’t make any sense. The party is supposed to talk to two different farmers outside of the skill challenge to get information about the kobold attacks. Then they’re supposed to go BACK to town to start the skill challenge of gathering clues about where the attack is coming from, even though they already know at this point. And this is supposed to require four successful checks. Stupid.
So, once they knew that the attacks were coming from the west, I moved into a simpler tracking challenge, followed by some checks to narrow down which cave the kobolds were in.
The first cave combat is one that I ran for my online group a week before, and it was only so-so that first time. I changed it.
- As written, there are five trapped squares, and whenever any square is triggered, spears pop up from all five squares. This is boring – once the trap has gone off once, the players will just walk around all of the trapped squares, making the trap mostly irrelevant.
- I upped the number of trapped squares to ten.
- I also made it so that each square triggers independently, leading to an awesome minefield experience as the PCs tiptoe across the cave.
- Finally, I gave the trap savant something to do – his crossbow bolt now pushes the target one square on a hit.
This encounter ended up being a lot of fun. One character charges in and is hit by a trap. The rest of the players tiptoe carefully, hoping to avoid the traps. The decoys jeer at the players, trying to pull them onto traps and to hit them with their swords. The savant shoots bolts from afar, trying to push players onto traps. The final encounter after that one wasn’t super-interesting, in part because the dailies all came out, but everyone seemed to have a good time overall.
Saturday evening: Playing in the special event
In the evening, the LFR game was a special one written for the Con called In the Blink of an Eye. All of the tables of all levels were playing in the same setting, but in different parts of it. Our group scouted for a way to sneak into a castle and ended up going in the royal family’s emergency escape tunnel. We were attacked by iron snakes that came out of the walls, retreated when bloodied, and reappeared later. It made for a surprisingly cool fight.
We then dealt with a trapped corridor using skills, at which point we were at the stopping point for the adventure with time to spare. The DM decided to make climbing some stairs into an athletics check, at which my heavily-armored paladin failed again and again, taking a little damage each time before finally succeeding. He is now known as Rohgar Stairslayer.
It was fun to play at the table of a new DM. She knew the rules well enough but was lacking a little in confidence. I could see a lot of myself from a few months ago in her – a very interesting process.
After the stopping point, a 16th level rogue from another table was sent to join our party (I’m still not sure why) and we fought a hydra. It was a 6th level solo, but with unloading of dailies we finished it in two rounds (without the high-level rogue having to do anything significant). I’ve heard complaints about solos, and I understand them now.
On Sunday I decided to sleep in, so I only made it in time for one LFR game. The DM was one I had played under before at Enchanted Grounds, and he had lots of 3D props for the table (trees, bushes, rocks, etc.) which were pretty cool. I liked the module, too – AGLA 1-1 Lost Temple of the Fey Gods. The experience, however, was heavily marred by the presence of one player who was totally mechanics-focused and asked endless questions trying to push the envelope (Can I hide here? Can I see around this corner? Will I get anything useful if I use Arcana now? Could we put away our torch, blinding the rest of the party, so I can use low-light vision?). He was horribly irritating to play with, and I pitied the DM for having to deal with him. Had I been running the game, I think I would have paused the game, pulled him aside, and explained that he needed to just play rather than trying to squeeze every non-existent advantage out of the game and sucking the fun out of the table. If he couldn’t do that, I would have removed him from the game.
At the end of the convention, there was a little ceremony to thank the DMs. Everyone was given a choice of various RPG products (I picked up the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide – I figure I should probably take a look at it) and was recognized for their work. There’s another somewhat bigger convention in February, Genghis Con, which I’m now looking forward to!
Overall, I had a great time at TactiCon.
- I did get minis for Rohgar and Kern (though nothing for Zaaria) as well as a couple of miscellaneous minis for players to use at my table.
- I ran three games and got fantastic evaluations – seventeen perfect scores and one score of 9 out of 10. I’ll take that!
- The projector setup worked beautifully and the players loved it.
- I played a bunch of LFR and got Rohgar to level 4 – woo hoo, I can play in H2 adventures now!
- I discovered a cool board game, Fresco, which I think I might pick up for myself.
I did not get to play any non-LFR RPGs, but I think I’ll remedy that at Genghis Con in February by just signing up for a slot in advance and diving in, most likely into Savage Worlds. I’d also like to run a few more sessions if possible – maybe 4 or 5 next time. It should be awesome!