I played in two of Rich McKee's incredible Stonehell games, both Saturday and Sunday. These were great old-school dungeon crawls, and a group of third-level adventurers managed to survive a small war against the local goblin tribe with zero deaths (besides the near complete loss of our small group of henchmen), and through some careful (read: a show of pure force) politicking, our party's Fighter became the tentative Goblin King.
The second session was a little more focused on room-clearing and treasure-nabbing than political maneuvers, but was still a blast. Two players joined in at the last minute and had to leave early, but we still managed to make it steal from a dragon, make it down to the third floor of Stonehell, and encounter some Thouls (so old-school!) and fight a pair of weightlifting ogres. This angered the rest of the ogre presence on the third level, so we beat a hasty retreat and just made it out of the dungeon alive.
Eric Hoffman's Eaters of the Dead/The 13th Warrior adaptation was our 1:00 PM game Saturday, and as it turns out, I absolutely do not have the head for miniatures wargaming. The game was focused on recreating the three major battles from The 13th Warrior, and was a great look at the combat systems found in Chainmail and OD&D, but was relatively slow-paced compared to what I'm used to, and the loss of most of my units early-on meant I had to do a lot of sitting and waiting during most of the combat.
Despite this, it was a lot of fun to see old-school wargames in action and to hang out with some truly devoted guys. Eric's games are always an absolute joy to play.
|My one viking held the line through two battles, and then he fell down a pit.|
Our last game Saturday night was a 5e D&D Greyhawk Reborn trainwreck.
Now, I don't like telling people how to play their games. There's something for everyone out there and you can enjoy what you want if that's your thing. That's cool. But this was so absolutely joyless and bland that I can't help but tear into it.
The game was a straightforward "You're all drawn to this town on separate errands that just might all be tied together by some kind of central plot element!"
This is fine. It's almost as standard as "You all meet in a tavern" but sometimes it just works. However, my read-aloud motivation from the DM absolutely blasted me with more information than I could handle. Something about an heiress searching for a missing piece of property? I honestly can't remember, but it was way too much. Good on a DM who wants to have a lot of backstory, but that's not why I'm playing a game at a con.
Then, to find the damn macguffin I had to look around for information. I rolled up to the village tavern and threw some money around on drinks for the crowd, and schmoozed the villagers for information on the clearing in the forest I was looking for.
Then I had to roll a History check.
See, I like 5e a lot as a game. It's probably the most absolutely standard RPG in all of history, but it works and it's got a fair amount of depth for people who care about that. It's also pretty easy to teach to people. This was absurd, though. I shouldn't have to roll a History check to learn facts from people. Maybe a Persuasion check to coax information out of them, sure, but it's a goddamn role-playing game and I'm going to fucking roleplay. I don't want to just sit around and roll dice and cheer when they mean something good.
Good news is the DM was a good sport and was clearly passionate about the game he was running. He let me talk to monsters, and did a GREAT Kobold impression. He seems like a good guy doing his best to run games. I don't like his style but I can respect him a lot as a person.
Bad news was the entire game played out like my search for information. Some searching in the woods and talking our way through some kobolds found us in a linear puzzle dungeon that came down to a series of consequence-free dice checks.
Raiders of the Lost Ark-style spinning death blades! Roll a check to get through! The next trap room heals you!
You're shot with arrows! They just make you kind of wet!
Some more of this, some combat with some dopey mummies and a simple puzzle, and then a lame boss fight with a powered-down Lich-type dude. He dies, we're all winners! Now we fill out a math worksheet for the wack-ass Greyhawk Reborn persistent game world.
Now, there were good ideas here. I like talking to Kobolds and Goblins a whole lot. They're fun and it's nice to see a DM who can roleplay. Me and him also shared some laughs over me swashbuckling a floating sword Ray Harryhausen-style during the end fight. It was almost a great time, even with some lackluster adventure design, but it was really brought down by the other players. I'm not going to waste my time shitting on anyone here, but saying "of course I'm popular with the ladies" and then yelling across the room at some poor woman from your last game is not going to make me want to play games with you.
There was some DCC Sunday afternoon, as run by my friend Kyle, but that really deserves its own post.
All in all, a great TridentCon! There's some tenuousness about the status of the con next year, but hopefully we'll all be back in 2018.