Saturday, July 30, 2011

Gencon’s Past: The Milwaukee Years Part 3: Playing Events

Although this is not totally true for me anymore, the main focus of GenCon during the Milwaukee years was playing in events. Sure the exhibition all was great, but my pilgrimage to mecca was to game! The games I most played included: D&D, Call of Cthulhu, BattleTech, and Rifts. In the D&D category, most often it was Ravenloft or Dark Sun. As years when on, I played less D&D and wargames, and more Cthulhu and indie games each year. When I first started going to GenCon, admittedly I was less critical of the events I participated in. I was just happy to be gaming. But as I played more and more events, I was becoming increasing clear that there was dramatic difference between a good and bad events, as well as good GMs and bad GMs. Considering that events were at least a 4 hour commitment, getting into a bad event was a total buzz kill. In rare cases, I would sometimes leave the event early. I first did this very immaturely, saying I was going to the bathroom and just bailing. I’m a little ashamed of that, but what can I say, I was a punk I guess. Eventually I was just honest to the GM, and said it wasn’t working for me.

Over the years I got better at picking my events. D&D always had a high probability of sucking. D&D suffered from a number issues. Being the entry level RPG, the GMs weren’t always very experienced. Same can be said for the players, who could be very young and immature. D&D also seemed to attract rules lawyers. Nothing saps the enjoyment of a good game then listening to players argue about game mechanics and various house rules.

Call of Cthulhu was the exact opposite. The GMs were often experienced and well prepared. The players were mature and eager to have a good time. All my most enjoyable events were Call of Cthulhu games.

Early on I also tried out various miniature games, mostly battletech and star fleet battles. A few events I enjoyed, but more often then not the battles were very slow paced and my opponent took the game far to serious.

A few events stood out from my Milwaukee Years.

Trolls R Us (D&D)
I’m sorry to pick on the GM who ran this event, but this is one is infamous in my gaming group. On one had it was impressive in that the GM created homemade terrain for miniature battles, but sadly, he ran the entire event like one giant combat, even when there were no monsters to fight! Each player had to go in turn order and meticulously move their miniature around the miniature map. Want to search a room? You need to wait until you can move your character to said room at 30 feet (6 inches) per turn. No where did this get more ridicules then when we were done with an area, the GM made us take turns moving our miniatures OFF THE MAP! For some reason, we endured the entire event, but it was the one that broke the camels back. After Trolls R Us, we were never afraid to quit an event we felt was just too bad to suffer.

Escape From Dunwich
A homemade variant of Arkham Horror. Actually an expansion since the game included the original board plus the homemade Dunwich board. Very fun and clever. I saved the world and killed all the other players in the process. Win all around.

Plato Wars
Event consisted of us making Plato monsters, When completed, the game master assigned stats and abilities for each of our creations. Then? Battled of course. Things when poorly for my Plato creature.

Godzilla
Awesome large scale war game where we all played a monster from Godzilla. I was Mechagodzilla! It was fun and faced pasted for a war game. The GM created a very cool playing area complete with destructible buildings. So fun, but I sadly didn’t win. Poor Mechagodzilla.

Star Wars Battle for Hoth
One year I played in a huge (25+ people) star ware miniature battle, reenacting the battle of Hoth. The game was slow but still enjoyable. The players had a lot of fun with it. Famed Star Wars author Timothy Zahn dropped by for awhile. I was a snowspeeder and was shot down by an AT AT. I was going for historical accuracy.

Alexander Incident (Star Trek RPG)
I’m not 100% sure this was the name of the event, but it was a Star Trek RPG game that the game master ran repeatedly for several years. He knew the adventure inside and out and ran it flawlessly. It was a near prefect Star Trek experience. The GM acted like the computer and the players, each taking typical roles on a star fleet ship, worked like a crew. The mystery was hard but solvable. It was very satisfying to save the day in the end.

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