Last Saturday I attended Underground Con here in Calgary. It is a great little unpretentious gaming convention held at a neighbourhood community hall. I believe this is the second year that it has been held but I was unable to attend last year. I am glad to report I had a great time.
The morning started off with me joining Roger from Stirges Suck and Cam, Sandy, Zedd and Bruce to play in David Miller's great Cthulhu-Scooby Doo game that used the Jenga Tower-based Dread rules. The character questionnaires that started the game were answered by everyone in a mixture of camp, humour and imagination. I played the Freddie analogue named Buck Slade. The tower is used whenever a character takes a risk within the game or needs to do something beyond his or her normal abilities. A player makes a “pull” according to the rules of the tower game, and if the tower collapses something horrible happens to their character and is then out of the game. One hour into the game us players did indeed DREAD having to make a pull from the tower. I had a lot of fun.
During the second slot I played in a swashbuckling Tri-Stat game pitting Pirates vs. Ninjas. The game was fun but very linear. It turned out that the gentleman to my left at the table was John Montague. John is a game designer and illustrator. He was taking time out of demoing his game Villains. After the Pirates vs Ninjas game, I hovered and watched while John demoed his game for another group. The production quality was outstanding and while I didn't actually play it, the game play looked quite interesting. I will be keeping a keen eye out for the game.
During the final slot I ran Richard Graves' The Mad Demigod's Castle plus Joe Bloch's Castle of the Mad Archmage using the OD&D rules for a full table of players. The players were a great mix. Roger is familiar with old school D&D, of course, and CJ is a wily 1E AD&D vet. All of the other players did not have any experience with TSR versions of D&D but had played 3rd and 4th edition. I was excited to see them quickly jump into the appropriate mind set.
We started the 4 hour session with 10 minutes of character creation. I had a rough treasure map that led to a treasure on the 3rd level of the dungeon but was really just a plot device - I never expected them to make it that far. The adventure proper began with the characters hiring a couple of retainers and then set off for the ruined castle. After ad-libbing the exploration of some surface ruins, the characters delved into the dungeon. The players displayed the correct amount of paranoia but unfortunately also foolishly dove head-long into too many pointless combats. A handful of deaths and four hours later the adventure ended just short of midnight. Everyone seemed to have a good time and I really enjoyed it.
After a couple of years of DMing a linear adventure path, it was really refreshing to DM a more open scenario, even if for just a one shot. It did reinforce my desire to make the next campaign a sandbox. Hopefully my group agrees.