Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Review: OwlCon 2010...

Good Evening, All:

In the midst of our first snowfall in over six years, I finally get to sit down and write up a brief report on my experience this last weekend at OwlCon. In short, I had a blast! While I got tired of eating the same food throughout the Con (there's really only the sandwich shop in the Student Center that serves anything I felt like eating), the non-stop gaming was fantastic.

I ran my first adventure for the Con on Friday night to a group of four gamers, including one that used to be in my Savage Worlds game before a new job took him from Austin to Houston. In Pavilion of the Dragon King, the goal was to escort a young prince to a magic throne within a hanging garden that had been warped by the blood of a fallen goddess. The party did pretty well in the warm-up combat against a slew of minions, Moss Men from the Fantasy Companion. Having conquered these plant-men mooks, the party made their way to the main gate of the overgrown garden, only to find a treant guarding the way. As one member of the party went to parlay with the tree-man, another climbed a nearby tree and decided to throw a lit torch at the guardian before I could even get to the riddle they were supposed to answer. Thus, the party had to deal with an irate creature much more powerful than they, and only the death of two of the party members provided an opportunity for the other half of the party to escape. It was touch and go for a little bit, but since the hour was late, I rounded out the story without too many additional complications, and the two survivors emerged victorious. Strangely twisted, yes, but victorious. The players had fun, though, and that's what counts.

Saturday, I got to play in three games. In the first game, I tried a system that I'd never picked up before, Hollow Earth Expedition. The setting the GM chose was based on the concepts behind Buckaroo Bonzai. Think New Wave music mixed with Doc Savage pulpy action, with a heavy dose of MTV videos and over-the-top action, and you have some idea of what we went through. I got to play a character based loosely on Billy Idol, and it was a blast. He had anger issues, and a not-so-secret love for the keyboardist in the rock band/secret agent cadre that was Arms Akimbo. We all had a great time, from our run-in with the "skyrates" (think Sky Pirates, and you'll get it) to the ninja assault during the news conference, from the secret labs of an evil corporate anti-aging super-spa (complete with brain-washing absolutely free) to the pyramid of an evil cult trying to summon a demon from the eighth dimension. It was a madcap, wild adventure, and I even won the roleplay award for that session (no doubt due to my really bad English accent and vivid portrayal of an angry British cricket player turned drummer). :)

The second game was a Deadlands Reloaded session, and it continued the trend of awesomeness. I played a Blessed preacher, and got to draw upon all those years growing up in a Southern Baptist church for inspiration. As before, I stayed in character throughout, this time with a thick Southern accent and perpetual condemnation of Satan. We resolved the roleplay award (and the prize that went with it) through random card draw instead of voting, and I lost, but I got several compliments saying that I made the game for several of the other players. That was some high praise, considering the talented roleplayers I was gaming with.

The third game that evening was a Necropolis session, which was awesome, but in a different way than the first two games I'd played in. This one had a very tactical "Vietnam War Meets Zombieland" vibe going for it, and didn't offer much in the way of character portrayal opportunities, but the game was fun and I could easily see the allure of the setting. I was starting to fall off the top of my game by this point, having little more than four hours of sleep and a full day of gaming, but it was still a blast. I even got to control some mooks on our side, which let me do some tactical stuff for the team, since half the players were new to the system and the setting. Again, we resolved the roleplay award through random card draw, and again I lost, but I still won in the "Having Fun" department.

Another night of short sleep got me through to Sunday morning, where I got to run my second adventure at the convention, The Cairn of the Blood God. I had one experienced Savage Worlds gamer (my friend that now lives in Houston), and three gamers new to the system, one of whom was a young girl probably around twelve years old. She was joined half-way through by her friend, and I was surprised with both of their ability to get into the game and keep up in terms of rules and such. The adventure centered around them exploring a small burial mound, looking for a large ruby called the Eye of the Blood God. They fought dungeon rats as a warm-up, and loved killing the beasts so that they could take my little miniatures (some rubber mice I picked up at Halloween) and tie their tales to their badges to make a necklace of their kills. I followed that up with a nasty fight with a giant scorpion straight out of the Fantasy Companion book, and then wrapped up the session with a final climactic fight against a Lasher Demon and some basic undead (using the Skeleton stats from the FC). We ran out of time, so we had to fast-track the ending, but the players enjoyed this session as well. Of the two, I think this session is probably more likely to gain more converts for Savage Worlds and some Old School flavored campaigning in the future.

All told, it was a great experience. OwlCon remains my favorite regional convention, with a heavy focus on gaming and good roleplay. I like the fact that they give prizes to the best player at each table, and how that seems to promote more involvement in the scenarios. Now, if they could only get some diversity in the food choices, I'd be one happy camper.

Hope This Helps,

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