WIP-it… Thursday? My PortCon 2017 Wrap-Up, Part II

Picking up where I left off yesterday, it was Friday and the first of the two full-days of the convention. PortCon is a four day event, but the first and last are half-days (one into the evening and on the last it closes up shop at 5 pm). Therefore, Friday and Saturday are the “Big Days” with lots going on.

After finishing up my modest shopping and grabbing some lunch, I headed over to the games arena and joined a game of fifth edition D&D. Ben runs great games, and I hadn’t been able to participate in one of his for several years, so this was a real treat! He pulled out all the stops, and the climax of the adventure turned out to be that we’d discovered none other than the infamous Hand of Vecna. This is something steeped in the lore of the Dungeons and Dragons game from its earliest days, so encountering it was super cool!

I had the good fortune to have picked a mallet wielding dwarven paladin that I named Diffin DirtRune, follower and teller of long-winded tales of Karrak the Mighty (who I just made up on the spot along with his lore). This was a great character for me to be playing as things came into focus and it became a question of what to do with an artifact of great evil. I think if I hadn’t played Diffin just so, the game would have been about the hand slowly destroying the party from within and not become a quest to destroy the evil artifact.

The game ended on a cliffhanger, the first of a two-part game that would continue Saturday. At the end of the game, I was sold and rearranged my plans for the next day to attend it. :-)

After some dinner, it was my turn to game master again. I was excited to run this one, as it was Chaos at Camp Changeling… A game taking place in the same setting as my novel, Vivian’s Last Cigarette.

To be honest, I wasn’t as happy with how the game ran as I could have been. This was in part because the players were very disjointed and failed to cooperate at several critical moments. In particular, there was a player who was very enthusiastic and involved, but their character ultimately lead the group on a wild goose chase. That killed story momentum and wasted time, and running out of time resulted in a downer ending to the session.

However, I think a bigger problem was how I’d structured the adventure. It didn’t have clear goals for the players to follow from the onset, so most of the blame is on myself if they got sidetracked. Things got clearer by mid-game, after they’d felt things through, but by then there wasn’t enough time to get to the cool stuff I had planned for the climax… even if they’d decided to come out of the room they’d barricaded themselves in.

But, live and learn. And the players seemingly ended-up having a good time regardless. After the arena closed, Kim and I got some sleep after a quick round of board games with Ian and CJ in our hotel room.

Saturday morning was uneventful, but things got into gear at noon when the second half of Ben’s two-part D&D game started. I and a number of players from the first game returned, and participated in a wild adventure to destroy the Hand of Vecna and keep it from a lich that already possessed Vecna’s equally infamous eye. Things came down to a pitched fight at the end, and I though Diffin would go down sacrificing himself to stop the big-bad. But that dwarf made it through with a single hit-point after the dust had settled, and the hand and eye were destroyed along with the lich. An epic conclusion, and most satisfying end to the game!

The evening found me running my Great Dragon Escape game. This session went much better than Chaos at Camp Changeling had the night before. There was a lot of humor in the game as the players took the roles of young dragons escaping from a (mostly) evil circus run by a witch. Early on they freed the Fantastopotamus, who followed them like a puppy singing anachronistic songs matching what they were doing and thwarting any of their attempts at stealth.

The game ended earlier than expected, but in a satisfying way when they cut to the chase and bumbled into a fight with the witch. This became a very funny fray, and they defeated her even after most of them were turned into newts temporarily… Yes, she was a very classic sort of witch. ;-)

After the con had closed that night, an RPG staff only game of Monsterhearts was run after midnight that I participated in. An 18+ game, it was both hilarious and horrifying. We had a huge group of thirteen staffers playing, which was the best part for me as I’d gamed with many of them individually, but never with all of them at once. This went on until after two in the morning and we all had to retire quite exhausted. Tired or not, it was a great time. We’re planning on doing another RPG staff-only game next year with better pre-planning, so we can start at 10:30 rather than after midnight. ;-)

Not surprisingly, Kim and I slept-in on Sunday… the last day of the convention. I wasn’t running my Godzilla: Invasion of Monsters game until one in the afternoon and Kim didn’t start her shift at the games arena info desk until 11. So we took our time, got things together and checked out of the hotel early.

I had put the most work into Godzilla: Invasion of Monsters, but I had a hard time getting enough players to run it. This was a big game and by the time we started, it was an hour behind schedule. Things went well for the most part initially, but we lost a player (turns out they were just killing time waiting for another game to start) in an already small group after 90 minutes. This made progressing even harder, and the game ended only halfway to the climax. It was disappointing, but for what was able to be done, the players had a good time.

If I run this game again, I’ll do it as a two-parter and make sure there is enough time to run the scenario.

After that, Kim and I chipped-in to help close the game arena space, pick-up and pack the con stuff, and clean. We joined most of the PortCon staff at a local IHOP for an after convention meal thereafter, said our goodbyes… and that was it.

What a great time. :-)

I’m already making plans for next year, which has a theme of “Spoooooooky” that will offer a lot more leeway on game designs than 2017’s theme of “Carnival”. I’ve also learned a few things during my second year game mastering at the convention.

The first is that allowing the players to create their characters in a con setting, even partially, was well intentioned but a mistake. I won’t be doing that again because even though the system was pretty basic, it still cut into play time. When you only have a four hour block, loosing a half an hour or more is a big deal and I honestly didn’t think that it would eat-up that much time. This became a critical problem in the Godzilla game. So, nope, not doing that again.

Second, I’ll be designing my own RPG rules for my games next year that will be basic, easy to learn, but not as simplistic as the Five by Five system I’ve used this year and last. I think I can come-up with a rules set that’s a bit more serviceable and just as quick. This would also have the advantage of allowing me to publish the games I create as wholly my own intellectually property.

Alright, so that’s my long rundown of my PortCon experience this year. Now it’s time for me FINISH WRITING MY BOOK! Take care, and things will be getting back to normal on the blog next week. :-)

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