GenCon Day 2: Secured my Con GM merit badge

Today was eventful as hell, from a personal level, as well as a professional one.

Dungeon Grappling: Tower of Justice

So, I ran the Con Scenario that was shorthanded Grappling Smackdown but is formally called The Tower of Justice.

The seats were supposed to be filled; I had three initial no shows, but then three folks showed up and really wanted to try. So full house . . . and then the actual three showed up, which meant I had to ask the newcomers to leave. All were gracious about the entire thing. One player had his young son along, and it was very clear he was going to sit and watch. No frickin’ way. I asked “will your son be joining us?” “Can he play?” “You tell me . . . can he play? If he can, he’s very welcome.”

So seven seats for a six-player game. The young one was an Evocation sorcerer. Dad was a dragonborn bard. We had a human paladin of Tyr, a Thief/Rogue, another dragonborn bard (but he said that testing the new grappling rules was the ONLY game he insisted on playing; this guy was a dream player/playtester), a human ranger, and a young lady who had never played DnD before who took her hand at a half-elf fighter.

All played well, engaged in the scenario, and were gracious about learning the new rules.

I started by making them write down their grappling stats, which were not on the sheet. I did this deliberately so I could teach them the key levels and what they mean.

Your grapple DC is 10 + whatever. It’s your hit roll for grappling, and will nearly always be lower than the Armor class.

Your hit roll for grappling is 1d20 plus your athletics skill bonus.

Your damage roll for grappling is your hit die type, plus your strength bonus.

Write down the following levels: Grabbed; Grappled; Restrained; Incapacitated.

Calculate your restrained max, your grappled max, your grabbed max. Incap is higher than restrained by one.

There are things you can do with your control points. Here’s a list. If you think of anything else cool, let me know and we’ll adjudicate it on the spot.

So . . . what happened?

Highlights

  • They quickly figured out the puzzle that gave the directions to the back door of the Tower of Justice, and I figure that if I let the group tomorrow find the same puzzle, they’ll also go that route. I may just railroad ’em into the main way, to test the other half of the scenario. I have a reason why this isn’t completely lame, I swear
  • the fight with the hobgoblins between the waybridge and the tower went very well. I needed more monster tokens, but otherwise, the players were determined to grapple as much as possible, and so were the hobs. The fight went well for the players, and though a few wounds were taken, it wasn’t bad.
  • The climb of the 150 foot cliff ran into a major design issue that I know how to fix, but I saw the problem coming soon enough. More on that later.
  • The big fight with the Glabrezau demon (four attacks, pincers, fists) opened with the PCs deciding to whittle away the demon’s HP from behind a magical barrier. That would have been tedious but effective. Then someone (the Dad bard, actually!) decided to Leroy Jenkins the demon, several others followed suit. The demon grabbed the paladin for 45 control points, turned that into 10d4 injury . . . and rolled abysmally, doing fewer than 15 HP of damage. So sad! I was hoping to rip him in half.
  • The players saw the never-played-before fighter grapple the demon . . . roll a crit and max damage, and restrain him. They dogpiled him by grappling, and incapacitated it! That meant they could kill it by fiat, which they did.

That took the entire time. I got some great feedback on the grappling rules. In short: they were playable and fun, useful but not complex. These WORK. And they work with strangers who were not (to my knowledge) game designers, unless the 10yo was a ringer.

The Lowlights

  • Swapping out players was a time killer, and meant that we got very close to running out of time at noon. This will be an issue tomorrow since I have to be on a panel at noon in another building.
  • The climbing rules were cool on paper, but as we were about to run through it, I realized this was going to be an insane number of dice rolls and tracking. I figured out how to fix it, now I just need to implement it. No worries there.
  • The tree puzzle is too compelling and will likely 100% of the time short-circuit the bridge and front-door approach. I’m not sure if that’s bad or not, but it’s an observation.

The Booth

I did another stint at the booth today, five hours. Heel wasn’t quite as bad, but I took care to walk around today (walking and running are both better than standing for me).

Highlights here?

Sold some Dungeon Grappling

I was a lot better at pitching other folks products

I really need to pick up Fragged Empire. The graphic design is a thing of beauty. Setting seems interesting too.

I also need to learn about the Apocalypse World engine. A lot of the games seem to like using it as their core system, and there must be a reason for it. I may or may not agree with the reason.

Had a polite disagreement with a designer who described tactical wargame elements in RPGs as pointless. I think they have their place, and enjoy the hell out of them. The perspective has merit I think, in that it puts an adminstrative overhead on both player and GM in terms of stats, rigor, and play speed that you have to understand, accept, and find fun.

He does’t. I do.

That’s cool for both, but there are two sides to that coin, and if you think only one of ’em has value, you’ll be a worse designer than if you understand at least the impulses that drive both points of view, and consciously address them. Even if that means ignoring one; at least do it with malice aforethought.

I reviewed a set of grappling rules in another designer’s system. Pronounced them very abstract, but since they were the same level of abstraction and used the same mechanic as his other conflict resolution systems, I pronounced that they obeyed the rule of ‘use what’s there’ and was thus satisfied.

Steve Jackson(!!) dropped by the Indie Games Designer’s Network booth. Turned out he wasn’t just looking around. He was there to see me.

(swoon)

We chatted about the DFRPG, the Kickstarter, and I showed him my Dragon Heresy flier. He responded by telling me something that nearly made my eyebrows crawl out of my head (not sure I can say what it is), but that will make GURPS folks very happy. There was also some egging on by me of the notion of a modern action boxed set, since (sez me) “GURPS has the best firearms rules currently in the market. Clean ’em up, simplify for speed, and you’d have everything you need to shoot folks and take their stuff, or any other plotline.”

I also talked with D. R. Lunceford, gigerman on the forums, about a great many things. He is responsible for the graphical look of the blog. We agreed it was time to start the web design for the dragon heresy website and page. We talked about a few blog improvements, and game design. And shields and grappling and shooting. Good times.

I also made arrangements to have drinks with Ken Hite to discuss Dragon Heresy progress.

Spoke in rapid succession with the folks at Thomson-Shore and KrakenPrint. Now I know of four potential vendors for my books, all of whom are reasonably priced for offset and make great looking books.

All in all, an excellent day.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow is going to my equivalent of BUDS. Well maybe not. But it’ll be a busy, hectic day.

  • 10-noon: Second Dungeon Grappling demo
  • noon-1pm: I’m on a panel on how to get into the game industry
  • 1-5pm: DFRPG session with Sean, Christopher, Joseph, and others!
  • 7pm-?? First attend the Delta Green panel that Ken Hite is speaking at (’cause Delta Green is a great setting and I’m honestly curious), the go to drinks and talk Dragon Heresy

Sunday is all mine.

 

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