Tuesday, March 13, 2018

GaryCon X Highlights - Part 1

If you are a tabletop gamer and you have not been to Gary Con, you need to mark your calendar now and make this a priority. This convention, which is named after the father of D&D himself, specializes in creating an intimate gaming experience where friendships and memories are made over the bonding power of rolling dice. Whether you are looking for organized play experiences through Adventurer's League, trying to find a niche game system to try out, or are interested in hearing stories from the Gygax family or gaming legends like Tim Kask or Frank Mentzer, you will have those opportunities and more at Gary Con.

The Table of Honor in remembrance of Gary Gygax (photo courtesy of Derek White)

This was my third trip to Gary Con. I was excited for a number of reasons, but the "theme" of this year for me was digging deeper into a wonderful gaming system called Dungeon Crawl Classics. I wrote about one of my first experiences with it here. I signed up to play a game with Brendan LaSalle at the recommendation of +James Walls who ran a fantastic game of a Star Wars inspired adventure at last year's Gary Con (zombie Gungans!). I also signed up to play a game with +Michael Curtis who authored one of my go-to game mastering books the Adventurer's Almanac and is the creator of the Shudder Mountain campaign setting that our next Twitch campaign will be taking place in. Finally, I was excited to run my first non-AL game at Gary Con - the Return to the Labyrinth!


An early morning drive as I left home at 4:45am to get from my home in Oshkosh, WI to Lake Geneva. I was running on very little sleep since I was streaming the night before, but the adrenaline pumping through my system was enough to keep me amped for the majority of the day.

Getting ready to roll out to Lake Geneva!

My Thursday was completely booked with DMing. After I picked up my badge I was off to the Adventurer's League hall. I love to signup to run any of the tier 1 adventures, particularly ones that I suspect new players might jump in on. My suspicion was correct as I had quite a few first-time players as I ran several instances of City Over the Edge. It is really rewarding to help people get acquainted with our hobby and have that first convention adventure that stays with you forever. I was lucky enough to have a fantastic DM (+Joe Alfano) who ran Death House during my first Gary Con and it is a game that gets mentioned frequently in our gaming circle.

Once I completed my Adventurer's League commitments, I had to head to the Timber Ridge Lodge and get checked into the hotel, and more importantly, get decked out in my Jareth costume for Return to the Labyrinth. I forgot my eyeliner pen so I had to improvise. My friends gave me a hardtime afterwards, but I think I looked pretty fly.

After navigating through my own personal labyrinth through the basement of the Grand Geneva to find Forum C, I finally made it to my table. I had a fantastic group of players join me and they came up with a lot of fun personalities for their characters. The beginning of the Labyrinth adventure leads with the characters, all teenagers, receiving an invitation to attend Toby Williams' 16th birthday (he was the baby from the original Labyrinth film). I always pose to the group the question of how their characters know Toby. Here is what they came up with:

  • Obligatory weed dealer (literally have this hook every time I run this adventure)
  • Toby's former babysitter
  • Pool hall owner who lets Toby hang out in his establishment for a cut of his winnings
  • Foreign exchange student who trades punk rock CDs with Toby (at least until he started getting into lame shit like Fallout Boy)
  • Young republican who was trying to steer Toby from his libertarian leanings
  • President of the yearbook club who was attending the party to get some photos

Once at Toby's party, gifts were exchanged and the players learned that Toby was kind of a prick. One by one, each of the player's learned of a personal grievance Toby had with them. Later in the evening, as everyone was having fun and Toby brooded in the corner while playing with a crystal ball he received from an unmarked package, a bunch of goblins tour through a mystical portal that ripped through the wall. The goblins were evidently looking to abduct Toby, but were not given enough detail on which one Toby was. Not ready to return home empty handed, the goblins abducted all the teenagers and brought them to the world of the Labyrinth.

 The spunky teenagers found themselves captive and learned that soon a coronation would be held to name him the new Goblin King. Jareth showed up to share this news and offered the PCs a deal; if they could navigate to the center of the Labyrinth before Toby took the role, he would pardon them and return them home. The heroes encountered doors which gave them a look into their own closets, they navigated a very tricky set of hallways, battled the cleaners and stole their pedal-operated contraption, bribed Hoggle with loose change, and navigated a hedge maze with the help of a riddle. We shared laughs and beers and learned that one of the players had never seen The Labyrinth - hopefully the adventure was still entertaining despite missing out on the movie callbacks.

 The finale of the adventure found the party in the Escher-style chamber of dizzying hallways and improbable staircases. Jareth was present and altered the deal - he was tired of Toby's nonsense (quite an insufferable brat) and he declared that a battle royale would be held for any who wished to take his position as Goblin King. A mad scramble at the end was full of ridiculousness and it was our punk-rock foreign exchange student who grabbed his skateboard and did a grind along a banister to sweep into the throne and claim the title of Goblin King!

My Thursday was a blast and I felt so blessed to play with an incredible group of players! More to come in the following days...

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