another misAdventure

"We are all of us living in the shadow of Manhattan."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pre-Gencon: Wednesday, August 15

The day at Verbobonc Pre-Gencon Madness -- and the first inkling of something happening.

We got up Wednesday morning (oh, yeah, for those following the whole timeline, this would be when I discovered I didn't have my toothbrush) and drove into downtown Indianapolis to start the real festivities. Wednesday was the day that I judged mods all day at Verbobonc Pre-Gencon Madness.

A note for those who don't do RPGA: Verbobonc is a region in the Living Greyhawk campaign. Modules set in specific regions are meant for play only in a fixed geographic area. For Verbobonc, that's Illinois and Indiana, so that's the home region for most of my characters (another example, Iowa/Nebraska/Kansas/Missouri are grouped a region that is the City of Dyvers in Living Greyhawk).

As a practical matter, that means that a lot of people coming into Indianapolis for Gencon don't normally have a chance to play modules set in Verbobonc, because they live in a different area. They come in a day early so that can play Verbobonc regional mods at the ad-hoc convention "Verbobonc Pre-Gencon Madness" (VPGM or VPGCM). And, since I have lots of other opportunities to play Verbobonc regional modules, I come in a day early so I can run those module for people from other regions, thus sharing the joy. (End of Living Greyhawk primer)

VPGM actually had it's own room this year, with dedicated tables. Since this con runs on less than a shoestring budget it doesn't rent space from the hotel, relying on the hotel allowing some space to build goodwill with the gamers in town for Gencon. In the past couple of years that meant we scraped together space in the lobby of the Westin hotel, and some people then went to guest rooms, the halls of the convention center, etc. This year, the con was in the ballroom of the Hyatt, and had tables set up to accomodate all the games.

While looking for table before the first slot I ran into Rudy. He didn't have my green folder with my judging tools. But, he did point out where Alexander was (since I'd mentioned him).

Alexander didn't have my green folder, but thought Marlene might know. Marlene, at the next table -- had found my green folder! She even brought it with her (though smuggled in Alexander's pack) since she figured it was mine and that she'd see me today. Yay!!

I started by judging a table of "Faire Trade" and didn't have enough people at first so we weren't sure it was going to go off and we were trying to scrape together enough people to either play that or another module. Some others showed up about 30 minutes late, though (one of the problems organizing this con is late-comers for the morning slot), and "Faire Trade" happpened and all had a good time and I challenged the party well (as in, they were afraid for their character's lives, but all prevailed).

"Faire Trade" took me all the way through to near the beginning of the next slot. I grabbed a sandwich from McDonald's (just downstairs in the Hyatt), and proceeded to my table of "Storm the Dragon's Bastion", the third part of the Skyroad series. This is a very good, fun set of mods, but the story definitely benefits from having played all the modules in order, and being sufficiently invested in the regional storyline to know some of the other background and remember all the characters that you run into in the module. Playing with folks from outside the region dulled that a bit. Only half of them had played the earlier mods, and those that had didn't remember everything. So, two things that happen in the mod didn't have quite the same impact as they have at other tables I've been at (as player or judge). Plus, they went a different direction than previous tables that I've been with, and that direction was a bit less of a challenge. And they did something which avoided much of the challenge of the last encounter. They had a good time, though, and the module was done quickly so I had plenty of time before the next module.

Which was good, because that gave me a chance to get checked into the hotel and get lost for a minute on the way there (I got turned around from the exits from the Hyatt). We were staying at the Sheraton a few blocks away, right on Monument Circle, and I should have known where it was since we parked there at the beginning of the day. Anyway, we got there, checked in, and Ryan and I unloaded most of the stuff from the cars (leaving some things that we didn't know about from Kathy's car, since she had some things bound for school rather than Gencon).

Our hotel key cards had the word "4DVENTURE" on it, and some dice pictured. I didn't have a clue what that was, but I figured some game company had that as a promo for a new game. I missed the first clue.

Matt, Ryan, and I decide to go to the chili place in the base of the Hyatt, only to find that it wasn't open (must be only open for lunch now). So, we instead went to the Italian/pizza place next to it (which was only "meh").

I then went over to the convention center to pick up my "Gamemaster" badge and my judging shirts. I managed to get into the RPGA room to get those things because I had another Gencon badge that I'd purchased (and later sold to Tony). The convention center security was being over-zealous, blocking people without badges from getting into the area where they could pick up their badge. With my regular Gencon badge I could get past one guard to get my Gamemaster badge, but when shifts changed the new guard was blocking anyone who didn't seem to have more official status. Fortunately, my newly acquired "Gamemaster" badge was deemed as official enough by him, and he let other people past to pick up badges on my say-so, so long as I vouched for each one! So, I sat there for a while getting others past the guard because I could say I knew them (most I didn't) and that they were picking up badges from the RPGA. After the other guard returned from her break, I convinced her that anyone who came to that post and said the magic letters "RPGA" were legit and should be let through. I then went into the RPGA judges meeting at 8:00.

Judges meeting usally says pretty much the same thing and re-iterates stuff we got in e-mail leading up to the convention. There was a bit of interesting info though that I'd missed, and a couple bits that were new. The part I'd missed (because it didn't effect me) was that Thursday slot times were changed. The second slot was to finish an hour early (and HAD to finish at the given time), and the third slot was pushed back an hour. The new part was that this was to accomodate a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT that was to happen at 6:30pm on Thursday. The nature of the announcement was a big secret, but they did let slip that there were a lot of boxes of swag in the back for those attending the announcement (so I immediately decided to put that I my schedule). That was my first inkling (after the missed clue). I wouldn't figure it out until the next day.

From there, I returned to VPGM. The organizers had pushed back the last slot a bit to accomodate the RPGA judges meeting (which affect both some of our judges and some of our players), though the promised 15 minutes was a bit more than 30. I judged a table of the Verbobonc Special from Winter War, the segment "Shadows of the Past". The table was pretty over-powerered for the module, though, and the big-bad at the end was particularly ineffective (didn't scale up well). A party that can throw around several Force Cage spells per day could pretty much walk through this module. So, though we started late, we got done on time. So, back to the hotel (I was the last back, IIRC), crash and get ready for the start of Gencon-proper the next day.

To Be Continued!

Tomorrow: I'm finally struck by the clue bus.


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