Gronan Reviews “Dungeon Chef”

(Gronan of Simmerya was my first ever D&D character in Gary Gygax’ “Greyhawk” game.  I use the name as my handle on several gaming forums.)

GRONAN REVIEWS:  Dungeon Chef by RPGPundit (Available as a PDF from DriveThruRPG, $2.99)
Fantasy RPG supplement, 14 pages.

SUMMARY:  Buy this, for Crom’s sake!

Ah, RPGPundit.  People have one of three reactions to that name; “love him,” “hate him,” or “who?”  But never mind that now.

Ever have one of your player characters say, “Gee, what happens if I chow down on this Neo-Otyugh pancreas?”  Well, me neither, but if any of them ever do, Dungeon Chef is just what you need.  Essentially, Dungeon Chef is all about what happens if PCs eat various monster bits; some effects are helpful, and some are harmful, and some are just strange.

BAD:  There isn’t a single reference in Dungeon Chef to Sigurd gaining the ability to understand birdsong after drinking Fafnir’s blood, or eating Fafnir’s heart to gain the gift of prophecy.  Considering this tale dates back to the 13th century, it’s kind of a blatant omission.

MEH:  I don’t really care for the style of the cover art, but that’s a matter of taste and isn’t important.

GOOD:  Pretty much the whole thing.

I have long found that it’s easier to grab an idea and develop it, change it, or run with it than to come up with good ideas from a tabula rasaDungeon Chef is a great resource for just that reason; even if you don’t 100% like or agree with everything, it’s a handy pile of ideas that you can run with.  “Be it through necessity, curiosity, or stupidity, PCs will put things in their mouths.”

One thing Pundit does NOT do is belabor the obvious.  For instance, eating a giant crab would be just like eating a crab, only more so.  Therefore, it’s not even mentioned in Dungeon Chef.  Ordinary animals, or giant versions of ordinary animals, are like eating ordinary animals.  I don’t think this needs to be spelled out.  (By the way, here’s a fun tip:  According to my brother, scorpion tastes like crab.  So, after you kill that giant scorpion, have your genie conjure up a big pot of boiling water and some melted butter.)  (Scorpions are sold for food by Thai street vendors, and perhaps others.)

Dungeon Chef starts with a brief discussion of alignment; essentially, if you’re Lawful Good, you may want to think carefully before eating a sentient creature.

Then there is a nice section on food poisoning and how it affects characters, including a very, VERY nice discussion of some actual herbal remedies.  The part about horehound will be useful for a lot more than just PCs who never learned not to put random crap in their mouths.

Finally there are several tables on effects of eating various critters.  The tables break down in a way I don’t quite understand; “Astral Creatures,” “Far-Realm Creatures,” “Outsiders/Chaos-Beings,” for instance.  Others are more straightforward; “Fungi,” “Slimes,” Trolls, etc.  I suspect that these labels might have something to do with 5th Edition D&D, because I know Pundit was in on that project, but I can’t swear to it.

In my opinion, the best part of the list of tables is the last one, labeled “WTF is this?”  So when your PCs slay your custom-designed Nameless Horror From Beyond Space And Time and, for some unfathomable reason decide to slice it open, grab some random green wobbly bit, roast it, and eat it, you have a handy table to consult.

But the truth is, that doesn’t really matter.  There are a bunch of tables with a bunch of effects, some good and some bad.  Take those tables and use them as is, or mix them up, or take the effects and rearrange them, or whatever.  As I said above, I see this as less of a definitive set of rules than as an inspiration.

My very favorite part of this whole product, though, is that the author has done a pretty damn good job of capturing the vibe of the early years of D&D.  The effects in this supplement range from the mundane to the dangerous to the downright bizarre; from “edible, no other effect” to “heal 1d6 points” to “save vs. poison or die” to “all the character’s teeth fall out.”  And it contains the “lady or the tiger” aspect as well; “eat this and either gain +1 to an attribute or -1 to an attribute.”  This is just the sort of wild and wooly vibe that the old games run by Arneson and Gygax themselves used to have, and that alone makes this supplement worthwhile.

The best way to use Dungeon Chef – at least in my opinion – is not to simply present it to the players as a set of rules, but to incorporate it into your world without telling them. So they attack a bugbear camp where they’re roasting a giant frog, and the bugbears go leaping away.  Or some friendly tribe promises to heal them, and feeds them a slab of something that they can’t identify, and it heals them.  Et cetera.  Just use the suggestions in Dungeon Chef and sprinkle them around here and there until your players start to get the idea “Hey, maybe eating random things is a good idea!”  At that point your work is done, and, as my friend Chirine Bakal says on TheRPGsite, “Hijinks ensue.”

In this day and age, the simple fact is that three bucks is pocket change.  I live in a small prairie town in South Dakota, and even here its $4 for a decent pint of beer.  For the number of ideas and amount of inspiration provided by Dungeon Chef, it’s one of the most cost-effective supplements you can buy.  No, it’s not an adventure module, but honestly, if you can’t take the ideas in this little booklet and run with them, it’s time to hang up your dice.



GaryCon VIII, March 2016 – Part 4

So.  Last day of GaryCon 2016.

I don’t do mornings, and I didn’t do this one.

In the afternoon I played “Cavaliers & Roundheads,” reffed by none other than Jeff Perren hisself. Even though those naughty Parlimentarians did grievous harm upon the forces of the true King, it was a lot of fun.  I can see why pike and shot era gaming is so popular with its fans.  Over on my flank, Nathan Lyke did a great fakeout maneuver with his Lobster cavalry that resulted in me getting my pikemen totally tangled up, and by the time I untangled them the opportunity to attack his flank was gone.  And then it was time for beer.  It was good tactics on his part (but of course I told him he was lucky, because what fun is gaming if you can’t give your friends a little crap.)  I really want to learn more about this era of warfare.

I had originally had nothing booked for Saturday night.  I bumped into Dave Wesley of Braunstein fame, and he said that he was short some players and could I help out.  Well, how could I resist that?  I got rid of my used beer and got some fresh beer and went to the game.  When I got there Dave was busy with one player and distracted.

Then I saw he’d left the name tags and markers unguarded.  He’s known me long enough that he should have known better.

I grabbed a marker and a badge, and as my friend David Thornley said, “I saw the wheels start to turn and I sat back to enjoy it.”  I made a badge that said “Village Idiot” and proceeded to wander around. I walked into several private conversations and was basically ignored.  So each time after a minute or two, I would go tell a bunch of other people what I’d heard.  For instance, I listened to the Chancellor of the university and the Chief of Police discuss what to do with the student rioters.  Then I went to the jail and told the students what they had said.  Et cetera.  Hey, anybody who discusses confidential matters in front of the Village Idiot gets what they deserve.

About this time Dave Wesley turned his attention to the rest of the game, and his reaction to my antics was to sit there holding his head.

Flawless victory.

So, then I start playing the part that Dave W. wanted me to; a Prussian colonel of engineers.  Well, have you ever seen the movie “Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines?”  I played my character like Colonel Manfred von Holstein.

Yes, complete with the little “Oompah Band” noises.  One of the other players asked “Do you have a band with you?”
“So… your character is walking around town making mouth noises?”

I also discovered that Terry Pratchett’s portrayal of Archchancellor Ridcully is right on; if you shout at people, you can get them to do what you want.  If you shout at people in a really bad German accent, it works even better.

Dave W. wasn’t quite sure what he’d unleashed when he asked me to play, but everybody had a good time. I hadn’t planned on playing Braunstein, but was really, really glad I did.

Sunday, a few of us got together with “Geekpreacher” Derek White, who is a Methodist minister, and we had a simple prayer and Eucharist which turned out to be a very powerful experience.  This year Derek is spearheading a more organized Agape Feast.

Several of the crew had to work Monday, so we grabbed a late breakfast with my brother Chip on the way out of town and headed home.

It was a great weekend, I had a LOT of fun.  But honestly, doing seven events in three days is too much.  Jim Ward suggested no more than one event a day, and sadly I think I have to follow his advice; I ain’t as young as I usedta was.

Besides, I was seriously deficient in socializing this year.

On to GaryCon 2017!

Beer, out.

Gary Con VIII, March 2016 – Part 3

Jeez, what a winter.  I better hurry this up to get done before GaryCon 2017!

So, Friday was a long, long day.  I agreed to run Legions of the Petal Throne, a miniatures fantasy wargame written by Dave Sutherland, as a memorial event for Dave.  That’s the only thing that could make me drag my sorry ass out of bed in time for an 8 AM event.

Never again.

The game went okay, but I’m not as familiar with Legions as I thought so we didn’t get as far along as I hoped to.  Everybody seemed to have fun, though, so I’m not going to worry.  An interesting piece of gaming history: When Dave wrote the game, he and Phil (M.A.R.) Barker (creator of Tekumel) decided that the game should be written with the assumption that buyers were NOT familiar with miniatures wargaming.  This was 1977, so for those of you who are interested in when the RPG hobby split off from wargaming, there’s a clue.

The noontime game was one of my perennial favorites, “Don’t give Up the Ship,” sailing ship action in the age of Napoleon.  This is always fun.  I was playing an English frigate captain again (I like small ships) and my friend Paul was commanding the French.  Briefly put, we got handed our asses in a bucket.  The French used the weather gage and their ships of the line cut the British line in two and defeated the fragmented forces in detail.  It was extremely well done.  I want to note that a good time was still had by all; you do NOT have to win to have fun in a wargame.  But that’s a rant for another day.

One amusing thing is that during the battle there was a French frigate downwind from me.  Her captain caught my eye and grinned.  I nodded back… “it’s on.”  I turned into a downwind run and hung every scrap of canvas I could find while the Frenchie tacked tight into the wind.

Well, in the turn we would have come into gun range, my erstwhile sparring partner inadvertently wrote “turn right” instead of “turn left,” with the effect that we split off from each other and shot past our intended engagement point, and we were both travelling so fast it took us the rest of the game to turn around.  Oopsie.

Meanwhile I had a small 24 gun sloop that was going head-on with a French sloop.  One turn we were about a foot apart and fired our bow chasers at each other… and the next we shot past each other again and fired our stern chasers.  And then came about each, and did the same thing again.  Much fun, but not very effective.  I do have to admit I’ve never jousted with sailing ships before.

Friday night was my OD&D game, “More Magic Users with Knives.”  Sadly, this was the second year in a row where I felt like I just didn’t run a very good game.  It had been a long day, and I was exhausted before the game even started.  Everybody seemed to have fun, but I just didn’t feel like I gave the players the experience they deserved.  This year my D&D game is Saturday evening, and I’m going to take steps to make sure I’m more rested.

Tune in soon for the saga of Saturday.

Beer, out.

GaryCon VIII – March 2016, Part 2

We slept in.  It was really, REALLY nice having a suite; we had two bedrooms, two baths, a kitchen, and a common area.  After waking we had oatmeal for breakfast, made coffee, and just hung out together.

Thursday at 2 PM was my first event, a TRACTICS battle.  Now, I LOVE LOVE LOVE World War 2 historical miniatures, so I was really looking forward to this.  Alas, the poor referee had had car trouble and arrived several hours later than planned.  This was a real shame, as the terrain setup he had for this Falaise Pocket game was absolutely outstanding!  But setup took a long time (hence his original plan to arrive early), and we only had time to play two turns before the time period ran out.

This was completely, utterly, totally not the referee’s fault.  Car trouble happens, and it sucks.

After the battle I went over to the OTHER side of the table and looked at the situation from the Tommies’ point of view.  One of the British players was none other than Mike Reese, the AUTHOR of Tractics (and retired U.S. Army tanker.)  Well, I had been feeling pretty chuffed about our setup – Panthers on the left, some Mark IVH in the center, and a platoon of Tiger I’s on the right.  The Panthers were scrumming with the enemy, and one of my Tigers had brewed up a couple of Shermans on the flank.

When I went over to Mike’s side of the table, though, I saw that he’d set up an entire platoon of Sherman Fireflies in a perfect enfilading position so that anything in the center or German right that came over the hillside was going to get shredded.  From a thousand yards away that British 17-pounder would punch through even a Tiger.  Had the game continued it would have gotten grim.

Nice to know that all that time and money that Uncle Sam spent training Mr. Reese paid off!

Right after the TRACTICS game I started getting ready for refereeing the CHAINMAIL historical battle, “Battle on the Ice.”  As I mentioned in the last installment, Paul Stormberg had set up the miniatures gaming room with spare tables so that we had a space to set up the armies BEFORE the game.

THANK YOU PAUL!  Thank you, thank you, thank you, and thank you!  For any would-be convention organizers out there, this is a valuable lesson!  For every 2 or, at most, 3 tables for miniatures games, have an empty table for utility purposes!  It really, really makes a huge difference, especially when, as here, the game tables are in almost constant use.

I have continued to tweak the forces for “Battle on the Ice,” and I think I finally have it just about right.  I provided a little one page handout so people who don’t know CHAINMAIL or medieval combat would have some idea how to proceed.  I left out one important thing, though – how a routing unit that routs into a friendly unit will disrupt that friendly unit.

Unfortunately for the Russians, this is just what happened.  They were moving their horse archers to the left for a flanking maneuver, but the Germans got a Russian foot unit to rout into the horse archers.  During the brouhaha as the Russians tried to sort themselves out, the Germans were able to press the attack resulting in both the footmen AND the horse archers routing away.

With the horse archers lost, the game turned into a slugging match between horse units.  Eventually the Germans’ heavier armor told, and once again the Germans won.

Besides clarifying the rules a bit more, another thing I’m going to do next year is pay attention to total army casualties.  In the introduction to CHAINMAIL, one suggested victory condition is when one army or the other is reduced to a certain percentage – for instance, the first army to lose 1/3 of its total troops, loses.  I’m going to adopt that, but at 50% due to the nature of the battle, so that the game doesn’t end like it did this time with tiny handfuls of figures still fighting on amidst heaps of the dead.  That just didn’t happen historically, at least not in this battle.

I don’t remember how late I stayed up Thursday night.  But Friday I had an 8 AM engagement (barf!) so I knew I needed to get some sleep.

More about that in our next installment.

Beer, out.

GaryCon VIII — March 2016

Well, once again I don’t write about GaryCon (late March) until Gary’s birthday in July.  Getting to be a habit…

The big news this year for GaryCon was the move to “Grand Geneva Resort & Spa” – the old Playboy Club, Lake Geneva’s most infamous attraction and home of GenCon 1977!  Well, quite honestly, the old venue, “The Lodge at Geneva Ridge,” could no longer hold GaryCon.  By last year it was so packed that tables were almost touching each other.

Briefly put… I thought the new venue was absolutely wonderful.  For starters, there was ENOUGH ROOM.  I never saw more than 3 events or so in the smaller rooms, and even in the larger rooms there was enough space between tables that you didn’t have to worry about being able to hear.  The miniatures gaming space was one of the best I’ve ever played in; bonus XP to Paul Stormberg for having tables not taken up by games, so that we referees could actually stage things in advance of our games!

Now, I have to admit there was one drawback.  The old venue was so small that if you wanted to find somebody, it took about 10 minutes to search the whole joint.  The Grand Geneva (GG from now on because I’m lazy) is enormous.  There are people I wanted to talk to whom I glimpsed only briefly and never saw again.  And there are enough bars and restaurants on premises that you can’t just “go to the bar to see who’s there.”

Yep.  Restaurants, bars, a Starbuck’s on premises.  This place is something.  Nice sized rooms, plenty of tables, ice water all over the place.  This is a very, very good convention venue.

Luke and crew continue to have volunteers supplying water and snacks for referees – a real lifesaver, let me tell you.  And once again, there was tableside food delivery available.  That’s a wonderful feature.  Plus, this year the crew simply had the resort include tax and tip in the menu cost of the items.  Yes, they were a bit pricey, but welcome to the land of running a convention.  Convention hotels make their money off the food and drink they sell, not the hotel rooms or even the hall rentals.  So buy the tableside food and quit complaining.

My only wish for the tableside service is some kind of salad, once again.  My 61 year old gut can’t always handle an entire weekend of greezy meat.

And if the servers could bring BEER to the gaming tables, that would be AWESOME!!!

This year there were four of us travelling together.  Once again my friend David came along, and this time we brought Paul.  The three of us have known each other for over thirty years.  We also brought Brian, who is much younger but came to GaryCon a couple of years back.  All in all, we were looking forward to a great weekend together.  We left Minneapolis on Wednesday afternoon and arrived about dinnertime.  We checked in and took the shuttle to the main lodge.  Oh, yeah… besides the main lodge, they have ANOTHER lodge/hotel about half a mile away, with free shuttle bus service!  (Tip your drivers, you bloody cheapskates!)  Not only was there a regular schedule, but we never had to wait more than a few minutes on the late night occasions when they had to call for a driver.  This shuttle service is excellent, and it means that staying in the overflow lodge is NOT a booby prize.

Anyway, upon arriving at the main lodge we wandered a bit and then went into one of the restaurants for the buffet dinner (“Hot puppies, GRUB!”).  We followed that up with some social time in one of the bars, and eventually headed back to our suite.

Well, talking about the venue pretty much filled this episode, but that’s okay.  Tune in again for the next part of this silly tale, in which many pointless and annoying deeds are done to trouble the councils of the Small and the Silly.

Beer, out.

GaryCon 2015: Part 3



Saturday morning at GaryCon, tiredness finally caught up to me and I slept almost until noon. Hey, I turned 60 just after the con, gimme a break. David and I had a late breakfast and went to the Con. We spent most of the afternoon just sort of noodling around. I bought some stuff in the Dealer’s Room including some stuff from Black Blade and some really awesome little mini-modules from Lloyd Metcalf. I don’t really NEED any more gaming stuff, ever; but the GaryCon dealer room reminds me of Gen Con back about 1977 or so… full of lots of individual people and small two or three person companies with loads of energy, creativity, and enthusiasm. So, yeah, I spent a few hard earned GP to support some friendly shopkeepers!

I didn’t get to see the entire Auction, so I don’t know how much “The Sandal” went for. For those who missed last year’s installment, “The Sandal” is one of a pair of sandals that Gary, back in his shoemaking days, made for my oldest brother Chip. Somehow this one sandal survived, and we put it in the Auction to help raise some money. In 2014 the person who won it gave it back, saying “Auction it off again next year.” Which, by the way, is awesome.

The reason I didn’t get to see the whole Auction is that my friend Chirine ran an Empire of the Petal Throne game Saturday evening, and had invited me specially to play. Well, how can I refuse something like that?
Rather than going through any sort of long, complicated character generation, he had simply provided an ample number of pregenerated characters. There was a wide variety and assortment, so anybody could pretty much play what they wanted. However, he had a special treat for me. Many, many years ago in Phil’s EPT game, I had briefly played a character named “Robert of Barthensville” – a 14th century Flemish knight who fell through a “Nexus Point” into Tekumel. Well, Chirine had prepared a character folder for that character for me, complete with coat of arms instead of Temple and Clan affiliation. My reaction was on the order of “You bastard!” – said affectionately, let me assure you! I had actually forgotten that character until reminded. But Chirine never forgets!

Chirine’s games always serve as a reminder that RPGs came out of miniatures wargaming – there is always visual spectacle to be had. And he also has the “wargamer’s ethos” that the situation is the situation; that is, if the Horrible Icky Awful is in Chamber 34 and the players do not go into Chamber 34, they will NOT encounter the Horrible Icky Awful someplace else. The scenario has its own reality, and the referee will not alter it.

On the other hand, if you blunder into an ambush, you blunder into an ambush, and will suffer the consequences.

I was the “native guide” to help players who had never played Tekumel before. Rather than an open ended scenario, though, we had a mission; the High Priestess of the Temple of Avanthe, the goddess of agriculture and fertility an’ stuff, had been kidnapped by a renegade faction of the Temple of Sarku, Lord of Death and the Undead. Our mission was to rescue her.
In the world of Tekumel, all the Temples are signatories to what is called the “Concordat,” essentially a non-aggression pact (the Empire finds religions civil wars cut down on tax revenues). As part of our mission, the Imperium – the “Petal Throne” in “Empire of the Petal Throne” – had given us an official writ stating that the Temple of Sarku had violated the Concordat and that we were authorized to use whatever means necessary to rescue the High Priestess.

The best analogy I can think of is the scene in Richard Lester’s “Four Musketeers” where Cardinal Richelieu gives le Comte de Rochefort a writ stating “By my order, and for the good of France, the bearer has done what has been done.”

Or maybe, “The use of excessive force in the apprehension of the Blues Brothers has been authorized.”

One of the tools placed at our disposal was the underworld that Phil had placed under his starting city, Jakalla. I had explored parts of this, but had never seen the entire map until now. Phil used a 17 x 22 sheet of TEN SQUARE TO THE INCH graph paper, with each square equaling ten feet (just like in original D&D). Think about it… that is enormous. Over a quarter mile on the short side, and nearly half a mile on the long side, and all of it full to the brim with interesting stuff and horrible doom. For instance, in the southwest sector is a maze. And when I say a maze, I mean a TRUE maze; one way in, one way out, false turnings, dead ends, the whole nine yards. It’s about 900 by 900 feet. That’s three football fields.

Studying the map before we got started, we noticed a large underground river. We were shown our entry point, and our target zone down in the Underworld where the High Priestess was being kept captive. It was about half the map away, on the other side of the river. There is only one bridge, and we strongly suspected it would be guarded. However, I noticed a small structure on the river near our target that we were told was a dock! Figuring that if there was one dock there might be more, we searched the opposite shore on the map, and sure enough, another dock. This looked like a good way to bypass a whole lot of nasties if we could get there.

Once the mission started, there of course remained the real question; how will a bunch of people who don’t know each other, thrown together into a situation, work as a team?

Now, besides Tekumel, Chirine and I have done a LOT of miniatures wargaming together, either reffing or playing both same side and opposing. One of the things he taught me long, long ago was the importance of OBJECTIVE. Always, always keep your objective in mind. I gave a little pep talk in character to the other PCs, trying to make the point that our objective was to find the High Priestess and get her out alive. Any of us getting out alive as well was a bonus. But we were there to find her, free her, and get her the heck out of there, period. The Underworld is a huge and dangerous place, and if we went traipsing off like a bunch of Yellow Labradors (“Squirrel!”) we were doomed.

So how did it go?

Well, first of all, Chirine had gotten a projector so he could project the map up on a screen. This INSTANTLY meant that every player saw where we were, where we were trying to go, and what the known obstacles were. One of the problems with a dungeon crawl style game at a convention is keeping everyone involved. This solved that problem wonderfully; there was no boredom, not a lot of cross chat, even though in the initial part I was the “caller” for the party. The difference, of course, is that everyone could see what was going on, and I made sure to point out the key hazards we were avoiding as we went, and WHY we wanted to avoid them.

Also, although this was a pickup group of strangers at a convention, they got the main point of the mission – “Get in, get it, get out. Get it? Got it. Good.” They all realized we were trying to move quickly and without fuss, and the longer we lingered, the faster our luck ran out. The Imperial writ might get us out of trouble with other humans, but there were lots of underworld dwellers that would simply eat us.
There is always a concern when you’re gaming at a con with a bunch of strangers… how are they going to play? Not to mention, the typical D&D adventure is “run into the dungeon, bash the critters, grab the loot, and scarper.” There is nothing at all wrong with this, by the way… I STILL loves me an old school D&D dungeon crawl. But in the setting of Tekumel, this is not always wise.

Our first test came when we encountered some dormitory space on the outskirts of the territory controlled by the Temple of Hry’y. We showed the Writ to the monks who shrugged and said “Have a nice trip.” One of the players, Player A, said something like “I wonder if these guys have any good stuff.” I said in character “We have no quarrel with the Temple of Hry’y, and if we start one, this Imperial Writ will not be worth the parchment it’s scribed on.” To their credit Player A took the point without argument.
The next chamber was a storeroom. Player A said “Is there anything here worth taking?” I was considering letting them loot the room. Then another player said “If we rescue the High Priestess the temple will give us all the gold we want.” Player A said “Yeah, this is chicken feed.”
Not only did Player A “get it” in terms of staying on mission, but the OTHER players were obviously in tune with it as well.
Other than that, honestly, there isn’t much to tell. We moved quickly through the area, ducked out of sight when a ceremonial procession of Hry’y’s worshippers went by (don’t bother them, they won’t bother us) and raced without further impediment to where the High Priestess was being held.

And here we see that the other players really were paying attention. We bashed open the door to the area where she was, and before I could say a thing the other players cut down the guards and posted themselves at the far entrance, the magic user with the “Eye of Frigid Breath” had zotzed the guard reinforcements, the temple magicians had dissolved the magical cage around the High Priestess, and I was left with nothing to do but watch back behind us for the next batch of guards (poor saps never saw what hit them.)
I said that the map was projected up on a screen. Obviously they made good use of it.

After that, it really was all over but the singing. We gathered Her Nibs up and hightailed it out of there, getting her up, out, and away in record time, and back to her Temple to the polite applause of the acolytes.

The whole game start to finish took 2 ½ hours out of a 4 hour block of time. Chirine said he’d never seen a group move through the Jakallan underworld so quickly and quietly.

From my point of view, two things were worth noting.

Firstly, the other players. You get plenty of horror stories about gaming, especially among people who don’t know each other. This group, though, was really focused on “getting Tekumel” as a different type of game setting, and after a quick shakedown they were also really focused on the MISSION. The first principle of warfare is OBJECTIVE. But it’s amazing how quickly that can be lost. This group did not lose focus, and major kudos to them for that. It’s too rare.

The other thing is the AMAZING difference made by projecting the map up on a screen. In a group larger than four or five players it’s too easy to lose track of what’s going on when the mapper is talking the referee, especially at a convention where you might not be able to see or hear. I don’t have a projector, but I may have to see if I can get one, or even an easel for the mapper to put large pieces of graph paper on. I don’t know quite how to implement it, but believe me, letting ALL the players see the map is worth the effort it takes.

Sunday, I had breakfast with my brother who lives nearby and we headed back to Minneapolis. All in all, GaryCon continues to be one of the high points of the year for me, really recapturing the feel of GenCon back around 1975 or 1976 when this was all new and shiny and exciting.

Beer, out.

Gary Con 2015: Part 2

Friday morning was taken up with doing some filming with Anthony and Cecily for “Dungeons and Dragons: A Documentary.”  I’d been interviewed; this time around it was recording some transition pieces to move between major themes.  It was a lot of fun.

Friday afternoon was “Don’t Give Up The Ship,” refereed by Mike Carr.  The scenario involved French merchantmen running from British forces, and a French squadron of warships coming out to protect the merchantmen.  I arrived a bit late after the filming and wound up getting the smallest British ship, a 24 gun Sloop of War that had been shadowing the merchantmen.

It looked at first like I wouldn’t be doing much; I was quite a ways out.  Fortunately, in the British navy when an enemy vessel was captured all the captains within line of sight shared the prize money.  When a British frigate captured a French frigate I ran up signal flags.  In DGUTS this is done by writing your message… no more than 3 words… and handing it to the nearest friendly player, who hands it around.  Considering the situation, my three words were easy to choose:


I ended up charging into battle against a damaged 40 gun French frigate.  This ship had twice the displacement of mine and the guns were much heavier, making the “24 vs 40” misleading.  Several of my fellow British captains expressed concern that I was throwing my ship away.  But I, speaking truthfully, fought my ship right well, crossing the Frenchy’s “T” twice with opening broadsides, once at point-blank range allowing me to “rake” her.  Alas, the greater strength of the Frenchman’s hull prevented me from taking her, though I did take down a mast.  The engagement rather reminded me of Henry the Chicken Hawk from the old Foghorn Leghorn cartoons, and earned me the nickname of “Mad Anthony” Mornard.

Friday evening was my usual OD&D game, “Magic Users with Knives.”  My only complaint is that this was in the main room near the door, and as such it was VERY noisy.  I let in some extra people who hadn’t been able to get into a game elsewhere, with the kind consent of my players.  Unfortunately, my tiredness caught up to me; I was rather worn out by this time, and honestly, I felt like I really didn’t do my best job of running OD&D.  My apologies to my players.

Saturday morning I wound up sleeping til noon; I was that tired.  I got to the Con too late for the “Cavaliers and Roundheads” battle being run by Jeff Perren — my apologies to referee and players alike.

I spent Saturday afternoon noodling around, mostly, and bought a few goodies in the dealers’ room.  I sat in on the GaryCon Auction again.  The sandal Gary made for my brother was up on the block again, but I didn’t see how much it went for, as I had a game that evening.  Probably the most spectacular thing in the auction was a 5″ or so pewter statue of Mary Gygax as “The Pirate Queen,” commissioned years ago by Fritz Leiber (who dubbed her The Pirate Queen” originally.)  It was an exquisitely done piece with a very significant history.

Saturday evening was the last game I was playing in for the convention… Empire of the Petal Throne.

But you’ll have to wait for my next installment for that.

Beer, out.