Steve Matousek (of Atlantis Games and Comics) is one hell of a nice guy. I’ve known him for over 16 years and he’s the sort that will do what he can to help, however he can. He’s also a excellent businessmen and knows what buttons to push to get people to buy things in his shop (man, he’s REALLY good at that – you’ve been warned). When he asked me several months ago if I would be willing to run some games in his Tabletop room at ROFCON, I was hesitant. I hadn’t been to a Con in a good 15 years or so and it sounded like a bag of angry cats to do right. A bunch of nerds trying to outscream the other so that their players can hear them? Ugh. But I told him I’d think about it and then asked L.A. what she thought. Basically, “Yes. You need to get out more.” was the answer.
So I signed up, started working on some material, and pregenerated characters (and got some great help from some forum folks, thanks DAT and Bruno!). Of my gaming group, I only got three to go (L.A., my adversary/co-GM and two experienced players to help me shepherd folks, C. and Troythulhu) and everything was going great. Then, L.A. had a death in the family and I thought we might have to cancel. But my brave girl, that wonderful strong-willed, indomitable woman of mine did what she always does and soldiered on. I shouldn’t have ever thought otherwise. It wouldn’t have mattered to me either way at that point, she’s just more important, you know? But we made it to the Con. There were SO many people there. My hypervigilance kicked off and I thought I was going to have a panic attack or punch someone, but she was there and so were my best friends and I thought “damn, if she can do it after [today], so can I.” I reined it in, centered myself, and got calm. Getting our badges was a little difficult (we’d been comped thanks to Steve making us staff), but after running around some, we got it figured out and I began to set up in the tabletop room. It was as I’d feared: a pretty small room with lots of tables and a ton of people. I was so sure that no one would show up that Friday and I’d end up demoing nothing.
But that didn’t happen. I met S.B. and R.F. who were interested in playing (and I’d found out later Steve had pointed them at my direction with some of his overly enthusiastic convincing). I explained how the mechanics of GURPS worked, which took all of 30 minutes for everything and S.B. had played 3rd edition a while back so that helped. After that we started. I can tell you without exaggeration, it was one of the best gaming sessions I’d had in a public venue in a LONG time and one of the most positive RPG experiences I’d ever had. These fellows were serious gamers and actually cared about the hobby. There was no asshattery or douche-y behavior. They wanted to play. I wanted to run the game. I think I delivered and they sure as hell did. They were hooked. They wanted to play more and asked if I’d be back the next day and if they could keep their characters. I was thrilled and delighted and unabashedly happy. I wasn’t the only one either, my regular gamers felt the same way. It was like meeting a very old friend you’d not seen in years, but was happy to see again. You could joke and have fun and laugh and play. It was awesome. I let them “level” their characters and both R.F. and S.B. were agape at how easy it was and how flexible the system was as I created abilities on the fly for their characters (a Earth-Infused Knight and Human Necromancer) We played some Munchkin and a few other games after that and I handed out some swag. Eventually, we had to pack it up in the early hours, but it was after midnight some time when we stopped and I got back to Troythulu’s place some time after four. Crashing out it took forever to get to sleep, but I was back the next day.
Saturday, somehow, was even better than Friday had been. Not only did S.B. and R.F. show back up eager for more GURPS, but I got more gamers (I actually had to turn away a few people) and C. L and “Nintendo” joined the little motley group. Both had never played GURPS before, but instantly grasped how things worked and GURPS use of real world statistics made it insanely easy to explain things “your character can cling/pull 340 lbs.,” “Your character runs at about 11 mph at his fastest,” “Your character is one of the best glaive users in the world,” and so on. Nintendo ended up playing a polearm-using half-ogre brute and C.L. played a nymph holy warrior whose goddess was the deity of the harvest and autumn. Both S.B. and R.F. helped with some explaining and again, 30 minutes later we were delving.
Before that, I’d noticed some of the dickish behavior at least one of the other GMs was displaying and I instead of acting on my more thuggish instincts and going and punching him, getting arrested, and being ejected from the Con I laid out what I expected for everyone at my table. “I believe in cooperative play. We’re telling a story – even if it’s a story written in the gory entrails of our enemies and their shiny loot. Please don’t be a jerk. And just so the record is straight: I’m a Feminist – women are equal to men or anyone else, because they are people. And in this case people who want to play a game like any other gamer. Anyone have any problems with that?” My slight tirade was greeted with grins and smiles. I can project my voice loudly when I want to and I made sure the other GM in the corner heard me and we exchanged glares before I assumed my “bouncer-face” and he seemed to go back to his game and avoided me the rest of the Con.
It was another night of sheer awesome and before people left I spoke with L.A. and we’d both come to a decision: if S.B., R.F., C.L., and Nintendo wanted to join our regular group – they were in. We all exchanged email addresses and Facebook accounts. Again, we ended the night with some sundry games and packed up slow, like you do when you want to drag a event out as long as you can. We sat and talked and I showed them (again) how fast it was to update characters and how you could do just about anything.
One thing that just about killed me was S.B.’s necromancer created a skeleton that everyone fell in love with. You know how PCs have that one NPC they just freaking love. Well, Skeleton #5 was it. He survived death runes, magical traps, eye of death stares, and numerous other hazards, and always killed whatever he attacked. Eventually, S.B. named him “Alex,” which someone (I don’t remember who) attached the name “Larry” to (spelled “Larre”). Every time they found something useful, they gave it to the skeleton. By the end of both 10 hours sessions Alex Larre had magical armor, an Ironskin Amulet, magical bracers, a magical sword, and a horned helmet. He was tanking with the other upfront fighters and doing it well. It was HILARIOUSLY awesome. “What’s that sword do? Guys, give it to Alex?” *everyone nods in unison, while I’m just shaking my head and facepalming* Jokes would go flying after that “Hey, our purpose as a player characters is done. We have given birth to “Alex,” all hail Alex!” “Go get’em Alex!” “Death runes again? SEND ALEX IN!” Very memorable. (I plan to actually write him up and put him on my blog later on this month. Artwork is courtesy of L.A. who doodled him up while we were playing).
After it was all over, S.B. went about buying some GURPS PDFs and R.F. promised to do the same (which he did later). Nintendo will probably pick up a Basic Set and we’ll see what C.L. does. I also got to run a adventure I intend to submit to either Steve Jackson Games for Dungeon Fantasy or put on my Patreon and the guys really helped me find some holes in it.
There were some other, unrelated gaming highlights of the evening as I talked to an artist (who was VERY nice) about doing a cover for my self-pub later this year. I paid her some upfront, gave her my email, and got her information to email her later with more details. I also got to see a fairly amazing array of costumes, including some guy dressed as Caine from Alien with his daughter dressed as a chestburster in a papoose. I was so mad I didn’t have a camera. The restaurant food was expensive…but their home fries (more like thick potato chips) were freaking amazing. Also, Denny’s Bacon Avocado Burger may be the best thing I’ve ever tasted between two hamburger buns.
There were no real “downs,” except one guy stood WAY to close to me at one point and wouldn’t move until I turned to face him and asked he move back several feet. It was all surprisingly civil and I’m glad I let Steve talk me into it. I fully plan to go back next year and save up for a hotel room (hopefully) and work Steve’s Tabletop room again.
Sounds like it was a blast! Spreading the GURPS too!
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It WAS pretty awesome. 🙂
That con sounded like a really great time! I haven't played a public venue since 1992 and your tt experience sounds like something I'd love to do.
Wow, what a great experience. I am happy that you made your "position statement" to your group. That's a good idea, and no one can claim ignorance and act like a jerk. Wish I could have been there to play! I'm going to post a link to this story on the FB page for my cyberpunk campaign. Great post, Christopher!
I was expecting so much…nothing and I ended up with…so much awesome. It was amazing.
I don't think politics and gaming mix, personally, but I don't brook bullshit. Anything that makes someone uncomfortable is not tolerated. You will treat everyone as a equal at my table or you can leave. I'm a little unhinged about that honestly, even though my personal code of ethics tends to treat woman, not as weak – but someone I instinctively protect. You don't hit a girl and if you let someone do it, you might as well have done it yourself.