Fear The Con - My Convention Wrap Up
Topic: Fear The Con
I have been trying to submit this entry since 11:45 last night. But man, the hotel internets were seriously lame. Try as I might, I couldn't get a stable FTP connection to upload files. So, it had to wait until I got back to DFW today. Sorry for the delay.
Saturday was the big day! Fear The Con (FtC) the very first gaming convention coordinated by the boys from the Fear The Boot podcast (FtB), kicked off at eleven A.M. at Blanchette Park's Memorial Hall in colder'n snot Saint Charles, Missouri. There were tons of people there from all over country. By anyone's estimation, it was a small affair as cons go, but for a regional event it was packed! Gamers filled the main hall and overflow was into other rooms.
Luke told me that they were so pleased at the crowd this morning, they were already talking plans for next year's con. Sweet!
On behalf of Kim Paffenroth, author of Dying to Live and Gospel of the Living Dead, I carried some freebies to FtC. I saw a number of folks using GOTLD pens and bookmarks throughout the day.
The con was organized into three, four-hour gaming tiers, which is to say that attendees had the opportunity to participate in three different games over a twelve hour period. My first game to play in was Dan's first tier Epoch of Rysos game. Anyone who's listened to FtB knows that Dan's developed a very detailed Sci-Fi universe (aka Danverse).
Having played in the game, I can say that it has a decidedly Traveller-like feel in its political depth and hard-edged science. Very enjoyable.
My character was Captain Walsh, an intelligence officer assigned to a military unit whose mission was to recover a highly top-secret weapon. "The Package" was at risk of being compromised on a remote space station. Our job was to go in and while on-the-down-low, get the item back to our ship.
Mmmmmyeaahhh... about that... We were not what you might characterize as stealthy.
Dan spun us through one excellent twist after another. I didn't make one combat roll the entire session, but I think I made some good strategic contributions. It was a huge amount of fun. It was also my first exposure to the Savage Worlds game system. Which I liked a lot.
I bought the book, too. Read it on the plane today. Excellent system! Thanks for the recommendation, Luke! Really, you should be getting a commission on the sales.
And by the way, thank you, Gamer Ground! Your set up was great! Ya'll had lots of cool stuff!
I also picked up those FUDGE dice I was looking for. And the first tier Skies of Glass rules.
For the second tier, I was registered for Jake Moore's Burning Wheel game, "The Sword." I'd met Jake the night before at W3N4. Nice guy with a terrific sense of humor. As Luke is to Savage Worlds, Jake is to Burning Wheel - which is to say a more ardent advocate for the system you have never met.
Until I registered for the game a few months back, I'd not even heard of Burning Wheel. Jake chatted it up. I was psyched.
We sat at the table, ready to go - and suddenly I wasn't feeling well. I refuse to believe it had anything to do with the beer, nachos, and two hot dogs I had recently consumed.
I think it had more to do with that funk-ass breakfast I had at the Waffle House. I think I'm still burpin' those eggs.
Food at the con was GREAT!
One of the waitlisting players sat with us, so we had one player too many. This gave me the out I needed to excuse myself for some fresh air.
I hated missing Burning Wheel, but I really wasn't feeling my best.
After clearing my head outside, I caught up with two fellas I'd met the night before (Christian & Jason from Indianapolis). We played a few hands of Three Dragon Ante, which was surprisingly fun. I'm really not much on card games, I confess. This was a kick, though. May have to pick it up. I think the wife would like. She loves the card games.
Of course, she always wants to play for money.
I still wasn't feeling well after we finished cards, so I went back outside. It was cold and, man, it felt good. I resolved to head back to the hotel and lay down for a bit. After all, tier three was coming up and I had a game to run!
I grabbed forty minutes worth of a nap and felt like a new man. Back to the con...!
I had a full roster for my All Flesh Must Be Eaten game, "And A Little Child Shall Eat Them."
- I've never run a game at a con before, and
- I've never run a game for a table of complete strangers, either.
I'd had some concern about how this would work, which is why I wanted my game in the last tier so that I could see how other Game Masters did it. One thing I had given a lot of consideration to was how I would assign characters. I thought about letting the players draw lots and then choose at random... or let them choose from the character bios after having won a roll-off. In the end, I passed them out and said: "Here they are. If ya'll want to trade, that's cool with me."
And I have to say that each of the players were perfecty matched to the characters they played. In fact, I could not have asked for a better group of players. They were engaged, creative, and contributed to a fun, exciting atmosphere.
Fear The Con was the second time I have run this particular scenario set amidst the zombie apocalypse. The first time was with my regular group here in DFW last September. Really, zombies are not what the story's about - or at least it's not what it's solely about. The thing that interests me, the thing I want to explore is how people respond in the extreme setting of the zombie apocalypse. The real horror is not the zombies. It's the monsters people become when survival is at stake.
Okay, well maybe the zombies are a little horrific.
I know had a point in there somewhere.
Oh yes, people doing bad things to one another!
Running the game for my local group, I knew that they would most likely not turn on one another. I mean, these guys all have to see each other at the next session, right?
But at the con? I wasn't sure what to expect.
A very drunk individual wearing the name badge "Not That Shawn" joined us at our table. Clearly, he'd been hittin' the free beer hard. He wanted to play, but I was full up. So he stayed to watch.
The game is set in a sleepy, small Texas town called Calhoun. It's a Saturday night like any other, until the small children turn feral. In the opening scene, the player characters are having dinner at the corner cafe. All of them are doing their own thing:
- The Electronics Salesman has closed the store for the day and is having dinner with his very pregnant wife who just had her last day at work as labor will be induced on Monday.
- The Marine on leave from Iraq was dropped off earlier by his buddy. He's waiting on his sister to come pick him up.
- The Accountant sips coffee while stressing over looming tax deadlines.
- The Farmer polishes off some of that good pie before picking up the wife from her ladies social at the church.
- The School Teacher prepares to settle up the tab before hopping back on the bus with the dozen high school students he's chaperoned to UIL Academics competition today.
In a booth looking out onto the street, a mother nurses her newborn.
The Salesman's wife points out to him, "Pretty soon, that'll be us."
He reaches out, pats her hand, smiles.
There's a problem with the nursing baby, though. The child is spitting up... or something. Hard to see from this angle.
The nursing mother screams! It's a pealing wail of shock and terror. The child tears at her teat like it's a piece of chicken.
"You totally went there," Not-That-Shawn high-fived me.
Several of my players laughed uncomfortably.
The Marine jumped up to assist, pulling the child off the mother whose clenched jaws manage to rip a last gob of flesh away from her as he does so. He is startled by how powerful the baby is. It growls at him, sputtering black ooze from its mouth.
He hurls the baby away from him, bouncing it hard against the far wall...!
It was at this point that the woman sitting at the table to my right gave me the stink eye. Flesh-eating nursing newborns. Baby hurling. She did not seem to approve of my storyline.
...The baby righted itself quickly on all fours and snarled...
Much baby abuse followed.
One of my favorite moments of the game involved The Accountant climbing on top of his table (because it might be safe up there) and throwing the sugar shaker at the feral baby. He made a sweet, sweet roll and put the baby down.
Another favorite moment is when The Salesman coined the term pig-tailing. Other children had become "growlers." One little girl had her back to the sales dude. He grabbed her by her pigtails and steered her around by them like they were handlebars. She was eventually tossed into the restaurant's deep freeze.
It was the consensus of the table that in the zombie apocalypse the new unit of measure is a "standard metric baby" since baby throwing will become such a valued skill.
"How much do you think she ways?"
"At least five metric babies."
It was about this time that Not-That-Shawn passed out.
As the story progressed, it was clear that the children were transforming to something feral and freakishly fast. They were unreasonably strong, growling zombies (terms used to describe include "Growlers" and "Ferals"). Those bitten by them became the more traditional shambling, moaning zombies (aka "Moaners" or "Dummies").
At the end of the diner scene, The Salesman's wife was bitten by a moaner. He gathered up his wife and along with the rest of the group escaped out the rear as the street was becoming choked with the undead.
I was pleased to see that the group hung together not just with their fellow players, but also with the non-player characters. Very admirable.
Lots more horror and combat was heaped upon them.
As they moved through the alleyway and down the street dodging one nasty creature after another, The Salesman's wife grew more and more ill.
Now one thing I was not successful in doing the first time I ran this game was to get the players to go into the church where lots more horror awaited. For Fear the Con, I gave the characters some skin in the game. The Farmer's wife was there for the Saturday Night Ladies' Social. At these socials, many of the women bring their kids along and place them in the nursery.
And zombie hijinks ensue!
Maneuvering the players and their crowd of cafe customers through the church hallways was every bit as much fun as a dungeon crawl.
During one of the encounters, The Marine was bitten. Not killed, but he had a chunk taken out of his shoulder.
Upon reaching the second floor of the church, The Farmer was happily reunited with his bride - who'd taken out some of the growlers on her own. Texas is a conceal and carry state after all.
An all too familiar moan echoed through the hallway. The Salesman's very pregnant wife had become a moaner, which led to a scene that the players were so disturbed by that they stepped into a room and closed the door so that their characters wouldn't have to watch.
That's okay. I just described the sounds they heard.
Thank you Dr. Paffenroth for the inspiration.
"That's fucked up," One commented.
The Salesman could not bring himself to put down the creature that had been his loving bride.
So The Marine did it for him. One simple shot and the creature was out.
The Marine stood quietly regarding the woman's now still form. The other characters looked on him, his back to them, sympathetic to the terrible, yet necessary thing he had done...
...And then he moaned, transforming to an undead thing. He attacked The Salesman, who successfully fought him back.
I allowed the player to roll for the zombie, which pleased him to no end. With glee, he rolled against his one fellow player characters.
The Teacher, I think, took him out.
After that, the PCs made a quick exit and headed out of town.
Strangely enough... despite how often I grossed out my guys, I do not think mine was the most disturbing game played yesterday. That has to go to Bob Arens' Fear The Hol. One of the cries I heard from his table was: "Kneel before Sod, the god of sodomy!"
I can think of a lot of things I did wrong in my game. I certainly started off a little rocky, but I think I recovered early on. I had a wonderful time. Judging from the laughter, the cringeing, and how engaged everyone remained throught the three-and-a-half hour session, I believe the players had a great time, too.
I didn't discover it until the end of the game, but two of the players (Farmer and Accountant) live here in DFW, too! We exchanged email addresses. We chatted about getting together for some live, face-to-face gaming here in town. Chris (The Teacher) lives in NYC. He and I also exchanged emails and are discussing some online gaming options.
That's the wonderful thing about this event. I didn't just meet some new people and have pleasant conversations. I made friends! Those kinds of opportunities are so rare in this world.
There wasn't a person I spoke to yesterday that didn't have the time of their life. I know I had a blast.
Thank you, Fear The Boot, for giving us the gift of Fear The Con. I cannot wait for next year!
Be sure and check out my Flickr account for the rest of my FtC pics!
With the exception of the last image if it is a picture with me in it, the image was borrowed from Fear The Boot.
Posted by Aron Head
at 10:58 PM CST
Updated: Monday, 10 March 2008 7:18 AM CDT