Review: DunDraCon 38

Last week I gave a quick report on DunDraCon 38.  This week I want to talk about the games I played as well as the good and bad of the convention as a whole.

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Let’s start with the shortest section first.

The Bad

This was probably my best DunDraCon yet. I was able to games almost every slot, there were no major problems with the games or the convention center itself, and the game masters were generally good. So what was bad?

I didn’t have enough time.  In an overabundance of riches, my wife and I were unable to spend as much time as we usually did. So no dinners out together and very little sleep.

A slightly more frustrating problem was not being able to get into games because I was running games at the time.  Specifically there were games of Monster of the Week and Hillfolk that I would have loved to play. Unfortunately I was running two of my own games on both days which precluded me from joining.

Lesson learned? Only run one game session.

Lastly there were some strong personalities at some of the table took away from my enjoyment. There isn’t much to do if half of the table are life long friends who enjoy derailing the game with a bunch of in character arguing. Or if you get an attention seeking otaku turning your Pacific Rim game into something that makes Power Rangers look serious.

The Meh

The hotel where DunDraCon was held continued to be clean and well maintained. The food selection at the bar was still greasy and unhealthy, which I tried to avoid as much as possible.

The boardgame area remained in a single large room, making conversation difficult but the RPGs were held in their own separate rooms which was nice.

The dealer’s hall had a nice if small selection and I was able to pick up a nice collection of new books and dice there.

The Loot

The Buyer’s Bazaar, which allowed convention goers to sell their own materials for a limited time, was particularly lucrative. That was where I was able to pick up some older GURPS books for a cheap price.

The Freecycle table where people could dump their unwanted gaming stuff for anyone to pick up seemed fairly unused this year.  Perhaps it was just that this was the year I didn’t make use of it.

I was unable to attend as many seminars as I usually did due to the amount of gaming I was involved with but the Alternate History talk was as enjoyable as always.

The Good

The best part of the weekend was probably the improvements to their online registration system which allowed me to register for my next game with my phone. This saved me a lot of hassle and made the whole weekend go smoother.  I also liked how people with priority slips (like GMs) could lock in their places in a game before the con even began.  This made me sure of what my final game would be without any worry about getting in.

I started the weekend playing a game called Faint Heart Never Won Fair Lady run by Jeff Yin using the Fading Suns  system.  It was a fun story of a noble entourage attempted to set up a marriage between a socially inept teenage prince-ling and a headstrong princess with ideas of her own. I thought the characters were well portrayed and we had a blast.  The Fading Suns system doesn’t seem to be too bad though I’m not sure it brings anything new to the table. The setting is interesting but not necessarily my cup of tea. Overall though it was a good way to start the con.

Friday evening, I played a game of Don’t Rest Your Head where we were all children haunted by the Bad Man. I’ve reviewed this game in the past. I liked how we each contributed an aspect to the description of the Bad Man. Our characters were all fairly messed up children feeling guilty about one thing or the other who couldn’t sleep because the Bad Man kept us up.  I love the flexibility of capabilities in the game, though I thought the gamemaster tried a bit too hard to keep us together.

Saturday and Sunday mornings I ran my own Hunter: the Vigil games, focusing a monster retrieval team for the Cheiron Group. Most of the people who signed up for the game failed to show up but both times I got enough people crashing the game to make up for it.

Saturday the team was sent to a small town in Pennsylvania where people were going missing. Exploring the strange vine growth and encountering weird creatures, they eventually learned that their employers were spiking the water supply with a drug that allowed normal people to see monsters.  They managed to rescue some of the town folk before the whole town was swallowed up by the Hedge. The game went well with some good roleplayers (in general).

Sunday’s game was my favorite though.  The team (with some new members) were sent to Cincinnati where a possible outbreak of brain spiders had been detected. Tracing back the path of someone who had been infected, they discovered an abandoned mall was the source of the parasites. they also learned there were giant spider-human things living there. Against all odds, they rescued most of the people still alive in there, killed one of the monsters, and captured another before being forced to retreat.  One team member was pushed to the edge of death but survived.  It was a scarring but awesome mission for the team.

Saturday afternoon I took it easy , only playing a game of the board game Golden Wilderness before heading to bed. In this game, you explore and settle California, trying to build up points from settlements and money earned. I took second place but mostly drove the real winner to extended their lead massively.  The game was still fun but I really want to try the advanced game at some point.

Sunday was my day of gaming.  After my final Hunter game ended  at noon, I crashed a game of  Nugget called Gods, Monsters, and the Homecoming Dance. The GM, Michael Siverling, made excellent use of pictures and had some great characterization for the characters, divine or otherwise, that we encountered on a trip through several different mythologies.  Playing as children of the gods recruited by the Monkey King, we quested to save the world from Loki and Tiamat. It was a great deal of fun, marred only slightly by some obnoxious characters.

Right after that, I went to my favorite game of the convention, Prime Time Adventures as run by my friend Sam Smith. The game was basically the putting together a TV show pilot for a new series. We had a great batch of players to put together our pilot episode about a bunch of supervillians and their plans to take over the world.  It was part documentary and part reality television with lots of hilarious asides and subplots.  Entitled “You will Know Your Overlords”, the show detailed the hijinks of an inept mad scientist, his super-competent traitorous lieutenant, a superman knock off, a psychic marketeer, an evil child and a relatively normal technician charged with building the mind control device.  I was cast as the comically inept and evil Dr. Vulmar and loved his failures and the schemes of his “minions”.

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Monday I had my last game: Mecha vs. Kaiju, a Fate game currently on kickstarter.  Sporting three teams of mecha pilots working to defend Tokyo, Sydney, and San Francisco, it was aimed for a more Pacific Rim feel but seems capable of supporting a wide range of mecha stories.  The main things the game brings to Fate is a prebuilt set of relevant feats, rules for building mecha and kaiju (of varying complexity), and a rich and interesting setting.

One interesting aspect of the game was that each table designed the final monster for the next table over.  We created a psychic horror made from leeches and wearing the armor of defeated mechas. Sadly it was defeated by the power of love by the hippie pilots of San Francisco. We faced off against a 10,000 year old tentacled horror created by ancient alchemy.  We weakened it with radiation and then destroyed it piece by piece.

As I said before DunDraCon was whole lot of fun. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who lives in the Bay area.