A cautionary tale of pushing your limits…
Brandon Goeringer’s Dragon Con report where he ran 7 sessions of DCC RPG.
Let me first start by letting you know that I have never run a game at a convention. I’m a “home role player”. That is probably pretty common with a majority of people. Well I just ran some sessions at Dragon Con in Atlanta Georgia – 7 sessions to be exact – all in 3 days. This is my tale of pushing yourself to the edge for the hobby you love, and almost tumbling over the cliff for the entertainment of strangers and yourself.
I’ve been to Dragon Con a few times before and I mainly go for the RPGs, which many people will tell you are sadly under showcased for a convention of such large size. The first year was simply a scouting mission. I didn’t sign up for any games, I only watched people play various role playing games and attended some panels. My goal was this, “let me see how other GMs are at running games to see if I have the chops to jump in”. My conclusion was these 3 words, “I got this”.
I know that many DMs, GMs, and Judges think they are the best at what they do, and I also have a high opinion of myself in this regard. I would like to explain that I put my all into a game I am running. From speaking loudly with conviction, expressions, voices, energy, and excitement. I am a theater troupe, storyteller, and mime all in one. All of this effort to stand out, to please, to build excitement, champion the system, hobby and product were probably the things, in the end, that took the most toll on me. While exhausted in the “mustering room” before a session began on the final day, I stated to those that saw me slumped in my chair, “I just put so much into it.”
I had seen Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG at my FLGS and was instantly amazed by its old school vibe and artwork. It brought me back to when I first got into this hobby. After purchasing the tome I decided I would look into the games community and while on the Goodman Games site I saw the Road Crew Events. Fantastic, I would run this new RPG at Dragon Con, hand out a bunch of cool swag, and show players what I offer as a Judge and challenge myself to step out of my box after all these years. Certainly I would be the talk of the convention and people would be singing my praises to all that would listen. After much work on my part trying to communicate to the director of Non-Campaign RPGs (a whole other story unto itself) I finally made my sessions on their site, had my swag from Goodman Games, and slots were beginning to fill. “I got this.”
This was the schedule:
- 7 sessions
- 2 on Friday and Saturday; 3 on Sunday
- 4 hour sessions; 28 hours total
- 0-level character funnels
- 112 characters used
- 5 players maximum; each player would have 3 characters.
Yeah, that is a lot. Especially for someone who has never run a game at a convention.
Friday Session 1: The Portal Under the Stars 1pm-5pm
Positives: Bob and Jason were like life long buddies around the dining room table, very friendly and excited to be playing. “Quiet Guy” was fine, he was just that player that seemed to speak the least. They all loved the swag. Adventure and system well received.
Negatives: “Sleepy” did just that. He fell asleep within 2 minutes of me explaining the game. Even though it was incredibly rude he WAS paying to play ($3) and I didn’t let it bother me. Still though, I HAD SOMEONE FALL ASLEEP DURING MY FIRST SESSION! He said he had a hard night and I did call him out on it in front of everyone. He was much better after that. “Jim Carrey” had to leave a little bit early but no big deal, his loss at not experiencing the end of the adventure.
Conclusion: I felt good about the game and was heaped with praise from the players for my effort in making the game exciting. I was even asked if I worked for Goodman Games.
Friday Session 2: Attack of the Frawgs by (ThickSkullAdventures.com) 6pm-10pm
Jennifer and Joe had a no show from the Judge that was running their game so I sold them on DCC RPG and they bought the pitch.
Positives: Bob again (yay!). Hilarious comedy from just about everyone. I was on a roll with jokes and had them laughing pretty much through the whole adventure. The adventure was well received and the last encounter was just side splitting with some sexual humor. John said he was sold the moment I said Gygax and he felt that the game was exactly what he was expecting and how I described it.
Conclusion: I was relaxed and getting into the zone earlier in the adventure and with more control.
Saturday Session 3: The Portal Under the Stars 1pm-5pm
This was a group of friends that all knew each other. Monica and Rob were married and Rob told me that he was his group’s DM.
Positives: A BOX OF WINE. Real easy going group that only got looser as the game progressed, and they all seemed to really love my style and excitement. Monica was the super roller at the table that seemed to be doing all the killing, which made it cool to see her embrace those moments. Pierce hadn’t played in years he said but DCC RPG felt great to him and he liked it a lot. He also came up with a cool trick to foil a nasty monster.
Negatives: Tony had to leave early which kinda stunk, but he did have to go get William Shatner’s autograph. I made a few mistakes with some minor rules stuff, but nothing crippling.
Conclusion: A very memorable group and maybe even my favorite. From what I gathered Rob had “taught” his wife Monica how to be a good player and it showed, very cool. They really got into the game and I felt their energy as a Judge and that only made me try harder.
Saturday Session 4: Attack of the Frawgs (ThickSkullAdventures.com) 6pm-10pm
Positives: Jason was back. Fun group of players that really enjoyed the adventure. Pete knew some of the system and had the book which was extra points. John in the orange shirt was having a ball, laughing hard and really embracing the characters he was playing. He actually said that he enjoyed Attack of the Frawgs more than “more deadly adventures”. The adventure ended in some great hooks for further exploration and the “acting” I did with one of the last creatures was hysterical.
Conclusion: Fun time had by all. I was starting to get pretty tired at this junction. I knew the next day was the adventure packed day and I was starting to lose my voice a little bit.
Sunday Session 5: The Portal Under the Stars 1pm-5pm
This one was bumpy.
Positives: John, Rich, Kenny, and Michael all seemed to be having a blast and told me it was great. Buddy was the “Quiet Guy” but he said he enjoyed himself. John told me later that he really enjoyed the effort and he would use my techniques in his upcoming games.
Negatives: THEY SPLIT THE PARTY 3 WAYS! Splitting the party tested me to the fullest and I had to think fast as well as keep it going smoothly. Chris was in pure survival mode and looked around the doorways with a mirror on a stick. Every room was meta-gamed to a high degree by Chris. Now I must say that if that is his style that is his style. It may not embrace the “feel” of DCC RPG but that is how he wanted to play his characters. None of them died and none of them lived if that makes any sense. The other players became frustrated with this “tactic” and the party was split. Characters died alone and information from one character to another was non-existent. I took major mental fatigue from this game right at the start it seemed. I hate that some players might not have had a better time due to one players inaction but I let people play how they want to some extent. There was an extra player due to Judges not showing up to run their own games though not a negative because I could handle it, just more work.
Conclusion: A very tiring game for it to be my first game of the day, and with 2 session left it damaged the soft matter between my ears. Again I must stress that I put everything I got into these games. I found myself standing up, acting out character attacks and deaths, and really using the space.
Sunday Session 6: Perils of the Sunken City (PurpleSorcerer.com) 6pm-10pm
Positives: Bob was back and brought his wife Lisa. Pete was there too and its nice to have people that know your style and how you run things. Jereme and Kelsey were a couple and that’s always cool. Lots of deaths, which was fun and exciting. Perils is a brutal adventure and it didn’t disappoint in that regard. Opossumen characters were cool and fun to describe and act out for the players. They loved the swag and were very vocal about how much they enjoyed my style. Very clever ways of getting past “traps”.
Negatives: I forgot one guys name. Not that he was quiet or didn’t stand out, I just couldn’t remember it or to write it down and I was really exhausted at this point. They really didn’t “get” the last area of the adventure and that was disappointing for me as a Judge.
Conclusion: I still brought it 100% even though I was hitting a wall physically. The adventure didn’t go how I would have liked, but it was the first time I had ran it. I learned a lot about how to run the adventure the next time. I was lightheaded after this game and needed a boost.
Sunday Session 7: Perils of the Sunken City (PurpleSorcerer.com) 10pm-2am
I normally don’t drink energy drinks but I was looking for any help I could get at this point. I was simply exhausted. It looked like I had 2 black eyes and was punch drunk like a boxer. I was so tired in fact that I forgot to take a picture…or maybe it was because I was about to run a game from hell. It was the latter.
Positives: Perry from my earlier game was there and he is a good guy.
Negatives: I will try to not make this too preachy but the tale must be told. I hope those reading this will learn something to look out for and maybe avoid it if you can. Player X and Player Y were quite simply the worst type of player you could possibly have sit at your table at any time of day. I instantly got a bad vibe as I got my stuff ready and was handing out materials. Player X was standing up a lot and was distracted by unimportant stuff. Player Y was slow to get a sentence out and showed up late. Both of them were playing 0-level characters and were “Role” playing them like a 15th level year long campaign character. Instead of being a group of peasants who worked in the same town together, they were out for themselves, especially Player X. Player X did pretty much the opposite of all the other players. He began sighing heavily at times. Along with him slowing the game down, he interrupted me every time I was reading block text from the adventure, which had me saying “let me finish!” in a stern voice. I’m talking he did it the moment I revealed some terrible monster or horrible revelation, my patience was out the window. I was moments away from kicking him out of the game. Player Y on the other hand would halt the game to a crawl with simply talking so slow and dragging out banality that it became infuriating. He would often stop the game to make a roll and then slowly debate in his mind if he should tell us what it was for, he didn’t. After a hour of game time we were at Area 2 of the adventure and I had to tell them to speed it up.
The player that I couldn’t remember his name seemed like a good guy until at the end of the adventure when he just up and left the table without a handshake, thank you or other acknowledgement of my hard work. I found that quite shocking to say the least as it was a first for me at the convention. Player Y preceded to tell me all the stuff his 0-level characters were thinking and doing after the adventure while Player X wanted to return to the deadly arena and reclaim peasant weapons lost in the fighting, all while I was trying to pack my stuff up, it was 2 am. I was dumbstruck by these two. I found them both to be socially inept in all regards. They simply only cared for their own enjoyment of the game and everyone else was forfeit to listen to their sputtering gibberish. James was tired of these two as well and Perry made the best of the situation. Unfortunately I had to cut out a few rooms because of the time we had lost.
Conclusion: Nightmare. I went to sleep with twitching muscles from exhaustion thinking of writing this report absolutely amazed at what I had just been through. I say to those out there that might play in a convention, try to think about others for a change. Its not all about you. Other people paid money to have a good time and you should make sure that your actions don’t take away from others. I am not your friend, nor have I been playing at your kitchen table, running games to suit your personal rpg needs. We only have 4 hours to get something accomplished that I have worked long and hard. These types of gamers hurt the hobby for others and Judges like me from returning to run something again in the future.
Overall I know that I had a lot on my plate and I accept that. I made the schedule. I won’t have those 2 players ruin what I worked so hard to accomplish. It was a fun experience and a positive one. I learned that I am a good Judge and my self esteem has been boosted from the endeavor. I made some new twitter friends and they still are thanking me for my effort. I love the hobby and will continue to run adventures at future conventions. I hope you have enjoyed this tale and I want you to know that there is a happy ending. Not only did I do what people have labeled me as “a machine!” but I had a belt buckle waiting for me at when I got home thanks to Joseph Goodman.
Brandon Goeringer is a 36 year old stay at home dad, living in Mauldin South Carolina. I first experienced role playing games with Steve Jackson’s Car Wars and soon after with AD&D 2nd. Edition and Twilight 2000 when I was 10 years old. Fighting Fantasy books scratched my itch when I was alone and once I was able to get a job and some money, the games I’ve played exploded. This made way for MERP, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Star Wars D6, L5R, Call of Cthulhu, White Wolf, and D&D 3.0/3.5 to more modern games such as Pathfinder, Scion, Dark Heresy, Dragon Age, and my extreme love of Savage Worlds. While I own many more games yet to be played I look back on my history and am amazed that I’ve been playing for over 2 and a half decades. Continuing to play the best hobby in the world today, Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG brings me back to those days as a child, looking at the art of Jeff Easley, Brom, and Elmore and being lost in imagination. (Twitter @SavageGM)