Mr. Labyrinthian Goes to GenCon - Part 2: Of Gravestones and the Vampire Strahd

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I live in New England, Connecticut to be exact.  Let me tell you something about CT... it is far as hell from Indianapolis. Despite already knowing this we all agreed to get into two automobiles and drive there.  Originally we were all going to pile into the Professor's van, but due to mechanical difficulties we were forced to take two alternate vehicles.

The ride seemed like it would be just fine... for the first six hours.  The rest of the drive really sucked.  We left at 6pm Wednesday and didn't arrive until around around nine or ten AM on Thursday.  I don't actually know which as I was in an exhausted stupor while we were checking into our hotel.  One thing I do remember though the haze of exhaustion, the number of gamers we saw on our way in and at our hotel as we were checking in.  I just remember turing to Bear and pointing out how Gamers stick out like a sore thumb.  I mean think about it, 99 times out of 100 you can spot them a mile away.

So we checked in, moved out stuff in, and did our thing.  Revil, the Professor, and Moox all went right away to the convention.  Professor and Moox had entered a HeroClix tournament and Revil had gotten screwed out of his badge by the USPS (A tip we learned on our first GenCon experience, people.  Pay to have your badge FedExed to you because GENCON WILL NOT SEND YOU A NEW BADGE OR REFUND THE MONEY TO YOU IF THE US POSTAL SERVICE LOSES IT.)  and had to go and get a new one.  Only Revil had gotten any sleep on the way there so Moox and Professor were forging on exhausted.  Myself, Bear, and Trip all went to sleep to try and get as much rest as possible before our first event. 

We got up around 2:30 showered and headed over to the convention.  As this was my first trip to GenCon I did a lot of research including looking for parking lots ahead of time.  A lot of people said parking was a nightmare, but it wasn't a problem at all for us.  We parked in the same 24 hour lot every day for $10.  Good price, not a bad walk, and no chance of our car getting stuck overnight.

On our walk to the convention we spotted more gamers, easily recognizable as always, also making their march toward the Convention Center.  As I spotted more and more of them I got a strange feeling, but wasn't able to fully understand it as we arrived and all other thoughts were pushed from my mind.  As I've said I've done a lot of research, seen plenty of pictures, and heard a ton of stories about the world's largest gaming convention, but nothing could have prepared me for walking through that door for the first time.  The scale of the thing was overwhelming.  I felt like Harry F-ing Potter walking down Diagon Alley for the first time, totally immersed in something I'd only heard about and wanting to look everywhere at once.  I wanted to stop and look at all the interesting things people were doing, playing, or had on display.  I was so distracted that I kept falling behind the group.

Everywhere I looked were Gamers which brought back that feeling I'd had earlier and made me think about it.  Now I'm not sure if others feel this way, but often I feel like Gamers are people on an island.  Each local gaming group is like an island of Gaming culture in the sea of non gamers that make up the world.  Gamers are often social outcast and the hobby to which we belong is looked at as, at best, very strange.  But seeing all these Gamers, which in the downtown area far outnumbered everyone else, I realized that for once, this strange thing that I do is normal.  Now if you are new to this site then you don't know that I am a huge closet gamer.  I don't talk about gaming, pretend that I don't do it, and it took ten years of dating my (now) wife to tell her that I game weekly.  I love RPGs, I love D&D, but there is something about the stigma that I haven't wanted any part of since I was 11.  Which is why the convention evoked such an odd response from me.  I just couldn't get over the knowledge that I was surrounded by people who not only knew about gaming, but wouldn't think I was weird for doing it.

Once I got over my wonderment we went and found the Professor and Moox at their Heroclix tourney which was still going on when we got there.  Though Moox had drawn Red Hulk and was doing well The Professor had gotten a really crappy draw (His best figure being Peter Parker) and was doing as poorly as one might expect.  He withdrew from the tournament so we could make it to our True Dungeon 101 seminar and Moox hung around and kept playing.

True Dunegon 101 was my first GenCon event, sort of anticlimactic as it was just a seminar to show people what to expect from True Dungeon. Sadly it might have been the best seminar we went to, but I'll explain that later.

We left a few minutes early to make sure we made it to our Thursday night event, one we had all be waiting for, Ravenloft. No, not some campaign setting or redone module, I'm talking about the original I6 Ravenloft. This and True Dungeon were the two events I was really looking forward to. As I've said earlier I think Ravenloft is probably the best D&D adventure ever written. There are a number of reasons, but I won't go into them now. Instead I'll tell you about the amazing time we had.

Mike, the gentlemen who ran us through Ravenloft at GenCon has a website that we looked through beforehand, and even got to pick characters  We bought all the tickets to the event so for the first time ever, our group would all be on the same side of the screen, something I was excited about.  Immedietly upon arriving at the table I knew we were in for a real treat.  Mike had set everything up including props and items like rubber bats to set the mood.  We literally didn't need to bring a thing as he provided everything including markers for the characters and poker chips for spells.  It was readily apparent that Mike has been perfecting this game for quite some time and he has streamlined everything from the rules to the phyiscal materials (Dice, character sheets, etc) help speed up the game and maximize the fun.  Mission accomplished!

 This was my Gravestone trophy I got when my character died.  Everyone one and they were all different.

We got off to something of a rough start as far as actually playing the adventure since Moox showed up late to the event (his Heroclix had run over).  But once play got underway we had an absolute blast. I don't want to ruin anything for those of you who have not played Ravenloft before so I'll try to keep things as spoiler free as possible.  We started off at an Inn outside of Barovia as per the module.  We were drawn in with the classic hook and were off and running.  The DM was an excellent roleplayer and though we were all using pregenerated characters we really started to get into them.  Things were going really well for us until we reached the castle.  We had made allies with the townsfolk, were on good terms with the gypsies, and my Paladin Sir Richard Dragonblood had defeated one of Strahd's principal lackeys in a duel.  But as I said, we had a reversal of fortunes upon arriving at Strahd's castle.  Both My character and Revil's died during the one truly brutal random encounter in the adventure.  It was all down hill from there.  One by one, room by room our resources were widdled down to nothing until everyone was dead.  We loved every minute of it!  Bear was the last one to go.  He out in the blazes of glory destroying Strahd's organ out of pure spite.

Though the game was scheduled to only last until 1am we ended up playing until 5am, just missing the 12 hour mark.  Mike was a great sport and was willing to see the whole thing through.  The Professor should also be congratulated.  I consider an act of super human gumption and commitment that he stayed up having had no sleep for almost 48 hours.  Moox didn't have what it took and quit about half way though the game and I ended up taking over his character when mine died.

Ravenloft was without a doubt the best game we played at GenCon and probably spoiled us a bit.  Though we didn't defeat Strahd we did get plenty of Ravenloft Gravestones as a conselation prize.  For those of you making the trip out of GenCon next year check the event guide to see if Mike is running his Ravenloft game again.  If he is make it your number one priority to sign up for this game, you probably won't find a better one anywhere at the Con.

From Left to Right: Bear, Revil, The Professor, Trip, and our DM for the night Mike.

Exhausted we returned to our hotel to preapre for the next day... uh, I mean later that day.

This entry was posted on Friday, August 20, 2010 at Friday, August 20, 2010 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .



the ravenloft game sounds great. Im thinking about going next year and I think I'll try to sign up if there is space left!

August 21, 2010 at 1:18 AM

That last pic is halarious! *laughs*

August 23, 2010 at 11:56 PM

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