Sunday, November 3, 2013

GameHoleCon. Better than GenCon. There I said it.

Its Sunday here at GameHoleCon and I have already endured two solid days of gaming majesty, with another game yet on the horizon in a few hours.  In the meantime, let me give you a run down about how epic this convention has been here in Madison, WI.

First of all, as soon as you arrive you can see they took over the entire Sheraton Hotel, and changed all the maps of the place to old-school style B/E art.  Here is the sign on the room for the LAIR OF MASTERS, where the special guests run events.  If you look closely at the map, you can see that even the hotel pool was absorbed into the Con, renaming it THE SCRYING POOL.  Or maybe the picture is too blurry, well, take my word for it.  Their takeover was complete.
One of the things Madison really has going for it over other cities in the Midwest is that we have no fewer than seven game stores (and a number of other stores of nerd-interest) in a 30 mile radius.  Not to mention the publishers and stores that traveled to get here.  That meant GameHoleCon had an incredibly impressive Dealer hall, all running 'Con specials like 20-40% off all items or buy-one-get-one-free boardgames!

Myself, I finally picked up that copy of Relic I've been eyeballing for six months.  Talisman in the 40k universe? Well, sign me up! (...for 40% off)  I can't wait to test the patience of some friends when I pull out that chit-monster on game night.

 Albion Swords from New Glarus is also here, slinging their Frazetta-style awesomeness.
But the dealer hall is not the reason you attend the Con.  You attend a Con for the games, and this Con had some of the best special guests running those games I've ever had the pleasure of hanging out with.

My first game was also probably one of the coolest, in that I got into a Call of Cthulhu game run by Jen Page.  She clearly has a love for Call of Cthulhu and her props and storyline were some of the best I've seen, especially in a narrative game like CoC.  Rarely is one able to get into a Call of Cthulhu event at a gaming 'Con, especially with a famous Keeper!   I mean, I went insane at the end, sure, but at least we saved the kidnapped children and (mostly) stopped the summoning ritual, so that was an acceptable trade-off.

Right after Jen's game finished on Friday evening, I played an Indiana Jones RPG game with David "Zeb" Cook.  That's right, the actual author of the Indiana Jones game system (among about a 1000 other game books), so you know he is good at running games and loves pulp adventure.  The game was based around the real-life urban legend of a city of reptilian shapeshifters living under Los Angeles, and even featured Dr. Jones and Dr. Marcus Brody in the game.  All in all, a high-octane, reptilian-punching good time.

Last night I played in Bill Cavalier's (aka the Dungeon Bastard's) INSURMOUNTABLE GAUNTLET OF DOOM!  And let me tell you, that Gauntlet was nearly insurmountable, unless you picked the right character.  The Dungeon Bastard had a lot of pre-generated characters to choose from, characters like "Bumble Dirkins" the Halfling Thief or "Benadryl Tikklenflower" the Elven Wizard.  But for me, I had to go with MOLG! the half-orc barbarian, and I fared a little better for it.  Here's a pic of us at about 11pm last night, laying waste to the Evil Gnome Illusionist's ("Nicholas Nimbleknickers'") protoplasmic henchmen.

Not to say MOLG didn't take a few hundred hits, he definitely took a beating.  But that's okay, because he stayed true to The Dungeon Bastard's Rules of Being Awesome:

1) Always kill the first NPC you meet.
2) Never use Diplomacy when Intimidate will do.
3) Always check for traps. WITH YOUR FEET.

The chance to game past midnight with a true adventuring coach like the Dungeon Bastard was something you just won't forget anytime soon.

And that is one of the coolest things about GameHole Con, the guests.  Not only the actors and actresses (who are also nerds) who attended, but there are so many of the original D&D designers that came that made it just a non-stop D&D awesomefest.  Even Chris Perkins (the current D&D designer at Wizards) came to give talks, run games, and hang out with these guys.  My buddy Travis ended up hanging out with Frank Mentzer at the Con, because they were a couple of the few remaining humans who still smoke.  I've never wished I had a nicotine problem more than when Travis texted me this picture from outside the hotel.

Ernest Gary Gygax Jr. was there to give seminars and run some games.  I got to talk to him quite a bit and it was a blast.  He had a lot of interesting info to share about the origins of D&D.  Here's a picture I took just a few minutes ago of Ernest Gary Gygax Jr. and Alex Kammer (one of the organizers of GameHoleCon) admiring one of Ernie's maps for his latest adventures.

The guys like Alex just did and awesome time putting this thing together and getting all sorts of sweet deals for attendees, most notably all pints of Spotted Cow in the bar were only $3 for attendees.  Since the bar was centrally-located in the hotel and just a short walk away from any of the game rooms there was plenty of New Glarus' approved revelry going on at all times.  D&D and Beer, just as the founders of Wisconsin envisioned.

I even got to publicly debut my own Cyberpunk game in the Unpublished Games room (yes, there are enough people like me who bring thier homemade games that their is a room for people who want to try out new stuff).  Our homemade tablet/smartphone game system garnered a number of interested onlookers.

GameHoleCon has just been an excellent Con, and in my opinion has many qualities that allow it to surpass all other Cons I've attended, even the glorious GenCon.

And its not over yet! I've got another game starting soon that'll take me into the evening. Even on Sunday this place is still pretty crowded.  I'll leave you with a few quick shots I took today of the still fairly-busy convention center.


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