MEPACon Fall 2010 Wrap-up

Another MEPACon has come and gone, taking with it two weeks of frantic game preparation and 12 hours of actual play. The convention was held in Clarks Summit, near Scranton Pa. on November 12-14 and looked to have the typical attendance of 100 gamers playing a mix of board games, organized play, and one-shot RPGs. I ran three events, all of which had 5 to 7 players.

First up was “Catch and Release”, a Star Wars: Saga Edition adventure set in the Legacy Era and a follow-up to my MEPACon Fall 2009 adventure. The scenario involved Galactic Alliance agents sneaking onto a Sith-chartered cargo ship transporting Mon Calamari prisoners to the Deep Core. When I ran the playtest for this, the heroes rendezvoused with the ship in deep space; this time around they snuck on board as maintenance crew while the ship was still in the space port.

The MEPACon event ended up being more of a comedy caper than a Mission Impossible-style infiltration, but the players had fun with it.

Next up was my “The Rising Temple of the Ur-Flan” Pathfinder adventure, which went from nearly being cancelled to having a full table in about 5 minutes. Most of my gaming group’s own Pathfinder contingent didn’t play, but thankfully another group suddenly found themselves in need of a game, and I happened to have enough seats.

It went ok. I’m far from current on the Pathfinder rules, and most of those at the table were old D&D 3.5 veterans, so we ended up using a mishmash of D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder rules, plus a few shortcuts taken from Star Wars. It could have been a disaster if there’d been a rules lawyer among the players, but thankfully everyone was more than happy to play fast and loose. We were all more concerned about having a cool, fun game, and I think we succeeded.

I will say that I found prepping for this adventure to be a huge time sink. While D&D 3.5 was bad, Pathfinder is worse because there just aren’t the same degree of tools available for it. In D&D 3.5, I could use Heroforge to level up a 6th level druid, and then apply the vampire template. With Pathfinder, I could use a spreadsheet to do the leveling, but the template was all me. The same went for all of the other high-level half-vampire/familiar NPCs.

Worse yet, I knew how much easier I could have had it because I originally started writing the game as Savage Worlds, and only converted it to Pathfinder later on, when I learned that some of the Blackrazors were interested in the PF version. I’m sure it would have gone faster if I played Pathfinder regularly, but I’m done with it for now. Next year if I run something like this, I’m going with Savage Worlds and saving myself a week or two of development time.

The last session was “The Champions of New York”, my follow-up to last year’s “Ruins of New York” adventure for The Day After Ragnarok. I was writing the Savage Worlds-powered adventure up to the very last minute (in large part because I spent so much time on the Pathfinder adventure) but it went well. The scenario saw three returning characters from the first adventure: Tomb raider Andrea Boundless (now in a relationship with British rocketeer Jules Drake), Drake (now on the run from the British after forsaking his RAF commission for love), and Coromir, the American barbarian from Pittsburgh.

They were part of a team lead by Derrick Pitt, a Californian oceanographer-turned-adventurer recovering artifacts for the American government and including Carl Townsend, a card-playing, cosmic-string-tweaking hexslinger, and swordswoman Ana “Black Cat” Jameson. Their mission was to recover a Viking sword from the wreckage of the Spry Goose on Lake Champlain.

Doing so wasn’t easy — they needed to deal with the warring factions on the lake, namely the Republicans of Plattsburgh, NY and the Green Mountain Boys in Burlington, VT but also some how defeat Champ, the “sea monster” that’s been haunting the lake since the 1600s.

I ended up super-sizing the game with a 7th player (which was easy enough to do, as I had an extra character — a hotshot bush pilot — in my notebook who hadn’t made the cut for the original six) and I’m impressed with how well it ran. Savage Worlds stayed fast even with seven players, and I think the combats were suitably cinematic. Case in point: the final fight with the sea monster, in which one character tossed a gas can into the serpent’s mouth, and another ignited it with a lucky throw of a Zippo lighter.

Roy Scheider would have been proud.

I’ve long had a tradition of buying new dice at game conventions, but I hadn’t felt the need the last two years running simply because my regular dice were rolling so well. This year was different; thanks to my lunchtime Ragnarok game I really did need a new set of dice so I wouldn’t have to leave my prized Cthulhu dice at work every week. My new “Ragnarok” dice are smoky black with red lettering, nicely fitting the game’s post-apocalyptic theme. We’ll see how well they roll.

I bought one game as well — Munchkin Impossible — which we then combined with Munchkin Cthulhu to create … Munchkin Delta Green! We also got in games of regular Munchkin Cthulhu, Race for the Galaxy and Gamma World.

All in all, it was a good convention. Sure, a player or two might have driven me a little buggy, but this is to be expected. Most of the 20+ people I gamed with were great, and while the game prep was tiring, I had a lot of fun.

I will say that next time around I’m going going to cap myself at running two RPG events. I love RPGs, but running three sessions in a weekend is too much. Running two RPGs and a board game is far more manageable.