Nuke(m)Con 2016

Nuke(m)Con. It’s my gaming group’s homegrown convention which was first held in 2004 as an alternative to going to GenCon. It’s schedule was never formally defined, but for a while we had an every-other-year schedule going with conventions in 2006, 2008, and 2012.

Then came the convention drought. It wasn’t for a lack of trying — we made a couple of determined runs at hosting a Nuke(m)Con after 2012, but jobs and family conspired to keep us from actually pulling the trigger. All of us really wanted to have another convention, but it wasn’t until 2016 (with some determined urging by our friend Cory) that it all came together for Nuke(m)Con 2016.

It was held November 4-6, 2016 and there were two major catalysts for the convention: our 20th anniversary and was D&D 5th Edition.

Twenty Years of Chaos

It’s hard to believe, but my gaming group has been together for 20 years. We first started meeting as a cohesive group in the fall of 1996 (the same year I got married) and many of our original players are still in the group. There was a sense that we had to have a Nuke(m)Con in 2016 as a way of recognizing that milestone and celebrating all those most excellent adventures.

It wasn’t just the anniversary though. Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition also played a part in part in getting everyone to the table. We’ve been running two “playtest” campaigns for the last 18 months, and finally reached the mid-level sweet spot of 7th-to-8th level. Collectively we realized that not only were we still loving this game … we might just be able to bring back our old D&D 3rd Edition characters.

Not in their 3e incarnations though; while we loved (and, I think, still do love) 3E, high-level adventuring was always time-consuming and difficult using that system. It could work, particularly if we focused on the game, but it was work. With 5th Edition we had the promise of bringing back our old characters, streamlined and slimmed down for the new system, but still recognizable.

We spent a few weeks debating how to convert our characters in our online forum, creating new rules, tweaking magic items, and building a framework for the conversion. It wasn’t easy — some of these characters began their imaginary lives under D&D 2nd Edition, and had legacies that didn’t always fit perfectly with 5e’s streamlined aesthetic.

The conversion worked though, and at Nuke(m)Con 2016 some of our favorite heroes returned to the field of battle.

The Planetorn Conclusion

Back when D&D 4th Edition came out I created the Planetorn campaign. The basic idea was that the Lords of Entropy were trying to unmake the ordered universe to that they might replace it with something far more chaotic and primordial. Our heroes traveled from plane to plane trying to thwart the Lords plan. It gave us a great opportunity to playtest the 4E rules, and let me create wildly diverse environments for us to play in.

The campaign only ran for a few sessions before we decided the system wasn’t for us, and moved on to Star Wars: Saga Edition. I always wanted to return to that campaign though and 5e finally made that possible.

For the main event at Nuke(m)Con my friend Nate and I created a follow-up Planetorn event in which the sole remaining Lord of Entropy — the slaad lord Ygorl — was collecting creation artifacts in an effort to destroy the universe and replace it with perfect nothingness.

It was a high level adventure featuring 15th and 16th level characters, and it served two purposes. First, It let long-time players bring their old World of Greyhawk characters out of retirement. Second, it allowed the veterans of our Second Darkness campaign for Pathfinder to convert and play their own characters. This was a bigger deal than it might seem; the old-timers in our group played their Greyhawk characters for upwards of a decade. Having a main event at the convention that showcased those characters, but relegated newer players to running glorified NPCs seemed hollow. By creating an event that spanned multiple worlds, we set ourselves up for future crossover events between Greyhawk and Golarion.

The event went well. I think everyone had a lot of fun running their old characters, but I will say that it was hard to gauge just how deadly to make the final encounter. I think we managed to really tax our heroes, and push them near to their limits, but Ygorl might have been a bit too tough. The Lord of Entropy’s plot was foiled by the player characters, but he managed to flee to fight another day. That gives Nate and I a chance to tweak his statistics for the rematch.

And all the rest…

I have to admit the rest of the weekend is a blur. We had between four and 12 people at the convention at any given time, peaking Friday and Saturday night. Our friend Cory hosted the event (and, I have to say, was the driving force in making sure it actually happened … something for which I’m extremely grateful). Other games we played included the old-favorite Illuminati, a warm-up high-level D&D adventure set in Greyhawk, and a hand of The Hobbit deck-building card game.

As is our tradition, we had a group dinner on Saturday night, during which we stopped by Lost Tavern Brewing in Hellertown. They didn’t serve food, but the nearby food trucks did … and there was lots of delicious beer.

We didn’t play any video games, which was a departure from some of the early Nuke(m)Cons, but the overall sense was that we’d rather play card, board, or role-playing games than break out the technology.

Overall, I think the convention was a success. We all left wanting to do it again, and we’ve started kicking around possible dates in 2017. It’s my hope that we’ll see the crew together again this spring or — at the very latest — in the fall.

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