Saturday, August 18, 2012

Some OSRCon Impressions

Says Spawn:

OSRCon last weekend was the first gaming con I've attended, and I was surprised at how intense of an experience it was. This might have been turned up a notch by a lot of driving from central PA to Toronto, being part of the Ken St. Andre envoy, and the exotic setting in the frozen wastes of Canada, but the reality is that gaming draws upon energies that other activities do not. It is a rarefied social interaction. So I was pretty punchy the whole time.

I had a good time. I played Tunnels and Trolls for the first time under the TrollLordship of Ken St.Andre himself, which started off Friday morning with a fairly in-depth explanation of the rules -- but also the logic and rationale behind those rules, often critiquing short-comings of That Other Game -- to a group of 8 to 10 players. There were some digressions there, but I was happy to hear Ken's exegesis. Then we all spend about 2 hours TRYING TO GET INTO THE FIRST ROOM OF THE DUNGEON. Seriously. All these seasoned gamers and folks are falling off a bridge, drowning, saving the drowning, not saving the drowning, flying into the ceiling, breaking ankles, cutting hands up, looking for sticks, splitting the party, getting it back together .... It was fun, but Ken St. Andre is a clever guy that lets the party kill itself, as he said several times over the weekend.

Later I played LL that Carter was running. He may elaborate on that. I will note that it was by that time I noticed that of the ~8 players, I was surprised to find about half to be in their 20s or so. That wasn't representative of the attendees overall, but there was a strong (local) contingent of people born well after Moldvay/Cook or Mentzer Basic were popular. And they were cool folks to play with and talk to, as well, lots of enthusiasm.

Saturday I got to play in a LL Barrowmaze session run by its author, Greg Gillespie. He is a very cool guy, a stern but fair DM. I was intrigued by the turning mechanics for clerics in Barrowmaze, as well as the great art by Stefan Poag, Jim Holloway, and an "Irish guy". I will buy this thing now. The play itself was ... well, I'll be honest: it was some of the stupidest play I've been involved in for a long time, but I was as much a part of that stupid play as anyone. I walk up to the altar. "A trap door opens in front of the altar. You fall into the pit. It's bottomless. You can play this NPC now." After that it was variations on "Make as much noise as possible in the dungeon", shouting for lost retainers, hammering iron spikes into everything, chiseling away at the cursed obelisk ... fucking DUMB, my friends. But that's how we were doing it and it was a good time. Lots of death.

That afternoon I was weary, after getting lunch with Greg and his compatriot (Mr. Gillespie is not fond of spicy food and we ended up at a really great Pho place; he took it in stride), I was really exhausted. After the panel discussion I wondered if I'd actually play in the Call of Cthulhu game I was signed up for. In the event, I decided to go for it, and announced to the Keeper, Blain, that I had never played the game before and don't know the rules at all. "That's probably better, actually," he said, and the other players nodded. We played a scenario that is apparently Ghost Light, from this Terrors from Beyond collection, about a mysteriously abandoned Scottish lighthouse. Lawrence Whitaker and another player conducted most of the play in dubious Scottish accents (which I couldn't muster for myself) and there was a lot of good play, plenty of joking but not to the point of derailing the tension and pace of the game. I don't have other Keepers to compare Mr. Blain to, but he had the game so well organized and narrated the events in such keen fashion -- and though he referred to his screen occasionally for some mechanical bits, it never intruded on the play. A very fluid style that indicates he really knows the game inside and out and really loves to run it. So I had fun. I went temporarily insane for a period, but managed not to get turned into a pile of goo by a weird being. Not bad for a newbie.

The next day before we drove Ken back to the airport on our way out of town we stopped in at the modernist Robarts Library at UT, where I was trying to identify places that Cronenberg shot parts of his student films Stereo and Crimes of the Future, and allegedly inspired some elements of the library in The Name of the Rose. More on that another time


  1. Sounds like a great time. I had the pleasure of gaming with Ken last year at Origins. I think what I came away mostly from our encounter was the love he has for T&T. You can't beat his enthusiasm. And he doesn't have a tendency to 'talk down' other games. Glad you had a great time. Maybe next year we can take a full caravan of PA gamers to invade Toronto.

  2. err, mean Ken *does* have a tendency to talk down about other games. But he's been doing it for so long and well its good just to hear some of the stories.

  3. I think you're right about his love for T&T, and for the most part I think his talking down to other games is not really mean-spirited, he just likes to rile people up. He didn't spend the whole weekend saying "Fucking Gygax was an idiot" or "People that play D&D are total assholes", despite the impression some have drawn from a certain play report from the con. He is a strong personality and at moments was a pain in the ass, like a lot of folks that are worth spending time with.

    1. That is a really fair assessment: Ken is iconoclastic but never mean-spirited. Quite the opposite, he displayed a wonderful sense of humor about things and even his subtle (and not so subtle) jibes at That Other Game were always done with a wink and a smile.

  4. It was great to play with you too, man!

    Stumpy rocked hardcore, until he fell down that bottomless pit :)

  5. Well, the untimely death of Stumpy the Improbable did pave the way for the era of Pardue the Holy Man and THE MACE OF INSANITY! so we have that to be grateful for.

    Thanks for running the game, it was a lot of fun to play Barrowmaze with the author.

  6. "I went temporarily insane for a period, but managed not to get turned into a pile of goo by a weird being. Not bad for a newbie."

    Any weekend about which the above can be said is a total success in my book!

  7. Glad you enjoyed the Cthulhu game, Spawn!

    This was my first con in decades (I went to a couple in high-school in the late 80s). I was a bit nervous about running a game for 'strangers,' but everyone got along quite well and helped to make the session a lot of fun.