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August update: AlbaCon, a lurch towards the OSR and Gen Con

Pretty much all of my blog posts have been centred around a single topic. Usually a commentary on an aspect of gaming or a review of a product. I’ve rarely posted a traditional blog post as such. However a fair bit of time has passed since my last blog post and with summer firmly underway, it seems a good time to update you as to what is happening in my world of gaming.

Probably the most important piece of news is that along with Tabletop Scotland head honcho (and all round good guy) David Wright, as well as a few other brilliant people (Bulb, Simon, Oli and Kirsten) in the Scottish tabletop gaming community, I am running an online tabletop gaming convention for charity.

Running a charity convention has been on my mind for the couple of years since myself and a group of friends took part in the Sick Kids Save Point event in 2018.

As many regular readers will know, my son was diagnosed with Leukaemia back in 2016, when he was 8 years old. After 3 years of treatment he’s doing well and is a keen gamer. One of the charities who really helped us through that time was It’s Good 2 Give who run the fantastic Ripple Retreat at Loch Venachar in the Trossachs. It gives me great pleasure to be able to give something back to them, with them being the chosen charity for AlbaCon 2020.

AlbaCon 2020 will take place over the weekend of 3rd/4th October and we’re taking GM registrations right now. We welcome GMs and players of any system. We’ve also made sure that we have time-slots that will suit people worldwide. While AlbaCon may be run by a group of us in Scotland, the intention is to create a truly worldwide convention.

Another development this past few months has been a significant move towards the OSR on my part. I’ve dabbled in the OSR in the past and I’ve made no secret of my love of those old school games like Basic Fantasy and Labyrinth Lord, which either replicate B/X D&D or at the very least take their inspiration from it. I’ve developed a huge crush on Old School Essentials by Necrotic Gnome. The Moldvay/Cook/Marsh game of B/X Dungeons & Dragons is, in my opinion, the finest edition of the “world’s greatest role-playing game” and Old School Essentials is a phenomenal restatement of that ruleset.

However, when push comes to shove, as much as I enjoy reading through those old or refactored rulesets, I’m not hugely inclined to play them in their original form as I prefer my OSR games to have a more modern core. Enter Dungeon Crawl Classics. Not only is it a phenomenal game with a modern game engine and the gonzo vibe of those old B/X adventures, but it also has a fantastic community. I’ve really seen the generous and helpful side of the DCC community when organising AlbaCon. So many of my DCC compatriots have offered to run games, including the brilliant Daniel J. Bishop who has written so many great DCC adventures.

And now we are back to the subject of conventions, this past weekend, I finally attended Gen Con. Sadly, I didn’t attend in Indianapolis (a long term dream). Instead, I attended Gen Con virtually from the comfort of my front room.

On Thursday night I ran “The Portal Under The Stars”, a cracking little “funnel” adventure which comes with the DCC core rulebook. On Saturday, myself and my son were lucky enough to play in the DCC level 1 adventure “The Abbot of the Woods” which was run by the inimitable Brendan LaSalle.

My Thursday game went great, although it was made easier by having my son and three of my friends as part of the group of six players. This worked both in my favour and against me if I’m honest. I’m not sure I’d go for that kind of mix again. I think a con game works better if it’s either all friends in the group or all strangers. I did get the nagging feeling all night that five of the seven of us knowing each other possibly made the other two guys feel a bit like they’d turned up at someone else’s party. Obviously that wasn’t my intention but I regret it to some extent nonetheless.

The Saturday game was fantastic, despite me making some horrendous spellcasting dice rolls with my Cleric “Father Dave”. It took us a while to figure out how to defeat the evil Abbot and there was a sense of shame from the adults that it took the 12 year old in the room to figure out the riddle and the secret of how to defeat him.

Brendan runs his games over Zoom with no virtual tabletop, using only theatre of the mind techniques and physical dice and character sheets. As someone who plays mostly over VTT, this actually turned out to be quite refreshing and I can imagine it being quite liberating as a GM. The amount of effort that goes into preparing a VTT game is sizeable and it’s sometimes easy to forget that it’s perhaps not as necessary as it might seem. Removing the VTT from the game also meant that we could focus exclusively on Zoom, meaning that it felt way more like an in-person game than it otherwise might have done.

Ultimately, playing DCC with strangers over Zoom in a convention setting could have run into problems if the players didn’t have the specialist dice which DCC uses, but in this case they did so that problem was averted. All in all it was a fabulous session and overall, Gen Con Online was a huge success from my perspective.

There endeth the update for now. Keep on rolling those dice.

Return of the DM View All

I am a 40 something DM/GM located in Scotland. In 2016, I rediscovered the joys of tabletop role-playing games. This blog documents my journey back into the fold.

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