Tuesday, November 11, 2014

And the Gamehole goeth…

Actually the actual Gamehole is apparently a room above a bar & grill where the Gamehole guys meet regularly. I have been invited there a few times, but have never been able to extricate myself from familial obligations to go. Either way, that Gamehole remains, but the Gamehole Con has closed its doors for another year.

Once more, much fun was had during the course of three days. Below I will break down my experiences with each game I took part in. But let me start by giving my thoughts on the Con itself.

Warning: this post is kinda long…

It was awesome. Bigger and better than last year, GHC2 had a larger dealer room, with many interesting vendors and a lot of stuff that I had to make a Will save versus maxing out my credit card for. I walked away with some old school stuff for me (both of Metzner’s red books, a couple of Dragon Magazines, and B4 The Lost City), as well as a set of custom Dragon Age dice and a nifty dice bag, both for my wife. Of course, at the front entrance was the guy selling real swords. And Conan’s Father’s sword sat there for three days, taunting me with its $$$! price tag.

For gaming, there was a quite a wide variety. Of course, the big guns were 5E and Pathfinder, each with whole rooms devoted to just them. But there was also quite a variety of other games, both old and new. I even saw some guys playing Champions, and felt a twinge of jealousy, since I had kind of wanted to find a Supers game. Lots of board games, including an entire library and room of them, where you could just check one out and play it right there if you liked. And of course, a large miniature wargame room (more of a hall). Oddly, I didn’t see much for CCG’s, aside from a hefty MtG presence, as always. Are those out of vogue now?

The facilities were great. The Sheraton was very accommodating, and the other patrons who were clearly not there for the Con seemed to take it all in stride. A few odd looks, and not much more. All-in-all, the whole package was quite organized and well-done. The organizers seemed to have everything well in hand, and there was very little stress rolling off any of them. Now, on to my games…

Shadow of Moonsea (5E) – First off I took in a 5E game run by a friend of mine who works for the same state government agency as I do. It was a cool adventure, with some interesting mysteries, encounters, and a premise that could lead into a whole campaign. I played to type for me, and chose the Half-Orc Barbarian. Hey, it’s what I know and I figured I would ease into the weekend. The only downside was that the DM got so involved with the mounting story, that time ran short and we never got to finish the second half of the final battle. But, despite that, we all had a good time. And, as expected, the 5E rules were nice and swift, and didn’t get in the way of the story.

Why are we here? These things are already dead! (1E) – This was probably my least favorite of the games I played in. The game itself was fine, the DM (apparently someone who had written for TSR back in the day, but whose name escapes me now) knew what he was doing and was entertaining. But, the adventure was kind of silly, and based on D&D-izing a current political hot topic. Needless to say, the DM used it as a way of putting his views out there, and if you happened to disagree with those views…well, I did disagree, so I had to just grin and bear it. Once I got past that, and just concentrated on the game itself, it was fun. Nothing spectacular, but a decent time. After it was over, he let us know that the adventure would be coming out in print next month, and we rolled off to see who would get his playtest copy. I won. Good times, I suppose. The actual highlight of this session was turning around and realizing that Ed Greenwood was at one table running a game, and The Dungeon Bastard was at the other.

Frank Mentzer’s game (OD&D) – This was originally supposed to be a 1E minis-war type of adventure, but Frank, having just come back from Italy a few days prior, had forgotten the materials and minis. So, he gave us the choice of a 1E adventure, or a “Back to 1974” OD&D adventure. We went with 1974. It was a great time. The adventure itself was pretty cool, a standard “meet in the tavern, head to the dungeon” type of thing. But the real fun was just listening to Frank talk about the old days, and how they used to play this version of the game. It was like an RPG history lesson, wrapped around a fun little romp. Frank is a great guy, and I can only hope that I am half the DM he is. Especially when it comes to running things off-the-cuff, and engaging everyone at the table. As a bonus, he autographed my old Expert Rulebook (which now matches my signed David Cook edition), as well as the character sheet I used.

Interlude: Frank’s Table – After we ate dinner, my wife and I had about an hour before our next game. So, we took seats in the lobby in an alcove with a table that had a Con sign reading “Frank’s Table.” We knew it was Frank Mentzer’s table for something, but he wasn’t around when we sat down. Then, about fifteen minutes later, he showed up with a few board games, and proceeded to talk my wife and me into giving one a try. We played fun little game called Cathedral, and it was very cool. My wife wants to find a copy now (it’s out of print), because she thinks our son would enjoy it. Once more, Frank was a great person to talk to, and probably one of the nicest people in the world.

Rogue Moon of Spinstorme (Traveller T20) – We picked this game because we just wanted to break up the fantasy gaming with something else. Using the d20 version of Traveller, this was a nice, hard sci-fi, military game. The guy running it was a fellow Desert Storm vet, so there was a bit of the obligatory story-swapping at the beginning, then it was into the fray. The game was fun, and pretty interesting. With a few combats, some mishaps, and a couple of mysteries, it was the second of three parts, and I found myself wishing I could have taken part in the other two. Since it used the d20 mechanics, the play went smoothly, with little to no hiccups. The cool thing was that, even though it was a military-themed game, it didn’t feel forced, and my wife, who has no military inclination whatsoever, had a great time. Chalk it up to yet another fun game with strangers.

The Ruin of Ravenfall (Pathfinder) – My last game of the weekend was a Sunday morning Pathfinder game. I chose it because it wasn’t a Pathfinder Society game, so there was no pressure to do anything in a certain way. Incidentally, my wife was supposed to have joined us, but she had had a stressful day on Saturday, when there was a family emergency, followed immediately by her car having issues. Suffice it so say, everything is better now, including the car, but she felt she needed to back out of the game. So, I went alone. The adventure turned out to be the one that was written for, and published in the Gamehole Con program this year. The DM set out the pregens, and they were all Pathfinder-specific advanced classes. That was pretty cool, as it allowed me to see other options besides the standard classes. I ended up playing an elven swashbuckler with a rapier and a pepperbox (a primitive multi-barrel pistol, forerunner to the revolver). The adventure was way cool, with a lot of undead, a dark conspiracy, and an excellent boss-fight. I was ecstatic to have figured out the mystery long before the reveal. That rarely happens for me. I had a really good time with that one, and now that I have a copy of the adventure itself, I might see about running it myself sometime. Maybe for my kid or something.

With the Pathfinder game done, the Con was basically over for me. I lingered in the lobby for a bit. I had wanted to hit the dealer room one more time, but they were already packing up, so I wasn’t able to. In the end, I casually meandered out to my car and forlornly went home.

I had so much fun. And honestly, if it were possible, I could do one of these just about every weekend. I can see why some gamers get addicted and travel hundreds of miles for conventions. If I didn’t have so many other responsibilities, I would totally do that. But, I will settle for Gary Con in the Spring, and then Gamehole again next year. And I think next year I definitely want to try my hand at running something.


  1. Nice after action report! Loved the write up of your meetings with Frank. It was fantastic to learn, for instance, that you ended up playing Cathedral with the great man. My wife had bought that game for me this past May on the occasion of my birthday. Not a bad little game at all.



  2. I enjoyed your write-up. I also looked fondly upon those swords - especially those based on the Conan movie. Maybe I'll see you at GaryCon or Gamehole Con III next year?