Tuesday, June 01, 2010

In Which The Warlock Speaks on AnCon...

In our ongoing efforts to bring the Wittenberg style of gaming to other conventions, L-Train, the Enigmatic Mr. Ebbs, the PlatinumChick and I headed out for a semi-local convention last weekend: AnCon 2010, in Hudson, OH. I had heard good things about AnCon from several sources, and was even further encouraged to hear that it was Amorphous Blob’s “home convention”. I’ve always enjoyed AB Games’ selections at Origins, so I was happy to be joining them again for a weekend.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that AnCon was really a great experience. In fact, it was somewhat underwhelming.

We arrived on Friday to a bustling hotel. After picking up our badges, we headed to our room to await word from our old friend Nick and his fiancée, Chaotic Lauryn. Thumbing through the on-site book, we immediately took notice of what became a hallmark for our entire weekend: a whole slew of typos and errors.

You see, we arrived at AnCon locked and loaded with 3 sessions of games each—I had prepped WEGS demos (complete with free prize support from El Willy!), while EEE, L-Train, and PlatinumChick brought CthulhuTech, d20 Zombies, and Call of Cthulhu respectively. I had personally done the write-ups for all of our games, pulling them from previous WittCon and Origins descriptions, proofing them as I went. The write-ups in the on-site book, though? They were a train wreck, with numerous misspelling and the like. Wittenberg was misspelled each time, being spelled “Whittenebreg”. Seriously, guys? For a comped badge, I’d have edited the book myself.

The next day, we set out for our first games, arriving early so that we could check out the Dealer Hall and perhaps jump into one of the many WotC Dungeon Delves that were going on. Believe it or not, I actually had fun with this one. Rare is the time that all of us actually get to play D&D together—usually, at least one of us is the GM, so we can’t all pull a character and just run through an adventure.
After the Delver, we headed out for our first games. Or, rather, game. Singular.

Only Jules’ “Welcome to Zendik Farms” game had any players whatsoever during the first session. Both L-Train and I were left in the cold, while EEE had a pair, which quickly left, as they were apparently hung over from the previous evening’s festivities. After an hour-long palaver with Dave Radzik—the AnCon organizer—I put away the Copper Pot and rejoined our group.

We decided upon a demo of Blitz Jager—a space-based dogfighting game that was still in playtest. Unfortunately, Blitz Jager was something of a dud. In less than an hour, it became infinitely apparently that there were massive balance issues between the space “factions” and that actual dogfighting was nigh-impossible. You had to practically be on top of your foe in order to deal damage to them! Some ‘dogfighting’, right? Disappointed with Blitz Jager, we waited for Jules to finish her trek through Cthulhu territory to grab some food.

That evening, I had been looking forward to running a group through Dingbitt’s Dunge-o’-DOOM—the quintessential WEGS dungeon crawl. I had 4 people signed up for it, only to arrive back to see that all four had cancelled! Hell’s bells, I thought! What was the point? I did manage to scrounge up three players, who joined EEE, L-Train and Emily in the dungeon. However, that meant dropping both EEE’s and L-Train’s games, for whom no players showed up.

The next day brought with it much of the same. While PlatinumChick’s game had players on deck, she was feeling under the weather, so the players joined EEE’s game. I was just about to pack up my WEGSing materials, when an interesting thing occurred.

One of the con organizers came by with his three kids. Apparently, he had attempted to get them into one of the WotC Dungeon Delves, but both of the coordinators were running games. Looking for an easy-to-learn, dungeon-crawling game, he thought that WEGS might fit the bill. As such, I passed out the Ark cards and L-Train joined me in initiating the youngest group of WEGSHogz—two pre-teen girls and their 9 year old brother.

Y’know, I had thought that I might have a hard time with the whole thing, but the teaching background tends to help. L-Train took the little brother under his wing, while I focused on the two young ladies. With two Warriors, a Ranger, and L-Train’s Gnobbit Trickster in tow, they headed deep into White Plume Mountain…where they handed my dice to me on a platter.

Let’s do the math here: 5 (on the Damage Die) + 2 (bonus from Vagary’s Discretion) x 7 (Ranger Strength) + 6 (6/66 Good Shot) + 4 (Ranger Strength Up) = 7 x 17 Wounds! That’s 119 Wounds! In one bloody hit! In the words of our 9-year-old “ninja”… “BiBBle bits everywhere!”

We headed home shortly after our two games ended. L-Train and I had enough time for me slip into the Dealer Hall once more to pick up some Call of Cthulhu minis—including a Dunwich Horror set, which I’ll be reporting on later.

Overall, I can’t even say that I had a fun time at AnCon. We had brought 12 games to Akron, only to have less than half of them go off and, even then, only because our own gamers jumped in to fill seats. The people at the Reg Desk often seemed confused at what was going on, and attendance seemed really sparse for the number of events going on.

I suppose a fitting analogy for it all might be the Clarion Inn’s own breakfast. As AnCon GMs, we were given passes for a free hot breakfast buffet each morning. It was a great perk, I thought, as we went to the breakfast on Saturday. That is, until we got there. Service was lousy, it took over half an hour for us to get seated, and we didn’t even get drinks till the end of the meal. We still went Sunday, but it was no better. Just as with the breakfast, AnCon had hit-and-miss service, few games we were able to actually play, and little interest in what we were bringing to the table.

I’m not sure whether we’re going to give AnCon a second chance in this regard. While it got the word out on WEGS a little bit and it’s close-by, I’m not sure it’s worth the expenditure for next year, if we can’t even fill half of our slots. I feel like both FOPCon and even WittCon were somewhat better organized, with more events going off, and a better handle kept on scheduling. Time will tell, I hope.

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