Monday, October 24, 2016

AVL Scarefest Day 3 And Wrap-Up: Final Thoughts On My Horror-Gaming Weekend

Howdy gang, and welcome to my final thoughts on AVL Scarefest, North Carolina's horror-themed gaming con I just got back from. Scarefest ran through Sunday with more gaming goodness offered to folks, but I had an 8-hour trip back home I needed to complete, so I left a bit earlier Sunday morning, missing on on any events for that last day.

One thing I thought was a great idea I'm sorry I missed was the Sunday Gaming Brunch -- breakfasty goodies were provided that Sunday morning while the various judges and refs ran 1-hour mini-adventures and boardgames, giving the attendees a quick "taste" of games and RPGs they might not otherwise try for several hours. There were samples of D&D 5e, Dread speed-rounds, Call of Cthulhu, many boardgames, and other "try-em-you-light-like-em" offerings. I would have liked to try my hand at some of those, but needed to cut out early.

I'm thrilled that my games of Cryptworld were as well-received as they were. I had two (nearly) full tables, and everyone who played really grasped the Action Table System pretty quickly. By the time Scarefest ended, I had several folks tell me they were going to pick up and run Cryptworld for their own home games. Glad to hear it! In fact, the Scarefest organizers were kind enough to post this to Facebook:

So how was Scarefest? It was awesome. It is one of the smaller events I've attended, but it's only in its second year, so it's still growing. It's fantastically organized and Amie and Michael Tracey put on a fantastic show. The location is beautifully amazing -- a secluded valley surrounded by mountains in the fall? The atmosphere was astounding. There was plenty of stuff to play with a great variety of games and systems. The boardgame check-out selection was fantatsic, and having an Artemis starship sim for folks to try was a nice touch as well. Scarefest was like going to a fantastic Halloween party -- WITH GAMING. How can it NOT be fantastic?

If I had anything to suggest, it would be the scheduled blocks. The games were scheduled in blocks of 5 hours, which (to me) is a LOT of time to run a typical game. Most other cons run them in 4-hour blocks which is adequate. Plus, with 5-hour blocks, you lose one whole extra game period. (5-hour blocks roughly run 8a-1p; 1-6p; and 6-11p; whereas 4-hour blocks roughly run 8a-12p; 12-4p; 4-8p; and 8-midnight.) However, Amie explained that, since this was originally a Pathfinder Society event, these 5-hour blocks are necessary for the games they run. Anyway, this is an incredibly minor point and the only issue I thought was odd, but hardly problematic to my enjoyment of the weekend.

In closing, AVL Scarefest absolutely deserves your attendance next year. It's a tightly run event with lots to offer and lots to do. The location is beautiful when the sun is up, and unsettlingly atmospheric when the sun goes down. And with every game having a horror theme during the Halloween fall season, it was a FANTASTICALLY fun time for a horror hound like myself. Totally worth the 8-hour drive, and I'll be there next year as well.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

AVL Scarefest Day 2: The Shambling Un-Dead And Unquenchable "Things"

Good evening everyone, and welcome to Day 2 of my blog reports from Scarefest here in North Carolina! Today started bright and early at 8 a.m. with wholesale slaughter in DCC RPG, with the carnage continuing in my early evening Cryptworld game. And here we go...
  • Got up this morning, got ready, scampered down for breakfast, and headed over to the convention facility. Very uneventful, and nothing to report there. But the fact that I didn't have any problems of goofy stuff happen was noteworthy, so I shared it with you here.
  • The Dead Character Graveyard had claimed another victim during last night's games, so there were about 7 or 8 character sheets posted in memorium of those who perished. We were about to shatter those figures... 
  • My first game today started bright and early, with the DCC RPG game "The Shambling Un-Dead." In this tournament game, our village had been cut off from The Outside World by a series of ley lines. And the dead had crawled from the grave to attack the hapless villagers. We got our zero-level characters, and my PC had a single hit point. We rolled initiative. I was to go last. The judge rolled an attack, and got me for three points, killing my character. So I died without getting a chance to do ANYTHING. And that pretty much set the tone.
  • By the time the game ended, we had fought an undead crocodile in the sewers, worm-gorged possessed priests, undead babies, and lots of lots of zombies. Each of us went through 5-6 characters, and the Dead Character Graveyard was a bright goldenrod in color by the time the game ended. Fantastic game and great fun!
  • Walked back to the room to drop some stuff off. Again, nothing to report. Snapped a few photos of the surrounding mountainsides. Beautiful location!
  • Needed to hurry back, as I had a group of Cryptworld investigators ready to brave the forests of Ohio to rescue some lost hunters in "Unquenchable." None of the players were familiar with the Pacesetter Action Table system, but they took right to it as we got started. I've run this scenario several times, so I won't recap the plot. But one of the more interesting events was when a player VOLUNTEERED to roll a fear check although it was unnecessary. Although he had encountered the thing before, he felt he was still shaken enough to merit the check. So I allowed it, he failed HORRIBLY, then ran screaming in a random direction, directly AT the thing that freaked him out. Another player opened fire on the thing to save his partner, and managed to accidentally SHOOT said partner in the leg, dropping him at the feet of the thing, which moved in to attack. Wow, THAT was an intense encounter. (They also learned that if you shoot a backpack filled with grenades, it'll make short work of everything without 100 feet.)
  • When we ended the game, I had several new Action Table converts. One had won one of the Cryptworld game packages and was eager to learn how to play. He had a great time, in spite of being shot in the leg. (Yup, same guy.) The other players also enjoyed the game, with one wishing to know more about Majus. More Pacesetter converts join the fray!
  • After the game ended, it was going on around 7 p.m. Stopped by the dining hall to grab a quick bite and came back to my room to relax for a bit and hammer out this blog post. I had plans to drop back and play a boardgame or something, but I think I'll hit the sheets early tonight to get up early tomorrow to prepare for the roadtrip back to Ohio. I'll stop by in the morning to say my goodbyes, play a quick game, and head out. So it's likely that this will be my final post direct from Scarefest. I'd like to thank the organizers for a great time, and I had an absolute blast gettin' my gaming scares going!
And here are a few final photos from Scarefest....

The board game selection was pretty amazing. No time to check it out today, but may find time tomorrow morning before heading out.

The Dead Character Graveyard, where players were encouraged to tack up the character sheets or a memorial page for the PC who died during the event. My Dread character from yesterday is in the upper left corner.

Our team of DCC players as we settle in to confront The Shambling Dead.

 By the time the game ended, we had FILLED that Dead Character Graveyard with more than 40 0-level funnel characters. It was a slaughter.

 And the winner of the tourney made it through four encounters without dying. Yes, living through four consecutive encounters was enough to take home the trophy!

Just thought this photo of the mountains from the inn was pretty amazing. Gorgeous location.

Friday, October 21, 2016

AVL Scarefest Day 1: A Killer Tape Dispenser And The Tower Of Dread

Howdy gang, and welcome to the official first day of Scarefest! As usual during these travelogues, I'll be stopping by my room to throw a few thought down whenever I get a chance. The event goes until midnight tonight, so this post will likely go live after most of you have gone to bed. Those still up, read on!
  • Remember how I whined yesterday that my room was missing a surprising number of amenities? Well, another missing item was a standard writing desk. Two chairs, two dressers, and a bed -- no desk. I'm currently using my bed as an ersatz desk with a chair pulled over to it.
  • Note to self: Get rid of my nearly-spherical travel alarm clock. It went off, I swatted it, and it fell off the nightstand and rolled under the bed where it continued to buzz and chirp until I got out of bed, pulled the bed away from the wall, and retrieved it. Although, that DID get me out of bed, so perhaps it's by design?
  • Met Amie, one of the con's organizers, for breakfast and we chatted while discussing our respective real-life jobs. She's a web designer and I'm an editor, so we both are in the business of taking a person's rough ideas and making them into something better. So we commiserated on that for a while, sighed heavily, then walked down to the event center.
  • This afternoon I played in my first game of Dread as Andy ran our party through "Beneath the Full Moon." Dread is the RPG that used a Jenga Tower as its resolution mechanic. Anyway, our team of novice river rafting college students found themselves stranded in the middle of the Grand Canyon's Colorado River after our guide was horribly mauled by some animal in the night. So it became a struggle for survival as we tried to rescue our Guide, Gary, while avoiding the monstrous beast that followed us. With each close call, we pulled Jenga tiles, and the tower became more and more unstable. (Toppling it is a death sentence.) While returning from gathering firewood, I found the creature in my path. I tried to pull a tile, but the tower wasn't having it and down it crashed, as the werewolf ripped my throat out. I really had a great time with Dread. Later tonight, it's MY turn to put Andy through his paces as he's signed up to play in my Cryptworld game!
  • Stopped by the inn's dining hall and used my Meal Ticket to feed myself a big plate of chicken stew over rice with fresh biscuits, followed up with a slab of both German Chocolate Cake and Boston Cream Pie. Yeah, this beats fast food by a mile, and was a good additional add-on to my Scarefest admission!
  • This evening, we had five brave reporters and researchers who visited Vinton Hills Memorial Hospital who braved the horrors of  "Condition Critical," one of my favorite Cryptworld scenarios. I've run this adventure a half-dozen times, and I'm always surprised by what the party does. This time, after viewing the horrific footage of What Went Wrong In The OR, the party explored the facility only to be ambushed by an animated skeleton at the same time Experiment TB-4 decided to slither into view. Much chaos was had as they tried to stay alive on two fronts. The game ended when one player threw rubbing alcohol onto the creature, then tossed a lit cigarette onto the flammable beast. The trick didn't work as the cigarette didn't catch the alcohol on fire. Then, another player hurled a TAPE DISPENSER at the cigarette, making a critical hit! This drove the burning cigarette into the alcohol, setting the monster -- and the hospital -- ablaze! And once again, the world is safe!
  • So tomorrow's day begins bright and early at 8 a.m. when I plan to take a few Cryptworld players into the forests as they explore the horrors of "Unquenchable." Then, I'll take my chances in the DCC RPG funnel "The Shambling Un-Dead." Gonna be scary fun, folks!
And, in closing as I always do, here are some photos of Things Of Interest:

The convention center is in full Halloween decor mode!

This must be where the first PC death occurred...

If I had known a giant spider web was going to be on the wall behind where I was running my games, I would have run Tangled Threads from Monsters Macabre!

The room for the Starship Artemis simulator. The white wall is where the screen is projected, and each workstation has light-up neon mice. This looks much cooler in person.

The wargaming table set up with rules to review and sign up sheets for tomorrow's events.

The back half of the center is filled with Pathfinder Society events. It's quite the event for PFS, but the organizers have many more gaming systems represented this year,

Andy gives us a rundown of the situation  at hand during our Dread game.

The tower moments before I made my fateful last pull before the tower toppled. Take a look at it. I was doomed.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

AVL Scarefest Day 0: A Mountainous Drive And "Not A Single Luxury" (In My Hotel Room)

Good evening gang, and welcome to "Day Zero" of my daily missive from Asheville, NC, (actually the nearby town of Montreat) as I attend the horror-fueled gaming convention "Scarefest 2016"! I've been looking forward to this convention for a while, and now that I've arrived and settled into my room, I'm ready to get started on the live reports from the newest convention on my docket.

As always, keep in mind that these reports are my random thoughts and what I've experienced as the event progresses. Also, since the convention doesn't truly get started until tomorrow, today's report is a summary of the trails and tribulations of getting here. So here's what Sniderman was up to as he winged his way from Ohio to North Carolina...

  • Gotta warn you up front, the Wifi at this location can generously be described as "Spotty". It took me two hours to get this post saved and sent, all the while the signal would cut out at random intervals. So, just in case this series disappears until I return on Sunday, you'll know why. Soldiering on...
  • To get myself into a proper gaming mood for this convention, I loaded up my flash drive with Midnight Syndicate and Nox Arcana MP3s and plugged it into my stereo for a proper scare-event soundtrack. I then plugged in a Gain-scented air freshener, and I was ready to motor out!
  • When I left Ohio this morning, it was overcast, rainy, and foggy. "PERFECT weather for a horror-themed convention," I told my wife. However, she then pointed out that North Carolina was about 500 miles away. "Not only will it not be raining, it'll probably be a bit warmer," she said. She was right. It's about 40 degrees warmer here than Ohio. So my denim jacket isn't going to get much wear.
  • The route from my house to here is as follows: Take 71 South, which becomes 75 South. Take 75 South until you come to 640 East. Take 640 East to Asheville. So, when you look at the Big Picture. I really just had to make one left turn to get here.
  • Wow, I kinda forgot what it's like to drive through a mountainous area. For 50 miles as I meandered through the Smokies/Appalachians, there wasn't a straight section of road with speeds limits of no more than 45 mph. To my left was a sheer cliff face I was staring at. To the right, a dropoff. And straight ahead, big-ass mountains. However, everything was EXPLODING in fall colors, making it a very pretty white-knuckle drive.
  • Upon getting to Asheville, I visited The Wyvern's Tale -- the FLGS and location of the first Scarefest in its upper gaming floors. Over time, the gathering outgrew the store, but I wanted to stop in and see what they had to offer. This place has an AMAZING amount of material in a relatively small amount of space. (Plus their used RPG section had a lot of good stuff.) When the manager found out who I was and what brought me to the area, he said that they carried Cryptworld and were currently sold out! (Neat!) I managed to snag two games I've been looking for while there. If you're in the area, definitely stop by.
  • Next stop, was to get out here to the Montreat Conference Center. The event is being held at this Christian college campus tucked into the NC mountains. This place just LOOKS like it was established and founded in the early 20th century. As I walked up to the Assembly Inn where I was staying, I was struck by how gothic it looked. Very atmospheric.
  • The inn advertises itself as a place to "refresh and renew". That must explain why my room had no television. Or radio. Or phone. (Kinda like Gilligan's Island; "Not a single luxury.") There are apparently no "distractions" for guests. However, the inn has Wifi, so apparently watching Netflix and noodling around on the Internet is fine. (EDITED TO ADD: Ok, so the Wifi must be super-taxed because it keeps cutting out. Everybody here must be hammering the server. Maybe if we had TVs in our rooms....just sayin'...)
  • I swung by Freeland Hall where I met the organizers for about an hour as they set up for the event. Lots of Halloween decorations and other spookifying decor were being put up. I helped out for a bit, but I needed to get back to my room to put this blog post to bed, work on some freelance work, and turn in early 'cause it's been a LONG DAY.

That's it for the trip here. I'm meeting Amie -- one of the organizers -- for breakfast tomorrow morning, then we'll head over to the event for Day 1 of Scarefest! Stay tuned as I report live on the gruesome gaming and horrific happenings over the next few days! And here are some photos of what happened today:

The weather in Ohio set the tone for the entire trip...until I arrived in North Carolina where it's sunny and 80 degrees.

A stop by The Wyvern's Tale was on my to-do list, and I'm glad I made the extra sidetrip to visit!

The gothic look of the Assembly Inn as I walked up.

Scarefest decorating in progress...

The Assembly Inn at night. Whoof....scary indeed...

And a few items I've gotten thus far. Picked up the new expansion for Betrayal at House on the Hill and Heroes Wanted -- a superhero themed game. While I helped decorate, I was given my badge and souvenir T-shirt! Ready to start the scary stuff tomorrow!

Now On The Road To Scarefest!

Right now, as this post goes live, I'm driving cross-country to AVL Scarefest, the horror-themed gaming con in North Carolina. Really looking forward to playing a bunch of All Things Scary. In my head, this is what I imagine it'll be like entering the convention center...

(And stay tuned for daily missives from the event!)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

AVL Scarefest Starts In Two Days! So Much Fun, It's Scary!

Hey gang,

Just a reminder that Year 2 of the AVL Scarefest starts this Friday in Asheville, North Carolina, and runs through Sunday. This is the furthest I've driven for a game con (matched only by my road trip to Gamicon Omega in Iowa). I'm really looking forward to this horror-themed RPG event, as I have a full plate of terror-fueled gaming to look forward to, including:

  • Friday afternoon, I'll be playing in a game of Dread, the Jenga-run horror RPG. It'll be my first time with the system (although I'm an old hat at Jenga) so I'm looking forward to my attempt to survive "Under The Full Moon." Then later that night, I'll run the first of two Cryptworld games. Will the players survive their visit to Vinton Hills Hospital in "Condition Critical"?
  • On Saturday morning, it's DCC RPG as I and a team of stawart heroes tries to hold off wave after wave of "The Shambling Un-Dead." Then it's into the forest as I run my second game of Cryptworld as a party of rescuers tries to locate a lost hunting party in "Unquenchable"...before something else finds them first!
  • Sunday morning, Scarefest offers up a Sunday Bruch Gaming Social. Eat some breakfast while trying out a variety of RPG mini-scenarios and boardgames. A great way to get a taste for games I might not have time for or those I've wanted to try out in a bite-sized serving.
  • During my downtime, I plan to stop by the local FLGS, The Wyvern's Tale, and see what treasures await! (Plus, I hear they have a section of classic used RPGs, so I'll report on what I find there.
  • The Scarefest organizers will also have a room set up to run Starship Artemis. I've been wanting to try out my abilities as a Starfleet Ensign, so I'll try to squeeze in time to fly into "The Final Frontier."
  • And, of course, I'll be sticking my nose into any drop-in games I can find! And with three days of gruesome gaming at hand, who knows what I'll stumble into?

And, as always, I'll be live-blogging directly from the event, so stop by The Savage Afterworld for the next few days and see what's going on in the North Carolina mountains. It'll be so much fun, I might not survive the weekend!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"Apes Victorious" RPG Now Out! Adventures On A World Gone Ape! Games’ newest RPG, "Apes Victorious" has been released! This thrilling new role-playing game places your players in the roles of astronauts who have crashed upon the surface of a planet where apes are the dominant species. Inspired by classic "ape planet" movies and TV shows, Apes Victorious also provides rules for playing intelligent apes (four species!), savage feral humanoids, and mysterious psionic underdwellers.

The game initially takes place in an Alternate Future of the 1970s, where FTL travel and interplanetary exploration is already underway. This gives the game an interesting "retro-future" feel where technology is both incredibly advanced (cryopods, interstellar spaceships) and primitively dated (room-sized computers, silver spacesuits).

Once the players are thrown into this world, you may think the genre of humans vs. apes would be limited. Instead, Apes Victorious offers several adventure prompts and ideas for the Ape Master (AM). What will be found in the Forbidden Zone? What mysteries are located in a long-forgotten ruined city? What are the bomb-worshipping underdwellers planning? And what will ape society do to the players once discovered? There is even an introductory adventure included with the game, so you can throw your players into a thrilling adventure immediately! As discussed in a thorough review of the game at Swords & Stitchery, the genre may appear narrow of focus, but the gameworld is wide open and can go in numerous directions.

Although compatible with Labyrinth Lord, Mutant Future, and Starships & Spacemen 2e (complete with conversion notes), Apes Victorious is a self-contained, complete RPG. You can mix and match material from the various games by introducing intelligent apes to your LL fantasy games, or drop your future mutants into an ape-dominated society! Apes Victorious is also covered under the OGL, so creative types are encouraged to produce and release new material!

Apes Victorious is 122 pages, and is currently available in PDF for less than $5. A print version will be released in the coming weeks, so watch for that. Sniderman says check it out!