Last week Geeks A Gogo dropped by Gamehole Con in Madison, WI for some pictures of the convention and to take in a bit of gaming. We had a great time covering this convention, and even got into an incredible a gaming session that started late Sunday morning. The session ran opposite a session run by Matt Mercer of Critical Role fame, who was a special guest of Gamehole Con this year. It was a game of 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons entitled “So You Couldn’t Get Tickets to See Matt Mercer: A D&D Musical in Three Acts”. It was run by dungeon masters Jaye Sonia and Clinton Boomer—a playtest for their upcoming setting The World of Alessia, published by Storm Bunny Studios. In the 20 or so years I’ve been gaming, this was one of the best and craziest role-playing experiences I’ve ever had, and it nicely encapsulates the type of incredible experience that is possible at a mid-sized gaming convention like Gamehole Con.
Some background here: Jaye, who organized the game had asked my wife, Geeks A Gogo founder, Monica Paprocki (a cosplayer of some renown), to drop by in costume for a special in-game surprise at the end of this scenario. There were a couple of cancellations that morning, so I ended up filling in for a spot at the table. My co-players filled me in on the situation. Alessia is a science-fantasy world full of whimsical futuristic technology and psychic powers in addition to the standard D&D sword and sorcery. As such, I ended up playing an oracle casting psychic spells, on an astral airship with energy shields and cannons, chasing some rival pirates, trying to catch up to their ship to take it for ourselves. The scenario had some speical rules that included rules for using the ship’s weapons, and for gaining bonuses when we sang sea shanties (it was a musical, after all). On top of the table was a beautifully-painted 3D-printed ship about 2 feet in length, topped with nicely-painted miniatures representing each character—and the “space cat” with which we were currently in combat. At the table across the room sat our rivals, with a similar ship, likely in the middle of a similar combat scenario—all dressed for the occasion in pirate garb.
The game was going well for us. We had a few encounters of appropriate level, and in between we focused on resting the party to prepare for the final battle as we sailed along and closed in on our enemies. But, boy, our rivals were taking their sweet time over there. Clinton was the DM at that table, and he later told me that the party was fighting a few low-level creatures—and the dice simply were not on their side. Purely by chance, attacks didn’t connect with their target, spells kept doing minimum damage, and players didn’t make their saving throws. What should have been a brief encounter dragged out for hours as the party got one bad roll after another, and the monsters bested them. At one point the party rallied, chanting “Kick that snake!” loudly as their monk heroically attacked a flying serpent with a flurry of blows only to do moderate damage at best.
As the other party struggled late into the afternoon, and after a few monster encounters, we just decided to wait for them to finish their encounter. As we sat there, a familiar face walked in—it was Matt Mercer. He had been running his gaming session opposite ours, but had apparently finished and wanted to stop in and see what other people were playing at the convention. We were thrilled! Our end of the room had a bit of free time to chat with him about how we all enjoy Critical Role and how his show has helped spread the hobby. We got some pictures with Matt, but he couldn’t stick around for long, he had a flight to catch.
It was an amazing moment, and we were all still in shock when, moments later, another special guest of the convention dropped by—Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games, who asked to join our game table! Steve Jackson is of course, known for games such as Munchkin, Knightmare Chess, Illuminati, and the GURPS role-playing game. I’ve been playing Steve’s games for a couple of decades, and it was an honor to game with him—especially since we needed someone to pick up a character for the final battle! After I got a picture of him to send off to my gaming buddies from college, Steve took a character who served as one of the ship’s gunners, and we set to planning our attack strategy as we closed in on the other party.
Finally, we reached the other party’s ship, as our radar detected something approaching in the distance.
We used some of the ship’s special abilities and magic in an attack that dealt over 20 dice worth of damage, to take out their shields. We made up our own sea shanty on the spot for this attack: Dice, Dice Baby. The two dungeon masters carried the ships from their respective tables to a table in the center of the room as the other party rammed us in retaliation, and our ships were locked in close-combat as we pelted each other with cannon-volleys. This is when the sea shanties really came into play. Each group sang along on their turn to gain advantage on rolls—though the other group could cancel it out by singing as well. A simple Silence spell from our side put an end to that, as a the fight drew a new participant—Cthulhu.
That’s where Monica made her entrance—wearing a beautifully-crafted Cthulhu costume, complete with wings, a mask with tentacles, and some very creepy makeup and contact lenses. It was a very clever incorporation of two geeky pursuits: gaming and cosplay, that made for an incredible gaming experience. We cunningly crippled their ship and sailed off as we left them to deal with the elder god. This was an amazing addition to the game, that brought the game, and this experience to a unique and thrilling climax.
Overall, this was certainly one of the best gaming experiences of my life—and I’ve had many. It is the sort of thing that only seems to happen at a convention like Gamehole Con. It’s not so big that it’s difficult to get into events run by creators play-testing or showing off their works that they’re about to send off for printing. It’s a big enough event to bring in industry legends like Steve Jackson and Matt Mercer, but small and intimate enough that they might just stop by your game table. As a gamer who typically stayed at home for years gaming in a basement or at a kitchen table, I must say that the convention scene makes for a more enjoyable experience. It’s a place to make friends, try new things, and maybe even meet some of the people who create the games that you enjoy so much. And with a bit of luck, you may end up in a truly memorable gaming experience.
Check out our interviews with the folks from Paizo about their Starfinder and Pathfinder 2nd Edition playtest!