Two months have now passed since Helgacon, the annual mini-convention held by my close friends up in Massachusetts. It was, as always, a most awesome weekend of gaming (I'd say the best and largest to date). I've really wanted to share some of the experience, even if I was too busy for a while, and the time seems more distant due to big changes for some friends in the intervening weeks.
You can read more about Helgacon V straight from the primary organizer on Paul's Blog -- here and here and here and here.
Friday Night -- Kobolds Ate My Baby. My first game of the weekend was warming up as a player in Allister's game of Kobolds Ate My Baby. Not something I'd played before, and we had a really good time. Fairly large group for this game, like I think we had about 9 players or so, and kudos to Allister for handling that many people quite well. (We pretty much filled a room off the porch, and had commendably quick turn-pacing revolving around the room for actions, which is my favored and most simple mechanic for that.)
Our game (perhaps this is the default situation) featured us a group of slapstick kobolds tasked with infiltrating the nearby village and absconding with something like 15 human babies for a big feast. My impression is something like Paranoia with a bunch of backup characters available when you get killed. As usual with that kind of setup (IME), the body count is really as high as initially expected -- maybe 3 of us died over the course of the game (albeit me first, about 5 minutes in). The other thing is that I kind of expected from the atmosphere that we'd be doomed to fail, but turns out that's not the case. Our game was eminently winnable, at the end we did in fact accomplish our task through a combination of running, sling-shotting through upstairs orphanage windows, cozying up to humans as pets, and locomotive-banditry. Big celebration (for us, not the humans obviously).
Saturday Morning -- Thousand-Year Sandglass. This was the third year running for BigFella's "Thousand-Year Sandglass" Arabian-themed D&D campaign using Labyrinth Lore rules. It's a great game, and BigFella always has a number of stunning set-pieces for us to fight through (and it gets better each year). Every year, Paul and I have played a pair of brothers, human fighters named Jarib with nearly-identical stats. Once again we rounded up a new bunch of compatriots and plunged into the desert sands for treasure. Once again good-humored bickering commenced almost immediately.
The opening scene had us entering an Al Khazneh-style edifice and battling lizard men. Then we met an imperious sage who clued us in to the existence of an enormous jewel nearby. Entering that part of the labyrinth, we had to fight an terrifying, sandblast-breathing lizard-creature -- which fortunately had manacles and chains by which it could be restrained via a nearby secret winch room (thanks, guys!).
Then there was a room of vats of potentially explosive material, which we avoided by flying and attaching a rope. Then there was a chamber entirely engulfed in flames -- a test of bravery, as you could walk through it unharmed as long as you showed no fear. The next room held the magical gem on a pedestal, which gave of a keening sound -- surrounded by not one opposing party, but two (one monsters, the other human), both put to sleep by the gem (as we deduced). Here was our plan: send one of our henchmen in with waxed-up ears, grab the gem, and run to the other side of the illusory flames -- when the opposing parties wake up, maybe they'll finish each other off, and otherwise a phantasmal force to frighten them in the psychic flames should do the trick. That actually worked like a charm. The final room had a genie which offered us 1-3 wishes, although with a larger foe to fight based on our selection. We took just one wish to retrieve the treasure nearby, and only had to fight a man-sized genie, not the titanic-sized one (both of which BigFella had impressive models for). One of better successes, and we all made it out alive.
One thing's frustrated me a tiny bit the last few games was that we were procuring magic items and distributing them to the newer party members in need, who then didn't have the chance to show up the next time, thereby taking the treasures out of the game. This time I asked for the Jarib brothers to take the magic cache, with the promise that anyone who joins again next time gets first dibs. Hopefully that makes sense.
The other thing that was brought up was -- common issue -- the significant number of fighter henchmen that the Jarib brothers brought to the game (four of them, mostly run by myself). Since Paul & I happened to be at the head of the table, I was acting for my character plus the henchmen as quickly as I could (rolling a fistful of d20's for the whole bunch). It was suggested afterward that maybe the henchmen could be held off until the very end of the round, so as to not steal thunder & engagement space from the other players. I think that was a great suggestion and would be happy to do that -- although I know a lot of other games would just as soon have the whole bunch over with, especially if multiple players have a crew of henchmen like that. Good to think about.