JP On Gaming

Monday, March 19, 2018

MidsouthCon 2018 AAR

The weekend started on Friday. I left work early, using the opportunity to get some work done on the car (a much-needed tune-up). Then I waited for ActionMan's return from school to leave.

Three o'clock and we loaded the car with gaming material we had already prepared and stacked by the door. Then on the road to Memphis, TN! West on I-840, then I-40 and finally I-240 brought us to the Hyatt in Germantown. It was 6pm and both of us were hungry. On a whim, I opted to stop at the Hyatt, get signed up and make use of the con suite (which is well-stocked and conveniently located).

ActionMan and I munched before we mustered ourselves at a table of "Hammer and Anvil", adventure for the Adventure League. I played with the folks of FORGE in Memphis before and I have a high opinion of them: the quality of their GMs and their players. Our GM Daniel did not disappoint and our wacky band of adventurers made it way through. A lot of fun. The game over, we hoped in the car, checked into our hotel and slept.

That's where I discovered things about the Boy...
- He is a blanket hog
- He rolls to the middle of the bed
- He flails

After a rather exhausting night, we had a quick breakfast and went to set up. I must say that I really love having someone to help setting up. ActionMan is really excited and energized about playing some Saggakar, with his anuka fighter, Zombie-Slinger.

I ran the two adventures from Gencon: The Sorrowful Lady for the morning slot. It is a strange fantasy adventure where the forest comes alive yet has the dark touch that Tyrants of Saggakar is known for. We had a really fun group. Including Addison-M who really liked the setting, more later. Every time I run that adventure, I am reminded how crazy it is and the odd madness of it makes it worth so much more... It works. It really works as something different and run, which is one of the things I always wanted to do with my adventures: make them different in their own way. It is close to Jen's House of Mirrors as a fun adventure. Classic in its own right.

Coming back from getting lunch (Panda Express), we stopped at the foam sword fighting in the meadow. Needless to say, ActionMan really loved getting into it. After fifteen or so minutes of fighting with me and with other kids, he came back and provided me with some pointers on how to fight with a sword... "Never go full offense or full defense if you want to win." My son.

For the afternoon, we took part in the multi-table epic adventure Drums of the Dead a really challenging and fun adventure that has a lot of different elements for characters to shine. I have really been enjoying AL epics because of the challenge and the odd elements that happens in them. So never "really" know what will happen and there are twists and turns during the game. Not just combat means other aspects of your character can be used.

Our table was solid, with the four basic: heavy tank, healer, wizard, and me. I played Local Boy Mik, who is a drunken redneck walking around with a jug of moonshine. He is based on a mix of Cletus from The Simpsons with Tickle from Moonshiners, and so many other bad stereotypes of southern people (Deliverance anyone?). He is hilarious in his over-the-topness which makes everyone chuckles constantly, with his "have a shot o'shine" that serves as a somatic component to every one of his spells. Plus, as a Local Boy, he has family everywhere! (He is a Folk Hero). ActionMan played Sir Patrik, the dependable half-orc paladin. He really was one of the MVPs of our table by beating up on stuff that tried to beat us to a pulp.

Flush with victory, we returned to the other room where I ran House Cleaning, an adventure very different from the previous one. At the same time more political and more combat-intensive, it make for a fun evening. With that, Zombie-Slinger has out-leveled the band and would be level 6.

The morning I planned to run a Rhym adventure. Joining ActionMan was a family of three. The sails were hoisted and Black Sails was played. There were many distractions but we had a blast. Black Sails is the perfect Sunday morning adventure: simple in concept, with deceptive undercurrents.

Plus, Pirates. I mean. Yarrr.


On the way back home, ActionMan asked me when I would write and run "Tier 2" Saggakar adventures so he can play more Zombie-Slinger. He is getting to enjoy that character quite a lot. He was tired but very much excited about the con and looks forward to the next one he is attending: Conglomeration in Louisville at the end of the month.

As for me, MidSouthCon is easily my favorite con in Tennessee. It has a pool of great players, great GMs, and everything is close by: the con suite, the vendor hall, the art hall, pro-row (to get stuff signed and the like), and even food location (though you need a car for that one). It really sets its own standard and hits all of my buttons for what makes a good con. I strongly recommend it to everyone and to other con organizers. The team is responsive and I got emails the day of every event I was running (I knew of them, but I thought that was cool). Their sign-up board are clearly visible and accessible by being in the hall on folding walls. The con suite is always loaded with food and convenient (you can run to get food between your own round of initiative).

It brings in people from far and wide: I played with folks from Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee (Memphis, Chattanooga, and Nashville), and a few guys from Arkansas. This melting pot of people brings to the table many different gaming style that makes games fun and every table its own mini-event. Not unlike Gencon or Origins (though on a MUCH smaller scale).

I mention Addison earlier, we are working on a few things together. I won't provide you with details right now, but there will be some


Yes, I plan to attend MidSouthCon again next year and bring more material from the FOEniverse...

I'm coming back next year! Not just me, but ActionMan wants to come back as well!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

[Old-Pro Tips] Explain it all vs Say nothing

I have been and played with many GMs. Some good, some bad, some okay, but they all fit into one of these two categories: The Explain-it-All and the Say-Nothing. These types are not static as GMs go from one extreme to the other...

I found it really hard to find a middle ground between these two extremes. Let's examine both before we try to rationalize.

Explain it All

Someone who is Explain-It-All, cannot stop himself from telling you all the wonderful thing an adventure contains. All the intricacies the players missed, read into, skimmed, ignored, or decided against. When the adventure is over and you step away from the game table, you know everything there is about it.

People who do that are often excited and enamored with the adventure that they want to showcase it all, make sure the players understand its awesomeness.

Say Nothing

The Say-Nothing is the GM who at the end of the adventure closes the book, smiles and says "see you next time". He is a bank vault about what you missed or ignored in his work.

What you experienced is all there is.

The Say-Nothing GM can also be very excited about the adventure, but his excitement lies in the surprise of the follow-up. That time when he slaps you with "that NPC you completely forgot about who now seeks revenge..."

Who am I?

Adventure writers and GMs are an odd bunch. Differently odd. Opposite odd in many ways. Adventure writers have to be Explain It All while GMs should be Say Nothing. Why? Because their goals are different.

The writer HAS to put everything in his product so the GM can make correct rulings and understand what is going on and focusing only on the absolute essentials. That is one of the reason that playing with the author is so great: because you learn all the secrets behind the adventure, some of the secret bolts the "random" GM has little way of knowing.

As a GM (of other people's stuff), I lean towards the Say-Nothing type, letting the game be the source of record. However as an author, I want to get people excited about all the possible secret links they did not experience in the adventure.

Which is best?

That is the big question. I do not think there is anything wrong with either of these styles or approach. What type of game I play - and run - impacts my personal taste both as a player and as a GM.

As I play a lot of organized play games, I like knowing what elements our table missed as the GM is rarely in charge of what comes next and important plot elements may be needed to understand what is happening next. So, Explain-it-All. Now I no longer run organized play from others, so this one for me is only on the player side.

In the few home games I play, I prefer the Say-Nothing approach so the GM can pick and choose threads he will expand upon going forward.