Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Grogcon 2019 after action report

Wow, what a weekend!  My work and career often keeps me away from playing games on a regular basis or attending conventions, so I used some vacation time this past weekend to attend GrogCon, which was part of the Crucible 8 convention in Orlando. I got to wander around the convention and take a look at some amazing miniature wargame displays, participate in my first 5E/Adventurers League game, as well as play in four 1e adventures.

First a little about the con.  It was probably 80% focused on miniature wargmaing tournaments.  As one would expect 40k, Age of Sigmar, and WarMchine/Hordes were the most popular.  Infinity was well represented, and I saw some BloodBowl, Bolt Action, and other various games being played.  On the Roleplaying side, most of the events were D&D Adventurers League games from the new Descent to Avernus campaign. Grogcon itself was a small part of the overall con with only a game or two running at any one time, but while it lacked in size it certainly delivered in quality.  I should also note some real positives about the venue.  The hotel didn't seem like anything to write home about, but they had multiple food options that were pretty good, parking was not a problem, the bathrooms were great and the air conditioning was a true blessing. Yes people thought it was cold, but there was not a whiff of BO. (seriously, if you've ever been to a con you know how much of an issue this can be.)

Friday night started with a 1e adventure written and run by Victor Dorso called the Keep at Blood Red Falls.  It was a classic military raid style adventure for higher level characters (8-10).  The scenario reminded me of some of the original "Giants" or "Slavers" modules and proved to be even more difficult. Ultimately the group was not successful (to date, nobody has according to Vic), but we created a ton of chaos, came up with some innovative ways of dealing with certain situations, and had a really fun time.

Saturday afternoon was D&D Adventurers League Descent to Avernus- Escape from Elturel.  While I have 5e, this was my first actual game as well as my first exposure to Adventurers League.  This was a level 1-2 adventure that focused on the immediate aftermath of the town of Elturel being swallow up by the first layer of Hell.  Sounds pretty scary, but the scenario was not very challenging.  It was fun and engaging, and the players had a great time. After playing this event I wish I had the time to play some of the follow ups that were offered, but there were 1e events to attend.

Saturday night was the main event: The Grogcon 1e AD&D tournament.  Three teams ran through the same module, Gnomeskull, with a 5 hour time limit.  The team that earned the most XP wins. The scenario was a raid by a party of Gnomes (levels 5-8) on the keep of Kobold God/King on the first layer of Hell. (Yes, Hell and raids were a theme this year). The module was written by Dan Gormanski and our table was DM'd by James from the GrogTalk podcast.  As everyone was a gnome, we were limited to fighters, thieves, illusionists, and multi-class variants.  For a tournament module the adventure offered the players a lot of options and choices.  There were multiple ways to attack and enter the keep and each team ended up using completely different strategies.  Despite the large amount of racial, illusionist, and thief abilities that the party had much of exploration felt like 0e. We used a lot very detailed descriptions of what and how we were doing things to gain advantages. My team ended up tied for second, but we had a great time.

Sunday morning's game was an adventure called Citadel by the Sea, run by Dan Gormanski and first published in Dragon in 1983.  This was a low level adventure (we were all level 3) that involved exploring ruin near a remote town that believes that they have been curse when an archaeologist disturbs something in the ruins.  Things are not as they seem however.  Dan did an amazing job with his acting and characterizations of the NPCs, and it turned out to be a great little adventure.  Not only were we successful in finishing it, we avoid almost all the traps and unnecessary monsters.  By this time of the weekend all the players were on their game.

Last but not least I had the privilege of playing in The Porcelain Sword of Queen Eshalla written and run by Carlos Lising of Casl Entertainment. This was a well hones mid-level tournament module with wonderful middle-eastern theme and a diverse set of challenges. Carlos is well known in 1e circles as a great writer and DM and I was not disappointed.  The adventure was still in the playtesting phase, but it taught and well balanced between combat, exploration, and puzzle solving.  Again the team avoid traps and other mistake that every other group of  had fallen prey to.  This game also produced the highlight moment of the con:
Bugbear: I surrender to you, holy man!Brother Harun of the Black Lotus: I accept the surrender --of your soul! *shooting crossbow into eye socket at close range*
Remainder of group: 😲
Completing that adventure felt like a true accomplishment, and after 21 hours of D&D I was wiped out. 
It was truly a great time and has really inspired me to continue playing on a regular basis and make the extra effort to go to more gaming conventions.  It's really a wonderful hobby we have.  I just showed up with some dice, pencil and paper, and my original 1e Player's Handbook and I had the time of my life.  


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