The fourth annual 1d4Con struck Martinsburg, West Virginia a little more than a week ago. 1d4Con is an event filled with tabletop role-playing games, card games, board games, miniatures, and yes even LARPing. Many folk likely attended one or more of the previous years, and as such, returned again for their fill of Pathfinder or Dungeons & Dragons. And yet, among their number still rose those who attended for the first time.
In full disclosure I’ve been gaming for over 20 years. Yet, this was my first convention. I set out to attend the entire weekend with other Lodge members attending throughout the event, and this is a telling of our adventures.
To start 1d4Con off, the Wood Planet Gaming Lodge wanted to believe…!
After getting our badges at the start of the Convention on Friday, GM Death and I took our seats at the table designated for The X-Files: Board Game. Five of us attended in total – four players, and the Syndicate (aka GM) representative.
The Syndicate, controlled by Kris Carfley from the Offical Comic Book Spotlight Podcast, did their best to stop our department from uncovering the truth as we raced across America, solving case after case. Unfortunately the Cigarette Smoking Man was one step ahead of us redacting all of our discoveries. Pressed but not crushed we once more pulled open our cabinet of cold cases. This time we caught a break, managing to stay one step ahead… thanks in part to Special Agent Krycek.
We found X-Files: The Board Game enjoyable enough. However, I can see how it could become monotonous with its limited game mechanics. As a result, I have to be concerned about limited replayability, especially for the price. Hopefully the Trust No One Expansion (which we did not use) adds enough to make revisiting the game all the more appealing.
Friday evening became a mish-mash of wibbly-wobbly timey-whimey stuff as Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space invaded a lone table at 1d4Con. Saying I was pumped to be there is an understatement. I grew up watching classic-era Doctor Who on the local PBS station. I always wanted to try out a Doctor Who role-playing game. I’ve collected nearly every book in the FASA-produced line released in the 80’s and eagerly snatched up Virgin Publishing’s 1991 one-shot release called Time Lord. As I said… I was pumped!
On the other hand, Death had zero knowledge of Time Lords and TARDISes and all of the villains the Doctor has faced since 1963. He merely joined the table after noticing I was the only player signed up almost until the Con launched.
But neither he – nor I – had any idea of the campaign to come our way.
The GM, Joe Carfley (also of the Offical Comic Book Spotlight Podcast), planned to run a scenario in which the Doctor was discovered missing. As a result, a group of former companions found themselves drawn together in a time of Earth’s greatest need. Carfley gave his players the the option of choosing any companion from the television show. Considering the longevity of Doctor Who, that meant a staggering number of companions to choose from.
So many options! I quickly became overwhelmed. My mind shifted to and fro between the multitude of possible companions. But eventually I settled on the beautiful Time Lady Romanadvoratrelundar (better known as Romana). Fellow Lodge member Death chose Mickey Smith (who he happened to nail the portrayal pretty spot on). Rounding out our group, the other three players picked Captain Jack Harkness (pre-Torchwood), an amnesic Riversong (post-Forest of the Dead), and a retired Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.
We found ourselves with an interesting cadre to say the least.
Unfortunately the scenario turned out to be disjointed, and awkward at times… especially in the beginning. What Joe attempted to pull off was ambitious. Perhaps a little too much so.
We quickly discovered that the Doctor was missing. Somehow these selected companions – many of whom were separated by years and great distances – had to be brought together. To compound matters, players had chosen two of the Doctor’s most powerful companions. Such powerful characters had to have their wings clipped for the sake of the story, but this caused a struggle. Players found themselves floundering with how to properly play characters in light of their meta knowledge.
Despite having Weeping Angels, Autons, Time War Daleks and even the Master the scenario floundered at best. Moments were, indeed, frustrating.
Despite all that, I enjoyed my chance to finally play the game. I had never experienced how the Vortex rule-set handles, and this became an introductory adventure at the least.
Personally, I left the table thinking most about the amnesic Riversong and Romana. In light of the Doctor’s vanishing, these two characters ended up taking the TARDIS and headed off on their own grand adventure. We never found the Doctor, but it seems to have been eluded to in-game that he was watching us from a distance all along.
Confusing, and a little bit disheartening. But not every story has a happy ending.
On Saturday, things took a turn for the worst. And by that, I mean the absolute best of the weekend.
The things which rip a man’s sanity to shreds needed to be unshrouded. And for that, we needed a guide. The second day of 1d4Con introduced me to Call of Cthulhu Keeper Angela Souders from Rogue Cthulhu (a group of top notch Keepers from Ohio dedicated to running high quality Call of Cthulhu scenarios at various conventions, most notable the Origins Game Fair).
If you’ve followed the Lodge for any amount of time, then our love for the Cthulhu Mythos is no surprise. So, choosing to play the premiere Cthulhu RPG required no thought. Our keeper, Angela, definitely brought her A game. Thankfully as I reached out towards the abyss I was not alone. Death once more rode shotgun all day, and we were joined by Hexelis and two other Lodge members for part of the day.
But enough about us. Onto the tales of darker things.
In our first scenario – GULAG 6 – we discovered a bloody nightmare set in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Survival was the name of the game. In the midst of a blizzard and nightfall, myself and eight other players had to band together for our survival against a wicked, frosty death that lurked outside every frost-licked window. Hordes hunted us. Waited for us. Came for us.
In true horror fashion only four of us survived.
I really enjoyed this scenario. Honestly I thought of it as The Thing meets 30 Days of Night with a dash of The Walking Dead added in due to the interpersonal drama. I played a Russian ship navigator, and survived for most of the adventure. That is, until a once-human creature jumped on me, ripped my throat open, and slurped up my warm blood as it was pumped into the beast’s gaping maw. Death played a reckless inmate, and by the end found himself… well, transformed. Hexelis’ doctor, on the other hand, escaped with his love, the nurse.
I’ve got to give it to Hexelis, he role-played out the depths of his love rather well!
Fresh off that frozen blood-bath came the mid-day game, Bloody Lane.
Not only did a total of five Lodge members cluster around Angela’s table, but we were reunited with Joe (who ran our Doctor Who adventure the night before) and introduced to two other brave souls.
Our party set forth, seeking to become (as our glorious Keeper put it) either hamburger or vegetables. After all, is there a more fitting way to leave a game of Call of Cthulhu? You’re either physically destroyed or mentally. Meat or potatoes. Time will tell!
Bloody Lane began one day after the Battle of Antietam. We played a group of professionals. Newspaper reporters and photographers. Doctors. Morticians. All men thrown together by the local newspaper to document and assess the bloodshed of the night before. Needless to say, none of us were prepared for what we encountered.
In addition to the gory madness inflicted by the war from the night before, a force of death stalked us the entire time. A shadowy blight of horror that lurked from every sharp angle. Every corner and every hutch. Death came, and it found many of us.
So many memorable events filled this game. How could we forget the moment when the mad undertaker began to eat an arcane manuscript, only to have his face savagely bitten off by a Hound of Tindalos – mouthful of manuscript and all!
A few of us survived this foray into the Civil War. But there, on the brink of insanity, we awaited our final ride of the night.
Both Death and I took our seats at the table only to be joined once again by Joe and his wife, Kris (who ran X-Files the day before). By this time, my mind was beginning to crack. I can’t remember exactly how many other folks joined our group. As the sun set that evening, our Keeper Angela began a scenario set in 1960’s Antietam simply titled, Tower.
Officially, this game was a sequel to the Civil War scenario we just played. However, those that joined us did not miss out. Though our insider knowledge led to occasional glances and chuckles throughout the game, Angela was an expert. She guided the newcomers – and us! – through a carefully-laid trap that not only explained the events in our previous game, but gave way to even more unspeakable terror.
Having played both games, the Tower gave us a deeper appreciation of the Bloody Lane adventure. While it was unfortunate for the other players as they missed out on our insider knowledge, they probably shrugged it off thinking our minds had begun the conversion toward the vegetable kingdom.
Creatures of horror and one of the Outer Gods tested our wits and our sanity. This nightmare yielded only one survivor… Death’s character, a Park Ranger for the Antietam National Battlefield who under his watch lost everyone.
How were we lost? By being turned into hamburger of course, thanks be to Yog-Sothoth!
At the end all I can say is that Angela Souders was a phenomenal Keeper. She did an excellent job as a Game Master and storyteller. Her dedication to bringing high caliber scenarios to the table was evident. All the players seemed to really enjoy the sessions, and for the most part we all really got into our characters. In the future if her name is listed as someone running a scenario I’ll be there, no doubt about it.
All good things must end.
On the last day of 1d4Con, I had intended to participate in both the Star Wars: Edge of the Empire and Star Wars: Age of Rebellion adventures. However, due to an unexpected emergency the GM had to cancel both of those sessions. So, since I was flying solo that day, I simply packed up and eventually made my way home reflecting on the great time I had.
While I did have an awesome time, even the best events have room for improvements. For instance some noted that at the ten person Cthulhu game – GULAG 6 – it was pretty cramped around the table, a larger table for such big parties would have been a boon. Additionally, some Lodge members commented on the room noise and how it made things hard to hear at times. However, they understand that it’s an unavoidable consequence of public playing whether at a comic / hobby shop, or a convention. The only real quibble I have was that the few times the 1d4Con staff had to use the PA system for announcements you couldn’t really hear it, thankfully it wasn’t used very often.
As far as game selections it was heavy on both Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder, which let’s be honest is to be expected. Perhaps next year there will be some more Savage Worlds games. Maybe someone will run either Mouse Guard or Hollow Earth Expedition… only time will tell.
Who knows perhaps one, or more, of us here at the Lodge will sign up to run a game or two.
In closing the members of the Wood Planet Gaming Lodge would like to thank James Winfield and the rest of the 1d4Con staff, and volunteers, for a fantastic event. Well done!
We would love to know one of your memorable moments from 1d4Con. Tell us below.
- KS Highlights: Age of Cthulhu 9 – The Lost Expedition - May 14, 2016
- 1d4Con Debriefing - April 25, 2016
- International TableTop Day - April 19, 2016
- Announcing Chaosium’s First Organized Play Campaign - April 7, 2016
- Board Games Based On What? - March 19, 2016