Dungeons. Dragons. Graph paper. Funny dice.

U-Con 2018

I’m home from U-Con.

U-Con 2018 registration

Years ago (when I last attended this convention) U of M hosted it in their student union, but it’s at the Ypsilanti Marriott now — a golf resort. Parking’s easier, though I enjoy walking around Ann Arbor more than the golf course.

Golf course at the Ypsilanti Marriott

A small vendor room sold dice, board games, and crafty stuff like embroidered dice bags, 3D-printed dice towers, and d20 pillows. One vendor carried a bunch of OSR stuff, like Labyrinth Lord and WhiteBox rule books, and several zines like Vacant Ritual Assembly and The Manor. I picked up a set of Gamescience dice.

U-Con 2018 vendor room

Board games are popular at U-Con, maybe more so than RPG’s, and occupy a large ballroom. A number of non-board wargames were waged here too, including Battletech and the WWII game Bolt Action. The con lends a diverse library of board games for anyone who wants to borrow one. I’m curios about Root and Vast, though I didn’t get an opportunity to play them. The tables were packed all weekend.

U-Con 2018 board game ballroom

I was pleased to see ConTessa prominently represented at U-Con, and I made sure to thank Stacy for their tireless work.

ConTessa at U-Con 2018

Thanks to all the friendly people who played and ran games at U-Con!

These sessions stand out in my memory:

  • Dungeon Crawl Classics, Sanctum of the Snail. This was my first time actually playing DCC, rather than just browsing the rulebook. The funnel concept works well as a didactic tool, and encourages a liberating amount of risk taking. The gonzo swords & sorcery flavor of the magic items and monsters hit my sweet spot. My one complaint is the preponderance of “roll against a number on your character sheet” skill checks, rather than relying on player skill. Like, if this was a non-convention, non-funnel game, I’d be annoyed with agility-check-or-die platforming challenge. Maybe I’m being unfair to call out the jumping challenge, since an alternate route also leads to that area. In fact, it’s one of the few loops in an otherwise mostly linear map. Still, I had fun; the flavor of the content carried the day, despite my design niggles.
  • Cats of Catthulhu, The White Stag. This filled a canceled session for me, and I didn’t know what to expect. Can mostly-mundane cats work as player characters? Yes. Can such a scenario end in any but a Cats of Ulthar way? Yes, more or less. The scenario is good, and the Catthulhu rules provide simple and effective mechanics. This was more story-gamey than my usual fare, but if your players are game to run with the concept, Catthulhu works surprisingly well as a fun one-off session. Cat puns encouraged!
  • Lamentations of the Flame Princess, The Incompetent Watchmaker. This session playtested Stacy Dellorfano’s forthcoming book from James Raggi’s imprint. Watchmaker invites adventurers into a plague-ridden canton of seventeenth-century Bern, where something unnatural lurks. The session offered gross, horrific, harrowing, demonic fun, and I suspect the setting will work even better over a multi-session campaign. We were apparently the first group to survive Watchmaker.
  • Neoclassical Geek Revival, The Gnomes of Levnec. This very solid adventure does the trick I most like by deciding on a simple but novel fantasy concept, working out the practical implications of that concept on a locale, then dropping the player characters into the middle without a expectation of what they should or shouldn’t do. I had enough fun in this session that — even knowing “the secret” — I’d like to play the scenario again.

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