Monday, July 11, 2011

South Texas Mini-Con AD&D

As expounded upon here, the mini-con in New Braunfels is next month and I'm supposed to run a game. I said I wanted to run AD&D, but didn't fully comprehend what that entailed. First of all, if this was a campaign, I'd probably spend many hours coming up with crap to give the players, put it on a webpage or blog somewhere and setup a mailing list to discuss the game. I mean, that's what I did in the past and will do again if I ever get my shit together (granted, I am working on a PhD, working full-time and teaching, so it's not like I have a ton of spare time; still, if the NFL season is cancelled that'll free up Sundays). But this isn't a campaign, it's a con game. Having actually only played some of my first few con games not more than a few weeks ago as described on this very blog, I noticed something unsatisfying about them: they were designed as campaign games. Except for V&V, which was intended pretty much to be a one-shot, with a beginning, middle, and end. That's what I liked most, I think: there was a conclusion. D&D campaigns are open-ended, so there may not be a climax during a session, or perhaps several sessions. That's good because it allows for extended games. Cons, however, are not campaigns and they need to have a conclusion to be meaningful. For me, anyway, and since I have to run the damn thing my opinion matters.

I've read a lot of INTERNET POSTS about Tomb of Horror sucking balls, how it is just an idiotic killer dungeon meant to TPK the party within minutes. Well,'s a con game that was eventually published as a module. What do you expect? The party pretty much has no chance, and if you make it to the demi-lich, for instance, you are empirically better than the guys who didn't get past the sphere of annihilation. Eventually you die anyway, but you still have bragging rights. That's what I want from a con game, an ending. The party either fucks up a dragon and steals the treasure or dies from its breath weapon. Either way, a conclusion was reached and a climax achieved. Sort of like sex, but with other nerds instead of a woman. Moving on...

Con game. My issue is that I know how to run a campaign game. Before my long running Labyrinth Lord-that-turned-into-AD&D game got unwieldy and stupid, it was pretty good. Everyone had fun. There were cliffhangers, a decent plot, etc. I've never run a con game, but I know what I DON'T want, so what does that leave me? Well, I thought long and hard this morning and decided that I wanted something that is fun but really wouldn't work for long. Something that lends itself to one-shot gaming, where players know they have no chance but actively strive to go out swinging. I decided that a "reverse dungeon" would be the perfect con game, and thus I began to outline how I wanted to approach it.

Essentially, the player characters will be monsters. I don't know what kind of monsters yet, but probably monsters capable of taking on a small party of 3rd or 4th level characters individually. Not too insanely powerful, but not goblins or anything. Actually, I think one of the characters could be a goblin chief and his 10-15 underlings. Random cannon fodder for the guy who likes rolling dice and not thinking too much. Maybe a troll, ogre magi, you get the point. The PCs are monsters. The first part of the adventure will be a town raid or something similar. Murdering villagers, stealing horses for food, pillaging, just causing all sorts of mayhem. Kill a lot of guards, etc. The second part will be the PCs heading back to their lair (a dungeon with map drawn up by players because, hey, they're the monsters), and prepare for the inevitable onslaught of nasty adventurers. I'll give them time to come up with trap ideas, how they want to arrange themselves in the dungeon, and provided them with a bunch of random crap like skeletons and zombies just to soak up some of the damage. Maybe more goblins. Anyway, adventurers storm in, monsters make a final stand against the evil marauders invading their lovely home.

Yes, it'll be almost all combat, but I think the idea has merit. No nonsense background (you're monsters and you're hungry), no long-term implication (a TPK is going to happen), and novelty to make it interesting.


  1. Brad, I have WotC's Reverse Dungeon adventure for AD&D 2E from 2000, by John Rateliff and Bruce Cordell. It features almost exactly what you're talking about. You're welcome to borrow it to mine for ideas.