January 4, 2006

CONduit 15?

As I mentioned in the last blog, the wife and I drove down to Salt Lake City for a gaming convention. Third times' a charm as we seemed to have more fun this year than we have the previous years. The con staff were as screwed up as always, but I think I was just better prepared for the high level of ineptitude.

We drove down late Friday morning so we'd have plenty of time. This year we didn't park in the parking garage because the hotel gouges you $10 a day for parking, which makes sense unless you are a guest of the hotel. There's a small lot next door that goes for $2 an event. We also didn't reserve our room until the day before and ended up getting a cheaper rate with online reservations than we would have if we pre-registered and got the convention rate. Crap like that'll sink a convention over time if people don't register through the con. Oh well. They originally had us in a room next to the ice machine in 2 full beds so I asked to be switched to a king and they obliged by putting us across from the ice machine. Yeah....

We registered much more easily than in the past, because there wasn't a line, and $80 later (way too much for the service given) we were done. I registered us for the first HackMaster tournament which was a joke as their registration has always sucked ass. The first year at CONduit they didn't even man the registration desk, which sent me into a major fit 'cause I thought we'd miss out on the games we can to play. This year they had one small notebook with pages for each game occurring in the next two sessions (labeled Day 1 event 2 and day 2 event 1). Tough if you wanted to sign up for something on Saturday night or Sunday. You basically had to get in line to look at the book. Gaming isn't a focus at this con and it shows. Fortunately for us, one of the local SLC GMs arrange for us to have our own game room for the entire weekend. Registering for an event was an unnecessary formality.

Our first tournament went by rather easily. It's a bit of a blur since I was rather tired. My fellow players were Carolyn (my wife), Bethany Tolman, Chad (Thunderbear on the KenzerCo boards), and Tommy. John Rollins was our GM. It was an ok adventure that I think John wrote. It may actually have been very good, I just don't remember as much as I should. It was a level 1-3 adventure and those are really hard to write. Our table beat out the other table by a matter of a point or two and I was elected table MVP. The tournament organizer bought display weapons for prizes and I got this cool dagger. I almost turned down the MVP vote, but came to my senses when I realized that MVP came with some serious experience. I also had a huge amount coming from the "big hit" award.

I ended up with so much experience that even with funneling half of it to my proteges I had enough to level up. The next tournament was a level 5-7 adventure and the rules let you bring in a PC that is one level lower than the recommended levels. We leveled up my DS Invoker to level four and I prepared to play him. It was going to be touch and go if I was going to play him or not, but in the end I decided to risk it.

That tournament went well enough. We were pretty much doomed from the start. I'm not complaining, mind you, just stating a fact. Our table had two 6th level PCs, 3 5th level PCs, and my 4th level DS Invoker. The other table consisted of a group that regularily plays together and they pretty much had 6th and 7th level PCs. I forgot to mention that we had to players with pre-gens that had never played before. Because of our group make-up.....we had two clerics, my magic-user, a battle mage, and the pre-gen fighter and thief. I suggested we put the fighter an thief in the first rank while one cleric stayed at the back with my mage. The second cleric would move up to swap out with the thief and engage any combatants while the dwarven battlemage stayed in front of my PC (so we could both lob spells with mine going over his head). I spell-jacked my mage as much as I (basically crammed more spells into memory at the risk [10%] that I might incur a spell mishap) could and off we went. I figured that if we limited the combat damage to just a couple of PCs (at the risk of losing them) our clerics could maximize their healing spells (neither cleric had follow-through healing so any "extra" healing above what was needed would be lost).

Despite our lower average level and party make-up, we did quite well. The thief ended up dying (HUGE hit) in the next to last encounter and we lost the fighter in the last battle. We would've lost one cleric if not for the battlemage purging his honor to step in front of the cleric and receive his fatal blow. As it was the battlemage just missed dying by a couple of HP. My wife's cleric was about to cast a Dispel Magic spell, which might of helped, but we ended up running out of time. Good for us 'cause we were about to get our asses handed to us. The final boss was just too powerful. The other table only defeated it by sheer luck. A spell they used had it's saving throw failed and they had but a 10-15% of it working. In the end, of course, the other table beat us out. The way tournament placement goes (and it usually doesn't matter), the MVP of the winning table is the tournament champion, the MVP of the next table is 2nd, and so-on-and-so-forth until all the tables are represented, then comes the rest of the winning table, the second table, third, etc. This is pretty much only used for swag distribution, by the time the MVPs get done, usually the table comes up as a group, selects what they want and then the next table.

On Sunday we I played in the Gronde Mondre, but that was more of having something to do and to probably kill of a PC that I was going to retire. Since I'm technically only a player in one group, I an only have three registered PCs. I actually have 4 PCs, with one being an orphan from a group I was in that dissolved.

Carolyn and I bid on more pieces of art this year and we got most everything we bid on. We got two pieces from one artist that I really liked. She is Japanese and does these wonderful ethnic pieces. I was sorry that we managed to get some of her work because for the third year in a row we were the only ones to bid on any of her stuff. When we bid on her pieces I knew we could easily get by with the opening bids. Kind of a shame, but her stuff wasn't fantasy so that probably hurt her chances of selling off more art. 90% of the art sold is a donation to the con's charity-some reading advocacy group in Utah. Again, picking up our winning bids was a pain. They were totally unorganized this year, again, and they had some lame excuse. You'd think after a decade and a half or so they'd figure out the learning curve.

I almost entered in some minis that I had painted into the mini contest. The con book said they had to be turned in by noon on Saturday, so around 11:00 AM I took my figs down to the showcase. As expected nobody was there to take the figs, there was no paperwork out to enter your figs, and nobody had a clue what was going on. I talked to several staff members and the response was to find some guy (pretty much a different person each time). After 10-15 minutes I gave up. Even if I did find this "magic guy" and gave him/her/it my minis, they lost my trust. After all, I did want the figs back afterwards. I don't think I'd have won, but I would've been in the running. Most likely the more serious painters decided their work wasn't worth the risk.

Probably the best part of the con this year was the food. The last two years we were clueless as to where we could go and eat without spending all our money. The restaurant in the hotel is a steakhouse and for what they charge, it'd be better to raise some meat myself. Also, most of Salt Lake City shuts down big-time on Sunday, so we were usually SOL. This year the con did a good job of posting a map of local eateries. Just a couple of blocks away is a big (and expensive) mall that is hidden behind the facade of the old train depot. In 30-45 minutes we could leisurely walk down, grab a bite, and be back. Totally changed my perception of the con.

Overall, we had a lot more fun this year than we've had in the past. We got to eat, play, sleep, and have a good time without too many hassles. We've pretty much "broken the code" on some problem areas and we didn't try to do too much. I'm looking forward to next year.....if I register now it'll only be $40 for both of us.

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