CotMA in Action: Dreamation 2010

So ends another Dreamation convention, held in Morristown, NJ over this past weekend. This one was quite a bit larger than the last I attended; more people in general, it seemed to me, and thus more games. I haven’t compared the program from last year to this year, but it seemed as if the board games were fewer, and the RPGs were more. I ran two sessions of Castle of the Mad Archmage, using the AD&D 1E rules, at the prime spots of 8:00 PM on Friday and Saturday night.

Both nights were sold out by the time I arrived at the convention around lunchtime Friday, which really floored me. I had brought fliers to promote the games, but they were completely unnecessary! Not only that, but there were alternates for both sessions signed up (for each, one alternate got seated, as one sign-up failed to show). For both sessions, and just talking to folks walking around the con and dealers in the dealers’ room (three of whom were in the Saturday night session), everyone was quite enthused that someone was playing 1E. Many expressed dismay that the sessions were already full. I am already committed to running at least three 1E sessions at Dexcon (Dreamation’s sister convention, held in July, also in Morristown), and maybe four.

Both conventions cover the gamut of gaming options. RPGs, board games, miniatures, computer games, video games, LARPs; they pretty much have everything a gamer might want (except, perhaps, historical miniatures and hex-and-counter wargames, but I can hardly fault them for that). I don’t partake of the LARPing myself, but it does add a certain amount of color. And, of course, any time that wargamers and RPGers can look at anyone and say “wow… dorkier than us” is a plus. 😉

On Friday night, the CotMA crew was exploring a corner of the third level of the dungeon. As they approached the Castle, some unknown force teleported them into a corridor in the northeast corner of the dungeons (although they, of course, had no idea where they were). After a lot of exploring (including discovering a piece of a puzzle door that led to no end of puzzlement on their end), and a couple of quick and dirty battles, the party ran into a wandering monster; the dreaded gelatinous cube. Quick thinking led them to drive the beastie through the passages using torches, with the party following behind. What they didn’t realize was that the ‘cube was (through purely random rolls, I might add) leading them right into the lair of a large bunch of hobgoblins. Once the hobgoblins realized what was happening, they produced their own torches, and both sides proceeded to use missile weapons to destroy the ‘cube in order that they might get to the real work of killing each other.

See, now, this is where my own ignorance and lack of experience (even after 30 years) comes into play. Not realizing the full implications of doing so (never having used one in my own campaigns ere now), I gave the thief a figurine of wondrous power- goat of travail. Ye Gods! That thing is a Continental Siege Machine. 16 HD, AC unhittable, a gazillion h.p., and 5 high-powered attacks (hoof/hoof/bite/horn/horn). Despite being able to muster up with pole arms and flank the party on two sides, the goat made short work of the humanoids, who fled into the depths. They were then able to use the goat to pummel through the portcullis that led to the stairs to the surface, and managed to escape with a bit of loot.

Saturday’s session was a bit different. I jacked up each member of the party by 2 levels (albeit minus one figurine of wondrous power) and deposited them on Level 5 of the dungeons, declaring that they had a map that led them down to it (area #1 on level 5, for those of you keeping score). They found the mosaic path that led them into the conjuration room, while at the same time managing to cause a mass of ogres to spill out into the corridors. They fought off the ogres (with the help of their 6th level ranger, who was devastating in combat), got nailed by a pit trap (even after making such a big deal of “we know this is an old-school dungeon crawl– we’ve brought 10′ poles!” they never bothered to say they were actually using them) and decided to spend the night in the dungeon to recover spells.

That proved to be something of a mistake, however. Though they took great pains to secure the door of their chosen sanctuary, and set up alarms, they simply tumbled out of the door the next morning. Unfortunately, a number of giant centipedes, having sensed prey within, had ensconced themselves outside the door. When the party came out, the centipedes attacked, and the magic-user gave up the ghost to their poison. They tumbled into the 20′ wide central corridor of the level, but hit the teleport trap before they reached the Great Stone Enigma of Greyhawk (alas– I was really looking forward to their encountering one of the most iconic images of the original dungeon). They managed to stumble on a group of flinds, and defeated them soundly, but by that time the session was over. They had no idea where they were, and were nowhere near an exit.

Both sessions were a blast, and the comments of the players were that they had a great time as well. I’ll be scheduling at least three sessions of 1E AD&D next time around, and might just take a stab at running a classic TSR module. Maybe The Village of Hommlet. Oh, that would be sweet.

But I cannot overemphasize the reaction that I got. Folks were really excited that 1E was being played, and the demand exceeded my capacity. I can’t think that’s a local phenomenon. To all my fellow OSR grognards, I say that this is an opportunity. Go to your cons, and run LL, and S&W, and AD&D 1E or 2E, and D&D 0E, and  C&C, and all the rest. Folks *want* to play these games; most of whom were born after they were even in print. Let’s give ’em what they want, and maybe grow the base a little.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

8 thoughts on “CotMA in Action: Dreamation 2010

  1. "Go to your cons, and run LL, and S&W, and AD&D 1E or 2E, and D&D 0E, and C&C, and all the rest. Folks *want* to play these games; most of whom were born after they were even in print. Let's give 'em what they want, and maybe grow the base a little."

    The great thing about running sessions like you did, Joe, is the de-ghettoization of early editions is taking place right before our eyes. Years past it was nigh impossible to find an old school game at a con…not that no one wanted to PLAY, just that it was hard to find someone to man up and actually run one (due to any number of factors). Like admitting you preferred an earlier edition was a character flaw. I've attended cons that actually FORBID running any game earlier than 2e!

    Now we have not only games being run, but entire conventions (GaryCon and NTRPG Con are two) dedicated to nothing but old school gaming. That's incredible progress. (Disclosure: I'm one of the two guys running NTRPG Con). I know at NTRPG Con we are expecting over 100 people this year just to play OD&D, 1E, B/X D&D, S&W, C&C;, and practically NOTHING else! I don't know if we could have done this even five years ago and had a dozen people show up; with the emergence of the OSR interest grows daily in this sort of escapade.

    I hope to see in the near future more and more pre-1999 or retroclone gaming sessions spring up at established cons, and this leading to entire cons with nothing but old school gaming. A half dozen old school, regional cons springing up across the US would be a dream come true, and for the first time I really think this could become a reality.

    Anyway, as you can tell I am very pumped and excited by the reception your game got, and hope it leads to bigger things.

  2. Frank Mentzer ran something like 7 or 8 sessions at Totalcon over the weekend. I played two on Saturday and both were filled up. 10 players at a high level 1st ed game and 13 at OD&D Palace of the Vampire Queen. It was a game with Frank Mentzer which has its own draw but I did also here some people saying they wished there were more 1E games going.

  3. I was your ranger/party mapper in the first game. Thanks again for breaking this out. It was a lot of fun and brought back fond memories of late night, high-school basement games of the past.

  4. B-aa-aa-d goat! B-aa-aa-d! LOL!!!

    Sounds like it was a blast!

    All this @#%! ice & snow killed my chances of going anywhere this month. Hopefully, I'll get to see you in action next time around in July.

    If I can secure the time-off from work, I would love to run a few 1E games as well.


  5. Hey Joe – I had a great time in your game Saturday night, even though I had to leave early. It was definitely a trip down memory lane.

    And I blame us forgetting our dungeoneering basics due to a failed save versus the poison gas coming from the table next to us…


    Thanks again!

    PS – on Sunday I saw another AD&D 1E game being played in one of the side rooms.

  6. Sounds like a blast Joe!

    Hopefully I'll be back in NJ sometime in the next 2-3 months, and will let you know in case we're able to finagle some gaming!


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