Warpcon happened again last weekend. Each con has its own unique twist; the theme this year seems to be ‘oh God, we’re old, we’re old.’
Warpcon XX. The twentieth year of the con. I was at Warpcon IV. That’s sixteen years ago. The people running the con are barely older than that.
Technically, I was nearly at Warpcon 0, the Cork Games Day event in ’89. I went to the Star Trek club instead. You know how there are some decisions that radically change your life, and put you on an entirely different path. That was not one of them – it just pushed my discovery of gaming back a year or two, instead.
Once I got past the terror of it being Warpcon 20, which means it’s NINE years since I ran the con and I was out of college by that point and aaaaaaagh and so forth, I relaxed and had a good time at the con. We were playing host to a host of houseguests, all of whom were exceedingly pleasant and trouble-free.
The puppy was also exceedingly pleasant, but not quite trouble-free. At any con, the logistical problems of eating, sleeping, buying books I don’t need and running games are hard enough to begin with, and this year added ‘walking the dog’, ‘feeding the dog’, ‘not abandoning the dog in the car’ and ‘ensuring the dog didn’t eat all the dice’ to the workload. Either we work out a new system for next year, or the dog will be glued to a really big HeroClix base and I’ll bring her in as a custom mini conversion.
Over the course of the con, I killed rather a lot of PCs. I didn’t set out to have such a death toll, but the character sheets just kept mounting up.
In Ray’s Ghouls-in-1920s-Chicago, it was all going fine until the PCs decided to retaliate by driving into the rival gang’s territory and blowing things up, and even that would have been forgiveable if it weren’t for the botched drive roll during the escape. Death count: 4, I think.
In my own Cthulhu game…well, the scenario was written as a vicious meatgrinder anyway. It’s based on a true story, the destruction of the White Island mining camp in 1914. (It probably wasn’t Elder Things in real life.) Nine of the ten miners were playable characters, and the intent was that players would get replacement PCs as the adventure went on. One of the players decided that the proper response to mysterious deaths at a mining operation was to ignore everything and just keep everyone mining. The Cthulhu cultists, dastardly fiends that they were, shirked work and ran around the island sacrificing people and uncovering sundry horrors, while the rest of the group threw uneasy glances towards the mysterious temple while they gathered sulphur. And then the world ended. Death count: 8, plus Cthulhu’s waking up soonish. Oh, and I got to roleplay a braindamaged gannet, the portrayal of which almost equalled my wonderful surprised teleported fish impression from that Buffy game a few Warpcons ago.
On Saturday evening, I was shanghied into running a Fallout-based game. The players decided that the best way to deal with the camp of psychopathic-fascists-in-power-armour-backed-up-by-a-helicopter gunship was to walk up to said psychopathic-fascists-in-power-armour-backed-up-by-a-helicopter gunship and ask them politely to move. When they didn’t, one of the PCs started firing, and the psychopathic-fascists-in-power-armour-backed-up-by-a-helicopter gunship fired back considerably more successfully. Death Count: All 6.
Finally, I ran Paranoia on Sunday morning, which went very well indeed. It was a spoof on airport security. Three PCs got blown up by an underpants bomb that overheated. Another was horribly pulped by a malfunctioning probe, and in the end, everyone was wiped out by a weaponised shoe. Good times, and a death count of 13 at least.
My purchases were limited; I looked very hard at Underdark and the Elemental Chaos book for D&D, but eventually grabbed Chaos in the Old World on the grounds that it looked shiny. Plus, I’ve still got a hundred or more rpgs to read from the Haiti charity bundle.
At some point on Sunday afternoon, when we were over in the (alarmingly repainted) Old Bar playing CitOW (I won), I stepped out to go to the bathroom. The toilets downstairs in the bar were locked, so I had to go over to the Science Building and walk down the stairs to the basement where Warpcon IV was held, sixteen years ago.
I still get excited every time I walk down those stairs.
For a brief moment, I’m back at that con, playing Cthulhu and Paranoia for the first time, accidentally killing everyone else in Cyberpunk, discovering there’s more to roleplaying than D&D and that there are loads of other gamers out there, and that they all come together at these crazy cons and it’s something wonderful and strange. Sixteen years melt away and I rediscover my enthusiasm for the hobby and for the tribe. Better yet, I know that I can do the same next year, and the year after that…