Ethereal Gary Con XIII Report

Last weekend I participated Ethereal Gary Con. I ran four games and played in two. Overall, it was a very successful event. The team that put the event on did a good job of keeping things organized. If there were significant problems, I am unaware of them. There were some tech hiccups here and there but that was to be expected. I saw no significant issues or major outages. For me, it was very successful.

I took a few vacation days to play and run games. I needed it to be honest. My job has been a grind for months. A few days of gaming and hanging out was welcome.

I hosted four Swords and Wizardry games via Skype. They were all set in the town of Hogwater. Hogwater was the starting location for the campaign I just wrapped up. The Hogwater that I used in the convention games wasn’t quite the Hogwater of the campaign. It was a more developed version. All four sessions went well. There were a few tech glitches. We completely lost one player mid-game, I think as a result of a windy weather that hit the midwest. One player had a problem with audio over Skype so we ended up using the Discord room set aside by Gary Con for the game.

I played in two games. I played in one of Tim Kask’s “Wheel of Blame” sessions. This is an improv game where each player writes down two items. Tim then improvises encounters built off of the items each player gives him, Iron Chef style.

The other game I played was a variant of the board game Dungeon! designed by Dave Megarry but set in the Jakalla underworld of MAR Barker’s Empire of the Petal Throne. The variant was designed by Bill Hoyt, a member of the original Blackmoor bunch who also played in Barker’s EPT games. Bill ran the game over Roll20 which was a little bit quirky but we managed it. Bill described some of the locations on the board and told us stories about the monsters, wizards and temples that were part of the Tekumel adventures that inspired the board game variant. I hadn’t been able to play with any of the participants in those games before so it was a treat to get some first hand accounts of the expeditions in the dungeons below Jakalla.

Take Aways

You do not require a VTT to play a classic fantasy adventure game online. I knew this already because that’s how I’ve been running Swords and Wizardry for the last year. I’ve been using Skpe and Rocketbook Snapcast as a whiteboard with very few issues. Snapcast can be a little slow. You draw out the scene, scan it with the app and bring it up either with screen sharing or sharing the URL in the chat. Using it for a complicated fight with a lot of combatants can be challenging.

Not only is it possible to run an investigative game with Old School Renaissance games, it works fine and it is fun. Three of the four sessions were primarily investigations. They didn’t have to be. The players could have decided to turn it into a more combat oriented adventure but they didn’t. They poked around, interacted with the NPC’s, sorted out what was going on and didn’t get into many fights. They used magic on occasion to get to the bottom of the various problems the characters had been hired to solve but for the most part, they just figured it out. It was a lot of fun to run and the players seemed to enjoy it. I had a couple of players play in more than one of my games so they must have like the first session enough to show up for the second.

Tying together all my adventures in the convention and having the earlier sessions influence events in the later sessions was very fun. While I didn’t quite set the sessions up so they would be progressing in a time line with no continuity conflicts, it was kind of close. Things the players did on Thursday and Friday, influenced events players experienced on Saturday. This was fun for me. I made adjustments to what I had planned here and there. I didn’t build the adventures intending to tie them together but it occurred to me as Gary Con approached that it might be a fun experiment to tie them all together. I dropped various clues and hooks to different things going on in town throughout all four sessions. If you played in all four, there are a few secrets you might have figured out. They weren’t material to solving the mysteries but did color how certain NPC’s behaved in each session.

The next convention where I run multiple games, I’m going to write them up as being sequential and in the same setting.

  • This approach makes design and prep a lot easier. I can recycle NPC’s and locations for each session.
  • It generates some interesting events from players in the earlier sessions that make the later sessions richer.
  • It encourages “repeat business” from players who like my games and style of play.

Online convention games require more organization on my part. I was fairly organized but my character sheets for the pre-gens didn’t scan as well as I would have liked. I did set up a shared folder on my Google Drive with PDF’s of sheets, a hand out of bullets for players. As the convention progressed, I lost players due to last minute job/family issues that came up and gained a few players who were looking for a game.

Having the shared file was helpful getting the players what they needed when they needed it. I wasn’t as on top of it as I would have liked. My usual procrastination and getting things dropped in just before they were absolutely necessary made things a little less smooth than I would have liked but not bad.


Gary Con XIII was a good event. My game sessions went well and I got to play with people from all over. A few of you are probably reading this. I appreciate your ingenuity and thoughtful play. It was a pleasure running games for you.

I will likely participate in more online conventions this year though probably not running four games over three days. That amount of gaming takes it out of me. I also ran my regular Sunday game group. By the end of the weekend I was worn down to a nub.

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