Chatty’s New York Trip Highlights, Part 1: NYCC and D&D

Boy, I feel like I haven’t been writing in ages. I spent the last few days in New York  and my “stuff to write about” pile is so humongous now that I don’t know what to work on first. I’m relying on good old “last-in/first-out” so I’m going to share my main highlights of that weekend in the Big Apple.

New York Comic Con

The con was… immense.  I have not seen all of it, I didn’t even try.  I was too focused on my tasks as a volunteer DM that I never strayed too far from the gaming area. Walking the external area adjoining the halls was quite a journey in itself.

Still, I got to meet one of my favourite webcomic artists: Tom Siddell, artist and writer of Gunnerkrieg Court, a very cool chap who signed the 2 volumes I bought from him.  I was too timid to chat with him more… I know, I know, hard to believe but I’m bad with strangers.

The con was full of high quality booths from A-list companies like Archaia, Intel, Games Workshop, Ubisoft, Marvel, Darkhorse and, of course, DC comics.  I spent little time looking at people’s costumes but I was completely blown away by 2 couples walking around in full “Sword of Truth” regalia, the guys in Richard Ralh outfitss and 2 gals in tight-fitting, dyed full-leather Mord-Sith armour…

I’m still recovering…

I also got to meet with Seamus (writer of the RPG Musings blog) and his lovely wife Suzanne (pronounced à la française) and we got to hang out at a cool Midtown Irish Pub with my co-volunteering DMs Sarah Darkmagic and Alex.  There I got to do my usual Mouse Guard pitch and we got into some pretty awesome discussions about an old game I played a few years ago where all players had to share one body.

In fact that idea is spawning some dangerous concepts in both my brain and Dave’s.

Being a Con Dungeon Master

I ran one “Encounters” adventure and 3 ‘Learn to Play’ sessions.  Most of the new players had never heard of tabletop roleplaying games and all of them weren’t born when 2e came out (I easily had 20+ years on all of them). Still some very interesting quirky games moments occurred, my all time favourite being the following:

(Warning, Red Box adventure spoilers)

Party enters the Red Box’s Dungeon and meets with the White Dragon after having killed some of its minions. The Human Slayer and the Stabby Halfling Rogue  are smack dab in front of it as it leaves its lair to advance on the party.

Dragon (Deep Wheatonesque voice): How dare you invade my demesne?

Slayer and Stabby Rogue: Charge of the Jewish boys!!!! (I love New York!)

(2 round later)

Chatty: The Dragon is shaking the now unconscious rogue like it was a broken mannequin in its frigid jaws and threatens the bloodied fighter with its claws.

Elven Ranged Rogue: Can we talk to the dragon?

(The Warpriest and Wizard, played by a 13 year old boy, were hiding around the corner, mopping up kobolds,  The kid was sitting beside me and I was showing him my DM notes so he could see how the Monsters worked)

Chatty: Sure, it drops the dying halfling and says “What do you want… elf?”

(Aside: By sheer coincidence, Kieran, the D&D Brand Manager had taken a seat at our table at this exact moment!)

Elven Rogue: Can I join you?

Chatty (choking on his Diet Coke): What?!? Huh… the Dragon says “You’ll need to prove your loyalty to me first elf”

Elven Rogue: I shoot the Halfling.

Halfling & Chatty: You what?

(Clatter Clatter)

Chatty: You killed the halfling but the Dragon isn’t quite convinced of your loyalty yet, it’s not like you’re taking any actual risks here… (I was being creative with the scripted skill challenge).

Chatty (To the other players, who were, surprisingly, all laughing): So do you do anything about the elf rogue?

Warpriest: Nah, I wanna kill the dragon, I want to score his lootz!

Wizard: I wanna wait to see how this turns out, magic missile on kobold!

(2 rounds later)

Chatty: The Warpriest falls, the dragon is bloodied and breathing heavily.

Elven Rogue: I shoot…the warpriest!

Chatty: Whaaaat! (Clatter) Ok he’s dead. Now what?

Elven Rogue: I run out of the dungeon!

Chatty: Wizard?

Wizard kid: I ask the Dragon  if I can become one of his minions!  Maybe later he’ll let me ride him.

Chatty (Reminded of his early games with his son, and invoking rule 1 of Essentials: “Make them roll for it”): Huh sure, you have the diplomacy skill?

Wizard kid: I have a spell called “Suggestion” that lets me use Arcana instead of Diplomacy.

That kid was a fast learner…

(Clatter… 19)

Chatty: He accepts!  Welcome to Dungeons & Dragons!

Epilogue: Later in the day, I see the kid’s mom, she’s lugging around a huge plastic bag filled to the brim of D&D Essentials and Gamma World products.  I look around for the kid… and there he is, gleefully playing in a Dungeon Delve.

Mission accomplished.

Photos: Robin LeBlanc (Thanks for the coverage!)

Up next: My experiences at Burning Wheel and the joys of being a minor celebrity.


  1. LOL! THAT is awesome! Pure gold! Maybe some platinum too. The wizard player definitely has a bright future ahead of him. And the elven rogue player does as well, in games with inter-party conflict. haha

  2. And that is the beauty of a human-run tabletop game!

    I’ve noticed that a lot of players new to RPGs tend to be the ones who really challenge the GM to think on their feet and push the game in directions no one would have necessarily imagined.

    During the Dark Sun Encounters season, there were two brothers at my table completely new to D&D; one 13 and one 11 years old. They were constantly getting the rest of the table into trouble (awesomely, I must add) by playing the game at the fringes of its design. In one memorable encounter, the striker character spent half the game trying to mount and ride some giant beetle, while the rest of us struggled to kill off the rest of the monsters. His younger brother (with the DM’s approval) spent a standard action molting (he was playing the Thri-Kreen). Both were totally unnecessary to the encounter, but ultimately really entertaining.

    I think as a player gets more familiar with the rules, they start playing more efficiently (and more in line with the design focus of the game), but not always to the benefit of the play. In many ways, I think, the game would benefit from a periodic injection of the chaotic behavior of new players! (Something I imagine I’ll try to replicate in home games in the future.)

  3. @Tiorn: Thanks. I forgot to mention that much earlier, the Wizard player asked if he could change his alignment from Good to Unaligned. I said “sure”. I’m happy I did. This was an awesome game because these kids who were born and bred on MMORPGs saw, as byrant says, what true tabletop freedom could bring.

  4. Good post. Wife got a kick out of being mentioned in a D&D/gaming nerd blog post.

    That’s a great story. Stuff like that is why we play. Here’s hoping more tables go haywire like that!

    BTW, you MUST let me in on your crazy discussions more often…

  5. The best players are those who come to the table without gaming baggage. They tear things up! Great descriptions of how things went, Phil. Sounds like a blast! How did the WotC guys react to the hilarity they sat down in the middle of?

  6. @Byrant: Sorry, I was pulled away from the computer before I got to respond directly to you. I agree that new players to RPGs are as much a challenge as they can be a refreshing boon to DMs. An Occasion to breakout the Baker Imperative (Say yes or Roll dice).

    The greatest thing to happen is when older players notice how generous you are in allowing crazyness and they start weaving creativity with efficiency… that’s where Rule 42 (or Essentials DC and Damage tables) come in.

    Great story!

    @The Opportunist: Hey man! Glad to see you back safe! Tell Suze she’s always welcome in our little corner of Nerdia especially since her geekery is different than ours… we can learn from it!

    @Rafe: You know what… that’s so right! I think I did the same thing at the BW tables I played in this weekend. I came in with a limited knowledge and went to TOWN, and I had the time of my life and even got an Embodiment award for it!

    Kieran spent most of his short time with us laughing. I’m sure he had flashes of his first D&D games. It sure brought back flashes of mine!

  7. Overall, I’m relatively new to the world of role playing, having not started until I got to college, and only then with a couple random one off GURPS games (which, while a very complete system, is I think too crunchy for newbies) and a homebrew game of a friend.

    Recently I find myself in two different 4E games and while I’m still having a great time and still trying to come up with odd solutions other than just beating everything into submission. I find that I’m more subdued in my 4E games because I feel a slight pressure from the sort of tactical team synergy that 4E promotes to fall into line with the expected actions.

    Do you find that your players are equally as creative in breaking the mold in 4E as with other systems? Or do you find that the team interconnections that 4E promotes also leads to less independent action? Not that either one or the other is bad, as obviously your rogue going traitor every big bad would make progressing difficult, but as you point out, sometimes the surprises are fun.

  8. tmoney: 4E provides a solid and well define system. The fact that it is so well define will appeal to different play style in various way but will have a tendency in most game of stifling creative (out of the box) response to problem. That being said, with the proper combination of player and DM it can still be done.

    Of course, if this is the objective, a less “rule heavy” system would probably be a better choice.

  9. @tmoney: 4e is heavily influenced by teamplay for sure. And one of its many pleasures is to stumble upon synergies between PCs during combat encounters that explode in efficiency, wiping monsters with little expenditures of resources. It’s the part of the game that appeals to Planners and Butt Kickers the most.

    In that, I’ve notice that players, especially those that have a hard time breaking out of their creative shells, will be perfectly content to remain within the boundaries of their character sheets, like I’ve seen them doing ever since I became more aware of what was happening at the gaming table in the early 2000s.

    But even in the more defined parameters of 4e, I’ve seen experience, boxed-in players, bust out of the box when seriously put against the wall and faced with likely defeat. At that point, the desperate players start fishing for crazy schemes to succeed. Any DMs worth their salt will accommodate this to prevent needless party deaths and to give players a way to channel their frustrations.

    The trick resides in getting a group to play like that all the time… something that vanilla 4e doesn’t encourage all that well when you have literal-minded or imagination-challenged players (or just plain tired ones).

    Yan: up to now, it has always been seen as more efficient to beat monsters to death with powers in 4e… the new rules for more balanced DCs and simpler improvised damage tables might help loosen up the old man so to speak.

    But as you say, if a group wants a limber, freer experience less likely to fall into the game engine’s ruts, then a simpler more open-ended system is worth exploring. I’m sure my buddy Yan has one example in mind right now… 🙂

  10. As a matter of fact I do. Man you’re good!… 😛

  11. WONDERFUL story, CDM. 🙂

  12. Dixon Trimline says:

    Well now, THAT is seriously old school. Way back in AD&D and 2E, we were always screwing each other over for a magic item, some platinum pieces, or just because it would be funny. Excellent article… and reminder!

  13. @Wax: Thanks man.

    @Dixon: After the game, I asked the Elven rogue player why he’d switched sides… “Just because I felt like it”… Had this been adults playing, I would have been slightly annoyed… but showing them that you could break out of the MMORPG mold was worth me not commenting back. I too did a lot of stuff like that as a 10 year old kid when I started playing.

  14. Aw, man! I missed a chance to meet the Chatty DM? I gotta pay more attention when I go to these cons!

  15. @Rafe:
    “The best players are those who come to the table without gaming baggage.” – Amen to that 🙂

    These moments are awesome – rules are for wimps!

    I’m DMing the kids in two weeks (its been 2 years!) Can’t wait to see their creativity mess up my plans!!!!


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