So this was my visit to the second annual 3DBCon mini-convention. Last year, the idea of a "mini-convention" was pretty new to me and it was a little rough, but this year I see it catching on. There were several local companies marketing there -- they had RPG ads from HERO Games and others on a big flat-screen TV in the cafe while we played. There were people from a collectible tile game and a card game company (TableStar Games) as well. As before, it was held in the 3 Dollar Bill Cafe -- a cozy cafe with wireless Internet access located in San Francisco's LGBT Community Center. The fee was $10, but as part of that we got $6 worth of tokens for buying stuff at the cafe.
This time there were many more events total -- 18 in all, though I think a few were cancelled. This included a number of boardgames, whereas last year it was almost all RPGs. I think this goes to show the collapse of role-playing compared to the cool new boardgames like Shadows Over Camelot and Memoir 44. Really, I think that was too many events for the space. It was really hard to hear at several points during the game. Also, they really shouldn't have shakes or smoothies in the cafe that day. It's great that they're growing, but they need some place to expand to for future years.
Nik (left) and Jeremy (right)
(left to right) Basil, David, and Devon
Jeremy (left) and Josh (right)
There was a strong feeling of deja vu for me, because I played in only a single event -- which was again a Blue Rose event run by Jeremy Crawford (co-author and editor of the game). And again, the adventure ran well over its budgeted time, going over 7 hours. Whereas last year's was with 1st level characters, this time the PCs were pregenerated at 5th level -- though in the background they were still defined as relatively junior. That matches one of my criticisms of Blue Rose, that first level really isn't appropriate for adventurers defined as the elite.
This time, the adventure was set in the theocratic nation of Jarzon, and involved two priests and their companions from a caravan visiting an isolated abbey in the dangerous borders of the kingdom. There were six players including myself. The others were all roughly white males ranging from late-twenties and up. The characters were all ostensibly native and loyal Jarzoni citizens, and mostly in their twenties.
We picked out our characters. I took whoever was last, as is my tendency. I felt a little bad because I had the simplest character to run -- a straight fighter (well, a gay straight fighter :-). Meanwhile, some other players were struggling to play more complex magical or feat-using characters. After picking, there was an hour-long introduction to the world and system of Blue Rose, which was fairly continuous discussion by Jeremy. I was the only one who was familiar with Blue Rose beforehand, so it was a bit of a drag for me, but it went fairly smoothly. Everyone except David was pretty familiar with D20, so the focus was on the changes.
The scenario was our characters approaching an abbey out in the wilds near dangerous territory for a visit. We arrived two days early, and had interrupted a bunch of bandits whom a traitorous monk had allied with to take control of the place. He had summoned a darkfiend woman and was preparing to sacrifice novices and open a gateway that would let through more. So it was a relatively straightforward thwarting of a villain, complicated by mistaken identity of the villains being disguised as innocent monks.
We took a very direct approach to the problem, though. When the old seeming monk tried to direct us away from the gate, we scaled the wall to get in and see what was going on. The result was that the entire rest of the game was one long action scene as everyone headed in and split up. There was a beer-and-pretzels atmosphere of swashbuckley fighting, with a lot of jokes and banter. Most of the players were good about staying in-character, but a key decisions lead us to tackle everything directly. I think Jeremy was rather surprised at this, but he went with it.
I have a few reflections on the combat system. Now, this is perhaps not entirely fair, since I think Blue Rose focuses on small combats rather than big extended fights. However, mostly I think we just magnified the importance of problems. The options and spells hold up very well, and were easy to pick up and keep track of. There is too much randomness and "whiff factor" in the combat system -- i.e. it is too easy to miss, and on top of those there were too many hits which failed to cause damage. Further, because of the structure of the system, it is much more effective to use Conviction Points to avoid being damaged than to accomplish heroic feats. This made things drag. On the other hand, I also think D&D combats drag out, and if anything this was faster and certainly more intuitive.