Just thought you might be interested in a summary of what went on at the UK Gapes Expo this weekend. I was attending as part of the Team 8 support group - Team 8 being a group of gamers who have been together for over 10 years and provide RPG support for a number of gaming conventions in the UK. Apologies if this goes a bit off Labyrinth Lord, but you might like to hear what I get up to at these things.
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Well, this weekend was the UK Games Expo in Birmingham. Team 8 was down there in the shape of myself, my spouse Team8mum, Johnny Automatic and the Doddster. We also had support from Lady Kat and Charlotte over the weekend, making a grand total of 6 of us there over the three days.
The con itself lasted three days. Being a working stiff with a need to save some holiday, I was only down for the Saturday and Sunday sessions. However, I was down for running three games over the two days, as well as helping out on the front desk during the day when I had time. My three games were GI Blues (a hack of Box Ninja's 3:16 rules for the Rogue Trooper comic strip), The Silver Tower (a Labyrinth Lord dungeon crawl) and Turn On, Tune In, Terminate (a scenario using the Judge Dredd rules for Mongoose Traveller).
Thanks to Expo's pre-booking system, I was pretty sure that I would run all of the games. However, I was disappointed when, 15 minutes after the official start time for gaming, I found myself with none of my players having turned for the GI Blues game. Just because you have players booked in, does not necessarily mean that they will turn up! Still, I took advantage of the time to do a bit of shopping in the dealers' halls and to relieve Johnny Automatic and Lady Kat on the booking desk. By the time the Saturday afternoon session rolled round, I was ready to game. According to the booking system I had a full house of 6 players for The Silver Tower, and there were actually 6 players on the table by the time the session started!
The Silver Tower was a home-brewed Labyrinth Lord scenario. I had created 8 4th - 5th level characters for the game, and the backup characters were needed. The premise of the scenario was that the PCs were exploring a wizard's tower in search of power and glory. The tower was not what it seemed to be, but was actually a spacecraft that had crashed into a valley on the characters' world just over a century ago. The adventure began with the party (Nina the Fighter, Dragor the Dwarf, Chiddell the Mage, Taro the Thief, Theolonius the Cleric and Nemon the Elf) entering the valley on foot, able to see the Silver Tower glinting in the morning sunshine. They had not gone far into the coniferous forest before they had their first encounter with a small flying egg. The egg was a scout drone for the computer onboard the Silver Tower, and it thoroughly confused the party. Their response to the egg was to try and bring it down by brute force, then trapping it in a sack and bashing it to pieces.
Of course, this alerted the Tower's systems to the PCs' presence, and a pair of maintenance androids were sent to investigate. The PCs attempted to communicate with the androids by bartering with them. This only caused the androids to summon a swarm of small construction robots to take the PCs' precious metals which, in turn, caused the PCs to attack. While they managed to defeat the androids (or "gorts", as they nick-named them), the construction robots were more of a problem; so the PCs fled towards the Tower. There was just one problem: the Tower still had a pair of laser cannon that could target the PCs. They felt their best defence lay in speed (and saving throws), and so ran across the beaten zone of the lasers,to mount the drawbridge to the Tower. There, they were confronted by a defence robot that opened fire on them. Taking some damage, they were fortunate that one of their member had a Ring of Spellturning, which was used to reflect the charges from the robot's weapons back onto itself.
Having sealed themselves inside the Tower with a Hold Portal spell, the PCs set about exploring. They soon sorted out how to use the anti-grav lifts in the Tower, although this did cost the life of Nemon the Elf when he went the wrong way and ended up in the engine room of the Tower, where he was surprised by another defence robot. The rest of the party set about exploring the rest of the vessel. Disappointed at the first two rooms being empty (apart from a replacement for Nemon the Elf), they were less pleased to discover that the ship's crew were now zombies animated by radiation and capable of burning through armour. However, they did manage to retrieve some strange rings that spoke to them in an alien tongue (French, due to my inability to speak alien) and a magic wand that shot beams of destructive light.
During their exploration of the vessel, the PCs entered the captain's chamber. Chiddell the Mage activated a "magic mirror" that spoke to him and put him into a trance. The other players destroyed the mirror, with the explosion almost killing the mage. Only the judicious use of Cure Light Wounds spell saved him.
As the PCs ascended through the Tower, taking the unconscious Chiddell with them, Nina (who was carrying Chiddell's body) was diverted into the Tower's control room. As the other characters fought a desperate battle against a pair of defence robots, Nina was entrapped by the Tower's computer into sitting on the command throne for the ship and fighting a battle of wills for dominance of the ship's systems. Fortunately she was successful and, having gained control of the Tower, shut down its internal defences. When the PCs realised what they had (an almost functional spacecraft), they decided that a fitting end to the adventure would be to take off to explore worlds beyond their own.
The second adventure I got to run (Turn On, Tune In, Terminate) was on the Sunday morning. Although 6 players had booked, only 3 turned up. Still, the game ran. The adventure was set during the Sov-Block occupation of Mega City 1 in the Apocalypse War. The PCs were a team of Judges, sent into occupied territory to stop the flow of propaganda from the Sovs: Judge Lane and Judge Hutch (a pair of Street Judges) and Judge Acora (a Psi Judge).
The team entered occupied territory and met up with their resistance contact - a Wally Squad Judge who had taken charge of a rag-tag group of freedom fighters. They were informed that their target was a vidstar called Johnny Derp, a heartthrob actor who had gone over to the invaders. The players set about concocting a plan and gathering intelligence on their target. After much debate, they decided the best course of action was to persuade Derp to record a statement retreating his support for the Sovs. This would involve kidnapping him from his secure apartment, with the PCs disguised as East Meg Judges.
The first step in their plan was to obtain East Meg uniforms and weapons. This was accomplished by staging an ambush on a patrol in an abandoned underpass. Then, disguised as the enemy, the party snuck into the block containing the collaborators via a set of utility tunnels. After remembering their disguises removed the need for stealth, they managed to find the apartment of Stacy Stang, Derp's publicist. Rousing her from her bed, Psi Judge Acora managed to persuade Stang that her best interests lay in persuading Derp. When Stang tried to phone Derp, this attracted the attention of the building's guards. The first Sov Judge sent to investigate was quickly killed, but the rest of guards were now alert.
The PCs fled up the building to Derp's suite. As the Sovs mounted an attack with assault troops, Judge Acora "motivated" Derp while Lane and Hutch held back waves of attackers by judicious use of Sov Block Klashnikov rifles on an overload setting. Once the footage was in the can, the Judges made their escape via the building's garbage chute, before leaving via the utility tunnels. They were not unscathed, however, and only the judicious use of medkits kept them alive. Still, the mission was counted as a success when the learned the Sov Block Judges who had survived the attack were being sent to Siberia for their incompetence. The game ended with a classic Judge Dredd quote describing the fate of the Kommissar in charge of the operation:
"Do not issue him winter clothing!"
"What? He's not going to Siberia?"
"No. He's just not getting any winter clothing."
After the adventure finished, I spent the rest of the day on the front desk with the rest of the team. As it was the last time the Expo was going to be held at that venue, we had a brief farewell ceremony before leaving ourselves. Next year, the con is going to be in bigger premises. Hopefully with air conditioning that works!
Total loot: In my case, a copy of Leagues of Adventure from Triple Ace Games, and Star Fleet Marines Assault by ADB.
Highlight of the Con: Cosplayers. Definitely cosplayers. The 501st Legion were there, showing off their Star Wars costumes. There was also a group of Dr Who enthusiasts, complete with Doctors No. 10 and 11, an Amy Pond and a pair of Daleks. However, the real highlight for me were two young ladies dressed as a Denny O'Neill era Catwoman and Harley Quinn. The pair stopped by the front desk and asked the immortal question "Which way to the dungeon?" Johnny Automatic and myself contained ourselves until they had gone.
"There are words!"
"And there are dreams!"
Lowlight of the Con: Two days in Birmingham during the hottest weekend of the year so far. 3,000 + people in a building. No air conditioning. "Your stench. It is in my flesh, my very being. I must be free of this place …"