The second day I was there, GenCon seemed no less large. It was a bit comical at times because Indianapolis had managed to schedule a biker rally, a music festival, a baseball game, and GenCon all on the same weekend. The foot traffic around the convention center was pretty wild at times, between Cosplayers and Bikers who, for all I know, might've been cos-players themselves.
The people in Indianapolis seemed very friendly and had nothing but nice things to say about the GenCon attendees -- which was nice.
I did my best to help out on the second day. I did a coffee run and helped Doug Kovacs out at his booth. I had a game scheduled in the afternoon but, surprisingly, it was a no-show. But that was okay because Saturday night wound up ending with a bang.
We had a group that evening that ran TATG characters through DCC RPG's Tower Out of Time by Michael Curtis. The group featured Jobe Bittman, Doug Keesler and several others who had shown up for the DCC RPG meetup at Embassy Suites. I had a great time and it seemed like the players did as well.
Some highlights included:
- Doug Keesler playing a Reaver he named "Rock". At one point, the Exotic in the group had to help Rock lift a door. A string of Monty Python-esque double-entendres ensued involving the name "Rock" and the character needing help getting the door... well... up. The conversation and laughter prompted Joseph Goodman to wonder what exactly was going on, to which Harley Stroh explained that "Scott creates a very accepting space at his table. People just feel okay sharing things like that." Thanks, Harley!
- Our romp through the Tower involved a Shark (more on him later), flying Nazi monkeys, a dirigible, a werewolf, shapechanging lizard people, and the nefarious Dr. Caligari. Don't ask how all that tied together. I'm still not sure. But one player had requested a "one-on-one fight with a sexy werewolf". Unfortunately, the one-on-one part was difficult as most of the party seemed more interested in fighting the werewolf than shooting down the Nazi blimp from an alternate monkey-infested future that was heading to destroy the village. But it was a fun, if chaotic, combat. The werewolf was a playtest of the Werewolves from the second book.
- Then... the Shark. Jobe played his Valiant to perfection. Fearless. Brave. Chiseled. And Brawny. Instead of wimping out at the first sign of trouble, the Valiant dove into a moat -- only to find it was home to a pre-historic shark! What does Jobe do? Swim away? Cry for help? Try to beat the shark to the other side? NO. He punches the shark. In. The. Face. And rolls a 20. Once the shark goes belly up, Jobe cuts it open and eats its still-beating, prehistoric heart. It was awesome. A game-defining point of no return, actually. There's a saying nowadays about something "jumping the shark", meaning "the point at which something became very, very bad". I'd like to propose "punching the shark" as the direct opposite -- the point at which something very much started to kick ass. Here's hoping more people "punch the shark" in their games when Transylvanian Adventures is released in October.
As I've said before, this is pretty much how most games of TATG turn out. Shark punching. Shooting down flying monkeys with a tiny monkey machine gun fired with a shark tooth. Genderless, shape-changing lizards inciting lusty soliloquies in the characters. And Ken doll references.
It's all very crazy.
I'd like to think it's some serendipitous alchemy between the character classes, the setting, and the very particular risk-reward system built into TATG. Players do crazy things. Partly out of necessity. Partly because it seems like a good idea at the time.
I've run all sorts of games over the last 30 years. There aren't a whole lot of games that I haven't played or run. So this seems unique to me. It's some old-school sort of madness that rests somewhere between Hammer Horror, Paranoia, Call of Cthulhu, and good old D&D. And I can't recall a game where there hasn't been some sort of memorable moment like those above. And I'm absolutely short-changing the players here. There were far more moments of action, hilarity, and tear-inducing awesomeness. I was just really bad about taking notes.
I'm not saying that TATG can't be played straight, with a Wuthering Heights sort of Gothic drama or whatnot. I've done that. But there's just something about it that punches the shark even when I've been in a group that was really, really serious about being serious. The game reaches a point where the Librarian puts his kids to bed, kisses his wife goodbye, sharpens his wooden stakes, loads up his crossbow, and heads out with his team of Victorian Ghostbusters to kick Dr. Frankenstein in the balls.