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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Return to Gary Con: Day Two, Part One

Zenopus game. Source: Larry Hamilton of Follow Me and Die!

This is a continuation of my Gary Con XI report. The previous installment is here.

Friday was my first full day at the con, and I started it off by running the first scheduled session of my game, In Search of the Brazen Head of Zenopus. This was the third time I I've run it, the priors being a playtest with my local group, and then a session at North Texas RPG Con in June 2018. That game had nine players (including Chris Holmes!), but this one had ten, making it the first with every single pre-gen in play. Also new was that I made "minis" to represent the pre-gens:

Reference photo of my tokens for the game

The discs are real wood, ordered from a woodcraft company in Arkansas, 1" in diameter (& 1/16" thick), so they fit the squares on standard battle mats or dungeon tiles. I used them during the game for marching order and larger battles. While the pictures may look woodburnt, they were actually drawn with a Micron .05 black ink pen. I considered a paint pen, but I tried this first and it worked well enough. I started out puting a letter on each to help with recognition, but dropped that part way through as unnecessary. The back of each was labeled with the PC name + "Gary Con XI". After the game I gave them out to the respective players to keep as a memento. I also painted other tokens with different colors for opposing forces.

In the center are:
Boinger, Hobbit, 4th Level Fighter
Zereth, Elf, 4th level Fighter/3rd level Magic-User

Around them, clockwise from left are:
Lady Hortensa, Human (Amazon background), 6th level Fighter
Sir Geoffrey, Human, 4th level Paladin [with a Prince Valiant haircut]
Brother Ambrose, Human, 5th level Cleric
Murray the Mage, 5th level Magic-User
Olaf & Haldor, 2nd level Fighters (both controlled by a single player)
Maximillian, Centaur, 3rd level Fighter (I gave him a weird human-horse hybrid face)
Bardan, Dwarf, 4th Level Fighter
Sunna, Human, 4th Level Thief

I always like fold-up "id cards" (aka "table tents") during con games so I can tell who the other players are quickly. At North Texas I wrote some out beforehand, but since I'm running this repeatedly I decided to type up a sheet I could repeatedly print out and cut up. 

The font is a faux medieval font I found call Blackwood Castle, more readable than actual Olde English fonts. Futura is of course even more readable but has less flavor. 

I was so wrapped up in running the game that I forgot to take any pictures, but luckily one of the players, Larry of Follow Me an Die!, took several shots including the one at the top of this post. I had just given out the character sheets so everyone is studying them intently. Here's a shot showing Larry's set up, including his id card, character sheet, and the players map:

Larry of Follow Me an Die!

I started the session with some background on Basic D&D, how J. Eric Holmes came to edit it, introducing each pre-gen, and the background for the Zenopus dungeon. Due to the time limits, I started the PCs right at the dungeon entrance. As the con description indicated, "Murray the Magic-user has located a previously unknown means of entry to the old dungeons and has gathered you all in hopes of finding the legendary brazen head of Zenopus, a mask reputed to have the power of speech."

I'm not going to write up the entire game to avoid spoilers, as I plan to run this again, and also make it available for others to run (hopefully with art by Chris!). But the session was great fun, with enthusiastic players and some memorable incidents. It plays out differently each time I run it, which is what I was hoping for. There is actually enough material for several sessions if time allowed.

Here is another picture Larry took of the minis in action, which I cropped this to hide their opponents.

Some of the specific rules I used for this game:

-Dexterity for initiative. I made a list of the pre-gens, ordered by initiative, and simply went through the list each round of combat. I gave all of the Monsters dexterity scores prior to the game, so they simply went at the appropriate spot in the list.

-All weapons did d6 damage, except two-handed weapons were +1 to hit and damage. Some large HD monsters did 2d6 or 3d6 damage per blow.

-Fighter classes could make one attack per level against "ordinaries" - normal humans or humanoids. This is mentioned in OD&D volume 2 for monsters, and then more clearly described for players by Gygax in the OD&D FAQ in Strategic Review #2.

Finally, a big thank you to everyone who played in the game. It was great to meet & game with you! Cory (Boinger), Clint (Sunna), Demos (Zereth), Eugene (Geoffrey), Ioan (Max), Jeffrey (Murray), Jesse (Ambrose), Larry (Olaf & Haldor), Steve (Hortensa), and Wade (Bardan)

Next up, Day Two continued: En Garde and Discovery of the Unknown.


  1. Sounds like another great game. You had some good players there I see. I think I like the rule about ordinaries, it sounds very pulpy.

    1. Yes, it works very well for speeding up battles with epic numbers of enemies. Great for con games. Players love it, particularly in combination with a Haste or Giant Strength, which gives them even more attacks.

  2. Very cool con report, Zenopus! I need to get in on one of your games at GC or NTRPG someday...

    1. Thanks! Please do. I may be at NTRPG this year, not sure yet, but if I so, I'll run this again, and definitely planning for one session at Gary Con next year, plus something new.

  3. Hey Zach! Great to read your write up! Very fun scenario! Glad I got some picks, I always manage to forget to take pictures of at least one of the games I run, which I did for one this year.

  4. The pregens were great - very much in the spirit of Holmes! And the adventure felt as if we were actually in one of the good professor's short stories. Congrats on nailing it!