Last weekend I went to the 29th Total Confusion gaming convention. It was a great time hanging out and playing games with some people I have gotten to know over the last five years. Total Confusion’s attendance has been over 1,000 people and growing these last few years. Overall, the con is well run. There are a few hiccups but honestly they are few considering the number of people and events going on simultaneously. The all volunteer staff work hard to put on a great event and make the con better each year.
The hotel had its ups and downs. They, like everyone else in the Boston area, had a lot of snow in the parking lot taking up space. The convention has grown over the last few years and is now straining the hotel’s capacity. Every room was booked and parking was packed. I heard that some people staying at other local hotels missed games trying to find a parking spot. Definitely an issue. The hotel’s food was not very good and the coffee was abysmal. I brought my own coffee, an electric kettle and french press. That got me at least a few decent cups.
There’s a considerable number of Pathfinder and 5E players and a lot of board and miniatures games. I would guess that about half the con attendees play board games exclusively. TC features a number of tournaments and a large library of board games to borrow. The feel of it is that there are multiple cons within a con. It seems like most people come primarily for one type of gaming and may visit that other neighborhood for something but then go back where it is more comfortable. You get to know the people in your neighborhood because you see them all weekend and have a few drift back and forth between the areas. There are a couple of small rooms dedicated to old school RPG’s, mostly D&D. This is my neighborhood.
My soon to be 10 year old daughter played some OD&D with her old man and Frank Mentzer as the DM. That was a lot of fun for both of us. She’s timid around adults she doesn’t know and she’s especially timid with men. She did quite well and saved the party’s bacon on a couple of occasions. Everyone at the table encouraged her and helped her along. As we were going back to the room I asked her how it was and she said, “Awesome.” Mission accomplished. Frank ran a great game, as always. I never fail to learn a DMing lesson when I play games with Frank. If you get the chance to play in a game with Frank, I recommend the experience.
I only played in a few games and spent most of my time DMing. I played a modified Ghost Tower of Inverness (Tournament AD&D Module) with one of my favorite DM’s and Metamorphosis Alpha with Michael Curtis. Both games were well run and the players were all cool. Being a convention open to the public, occasionally you get “that guy” at your table. TC is a good con that way. I've only had a few games over the last five years that were terrible due to a jack ass player.
The majority of my gaming this weekend was me DMing. I did a short 2 hour game Saturday morning culminating in a boss fight against a high level druid allied with a green dragon. The party pulled it off but not without a few casualties. In the afternoon, I ran an experiment in trying to do a heist adventure with D&D. It worked OK but the pacing was a little rough. It needs more action on the front end than your standard heist movie structure, which has most of the conflict and action on the back end. In a film, that works out, in a game it gets a bit tedious. More tweaking needed.
My Saturday evening game didn’t happen. The weather didn’t cooperate. We had snow and ice Saturday evening. Typically, the con has a lot of people show up just for the day. With the slick roads and parking problems, there wasn't the usual Saturday surge in attendees. That was OK for me. I needed a break. I managed to get some sleep and felt a lot better for it.
I ran a red box D&D game for some kids on Sunday morning. I could have been better prepared for it. My daughter said it was good other than one of the kids was too young. She had zero impulse control and was a big distraction. Not sure I’m going to do another one of those again. I had a surprisingly good size group for my Sunday afternoon game. Six players, including my daughter. That one featured a drooling idiot who was possessed by the ghost of a wizard bound to a sock puppet in service to a mind flayer who fancied himself an artist and natural philosopher. Lots of fun. The group was super nice to my girl and handed her all their prize tickets. The accumulated pile ended up getting her a cool little board game. Thanks guys!
That’s it for my con report. Next year is TC’s 30th year. If past experience is any indicator, it should be bigger and better. Well worth your time.