Convention Reports
A Visit to Winter Fantasy 1996

Winter Fantasy (February 9-11, 1996) this year was at MECCA, the Milwaukee Exposition and Convention Center & Arena. (Today's bit of trivia, that's what the acronym MECCA means. There will be a quiz later. :)) It seemed to be larger than former years. The RPGA Director, Scott Douglas, mentioned that there were 800 attendees.

This was probably the 6th Winter Fantasy I've attended. Let's see, the last two years, it was at the Hyatt, the year before it was at MECCA, and then there was two years, I think, at the Ramada Inn near the airport.

Slot 1 - Middle Earth CCG

Since I drove in Thursday night, and arrived late, I decided to start out easy. So I got to MECCA about 9 AM or so and checked in. (They lost my registration, so I didn't get all the events I wanted. Drat.) At 10 AM, I played in a demo of the Middle Earth CCG (published by Iron Crown Enterprises). As they gave you a free starter deck, I figured I couldn't lose.

I had previously bought some ME, but the rules are rather complicated, so I didn't actually get around to playing. But, with someone teaching it to me, it came pretty easily. At least the basic game did. This is fun. I hear that you can play it solo, as well as with a bunch of people. The artwork is good, although there are a lot of different symbols to remember.

Slot 2 - Indiana Jones, Earthdawn

At noon, I played in a demo of Indiana Jones, published by some company or other that is no longer my favorite (for various other reasons). IJ is a Masterbook game, Masterbook being a basic generic set of rules that can be used in a variety of settings. (Much like GURPS, though I haven't played that.) IJ and Bloodshadows (a pulp detective game with magic and monsters thrown in) were the first games published for MB. Then there was the Tank Girl movie tie-in, the Species movie tie-in (the interior art being one of the reasons mentioned above), the Necroscope novel tie-in, and now the Tales from the Crypt TV show tie-in. (See a trend?)

Masterbook is based on the Shatterzone system, which was based on the earlier and much superior Greg Gordon-designed Torg system. But the kick is that we were using the new d6 Masterbook conversion system, which is essentially the Star Wars system. (published by the same license-happy company, natch) It works all right, although I do prefer the Torg (or its stepchild, the original Masterbook) system for their simplicity. This adventure had us as archaeology students at Giza, finding something odd happening at one of the temples. It was quite a bit of fun, even though it was only an hour or so long. (It was a demo, after all.)

At 2 PM, I went to the Earthdawn World Builder seminar. The RPGA started these seminars this year to give game companies a chance to show off their game worlds, and then give out some product. You needed a (free) ticket, as seating was limited to 50. Well, I attended three of them, and the most that there was at one was about 20. So on Friday, we talked with Lou Prosperi of FASA (the publishers of Earthdawn) for a couple hours, and then I walked away with a copy of the Earthdawn Gamemaster pack. Earthdawn is another Greg Gordon-designed system, and it looks very elegant. Unfortunately, I haven't really had a chance to play it, even though I bought the special convention edition when it came out at GenCon a couple years ago. Unlike AD&D, it does give plausible reasons behind classes, levels, and so forth. And it's in the past of Shadowrun, which despite being saddled with a cumbersome system, has a really interesting game world.

Slot 3 - Star Wars CCG

After 4 PM, I met a friend of mine, who taught me how to play the Star Wars CCG. It's a fun game, even though good draws on his part caused me much hardship. The idea that life points and "mana" (Force Points) are tracked by your cards is elegant. The only other comments I would make are that making the main characters rare was a mistake, and there are a heck of a lot of very specialized cards. For instance, Vader's Lightsaber can only be played on Vader. And there are a lot of cards that are only slightly less specialized, like the Dark Jedi lightsaber. Wait, how many Dark Jedi are there?

Slot 4 - Hanging out

What, I should stay at the con the whole time? :)

Slot 5 - The Stroke of Midnight

8 AM Living City! My half-elven "fighter", Miles Thurmond, was part of a group trying to recover something. (I'll be vague here, so as not to spoil it.) My main comment is that someone needs to slap around the author Brian Burr, to get some sense into him. His final battle in "Heart of Illmater" caused my previous character to die from a slit throat at AndCon 1994, and now a battle in the middle of "The Stroke of Midnight" killed of my newer character. His combats are just a bit too tough for characters. Miles went down in a single round, and admittedly was then accidentally offed by a magic grenade tossed by another character. But still.....

Fortunately, Miles had done a favor for the temple of Mystra in the past, and they owed him a Reincarnation. Unfortunately, he came back as the only race I like less than dwarves and halflings: a gnome. Ouch. I'll have to contemplate what sort of character he'll be now...

Slot 6 - Dark Sun & Planescape

After having lunch, I snuck into the Dark Sun World Builder seminar late. I have the original Dark Sun boxed set, and consider it to be one of the better AD&D worlds, behind the extremely cool Spelljammer. As you may know, Dark Sun has been updated and moved forward 11 years. I walked out with the new boxed set, which should be an interesting read. I didn't make notes on the changes, but apparently the Kreen (the non-nomadic version of Thri-Kreen) have an empire that will become more prominent in the future, and then there are the revolutions happening all over the place. As there were so few people there, they handed out an extra thing to everyone, and I got "Mind Lords of the Last Sea," about a kingdom on the shores of the largest body of water on Athas, ruled by powerful psionicists. Again, this should be interesting to read. Also, there was a trivia contest, and I got three out of about 20 right. One was by luck ("Which of the Wanderer's arms is strange?"), and the others were two very basic DS questions, since it's been a while and I never read all of the novels). So I won a Dark Sun baseball hat. One of the last ones with the old logo, so I hear.

AT 2 PM, I went to the Planescape seminar. Now, Planescape I never really got into, even though I did find a boxed set at 50% off a while back that I haven't opened yet. Planescape is set in AD&D's Outer Planes, where the gods and their servants dwell. It looks like a neat setting, with cool page layout. (That Mason font gets annoying, though.) As there were only about 20 people there, I got the Planes of Conflict boxed set (the non- lawful/non-chaotic planes) and the Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix II. Ah, now for the time to read the Planescape stuff, too... They were also handing out posters of tag lines of all the factions (which I understand to each have an overriding philosophy, and PCs are encouraged to join one), and pins of the symbols of the same. There seems to be 14 buttons, and there are 15 factions, so I'm missing one. Oh, well.

Slot 7 - Revenge of the Exile

This was the lower-level Living Jungle event. My Nubari cleric, Woobitoobi, had a lot of fun even though he was incarcerated for a while. It must have been the Saru PCs juggling our pair of Shu. Amazingly enough, no one died, but then it was written by someone who didn't write "The Stroke of Midnight."

I played with Carl Buehler in this event, and afterwards, I ran into Dave Gross and David "Tip" Vaught, all GEnie (er, "Genie," now that Youvelle Renaissance has bought it) people. Dave Gross used to be the Associate Director of the RPGA, and is now doing editing-type stuff for Dragon and Dungeon magazines. He also had a really neat Spellfire card for Scott Douglas, the current Director for the RPGA. I don't want to let out exactly what it is, though. :)

Slot 8 - A Near Death Experience

Fortunately, my other LC character, Whalen Vandersnee the specialty cleric of Selune, didn't get quite as close to death as Miles did. I got to play with Carl again on this one, and had Dan Donnelly as the GM. (He was the author of this adventure, and I understand 20 other ones this year.) He never took the adventure out. Wow.

Whalen's 4th level, and I think that he might have been the junior member. I do know that a couple of the other characters had a lot of stuff, some of which I was lent. Didn't need to use them, though. The more capable spellcasters really had good spells running at the appropriate times. Oh well, Whalen's a 17 year old brat, and not all that refined a spellcaster. :) Of course, Selune blessed him with 1's on his first three turn attempts, and then he got a 19 on something that he thought was undead, but wasn't. Bummer.

Slot 9 - Something Old, Something New

This was the RPGA Shadowrun event this year, and it was fun. My Troll Street Samurai didn't get to fire a shot, because we played everything so clean we didn't get into any fights. Of course, my character's best friend, the rigger, had his van painted like the Scooby Doo Mystery Van....

The Exhibit Hall

Hmm, this not being GenCon, the exhibit hall was kind of small, but a lot of the game companies were there, including TSR (of course), FASA, Flying Buffalo, that one company that publishes Masterbook, Iron Crown, Thunder Castle and Inner City. There were also the big display cases full of almost every Magic card ever printed, a jewelry place, and a couple miscellaneous ones. including one with a lot of swords.

The Award Ceremony

What can I say? They gave out a bunch of awards, including the RPGA Club Decathlon awards, though I can't recall who it was that won. After they sent all the winners though the prize table, there was a lot of stuff left that they didn't want to lug back to Lake Geneva, so they sent the gamemasters through. There was still a bunch left, so they sent everyone else into it in a general melee. The table became (mostly) empty soon.

I ran into another Genie person there, Jeff Stolt. Didn't get too much of a chance to talk, as per usual. Oh, and it was announced that Don Weatherbee, the keeper of the Living City census, had redone magic item certificates for some 200 characters (since that needs to be done before GenCon, to get more official ones). On behalf of Miles and Whalen, thanks for the effort, Don!

And after that, I left. A fun time, more fun than last year, I must admit. I can't wait for next year!

This file is Copyright 1996 by Timothy J. Bailey, but may be freely distributed provided that this copyright notice remains intact and attached to the file, and that nothing is charged for it save normal download costs. Trademarks are copyright to their respective owners.