Scrum Con 24

Scrum Con 24

Mar 31, 2024    

I just got back from attending Scrum Con 24 in Silver Spring, Maryland. While many of the attendees were convention gaming regulars, this was only my second convention after running at Hawkland Gaming Festival last December (previous writeup). I applied to run a game out of the blue, so I am very thankful that my game of Teenage Mutant Ninja Crawl Classics was accepted.

Exploring the Hive of the Overmind
Exploring the Hive of the Overmind as a zero-level funnel

The advantage of smaller scale

As a GM, the event felt welcoming and well-run. There was clear communication through the application process and I got to meet the organizers. The convention was small enough that after I ran sessions I continued to run into my players, which made the weekend feel more social as it went on. A nice and unexpected thing: organizers came by to give me a bottle of water halfway into my time slots. Simply amazing. It appeared Scrum Con had a well-curated and diverse set of games running side by side. Nothing was there for the sake of scale or growth. Not to say these would not have been true at a larger convention, I’ve never been to one so what would I know? But having a smaller scale local-to-me convention felt right.

DCC and DCC-clones

While I know Scrum Con leans towards the old-school, I was happily surprised to see so many Dungeon Crawl Classics and DCC-clones being run. I ran two games of a reskinned Mutant Crawl Classics. I sat in the funnel portion of Return to the Starless Sea, and I saw a table of Xcrawl Classics. The event felt like my first introduction to the DCC community.

However, when an experienced DCC GM sat down at my table, I could see the disappointment on his face when I indicated it would be a funnel. Not to say that he thought funnels were bad, but perhaps the funnel game tended to dominate convention play and he was hoping to experience other parts of the game.

miniatures fighting a giant bee
Fighting a giant bee in the opening scene of my game

I think my game went over well. I ran a published module but put some effort into the easy-to-grasp setting reskin. One thing that doesn’t map well from MCC to a Ninja Turtles-themed game is ninja combat. Villager mutants acquiring X-Men-level powers isn’t the same thing as having a combat system where most characters (including TV news reporters) can destroy robots in hand-to-hand combat. To compensate every character including the zero-levels is given a special power called “Ninja Skills” that is similar to the “Heroic Deeds” move from the DCC Fighter. If they described their action and how it was “like a ninja” they would get an extra d3 added to their action roll. It worked okay but did slow down funnel play with 3 to 4 X the ninja descriptions.

I noticed that I was running far less lethally in MCC than in the DCC funnels I had encountered. Some of this was because of limited time and action economy on the part of the enemies on the first level of Hive of the Overmind, I mostly removed the battle with the ants on the first floor. I think

This was the first time I had ever run the same game back to back for two different groups so it was interesting to see the different results. The adventure was mostly linear, but towards the end, the decisions of the players caused some differences in the outcomes.

TMNCC Friday Session

  • Player mortality: about 33%
  • The mutations we made along the way: One character tempted fate with the mutation chamber and learned to speak with ants, and another acquired a mutation deformity causing narcolepsy.
  • Memorable ninja moves: a peach tree plantient named Princess hid inside the holographic globe to launch a surprise attack: “because we are both round”
  • Forking Outcomes: the players went directly to the Overmind’s room skipping the androids
  • How it ended: The Overmind was defeated, but the explosives used to destroy the AI’s computers also damaged the navigation systems of the escape craft causing it to malfunction, the players emerged in far of Australia.

TMNCC Saturday Session

Encountering the androids
Encountering the androids
  • Player mortality: about 40%
  • Explosives: The players destroyed the generator with an explosive, plunging the lower level into darkness
  • The mutations we made along the way: The players went wild mutating themselves with a canister of mutagenic compound. We got a lightning squirrel, a sonic screamer, and a 12-foot-tall giant in the process.
  • Memorable ninja moves: coordinated ninja strikes on mainframe hardware, a 12-foot tall giant jumping through a flurry of android fisticuffs without being hurt
  • How it ended: By allying with the Synthazoid foot clan soldier, the Overmind was defeated. The Synthazoid held to his word and dropped the players off around the corner from their East Village home

DCC 104 - Return to the Starless Sea

My surviving DCC characters
My surviving DCC characters

I sat as a player in a run of DCC funnel “Return to the Starless Sea”. It was a theater of the mind run directly from the module book. At first, the direct and mechanical dungeon crawl was difficult for me to transition to. No minis, no maps, and limited descriptions other than the box text. However, after we got into the flow of it and the banter among those who came to play picked up - it worked. This style of play worked surprisingly well and was just a different style than I was used to. The combat reminded me of a Final Fantasy-style game, where all the heroes and enemies line up to trade blows. In a funnel, it meant we were able to crush through room after room and see a good amount of combat. There were something like 25 dead villagers by the end. Another fun surprise was mapping the dungeon based on voice descriptions only. Several of the players, realizing there were branching paths inside the citadel started drawing hand maps of where we had been, and the maps came in handy when trying to determine which direction would lead to the center of the chaos.

It worked, and I’m glad I got to experience an old-school game that was run so differently from what I’ve seen before. Many thanks to the GM and other DCC players - who all by the way showed up with the extra polyhedral dice needed.

D&D5e - Battle of the Bards

miniature heroes arrive at the final battle
The roadie adventurers arrive at the Battle of the Bards (not Pathfinder)

It wasn’t the game I signed up for, a surprising no-show of players to a different game saw the conference organizers asking that I help fill a table of 5th edition D&D. I’ve played and run a lot of 5e, so it wasn’t the game I would have picked for myself, but it turned out to be a charming and entertaining new-school experience.

We played as roadies for “My Alchemical Romance” traveling to a once-in-a-century bard battle that would determine who would be the next gods of rock. We had a mystery to solve, two combat encounters, a role-playing scene or two, and an impressive set of well-voiced NPCs - all music-themed. The GM had put a lot of love into the prep of the game, which I greatly appreciated.

At first, I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the music in-references and puns being thrown around the table. My character was “Rob Zombie” the necromancer, but knowing little about that musician I asked to switch to an “Ozzy” themed older and somewhat duttering rock-retiree. The GM let me switch without dropping a beat. My pun-brain returned about halfway through, and the group of four players had a light-hearted good time.

Thanks very much to the organizers for tracking player no-shows and saving my afternoon session. It took me a bit to get my 5e brain going, but it is a good system and it was interesting to play with a table of new players and skilled DM.

Jaw dropping mini-games

I signed up for RPGs, but I think next year I’m going to try to mix in playing in some of the customized miniature wargames on offer at Scrum Con. I’m sure the official post-event blog post from the organizers will have better pictures, but I was dumb-struck by how cool these looked. Even if I don’t get to make many moves, just enjoying the amount of craft put into these is something I’d like to experience.

Conan battle
A scratch-built Conan the Barbarian game, looking almost like Park Güell in Barcelona
Egyptian maze
I am very intrigued by what this squad-based Egyptian maze thing was
dinosaur game
My inner child wants to play all of these, but maybe this one the most
I would drive a Delorean in the Gas Lands post-apocalypse
fantasy rome
The man who ran this was dressed as a Roman centurion, there was a Phoenix