SaltCon 2019

Since I had an opportunity to attend SaltCon 2019 in Utah as a member of the Gallant Knight Games team, I wanted to write about my experience… Though it’s not my first gaming convention, it was definitely a first for me in a few ways.

I arrived in Salt Lake City on Wednesday night and the convention started on Thursday and ran through Sunday. I helped set up the Gallant Knight booth, which brought me back to my retail days in high school and college; unpacking books, setting out displays and banners, and the like. When that was done I pretty much chatted our way through the day with Alan, Erin, Dan, and Ben (and later Will and Pat) throughout the day.

That was pretty much how the next few days went. I helped work the booth, and sold a few books. Tiny Dungeons and the entire Tiny line were big hits, though we did sell some Aliens & Asteroids and Mazes & Perils titles. And when we weren’t chatting with folks attending the convention, we were wandering the hall (I picked up some snazzy new Gravity Dice) and chatting up a storm. I haven’t seen the Gallant crew since I went to Utah last year for Life, the Universe, and Everything, so it was great to catch up.

However, each of the four days of the convention in the middle of the day I was set to run a two hour session of Aliens & Asteroids. Each day from noon to 2 in the RPG hall I ran a new adventure I wrote called “Into the Fire.”

Brief synopsis: “A new team of Space Marines is sent off to the planet Thal to investigate why one of the probes from the Dominion galactic network had suddenly gone dark. Their goals? Repair or replace the probe and see if they can prevent whatever caused the failure from happening again.”

Simple, right? 🙂 Of course, like everything in life, it wasn’t quite that simple. I had fun bringing in the Venandi and the Dread, plus gave myself enough wiggle room to play the scenario out a few ways.

I’m happy to say I had people at my table each day of the con — 3 people on Thursday, four on Friday, and five each on Saturday and Sunday. And I think we all had a good time. None of the groups approached the scenario in exactly the same way and we had fun exploring all the options we could.

The best parts for me?

  • Though I’ve been writing with Alan for a couple of years now, this is the first time I’ve had a chance to run a game where he could sit in as a player. That was fun. I also had an opportunity to play with his wife Erin and they were very different in their approach to the scenario. 🙂
  • I created a set of six pre-generated characters of a variety of professions, including the Chaplain profession created by Phil Smith of our fan group. I had one player use that character on the second day and it seemed his pistol was blessed by the Pope because he never seemed to miss. It was fun to have another option at the table for players!
  • We encountered quite a few interesting quandaries. What happens if you have a party member disregard orders? And how do you try to sway another character’s opinion in the game? We did opposed Presence checks and it was clunky – so we will be working on some team cohesion mechanics going forward.
  • Another interesting thing was finding errors in the books — like a section that says there are four things and then following it with a list of five. Oops. We also found an error in the table listing damage I’ll have to look at. The damage question actually led to an interesting conversation with Alan about new weapons and some new team traits we want to explore.
  • I used the Dread and Glory Points mechanic for the first time since playtesting and that was interesting. Glory Points were used quite a bit to fix armor or pull items out of thin air when needed and I only used Dread points once to beef up the enemy. I’m not a mean GM, so I don’t like making things harder than they need to be… usually. 🙂
  • On the first two days, I had two different characters go out in a blaze of glory trying to take out an enemy. One charged in with a minigun and a grenade to take out a Dread and the other attempted to take out one of the Venandi who was causing trouble… One succeeded and the other didn’t, which was kind of fun in it’s own right!
  • We only had one group sit down to create characters ahead of a session and it went pretty well – I think it only took about 15 minutes for the three folks to get most of their details in place, so that was cool. Everyone else used the pre-gens, which worked great.
  • Lastly we hit a fun issue with how to neutralize Dread acid blood burning through armor. Eventually we improvised and came up with a “base” to neutralize the acid in the form of sap from one of the trees on the planet. Each turn they used to apply the sap to an affected area would reduce the ongoing damage by 1… and if they fumbled the Accuracy check whoever was applying it would get some on them as well…

Overall I have to say it was a success. I think everybody had a good time for the most part and I enjoyed seeing how different groups of players approached the problems in the scenario. And some of those players may have gone on to purchase the game, which meant they enjoyed it enough to spend money on it. Plus I came away with some things to ponder and fix in future versions of the game. Mission accomplished. 🙂

I had a great time and had an opportunity to meet and chat with quite a few fun folks. Can’t argue with that.

A huge thank you to Alan and the Gallant Knight crew for having me there and to the SaltCON organizers who did a great job keeping things moving from day 1! We’ll definitely try to get there again next year!

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