by Dawn Dalton – Geek and Sundry
It’s that time of year again for gamers of all stripes to start planning their Gen Con events. If you’re in the market for a crazy fun time, I interviewed Dave Mitchard, the Web Monkey for Nascrag. Newbies and veteran players alike will find the long running tournament a great break from their hardcore strategy and combat games. This is all about roleplaying and having fun.unnamed
It all started with a group of friends who wanted to play in the D&D Open in 1979, but found it sold out. So they did what any gamers worth their salt would do and started a tournament themselves. 38 years later, it is the longest running RPG tournament at Gen Con.
It is also Gen Con’s best kept secret. A run of bad luck with the listings at the convention has made it hard to find in the past, which is why they send pressgangers throughout the convention halls to spread the good news. This year they will be in the stadium so there will be plenty of room for the shouting and shenanigans that goes on.
Wait, shouting? Yup, Dave’s favorite story includes a giant named Bigal that needed to be summoned by shouting his name three times. “When teams hit that encounter, you’d hear “Bigal, Bigal, Bigal” reverberating through the hall.”
You are scored on how well you stay in character. And the stories are deliciously odd. Last year’s ended up on a sentient spacecraft that crashed onto an island and formed a pocket dimension of eternal youth. Other stories have included the players losing their memories and having to recover themselves, one set in the alternate realities of reality television, and one where the characters were miniaturized and sent on a fantastic voyage on a yellow submarine inside a sick prince.
If you don’t have a full group of six, don’t worry, you’ll be matched with other partial groups at the marshaling area. This game is challenging and will make you think, but it should also make you laugh. This year’s story is called A Little Madness Now and Then. Think Cuckoo’s Nest meets The Mountains of Madness.
If you’re ready to jump in, Round One will be run at 1 PM and 7 PM on Thursday and Friday, as well as 1 PM on Saturday. Round Two is by invitation only at 7 PM on Saturday, followed by the awards ceremony.
3846724496_0684d4d11f_bThey get prize support from a ton of companies. When you’ve been around for 38 years, you make a lot of friends. Last year’s sponsors included: Dwarven Forge, Fat Dragon Games, Gaming Paper, Green Ronin, Iron Wind Metals, Paizo, Campaign Coins, Atlas Games, Evil Hat, Gamer Concepts, and Greater Than Games. Plus, the top teams win t-shirts and copies of the module. The top role player for each character gets the Toby award – usually a handmade statuette (the very talented Dana Cox makes them every year) of their blue Kobold mascot, as well as a t-shirt and a taste of the hoard.
Anyone can go to the awards ceremony; it doesn’t matter if you played or not. Besides, Tom Lommel (aka Bill Cavalier the Dungeon Bastard) entertaining at the ceremony, they will have a special musical guest. Captain Ambivalent, King of the Nerd Rock Accordion, will be debuting his new album “Save the Orcs.”
If you’re feeling charitable, they run a second event each year as well, an one round Pathfinder game whose proceeds go to charity. This year they are supporting the same charity as Gen Con: Child Advocates Inc. Entering this event not only donates Nascrag’s portion of tickets, but Gen Con also donates their portion of the ticket sales. It’s a win-win for a good cause.
They aim the adventures for PG 13, but younger can be okay so long as they have a good idea of how to roleplay. They get plenty of moms and dads with their kids. With how long this event has been running, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the second generation of gamers are now judging as well. They are also female-friendly. Nascrag has been headed by Carole Bland for 14 years and about 40% of the judges are female.18194570_1743797245631258_7170943132999064335_n
After the awards ceremony, they hang out for hours and tell stories. “Like the time Tom had a team in an adventure that started with them in a lifeboat on a beach. The first thing they did was get in the lifeboat and sail away from the island. Tom, who actually made a living at improv at one time, made stuff up for 20-30 minutes until they eventually returned to the island and began investigating. He calmly took out his copy of the module, opened it up and said ‘OK, page 2.’ That’s the best part of Gen Con for me. The exhausted afterglow of the award party. Old friends, new friends, shared craziness, and that happy feeling of a job well done.”
The biggest reason they continue to put themselves through the exhaustion of running events all weekend is the friendships they’ve made over the years. The players turn the hard work of the staff into fun, and in return, they become friends (sometimes as a new judge or just a familiar face year after year.
I’ll let Dave sum it up. “The folks at Nascrag are some of my best friends in the world. Some of them I only see once a year at the convention. But that’s an intense 4 days. Four days outside of your everyday life. Four days when you can do something creative, something expressive. We make people happy, that’s what it’s all about.”
Event Registration starts May 28th. Keep your eyes peeled in the convention for press-gangers wandering around the convention halls to spread the word of this crazy, fun tournament.