It was the Spring of 1991, MC Hammer was all the rage, Aqua Net was eating holes in the atmosphere, and American troops were mobilized in Saudi Arabia, ready to take on the unconquerable Republican Guard. Worse yet, I was a Junior in High School. I had already attended my first convention (Lehicon III) at the Sheraton Hotel in Easton. I had a taste of convention AD&D, Axis and Allies, dealer rooms and the world outside my gaming group, and I wanted more.
Lehicon IV was a three-day convention at the George Washington Motor Lodge in Allentown, PA. It promised to be the biggest con ever in the area, and even today, everything else paled in comparision. Why?
First off, let's completely ignored the meat-and-potatoes of a con, D&D in some form or another.... they had
(1) Massive Star Fleet Battles tournaments rotating throughout the weekend with 30+ people just playing that, plus slots of Learn to Play SFB and follow-up New Captain tournaments.
(2) Multiple "giant" wargames run with 8+ players, multiple games per slot. the boards were probably 6x10, but with hundreds upon hundreds of Persians, it sure looked bigger.
(3) Battletech Arena - The "You-Kill-it-You-Keep-it" game on a massive 3-D board. Absolute cutting edge at the time, and never few than 12 players at the board all con long, with people rotating in and out all the time.
and that was just 2/3s of the FIRST ballroom. Most cons I've been to in the last ten years would kill for just that kind of attendance. Heck, I've gone to a lot of cons that didn't need that much space! There was just a pile of RPGs, a slew of mini games, hell I think Kingmaker was run each slot and I think they got players in all but one slot! Double Hell, I think someone ran Outdoor Survival to a full table!
With multiple ballrooms, side rooms, and bedrooms reserved for gaming, the three horsemen of Doritos, (Charles, Scott, and myself) grabbed a ride from one of our parents and headed to Allentown.
Friday was our public GMing debut for both my buddy Scott and myself. I couldn't pass up running just one game and getting in for free. Contrary to people whining at registration desks about event ticket nowadays, $20 was a lot of money for a kid washing dishes for $3.25/hr.
I had decided to run Talislanta (2nd Edition). My "Crystle Dungeon" was short on plot, extremely Euro-centric for Talislanta, and just an opportunity to kill Darklings, and that was AFTER I playtested the scenario with my group.
I had three players, all kids younger than I was that never played before. It was short (2 1/2 hours) but lots of fun. The Darklings never stood a chance. I took my hour and a half of free time and hit the dealers area.
Scott had been sat at the table next to me to run Top Secret/S.I. - some sort of zany spy intrigue aboard a nuclear submarine adventure. He had a whole 2 players (our other friend Charles and some other guy). Details are sketchy, but I think Scott forgot all his notes, or the game went FUBAR early. He winged four-plus hours of the game, and it still is agruably, the best game he has ever GM'ed.
Saturday morning I jumped into the first round of a two round AD&D tourney module, not RPGA, just multi-rounds with players voting to see who got to play the second round. Trust me, it was all the go back in day. I was still geting my feet wet in the "how does everyone else play D&D" sense. I killed a few things, got nothing accomplished plot or character-wise, and I was told to check back to see who made it to round two that night. It was as boring as the details I just gave, but at 11am on a Saturday at Lehicon, I couldn't wait to see the results at dinner.
Saturday afternoon was a "How to Play Megatravller" event. We rolled up characters (yay, mine didn't die during creation!) and in the last hour we investigated some fallen ship stuck in a swamp. To this day, I still have no idea how mechanics work, but it was a good time.
Over the dinner break, they posted the qualifiers for the second round of the tourney. Woo-hoo, 1st Alternate! Again, not something I would even ponder playing nowadays, but I was in my glory!
With my Saturday evening opened up, I jumped into the De Bellis Antiquitatis Beginners Tourney. To the layman, DBA is a basic system for fighting ancients battles. Our tourney had Egyptians fighting Tibetans fighting Zulus fighting Romans fighting etc. Armies and playing space is very small and battles are very quick. Ten of us learned the rules and rotated between different battlefields and getting to play nine different armies. I had even bought brand new six-siders from Crazy Egor's to play.
Three hours later, I left the tourney posting an unbelievable record of 0-9. Yes, that's a zero, followed by a dash, followed by a nine. I couldn't make a roll if my opponent's Zulus had been bound, gagged, and suffering from heat stroke. Again, I did have a great time.
With a few hours left over I wandered about the con, seeing if there was anything to jump into.
I was jumped myself by a barrell chested man with no neck and a gigantic mouth who asked if I wanted to play in a brand new game he had written. Within minutes, I was a sitting at a full table, a Tza Zen Rigeln detailed in a massive character sheet, and the legendary Larry Sims doing the first of many never-ending talks I have heard, amping up the table about just how cool Battlelords of the 23rd Century was.
I didn't do much that game either, except soak up the atmosphere, and do some nasty reverse healing on the party's Ram Python (I high-fived his face!), but I was hooked and Battlelords was my big purchase of the con. And Larry's mailing list is the reason we got mailers for UBCon up in Buffalo, but that's another story for another day.
Dealers- Two words, Crazy Egors. I swear the dude had one short wall and almost one long wall of Ballroom #3 with just boxes upon boxes of anything you ever wanted. The dealers went around the walls, plus there were tables in the center of the room to ensure a 360-degree shopping Nirvanna. There were other rpg dealer, some dude who sold dragon candles, a mini painter, and at least a minis dealer. I swear upon my unlucky DBA dice that On Military Matters was there too, but it was over twenty years ago.
My memories of my swag was even less. My DBA dice, a copy of Battlelords, and some D&D modules I probably never ran, but I had also never seen them in the stores either.
My friends had a blast as well. While they did wander around, I think Scott and Charles spent most of Saturday at the Battletech Arena. Somebody brought home some free minis.
What makes this the greatest con ever? The sheer amount of potential each time slot had. When I received the pre-reg book in the mail, I went through a stack of paper trying to schedule out the most diverse and exciting weekend of life. Did I succeed? Oh heaven's no, I was young and stupid. In hindsight, I would have paid to get in, play some DBA, learn to play SFB, jump in some Avalon Hill boardgame, maybe some WRG 7th, maybe the BTech Arena. I'd even try to learn Traveller again (Mega or not). I realized then that I wasn't going to be pigeon-holed into one corner of room, like the BTech gearheads, the RPGA, or the hordes of crazy people from Long Island who had come to play SFB. This is why, even in the heyday of Magic, I needed some role-playing to keep things from getting boring.