I'm still recovering from a fantastic GameHoleCon; probably the consistently best GameHoleCon in the three years I've attended. None of the adventures were particularly bad (and I've had some terrible ones at past GameHoleCons), and many were quite excellent, with fellow players, GMs, and adventures that really shined.

As with last GenCon, I found myself playing several Cypher-system games: one generic fantasy game (with a distinctly Conan flavor), one The Strange game, and two Numenera games (one with creator Monte Cook, which I'll talk about a bit below). I also played a not-particularly-appealing system called d6xd6, but the GM of that really made it shine. I played 3 short sessions of 5th edition D&D, all Adventurer's League adventures. One of them was particularly good because of a fun table, and another was not great because the DM was plainly just phoning in her job. I also played a demo of a card game called Marrying Mr. Darcy that was good enough to purchase on the spot (with its expansions, too!).

The only game I ran was "A Troll's Life," of my own creation. I thought I had it pretty solid, although I didn't pass up the chance to buy a few more troll miniatures in the dealer's hall prior to my game. As it turns out, my game needs more work than I thought--I had to invent clues than I thought, and my foes were consistently too tough for the party. I took care of these fixes "behind the screen," so I think my players all had a great time regardless, but it means a lot of fine-tuning is needed before I run this event at PaizoCon next year (and, ultimately, produce it as a Run Amok Games product).

But back to Cypher system. There's an interesting mechanic called intrusions in that game. In short, something dramatic (and probably bad!) has to happen for you to get XP. Standing next to a pit? The GM hands you XP and tells you that you lose your footing; now your teammates have to rescue you. Succeed at convincing a hotel concierge to give you a key? The GM hands you XP and the concierge gets suddenly recalcitrant and you need to find a different path. My experience has been that you could play an entire adventure--fighting monsters, solving mysteries, and winning the day--without a single intrusion to get XP, but that goes against the intent of the game.

Monte Cook made the game, so it was very interested to see how he'd run it. It wasn't a surprise that he intruded a lot, and that we got a lot of XP; what surprised me is what he gave XP for. A monster attacks? Here's some XP. A door is in your way? Some XP. Something goes bad for the whole group? Everyone at the table gets XP. That is, items which are fundamentally required to move the adventure forward give XP, not just "extra whoopsies." Put another way, the way Monte runs Numenera, you cannot play an entire adventure without getting XP.  Fairly typical events reward the players, so long as those events are bad. Should I ever run Numenera, this is the way I'll run it, to further distinguish the play from Pathfinder and D&D-style adventure pacing.

As a final note, I was particularly sad that my friend Jake and I didn't get to play "The 7 Bowies and the Disco Ray from Planet Abba." Our GM had a family emergency and had to cancel the table. We even had worn the most over-the-top Bowie shirts I'd ever seen! I suppose there's always next year....