Avery Abernethy, 17 March 2019
MACE West was held on a cold, rainy March 1-3 in Asheville, NC at a Hilton hotel very close to the entrance of Biltmore House. MACE West is a small tabletop and RPG convention. Other than a small number of dealers scattered in hallways and in one small room, it was all gaming.
A room was devoted to Pathfinder Society, another room dedicated to Dungeons and Dragons Adventurers Society, and the rest of the space to other tabletop board games, miniatures, and RPGs. Like most MACE events, there were a large number of Savage Worlds games across a dozen different settings.
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Unlike previous MACE events, this one had a few wargames. One large group played Diplomacy. Another group played General Quarters, a rules light surface naval combat game being sold by one of the dealers. Like most game conventions, there was an assortment of play to win games and a large game library of tabletop games available for checkout.
MACE to me is a quiet gaming con. People play a host of games, most in 4 hour blocks so you can get in three game sessions on Saturday and two on Friday and Sunday if you max your schedule and all of the games make. I played all RPGs: Savage Worlds Supers, Dungeon Crawl Classics (both ran a session and played in a session), Mutant Crawl Classics, and Paranoia.
MACE is also quiet in terms of chaos and controversy. The registration system is very well run. The tables were very well labeled. There was plenty of water, tables, bathrooms, etc…. to make the game rooms work effectively. No drunken louts, loud parties, or other distractions were encountered. Everyone seemed very happy, unless their dice were running really badly. Nice, fun, quiet weekend devoted to gaming.
MACE West had excellent attendance on Saturday but weak attendance on Friday and Sunday. Many games did not make on Friday and Sunday. Attendance was so weak for the last Sunday session that I could not find a game to play. There were more GMs with scheduled games on Friday and Sunday than there were players. I took advantage of this by not running my Call of Cthulhu scenario I had run three times the previous weekend and joining a short-handed Savage Worlds Supers game that was a lot of fun.
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I ran Dungeon Crawl Classics for the first time using a home brew scenario. The players had a blast. They killed a Giant Snake I thought they would avoid after the snake killed a pack mule and was dragging it into the deep woods. The Snake almost ate a party member. They combined parlay, lies about the party’s strength, and some excellent creative bribes (beyond just money) to roughly double their combat power.
An advance scout spotted “four huge (8-9 feet tall) black furred bipeds with large bat ears carrying huge maces or spiked clubs plus a shield. One of the creatures was wounded. All four of the bipeds were arguing with each other as they moved down a wilderness trail in an unknown language.” The scouts moved fast, reunited with the party, and then engaged in some very creative negotiation. [Dungeon Crawl Classics stresses the need for mystery – hence my description of the bugbears instead of just calling them bugbears].
First, the spokesperson bragged about their fighting prowess demonstrated by their destruction of the giant snake. The 4 huge creatures were very impressed when they were shown the head of Mighty Sssssss-Ha! – as the party discovered what the snake was called by the locals. The parlay discovered the creatures were bugbears, that they had been overthrown by a group of hobgoblins led by some sort of hobgoblin spell caster, and they were both scared of the Hobgoblin spell caster and mad their comfortable life lording it over the goblins had ended.
The spokesperson offered a very creative bribe, we will help you overthrow the Hobgoblins, save as many goblins as possible to repopulate your minions, plus a favorable treasure split. After some dickering over treasure, the bugbears joined the group. Then the party used excellent tactics on a scouted Hobgoblin-led ambush and did not attempt to have the bugbears bear the brunt of the fighting. Plus, most of the goblins were spared to be “protected by friend Bugbears.” Then a second, far better prepared ambush was slapped down. Now the bugbears thought the party was not going to screw them and became quite enthusiastic.
The party plus the bugbears crushed the Hobgoblins, their goblin minions, and a very dangerous hobgoblin cleric with ease. The party recaptured the critical hard coal and iron ingots needed for the metal working industry of their town and returned in triumph. The group even laid the seeds of a negotiation for the bugbears to provide “protection services” for the annual metals and coal shipment down the river from the Dwarf stronghold.
If you want a relaxed, small game convention MACE West is a good one. Plus, if your spouse is not interested in gaming Asheville has Biltmore House, a lot of hippy-dippy craft and art places, a pretty good Pinball hall, and multiple excellent brew pubs. My wife speaks highly of the artsy-fartsy shops, we both endorse the brew pubs, and the “pinball museum” is a fun place for pinball aficionados.