Dundracon 2023 — Lessons Learned

Joe and I attended DunDraCon in Santa Clara in February. DunDraCon was the first ever gaming convention I attended, way back in …1990? I lost track of it, but attended again in 2017, where I ran my Fate “Kung Fu Wombat” game (though I called it something else back then).
As I’m interested in attending more gaming cons in retirement, I booked us a room and secured tickets to this year’s event.
I didn’t submit to run a game, mostly because I was too late to submit one. More on that later.
DunDraCon has a — being charitable — idiosyncratic system for registering for games. They break down the event into a handful of time windows, such that you will only get assigned one (or zero) sessions during each window. One chooses their top 3 choices for events they’d like to attend per each window. The drawing that determines which, if any, of your choices you can attend, only happens eight hours or so before the window opens1. So, even in the week leading up to the con, even if you registered on the first day of availability, you still don’t know what sessions you will be in.

And, spoiler, you will almost certainly have windows where, you did not get into any session. For the entirety of Saturday, the first full day of the con, I got into only one session. Joe got into zero. An entire day of the conference with no events.

To be fair, not understanding how this was likely to play out, I made two choices that contributed to this problem. First of all, I didn’t register to run any games. Had, I that would have guaranteed that I could have played, and you can be damned certain I would have made sure Joe had a seat at the table. Additionally, GMs get a “priority” registration that increases the chance that you will get into an event when you register with the priority. The dude who ran the game we got into on Friday night said he has never failed to get into a session when he used priority.

The second screw-up was I didn’t book us for events in every window. Many of the scheduled sessions are intended to run 6-8 hours, but the session windows tend to be more like fours long. I didn’t book any sessions for windows where, if we had got into our choices in the previous window, we would still be playing and therefore unable to attend whatever we chose in the previous window. They would have overlapped. Little did I know that there was no chance I would end up in overlapping sessions because we would have been lucky to get into any session at all. For the whole day.

We played eight hours of D&D Friday night, which was fine. The scenario “Bad Water” was one where all PCs were dwarves and gnomes living in the Underdark who had never seen the light of day. We were required to investigate a problem with the local water supply, an underground stream that served the community in which we all lived. It was a bit of a meandering affair that probably could have been a punchy four hour adventure, but it took us all of eight hours. It was fine.

The venue, the aging Santa Clara Marriott is a decent site, and an upgrade from the hotel that hosted the event last time I attended, in San Ramon.

Here are the key takeaways for me, for next year:

  1. Sign up to GM a game, to ensure that we get to play and to get a priority registration.
  2. Book events for every session.
  3. Maybe think about spending part of Saturday at Great America? It is literally just across the parking lot from the hotel.

Joe and I played some D&D and DDC in our hotel room. We made the best of it.

Next year will be better.


I could confirm some of this if DunDraCon’s site

  • 1) hadn’t already archived their event list for this year, so you can’t see how things were scheduled and

2) wasn’t having such performance issues right now that it’s essentially unusable.

Default macros in my macro bar

… when I’m running a game.




Comments: Just a dumb shortcut for running the standard GroupInit API Script. I don’t have to remember the syntax (which couldn’t be simpler). Allows me to select a group of bad guys click on macro, it launches Turn Tracker, rolls their initiative and the bad guys initiative gets added.

Name: GroupCheck



Comments: like GroupInit, just a simple call to the standard GroupCheck API Script. Select bad guy tokens and click macro button. It produces an inline menu in Chat window, where I select the type of check, including saving throws and skill checks, and rolls for each token selected.

Name: SaveApply


!group-check {{
–?{Save|Dexterity|Constitution|Wisdom} Save
–subheader vs DC ?{DC}
–button ApplyDamage !apply-damage
~dmg [[?{Damage}]]
~type ?{Damage on Save|Half,half|None,none}
~DC ?{DC}
~saves RESULTS(,)
~ids IDS(,)

Comments: Nice script I found that uses GroupCheck. For selected tokens, it rolls a Saving Throw, asks what the damage to apply is, whether one takes half or no damage if save is successful, asks the Difficulty, and then applies the results to the tokens after all that. Awesome for area damage spells such as Fireball.

Name: Dead


!token-mod –set statusmarkers|=dead bar1_value|0

Comments: Dead-simple script leveraging TokenMod. Bad guys get the big red X of death and hit points reduced to zero.

Name: TokenSetup


!token-mod {{
–set bar1_link|hp
–set bar2_link|ac
–set bar3_link|speed
–set name|@{selected|character_name}
–on showplayers_bar1
–off showplayers_bar2
–off showplayers_aura1
–off showplayers_aura2
–on token_vision

Comments: Using TokenMod, sets up token for PCs with just the basics. I have a very similar one for NPCs.

Welcome to SkyCity!

The citizens of BezosCorp’s unique crystal toroid located at the L5 Lagrangian point in the Earth-Moon system welcome you to live the life others can only dream of!

Grown from crystals harvested from asteroids and even Comet Halley, SkyCity is a gleaming gem suspended in a perfectly safe and stable orbit.

Come ride your bicycle amongst the green trees and pure air that only your grandparents can remember from their youth on Earth!

Feast on the finest gourmet foods! Real beef imported from Lunar Colony Heinlein! The finest wine and beer from crops grown right here at SkyCity! The universe’s finest chefs all work for BezosCorp!

Swim in the perfectly clear water of Lake Amazonia!

Like to hike? Rock Climb? Run? Ever try it in 1/3 gee? You’ll never want to go back to the oppressive gravity of Earth!

The streets are spotless. Crime is unknown. And those views! The moon is always full! From L5 we see half of the moon that’s visible from earth and half from the back-side! You’ll never grow tired of seeing Earth …..

;jafjqwfd…. … .

Transmission interrupted.

Welcome corporate criminals! You’ve destroyed the earth and now you’re seeking your last refuge where you think the people that you’ve left behind, poisoned and bereft can’t reach you.

Let this be your notice. There is no escape from your crimes. We are the Fist of Destiny. You will answer for what you have done. Our reach is infinite and we have the support of the 20 billion lives you have fled from. There is no nuclear engine powerful enough to escape Earth, to escape us, to escape your fate!

Mission Report #133

Krisskross has joined a group of adventurers into the Undermountain.

This soldier accompanies a unit composed of a goliath, a human story-teller, a dark elf sorceress, and some odd halfling-dwarf hybrid.

Upon arriving in Undermountain, we were confronted by a ludicrous band of humans playing as vampires. They were pathetic and easily bested.

We managed to make our way through a magical portal which seemed to grant random enchantments, as likely to be fell as boon.

We fought a group of manticores, fed ritually by a troll, all of which we eventually bested.

We have continued to explore. My compatriots are typical gold-grubbing adventurers with no higher purpose than to fill their coffers until such time as their drinking and carousing forces them into poverty and they must sally forth again to complete the cycle.

W:DH Week 22 – Knock, knock…

The bugbears streamed out of the open doorways and we met them with steel and spell.  As the battle ensued, I spotted an intellect devourer approaching.  I began to call out, but a searing pain in my skull silenced all thought

When I regained my senses, I found that we had won the fight.  Along with the bugbears and intellect devourer, a lone Gazer arrived with warnings about crossing the Xanathar.  It died as readily as the rest.  My fellows had searched the contents of the adjoining rooms and found a potion that restored my faculties.

As we continued to search for the vault, the Stone led us to a blank wall.  Losser found a secret door embedded in the wall, and we proceeded thru it.  At the end of the hallway beyond, was a door with a lock that looked quite secure – even to my untrained eyes.  Tobby spent just a minute with the lock, and it sprang open.  After we all entered the following room, Tobby closed and re-locked the door behind us.  The room beyond was oddly shaped with many pillars featuring dwarven carvings.  It was a truly impressive sight.  As we approached the front of the room, the Stone again led us to what looked like a dead end.  Losser again found a secret door, allowing us to proceed.  As we moved down a very long set of stairs, the passage began to widen.  Eventually, we reached a massive set of double doors.  Dwarven writing on the doors indicated that the three keys should be brought forward.  While we opened the small crate, Boaz sang the Dwarven song.  We removed a severed hand from the crate and pressed it against the doors.  Tobby pressed the dead Gazer from earlier against the doors

A loud crack rang out, and the doors slowly began to open…

W:DH Week 21 – Back into the sewers

Barnabus sent a message-bird – delivered to Jumanji’s head.  In it, he mentioned that he found a Dwarf to accompany us.  Boaz and Tobby departed to meet him.  While that happened, Shava and I made our way to the Yawning Portal.  There, we convinced Renaer to join us on our trip as well.  He was not thrilled at the idea, but reluctantly agreed that his presence may be vital

The Dwarf that Barnabus found for us is named Losser Mirlklav.  He was sitting in a cell awaiting sentencing, and he had no idea he was about to be asked to join us.  Barnabus vouched for the man and his expertise, so Boaz and Tobby pressed forward.  They talked to the warden, paid Losser’s bail, and promised to have the man back in five days.  Losser was happy to be out of his cell, but he would require some convincing before he agreed to accompany us

We all met back at our manor, where we received two deliveries.  We got one small crate, and one large crate.  We can only assume that there is a severed hand in one, and some form of a beholder in the other.  We left them unopened and continued our talks with Losser.  He explained how he knew the dragon that is reportedly guarding the vault.  At one point, he was at the vault’s location with the dragon but had escaped.  The final step of his escape was at the Bloody Fist.  Our plan will be to retrace his steps in reverse. 

We arrived at the Bloody Fist and met Renaer.  He was accompanied by Miloon Wardragon, for personal protection.  We made our way to the sewer grate outside the Bloody Fist and descended into the sewers below.  Transporting the unopened crates has been cumbersome.  We explored for some time, following Losser’s recollections, until we came to a room with several doors.  When we quietly opened one of the doors, the other sets of doors suddenly sprang open.  Creatures began pouring out of the doorways with murderous intent.

Tymora, protect us!

W:DH Week 20 – Gaining momentum

We continued searching the depths of the mausoleum for Manshoon’s body.  We came across a room with a small child singing nursery rhymes.  It became clear that this was no ordinary child.  Boaz joined the creature in its singing which allowed us to pass.  We learned that the child’s name is Asvoldo Casselanter.  Trench identified its true form to be that of a chain devil.

Beyond this room we found a large open space with a sleeping green dragon at the center.  There was an alcove on the far side with a sarcophagus in it.  Tobby deftly snuck by the sleeping beast and pried open the lid of the coffin just enough to sprinkle Trench’s solution over the body inside.  The entire room immediately began to shake.  As the ceiling and walls began to crumble, Tobby sprinted back towards us.  The dragon lashed out as it was being crushed and Tobby’s unconscious form tumbled to rest at our feet.  A quick healing spell got him back up, and we ran for the nearest exit.  The entire area was now collapsing!  As we escaped, we could now see the mausoleum had sunk quite a bit into its foundations.

Back at our manor, Shava tried once more to speak with the Stone.  We think that we were able to transcribe the rhyme it relayed.  It said:    

In the depths of ancient folk
Only the child of Moradin will get the joke
It is only true
When the bill comes due
What was done by the father
Must be answered by the son

We decided to attempt contact with Force Grey, and so contacted Barnabus as an intermediary.  He made several things clear to us.  Vajra would not be speaking with us.  We could also now be in trouble with the watch unless we handled the situation well.  It seems we will get some help, but our schedule has been accelerated.  We will be approaching the vault much sooner than we might like.  We scrambled to make our final preparations.  Boaz went to ask his singing instructor to accompany us, as having a Dwarf present seems wise.  Shava and I departed to ask Renaer if he would accompany us, as the rhyme makes mention of the son answering for something.  We can only assume this is referring to him

Now if we could only figure out where we are going to get a severed drow hand and a beholder…

W:DH Week 19 – Who you gonna call?

We continued our talk with Renaer and Durnan.  Our discussion moved to Manshoon’s assumed murder of Istrid.  Going over the details, we described what we could remember of her now missing necklace.  Durnan identified the icon on it as a symbol of Asmodeus.  This doesn’t clarify why Manshoon took the necklace, but we should keep it in mind as we proceed.

Back at the manor, we had a discussion about the Stone.  We need to get some outside help to proceed, but the decision of what group to use is one we must all agree on.  We took a vote, and while I voted to ally with the Harpers, the majority of the group would like to ask Force Grey for help.  If they are willing to help, they certainly should have the resources we may need.

Shava and Tobby went to Trench’s place of business to discuss his investigation.  He concluded that the break-in was made by Manshoon.  It seems that there may be several version of the man, but our version is most likely in a ghost-like semi-physical form.  Trench has a special solution that will destroy the creature if it is sprinkled over its entombed corpse.  He even knows where the corpse is laid to rest!

We met Trench in the city of the dead an hour before dawn.  He would lead us to a mausoleum where Manshoon’s body resides.  When we arrived at our destination, we realized that we had been inside it before.  We had entered it when we were pursuing Urstul Floxin.  As we entered, Trench changed shape into a tiger-like creature.  Apparently, our friend is a Rakshasa!  We made our way to a locked door, which Jumanji forced open.  We found a sarcophagus, and opened it hoping to find Manshoon’s body.  A ghost-like creature emerged and attacked us, but we were able to destroy it without too much trouble.

When it seemed we had investigated the whole mausoleum without finding Manshoon’s body, Trench noticed an illusory wall.  He went thru it and opened a door on the other side, causing the illusion to fade.  A hallway lead to an open chamber where we were once again set upon by an undead spirit.  Her presence was terrifying at times, and few of us were able to face her without a terrible sense of fear clawing at the back of our minds.  I will admit, that I fell prey to this fear, and when I recovered, the spirit had vanished.  Then Tobby suddenly attacked Shava!  Shava collapsed, and Trench responded by attacking Tobby.  As Tobby fell, the ghost emerged from his body. We finally killed the spirit, but our resources are running low, and time is not on our side. We must hurry!

W:DH Week 18 – Is it getting warmer?

Our grand opening was tonight, and I couldn’t wait.  This was going to be our night. Nothing was going to ruin it.  Well, except for the dead body upstairs, or the evil-aligned troupe setting up to perform for our guests, or the increasingly frustrated Sgt. Cromley who keeps popping up at the least opportune times, or – I don’t know – the leader of the Zhentarum staging an attack against us.  While all of those things were bad, I think a portion of the guests who endured it all may have had a good time!

We started our evening by learning a bit more about our performers.  They call themselves the Sea Maiden’s Carnival.  We watched as they set up and noticed nothing negative about their actions – they were quite busy prepping for the performance.  We immediately noticed our friend Sgt. Cromley scribbling in his ever-present notebook.  He had somehow heard about the break in we had last night.  He insisted that we let him up on the roof to see where it had happened, and we grudgingly allowed it.  A short time later, he began shouting orders to some of his men below.  We couldn’t make out his words, but if Cromley is excited, we will likely not enjoy the results.

We were split trying to monitor Cromley, entertain our guests, watch for suspicious activity from the performers.  It was on this last task that Tobby may have landed.  He noticed a window open on the second floor with talon marks in the snow outside.  He, Boaz, and I investigated.  Our search ended in the library, where we found Kenku turning over the place.  Tobby was the first in the room and they immediately attacked him.  We fought back and killed two of them.  Moments later, they stood back up.  Their wounds were still visible, so this didn’t seem like healing.  I attempted to turn undead.  Before I could finish calling for Tymora’s aid, a large being appeared in the corner.  It spoke, and my holy symbol melted in my hand.  Never have I experienced such power.  Tobby killed two of the Kenku, and the large creature let our a bellow that caused the last living Kenku crumple and die.  The creature then vanished.

Cromley came to the room and we began to explain why we had yet more dead in our manor.  He blew a whistle and his investigation started immediately.  The watch showed up in force.  Our grand opening wound down, with the remaining patrons moving outside.  While Cromley started his work, we spoke with Barnabus.  He told us the large creature we fought was likely Manshoon, the undead leader of the Zhentarum. It seems we have gained some very unwanted attention.

We realized that the dead body was still upstairs.  Shava had cast invisibility on it earlier, and we could only hope it had gone unnoticed.  Jumanji bluffed his way past some guards and went upstairs.  With guards both above and below, he somehow found an opening to toss the body out a window unnoticed.  He gabbed a large bag and made his way down.  He was able to find the invisible, but surely mangled body at the base of the building.  He was able to fold the body into the bag, make his way to the sewer, and deposit the body into the water below.

We spoke with Renaer.  With all that was happening, we came clean with everything we had done.  We even told him about finding the Stone.  We discussed what we hoped to do with the stone, and how our plans may affect the attention we were gaining.  We need to tread carefully here.