Dungeon Stomping

I popped over to the gaming convention GenCon yesterday, in civilian (i.e., not performing monkey) mode, because Wil Wheaton was there and I wanted to hang with him a bit. When I e-mailed him earlier in the week about dropping by, he sent an e-mail back saying “ZOMG DO YOU WANT TO DO TRUE DUNGEON WITH ME IT’LL BE AWESOME.” I of course had no idea what he was talking about, so I responded with an e-mail that said, more or less, “Bwuh?” To which Wil informed me that True Dungeon was a walk-through role playing game, in which everyone assumed adventurer roles in a dungeon-crawling campaign; like D&D except you get exercise and you have life-sized props and the occasional actual human playing an NPC. I have to admit I wasn’t wildly excited about the idea — I prefer hanging out in a bar to LARPing in any form — but Wil was clearly excited about it and he’s adorable when he gets that way, so what the hell, why not.

As it turns out, True Dungeon was a lot of fun. Part of it was the team of adventurers, which aside from me and Wil included Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Will Hindmarch, Robert Gifford of Geek Chic, another friend of Wil’s whose name I am embarrassingly blanking on despite the fact I have met him several times and like him as a person (my excuse: he has a unusual name and I’m running on a sleep deficit, since I got home at 3:30am) Boyan Radakovich, Creative Director of Gamesmith (I remembered his name just after posting this), and then Heather, Mike and John, three folks brought in to round out our group and who were very knowledgeable about the game and how to run through it. As you can imagine this crew was not boring to run about with. Everyone picked characters more or less comporting with their own personalities; I was a monk, which in the True Dungeon world meant I mostly ran around hitting things. Or as I said during the game “I am a monk! I do two things! I punch and I pray!” Brandon was a cleric (he healed me, twice, because when you punch things they punch back), Wil was a wizard, and Pat I’m pretty sure just played as Pat.

The other part was the game itself, which was challenging and fun. True Dungeon has two tracks you can play through — combat and puzzles — and we chose the puzzle track, which with this crew was almost certainly the right choice. We had to do things like [DELETED], and also [DELETED] and then one time we had to [DELETED], and it was great because, you know, when you have that many fantasy and science fiction writers in a single group, it’s not as if problem-solving is not something we don’t know how to do. We ran through the dungeon at a pretty good clip, defeating puzzles as a team, and in the final climactic battle we vanquished the [DELETED] by [DELETED]. The True Dungeon people were pretty impressed with us, they said, in what I am sure is something they never tell any other campaign.

So, lots of fun, and as part of my booty, I have a war hammer signed by all my boon companions, including Wil, Brandon and Pat, which I’m sure makes it the most valuable foam rubber war hammer on the planet at the moment. Don’t try to steal it. I have an actual battle axe somewhere in the house, y’all.

43 Comments on “Dungeon Stomping”

  1. Wouldn’t the guy’s name that you can’t remember be written on the Hammer of Plasticness? If so, the solution would seem obvious, unless his signature is one of those really bad squiggly ones.

  2. Dear Mr. Scalzi,

    I would like to live your life for one (1) day during which events like this occur. Body swap is an available option for this to happen if you wish to spend a day in my life (napping, baking, playing with cats). A limited amount of hijinks may occur at your discretion.

    Please find an enclosed a deposit on this process.


  3. War Hammer is roughly a synonym for Pole Axe. As I explained in I AM HAMLET’S GHOST to decrypt:
    SCENE I. Elsinore. A platform before the castle.
    “… When he the ambitious Norway combated; So frown’d he once, when, in an angry parle, He smote the sledded Polacks on the ice…”
    and people have argued ever after if Will meant “Polish polacks” or “pole axe.” The most famous fencing scene in English literature, by the way, is an Elizabethan take on French and Spanish fencing styles, rather than anything that would make sense to a medieval Dane. Just saying…

  4. If you enjoyed that then you should try out a lot more of it. It can be great fun. if you are ever in the UK at the right time, I know some people who can definitely show you a good time for the right price and supply all the latex you might need for such an endeavour…

    It can also help your writing, as my article here proves beyond a doubt (for a given value of the word ‘prove’)


    Glad you enjoyed it, anyway. Oh, and if you do come to the UK to LRP, bring Will as well. We can show him an awesome time too…

  5. “and then Heather, Mike and John, three folks brought in to round out our group…”

    No last names, I see. Were they… wait for it… red shirts?

  6. That sounds like a lot of fun; I would have loved doing things like that back in the day. Nowadays being on my feet that long would knock me out for days due to my fibro, but … it might have been worth it.

  7. Wow – 3 of my favorite authors + wilw !! Looking at the GenCon website, I wondered if True Dungeon was on your agenda. Wish I could be there & try it myself – maybe next year.

    @ Xopher – The older I get (I’m a mid-boomer), the easier it is to release “the inner child.” Back in my 20’s, I had to consider whether acting childish would make me look dumb and immature; add a few grey hairs & wrinkles, and the same behavior makes folks think I’m jolly fun to be with! I hope that can be your experience, and everyone else’s too, ’cause it’s a blast!

  8. While I dream of being a famous science fiction/fantasy writer this post will serve as my inspiration. That was quite the epic group.

  9. Actually in this part of Ohio it is not Y’all…but use’guys…I-70 is also the break point between Ohio and Ohiah..

  10. Ok lets see the actual Battle Axe. You should not tease us like that. If I did not live 2,000 miles away and was creepy I would threaten to overrun your household with kittens. Lots of kittens. Like tribble levels of kittens. Luckily I am not creepy and live far away. Plus the various animal shelters would rightly question my plans. That said can we see the Battle Axe pretty please?

  11. Is it just me or is there a negation too many in “it’s not as if problem-solving is not something we don’t know how to do”?

    It does sound like fun either way, mind you, and it makes me consider maybe plucking up enough courage to go to a convention some time.

  12. Over a hundred posts and not much about the “research” that Christians bring to the table. You know, the part about the Man saying that, “…the meek shall inherit…”
    Christianity has arguably done much to curb our tendency to ferocity and alpha sustained blood-feuds and to teach community (which I posit is something we have here) without permanent exclusions unless of course you’re an irredeemable creeper or a flaming assbag.

  13. Aw, man, the first Gen Con in a couple years that I *don’t* go, and *that’s* when you end up dropping in for a little TD. I had my first pangs of regret at staying home this year when I saw Wil tweet that he’d survived the [DELETED]. Now I really feel like I’m missing out.

    My revenge shall be that NONE OF YOU CAN HAVE ANY OF MY HOMEMADE PIZZA. Which has bacon on it, incidentally.

    Will you be un[DELETE]ing your post after Gen Con is over and spoilering is no longer an issue? (It’s a different pair of adventures every year, after all.)

  14. Ha! Here at GenCon; enjoying it greatly; and my girlfriend got her copy of Redshirts, which you signed for her on the Michigan stop of your book tour, signed by Will Wheaton as well. It’s been great fun.

    I haven’t checked out the True Dungeon game, though, because it costs so much extra! I will unfortunately not be able to fight [DELETED] with [DELETED] unless they do half-price on Sundays.

    …Although there was a man outside the convention center with a begging bowl and a sign that said “Need money for True Dungeons tokens” this evening.

  15. Hmmph… Your War Hammer looks like it could use a little application of Bacon Grease as a preservative !

  16. It was asked, ‘What is Best’ ?  And the answer came forth:


    And the trolls (and their Bros) under their bridges did snigger and were unafraid.  For, they said to themselves ‘the Mallet of loving Correction does not exist’.  It was, they declared, just Mr Scalzi’s way of referring to his Delete button !  And they did snigger under their bridges, and were unafraid.

    Until now.  For behold, The Mallet of Loving Correction !!

  17. Talk about life on the easiest difficulty setting. One does not simply walk into True Dungeon. Unless, of course, you are the famous Mr. Scalzi. I tried once, years ago, and it was sold out.

    In May.

    And yet you have to be coerced into doing it at the last minute.

    No, I’m not jealous in the least, why do you ask?

  18. This sounds very cool. I am geek. I am also very jealous. I too own large steel cutlery on my abode. We should join up for a raiding part. But, before that, what should the name of the band be?

  19. About three years ago I asked if you were ever going to go to GenCon and you said it really wasn’t worth your while, and it wasn’t really up your alley. Are you now reconsidering that assessment? MANY authors (not just fantasy) have booths/tables at GC, and you’re geeky enough with enough contacts (read: fans) in the gaming industry that we’d be able to steer you towards the events you’d most enjoy. I’m sure you could do a few seminars (alone or with other authors) that would break up the monotony of the exhibit hall, too.

    Anyway, it figures I wouldn’t go to the GenCon that both you and Wil attend, if only as “civilians” and not exhibitors. I’m glad you had fun. I still haven’t been able to do the True Dungeon; it sells out way too fast. So yes, I am jealous that you got to do TD on your first-ever GenCon, and I haven’t managed to do it in the 10 GenCons I’ve attended.

  20. Oh, why was I working Giant’s Travail instead of Draco-Puzzle?! I would have loved to DM for that group.

  21. I agree that a name is called for – but something like Drindelthengenflagenplonken seems to me far more appropriate for the LMoC owned by the most esteemed author of The Shadow War of the Night Dragons.

  22. I’ve been going to GenCon ever since it came to Indianapolis, but I’ve never managed to do True Dungeon. I’ll have to check it out next year, as it’s always insanely popular. I’m happy you enjoyed the con. Did you do any other gaming while you were there? Not that hanging out in a bar isn’t also a big part of the con experience for some. Most importantly, did you have fun at the con in general? I agree with Keri Wiker that there’s a lot of crossover between sci-fi and gaming fandom, so I hope you consider attending again.

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