Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Ultracon the Summer Gaming Weekend

Every year in our gaming circle we organize a summer convention for friends and family called Ultracon. The very definition of ultra is to go above and beyond and to be extreme. Ultracon first started as a crazy idea over a few beers to gather everyone in one place yearly to game. In 2013 it was the thirty year anniversary of my campaign world Ultanya so we wanted to do something special. Without boring everyone to death with the history of the realm the main villain for the weekend was Tiamat. I will note that this was well before the release of Tyranny of Dragons

Tiamat had spent an eternity putting together an artifact called the Tablet of Destinies (right from Sumerian myth) to cast a terrible ritual called the Empyrean Nihility. The former was a spell of cosmic destruction since it drained all magic from planes of existence. In Ultanya magic is a binding and ubiquitous power required for the very existence of life.

In order to combat Tiamat and stop the ritual an epic gathering of heroes would take place. What we did was have players from three generations of Ultanya campaigns dust off their favorites. Since they existed in multiple editions of the game this was a task unto itself. But in the end it was incredible to see what basically amounted to a super team of everyone’s coolest characters. They would spend the weekend questing for five dragon scourge crystals to enchant their weapons with. There was a crystal for each color of the chromatic spectrum.

Every year I have 6 siders created as part of the Ultracon player swag bags. For this event I had one made for every color of Tiamat’s head. Whenever a dragon scourge crystal was successfully recovered the players received the corresponding die. The dragon scourge crystals existed in some very epic environments with incredible guardians. They were as follows:

1.    Ice Plane: Guarded by Cryonax and his frost demons

2.    Shadow Plane: Guarded by the Shadow Beholder and his undead legion 
3.    Astral Plane: Guarded by a Githyanki pirate on his astral destroyer
4.    Temporal Plane: Guarded by spirit warriors across all time frames in a rusted fortress.
5.    Plane of Chaos: Guarded by the Tarrasque

Terrain was crafted for all five acts to represent the individual plane of existence visually. The Plane of Shadow was created with black and brooding gridded MDF and copious amounts of gothic buildings. The plane of ice was gorgeous MDF compilations with a huge sanctuary were Cryonax resided. The astral plane used custom spell jammers and huge asteroids crafted from foam. The temporal plane used a massive wall to represent the fortress entrance and dozens of MDF pieces. Finally the plane of chaos used floating and gridded planetoids crafted from Styrofoam and pieces of terrain on stands.

The final encounter with Tiamat used a nearly six foot exhibit crafted from gridded plexi glass. It was built in a stacked manner to present three dimensional flying. Tiamat’s heads were crafted by one of the DM’s from scratch and placed on the board. We ran the encounter with the idea that Tiamat was so large that her body was “off screen” if you will. The DM team controlled the heads which had individual stats and powers based on their colors. This way we could move the heads between boards based on where the players were flying during the combat.

To see so many epic characters from thirty years of Ultanya battling Tiamat in this fashion was something really special. Eventually they bested Tiamat but the damage created with the Empyrean Nihility changed the campaign world forever. Large pieces of other worlds mostly destroyed by the Nihility were deposited into Ultanya. The focus of the current campaigns are the exploration of these new worlds to the west. 

Here are a few highlight shots from the weekend:

Entering the sanctuary of Cyronax
Cyronax on his soul powered throne
A closeup of our custom Cryonax
The Shadow plane complete with the Machine of Lum the Mad!
Planetoid hopping in the Chaos Plane
Battle through elementals and dragons
Only to find the Tarrasque waiting for them!
The flying board and Tiamat heads (DM team in back)
A close-up of the custom Tiamat heads
A look at one of the heads during production

I hope this post inspires others to create their own private gaming weekend. In my experience all the work is worth it once everyone is gathered. I’m fortunate that our gaming circle is filled with so many creative and crafty people. That being said, we have gone more theme heavy in subsequent years then terrain oriented. Just gathering together for the weekend with old friends to game is special enough!