(Alex continues his thoughts on and recap of PAX East 2012)

PAX Day 2

Saturday morning was much easier than Friday, but don’t take that to mean I got there at the beginning of the show, I like sleeping a bit too much for that. The first thing I did once I was in the BCEC that day was to run up to one of the guys dressed as Solid Snake from the Metal Gear Solid video games and play my CODEC ringtone for him and watch how he responded. (If you don’t know, the CODEC is the communication system in the MGS games which rings like this when someone is contacting Snake, also if that is thte case, you should totally play them. They are really good) But anyway, I should get around to talking about the rest of the show.

Once in the expo hall, I went to my first and only panel of the weekend: the Penny Arcade Make a Strip panel. I had gone to this the previous year and sat in the audience, too nervous to come up with and ask a question of Jerry and Mike (aka Tycho and Gabe). This year, however, I had the question in mind the whole time I was driving up from the Cape on Thursday afternoon. Over the past couple years, I was introduced to Acquisitions Incorporated, the D&D adventuring group composed of Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade, PvP’s author/artist Scott Kutz, and actor/geek supreme Wil Wheaton and DMed by Chris Perkins from Wizards of the Coast. They started off doing it as a hilarious podcast (which can be heard here) and eventually moved on to playing in front of an audience at PAX Prime in Seattle (watch the one from 2010 here and 2011 here). My question once I made my way to the front of the line was whether they would be bringing Acquisitions Inc. to the east coast, to which Jerry said that everyone involved wants to, they just need to organize it. So, dear readers, next year we might be in for the treat of watching a group of people sit on a stage and play D&D…it…it’s a lot more entertaining than it sounds, promise. But I also asked for signatures in my PH1, which Jerry was kind enough to do for both of them since Mike was busy drawing a comic. (Don’t ask about the hot dog fairy, I missed the context in which someone asked for that to be put in.)

Following the panel, I went back to wandering the expo hall. This time, however, I had a chance to play some video games. First I played the demo of the third episode of Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness. While the first two episodes (which were released a couple years ago and I really enjoyed) were the normal modern 3D console/PC game with the good old fashioned turn-based RPG elements, this new one takes a new turn with a new game company at its helm. It is still a turn-based RPG, but it has changed aesthetically to an SNES-era JRPG, along the lines of Final Fantasy V and VI and Chrono Trigger. They also seemingly abandoned the customizable personal character in favor of having several characters created for the game including Tycho, Gabe, Tycho’s neice Anne, and a skull in a jar. I loved the demo I got to play. It was nice to see the style again since I grew up playing this style of RPG (I am ashamed to say that I have only ever completed one console RPG which was Chrono Trigger, but that puts it among my top 5 games ever). As it was in the previous episodes, the writing is great and mirrors the style of the comic perfectly since Jerry is the one who wrote it. Once it is released, it will definitely be a “shut up and take my money” sort of situation, though I am a little disappointed it will only be released on Xbox Live Acade and PC since I have a PS3.

The other two games I had a chance to play, Chivalry and War of the Roses, were very similar. Both were multi-player medieval combat games, Chivalry being first-person and War of the Roses third. Unfortunately these are not the kind of games I am very good at and my current computer is too old to play either one, so there was not a ton of interest in getting them, but I found both fun, even when I was executed by my friend in the War of the Roses with a mace to the face and especially when I killed my opponent three times in a row without taking a single hit in Chivalry.

The rest of the day was spent aimlessly wandering again and then playing Ascension (I told you that I kept coming back to the game all weekend). For all of PAX, though, I wanted to play the board game Small World after watching a video of Wil Wheaton, Grant Imahara (of MythBusters fame) and some other people playing it on YouTube, but every time I went to the game check-out booth, somebody else always had it. But after some putzing around, it was time for the main focus of the evening for me and my friends: the DM’s Challenge.

For those of you who don’t know what it is, the DM’s Challenge is a contest in which DMs are given a theme to work with (in this case the Elemental Chaos) and they must create an adventure and characters for six players (the same people I did the playtest with the previous day) who then evaluate how they thought the DM did. Our game went as follows:

Our group of adventurers was transported into the Elemental Chaos with our memories wiped. We were a sorcerer who was a wind/lightning elemental, an assassin (me) who was a rabbit-human creature who could turn into a regular rabbit at will, a fighter, a cleric, a wizard, and a warlord. (To be honest, I don’t remember the races of the others, but it didn’t matter to how the game played out. Actually neither did mine, I just wanted to share that I was a rabbit-man.) Once in the Chaos, we were thrown into a war between two opposing elementals (one fire and one water) and their gangs over control of the town. The townspeople apparently had summoned us from our home plane of existence to help them save themselves from either elemental’s tyrannical rule. We made our way to the fire elemental’s stronghold at the pub, fought our way through his lackeys and then to him. After a grueling battle in which lightning was shot from fingers, buildings were burned down, and many people were set on fire several times (and by “many people” I mostly mean me), we killed the fire elemental and then moved on to the water elemental at his manor. As before we fought his minions, but once we encountered him, something interesting happened. Our sorcerer, being a jerkmade a joke  (as he had been doing throughout the adventure) of telling the elemental to just leave, to which our DM responded “roll a diplomacy check.” He rolled a natural 20. The conversation continued and there was another crit diplomacy check. We actually convinced the elemental to leave without a single blow being given. With the town free from the elementals, our wizard looked into how to return our memories and go home. Meanwhile, the rest of us helped the town get back on its feet by training solders and assassins, restoring some public works, introducing the townspeople to the worship of the cleric’s god (which almost started a religious war) and our wind/lightning elemental sorcerer establishing himself as ruler with designs to expand his empire to the rest of the Elemental Chaos. We learned our lives before were as members of a powerful theives’ guild in a big town that we more or less ran. Some of the group opted to return to their old lives as essentially the mafia, but most of us decided to stay and continue this empire we had inadvertently begun.

Overall, it was a very fun adventure and engaging, but I think there was a little too much plot exposition and talking at the start. I don’t know if our DM won, but I hope he did well.

Again, after a long day of games and good times, we left to play some Ascension and sleep, hungry for one last day of games.

NEXT TIME: I play some more D&D, buy a t-shirt, and bid farewell to PAX East until 2013.