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"Come forth, ye lords of Anlor! Lower thy noble heads and take the king's chain! Make good on your oath of service, and know that by these golden links, you shall not leave this sacred chamber, save by victory or death! Come forth!"

It's widely known that I organize and host a very small annual get-together of a dozen close friends called 'The Outriders' here in Philadelphia. This gathering includes 4 days of role playing, hanging out, and a climactic LARP at the conclusion. Taking this template to a larger scale at a 'destination' style location is a first-year mini-con known as GREEN DRAGON FEST hosted by YouTube's 'Dungeon Masterpiece' Ryan De Ropp. This year, I headed down to Knoxville to GM a series of sessions and kick back with 40-some players and cabal of other great GMs.

One of my players snaps a selfie after our first legendary session of THE DOOM OF ANLOR...

a wild war-strategy-meta-LARP where DM Scotty got his face torn off by Grace World Destroyer. Great fun.

For more about THE DOOM OF ANLOR, I'll be releasing the materials on the Runehammer Patreon.

I could recount the numerous amazing conversations with people from all over the hobby landscape. I could shower you, dear reader, in tales of the amazing hobbit village in which we ate, drank, and played together. I could blast you with glorious FOMO for Scotty's hilarious dragon-raid game, or Alex Alvarez's unbelievable sci-fi terrain kit. I could tell how Saturday morning gave me the idea to switch gears, running VIKING DEATH SQUAD with 9 players and a nuclear-warhead buster sword. I could tell of the triumphant howls and far-off laughter of game tables echoing through our little town-on-the-hill, but instead, I'd like to talk about what this gathering MEANS, not just what it WAS.

Things get serious as my first ANLOR group wades into open war on 3 fronts.

I was spoiled with this amazing play room, complete with tree trunk fireplace, full bar,

and a view of the entire village from the balcony. Then came the drums of battle...

Everyone who knows me knows I hate cons. The florescent lights, the weird carpet, the crowds, the noise, the crowded game spaces, the terrible food, the chaos! I can't think of an environment LESS conducive to role play than a con. A few years ago, I started getting more vocal about this at MACE and other cons. This is when my RPG community started throwing the word 'gathering' around. Simply put, it's a stay-on-site role play event of 3 or 4 days with 50 people at the absolute most, dedicated, sound-controlled play rooms, huge, glorious tables, natural surroundings, and an 'all inclusive' vibe to keep everyone focused on the sessions, not merch, not panels, not interviews... SESSIONS.

To start, the fact that these are happening with more frequency and more on-point execution (GDF was dope as hell, y'all), is a powerful sign of change. Everything in my gut these past few years has been saying "more focus on playing, in-person, with focus, with the real heads." GDF and The Outriders are not about getting views, selling books, getting advice from panelists, or celebrity cameos. They are what I've been seeking all along: focused time to enjoy sessions, see old friends, and make new ones.

The gang can't help but take pics as DM Scotty reveals his final chamber.

This incredible table by WEATHERED DRAGON was assembled in just one of the

exquisite spaces we enjoyed.

In the 80's and 90's, role playing was a pretty dark science. There was no internet to look for answers, and there was no shortage of ridicule from close-minded 'cool kids.' Nevertheless, local game stores offered a haven (Magic:The Gathering hadn't laid siege to the game shops yet), where real hobbyists could get deep into the sessions, read Dungeon magazine together, or argue about the firing rules in Ogre. Gatherings like GDF take me all the way back to those amazing experiences, but with the vast new array of games, people, and styles we enjoy today. Don't believe any talk of 'the good old days' being better than the glorious now. GDF is a beacon of just how far this hobby has come, how the stigma of it has all but vanished, how diverse and mature and hilarious our chances to do the thing we love have become.

An IGNITION:CORE mecha takes on a Forge Walker in our apocalyptic VIKING DEATH SQUAD session.

This session hosted a whopping 9 players, two of them portraying 'parasitic consciousnesses' in the heads of a tandem player.

The buster sword? A nuclear warhead that was featured in all the sessions I ran... this warhead is known as...

The Green Dragon. :)

You're probably curious about the full roster. We had 11 GMs, 41 players, Shadowdark, 5E, EZD6, VDS, LARPing, Crown and Skull, and a whole lot of broccoli. Our voices were toast and our dice were weary. It's simply awesome what happens when you put everything aside and just play. All day, all night, all weekend. This hobby could use that reminder now and then... YouTube can wait.

Finally, there's Ropp. Our lunatic host, errand-runner, ride-giver, printout-handler, charity-auctioneer, and Shadowdark GM. This was his first time organizing an event, and it was a blast. To him , our chefs and bartenders, and the ever-patient shuttle driver, I send my utmost thanks.

We don't have to blend into the chaos of cons, or conform to the over-industrialization of our hobby. We don't have to live on YouTube, devise ever-more viral hot takes, or yield to the newest, biggest Kickstarter. We don't have to enjoy all this in any way but the way that fits best, and gatherings are the sweet spot for me.

Love you guys.

Ropp sports his green 'Masters' jacket while addressing the horde. We gathered in this pleasant space at every meal,

arguing about which edition of D&D is best, where to buy miniatures, and whether or not broccoli lotion was a viable product idea.

The best of times.

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I'd have loved to attend this event and fellowship with you all. Perhaps, if it becomes a recurring gathering, I can attend some year. I can't say I don't love cons ... at least the ones I have been to (GaryCon and local board game cons). They have drawbacks; the noise at GaryCon this year was occasionally painful, but the small groups, games, and conversations were great. Considering how close Knoxville is, I do hope this will become a regular event.


completely green to the RP world but coming from games/game cons i love everything about this post


This event was phenomenal!

Thanks to Baron de Ropp and his team for organizing it all. It was fantastic meeting you, Hank. Thanks for running Viking Death Squad it was an Amazing experience.


I live 3 miles from GENCON and after this weekend at GDF it has really brought into perspective all the points you make here. The event sign up for GENCON went live on my way home and I could not have cared less, which has never been the case before. These events are irreplaceable and we owe it to eachother and this great hobby we love to be better, do better. Thank you Baron, from the bottom of my heart, for this gift.


I loved this event so much more than all the other cons I've been to precisely for what you said: no focus on panels, merch, and commercialization. Just a time to meet people, have fun, and enjoy the hobby.

It was so much fun playing at your table and I hope we can do it again soon! - Brittani


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