“The first Scarefest was held upstairs at The Wyvern’s Tale in 2013,” says Amie Tracey, co-founder of the local Table-Top Role Playing Game convention and primary organizer of this year’s event. “It was really well-attended. A lot of people came in costume, and it was fun, so we did it again, and that was even better.” At the inaugural Asheville Scarefest, there wasn’t enough room for Pathfinder — a fantasy adventure game similar to Dungeons & Dragons — so the group began to look for larger spaces.
From Friday, Oct. 21, to Sunday, Oct. 23, geeks and gamers will gather at the Montreat Conference Center for the fourth annual Asheville Scarefest, which offers more than 20 different game systems.
“A few years back, our Pathfinder players wanted to have a big Halloween-themed weekend of gaming,” says Deklan Green, co-owner of The Wyvern’s Tale. “Last year, [the group was] too big to fit in the store anymore. [The convention was] able to expand and in both size and scope, and offer a lot more games at Montreat, which is a really beautiful location.”
Pathfinder is still the main event at Scarefest. More than 50 tables throughout the convention are dedicated to the game in which players take on the roles of warriors or wizards and battle powerful villains — or become them. There’s even a conventionwide interactive special on Friday night, where all of the tables will participate in a battle together.
This year, Tracey is working to rise to the challenges that face the growing convention. “The Sunday brunch open gaming circle is something new we’re trying out,” she says. “Last year, some people were really exhausted by the schedule ending at 1:30 a.m. and then starting again at 8:30 a.m., so we’re hoping this will give people a chance to sleep a little.” The open gaming circle features short sessions of Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder and other role-playing games, as well as board games, a miniature painting workshop and food.
Speaking of gaming fuel: “We have meal tickets this year,” Tracey says, “which is a big deal, because last year we didn’t. People had to go to Black Mountain for food and missed the start of gaming sessions.”
There will not, however, be a costume contest this year, but attendees who arrive dressed up will be given tokens that can be used to enter raffles throughout the weekend.
Andrew Gmitter, one of the co-organizers of the convention, will be running several sessions of Dread, which uses a Jenga tower for action resolution. He describes tabletop gaming as “your opportunity to tell a story as it happens, make decisions that have consequences for your character, but not you as a person, and where the success of your character is based on luck and skill.”
In most tabletop role-playing games, players collaborate to tell a story. A referee, often known as the game master, helps move the story along, arbitrates rules and decides what happens when players make choices. If something occurs for which a GM cannot predict the outcome, then dice, cards or another method are used to introduce elements of randomness into the story.
In many forms of entertainment, “you don’t often have the opportunity to participate in your own story,” says Gmitter. “You grab a video game, you’re on rails the whole time. You grab a book, you’re start-to-finish, unless you grabbed a choose-your-own-adventure. With games like Dungeons & Dragons, Dread and Fiasco, you get to make decisions that affect the stories themselves.”
Members of the simulation and game development program of Blue Ridge Community College will be at Scarefest, demonstrating some of the tabletop role-playing games created by first-year students. Those enrolled in the program learn game design, starting with board tabletop role-playing games, before moving on to video games. The group will bring the games Four Heroes and Tataiki to the convention. “Four Heroes is a co-op, turn-based strategy game similar to Imperial Assault or Descent,” says BRCC professor Patrick Roeder. “In Tataiki, everyone plays an assassin trying to kill their target.”
This year, Scarefest will also feature the spaceship simulator Artemis, which is “similar to being on the bridge of a ‘Star Trek’ vessel,” says Gmitter. “Someone is yelling orders at you. …You might be the pilot, you might be the weapons officer, you might be communicating with other ships, but you’re not doing it all yourself — you’re working with a team.” A simulation lasts about an hour, with each member of the crew using a different computer screen.
“We built backdrops for it and flashing lights. Very nerdy,” says Tracey.
The festival organizer promises that no matter a gamer’s play style or experience level, all will feel welcomed and accommodated at Asheville Scarefest. “There are day passes for people who can only come for one day, and it’s a really great community if you are just starting role-playing and you don’t know what you are doing,” Tracey says. “Last year I saw so many people next to a newbie at a game saying, ‘Oh, let me help you.’ The people are really friendly.”
WHAT: Asheville Scarefest gaming convention
WHERE: Montreat Conference Center, 401 Assembly Drive, Montreat
WHEN: Friday, Oct. 21-Sunday, Oct. 23. $20 weekend pass/$12 day pas/$70 meal ticket/$140 lodging. avlscarefest.com