As I write this it’s been a week since Gen Con Indy 2010 opened on Thursday, August 5. I’ve been back for a few days and have had time to process all that happened to me at the show, so here goes, my review of the best four days in gaming, 2010 edition.
I don’t cease to be amazed at the reception 30,000 + gamers get in this midwestern city every year. And every year I see it grow. Banners welcoming Gen Con line the streets, and about 90% of the local businesses roll out some sort of welcome for the con, be it a simple window cling to full-on embracing of the magnificent nerdery with themed menus and drinks or Gen Con-specific specials. It shouldn’t be a surprise, really, when you consider that the estimated Gen Con economic windfall for Indianapolis this year was $27 million. Still, the welcome feels honest, which is rather nice.
I heard last year was a subdued one due to the bad economy, but boy, was that not the case in 2010! The entire downtown area was busy from Wednesday till Monday when I flew back, and the convention center itself was rarely, if ever, a calm place. There was palpable excitement in the hallways and hotels and on the street. And when those Exhibit Hall doors opened on Thursday, what everyone saw was a flurry of activity that contributed to record-breaking sales for pretty much every vendor I spoke to. The Gen Con LLC team continue to improve their craft of running this massive pop-up city and keep making the experience a great one for us attendees. A special thanks goes out to the Press Room team, because we of the gaming media can be a tetchy and annoying bunch and you always found a way to help us out (my only suggestion: please enforce that the Press Room is a quiet-zone; I was recording an audio interview there at one point and we had to shush down others that were there ourselves). Also thanks to Rio Grande Games for the free Wi-Fi in the convention center (I found it annoying that the coverage excluded the Exhibit Hall, though I understand it).
As I prepare to leave for Gen Con, I whipped up a simple character sheet to use for the playtest of When The Fall…
[RAW]When the Fall… – Gen Con Playtest Sheet [/RAW]
It’s incredibly bare bones right now, containing only the stats I have outlined here in previous posts. The main statistic is the Humanity/Beast scale, front and center. To the left are the Blessings of Humanity, where a player writes his Joys and Sorrows; to the right are the Curses of the Beast, where the vampiric powers are recorded. At the bottom is Willpower, grounding everything in reality.
The spaces at the bottom are for recording Consequences taken during conflicts, and I may have other uses for them if I can organize my thoughts in time before the game (guess what I’ll be doing during my flight to Indianapolis).
I’m going with a dice mechanic of a total dice pool of 10, with players choosing how many dice they commit to any action up to that number, with minimum Humanity/Beast dice based on the trait they are using, whether a Joy/Sorrow or a Vampiric Power. Target number will start at 7 and be adjusted during gameplay as needed, with 2 successes needed for any Easy task.
I haven’t written yet about Feeding, but very quickly, I’ll be using that as a scene option that a player can call for. After framing the scene and roleplaying the action, dice are rolled: if successful, Willpower is entirely refreshed if the vampire kills the victim (which triggers a Humanity check), 2 points are refreshed if the victim is left alive (which triggers a Frenzy check as the Beast does not like to be denied). These checks are rolled with the character’s Humanity or Beast dice respectively, and they need to score more successes than they have current Willpower points to not succumb to the Beast.
I’m both excited and nervous to run this game on Saturday night. I’ll be sure to write about the experience after I return from the convention.
Ok, it’s time. Gen Con is in a week and a half, and I want to run my first playtest of this game there. I’ve dropped the ball a bit on blogging and development during the last couple of weeks, due to traveling and vacation time, among other things. It doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about the game, about the parts I had yet to build, about where to take this. I have, it’s just been all behind the scenes. But that doesn’t matter now. What matters is that in a week and a half, I need to have a working draft of this game to play at Gen Con so I can start putting the idea and the system through its paces.
I’ll be running the playtest on Saturday, August 7, from 9 PM to Midnight, almost assuredly at the Embassy Suites. The game information is already up on my Gen Con Schedule post, as is the list of the players that have confirmed their attendance.
I must warn: this will be work. Playtesting is fun, but it’s a different kind of fun than just roleplaying. We’ll be making characters, seeing how that moves, then play a few encounters, both pure roleplaying and conflicts, to see how those parts of the system behave. If something’s not working, we’ll make changes on the fly to see if we can fix it. I want and need feedback, and that will only come from putting the proto-game through the wringer. After it’s all done, we’ll chat for a bit and I’ll gather the playtester’s feedback, then we can all go and enjoy the last night of Gen Con.
Lastly, I now have a working title for the game (though the series will continue being called Rebuilding Vampire). Through all the development, one phrase has been the clearest idea of what the theme of this game is, and in my mind, it titled the game a while ago; I’ve just come to accept it. For the time being, the game is titled “When The Fall Is All There Is, It Matters.” Or more simply, “When The Fall…”
Ready or not, here we go.
As I write this, Gen Con is just about a week and a half away and I cannot wait to board the plane that will take me from Miami to an extended weekend full of gaming goodness in Indianapolis. Seriously, I am stoked. I missed Gen Con last year due to the death of my mother so this year’s con will be making up for two years of Gen Con awesomeness.
This year I will be working alongside my friends at Rogue Games, repping their games at their booth (#1539 ), hopping to get gamers to try out their very excellent games Colonial Gothic, Thousand Suns and the new Shadow, Sword & Spell. Why work with Rogue Games? Two reasons: Richard Iorio asked for volunteers to help him staff the booth and given I always go to Gen Con with an empty schedule, I did not see any issue with lending a hand; in fact, I was thrilled to do so. That is related to the second reason: I have been to Gen Con three times before, as a regular gamer once and as a member of the media twice, and I wanted to experience the con from the side of the vendors. I am a publisher, but my products so far are all electronic, so this is an opportunity to get an education on what it takes to staff a booth at the con which will hopefully pay off in the future once I have physical games to take there for sale. It also relates to a general shift in philosophy in my life, that of helping others; it is the reason why I decided to start studying Nursing at 35, and it also influenced my decision here. By helping Richard, I am able to gain a small personal benefit in terms of a learning experience, but mainly I am able to help him have a more relaxed con experience since he won’t be running the booth by himself as he has done in years past. Win-win situation.
If you want to find me, here are the hours I will be working the Rogue Games booth, arguably the best times to pin me in one place. Know that if you drop by, along with the greetings, I will also talk to you about the awesome games at our booth.
I wrote the following review at Goodreads, but I have more to say after it.
Hard to believe that Gen Con has been around for 40+ years. Heck, hard to believe that roleplaying games have been around for almost that long! And right there, in the space where believing these statements are, amazingly, true, is where 40 Years of Gen Con lives.
Robin Laws had his work cut out for him in setting out to put together this book. Made up of a pastiche of chronological interview quotes from a vast array of people associated with Gen Con throughout its history, the book gives you a transcribed oral history of this most central gathering of the Hobby Gaming Industry. From its days as a tiny gathering at chez Gygax, to its move to current and gigantic home in Indianapolis, you can follow the wonderful and weird history of the convention, and in many ways of the industry as well.
If I have one qualm about the book is that, personally I would have preferred an actual written-out narrative of the history instead of the put-it-together-yourself approach of the various interview segments. A thousand kudos to Robin Laws for having the patience and the archeological skills to assemble a narrative out of all those interviews, though; that alone should win him some sort of prize.
Our hobby, our industry, has officially entered its second generation of life, and we’ve already begun to lose some of the pioneers. I continue to be amazed that there has been no effort to create a biography of the hobby/industry up to now, though 40 Years of Gen Con is a fantastic proxy that deserves to be in every gamer’s library.
It is very strange to me that after over four decades of hobby gaming, from historical miniatures to the latest games debuting at Gen Con, this is the one history book about/on our hobby/industry available. Surely I cannot be the only one who sees value in there being a written history of the development of the industry, the development of the types of games, and even of some of the games themselves.
40 Years of Gen Con, beyond any flaws it may have, is a brilliant artifact because of the gathering of otherwise hard to find/lost information about that one (very defining) aspect of our hobby.
In 2014 we will see the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons (and my own, but we’re not talking about me now). Will we see a book on the history of this pivotal game? I hope so. I so hope so. But more than just a D&D book, I want to see a book (many books?) on the history of our hobby. We deserve to have our history chronicled, and no one but us will do it.
In The Digital Front – Episode 13 we present a recording of the E-Publishing Seminar held at Gen Con 2008, sponsored by DriveThruRPG.com. The host is Steve Wieck of OneBookShelf (owners of DriveThruRPG.com and RPGNow.com), and the panelists are Gareth-Michael Skarka of Adamant Entertainment, Ryan Johnson of Guild of Blades Publishing, and Daniel M. Perez of Highmoon Media Productions. The seminar discusses how to become an e-publisher, a look at the e-publishing market, methods to market your e-products, and some thoughts about the future of the medium.
This episode marks the first anniversary of The Digital Front. Many thanks to everyone who has listened to the show and sent in their feedback, and especially to all my guests so far, without whom there would be no show.
Please feel free to discuss this episode on our forums.
We all woke up at 9 am so we could take advantage of our last day of free breakfast at the Embassy, and because with a flight at 2 pm, I had no time to loose. We were joined downstairs by Erin Moore and a very hungover David Moore, to whom we bid farewell as they headed out back to Chicago. Josh, Mick and I went upstairs to get our stuff packed up and ready for our checkout.
Josh would go on to stay until Monday so I bid him farewell, and after checking out of the hotel with Mick, I bid him farewell as he would be heading out to Louisville later in the afternoon. At the checkout counter I had the fortune of meeting Eytan Bernstein, one of the people I had hoped to see during the con but had missed so far, so even if it was for a few minutes, I was glad.
I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough time to make it back to the hall before I had to leave to the airport. I like going around the hall one last time saying goodbye to everyone I know that I run into; it gives me a sense of closure for the con, and one last chance to connect with folks before I don’t see them for a year (in most cases). Thankfully I did have time, and at 11 am I was at the Exhibit Hall doing a mad-dash through the corridors saying goodbye to folks. I also had the foresight to bring my camera and take pics with some of my good friends.
Ethan Parker (Gamer’s Haven) & Me.
Don Dehm (Pulp Gamer) & Me.
Meg, Josh and Zeke (The Brilliant Gameologists) & Me.
After this it was the express line to the airport and a nice flight back to Miami via Air Tran, which thankfully was not disrupted by the presence of Tropical Storm Fay just south of Miami (it would not affect Josh flying in on Monday either, though it did screw up the rest of the week with tons of rain and winds). By 7 pm I was back home, having pizza with my wife, decompressing after an amazing, hectic, overwhelming, and dare I say magical weekend gaming and sharing with friends from all over the world, and wondering at the back of my head, “Is it Gen Con 2009 yet?”
Given my particular limitations, Shabbat at Gen Con for me is always about taking it easy, strolling the hall in peace and catching up with friends. Like last year, I slept in late, ate breakfast at the Embassy with my roommates, then went upstairs to do my prayers while Josh attended a Quick Write seminar downstairs. At noon, prayers done and a small lunch eaten, Josh and I headed to the Exhibit Hall to see everything we hadn’t so far.
Up to this point, we had all seemingly forgotten that we had brought cameras so the pictures were very few. Saturday was dubbed photo day, and Josh took a number of shots around the hall (which you can see here). My mission for this time in the hall was to look around for stuff I’d come buy Sunday before going back to Miami; it went so-so. We dropped by the Khepera Publishing booth to check out Hellas: Worlds of Sun and Stone aka. Greeks in SPACE!!! As I saw someone state in in a forum, “Any answer other than “Hell Yes!” to that premise is just wrong.” Jerry Grayson seems intent on making awesome games and lots of money with systems that people have tossed to the trash can (D6 for GODSEND Agenda, Omni for Hellas) and this one doesn’t disappoint. I failed to pick it up, however, but later I found out that Josh did get the last copy (Battle-Scarred Edition!) so I’ll be playing it at some point soon.
And because I promised Josh I’d give him hell for this pic:
Photo courtesy of Andy Kitkowski.
The other book I wanted was John Wick’s Houses of the Blooded, but try as I might, I never found where John had set up shop so I left the con without it. I also completely forgot to buy a copy of Things We Think About Games and of The Solar System. Thank goodness for IPR on all three counts. At around 2 pm we left the hall so Josh could get some lunch, and we ended up walking around downtown Indy a bit, which is a fine activity, even in the midst of the convention (it refreshes you, trust me). We went back to the Embassy to eat our lunch because at 4 pm we were scheduled to meet with Chris Perrin to do a playtest of his game Mecha.
The game was great. We ended up in our room and with a party of four (Josh, David Moore, Chris Norwood and myself) playing these kids with mecha who are trying to overthrow the gods of this futuristic and disfunctional Utopia (one of the included settings with the game). That Perrin got some cheap MechWarrior mech minis added to the coolness of it all, and of course, the fact that it is a game about mechas just rocks it to 11. The mechanics are pretty smooth, and play up the whole man+machine aspect very well. I want this game out so I can own it and start hacking it to pieces.
Without a battlemat, we had to improvise.
At 7-ish pm, we made our way to the Media Meet & Greet at the Westin, an event that seems like it will become a tradition. I love the Meet & Greet, both because I like meeting fans of gaming podcasts (mine or otherwise), but also because it is a chance to say hello to my fellow podcasters that I may have seen only briefly during the show or have not seen at all.
L to R: Chris Hussy (Fear the Boot), Itamar Weisberg (Hamis’hakia), Me, Meg (Brilliant Gameologists) and Chris Perrin (Canon Puncture).
We did the Meet & Greet up until about 9 pm when the party moved to the Boardgames Ballroom for those who wanted to keep gaming. I went back to the hotel, closed Shabbat, changed into my kilt and met up with Dan, Chad, Itamar and a couple of friends from the Fear the Boot forums; our destination: the White Wolf party.
I missed the party last year because I had commited to a playtest at that time. Even this year, I had offered to run a game of Witch Hunter for some folks working the hall during the day, and I would have had no problem gaming at that time. The game never materialized, however, so I was left with the desire to hit the party. One problem, though: I did not have an invite (remember what I said about not being able to do any White Wolf interviews?). Dan however had one and when we got there he managed to get in thanks to a connection, thus I inherited his ticket. However, I had left my ID back at the hotel, so I had to walk back to get it, wisely also using the opportunity to eat something (again, PB&J sandwiches woohoo!). Once back at the ICE Lounge, I was ready to enter The Succubus Club.
The party was fantastic, everything the hype promised and more. It was open bar so I started right upon entering with a Vodka & Cranberry (I won’t do a list, don’t worry) and went to meet my friends, finding fellow Booters Chris Hussy and Daniel “Grungydan” Henson along the way. We hung out for about half an hour, but after that it was time to hit the dance floor, and I pretty much did not leave it for the rest of the night.
The music was an extraordinary mix of modern evocative dance songs (Goldfrapp was especially cool) with just amazing Retro/Goth/New Wave tunes, with a heavt emphasis on the latter. I was in dancing heaven. I used to go to a local goth club called The Kitchen back in the late 90′s pretty much every Saturday night and this music took me right back there. I wish I could get a set list for all that was played that night, because it would go directly into my iPod. Kudos to the DJ for a great experience. I wish there was more to say, but I literally danced for like 4 hours straight with nary a break in between and that’s pretty much it. I will say that I was a good boy. I had a couple of friends who had a few too many drinks and did things that they should be glad there are no pictures of, but aside from having a couple clove cigarettes and drinking a bit too much (though thankfully I spaced it enough that I didn’t get sick or hungover the next morning, just sort of lost in this music-filled trance), I was a very good boy.
At 3 am they turned on the lights, and around 3:15 am they turned off the music; at around 3:30 I was outside talking drunken crap with Don Dehm and Jeremiah Lynch of Pulp Gamer. We made our way back to the Embassy where I had a glass of Jeremiah’s homemade mead and then went to my room to find everyone awake still. David Moore apparently had as much to drink at the White Wolf party as I did but in half the time and hd gotten himself in trouble with his wife for some drunken comment or other (he also ran into Jared Sorensen and said to him, “You wrote Burning Wheel!” [which, for the non-gamers who read this, he didn't]). Josh and I went downstairs for a bit but turned in at around 4:30 am and promptly passed out.
David Moore the morning after the White Wolf party.