Gen Con has once again come to a close and I can barely come down from the high. So many memories were made as I met up with new and old friends, ate great food, attended some spectacular panels, and, of course, played some fantastic games. This recap will be lengthy, and I intend it to be all inclusive so if I forget anything call me out on it! Here we go folks!
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 13:
This year I had the honor of attending the con as a guest with the good people of the Gamerstable Podcast & Sidetangent Productions. If you follow my Twitter feed you may recall that I wasn’t going to be attending this year, I couldn’t see myself affording the hotel by myself. Thankfully the offer to attend and room with the group was made and I jumped at the chance, they really are the biggest reason I was able to make the con. So thank you all! I’m honestly eternally grateful. This trip has been the most important thing to happen for my work here on the blog since I started only a few months ago.
Crazy enough, we only played on pickup game together this year, and that was on the drive to the con when we played a rousing game of Fiasco. The setting was a country club and we were just a bunch of High School kiddos trying to make it in this world being as cool as we could be. I’ve owned Fiasco for a while now and had never gotten the opportunity to actually play so this was an awesome time. I’ve stated before that no one really cares to hear a play by play of someone’s game so I won’t bore you with the full recap. Being Shawn’s twin brother Ritch Cambell (to his “Ditchweed” Mitch Cambell) was fantastic, and stayed a running joke all con. Also, having Shannon give Jayson and I wedgies near the end of the game gave the perfect ending to the drama. Good times.
DungeonScape is set to be the Digital Suite of tools for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition being handled by Trapdoor Technologies. I was pleasantly surprised to receive an invite to their small gathering of press, where we were given the opportunity to view a presentation, test drive the product, and ask the hard questions. Well, I don’t think we were that rough on them.
The DungeonScape Press Invitational set the bar high for the rest of Gen Con. When I said that this con was important to my work as a gaming and geek culture commentator it was mostly in reference to this activity. I droned on and on about it once and you can find that post here. I really do suggest you read it if you get the time. I found my experience with the team behind the project both insightful and exciting. Their passion for the project is infectious and they seem to have the skills to back it up. Can’t say I’ve ever been all that interested in an “at the table” digital aid, but I certainly am now.
The rest of the night was spent with Gamerstable, as most nights were, at their yearly meet up at The Ram. Unfortunately I spent a long time chewing the ears off the Trapdoor Technology crew so only a few minutes of hang time were possible. Hell, I was rooming with them so the whole weekend was a meetup for me, so I wasn’t too bothered.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 14
START THE CON!
August 14th is my birthday and Gen Con’s opening day was quite a gift! I awoke and arrived very early to apply and obtain my Press Badge. Once obtained I and the Gamerstable crew made our way to the Exhibit Hall so we could hit the floor an hour before the actual opening of the con. The Exhibit Floor was every bit as gorgeous and well design as it has been every year. I couldn’t wait to hit up some favorite booths.
My first stop was the Blind Ferret booth so I could handle something that had been bugging me from the prior year. R.K. Milholland is the creator of the Webcomic Something Positive and I’ve been a fan of his work for some time now. Last year when I met him for the first time I was nervous as Hell and when he asked me if I wanted a sketch I mumbled something in the affirmative apparently because he drew me an awesome Choo Choo Bear. After he had done that I walked away smiling…and completely neglected to tip him for the gesture. Well this year I was able to rectify that error of judgment and got to chat a little, still nervous of course but I may not have shown it much, and score another cool sketch, of Fluffmodeus this time. Check out the comic sometime, it’s great!
My next order of business was the purchase of the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Player’s Handbook. I picked it up from the Cool Stuff Inc. booth for a little cheaper thanks to a page they had placed in the coupon booklet. All I can really say about the PHB is that it’s a gorgeous piece of work. The art is beautiful and the layout is tidy with a natural flow to it. It’s D&D folks. It has the mechanical feel, the art, even the FONT that screams D&D. Hell I’ll bet if I took a deep sniff it’d even smell like D&D (not sure what that might be though). I can’t wait to get a deeper look into the book but my initial page flipping scores it big props!
I stopped by to get my Crystal Caste Genon D6 and ended up splurging on the whole set, a mere $10! Then I just moseyed around looking for something to do, as my “go to” booths had been satisfied for the time being (with one glaring omission, but more on that later). I decided to stop at the first booth I saw where someone was Demoing a game. That booth ended up being Booth 2830 within the Entrepreneurs’ Avenue. The game company Imbalanced Games LLC was running their demo of Titan Tactics.
Titan Tactics was a fun little 30-40 minute game where two players are pitted against each other as titans controlling their earthly avatars in an arena-like situation. The Avatars cannot die but points are scored for damaging them and you essentially play tug of war vying for the most damage dealt during each turn to earn a victory point of sorts if you come out on top. There are two ways to win, either one person deals enough damage to reach a winning threshold of damage or they win enough rounds. I liked the game a lot, each faction was known for a certain style of play and there were more characters in each faction that can be played in one game. These simple changes create a lot of potential ways to play and change tactics. I’d encourage anyone to check it out if they like skirmish PvP games.
WRITING AND PACKET PICKUP
After the Exhibit Hall allowed the general public in I hooked back up with some of the Gamerstable clan in the lobby and began writing my DungeonScape article. I really was grateful for the opportunity to test drive it for them and wanted to churn that out! Plus it gave me a chance to relax and catch up with what everyone else had bought or done in the Exhibit Hall.
By the time I’d eaten lunch and finished writing the blog piece, to be edited and posted later, it was 1:00pm which meant I needed to get to the Union Station so I could pick up my Race Packet for the Orc Stomp 5k! I was really excited for this race. Rob Hall, who writes for Ideology of Madness, had sponsored the race on the site’s behalf and had scored some free race slots for it. When he offered them on Twitter I jumped at the chance and scored a ticket! The race packet offered a few discount goodies and a pretty cool shirt. They also handed out some maps of the course, didn’t realize it then but I was in for a beautiful view.
I finalized the blog piece and hit the Exhibit Hall one more time. Then realizing it was nearly 5:00pm I raced off to another highlight of the con, the Gamerstable Awards Dinner!
GAMERSTABLE APPRECIATION AWARDS DINNER
When I was invited to attend the con as a roomie with the Gamerstable group it came with another sweet perk, I was also invited to be a guest at their Awards Dinner at the St. Elmo Steakhouse. This year there were two award winners. The first was Shane L. Hensley, author, games designer, and CEO of Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Shane is best known for his work designing the Savage Worlds Role-Playing Game. The second was John Kovalic who is best known for his Webcomic Dork Tower and his work illustrating the various versions and expansions to Munchkin.
Not only was the dinner superb, though certainly pricey, the company made for a rousing good time. I was especially glad I got to meet Michal Tresca, RPG Examiner for Examiner.com and all around nice guy. I was able to pick his brain about a few industry tips and he unfortunately gave me carte blanche to reach out to him post con for more tips of the trade. He may regret that! Also, I have to commend one member of Gamerstable, Mike Bridges picked up two of my drinks for my birthday. The man is a class act!
I didn’t bend the ear of Shane Hensley or his friend and coworker Clint Black, who I discovered was not the country western star but rather Savage Worlds’ Brand Manager, much. I wanted to leave that to the people who had invited them to dinner. Also, there was an unfortunate scheduling conflict for John Kovalic so he was unable to attend. As you can see via the link above though the Gamerstable Team was able to meet up with him later.
LATE NIGHT RAVENLOFT
I’ll just stop calling things “highlights” of Gen Con 2014 because it’ll just get repetitive fast, but my friend Pierce’s, you may know him as @Sorcerer_Blob, Dungeon World Hack of that age old D&D Module Ravenloft was certainly a highlight! The main reason lies with the fact that Pierce and I talk, a lot, on Twitter and have forged a fast friendship over the years, but at Gen Con 2013 our meet and greet was limited to a ten min chat at the very end of the con. Getting to spend a few hours with him, and some new friends, gaming late into the evening was a spectacular way to close out the night and my Birthday. I also got to play the Dungeon World equivalent of my favorite character ever Caul Rickrak. Now we just need to finish the game! Thankfully, Pierce has promised a G+ Hangout just to do so.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 15
ORC STOMP 5K
I awoke with a start from a dream where I had been being chased by bees that just kept humming and buzzing to discover a few things. One, the “buzzing bees” were likely a dream manifestation of my phone’s alarm that had been vibrating (not playing “Frog’s Song” from Chrono Trigger loudly as it was supposed to be doing) for a long time. Two, that my friend Scott (@TheAngryDM) was tweeting me asking me where I was. Because three, I was late for the Orc Stomp 5k!
It was roughly 5:55 am, I was roughly 12 miles from the Con, and I thought the race started at 6:00 am. I was embarrassed and furious with myself. Mostly I was feeling like I had let down Rob after he had so kindly reserved me a spot. Well, to make a long story short I discovered the race actually started at 6:30 am so i decided to try my luck at making it and I am certainly glad I did.
I arrived roughly 20 mins late and luckily found the starting line easily enough. I took off like I’d taken the Run feat at my last level up and quickly realized I’d be very alone for most of the race, though I did see Rob wearing his Flash shirt heading for the finish line. That was fine though, it was a gorgeous day with some truly lovely views as you saw above.
In the end I caught up with the tail end of the other racers, earning some odd looks in the process. It looks like I ended up right around my usual 30 min 5k time and I’m more than happy with that considering I hadn’t even gotten to stretch, eat, or drink before the race. Sticking around to chat with Rob, Scott, and a few other runners made the whole thing worth it honestly. Not to mention I got some good exercise in. I will say, being in shape enough to run a 5k gets you in plenty good shape for surviving all the walking you do at the con. I fully recommend everyone come out for the Orc Stomp next year!
INDIAN FOOD & SAVAGE WORLDS
After the race I went back to the hotel and got ready with everyone else for the day. Upon arriving downtown we had trouble finding a parking spot and ended up parking a fair distance away. This was okay though because it helped us stumble upon a wonderful Indian Restaurant that’s off the beaten path for most Gen Con attendees. Haveli Indian Cuisine has a lunch buffet that’s just $8 and it just plain rocks. Likely the dining experience of the Con for me, and I had eaten NY Strip Steak two nights in a row.
The Iron Kingdoms panel wasn’t until 4:00 pm so I had time to kill. First I went to the Exhibit Hall to catch a few booths I had missed. I wanted to stop by the Pinnacle Booth to possibly get my Savage Worlds book signed by Shane but he wasn’t there. Clint was though and while he and I chatted he introduced me to John Goff, writer and game designer for Pinnacle and the designer for one of the newest properties out of Pinnacle Deadlands Noir. So naturally I bought a copy, had been meaning to anyway, and had John sign it.
Another booth I endeavored to visit was the Harsh Realities booth so I could meet and chat with Ben Rogers, one of the men behind Sixcess. Ben actually resides here in Missouri, less than ten miles from me actually. So I just had to meet up with him and pick his brain about the system. I’ve always thought it looked solid and it also has a lot of supporting campaign settings. We had a nice chat and I mentioned possibly meeting up later for a longer interview. Looking forward to that!
The last booth I hit up on Friday was Hirst Arts so I could add to my collection of molds to use for future 3d Dungeon projects. I’ve written about my love for these before and was more than ready to pick two more of the beauties up. I now have enough of my own to get work done without having to borrow from my cousin’s husband. It’s exciting!
From there I spent a good deal of time just outside the Press Room so I could use the Wireless they allotted us, and to rest my back from carrying that backpack around all day. Not long after I’d sat down though, who do I see but Shane Hensley coming down tot he press room to do an interview, he actually recognized me from the dinner too. It was nice to get to chat with him one on one finally and I even bothered him for a signature in my Savage Worlds book. Turned out the folks he was supposed to meet weren’t there so he took off.
IRON KINGDOMS UNLEASHED AND DICK JOKES WITH BRIAN PATTERSON
Next up to bat were some back to back panels, the first being Iron Kingdoms Unleashed. I’m glad I had my laptop on me because the one they had brought didn’t support the Video hookup for the slideshow they had for us. I plugged mine in and off we were! I plan to write an entire post about this little gem but I can give it some love right now too. The game looks fantastic. For those who aren’t familiar Iron Kingdoms is Privateer Press’ RPG ruleset and Campaign Setting for their tabletop skirmishes games Warmachine and Hordes. Their first entry into the scene was the Full Metal Fantasy Core Rulebook, and its various supplements, and the best way to describe it would be to say it represents the Warmachine factions in RPG form. Unleashed is slotted to represent the Hordes style creatures.
It’s going to be really cool folks. Not only will it be its own stand alone RPG its rules, despite representing a quite different tone, will be fully compatible with Full Metal Fantasy. I for one can’t wait to get my hands on it. The cover art we got a sneak peek at may be an ENnies contender! Anything in that rich world they’ve created is worth looking into for Fluff alone. Love the mechanics too! Look for a longer post later hopefully. I somewhat cornered Ed Bourelle, the Creative Director for Privateer Press, and asked for some slideshow pics to share during that review. Maybe I’ll get a review copy *fingers crossed*.
Brian Patterson invited me to his panel at the DungeonScape Press Invitational so I felt obligated to be there (just kidding Brian). I had a good feeling about what was coming down the pipe here after watching Tracy Barnett and Brian tease a co-secret on twitter for the last few months and I was pleasantly surprised to see I was right. Brian and Tracy have joined to forces to form the company Exploding Rogue and their first order of business is to kickstart Brian’s Campaign World Karthun. If you’ve read his comic at all you’re likely as eager to get your hands on it as I am.
D&D TYRANNY OF DRAGONS LAUNCH PARTY & THE ENNIES
Hooked up with my buddies and grabbed dinner then we all headed over to the D&D Launch party while still trying to decide if we would go to the ENnies or not. I got my Tyranny of Dragons poster and unweildly dragon hat then got a few rounds of Sun King Brewing Company’s Froth of Khan, the official beer of Gen Con and a delightful Brown Ale with a creamy coffee flavor. We all decided to go to the ENnies, heck I’d never even been before so I was certainly interested. Plus the Gamerstable folks had a friend nominated in the Best Cartography section, Anna B. Meyer with her Map of the Flanaess.
The ENnies were well run and never felt as slow as you would expect an Awards Show to be. Plus the presenters shied away from making it an opportunity for stand up and really made sure to put on a fine show, with a touch of humor, but mostly stayed out of the limelight. Anna sadly did not win her category as she was not given either “Pathfinder” or “Numenera” as a name at birth (a glaring misstep in hindsight). It was actually pretty much Paizo and Monte Cook Games’ show this year, cleaning up in any category they were nominated in. To the point where they were thanked at one point for not entering one of them. So I had fun at the ENnies, despite one accident with a beer cup sporting one of those weird magnet bottoms…but we won’t get into that.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 16
Saturday we got to sleep in some. This was a good thing considering my last two days had involved me staying awake for over 18 hours each! My first item on the agenda was one of the few gaming items I had actually scheduled for myself, a Mistborn RPG called “The Good, The Bad, and The Alloy”. The Mistborn RPG is set in the universe created by Brandon Sanderson, and really has a unique setting to play in. Most everyone has some sort of power influenced by metal they either ingest or have on their person, with some really unique options. take a look at the series if you want more, or the RPG. Both earn a Melvin recommendation.
If you guessed the game was a spin on The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, give yourself a cookie. It went well and, unlike most con games, it seemed like most of us were roleplayers who wanted the best outcome rather than just a bunch of fisticuffs. We were careful with out resources and approach to things, we made sure to try talking things out most times before heading straight into the fight, and the one time we knew we had to start a shoot out we used caution to set up a damn near perfect ambush and won in a way better than the game actually considered possible! In the end we found what we were looking for and had circumvented the big showdown with our earlier win. We pulled off some good stuff there!
DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS: A DOCUMENTARY
This panel was a highly anticipated event for me. Not only was I getting to catch a sneak peek of a film I had kickstarted and given loads of lip service to, but I was getting to meet some of the people behind it that I’d been talking to (mainly over twitter) for some time now. The film looks great and will certainly provide a wonderful narrative of the origins of Dungeons and Dragons, it’s impact on gaming in general, and will certainly display individuals that simply love gaming! The film also didn’t display itself as a typical “talking heads” fare but rather it felt free flowing with its imagery and focus on dynamic on screen action, far more than what you would expect from a historical piece. I can’t wait to see it and every day that seems more and more likely. There was even talk of a theatrical release!
While there I got to catch up with Michal Tresca again, who’s apparently in the film, and then got to meet with Jon Peterson. Jon is an affable guy who can easily be distinguished as one of, if not the, leading historian for Dungeons and Dragons. At one point he informed me on a piece of lore surrounding the 4th edition digital tools that I’d previously been unaware of and the recent stuff isn’t even his forte! After Jon I finally cornered Anthony Savini, the director of the film, and was surprised when he was genuinely excited to meet me and had a lot to talk about. I mean, we’d spoken before but “can’t wait to meet you at *such and such event*” doesn’t always mean that someone earnestly awaits shaking your hand, but Anthony was that type of guy. I left knowing the film was in even better hands than I’d earlier assumed.
I hadn’t gone the previous year but certainly enjoyed seeing everyone march about the con in their finest Cosplay. This year was no different but I had incentive to catch the actual show this time. Gamerstable Eric’s daughter had crafted a truly killer costume and routine for the show and having seen it I honestly thought she was a lock. She was Maka from Soul Eater and her costume was utterly fantastic. Not to mention she had an honest to God black belt (because she is one) level martial arts routine tied together with audio and music she had ripped from the show. She had done all of this on her own, and when I heard she’d gotten second after a pair of kids who played Tuffnut and Ruffnut Thorston, from How to Train Your Dragon, in a decent performance I was frankly confused. That’s the kids division for you though, cuteness often overrules quality.
LURKERS IN THE VALLEY CALL OF CTHULHU LARP
There was one last item scheduled for my trip to Indy and that was a LARP. Now, I’d never done a true LARP before, but I was big into theater and drama all through high school and a decent chunk of college so participating in what boils down into essentially an improv game didn’t seem too tough. Little did I know getting to put my acting chops back on turned out to be one of the funnest things I got to do at the Con!
The setting was in a big city place of entertainment called the Magic Mansion and I was a private investigator named Johnny Modesto. I was just there to tail some broad who was steppin’ out on her guy. She never showed but I caught a look at some dame who bore a striking resemblance to someone from a previous case but I just couldn’t put my finger on it! From there my character just enjoyed the evening while putting the worm in a few people’s ears to try and get some dirt on the new mark I had. Of course, my story was only one of many people’s that night and when things (and people) started going crazy from odd supernatural events, my problems started piling on!
I had some company along with me in the form of Shannon and Eric from Gamerstable, who both played their characters great! An added benefit of their attendance is that sometime down the road we plan to get together and give a good play by play of the whole thing. I’ll end up linking it here for your enjoyment!
SUNDAY, AUGUST 17
Its always bizarre to wake up on the last day of Gen Con and suddenly realize it’s basically over. We packed up and hit the Con for one last buzz through the Exhibit Hall where I bought a copy of King of Tokyo for my wife. After that I endeavored to return my Generics but upon discovering the line I handed them off to a few new found friends who I met through catching up with Pierce one last time. Then, we hit the road. I was eager to get home to my family.
POST CON THOUGHTS AND REGRETS
I know I need to thank the entire Gamerstable crew for inviting me along for the ride this year, I likely wouldn’t have even gone to the con without their kind inclusion. Also, I need to remember to use my early hour on the Exhibit Floor, granted by my press badge, wisely. This year I should have grabbed King of New York while I was out there!
I missed a bunch of people this year, some at the con but mostly those who couldn’t make it. Next year I’ve been told by the Vagabond Gamers that many of them intend to show and that would be some awesome stuff! I definitely want my buddies here at home to come with me some time, I love hanging with all the online friends I’ve made but wish I could introduce the friends I grew up with to the con as well! Most of all, I missed my wife. Sarah made it last year and that meant I got to see the con through two sets of eyes. Next year the con starts at the end of July though and that means her school schedule won’t get in the way! So here’s hoping she can join me!
It was a banner year for me at Gen Con and it also marked a true change in how I see this blog. I’m hoping to get a bit more serious about tracking down some real stories out there and trying my hand at reviewing games and game related items. Onward to Gen Con 2015! It’ll be a blast seeing what changes in the industry between now and then!
As always, take care and good gaming!