I'm back from GenCon 2014. As always it was an exhausting-but-fun four days of gaming, preceded by a few days visiting with my wife's relatives relatives in southern and central Indiana.
One of the big reasons I come to GenCon is to play games, but it's not the only reason: shopping is another. In 2000 I bought my first Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition Player's Handbook there, in 2014 I'll by my first 5th Edition PHB. This is where I got my Battlestar Galactica and Serenity RPG books, as well as more d20 sourcebooks than I care to mention.
I'm on the road to GenCon 2014. In seven hours I'll be in Indianapolis, rendezvousing with friends, checking into the hotel, picking up my registration pack ... and getting reading to roll some dice. As I wrote a few months ago, this is my first trip to GenCon since 2007. A lot has changed since then -- from what I've heard, the convention has gotten even bigger than it was then (and it was hella big then, having outgrown Milwaukee a few years earlier).
One of my upcoming "Summon WebScryer" columns for Knights of the Dinner Table is going to be on geek holidays, those annual events of keen interest to (and usually created by) geeks. Knowledge of these events is usually spread online, and they're frequently the subject of Facebook updates, Twitter tweets, and blog posts, not to mention more than a few podcasts. Here's my preliminary list ... what am I missing?
- Free Comic Book Day: Free comics books from Marvel, DC Comics, Dark Horse, Archie and others.
- Free RPG Day: Free role-playing games from major and minor publishers.
- Read an RPG Book in Public Week: Promote role-playing game awareness by reading an RPG book in public.
- Game Master's Day: Reward your GM for all the work he or she does in running your campaign.
- National Novel Writing Month: Write a 50,000 page novel in one month.
- Game Chef: Craft a role-playing game on a given subject in one month.
One of my favorite parts of hitting the big gaming conventions is spending a few hours (or rather, a few days) browsing and shopping in the exhibit hall. Origins 2009 was no different, and while I'm happy to say I didn't break the bank, I did come back with a goodly pile of product purchased at the show.
I didn't go into the show expecting to pick up any Savage Worlds books, as our Weird Pulp campaign never really got off the ground, and we haven't played the game in months. But then I went to the Studio 2 booth, and found the brand new Fantasy Companion supplement for Savage Worlds. Published in the same folio format as the Savage Worlds: Explorers Edition, this book repackages the fantasy species information from the previous hardcover release of the game and folds in a bunch of edges, magic items, and monsters from the various fantasy toolkit PDFs.
I like PDFs, but I'd been hoping that Pinnacle would release the toolkits in a dead tree edition. when I saw the Fantasy Companion on the shelf, I instantly picked it up.
The whirlwind of gaming known as Origins 2009 has come and gone. I had little time bask in the gaming afterglow; after I left the con I flew directly to Vermont to meet with my family so we could spend a week on an island on Lake Champlain.
Going from 24 hour gaming to an island with no indoor plumbing, no net access, and minimal power was a huge shift, but at least the lake does have a wandering monster...
So how was Origins? Good. Great even. It didn't have the same maniac energy that GenCon has, nor did it have the same crush of people all trying to get somewhere at the same time. All of the events were in the convention center, which made navigating the con far, far easier than GenCon.
Going into Origins I'd heard that it had a great gamer vibe -- meaning it was a place that people went to play games, rather than being more of an event-style, vendor-oriented show like GenCon. After going, I can agree with that sentiment. It's a gamer's con, with a heavy focus on board, card and miniature games. Indeed, while there was a serious RPG contingent, they didn't have the same sort of sprawling setup that they have at GenCon.
Saturday began with the North Market waffles that my friend Cory and I had been craving all week. Strawberries and cream topped waffled cosumed, I headed to my Spirit of the Century game.
The game was run by David Moore (@vandermore) of The Gamemaster Show and included Mur Lafferty, Chris Miller of The Secret Lair podcast, and a host of friends from Twitter and Balticon. We spent the last few weeks creating our characters online - which was one of the best character creation sessions I've been in - and it was a blast to finally get to see them in action.
We each created 1920s, pulp versions of ourselves, recast as fictional characters. Drawing on my time as a newspaper reporter, I created Clayton Berkshire aka Clayton Jones aka The Constant Sentinel. He was a world famous reporter for the London Times who covered the Great War as a stringer and was so horrified by what he saw that he created the secret identity of the Sentinel.
My day started withthe uneven Star Wars event, Betrayal of Darth Revan. Uneven partly because of poor dice rolls and incompetence on our part, and poor adventure design on the part of it's RPGA authors. It has too many encounters, and they didn't obey Order 66's The List, specifically the Rule of Six, which advocates making sure you have good terrain, and diverse opponents spread out to take advantage of said terrain. Perhaps the Order 66 community could take on rebuilding the problem encounters.
After stopping by the exhibit hall to pick up Six-siders and Spaceships, and taking some time to drool over starship minis, I headed to my second Star Wars game of the day: The Death of the Star of Agnor. In this New Republic era game I played a force wizard Jedi named Kava Starshade on a diplomatic mission.
The Star Wars game was sponsored by d20 Radio, the folks behind the Order 66 podcast. It was a good game, involving a pirate attack on a star cruiser. I played the Jedi as a diplomatic, somewhat pacifistic character, using his powers to nullify threats rather than kill them.
I ended the day hanging out with friends David Moore (@vandermore) and half the crew from our Saturday morning Spirit of the Century game). We put the finish touches on our characters and broke out a new game: Traitor.
The big difference between going to a big con before and after having kids is that before your sleep deprived when leaving the con, after kids, you're sleep deprived from day one.
I woke up Thursday looking forward to gaming, but nursing a headache from too little sleep and too much beer. Nothing a lot of coffee couldn't fix though. We headed north for coffee and free wifi at Cup o'Joe. Great coffee but unfortunately the wireless network wouldn't work with our iPod touches.
Coffee in hand and headache tamed, three of the Blackrazors headed to Hackmaster Basic tutorial session.
The first stop on Day 2 was the convention hall and customer service to get a refund on one of my Thursday events, which freed up my afternoon to wander the exhibit hall.
My first event was Hackmaster Basic, which was an introductory event. It got off to a slow start - our table leader was still learning the rules himself, and we had several false starts. That said, character creation was a fun mix of random rolls and point building, and once we were done we got to run thriuh a scenario with one of the games designers. It's very crunchy, but I'm looking forward to my own group's playtest.