stevekenson: (go-play)
So I find myself with one of those odd hours of time in between various chores and errands which should be nicely filled by writting a summary for my time at GenCon.

The con was just a massive whirlwind of activity this year. Seems like I hit the ground running and didn’t stop for the entire time. At least some of that is owed to both running DC Adventures demos for large portions of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and the brisk traffic and sales at our booth. I managed to talk myself hoarse by early on Sunday, and seem to have also caught the typical “con crud” cold as well, which will hopefully clear up quickly.

Thursday evening was the annual gaymers mailing list dinner at the Rock Bottom Brewery, as well-attended as ever by fourty-some list members. I mentioned to several that it would be nice to organize an additional get-together (we did a “club night” occasionally but it has fallen out of the mix in recent years) or something at a venue allowing for a bit more mingling than the restaurant.

Although I didn’t get to catch up with as many industry and hobby friends as I would have liked, I did get lunch with [livejournal.com profile] princeofcairo with the added bonus of [livejournal.com profile] anaka and a business meeting provided an opportunity to share time with [livejournal.com profile] robin_d_laws. I got to see [livejournal.com profile] lucien_soulban after a multi-year absence and, of course, spend some quality time with the rest of Team Ronin (whom I only get to see in person a few times a year).

My demo games seemed to go well and folks enjoyed themselves (or at least politely lied and said they did). My favorite demo moment involved a father accompanying his young son to play; the kid really wanted to play a villain, so I had his hero get mind controlled so he could fight the other good guys like he wanted. I signed a lot of DC Hero’s Handbooks and a fair number of copies of ICONS as well.

One ICONS game at the con portrayed me as possessed by a mad cosmic entity called “The Rules Lawyer” — I’m glad the Conventioneers were able to save me from such a terrible fate! (I’ve always preferred to think of myself as more of a “Rules Rabbi” — a rules lawyer who uses his powers of interpretation only for illumination and the good of all.) My other favorite ICONS moment was the father telling me about playing the game with his eight year-old son, who rolled up a hero with Precognition and Weather Control, thus creating “The Forecaster”! And so my desire to build a random-roll hero creation system was justified...

The ENWorld Awards were a huge success for Paizo Publishing and fellow Ronin [livejournal.com profile] righteousfist, whose Atomic Overmind Press took home two awards. I may be in the odd position of having two (if not three) superhero RPGs eligable for next year (DC, M&M 3E, and ICONS).

Some of my game-gets of the show include Smallville from Margaret Weis Productions and Season Two of Cartoon Action Hour. I also picked up the Red Sands Savage Worlds edition of Space: 1889, which may well become my next campaign to run. I was a fan of the original setting, and the campaign in the book looks like fun. Chances are good I’ll modify it a bit with the addition of some “psychic” Arcane Backgrounds and the inclusion of some Golden Dawn and Society of Psychical Research (founded in 1888 and 1882, respectively) pulp goodness alongside the other Victoriana. A possible connection with Tesla’s contemporaneous work in wireless transmissions? We’ll see. I’m thinking the copy of Realms of Cthulhu I also got at the con may provide some useful bits to borrow by way of ritual power use.

My only real regret of the show is still not getting to meet Wil Wheaton. Apparently, whenever he stopped by our booth I managed to either be out or in the midst of a demo game. Wil, if you read this, I’m a big fan and hope you had a fantastic time at the con!

There’s much more, of course, but my hour is up and the day’s errands call. Still, tired and congested as I am (thanks to the annual post-con cold) I’m already looking forward to next year!
stevekenson: (go-play)
Since I’ve apparently got this head-cold to remember it by, I figure now’s as good a time as any to jot down some recollections from this year’s Gen Con.

This is particularly important, since this year was my 20th Gen Con: I started attending with Gen Con/Origins in Milwaukee in 1988. I skipped ‘89 (unfortunate, as it was the year two favorite games — Shadowrun and Champions, 4th edition — premiered), but I’ve been every year since 1990. Next year will be my 20th Gen Con in a row.

Ice and Fire: Naturally much of my time was spent, as it has been in recent years, with my fellow Green Ronin. Our booth was bigger and even livelier this year and sales overall were pretty brisk, particularly on Sunday when we marked remaining books down 30%. Mecha & Manga and Pocket Ultimate Power for M&M moved well, but the real star was A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, which flew off the racks, along with the Narrator’s Kit and its first adventure Peril at King’s Landing. Part of this was no doubt thanks to SIFRP Developer Jim Kiley’s tireless demos at the booth.

Into the Shadows... Again: As a change of pace for me, this Gen Con also featured a non-GR project, the 20th anniversary edition of Seattle 2072, written by me with fiction vingettes from across the Shadowrun freelance spectrum; not that you’d know this, of course, since a printer’s error left the credits page of the pre-release copies at Catalyst Game Labs booth blank. Whenever asked to sign a copy, I wrote in: “I wrote this ... really!” (or words to that effect). In spite of that, it’s a great looking book thanks to another brilliant graphic design job from Catalyst stalwart Adam Jury (who also pulled double-duty on development).

Dark Future, Past Prologue: Speaking of Shadowrun, man, did the 20th anniversary of a game that I not only played the hell out of back in the day, but also got me my start in the RPG biz, make me feel old. I’d gotten myself reacquainted with recent “events” in the Sixth World for Seattle 2072, but it was still weird talking about events in the game that are now 10-15 years old, much less hearing anybody else talk about them.

Elusive Dawn: My one failed acquisition of the show was a copy of the new edition of Earthdawn, which looked quite nice. Since it incorporates a lot of my prior work on the line for FASA, I was interested in getting a copy. Unfortunately, the current edition comes in four rather large hardcover volumes and the folks at the Mongoose Publishing booth informed me only one person from Red Brick (the game’s current publisher) was at the show, and I never managed to see or speak with him. Probably for the best, since my haul only just fit into one of our empty shipping cases as it was for the trip home via UPS.

Beware the Gate: Eight players. 21st level characters. A late night, and a bottle of brandy. Rob “Dr. Evil” Schwalb ran an epic-level D&D game for us on Thursday night. I think I won for “most obscure character” with my Kalashtar invoker. It was a fun game, serving largely to remind us that, whatever the game or system, tabletop RPGs are primarily an opportunity to sit around a table with your friends, laugh, and have fun. Plus it spawned the idea of designing a mini-game you can play during the 15-20 minutes you spend waiting for your next turn in such a large and complex game...

+5 Fabulousness: Thanks to our local host Brian (who has volunteered to make reservations year after year), we had our annual “gaymers dinner” at the Rock Bottom Brewery. I got to experience the center of the Venn diagram that is the gamer-gay-pagan crossover (and the closely-related gay-gamer-comic geek crossover). It was a great opportunity to see good friends from past years and meet new ones. I also enjoyed a visit from two guys who are assuredly the founders of the “Johnny Rocket Fan-Club” (from Freedom City) and looking to find Freedom’s super-speedster a boyfriend. Lots of potential there. After all, what’s a long distance relationship to a guy that fast?

Sweatin’ to the ENnies: GR took home two EN World Awards this year for A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying: gold for Best Free Product (for the Quickstart) and Silver for Best Rules (thanks to Rob Schwalb’s excellent design). I also got a special “award” in the form of host and co-emcee Denise Robinson pointing out that the venue for the awards this year had air conditioning, thus preventing everyone from having to see the damp spots left by my terrible flopsweat. (I’ll note for the record, as I did in accepting the Gold ENnie for SIFRP Quickstart, that I wore an undershirt this year to avoid a repeat of just such a problem ... thanks, Denise, for reminding us all of those good times...).

More Tapas, Please: A GR Gen Con tradition is a fine meal Sunday night after teardown. This year Nicole guided us to Barcelona Tapas, which was lovely, and we were smart enough to let her do the order, which worked out well for all concerned. Ironically, their “best sangria in Indianapolis” was the most disappointing thing I tried, until I realized just how low they had set the bar in their claim. The various cheeses, on the other hand, were fantastic, and the carmel espresso flan was sublime.

Those are merely the highlights, of course, of a whirlwind five or so days. The biggest and best thing about Gen Con, however, is the opportunity to interact with gamers playing and enjoying the games that they love ... that we love. For most of the year we industry folk are chained to our word processors and drafting tables, so events like these are a wonderful opportunity to recharge the creative batteries and enjoy a few days of camaraderie with our fellow games, both in the hobby and in the wider profession, making it, indeed, “The Best Four Days in Gaming!”

Still, I could do without the “con crud” afterwards...
stevekenson: (go-play)
Such as it was, anyway. I actually came away from GenCon with a few more things than I’d planned, including:

• My personal copy of Wild Cards for M&M (YAY!)
• A [livejournal.com profile] princeofcairo double-play of Tour de Lovecraft and Trail of Cthulhu.
• An ORE (One-Roll Engine) double-play of Wild Talents (the “Essential (Second) Edition”) and Greg Stolze’s A Dirty World noir game.
GURPS Mysteries, which I’d been meaning to pick up for a while.
• Benjamin Baugh’s Don’t Lose Your Mind supplement to Don’t Rest Your Head.
Godsend Agenda for M&M Superlink.
Unwired and The Runner’s Companion for Shadowrun (as I continue to get caught up on the fourth edition).
• The Harrow deck for Paizo’s Pathfinder (A Tarot based on the six D&D ability scores and nine alignments? Sold!).
Vs. Outlaws (the world’s smallest Wild West RPG) from [livejournal.com profile] philreed.

It’s a fair amount of reading to do (the stuff I didn’t read on planes and in airports, that is). I’m looking forward to it!
It’s inevitable, it always seems to snow in NH right around my brother’s birthday (which is Friday, by the way). This year, I’d hoped we’d gotten it in under the wire: the weather was warming, the mounds of snow from the last big storm were all but gone... but no. It’s snowing outside like crazy and there’s a winter storm warning for the county until early tomorrow morning, by which time we’re expected to get from 4 to 8 inches, mixed with sleet and freezing rain. I’m so ready for Spring, too... ::sigh::

Dunno if this is going to cancel tonight’s Eberron game or not. Most of the group lives within 5-10 minutes of each other in Milford. I live the second farthest away in neighboring Merrimack (about 25 minutes via the back roads). Not knowing how the roads are going to be, especially by the time we’re done around 10:00 or so, I’m inclined to put it off until next week in hopes actual Spring will come after David’s birthday as usual. We’ll see what folks think.
stevekenson: (go-play)
Let me tell you, playing Munchkin with five decks (basic, Muchkin Bites, Munchkin Fu, Super Munchkin, and Muchkin Blender) takes a long time: three and a half hours for one game with six players. I had the same experience with a marathon all-decks Munchkin game at GenCon a couple years ago that went until around 3 AM (lasting nearly five hours).

The thing in both cases was, no matter how much the game wore on or how tired (or drunk, in the latter case) anyone got, nobody was willing to let the game end if it meant someone else winning, and everyone stayed in so long as there was a chance to screw with the other players.

Well done, Steve Jackson Games. Muchkin captures its genre perfectly. Mission accomplished.

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July 2011

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