Gen Con Memories

I gamed some as a kid, but never got to the level where I went to Gen Con.  I broached the subject with my dad once when I was in high school, IIRC, and he was not at all about that, so pretty much it faded from mind, along with all gaming, in college.

But later on, when I had picked up gaming again, I decided to go.  I went to four in Milwaukee (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001), and then once for just a couple days to one in Indy  in 2003.  Since then none; being a single dad has crimped my “wander off for a week” opportunities.  I tried to get some guys here interested in 2008 for the D&D 4e launch; in retrospect I guess it’s good it didn’t happen as I would have been really pissed at paying about $1k to travel to a location to have WotC take a dump on my head.

Let’s see, checking my infinite email archives, here’s all my old Gen Con trip reports, if you care!  They’re in reverse chronological order.

Gen Con 2003 – First Time In Indy

This is the last year I went to Gen Con; it wasn’t as fun as the previous  years and I wasn’t there with any close buddies, which contributed.  And I had quit Living Greyhawk in disgust at how badly the RPGA runs things, so didn’t have duties to perform there.  But it was still decent.  Surprisingly, even with it being the most recent, I don’t remember a lot of it.

Had a lot of fun at the con.  Was only there for two days, so I didn’t get everything in I wanted to…

Game Highlights

  • Novus Ordo Saeclorum Cthulhu tournament, well staged and run, equivalent to the Cthulhu Masters tourneys I’ve played in the past.  The PCs were college kids on a “summer at sea” on a sailing vessel; we got shipwrecked on a tropical island, but it went from Castaway to Robinson Crusoe fast when the cannibals came – and got worse, Cthulhu style…
  • I played both Spycraft and d20 Modern…  I have both games, but actually getting to play them gives me a better ideas of their relative merits and flaws for a modern action game.  And taught me that if you play d20 Modern and don’t take the Improved Damage Threshold feat you’re an idiot.  (In d20 Modern, if you take damage equal or greater to your CON, you have to save or go to -1 hp immediately).  The Spycraft game flowed better and was more flavorful.  d20 Modern was OK but seemed to promote min-maxed specialization in a character rather than promoting a broader, more diverse character than Spycraft did.
  • Buffy!  I was in a very enjoyable Buffy game with a good GM and really good role-players.  The guy playing Xander had it down pat and the GM had written a perfectly Buffy-esque adventure.  This game is one of the few that truly generates a game session that emulates its source material well.
  • RPGA game mustering was even worse and more confusing that usual.  But that’s what I’ve come to expect from the RPGA.

Dealer Room Highlights

There wasn’t any single thing that was just huge this year.  Places with buzz were:
  • The Valar booth – makers of the “Book of Erotic Fantasy”, a sex supplement for D&D (coming in October). They had chainmail-clad babes out pulling in the masses…  They got a lot of press including spots on local TV out of the gig.  They had a 10-page preview of what will be a 192-page hardback.  The art was bondagey and naked, but other than that the contents weren’t as titillating as one might suspect – the sex part was prestige-class heavy (how many classes that use sex to power their abilities do you really need?) and segued quickly into childbirth issues and stuff like that.
  • Guardians of Order was selling their “dX” rulebook for $1 (normally $10); it describes their generic “dX system” based on Big Eyes, Small Mount and Silver Age Sentinels, and their licensing agreement (it’s not OGL…)  I got it and read it over, it’s fairly solid with only a couple questionable design decisions.
  • Mongoose Games had their new Babylon 5 RPG out, and had a large booth showing off their Judge Dredd, Slaine, and generic D&D lines…  They have gotten the Conan license and are coming out with that soon.  I bought and read their Slaine RPG (Celtic, based on a comic) and I was very impressed by its quality – most of their D&D stuff is shovelware.
Other than that, there weren’t many big releases.  Companies that were notable for having large Gen Con presences and big releases in previous years (PEG, Holistic) had calm booths with not much new.  No big release from White Wolf, either.  Wizards had D&D 3.5 but weren’t pushing it; it looked like they were getting ready to push D&D Miniatures but weren’t quite ready with them yet.  So they just pushed their standard assortment of card games.  Steve Jackson and Atlas had a combo booth, larger than usual, and though there wasn’t much fanfare they had a lot of small new products I hadn’t heard about, including a lot of new “Coriolis” entries (adventures dual-statted for d20 and Atlas games like Ars Magica, Unknown Armies, Rune, and Feng Shui).

City Highlights

Indianapolis was definitely an upgrade from Milwaukee for the con.  Huge convention center, with plenty of room.  The RPGA table area was never anywhere near full.  5 large hotels connected by skywalk to the convention center and a nearby mall.  Lots of nearby dining.  Hotels and parking weren’t all full up like they were in Milwaukee – and since it’s 15 minutes from the airport to the convention you could easily stay in the $40/night Motel 6 and commute rather than pay con hotel prices.
Overall, it was a fun Gen Con.  I have been to 3-4 before in Milwaukee, and usually get to stay all 4 days.  This was a quick stay, but it was definitely worth it.
Ah, my last Gen Con.  Hopefully not my last ever, but you never know.

Gen Con 2001 – Last Gasp In Milwaukee

This year, I was still working on Living Greyhawk so did a lot of RPGA/D&D 3e stuff; besides that, random games!  One of the best things about Gen Con, IMO, is the opportunity to play a bunch of games that you might not get to otherwise – even ones you have, but that you just can never get a group together, especially without you GMing.

I just got back from the con.  The things I saw and bought were:
  • Weird War II: Blood on the Rhine.  From Pinnacle of Deadlands fame, this d20 game is like Deadlands but WWII – were-Nazis, etc.  d20 writeups for a bunch of WWII equipment etc.  Very nice.  New classes etc.  As a Deadlands fan and Nazi smasher I like it.
  • Little Fears by Key 20 Publishing.  A horror game where you play little children, who are beset by horrific happenings and indifferent adults.  I love RP challenges and trying to really play a small child as a character is a cool thing.
  • Rune hardback by Atlas Games.  Designed by Robin Laws of Feng Shui fame, this game is all about being a screaming Viking warrior hacking at things and dying as bloodily as you lived.  I also got the first adventure, “Crouching Wizard, Smashing Hammer.”  The system was a little more complicated than I’d anticipated but it’s fun and tongue-in-cheek look at Viking life is worthwhile.
  • In Your Face Again,  an adventure collection for Feng Shui also by Atlas Games.  10 scenarios – haven’t read them yet but FS adventures are always the greatest.
  • Maiden Voyage, an Atlas d20 adventure for characters L1-3.  Ship-based!  We’re running a piratical D&D game at home so I couldn’t resist.  The interior is very pretty, largely by addition of another color (blue) to many of the illustrations.  And I’ve liked all the Atlas d20 scenarios so far.
  • Hell in Freeport, a d20 adventure by Green Ronin Publishing – the Freeport series is one of the best d20 adventure series to date, and the fourth in the series is a big 88-pager for characters L10-12!  And it is HARD core.  Terrify your players with this series.
  • Denizens of Vecheron, by Mayfair Games – this addition to the old Demons series of products has too many demon princes and not enough creatures, as the rest do, but I love the Demons series and am completing it out.  Your PCs have never been properly faced by the demonic legions unless you use these supplements.
That’s it.  Usually I get more.  I looked at a number of things I decided not to pick up.  There were some interesting d20 supplements, like the AEG “Evil” book, but they failed the content-to-price ratio.  As did the Vorox supplement for Fading Suns – I love the Vorox, but a quick flip through the book pretty much gave me all I’ll get out of the supplement, so why blow another $20?
Exalted is a big new launch by White Wolf; it’s about the time of the Nephilim (see Genesis) pretty much and seems very different from their WoD games and interesting and anime-inspired – but I looked through it and saw another turgidly huge WW world in there, and decided to pass.
The Living Greyhawk – Yeomanry meeting at Gen Con was well received, with about 30 attendees from our and other interested regions.  We fielded questions and did a “state of the Union” Yeomanry address summing up what we’ve done and where we’re going in the next year.

Gen Con 2000 – Living Greyhawk All The Way

This was my biggest Gen Con.  As a Regional Triad for the Yeomanry region of Living Greyhawk, I had a galley of 3e and was prepared to run new Greyhawk adventures with its launch at the con.  And our Memphis gaming group, the FORGE, turned out in force and we joined the actual D&D tournament and came in third!

My FORGE Trip Report

Gen Con was a lot of fun.  I ran 4 slots worth of the new 3rd Edition D&D, and one of Feng Shui (a Hong Kong action game).  I am happy to announce that the FORGE won 3rd place in the RPGA D&D Team event!  Myself, Mike Seagrave, Collin Davenport, Alan Black, Angie Overstreet, and Mike O’Keefe entered and kicked ass…  We advanced to the finals and beat out a lot of other teams.
The 3e and Living Greyhawk launch went great.  I hope all of you have your D&D 3e Player’s Handbook already (it’s in stores).  We’ll be running LG events at FORGE functions.
A more detailed report will be given at the FORGE meeting – but the con was good, and we saw a lot of people from Memphis there.  Tip & Debbie Vaught, who some of you may remember from the FORGE’s early days, were there.

My Living Greyhawk Trip Report

The con went great.  I had the honor of meeting both August and Denis face to face, as well as a bunch of other Southern Realms people.I ran a bunch of slots of the Living Greyhawk Special “The Reckoning.”  It’s good, consider running it in your areas.

All the players I had were jazzed about 3e and Living Greyhawk.  I only had one table that didn’t have a good time, and that was because they just *so* did not click as players…  But the e-famous Stephane Tanguay was there, so all wasn’t lost…

I also ran a fun game of Feng Shui, and my team got 3rd place in the D&D Team event – beaten out by Clan Yeoman, from up in Kentucky!  Congrats to those folks.  It doesn’t make me feel too bad to be beaten by fellow Yeomen!  I did get first in a Living Verge event though.  So my first all-RPGA con went well.

On the drive home to Memphis, our gaming group argued out a number of 3e house rules (yes, already)…

So the launch went great, all the LG events were super-overstuffed, and now there’s a herd of 2nd level Greyhawkers out there…  So be careful!

Gen Con 1999 – Alternity

I was a big Alternity fan back then, so I played a lot of that.  And other stuff, but that’s all I had notes on.  If my memory serves, I did some Living City (RPGA 2e D&D) and then as much “other” – Fading Suns, Call of Cthulhu Master’s Tournament, etc. – as I could.

Well, I just got back from Gen Con where I played in three of the four Alternity Living Verge events (missed the last one, darn it).  Some random observations:
  • The first adventure, Whirlwind Tour, was average.  Some crashing in a ship, some combat, some problem-solving – OK, not inspiring.  The second, You Can Pick Your Friends, sucked soooo hard.  The party is accosted by killer robots that look like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong.  It was really violent and deadly and was silly and pointless.  The third, whose name I forget (Busy Night?), was a very engaging murder mystery where the party had to solve a businessman’s demise – there was a very complex web of activities surrounding it.  It was cool and very realistic, the plot didn’t come by with laser pistols to urge you towards the pre-set resolution…
  • There were not enough Combat Specs.  I was one of two in most parties, and except for that third adventure they felt obligated to put in lots of shooting.  (Way too much in the Pac-Man adventure).
  • The people playing Werens were always real quiet for some reason.  And nonviolent.  Strange. There were lots of Mechalus.
  • It was pretty disorganized for a Living campaign – no certing or anything, and lots of people didn’t have characters ready.  I don’t mind that per se, but I worry that when they decide it’s needed those of us with experienced characters will get screwed (sorry, no documentation on those advancement points, you lose ’em).
  • It was fun though!  My Thuldan Warlion got to pound down a weren in a single combat round, one of his goals… ;-)
  • Fighting robots sucks.  We were attacked by these (ridiculous) combat robots that weren’t stunnable.  Lots of people choose stutter weapons etc. and basically we all nearly died.  Need to find a good anti-robot weapon.
  • The one time I was really worried was in the Busy Night when two of the characters were “Boss H’ass” and “Bar Bar Jinks”, both T’sa… Fortunately they were good roleplayers and tempered their antics very well.
I was in the Cthulhu Masters Tournament a couple years, so I’m not sure if it was this year – but I think it was, that there was an awesome postapocalyptic scenario.  CMT always got a room of its own and used props and semi-LARP techniques.  New York was half under water, and we went through its ruins into a computer room and used a decryption disk taken from a cultist who was telling us the stars were coming right… When the projected computer screen went from random encrypted Matrix-style gibberish to the bold, blinking words “UPLOAD SACRIFICE” I about shit myself.  The CMT always delivered, boy.

Gen Con 1998 – HK Action and Horror and Religion

My first Gen Con!  And I really enjoyed it.  Mainly I wanted to play Call of Cthulhu/Deadlands and Feng Shui/Hong Kong Action Theater types of games.  Also, I was publications director for the Christian Gamer’s Guild, so the trip report I found in my email focused on religious elements in gaming.  Avert your eyes if you’re one of those tarot-licking types that finds that scary or offensive.

Well, I just got back from Gen Con, and thought I’d give a report. The con was very enjoyable, and I was scheduled for an aggressive set of events.  I noticed that religious characters are becoming a standard set of people to include in any tournament scenario, which gives Christians a chance to show people a more realistic depiction of faith.  For example, here’s a list of some of the games I was in and religious characters included:
  1. Call of Cthulhu “Travelers in the Hebrides” – had one Dominican Inquisitor and one nun, was set in late 1500s.  I played a Dutch boat pilot who had been converted from Protestantism by threat of torture by the Spaniards.
  2. Feng Shui “The New Twilight Sanction” – was a kinda Ghostbusters-meets-HK action event.  It had a Catholic street preacher who works in the projects, played by yours truly.  He busted demons, preached Scripture, and teased the Indian character (“Did one of your six-armed gods tell you that?”).
  3. Deadlands “Everyone Loves Zombies” – had a pair of crazy nuns.  Nuns are great characters in Deadlands!  One was a lush though.
  4. Call of Cthulhu “Sandstorm at Rail’s End” – had a Baptist preacher, played a little tongue-in-cheek (“Sorry lord, I didn’t know she was a Presbyterian!”).
  5. Fading Suns “Demo” – had an Urth Orthodox (futuristic universalist Catholicism) priest.  And lots of Avestite (Inquisitor) NPCs.
  6. And of course all AD&D scenarios have a cleric in them.
Except for the Marvel Super Heroes game and the Hong Kong Action Theater games, everything I played in had some kind of religious figure, usually real-world Christianity-based.  That is an excellent opportunity for Christians playing in these games to demonstrate something besides being a “holy ass-kicker” (though that’s good too, don’t get me wrong).  Many people always play these characters as hypocritical or just silly, and it can be nice to show an alternative to that.
I got a couple religiously-oriented RPG supplements I hope to review for the e-zine: Fire & Brimstone for Deadlands, and Priests of the Celestial Sun for Fading Suns.  I won a supplement for “Providence” for my RPing in the Feng Shui game, not sure yet exactly what that game’s deal is.
The con was great, for those who are going next year I definitely recommend preregistering to the hilt to ensure everything goes according to plan.
Some other notes in retrospect-  the HKAT! “Burning City” game was just awesome.  We were all OCTB agents trying to stop Cthulhu cultists, and there was a great scene where we were taking Zodiac boats out to an island and everyone had geared up, and we went around to have everyone describe themselves.  They were all set up to be badass to the hilt – there was the guy in full riot gear with huge heavy weapons, the guy in the thousand dollar suit and sunglasses with all the automatics, the chick in a catsuit with two MP5s and throwing knives, etc; all totally uber.  My turn was last.  I was the lieutenant, so my description was, “He’s wearing tan Chinos and an OCTB windbreaker, and waves his snubnosed .38 with a pensive but determined look on his face.”  I got high fives.
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