Aug. 9th, 2010

theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
Man, what a weekend!

The flights up were pretty awful.  Just as we pulled away from the gate in Houston, the pilot came on and announced they'd been issued a "ground hold" from Chicago.  They DID take the plane back to the gate, so it wasn't one of those nightmare scenarios, but we were on the ground for an extra hour before we ever got going.

Since we had almost two hours of layover ahead of us in Chicago, this wasn't too awful a prospect, just boring.  However, when we landed at Midway, we had to wait another half hour on the taxiway waiting for our gate to clear.  This left us with a very short window to traverse the airport and grab some food.  It was rather nerve-wracking.

So, of course, our flight from Midway to Indy turned out to be delayed for about forty five minutes.

Fortunately, our roommates had gotten in earlier and had already gotten the hotel sorted, so we just had to turn up and get our stuff. Last year, the guys I was with were staying way on the outskirts of Indy and we had to rent a car.  This year, we were across the street at the Marriott and could get to the Convention Center without even going outside.  Which was a good thing on Wednesday, as Indiana was in the grips of a major heatwave.  The temps were in the high nineties and with the massive humidity, the heat index was around 106, only three less than Houstopolis.  It was like we'd never left home.

We picked up our swag bags and gawked at the MASSIVE Will-Call line.  Last year, on Wednesday, the Will-Call was about a five minute wait.  This year, it was nearly an hour.  I don't know if it was due to more folks pre-registering, or more folks choosing Will-Call instead of having their badges shipped to them, or more folks showing up on Wednesday, but whatever it was, it made me glad to have paid a few bucks extra to get our badges FedEx'ed to us early.

After a couple of our other Houston friends got their badges, we met a friend of ours from RPGnet (where he goes by Metallian) for dinner at Scotty's Brew Pub.  Like a lot of local businesses, Scotty's goes in for Gen Con in a major way.  There were gaming posters all over the place, "Galaxy Quest" was playing on the TVs, and they had a special Gen Con menu inspired by Castles & Crusades.  The food was good as was the beer (or so I'm told: I didn't drink on Wednesday, so as to try to avoid potential migraine triggers).  I ran into a couple more friends, and one of the Houston bunch became the first person to defeat Scotty's 24 oz burger challenge.  H-Town represent!

Thursday morning, I was like a kid at Xmas.  I woke up at 5 AM (which, according to my body clock was 4 AM) and didn't get back to sleep.  The next five hours were an agony of anticipation, waiting for the Exhibitors' Hall to open.  My roomie J had a six-hour 2nd Edition Gamma World game first thing, Jane (my wife) took his wife (Miss A) with us for her first exposure to Geek Prom.  The ladies very kindly humored me as I checked a few things off my "must buy" list.  First and foremost was DC Adventures, from Green Ronin.  Yes, I've already got a copy on pre-order AND I bought the cheap PDF and bound it out.  But to have a copy in hand at the convention?  I imagine that's how Gary wanted us to experience Gen Con.  Or something.  Mostly, I knew if I got one in Indy, I could get Steve Kenson to sign it for me, so I happily grabbed one.

I spent the next couple of hours shopping, exploring, and taking it all in.  The ladies went off to a Middle Eastern Dance class (One of the really cool things about Gen Con is that they know they draw families and they know that not everyone attending is a gamer, so they put together an entire non-gaming tracks with dance classes and craft seminars and the like).  For Jane, who's a very good dancer who studies with some very well-regarded teachers, it was a nice chance to work on her fundamentals and meet some new dancers.  For Miss A, it was her first crack at something she's wanted to try for a while.  After, we grabbed some lunch, did some more shopping, and then returned to our room to chill out for a while.

This set the pattern for the next few days, where we'd hit the dealers' area in the morning, and relax in the afternoon until dinner time.  Compared to last year's schedule, where I was pretty much in the Convention Center (or immediate vicinity) from 9 AM to 1 AM, this was a welcome change.  Jane had another class in the evening and dinner was PF Chang's for just the two of us.

Friday was more of the same, with a bit less buying things a lot more running into folks I know "From the Internetz."  We stood in line so I could meet Wil Wheaton, who was entirely cool.  I told him that a blog post he made some years ago about running "Orc and Pie" for his son got me off my butt about gaming with my son, which he thought was awesome.  This segued into talking about our "Dads and Kids" 4e game, which was further endorsed.  In fact, I found myself talking about that game quite a bit over the weekend, and a number of people were really excited by it.

Dinner on Friday was Indian with Gareth Skarka's clan, along with Jason L Blair and TS Luikart, another couple of Imaginary Internetz Friends.  Here, I discovered two things: 1) Indianapolis-level spicy is not Texas-level spicy, even with Indian food; 2) If you're looking for a quiet dinner at Gen Con and don't want to wait for a table, Indian is very definitely the way to go.  Even if it wasn't as hot as I'd wanted, the food was still quite good and the company even more so.

(Amusing dinner conversation moment:  Gareth was telling about how his teenaged daughter M had played D&D for the first time ever. She'd already been a bit taken aback already to learn that her "hermit" work-at-home dad is actually a Pretty Big Deal in the gaming industry.  During the game, she texted him, asking if he knew the DM.  Before he could reply, she wrote back, "You do!  He looked at my name badge and said 'OMG! GMS!'  And everyone at the table knows who you are!"  Of course, that would have been funny in and of itself, but at that precise moment, a friend of mine replied to an LJ post where I mentioned going out to dinner with Gareth, saying "Heh! We gamed with Gareth's very nice daughter this afternoon."  Small world.)

Saturday, I made a point to track down Dan Houser, the artist who illustrated "Sins of the Past."  He wasn't in the main dealers' area, so that involved a trek over to the Anime Hotel.  I had a nice visit, met his new artistic partner, and discussed upcoming projects.  Then it was time for me to actually get in some gaming!  I know, who goes to Gen Con to game?

First up was a one-hour DC Adventures demo.  Granted, I'd already bought the game and was a fan of the system, but honestly, how often does one get to play a superhero game with Steve Kenson GMing?  I played Batman, and while I suffered from some very mediocre rolls early on, I managed an amazing Intimidation check and pulled off a spectacular rescue of Nightwing at the end.

Following that was a Day After Ragnarok (Savage Worlds) game run by Jeb, a friend of mine from Austin.  Yes, it's ironic that we have to travel a thousand miles or so in order to play in the same game.  Jeb had recruited various folks he knows online, and it was a bit of an all-star lineup, consisting of RPG reviewer C. W. Richeson, and game designers Rob Heinsoo, Logan Bonner, and Jesse Scoble.  For about ten seconds, I had a "What am I doing with these guys?" moment before my rational mind kicked in and reminded me that we're all gamers, and I probably had a decade at the table on couple of them.  It was a fun session: we were members of the Texas army charged with determining the status of some large naval guns that had been on Galveston island before the Serpentwave devastated the area.  We did a fair bit of recon and quite a bit of shooting.  I think the ending pretty well defined the term "Pyrrhic Victory" (the bad guys committed a mass murder/suicide when it was clear we were winning), but it's a dark setting, so that was OK.

After the game, I met up with Jane and we stopped by the RPGnet meet and greet.  It was cool putting faces to user names, and chatting briefly with one of the group who'd come all the way from Greece.  After the meet-up, we had a quick dinner with Jeb and mutual friend Jason Durall, followed by a return to the hotel, where we watched "Shark Week" in hi-def and finished off some beer we'd bought earlier in the weekend.

We had an early flight on Sunday, so that was it for us.  Another three hours in the air (with a couple at airports) and we were back in Houston.  But we're already making plans for next year.

Next:  The Stuff I Bought


theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
Two months ago, I hadn't planned on doing much shopping at Gen Con this time around. I hadn't been able to save up for it like I did last year, but I'd come to term with that. Also, a number of things I might have been waiting to purchase there (like The Dresden Files) were available earlier this year via pre-order, so I already either had them or had them on order. Then, at the end of June, my boss took me aside and informed me I was getting an enormous bonus for work I did back at the first of the year. It amounted to an entire paycheck's worth of wages. At this point, shopping was most definitely ON.

Even so, I used SOME discretion. But it meant I could pick up a few things that won't be in stores for a month or so and put the money directly in the pockets of those who produce the products. Since a lot of those folks are friends of mine, I consider this a good policy. If it means I buy some things from HERO Games because I like the HERO guys, even if I'm pretty well burned out on their game system, so be it. It also gave me the freedom to grab things I hadn't heard about before the con that caught my eye.

Here's the entire list of my purchases, with a few notes:

DC Adventures:  I've already pre-ordered it and have the PDF, but this way I got a signed copy.  It's lovely. I love it.  The hero and villain books will contain over 600 characters.  Awesome!

Champions Universe and Champions Powers: Neither of these is immediately applicable to my gaming. But the UNTIL Superpowers Database was one of the best supplements for 5th Edition and CP is the new version of that for 6th. I bought CU because I like Steve and Darren and I enjoy reading campaign backgrounds.

Basic Action Superheroes! Ultimate Edition: I already own this in PDF, but I wanted a print copy. BASH! is looking to become one of my go-to superhero systems, so having an extra copy to loan out is a Good Thing.

Legends of Anglerre: I'm still more sold on the FATE system in theory than in practice. But there's something to be said for a big and meaty (400 page) done-in-one fantasy game book, especially one flavored with that particularly mad and wonkers style of fantasy particular to the British in the late 70s and early 80s. Also, I love Cubicle 7 (the publishers) to death. Maybe it's their posh English accents. Or maybe it's because they've gone from nowhere to become "The Good Mongoose." Or maybe it's because they publish ICONS, which gives me a tenuous connection to them. Whatever it is, I like them and it's a cool book.

A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Pocket Edition and A Song of Ice and Fire Campaign Guide: I love George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. I already had the SIFRP book, but the Pocket Edition is more portable and has all the errata incorporated. Just in case, you know, I actually ever somehow manage to convince someone to play it with me. Hope springs eternal, even if winter is coming.

Dark Sun Campaign Setting, Dark Sun Creature Catalog, and Tomb of Horrors: My requisite WoTC purchases. Because I'm enough of a D&Der that I feel honor-bound to buy something from them every year. I did notice a couple of sort of disturbing things though: First, Wizards was only selling these three books (and t-shirts) at Gen Con; if you wanted something else, they had a list of retailers in the Exhibitors' Hall who were selling them. Also, the Dark Sun stuff was limited to 100 copies of each per day. I had no trouble getting mine and only had to wait about five minutes to do so. Given some other rumors that were floating around about relative sales of Pathfinder vs 4e products, and I wonder if the great 4th Edition experiment is ever going to pay off.

I also bought two of the t-shirts, one for me and one for my son. Because we're dorky like that.

The Smallville RPG: The buzz on this one really took off in the weeks before Gen Con. It's a very different sort of RPG, one aimed at handling stories where interpersonal relationships are the most important factors. So, instead of being rated for Strength or Brains or whatever, characters have stats like Truth, Justice, Love, etc. It's a fascinating idea, one that I think would work extremely well for a play by post game. I also got a copy of the Leverage Quick Start for picking it up. It uses the same system, but with more conventional stats and a clever plot editing mechanism to reflect the "Caper" style of the series. Between the two, they show some remarkable innovation coming from a publisher I'd previously dismissed as just grinding out potentially lucrative licensed games.

Progenitor: This is another one of Greg Stolze's amazing settings for Wild Talents, a game that seems built specifically to handle the maddest of the mad, beautiful ideas of superhero gaming. It's massive (400 pages) and just the little bits I've read are incredible. It's one of those things I don't necessarily want to play, but I want to devour so I can absorb its knowledge and become a better gamer/writer for it.

All for One, Regime Diabolique: Another reason I love Cubicle 7 so damned much. The elevator pitch version of this is "Musketeers vs the Devil." Either that sells you or it doesn't, but it sold me in a big way. So much so that I simply picked it up without even opening the cover. It was only after I started looking through it at the hotel that I realized it uses the Ubiquity System (the same as Hollow Earth Expedition), so I already basically know how to play it. I knew nothing of the game before the show, so it counts as my big surprise of the convention.  If I don't end up running it at Owlcon next year, I'll be surprised.

PS-238 #42:  My comic store never orders enough copies of this comic and I was missing the issue.  Aaron Williams autographed it for me.

Knights of the Dinner Table:  If my comic store never orders enough PS-238, I'm convinced they order no copies at all of KoDT.  I caught up on six months worth of missing issues, the new "Bag Wars" collection, and went ahead and subscribed for the next six months.

Wil Wheaton, Games Matter - A Sampler of Writing About Games, For Gen Con Indy 2010: Just what it says on the label, a chapbook of game anecdotes and stories from the Ur-Geek's blog.  Good stuff, and it was a pleasure meeting him.

So, that's it.  I seriously considered picking up Fantasy Flight's Battles of Westeros set for Battlelore (along with the House Lannister expansion), but that would have made packing to go home virtually impossible.  Also, no one will play it with me and it would just become another expensive unplayed board game on my shelf.

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theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
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