Friday, August 12, 2011

The Tale of Gencon 2011 -- Part the Second

My morning game is “Leopard Women of Venus.” You may have heard me mention this game once or twice or thirty times in the past. I have six players, seven pre-gen characters, and no one chose to play the eponymous Leopard Woman. This isn't a problem, but it is surprising. Come to think of it, this might have been the game that Revmindi played in. It's all kind of a blur. Anyway, that game went off pretty smooth, too, and included an awesome off-screen battle between a brigade of Leopard Women and a Lovecraftian Cthonic Thing. All this time, I am also hearing amazing things happen over at Steve's “All Stars” game and Ian's “Happilyeverafter” table.

It's now 2PM and Leighton “Laser Ponies” Connor frantically bustles into the con, just in time to run his “Mythic Action League” game. I wanted to sit in on his game, but he's got a full table and a limited number of pregens, so I decide to leave him to it. Instead I go tot he dealers' room. I've got several hours to kill and it's one of the few times I'll be able to go by myself and not worry about boring people as I narrowly scrutinize obscure indie-games.

I already picked up Cosmic Patrol on Thursday for Blindgeek. Today I'm determined to look at The One Ring, the new Lord of the Rings RPG from Cubicle 7. I wasn't sure of this was the game for me, but after talking to the designer for about 15 or 20 minutes, I gladly shell out the 60 bucks for the beautiful slipcased set. If I get up the gumption, I'll write a full review of the game later. I also ventured over tot he Indie Press Revolution booth. After dithering on whether or not to pick up Dungeon World (an Apocalypse World hack for elf & dwarf fantasy) I pick up the Fiasco companion instead. The guy at the IPR booth was also kind enough to direct me to the “Games on Demand” room where they're running a lot of indie games. That's my next stop.

The Games on Demand room is alllllll the way on the other side of the con in Union Station, but I have time, so I make the march. It turns out the Games on Demand area isn't as “on demand” as I imagined. In my head, I pictured a bug room where occasionally someone would stand up on a table and shout “Hey, who wants to play Dogs in the Vineyard over here?” No, in fact the room is quite organized, with scheduled slots and a rotating roster of games. All the tables are full and nothings starting for another 90 minutes or so. Oh well. I return to the JW Marriot and the Hex Games room where I plop down and browse The One Ring until 7 o'clock.

At 7, Steve, Leighton, and I have a three hour block of seminars to run. Our first is “Sword & Sorcery: You're Doing it Wrong,” which was well attended. I feel like I contributed to it well, even if I inadvertantly shilled a few non-Hex games. This marketing thing isn't a strong suit for me. Anyway, it was a fun panel and I think we did well to demonstrate the Sword & Sorcery beats the shit out of wimpy little High Fantasy. After that was “Unconventional Characters, Unconventional Worlds,” which was also a packed room. I don't remember a lot about this seminar, and I don't thikn I had much to contribute other than pointing out that “a human Fighter with a longsword and medium shield is actually pretty unconventional these days.” Our last seminar was “Hobos: the New Pirates?” where we hook up once more with Ian. I went in thinking I didn't know a lot about hobos, but apparently I've picked up a lot by osmosis. The last half-hour was pretty much a solid pitch session for Hobomancer. I can confidently say that magical hobos saving the soul of America is a concept that people can get behind!

Also, I have repeatedly made fun of Leighton for using the world “zeitgeist” in the seminars. It's a fine word, but I think he uses it more than is tasteful.

After the seminars, we're all delirious with hunger, so we retire to Denny's then back to the hotel room. As is custom, our conversation devolves into the “late-night bantering of stupid ideas that turn out to be awesome.” It was Laser Ponies in the past. This time it's Jesus Hobo Christ. Imagine an alternate history where the Roman Empire invents steam power and hooks up the empire with rail roads. Jesus and pals are hobos, traveling the rails, helping people and fighting evil. A greta idea, and Jesus comes out of it looking pretty good. Win!

Saturday morning comes pretty quickly. We load up on breakfast then jam back to town for our 10 AM games. I sit in on Leighton's Hobomancer game (“The Man Who Hated Freedom”). I'm the ringer, since he has nothing prepared and needs me to bounce ideas off of. It's also “SLU Saturday” and Rob is running three Sex, Lies & Ultrapsies games today. I can only assume that he's crazy. At noon, Mark runs “QAGS in a Bag,” his signature game. I talked to some of Mark's players later that day, and they had a blast. Mark says it was the best QAGS game he'd ever run.

My Hobomancer game starts at 2 PM, and I'm excited. I've never run Hobomancer before, and I think I have a great adventure planned. Most of the players at my table are all people who played in Ian's games this weekend, and they seem like great players. I am not disappointed. They all have solid character ideas, they riff off each other with great skill, and the game goes off without a hitch. There's a train-tunnel to Hell, an evil hoodoo man, a magic marker with cartoon powers, a song-and-dance number, and a couple large explosions. Huzzah!

It's now time for dinner, and the Hex Crew heads off tot he Ram brewery. I guzzle a 24 ounce mug of Ragnar's Fury on an empty stomach. This may have been a bad idea. I fill that stomach with a wonderful swiss & shroom burger and another 24 oz beer—Black Pirate Ghost Ale or somesuch. This puts me in a pretty good mood to go to the Gamers Media Meet & Greet.

I've been looking forward to the Meet & Greet all weekend, a get together for RPG bloggers and podcasters. The event is held at “The House” a bar in the basement of Union Station. More beer for Josh. This might be a bad idea.

It's actually not as bad as that. I get a bit happy, but just enough to overcome my normally crippling shyness (it's not like Archon!). I get a chance to chat with Thunderstep, another fan of Monkeys Took My Jetpack and QAGS. We kibitzed about games and Warcraft for a good long tim e befor ehe needs to skip off to another event. Good guy. I also got to talk to one of Leightons “Mythic League” players who happens to be a puppeteer. Everyone knows I love puppets. I also-also finally get to meet Mark Kinney and the rest of the “All Games Considered” cast. Our podcasts only have one degree of seperation, and it was neat to finally be able to meet and talk to them in person. I also spend some time chatting with the guys from the Undergopher podcast. They played in Mark's QAGS in a Bag game and confirm that yes, indeed, the adventure was awesome. Big fun all around! I head out after a couple of hours and hook back up with the Hex Gang.

Sunday morning comes, and it's my last day at Gencon. Mark Kinney and I had decided to try and get a morning Fiasco game together, but outrageous fortune conspired against these plans and the game falls through. Still, I get a chance to talk with Mark some more ina quieter setting, and that's pretty cool.

My voice is pretty shot at this time, so sitting in on any other QAGS games is pretty much out of the question (might be just as well that Fiasco tanked). Steve is running “Six Gun Seven” and Leighton is running “Leopard Women.” It looks like both of them are going off quite well. Instead, I make one finally walk-thru of the Dealers' room where I find a just-released leela action figure (Doctor Who, not Futurama), a copy of Scott McCloud's “Creating Comics,” and a box of gorilla miniatures wearing battle armor.

And this, my Gencon ends. I eventually meet up with the guys I drove up with and get ready to leave. Hopefully I can get together with the rest of the Hexers pretty soon, either for Hexcon or Archon. I need to hang out with them more.


Game wise, Gencon wasn't really lot different for me than Origins. But I got more networking done, and Gencon is certainly the wiser business choice.

All the Hex games were held in room 207 of the JW Marriott. I barely left this room for most of the con.

Because all our games were so physically close to each other, and because QAGS gamers are a notoriously noisy breed, recording any of my games was out of the question.

Raising Gencon money by doing character sketch commissions was a great idea. Thanks again to all that helped!

I will certainly be at Gencon next year!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Tale of Gencon 2011 -- Part the First.

It's taken a couple of days to process everything, but I'm finally in a mind to give my Gencon report. This was my first “real” Gencon (a couple years ago I went up there for about 18 hours—a total blur). I was there for four days, and the hardest part was adjusting my sleep schedule. I work third shift, so trying to run a game in the tie slot where I'm usually sound asleep was a tricky process.

So let's take it one day at a time. Wednesday night, I crash at my friend's place in Bowling Green. The plan is to leave at 4am, pick up some other guys, and truck on down to Indianapolis. We should arrive at 8am. Of course, I can't sleep. I try to go to crash out on the couch at about midnight, which is when I'm usually starting work. I also have this weird “Christmas Eve” excitement where I can't sleep because I'm all jazzed about the con the next day. After a few fitful hours of up-and-down sleep, I give up at about 2:30 AM. I've had one-and-a-half, maybe two hours of sleep and I know I'm not going to get more.

Despite a few delays, the whole ride goes pretty smooth. I get to the Airport Ramada just in time to hook up with Ian “Edison Force” Engle, deposit my luggage and make a mad dash to the Convention Center. We get to Gencon about 10 AM. Ian has a game to run, and my first game isn't until 2 PM. It's about this time that I run in to my friend Mark. Mark lives in the same town as I do, but we don't get to hang out unless we drive four hours out of state. It's frustrating.

Mark and I hit the Dealer's Room to kill time. I've been told that this year's Dealers' Room is a lot smaller than previous years', but I don't have any thing to compare it too. It's bigger than Origins', and that's plenty big by my standards. The Doctor Who booth is awesome with it's life-size Tardis. There's a huge arena full of children beating the crap out of each other with boffer swords. I am thrilled to discover that Steve Jackson's next Munchkin expansion is for Axe Cop. And I think I made an ass of myself to the guys at the Ennie booth. It's kind of a blur. The sleep toxins are seeping into my skull pretty badly at that point, and the “witty” part of my brain is the first to shut down.

2 PM rolls around and it's time for my first game. Why I chose to run two games my first day is a mystery. “Sindbad and Watwat King of Bats!” is my first game. I ranit previously this year at BASHcon, so I've got a pretty good handle on it. My friend J.J. Lanza has signed up to play the game along with his two sons (12 and 13, I think). It's J.J.'s first QAGS game, so I'm excited that he could play. The game went pretty smoothly. Some players were better than others, but none of them were terrible or were massively offensive (anyone who's run a game at a con knows what I'm talking about). I wish I could have focuses more on the younger Lanzas. They did quite well and have a promising future as gamers.

My next game was at 7PM. Somewhere in this haze I've run into Robert “Sex, Lies & Ultraspies” McCabe. He hands me a 5-hour-energy. I've already been hitting the Starbucks pretty heavy (there's a kiosok right at the end of our hall), so I'm feeling pretty loopy. Also I haven't eaten.

“Curse of the Alchemist” is my 6 o'clock game. It too has sold out. This is a sword & sorcery game in the vein of Conan or the Grey Mouser. I wrote and ran this game for my home group as a Barbarians of Lemuria adventure and converted it to QAGS. Again, I have a decent handle on the adventure, which is good because I'm pretty spazzed at this point. One of my players in this game is Revmindi, a fan/forum-poster of my podcast Monkeys Took My Jetpack. I didn't get too much of a chance to chat with him, unfortunately. “Curse,” too, went pretty smoothly. A few of my players were quite excited when they all got trapped in a room whose walls began to slowly move together to crush them. It's one of those classic traps that you very rarely actually see in games. It was edifying.

Finally, the day is done, and Ian and I go back to the hotel. Steve “Waxman's Warriors” John$on has come into town and checked himself into the room. He's got the air conditioning cranked and offers me a cold Corona almost as soon as I walk in. Let me tell you, happiness is Steve Johnson offering you beer.

There's some banter, I don't recall about what, and I finally get to sleep. The next morning I feel much better. I've slept like a rock, and our hotel has an awesome breakfast. I load up on sausage gravy and lots and lots of coffee. We three head back to Gencon for our 10 AM games.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Gencon Happened!

Back from Gencon and still recovering. I had a great time, but like all cons where I run a lot of games and other programs, it was exhausting. I'm still I bit spent. I'll talk about the 'con more later, but right now I wanted to once again send a big "THANK YOU!" to all the people who participated in the "Send Josh to Gencon" promo. I couldn't have made it without your patronage!