This was a special GenCon for me, as it was the first time my wife had come along. I had been twice before by myself in 2005 and 2007.
Perhaps foolishly, I had decided to save money by flying Southwest Airlines, which meant we had to take the counter-intuitive route of Dallas to Houston to Indy. This wouldn’t have been a huge deal had we not had an engine light issue that kept us roasting on the Houston tarmac for an hour.
Despite the rocky start, we had a great evening. We met up with Jeff Mechlinski, author of Age Past and #rpgnet regular, for dinner at Scotty’s, where we also met Will “GoldenH” Hammerand, another #rpgnetter. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to eat much, as I was struggling to get over a touch of food poisoning.
Opening morning at the exhibit hall was as epic as ever, tainted somewhat by the fact that I was growing dehydrated and was sweating like a pig. Nevertheless, I stuck it out and soaked up Geek Nirvana.
We had our noon Age Past game run by the aforementioned Jeff Mechlinski. I really, really dug the fantasy pseudo-Renaissance-tinged-with-weird-science setting. Our group was decent, if a bit on the gamist side.
That evening, we met my hometown buddy Robert Calder and my online buddy Jason Vey and his friends for dinner, again at Scotty’s. Then Robert joined us for a demo of Tales from the Floating Vagabond 2e run by the man himself, Lee Gavin. I am happy to report that Lee has cleaned up and revved up the game engine, allowing players to get right to the craziness. I was particularly proud of Lisa for actually singing as required by the rules to invoke her character’s ability to turn any scene into a musical song-and-dance number.
Cam Banks ran the new edition of Feng Shui for us in an early afternoon session. The character stats have been cut down quite a bit, with attributes removed entirely and replaced with bonuses added to relevant abilities (e.g., the Big Bruiser gets a flat bonus to damage and strength-related activities). If you don’t have an ability, you’re assumed to have a score of 7. And speaking of the Big Bruiser (which I played), I was very pleased to see that all of the archetypes seem to have been given a boost. Everyone seemed to be pulling off impressive stunts regularly, even though none the archetypes in our group were of the highly focused sort.
I should also mention that it was during Feng Shui that Lisa got the hang of thinking outside the box regarding her character’s actions. Again, I was very proud!
Friday night was a bit of a bust. We had a Shadowrun 5e session scheduled, but Lisa was pretty wiped out and wanted to turn in early. And it was just as well that she did, as it turned out to be a character creation session that was scheduled to last two hours, followed by a trial combat as time permitted. I didn’t feel like spending all that time creating a character just to test out the combat rules — especially since the whole thing seemed extremely disorganized — so I took a pass and turned in early as well.
Our noon game was Extraordinary Voyages, a kind of steampunk-in-space setting using the new Sixcess system. This was easily our most diverse group, including one player very familiar with the system, several of us who had never played it before (including a young boy and his father who joined us in lieu of a canceled Cartoon Action Hour game), and one lady who had never played a roleplaying game in her life. It’s a great setting that feels something like a mix of Space: 1889 and Fading Suns or Warhammer 40K, with a bit of John Carter for spice: aliens, the occult, miracles, and really weird science. Lisa enjoyed playing a proper Victorian (or the setting’s equivalent) lady, and I had a great time chewing the scenery as an Arab (sort of) space pirate. The d6 dice pool system was quite simple and proved to be Lisa’s favorite of the con.
That evening was Cold Steel Wardens, a gritty iron age superhero game run by author Andy Klosky. I was really looking forward to this one, and neither the game nor the game master disappointed me. Unfortunately, the only other player insisted on playing his impulsive super-archer as a cartoonish lunatic, crippling the intended feel of gritty street-level heroics and occult menace.
Our last game of the con was Metamorphosis Alpha 5e, run by author Jamie Chambers. Due to circumstances beyond Jamie’s control, we got a late start and had to deal with several interruptions. Nevertheless, we got a kick out of playing gonzo mutants. The system is extremely simple and would allow for easy improvisation, although the coarseness of the scale has me a little concerned.
In between games, we had a great time hanging out in the exhibit hall. I got to introduce Lisa to folks I’ve known for years online as well as those I’d met at prior GenCons. We even had a surprise chat with Mike Mearls, someone I definitely wasn’t expecting to encounter. I was blown away by the greetings I received from the game authors who knew me, as well as from one fan of my reviews. (One author — Jeff Combos of Hollow Earth Expedition — actually had Lisa choked up as he spoke of what my early support had meant to him.) I picked up some great review copies that I somehow managed to carry home in multiple pieces of luggage.
Lisa had been worried that, as a casual gamer at best, the GenCon folks might look askance at her. Nothing could have been further from the truth. In fact, everyone warmly embraced her into our geeky fraternity, to the point that she is eager to return next year. To be honest, I had believed that the best case scenario was that Lisa would be a trooper for the trip but would have a “been there, done that” attitude afterwards. As such, I can definitely say that our trip exceeded my wildest expectations.