Back to GenCon! I returned this year for the second time with my lovely wife, Lisa, and this year we both went for the first time with press badges. Accordingly, I’d like to include Lisa in my GenCon recap. Her comments will be in italics.
Lisa: The first time I went I thought I would feel out of place. While I am a gamer, I am not a super-experienced gamer. Dan first initiated me into the experience by running Call of Cthulhu. I really like horror movies, so I really liked this game. I started playing off and on in other games he and his friend Robert ran. They both are very patient and made it pretty fun for me. I had tried earlier to play in a game that his other friends ran, and it was not such a pleasant experience. They pretty much ignored me and really made me think I did not belong in their hobby. Long story short, I went gone back and forth over whether I wanted to keep doing this.
As it turned out, last year went so well, I wanted to try again and see if I had improved as a gamer.
[20:05] <+Craig_Judd> Hi, I’m Craig Judd – I’m from Tasmania, Australia’s little island state. I’ve been writing games since my teens. I’m also a qualified graphic artist, which helps with layout and such!
[20:07] <+Craig_Judd> My game is PowerFrame, a generic/universal action toolbox. It’s taken me a while to get the book together, but I’m about to release the core book next month!
[20:07] <+Craig_Judd> I’ve also been drawing manga art since ~1990 or so.
[20:07] <+Craig_Judd> Under the pen-name Shiro Kuro, although that’s not as obscure a name as it once was.
Out of curiosity, I recently asked game designers on Facebook what they thought about RPGnet. I did so in part because I’ve had difficulty in the past getting certain authors to do Q&As due to their mistaken belief that #rpgnet (the chatroom) is still affiliated with RPGnet (the website).
Below are some of their responses. I am not going to attribute the quotes to respect the authors’ privacy and desires not to alienate potential customers, and I totally understand if doing so leads you to take said quotes with a grain of salt.
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.
Andrew Peregrine is a freelance writer, working mainly for Cubicle 7 on Yggdrasill, Kuro and Qin. Also currently working on projects for the Firefly RPG and the V20 Vampire line. Has managed to do a few games as Corone Design, including ‘Hellcats and Hockeysticks’.
Brennan Bishop is an RPG writer and designer, freelance writer and general word-goblin for hire. Storm Battalion, his first solo project, is due out in the coming months.
Chris Rutkowsky of Basic Action Games is the creator of the BASH! Superhero, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy games, as well as the Honor + Intrigue Swashbuckling RPG. Basic Action Games next major project will be a kickstater for BASH! Fantasy: Legends of Steel, a Sword and Sorcery adaptation of the BASH! system.
C.J. Carella is the author of dozens of RPG books including GURPS Martial Arts, Rifts Mercenaries, WitchCraft and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG.
Cynthia Celeste Miller is the president of Spectrum Games and has been in the game business since 2002. She has had a hand in games such as Cartoon Action Hour, Capes, Cowls & Villains Foul, Macabre Tales, Slasher Flick, The Big Crime, WWE Know Your Role and many more.
Dan Davenport (a.k.a. the Hardboiled GMshoe) has been frolicking around the fringes of the RPG industry for decades. He has written 130 reviews, moderated RPGnet, run #rpgnet chat, hosted game author Q&As, and served as something akin to an RPG community organizer.
Darryl Mott Jr. is the tabletop gaming columnist for Ain’t It Cool News, owner and producer of the Gamer’s Tavern Podcast Network, and co-host of the Gamer’s Tavern podcast.
David F. Chapman is a writer, game designer, editor, publisher and all-round control freak. He is probably best known for his work as game designer on the award winning Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space roleplaying game for Cubicle 7 Entertainment and creator of the Vortex system that powers it, and as line developer on Conspiracy X 2.0 for Eden Studios.
James Sutton is the founder of RedBrick and FASA Games, erstwhile and current publishers of Earthdawn, Demonworld, 1879, and Fading Suns. He has since moved on to form Capricious Games, with a focus on Biohazard Games’ Blue Planet sci-fi game setting and the Synergy Game System used to power that game. In addition to producing new material for Blue Planet, Capricious Games are developing the hard post-apoc game Ruination and the hard fantasy game Scepter, both using the Synergy rules.
Jason Durall has spent twenty years as a writer, designer, and playtester in the pen-and-paper industry, working for companies like Chaosium, Guardians of Order, Decipher, Mongoose, Margaret Weiss Productions, Cubicle 7, Phage Press, and Rite Publishing. His most recent work has included material for The Laundry, World War Cthulhu, Magic World, and he is the sole author of Lords of Gossamer & Shadow.
By day, Jason L. Blair writes for video game developer Volition (creators of the Saints Row series) and, by night, he works on the tabletop game lines for Little Fears and Streets of Bedlam. In between, he sleeps.
Jason M. Hardy is the current Shadowrun line developer and has been working in gaming for nearly fifteen years. He has an awesome vest collection.
Jay Little is an award-winning game designer with dozens of hobby games and titles to his credit. Over the years, he has worked for top tier game publishers like Fantasy Flight Games and WizKids, on top tier licenses like Star Wars and Major League Baseball.
Jeff Combos is a writer, producer and game designer from Seattle, WA. He is also the crackpot behind the award-winning Hollow Earth Expedition RPG.
Jonathan M. Thompson is the owner of Battlefield Press, also the co-author of such games as upcoming Pulp Fantastic and Double Spiral War, along with the Gaslight Victorian Fantasy. He spends his spare time as a historian and amateur paleontologist.
Ken Spencer is a writer and Rocket Age Line Developer for Cubicle 7 Entertainment. He is currently working on “Trail of the Scorpion” and “The Lure of Venus”.
Kurt Wiegel is a game reviewer from Youtube Game Geeks. Lifelong gamer, father of three and amateur actor. Very amateur.
Lawrence Whitaker is co-owner of Design Mechanism, co-designer of RuneQuest 6, and previously a freelancer for Chaosium and a staff writer for Mongoose, with over 30 publications to his credit.
Lee F Szczepanik, Jr., has been an author for over 20 years and in RPGs for the past 8 years. He’s the author and creator of the popular War of the Dead setting for Savage Worlds, and has been an editor for Triple Ace Games, Gun Metal Games, and writer for Savage Mojo. In 2014, Lee returns to fiction with new stories based on the War of the Dead and Hellbrood settings, as well as brand new worlds never before released.
Nathan Maher is the creator of “Spooks! Welcome to the Great Beyond” ttrpg, author of 2 scifi novels and swears that AD&D Skills & Powers was the golden age of gaming.
Richard Iorio is a writer and designer of games. When not doing this, he hides from cats.
Ross Watson is an award-winning game designer with more than 50 RPG books under his belt, many as Lead Developer for the Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay line. He was a core developer on the Dust Warfare and Shadowrun: Sprawl Gangers miniature game teams, and the lead writer for the Darksiders II console and PC game. He has written or contributed to books for 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, and the Iron Kingdoms RPG.
RPG Pundit is an infamous RPG blogger, owner of theRPGsite (one of the most successful RPG forums online), author of “Forward… to Adventure!”, “Gnomemurdered”, “Lords of Olympus”, and “Arrows of Indra”; the RPGPundit currently works as a consultant on various RPG products, including D&D Next. He is a zealous defender of “regular” RPG gaming against radical efforts by pretentious individuals to highjack and redefine RPGs as something they’re not for their own nefarious purposes.
Shane Ivey is coauthor of the upcoming “Delta Green” RPG; editor-in-chief of the Cthulhu Mythos gaming magazine “The Unspeakable Oath”; developer of the superhero games “Godlike,” “Wild Talents,” and “Better Angels”; and contributor to “The One Ring” RPG line.
T Glenn Bane is the founder and owner of Scaldcrow Games since 2007. Producer of Worlds of Pulp: “Bare Bones Beyond,” “Davey Beauchamp’s Amazing Pulp Adventures,” “Rotwang City: The City of Shadows,” “Random Event Tables: (Golden-age Hero, Pulp Noir, Hungry Jungle, and Pulp Barbarian).
Tim Brannan is the author of Ghosts of Albion, The Witch and Eldritch Witchery. He is also the author of the upcoming Strange Brew and Darwin’s Guide to Creatures.
Tim Kirk is the creator of High Valor, and Hearts & Souls RPG, primarily known for their quirky but genre specific mechanics. He is also known for his honesty about depression.
Todd Bogenrief is one of the directors of FASA Games, Inc. and Line Developer for the Fading Suns and Noble Armada lines. Ever since he saw his first polyhedral dice set he was hooked and has been playing and writing games ever since.
Just a quick note: I’ve been asked to format and clean up the Q&A chatlogs when I post them. While I agree that this would make them much more legibile, the fact is that between reading games, reviewing games, playing games, and holding Q&A sessions, I simply don’t have the time to add yet another task related to this hobby.
If someone would like to volunteer to do the formatting for me, however, that would be great! 🙂