Friday, August 26, 2016

Fear and Loathing in Indianapolis: GenCon 2016

"The idea of trying to 'cover this race' in any conventional press-sense was absurd: It was like trying to keep track of a swimming meet in an Olympic - sized pool filled with talcum powder instead of water. The Ford Motor Company had come through, as promised, with a 'press Bronco' and a driver, but after a few savage runs across the desert – looking for motorcycles and occasionally finding one – I abandoned this vehicle to the photographers and went back to the bar." — HST, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

As previously noted, GenCon 49 (August 4-7, 2016) was the first for me and Nicole.  Pretty early on, I determined you can only talk about those things at GenCon which happen to cross your field of vision.  Before I begin, though, a general statement:

I managed to meet (briefly, of course) a bunch of industry people over the past few days.  With no exceptions, everybody was particularly gracious and enthusiastic.  (The most enthusiastic person I met is probably Sandy Petersen — it's hard to gush about your game in a way that makes it really intriguing without sounding pretentious or self-aggrandizing, and Sandy does both those things extremely well.  He's pumped about it, and now I'm pumped about it.)  I mention this, because I had the following anecdote from Monte Cook in mind before I went.
It was the summer of 1991, at the GenCon game convention. I was still fairly new to the industry and my friend, Rob Bell, the Champions line editor, was "showing me the ropes" at GenCon. He asked me if there was anything I'd seen at the convention that interested me. I said that there was a really interesting-looking game with a rose on the cover where you played vampires. I had been interested in vampires since I was very young. I had written a research paper on the topic in high school, and in so doing practically memorized the encyclopedia entry for "vampire." (There weren't a lot of source options back then.) While this was before the vampire and goth subcultures really existed, among some of my friends, I was known as the "vampire guy." 
Anyway, Rob took me over to a little table with one guy behind it. On the table were arrayed a number of freshly printed Vampire books. Rob chatted with the guy behind the table and introduced me to Mark Rein*Hagen. I told him that I thought his new game looked amazing and gushed about it a little. He silently listened to me with an expression that spoke volumes: I wasn't telling him something he didn't already know. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Rob give Mark a knowing look and motion with his head toward me. Mark sighed, and then said as condescendingly as I’ve even been spoken to, "Here you go, kid." He didn’t need to add, "Now get away from me, son. You bother me," because it was already clear.
That was both my first and my last interaction with Mark. I did (and still do) love and appreciate the book.
— Monte Cook, Monte Cook's World of Darkness, page 10

Nothing like that happened during this convention — everybody was uniformly rad, even if they were somewhat busy.  (Incidentally, Mark Rein*Hagen was over at the Chaosium/Petersen Games booth, promoting I Am Zombie.  I likely would've spoken to him, but there's a surprising amount to do crammed into four days, and I tried super-hard not to be an annoying fan.  Maybe next time.)

Anyway, since it makes the most sense, I'll try to tackle the majority of this chronologically.  Photographs by either Nicole or me.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The trip to Indianapolis was spent taking turns driving and listening to most of The Disaster Artist.  (It's just as good as you've heard.)  It takes roughly ten hours to get to Indianapolis.

This billboard is yuuuuge.
Trump and  Truly this is God's country.
Finally, we arrived.

Pictured here hiding from the Trump billboard.
We got to the hotel, which despite being about twelve miles away from the convention center, was pretty swank.  Note the chemostat bioreactor hot tub.

I've been in apartments smaller than this.  My hat included to scale.
We went to the con briefly, determined that the will-call line was completely insane, and decided to tackle it on the morrow.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Nicole by the welcome sign.  Featuring someone's random legs.
The will-call line was slightly less mad this morning, and we managed to navigate it with time to spare to get to our 10:00 AM game.  We also met Eric Cartman:

If we didn't eat Cheesy Poofs, we'd be lame.
The 10 AM game was Black Forest Patrol for new World of Darkness Chronicles of Darkness.  We played American soldiers in World War II.  Something weird happens — there's panic and fear and Nazi zombies.  We finally trace the source back to a Nazi base, which has been overtaken by grey aliens doing some interdimensional something.  Our radioman calls in an airstrike, which doesn't work (force fields or some such), but we end up destroying their plans the old-fashioned way: grenades and satchel charges.  Our superiors probably thought we were nuts, but we saved the day.

We also uncovered this infinite bathroom.  Spoooooooky.
We originally signed up for an Onyx Path freelancing seminar, but decided to (sadly) skip it in favor of the dealer's room.  (We had our own shopping list, as well as rushputin's shopping list, so we had business to attend.)  We had to pick up a bunch of Dungeon Crawl Classics stuff (in addition to the new modules and such, we also got a gaggle of Doug Kovacs prints, including his Moria piece for a Middle-earth RPG, possibly late-stage MERPGreen Marythe classic DCC wizard corruption picture; and his take on Dürer's Melencolia I), peruse the new shirts from Lamentations of the Flame Princess (sadly, I otherwise had everything at the table), and swing by Modiphius in the hopes of signing up for the new Star Trek RPG playtest (and getting Kirk and Picard miniatures).  We were largely successful while also getting to meet James Raggi.

The first and only time you'll probably see my dumb face on this blog.
I don't even know what's happening.
We also met Sarah Babe of Plot Points, working at the Modiphius booth.  Having started listening to them, they largely cover industry news and product reviews — useful if you want somebody else to digest a thing before you decide to buy it.  Check it out!  (I was just listening to the one about Shadow of the Demon Lord, and while I was interested before, it just jumped to the top of my list.)

We also had the opportunity to talk to Robin Laws about Worldbreaker, a globe-spanning, apocalyptic campaign for Esoterrorists wherein the unthinkable happens and the esoterrorists come incredibly close to penetrating the Membrane.  (Or possibly succeed, if your players fail.)  We also learned about Fear Itself, 2nd Edition, at the Pelgrane booth.  (I just learned that there's apparently a second edition for Esoterrorists, too.)  I'll have to grab all these things at some near-future point, but I was largely budgeted for DCC at the convention.

Also also, we had the chance to talk to Sandy Petersen (and his wife, who was somehow even more gracious and excited than he was, if that's even possible) about his miniature games, Cthulhu Wars and Glorantha: The Gods War.  He also teased an upcoming project that is a board game or miniatures game similar to his work on Doom, so that's exciting.  We also managed to score some autographs from him.  (And if I'd thought about it, I would have brought a bunch of Lovecraftiana to shove at him and get him to sign.  Long-time listener, first-time caller.)  Another situation in which I'll need to pick up more Call of Cthulhu, 7th edition stuff at some near-future point.

Also also also, this marked the fortieth anniversary of Judges Guild and Metamorphosis Alpha.  As such, Goodman Games had birthday cards to sign!

The rest of the day was subsumed in wandering.  We returned to the hotel to rest for the night's event: Glitter Guild Burlesque.  It was very good, although Nicole really summarized it well — there were so many acts that the whole thing was a little rushed.  The acts were all pretty good, although the people doing DC Comics acts (particularly the people from Plan 9 Burlesque) really stood out.  Despite all that, the hands-down best act had to be Bazkua Joe's Speed Racer.  The guy got a standing ovation for reasons I'm sure the following video cannot fully convey.

Of course, in our show, he didn't end with the checkered flag, but with only the helmet.

Friday, August 5, 2016

After a somewhat late night, we missed Zzarchov Kowolski's book signing at the Lamentations booth, but we did revisit the Goodman Games booth to get the tome signed by the band.  We also got Aeron Alfrey and James Raggi to sign stuff.  (And we picked up one of Alfrey's Baba Yaga mini-prints.)

A wild Aeron Alfrey appears!
Next was the Unknown Armies panel.

Located in this hotel designed to look like a train station.  The creepy statues set the mood.
Girders.  Again, train station chic. 
Stained glass on the elevator ceilings.
(The audio is available here.)

Greg StolzeCam BanksColleen RileyJeff Tidball, and John Nephew.  If you followed the podcast blitz for UA3, there is nothing new or earth-shattering as Stolze discussed most of the revelations on the podcast circuit.  Things include the idea of wiping away the metaplot as per Chronicles of Darkness, and tying the Shock Gauges into skills as per A Dirty World.  Stolze's writing a new book (although he again said that the next Unknown Armies book has already been written, and it's Big Machine by Victor LaValle), and it's apparently going to be written in second person.  So there's that.  The Atlas Games crew also discussed probable release dates. They (unofficially, of course) expect to hit it earlier than April 2017, and they'll probably release ebooks and dice as they're ready. (They have to ship dice separately because adding dice to books throws them out of media mail and so changes the shipping charges.) The first three books are more-or-less in layout, and they're working on Book 4 and 5.

In personal news, they did a giveaway for your best Unknown Armies anecdote, and I won by describing my old Chicago game.  ("A group in Chicago hunting ghosts and doppelgangers with their friend's magick-detecting erection.")  I got a copy of Break Today on which everybody in the room (including the panelists) scribbled strange things.

Me, after winning that book.

We again wandered and rested, as we had a LARP at midnight.

The teeming throng of humanity.
Saturday, August 6, 2016

Midnight was "Nundercover" by Kettle of Fish Productions.  They cite it as Cthulhu LIVE 4th edition, but it's actually a super rules-lite variant.  There aren't any stats (unless you can do something special on your character sheet, like the super-strong nun who can break limbs and knock people out); just take logical actions and they'll probably work.  The big rule is that you get tokens, and you can spend them to establish facts.  ("Fortunately, I hid a gun in the desk earlier!")  If something bad happens, you also spend tokens to not die.  Pretty simple.

The setup was everyone is in a convent, and some people there are not nuns.  (I was playing Paul Giamatti, preparing for a role.  Another player was playing Anne Hathaway with the same rationale.  Nicole, on the other hand, was playing Regan MacNeil, who joined the clergy after her ordeal.)  The big issue we found was that comedy games are really hard to do (or possibly just hard for strangers to enter; the regulars seemed to have fun with it) — it was wacky and zany and we had no clue what was happening most of the time.  It was fun, but not the style of Cthulhu LIVE game to which we are accustomed.

Return of the son of the teeming throng.
After sleep, we returned to gather autographs from Jobe Bittman.  We then had a conspiracy theory panel, but skipped it in favor of the Delta Green panel.  (The audio is available here.)  Shane Ivey, Dennis Detwiller, Adam Scott Glancy, Kenneth Hite, and Greg Stolze.  (I mean, if your options are a conspiracy theory panel without Ken Hite, or a panel with Ken Hite, the choice is obvious.)  They went over some of the information regarding the Kickstarter, a few products coming down the pipeline (I'm excited for Hite's Fall of Delta Green — he had me at the psychedelic Burroughs option), and talked about some of the new rules and integrating the new Delta Green into the world.  (If you're like me and missed the Kickstarter, there are now two Delta Greens — the reintegrated official one, that now has a massive budget but has to deal with bureaucracy, and the cowboy operation still out in the cold, which has no support structure but still plays by its own rules.  Also, bonds act as sanity armor — so you can either go mad by yourself, or prevent madness by slowly losing touch with those around you.  Fun times all around.)  The panel got me pumped to revisit it, and I'll have to pick it up, you know, eventually.

We left the panel to go meet Zak S. at the Lamentations booth and get stuff signed, and managed to get there before the line got insane.

Zak and Nicole
We also had the opportunity to meet Charlotte Stokely and Stoya.  I'm guessing it's odd that we primarily know them as D&D players, but them's the breaks.  (I'm guessing it's also odd that there are famous D&D players, but them's also the breaks.  Will role-playing games be added to the Olympics soon?)

I'm pretty sure interrupting a D&D game is a sin, but it was cool to say hello.
Finally came the What's New With Goodman Games? panel.  (The audio is available here.  The video is below.)  Jobe Bittman, Michael Curtis, Joseph Goodman, Jim Wampler, Brendan LaSalle, and Harley Stroh.

They talked some about Lankhmar and Michael Curtis' upcoming DCC supplement for that as well as some potential upcoming releases (like teasing Punjar 50,000), but the big news was the reveal that Goodman Games has the license for Dying Earth by Jack Vance with Jobe Bittman developing.  It will be separate from DCC but broadly compatible.

With that, we returned to the hotel to prepare for the last day of Gen Con.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

We had only one mission today: the Goodman Games raffle.  (We also got the pictures with James Raggi, seen in the Thursday entry.  The camera always tells the truth, but it also always lies.  Also, after days of attempts, we finally got our Kirk and Picard miniatures.  Score!  Also also, Nicole got a print of The Song You Sing by Nen Chang.)

The raffle, of course, began with awards:

Joseph Goodman presents the Enter the Dagon II championship belt
The champion!
Joseph Goodman presents the Carnival of the Damned trophy 
The champion!
Jim Wampler and Bob Brinkman with MCC Reliquary of the Ancient Ones tournament trophies
And the winners!
Another winner!
The Warlords of the Purple Planet trophy 
And the winner!
And then, the raffle:

It takes a while.
Many of the tickets were unclaimed (whether their pairs were not in circulation or their owners did not attend is unclear), so they eventually allowed those whose raffle number is off by one to claim prizes.  One of Nicole's tickets and another raffler's ticket were each off by one, so it came down to a dice-off.

And Nicole won.  We got a rad piece of Stefan Poag art; you can see it on page 23 of DCC #92: Through the Dragonwall.

Me, again

With that, we were on the road again.  We finished The Disaster Artist before proceeding to Wigfield: The Can Do Town That Just May Not.  (The audiobook is also as good as you've heard.)

Also, the parking garage stored their Christmas garlands here.  For some reason.

The Pathfinder room.  Ye gods.
Some big, nasty thing from Malifaux, no doubt
Here be dragons.  And 'looners.
This is Jack Burton... the Pork Chop Express...
...and I'm talkin' to whoever's listenin' out there.
An ogre, courtesy of
Boffer LARPers!
Life-sized, remote controlled Robo Rally.
A Klingon band, pictured here with an honorless Starfleet petaQ.
Those are some Dark Souls-style clouds in Indiana

You already saw Cartman; here are some other cosplayers we found at Gen Con.

The Predator was with Jack Burton, which really raises the question of why we have not yet seen Jack Burton vs. Predator.

Nicole was really excited to meet Robbie Sinclair 

She made that scale armor. 
These guys had Cartoon Network corporate backing, so maybe they don't count as cosplay?
Final Thoughts

Gen Con was very fun, but I think you have to go once and stumble through it to determine how best to tackle it in the future.  Trial by fire.  Next year is the fiftieth anniversary of Gen Con (and, perhaps more importantly, Zak's party), so I think we're going to try to go.  And do it correctly this time.

(Plus, Unknown Armies will have released by then, so I'm sure there'll be something awesome at Gen Con.)

Also, there is nothing that has gotten me more jazzed about DCC than interacting with the DCC band.  I was originally going to run some games (first DCC, then Unknown Armies), then (probably wisely) decided against it.  Next time, I'd definitely like to do so.  (But I'll probably just stick to DCC.)  Playing more games next time would be good.  (Admittedly, a lot of that was because I registered late.  Ah, well.)

One last thing, to reiterate: everyone we met was uniformly generous, helpful, and enthusiastic.  Every industry professional to whom I spoke got me jazzed about some game or other.  (Naturally, it helps that I talked to people whose games I already enjoy, but still.)

Be seeing you.

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