GenCon 09 Debrief

GenCon 2009
GenCon 2009

Well, it has been almost a week since GenCon 09, and I am sure everyone got their fill of GenCon related posts, but I still feel like I need to debrief my readers on my experience. I have attended every GenCon since it migrated to Indianapolis but one, and each has been an entirely different experience for me. This year was no exception.

I’d like to apologize if my writing seems a bit… off. I am currently swimming in a sudafedrine induced miasma due to some oddball virus (I’m dubbing it GNCN-09).

Last year I had every hour of my schedule packed with RPGA events, leaving only about 4 hours of breaks a day. All I did was game, and it was the best GenCon I had until this year. This year due to untimely badge registration with me and my group of friends that make the yearly pilgrimage, we couldn’t pre-order event specific tickets.

Also, this year two of us had evolved and were attending the convention in new roles. I was attending as a proto-industry professional (attending the ENnies as a nominee, being a panelist, published author, and Nevermet Press founder) and one of my good friends was going as an RPGA game master. So my perspective had changed a little.

Personally, I was torn between the desire to just relish in gaming as a gamer and my ambitions to network with established professionals in the industry. I am what I consider a passive networker; I will introduce myself to professionals and strike up conversations but if it appears they are not interested I cut things short and move on. I can just imagine all the fanboy-wanna-bes that get in the face of the publishers, developers, and designers at cons. I certainly don’t want to come off as pushy.

There is also a part of me that just wants to leave the business at home and relax by throwing down some dice, networking be damned. Despite my passive networking, I think I did manage to meet several professionals and make an impression. I’ll have to follow up with them soon and see if they remember me…

The following is a list of highlights by day.

Wednesday: Day 0

Technically GenCon didn’t start until Thursday, but that doesn’t stop the hardcore gamers. My pal Bruce arrived early for RPGA meeting where they hand out shirts and badges. My other GenCon comrade, Mike tried to get his 4-Day badge, but was turned away. After that, we decided to grab some people and run slot 0s. Bruce ran the new Adventuring Company module, which was interesting.

I’d like to point out that since Bruce started DMing for the RPGA (with the release of 4e) he has improved tremendously as a game master. He has slowly expanded his DM bag’o’tricks along with some useful equipment that definitely enhances and smooths play. So yeah, just want to give a shout out to BH2 for growing into an awesome DM.

Thursday: Day 1

I arrived early and got my Press Badge, which I would like to extend a hearty thanks to Stacia and her crew for hooking me up. There was at least one irate press member that was being a dick. All I have to say is you need to have more class, especially considering you’re getting a free badge with fringe benefits. Like the special pass to get into the exhibit hall an hour early, which I took advantage of. It was that pass that allowed me to be present on the inside and see the crowd nearly trample each other to get to the Paizo booth at which I was already standing. I quickly grabbed my copy of the Pathfinder book and a giant purple Paizo d20 and stepped in line where Jason Bulmahn, lead designer, signed my book.

Folks, the line for the Pathfinder book was insane; it wrapped around their booth twice and then went back to the corner of the hall. Even the local Channel 8 news crew was on hand to ask attendees what all the hubbub was about. After I checked out and marveled at the Paizo crew greeting just about every face in line, I went and hooked back up with my own crew.

We got some generics and squeezed in some RPGA events. It was the only day I did any real gaming, and the gaming caused me to miss the RPGBN panel that I wanted to attend. I apologize to my blogging friends for not showing, but I think gaming is an acceptable excuse. I don’t remember what happened during the rest of the afternoon except that we all went and ate at the RAM. I had a pint of their GenCon brew, two thumbs up!

Then I grabbed another buddy of mine, who goes by “Bubby” but whose real name is David, and went down to IUPUI for Tracy Hickman’s Killer Dinner and a seminar on the importance of story (not necessarily in gaming). I participated in the Killer Dinner and lasted a surprising 9 minutes and 15 seconds. During play, I managed to get [EDIT: ah… I managed to leave out the previous very important word, get] hit on by a well-manicured young guy with a heavy German accent (much to the enjoyment of my old prof, Mat Powers, who organized the event; he was the guy dressed like the swamp magi near the gaming booths). I’m as hetero as you can get but I rolled with it. Unforgettable.

After the KD, Tracy gave a very moving seminar on the importance of story and how each person creates a unique experience when they read a novel. I think I’ll save the details for later as it also fits with some other research I have been doing with story theory. I hope Mr. Hickman is feeling better, because despite his awesome performance during the dinner, he looked exhausted and I didn’t see him again the whole con.

Friday: Day 2

Friday morning consisted of Mike and I updating our Pathfinder Society characters to the new rules, which was easy considering we were only third level, but we also took some time to actually read much of the book too. I have a negative energy channeling Osirion Cleric of Pharasma (Death & Water domains) with Selective Channeling. I totally can’t wait to play him (since we had an epic fail to actually get in on some PF Society action).

Oh and for anyone attending a con, if you see someone creating a character with a brand new, just published core book, don’t ask them to borrow the son-of-a-bitch to create your own. First, I’m using the goddamned thing myself and second, it’s brand new and I would rather not have some stranger adding wear & tear. Go buy a frillin’ copy for yourself in the exhibit hall!

Then I met and old friend of the guys I game with, a very nice gal who loves True Dungeon (which is too expensive for me) and is getting back into gaming. Well, we ended up going to the exhibit hall to get some more autographs for my Pathfinder book when something amazing happened. I won’t name names, but a certain Paizonian staff member made an impression on my new friend. Needless to say, I hear things are currently going great between them. If you keep up with the Paizo message boards, you’ll know who I am talking about, but I am trying to respect their privacy as much as possible (while still geeking out about it here on the blog). I am totally claiming responsibility for anything interesting that becomes of their meeting.

I topped the evening off by attending the ENnies awards ceremony. If you haven’t heard, Chgowiz accepted the Silver medal for Swords & Wizardry for Best Free RPG, which is just an outstanding accomplishment. I think it sort of validates a lot of the good stuff the new-classical gaming movement is doing. I would also like to congratulate Obsidian Portal for beating everyone in the Best Website category by taking Gold. Last, but not least, I hereby give Wolfgang Baur and Open Design/Kobold Quarterly the ability to request me to accept any awards on their behalf should they not be able to attend next year.

That night, Bubby and I managed to run into Jess Hartley (of White Wolf fame), who much to my surprise, Bubby is good friends with. She asked us to playtest a new card game, Tinker’s Damn, she is developing that casts players as steampunk inventors. Bubby and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and I can’t wait to see it on the shelves. Jess, if you read this I’m available to playtest anytime.

Saturday: Day 3

I slept in late because I had a splitting headache, and I didn’t even drink anything! So I didn’t get to the convention center until around 1300, when I thought my panel was scheduled. I quickly found out it had been re-scheduled for 1600, but burned most of the time by talking to fellow panelist Quinn Murphy (At-Will) and Mike Shea (Sly Flourish).

Then I took my seat for the 4e Bloggers Panel. Those that read this blog may not realize that I create 4e content, but I have collaborated on the Skill Challenges of War series with Jonathan Jacobs and Quinn Murphy for The Core Mechanic. I have also been published in Kobold Quarterly #10 as a co-author (collaborating with the same people) via an article including skill challenges. I think the panel went rather well and I believe it will be turned into a podcast. I did manage to give a shout-out to Eddy Webb from White Wolf who was sitting in the audience. I know, White Wolf during a D&D panel, sacrilege!

Speaking of White Wolf, my pal Bubby and I managed to squeeze invites out their staff for the infamous Succubus Club. That evening, Mike, Bubby, and I descended upon the ICE Lounge downtown for the exclusive party. Needless to say, the environment made me miss my wife very much. I made some new friends and contacts (shout to the folks at the ENnie winning All Games Considered) and got very drunk on White Wolf’s tab. We also got invited to the after party in the Omni and thanks to our Designated Driver, made it safely home. Thank you White Wolf for the great time (publishers take note).

Sunday: Day 4

We wrapped the weekend up with a final walk through the exhibit hall. Mike had seen a live-action hentai movie, and was dying to show us, but we think the vendor actually closed up shop early. After we were done with the exhibit hall, we all piled into a car and drove to Monument Circle and had coffee while we debriefed each other on our GenCon experience which included gaming, networking, and romance.

Want to read more about conventions? Check out this month’s well timed RPG Blog Carnival hosted by Chgowiz. Also, you can check out my other articles on GenCon.

Other GenCon Articles:

6 thoughts on “GenCon 09 Debrief

  1. Thanks for the props! I do feel I have learned a lot in the past year. I’m now trying to run a campaign and finding out it is a bit of a different beast than RPGA modules. Anyway, I enjoyed the con also. I imagine next year will be a bit more evolution as well.

  2. @Oz: The after party was a bit too cozy for me, lots of people packed into a smallish apartment. But it allowed us to sober up and chill out before we left. But yeah, the Succubus Club was fun, and I plan on going next year too.

    @BH2: Your welcome! Yeah, the modules are pretty disconnected. A campaign [usually] requires a plot thread that runs through them somehow connecting them. That and the players’ previous actions have lasting consequences. I supposed a campaign could be sewn together from modules, but it would take some massaging.

  3. Yeah, I had actually came up with a decent idea for stringing together 4e RPGA modules. It would act a lot like a weekly tv show: recurring characters (PCs and NPCs), season finales (the SPECX-X modules are good for this), character background stories (custom written MYREX-X modules), occasional story archs, and sometimes just completely random occurrences/stories. I call it “This Week in Dungeons & Dragons: A Living Forgotten Realms Campaign”. I’d still like to do it actually, seems like fun and could still work in some things from a ‘true’ campaign.

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