GenCon 2011 – Home

I’m home. Laundry is laundering, I’ve had a shower in my own shower, and I’m about to head to sleep in my own bed.

The trip back was uneventful, and we made pretty good time. Border crossing was painless, and the torrential downpour that hit us on the way into Winnipeg stopped long enough for us to get into our respective homes with our precious purchases intact.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to say hello at the Con, and to all the folks who had nice things to say about the blog. And thanks again to Scott Glancy and Jarred Wallace for treating me so well at their booth. Same time next year, gents.

Now, I’m going to bed. Work tomorrow. And the (ir)regular posting schedule will resume in the next couple of days, starting with a New Centurions post, and followed closely by the next emergent storylines post.

Good night, all.

GenCon 2011 – Day Four

Back in Rochelle for the night. It’s our traditional stopping point. It means we should get back to Winnipeg around 9:00 tomorrow evening.

Sunday is always a short day for me at the Con, because we like to leave Indy around 2:00 in the afternoon. I took my leave of the booth around noon, to go say goodbye to everyone and then get my bags packed and loaded into the car. There was a little bit of scampering around, logistically speaking ((It involved the delivery of some catnip Cthulhus. Probably best if you don’t ask.)), but we made it onto the road in good time, and hardly even got lost leaving the city.

Normally, we stop for dinner at Bob Evans in Bloomington on the way home, but this year, we didn’t. We had a different goal.

See, some years ago, we found this amazing little restaurant with the best calzone we had ever eaten. Unfortunately, we have since forgotten where it is. Even which town it’s in. And what it’s called. But we have been hoping to find it again.

This year, when we checked in at Rochelle on the way down, we asked the woman working the hotel desk. She suggested Vince’s Pizza, which sounded right to me. Thus, we spent the time down in Indy dreaming of that perfect calzone. And so we skipped dinner at Bob Evans, to make sure we were good and hungry when we got to Vince’s Pizza.

We were good and hungry, partly because I, idiot that I am, left the flyer we had picked up on the way down to Indy, which featured the address, in my bag at the hotel, and I couldn’t remember precisely where the place was. We drove around a bit more than was really funny, and stopped at two gas stations to ask for directions, and finally found it.

It was not the place of the legendary calzone. Instead of the low stucco, porticoed building we remembered, it was a little red-and-white wooden building with a tiny, tiny parking lot.

Still, we decided to go in and give it a try, because Pizza Hut, Little Caesar, and Burger King did not really appeal. Besides, the parking lot was full of people coming in to pick up pizzas, and rushing away. We figured it must be good.

Inside, it was the kind of simple, homey, family restaurant you often find in resort towns: nothing fancy, but clean and friendly. I ordered a calzone, being fixated on the idea of calzone, and Clint ordered the manicotti. We also ordered beer nuggets ((These, it turned out, were deep-fried pieces of pizza dough with marinara sauce for dipping.)), because we figured it would take some time before the calzone and manicotti were ready, and we were hungry.

So, there we sat, staring at this veritable mountain of beer nuggets, and Clint says, under his voice, slightly awed, “She should have warned us.” The pile of golden-fried little ((Note: they were not really that little. This is poetic license. Actually, it’s an outright lie. They were big.)) bits of dough would pretty much have filled a gallon bucket.

We had come nowhere near finishing them – and had started speculating on how good they would or would not be tomorrow – when our meals were brought out, and we realized we were doomed.

Clint has been saying he feels evangelical. The food was a life-changing experience. I no longer care about the half-remembered ((And possibly mythical.)) calzone of yesteryear. This is the one true calzone. I tried a little of the manicotti, and it was also amazing.

I don’t know how, but Clint finished his plate of manicotti. And the meatball. And half his garlic bread. I had no such luck with the calzone, and was able to eat maybe half of it. The other half sits in the fridge in our hotel room, singing softly to my soul ((The beer nuggets are singing backup harmonies.)) as it waits to fulfill its purpose tomorrow.

Vince’s Pizza has become our destination for dinner, both going down and coming back from GenCon. Clint and his family are heading down to Chicago in a few weeks, and he has decided to change their route so that they come through Rochelle for dinner at Vince’s.

It’s that good. And here’s some semi-documentary evidence:

GenCon 2011 – Day Three

Saturday is always the longest day. Usually the busiest, too. I am tired.

I didn’t get a whole lot of time to wander the hall today; what time I took out of the booth, I spent going over to Games On Demand, hoping for a chance to try Technoir, but I wasn’t able to hit it at a good time to get in a game ((This is most definitely not the fault of the brave souls manning the Games On Demand room; they are doing heroic work, matching people up with games and getting them playing. I should have been trying Thursday and Friday, not leaving it until today. Oh, well. The vagaries of manning the booth.)). There’s one more chance tonight, but I don’t think I’ll make that – the last Games On Demand slot starts at 8:00, and I still haven’t had dinner.

I did manage to find some dice bags – nothing special, but functional – for the dice I bought yesterday. I also grabbed a great shirt from Sigh Co.

The only other purchase I made today was of some music CDs by Water Street Bridge. This morning, the band led a little procession into the exhibitor hall, and one of the band members came by later in the day, and we did a little chatting. Then I got to watch them for a few minutes as they performed in the convention centre and I was heading back to the hotel room. I like their sound, so I bought both their CDs. I look forward to listening to them.

I’ve been reading through The One Ring, and really enjoying it. The system seems simple and fast, but still capable of a substantial amount of variety and depth. The feel of the game really echoes the source material – this set focuses on the area between the Misty Mountains and the Lonely Mountain, the land traveled in The Hobbit – and the characters you can play are mainly from that area, with the addition of Hobbits.

Character creation is a series of choices, starting with choosing which of six cultures you come from, and moving through various other decisions to customize the character – motivation for adventuring, background, special traits, skill selection, etc. At the end of it, you have a character who is very much a part of the world. It looks pretty good.

The dice mechanic is pretty innovative, using 1d12 and a variable number of d6s, each marked with a few special symbols in addition to the numbers ((You get a set of the dice with the game, and they’re quite pretty.)). You always roll the d12, and add a number of d6s equal to the skill rating of your character for whatever you’re doing, total the numbers, and compare to a target number. There are few flavourful little quirks to this mechanic, based on the special die symbols, but it’s all quite straightforward.

Another neat thing I’ve seen is the Fellowship system, which actually gives mechanics for things like keeping each other’s spirits up during dangerous missions. The premise is, unlike in many fantasy games, the group of characters is more than just a random assemblage of adventurers – they all mean something to each other. Again, this is nicely reflective of the source material, and very cleanly implemented.

There are a few other interesting mechanical bits: rules for Hope, Endurance, Fatigue, Shadow, and a few other things, that do a great deal to make the game very different in feel from other fantasy games like D&D. I haven’t finished reading through the system, yet, so I can’t tell you about combat, or what I hear is an interesting travel mechanic. But I’m working on it.

Visually, the books ((There are two of them in the set: The Adventurer’s Book and The Loremaster’s Book. Loremaster is their name for GM.)) are very colourful and attractive. There are two maps included that are also very nice. I’ll probably have a longer post on this subject sometime soon, possibly after a playtest.

That’s it for me, tonight. I’m obviously not going to make it down to Games On Demand in the next ten minutes, so I guess I won’t get a chance to try Technoir this trip. I’m going to go get some food. I’ll leave you with one picture tonight:

GenCon 2011 – Day Two

Two days down, two ((Well, one and a half, really, as we leave at noon on Sunday.)) to go. Working the booth can be tiring, and the concrete floors are not friendly to one’s feet. Still having fun, though.

Last night, I had planned to grab a bite to eat in the restaurant in the hotel and read The One Ring. That got a little sidetracked when a surprise GenCon attendee ((He’s here in sort-of secret, but I guess it’s okay to mention that it’s Fred Hicks, as he wasn’t hiding at the Con today.)) tweeted me, and I wound up inviting myself along to dinner with him and Justin Jacobson at the Weber Grill. It was a nice dinner, with good conversation and good food, and I’m really glad they let me crash their dinner. Thanks, guys!

Up early again this morning and down to the exhibitor hall. I swear the walk there gets longer and longer. The day featured a long period when I was alone in the booth, with Jarred out at a seminar, and Scott running a game. That can get kind of hectic, but though the crowds were a little heavier today, and business brisker than yesterday, it wasn’t anything too bad.

This year, Jarred has brought an iPad and software to keep the inventory, act as a cash register, and process credit cards. It’s a big hit with me, and makes running things in the booth a whole lot easier. The only downside is that there’s only one iPad with the software and the card swiper ((From Square. There are lots of booths using it; it generally seems to be a hit.)), but that’s manageable in the small booth.

The big news today is that Margaret Weis Productions has announced a new Marvel superheroes game. Well, actually, it sounds like several Marvel superhero games, centred around events like Civil War, Annihilation, and Age of Apocalypse ((I have to admit, I only know what one of those things is. Shut up! I’m more a DC comics guy!)) – a total of sixteen books in the next year ((I’m not sure if that means in 2012, or between now and next GenCon, but either way, that’s a whole lotta books!)). The idea is to use Cortex Plus, tweaked for the feel of each particular bit of the Marvel universe they’re covering. Given the way they handled The Leverage RPG and The Smallville RPG, I’m really excited about this announcement, and I want all the books right now, please.

I made it over to Fantasy Flight Games today before the line got stupid long and picked up The Miskatonic Horror Expansion for Arkham Horror and Elder Sign, about which I know practically nothing. But Cthulhu and FFG have yet to steer me wrong, so…

The rather short line I had to wait in got even shorter, because they had a few people with iPhone ((I think they were iPhones. Couldn’t swear to it, though.)) set-ups like at the Apple Store to run credit cards. Seeing that, I decided to pay by card, and got out of there in good time.

I also finally found the IPR booth – it was hard to see, honestly – and picked up a copy of Dungeon World and The Shab Al-Hiri Roach. I’ve been waiting to pick up Roach at GenCon to get the cards with it, and got an even better surprise: the version I got comes with a plastic cockroach, as well!

The other thing I picked up was a set of red, black, and white dice for playing Technoir. Now I need to find a suitable dice bag to put them in. Oh, and also try and get over to Games on Demand ((Wherever that is. I need to put some effort into finding out.)) to try and play the game.

Met a couple of nice people today. @DenaghDesign came by and we chatted for a bit about our respective Dresdenified Dublins, which was fun. It was good to meet him face-to-face, instead of just following each other on Twitter. I also got to meet Jenn ((You know, as I think about it, I never did find out if the woman I met was, in fact, Jenn; she was wearing the Jennisodes regalia, and accepted my compliment about the podcast, so I just assume it was her. But then I think back to the whole bit where I mistook Steve Segedy for Jason Morningstar last year by making assumptions, and I wonder. If you’re the woman I met at the Pagan Publishing booth, and you’re not Jenn, please accept my apologies.)) of the Jennisodes podcast. When I told her that I enjoyed her podcasts very much, she gave me a card, and a badge and a panda die, which I thought was very nice of her. So, thank you!

As I’ve been writing this, I’ve been following the live tweets from the ENnie awards, and The Dresden Files RPG has, so far, won three ENnies: Silver for Best Production Value, Gold for Best Writing, and Gold for Best Rules. Congratulations, folks! They are well-deserved awards ((Though I admit to some bias.)).

That’s about all I’ve got to say. I’m going to leave you with one picture tonight:

GenCon 2011 – Day One

I’m feeling a lot less tired than last night, so this post may be less terse than the last one ((My friend Sandy sent me e-mail to tell me I seemed tired from my last post. She worries about me.)).

According to what I hear, the attendance here is about 35,000, which is about 20% higher than last year. The dealer hall has been moved ((It has, in fact, been moved to the farthest part of the complex from our hotel, which was chosen because of its proximity to the previous dealer hall.)), and seems bigger, so the crowds seem a little thinner. At least, that’s my impression.

Anyway. Here’s a picture of our booth (711) before the hordes descended on us this year.

Things moved pretty quickly once the doors opened at 9:00 for the Very Important Gamers. I heard that Cubicle 7, who are sharing our island, were going to have a limited number of copies of The One Ring, so I ducked around the wall right at 9:00 and bought myself a copy. As you can see, it’s very pretty. I’m going to be reading it tonight.

I missed out on hitting the Fantasy Flight Games booth before the line got stupid long, so I’m going to have to try that tomorrow. I did manage to make it down to Pelgrane Press and speak with Robin Laws and Simon Rogers, both of whom said some nice things. I said some nice things to them, as well; I didn’t buy anything, because I’ve got all their current stuff already or preordered. I also finally got to meet Clark Valentine face-to-face, and that was nice. He came by as I was talking with Cam Banks at Margaret Weiss Productions, gushing about Cortex Plus, and we had a nice, geeky talk. Cam gave me a copy of an intro adventure for the Dragon Brigade game, which looks pretty cool, but was understandably tight-lipped about the big license announcement they’re making tomorrow ((“It’s not Star Wars,” he told me, grinning. Of course it’s not; FFG just announced that they have the license.)). Both Clark and Cam had some nice things to say about this blog, so thanks for that, guys.

I also tracked down Outrider, which company Rob Donoghue had mentioned on his blog, and grabbed their books. They are very nice people, and they’ve got a nice deal on at the con: both their games at $40, instead of $50, along with a nice d6 (the only die you need to play), and .pdf versions of the games. Stop by and check them out.

I didn’t make it down to IPR, mainly because I couldn’t find it. I’ve tracked down where it is, now, so I’m going to make it a point to get there tomorrow. I’d also like to get over to Games on Demand to try out Technoir.

Oh, and if you haven’t heard, Fiasco won the Diana Jones Award this year. It’s a well-deserved victory, though all the contenders were strong games. Congrats to Jason Morningstar and Steve Segedy at Bully Pulpit Games.

That’s about all I’ve got to say for today; I need to go find some food and then do some reading. I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures of neat people who came by the booth.

GenCon 2011 – Arrival

We made it. Long day.

Breakfast at Bob Evans, as is traditional. We made Indy around 12:30 ((Actually 1:30, because of the time change.)), and ran into some drama with Clint’s hotel room. That’s all straightened out, now.

Set-up was stupid hot, but we got it done, then went to help Gwen and Brian at Sigh Co. get their booth set up. Then I got Clint to his hotel ((I think. I haven’t heard from him again, so I assume everything is fine now.)), and joined Scott, Jarred, Gwen, Brian at the Rockbottom Brewery for dinner.

Now, it’s after midnight, and I need to set up my bed and get some sleep.

Tomorrow, the carnage begins.

GenCon 2011 – Almost There

So, here I sit in the Super 8 in Rochelle. We made decent time getting here today – left Winnipeg about 6:30am and arrived in Rochelle around 10:00pm. We made our ritual stop in Fargo to check out Barnes & Noble ((And not to get malts from Culvers at all. I don’t care what you heard. It was all about the books.)), and stopped for dinner in Madison.

The stretch from Madison to Rochelle was full of lightning off in the distance. Lots of lightning. No rain, though. It was pretty impressive, right up to the moment Clint said, “I guess this might be tornado weather.” Then it wasn’t as fun.

Got a call as we were in Madison from Scott Glancy of Pagan Publishing, who was checking to make sure I was on my way to the convention. He scolded me for not wanting to take the extra half-day of travel to go see The House on the Rock, and I assured him that, some day, I will. He also said that he had a surprise for me when I get to GenCon.

If you don’t think that filled me with dread, you obviously have not met Scott Glancy.

So, should hit Indianapolis around 2:00 or 3:00 tomorrow afternoon. Then the sweaty, hot, smelly work of setting up the booth, followed by dinner, which will really be the first time Scott, Jared, and I have to catch up on stuff.

It looks to be a big week. Fantasy Flight Games has announced that they have the Star Wars license for all sorts of games ((Odd that they announced it two days before GenCon. Don’t know if it means anything.)), and Margaret Weiss Productions is apparently announcing something big on Friday – a new license for their Cortex Plus line. I’m pretty curious about that. And, of course, The Dresden Files RPG is up for a number of Ennies, and in the running for the Diana Jones award. I’m a little bit partial to the game, as some of you may know.

There’s not a lot that I know I want this year at the Con, which is strange to me. I do want to try out Technoir at Games on Demand if I can shake free enough time, but that’s not a sure thing, based on previous years. And I definitely want to get in some Fiasco with Kevin and James and the other folks at Arc Dream.

**Edit: I meant John and James. Don’t know how I came up with Kevin.**

Going to bed now. Another early start tomorrow. Hope to post again tomorrow night.