Mid GenCon Update

Two days down, two to go.

It’s been a fun convention so far. We got into Indy around two on Wednesday, and I caught up with Scott Glancy and Jared Wallace (of Pagan Publishing and Dagon Industries, respectively) to head over to the convention centre to set up the booth.

Now, they don’t put the air conditioning on during set-up, so it’s hot, sweaty, and pretty smelly in there, what with hundreds of vendors setting up their booths while the convention centre staff lays down the carpet. We’re also sharing the booth with Arc Dream and Greg Stolze, which makes for a fun crowd.

After we finished, we went to the Rock Bottom Brewery for dinner. It’s got good food, and isn’t afraid of us geeks.

The con opened yesterday morning, with the Very Important Gamers coming in an hour before the hoi-polloi were admitted. Of course, there’s always a scramble on the first morning, trying to get all the last-minute stuff done.

And then things got busy.

That evening, we went back to Rock Bottom, this time with the folk from Sigh Co. Graphics, which is always a good time.

Today was more of the same, with the exception that I got to go for lunch with Clint, which was nice, because we often don’t see each other much during the show. Tonight, Scott is running a playtest, and I’m taking it easy in the hotel, reading my new purchases. And what are those purchases?

  • Innsmouth Horror. This is the new supplement for Arkham Horror. I haven’t looked too closely at it, yet, because these games always have a ton of components, and I don’t want to risk losing any.
  • The Stars Are Right. This is a new Cthulhu-themed game from Steve Jackson Games. I’ve looked at the rules, and they seem a little complex. I’m going to try and sit on a demo if I have time, because I think that’ll make thing a lot clearer.
  • Geist: The Sin-Eaters. The new World of Darkness game from White Wolf. I’ve just started reading it, and it looks interesting.
  • Eclipse Phase. A transhuman conspiracy RPG from Catalyst Games. The book is beautiful, and the bit I’ve read looks fun. I haven’t got to any of the system, yet, so I’m still not completely sold. But it looks great!
  • A Couple of Shirts from Sigh Co. I’ve been looking at their great stuff for years, and I finally got a couple. This one and this one, to be precise.

I’ve also picked up a surprise or two for friends back home that I’m not going to talk about.

Not a lot of new stuff at the show, as far as I can tell, but that’s sort of par for the course in this economic climate.

All in all, I’m having fun. And I hope to be in Scott’s playtest tomorrow night, if there’s room.

Quick Update – GenCon Indy

I’m sitting in my hotel room in Indianapolis, getting ready for GenCon to start tomorrow. I’m once again helping out with Pagan Publishing and Dagon Industries at booth 706. If you’re at the show, feel free to stop by and say hello, and I’ll do my level best to sell you some stuff.

I’m also going to try and report what I see that’s interesting at the show, but I’m going to be playing in a playtest for at least a couple of evenings, so the posts may not be very long or very detailed. Still, I’ll do my best.

I’ve also got a Storm Point game to tell you about, but I’m not sure I’m going to have time before Sunday evening to do that. We’ll see.

Anyway, GenCon. It’s my tenth year attending, and my ninth working for Pagan. It’s always a blast, and I don’t think this year is going to be any different. We got the booth set up today, and then Scott Glancy, Jared Wallace, and I went out to the Rock Bottom Brewery for a nice dinner.

Tomorrow, the madness begins.

Home Again

I’m back from GenCon. As always, it was a real blast. I got back around 9:00 last night, and had to be up for work this morning, so my recollection is kind of chaotic, but I want to talk a little bit about it while it’s fresh.

Here we go, in no particular order:

  • Once again, I spent my time with Scott Glancy of Pagan Publishing and Jared Wallace of Dagon Industries, both fine gentleman. We shared the both with Shane Ivey and the Arc Dream Publishing crew, and they were a good bunch of fellows, as well.
  • Greg Stolze spent a lot of time in the both, flogging his games Reign and Dirty World. I got to know Greg back in the days I was writing for Unknown Armies, and it’s always a pleasure to spend some time with him.
  • Ken Hite, one of my favourite connoisseurs of the weird and the real and the intersection of the two, stopped by a few times. He’s got a new book out: Tour de Lovecraft. It’s a collection of his blog entries, and takes you on a tour through all 51 of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu stories. Good, good stuff. I bought two.
  • I got to touch base with Fred Hicks and Lenny Balsera of Evil Hat. They were both pretty busy, but it was good to shake hands and attach faces to names. Nice folks.
  • At the Pagan booth, we had the printer’s proof of one of their next books, Mysteries of Mesoamerica. My good friend and GenCon traveling partner, sculptor Clint Staples, wrote a big chunk of the book, and it’s been a long time coming out. But it’s more than worth the wait. This book is absolutely beautiful!
  • Had dinner a couple of nights with Gwen and Brian from Sigh Co. Met them last year, and they’re very nice people. Good to see them again.
  • Fantasy Flight Games is rapidly becoming the powerhouse of the show. I bought a new expansion for Arkham Horror from them that I didn’t even know was coming – The Black Goat of the Woods. There were about four other games I would have liked to pick up, but the budget can only be stretched so far.
  • Last year, I passed on the Campaign Coins, and I regretted it. This year, I bought the starter set, and feel much better about myself. They’re very nice.
  • Also picked up Aces & Eights, BRP, and Alpha Omega. Haven’t had much chance to get into them yet, though. Look for thoughts in future posts.
  • Didn’t get to play in Scott Glancy’s playtest this year, but he did talk to me some about the scenario and his thinking behind it. I just want to go on record as saying that there is something broken inside his very soul if he can come up with stuff like that, and I thank him for it.
  • Seemed to be a larger female turnout this year. More, there seemed to be more females buying game product for themselves this year. I like to see this; the hobby has a lot to offer everyone, regardless of gender, and it’s good to see it grow.
  • For those interested, the final tally for the count on Saturday was 43*.

So, it was a good trip, and I had a lot of fun. Thanks to everyone I spent time with down there. You guys are what makes the trip worthwhile.


*Those who know don’t need to ask. Those who ask don’t need to know.

The Thrill of Cthulhu

Tomorrow night, I’m running a Call of Cthulhu one-shot for a group of friends.

It’s going to be interesting; I’ve got four or five people coming to play, and only the tentative fifth player has any deep experience with the game. Two of the others have played a bit, one has played other games but never this one, and one is very new to gaming, her only experience being the Dresden Files RPG playtest. That means I really want to show off what Call of Cthulhu has to offer as a game.

Picking the scenario turned out to be tougher than I thought. I was planning on running The Haunting, which is sort of the default intro scenario that’s been published in (I’m pretty sure) every edition of the rules. Unfortunately, one of the players has just enough memory of it to make that not feasible. So, I was stuck looking through all my Call of Cthulhu books, trying to find something that would work. For it to be a good one-shot intro scenario, I felt it needed the following elements:

  • Research. If the characters don’t have the opportunity to look around libraries and newspaper morgues and interview people, it’s not an archetypal Cthulhu adventure.
  • Investigation. If the characters don’t have a strange place or event to nose around in, then what’s the adventure?
  • Danger. Come on, it’s a one-shot! There’s got to be a real chance of disaster.
  • Mythos elements. There’s got to be some mythos magic, and a mythos threat, to really show that this is Cthulhu, not just a random horror game.
  • One session. We’ve got to be able to wrap it up in a single evening.

So, I dug through all my old books, trying to find something that fit all the criteria, and came up with The House on Stratford Lane, from an old issue of The Unspeakable Oath. It didn’t quite fit all the criteria, not having much in the way of research and having a chance that no mythos threat materializes, but it was pretty good, and all the Pagan Publishing Cthulhu stuff is interesting and well-written.

Which gave me an idea; I should ask Scott Glancy, president of Pagan Publishing, for his suggestion of a scenario. See, I spend GenCon every year working the Pagan Publishing booth with Scott, so I know he knows about good Cthulhu adventures. Last year, I even got to playtest a scenario involving a WWI German airship, and something nasty brought back from an archaeological dig.

He gave me a number of good suggestions, and even pointed me to the relevant message threads on Yog-Sothoth.com, but the one that stuck out was The Brockford House. I had to dig out my old 4th Edition rulebook to find the scenario, but it had everything except the research. That’s the one I picked.

So, for the past few days, I’ve been building a research section for the game, and developing props for the game. Because, as any CoC player knows, it’s all about the handouts. And making neat props for games is just a lot of fun – having a newspaper clipping or page from an ancient tome that looks like a newspaper clipping or page from an ancient tome really increases player immersion in the experience and suspension of disbelief.

I’ve been aided in prop making by the good folks at the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society, most specifically by their Prop and Font CD. I’ve been using it to put together newspaper clippings and some pages from… other sources.

Here’s a little tip about aging paper for games that I picked up back when I was studying drama at University: soak the paper in cold tea for about 15-20 minutes, then dry it flat. If you want a ragged, distressed sort of edge to the paper, tear it while it’s soaking wet – it gives you a much more worn, interesting looking edge to the page. Do this after writing or printing on it. That’s important.

A lot of you probably already knew that, but maybe it’ll be useful for someone.

Anyway, I’m all excited about the game tomorrow night. I think it’ll be fun. And after we play this one-shot, I’m going to test-drive the Trail of Cthulhu rules with the intro scneario provided.

I’ll let you know how things go.