GenCon Trip Report 2013

Yea though I walk through the valley of suspect hygiene, I shall fear no body odor...

Yea though I walk through the valley of suspect hygiene, I shall fear no body odor…

Well, we’re home. That’s right, The Wife, The Littlest Tsarina, and I have returned from Indy with sore feet, frayed nerves, bags full of awesome junk, and a handful of good work contacts. Oh, and stories. Lots of stories. Sadly, Eldest Tsarina couldn’t attend this year because, seriously, wrangling a three month old and a bright, willful, opinionated, highly motivated three year old at GenCon is crazy talk.Neither the wife nor I are that strong. Anyway, we got through it without losing our minds, without getting con crud, and with Wil Wheaton spending ten minutes chatting up the Littlest Tsarina. You, however, don’t care about that. You’re here to hear about stuff like how Accursed did and Space Hobbits eating a servitor. So, without further ado, here’s the Amalgamated Fiction – Detroit GenCon 2013 Trip Report. (Spoiler Alert – You’re going to hear about Wil Wheaton and the Littlest Tsarina)

We got in late, late Wednesday night because wrangling the women in my family is like herding cats. After a good night’s sleep, we got to the Indiana Convention Center early so that I could grab some breakfast with my man John Dunn and fellow Something Awful goon AlienRopeBurn at Cafe Patachou and so that The Wife could get to her morning game (the first, but not the only game in which she would be the only woman in the room). Once breakfast was over, and if you haven’t done yourself the favor at eating at Cafe Patachou you’re missing out, John, APR, and I moseyed over to the awesome Crowne Plaza hotel. There, deep in the bowels of the old train station, John, Ross Watson, and I held our first of three panel discussions on working in the trad games industry. This first panel was all about how to be a professional, a subject near and dear to my heart and one that I’ve gone on about at length before. It was a pretty good turnout, considering that it was at 11:00 on Thursday and, really, hardly anyone was at the con yet. After the panel, I spent the rest of the day dicking around in the dealer hall, catching up with friends, talking up Accursed, and generally having a good time until it was time to run my first game.

Thursday night I ran a Star Wars: Edge of the Empire introductory game of my own concoction called “Beer Run”. This was an official Fantasy Flight Games sponsored game in their shiny new RPG room (the finally moved all the RPG demos out of their giant booth to a whole big room on the other side of the convention center), and I had access to a GM screen, the book, a bunch of Star Wars dice, various supplies, and a constant supply of bottled water. It was a pretty nice setup, and it ran pretty well for their first year of doing it. So I had a table of six people, some new to Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, some new to role-playing, and one guy who was, thankfully, pretty familiar with the system. You see, I’ve written in the system, and I’ve played a couple of games (I’ll have to tell you about YR-1Y some day), but I’ve never actually run the game. One guy at the table had run it twice, so he was a great help sorta-kinda co-GMing, filling in the gaps when I forgot something. Like Force Points. Anyway, yeah. Beer Run, let’s talk about that.

In this scenario, the players work for a huge beverage distributor based on Coruscant called GalBev. GalBev has a new beer that needs to be approved by the equivalent of the Coruscant FDA so that GalBev can get it into production. The players, who are truck drivers, are given a big old tanker-style speedertruck and a debadged Coruscant Police Interceptor speeder with which to get a sample of this new beer from the brewery to the lab on the other side of Coruscant. They have one job, to get the sample to the lab safely and discreetly. You guys see where this is going, right? Hilarity ensued immediately as, once they left the parking lot, they were beset by swoop gang hijackers, fake cops, real cops, bad traffic, speeder accidents, looky-loos, and all manner of other bullshit that conspired to make their lives harder, scuff up the paint on their sweet tanker speeder, and generally ruin their day. I’m not gonna tell you how it ended, because I expect some of you will play this game, but let’s just say that it didn’t end up the way the players expected. A whole lot of fun was had, and I think I made a good impression of the game. Which, honestly, was the whole point. Have some fun, throw some dice, sell some books. Afterwards, The Wife and Tsarina and I, along with the FFG RPG crew all retired to Scotty’s for some late-night dinner and drinks.

Friday was yet another early morning as our first panel of the day, Working with a Licensed Product, started bright and early at 09:00. Again, we made our way into the labyrinth beneath the old train station and held forth on working with licensors to a bunch of bleary-eyed and subdued panel-goers. It went well, we talked about the ins and outs of working with a license (a subject that John, Ross, and I have a lot of experience with), and then broke for a trip to the coffee shop. We split up for a while, reconvening at 14:00 in the train station for our third and last panel discussion, How to Freelance in the Trad Games Industry. This was, by far, the best attended of our three panels. I guess a lot of people want to work in the industry (crazy talk, I know). We talked a lot about our experiences, some dos and don’ts, reinforced the importance of business cards (seriously, nerds, get yourselves some business cards) and basically shared a lot of hard-earned wisdom on freelancing. Like don’t over commit. Not that, you know, I know anything about over commitment.

It was during our panel that, while chilling in the convention center, my wife and daughter were set upon by Wil Wheaton. So, I guess our man Wil was at the con in a non-professional capacity playing games, trying to blend in, and doing his best to avoid breathless nerds rushing him and shouting Big Bang Theory quotes at him or some shit. Anyway, Wil and his handler, who was apparently running interference for him, came around the corner, saw the Wife and Littlest Tsarina chilling out having some lunch, and he made a beeline for the stroller. I guess Wil loves babies, and spent ten minutes making googoo faces at the kid and telling my wife all about how his kids (his wife’s kids, actually) are all grown up and out and he never got to actually have babytime. That’s my Wil Wheaton story. Or, should I say, the kid’s Wil Wheaton story, ’cause I wasn’t there.

Anyway, after a good bit of Q&A during the freelancing panel, we wrapped the panel and went off to film a movie in a cemetery! Oh yeah, did I mention we filmed a movie in a cemetery? Well, I guess movie is too strong a word for it. It was more like we went to a really great old cemetery in Indy to film the Kickstarter movie for Accursed. We had a nice day for it and ad-libbed our way through it and I think it’s going to come out very nice. The rest of the day was taken up with dinner, drinks, an Accursed meeting (more drinks), and the first part of the Ennies. As for that, well, the less said about the Ennies this year the better. I wrapped Friday early, and once the wife was done with her games we crashed and got ready for the big show on Saturday.

Saturday was pretty much a whole lot of shmoozing, giving out cards, shaking hands, and all that other stuff freelancers need to do if they want to, you know, pay rent and not eat out of trash bins. Ross, John, and I had a great meeting with Shane Hensley of Pinnacle about Accursed before lunch wherein Shane gave us a lot of good advice and guidance on our Accursed Kickstarter and our project in general. Shane’s a cool dude, and knows what he’s talking about, so we were happy to listen. He was pretty bullish on Accursed, which gave the three of us a serious boost of confidence, so that was awesome. After a day of passing out cards, both mine and the Accursed cards, I ran yet another game at the FFG game room, this time it was Only War.

Now, I love the Imperial Guard. They’re probably my second favorite thing about the 40K setting after Orks. ‘Cause, seriously, Orks. Amirite? Saturday night I ran an Only War intro game that was, essentially, Kelly’s Heroes, in space, with lasguns. Elements of the Cadian 99th Mechanized Infantry Division, left alone by their CO with no Commissar, no Psyker, and no Priest, found a map on a dead Ork that read “’Da ‘umie loot iz ‘dis way ——>”. This lead to a hilarious series of events that included dropping a trukk on an Ork and starting a forest fire, getting attacked by a couple of Marauder Bombers from the Imperial Navy (and killing a couple of the PC’s companions, including the tech-priest’s servitor), the Tech-priest giving the Space Hob… I mean… the Ratlings her dead servitor to eat for being the only troopers who were, in her estimation, worth a damn, and a whole bunch of other incidences that were terrible decision making through great role-playing.

When they finally got to where “’da ‘umie loot” was, they found a small colony settlement recently (like, within the past few hours) overrun by Orks and two, count ‘em, two Baneblade super-heavy tanks in town, one of which the Orks had running and were using to drive through buildings. You know how they infiltrated the settlement? They waited until the Orks got good and drunk, then made themselves covers out of sheets of metal and wood with dirt and twigs and grass glued on and wandered in through a series of drainage ditches. Well, the Tech-Priest simply wrote, “I am water” on her plank and it worked just as well. Then, when they couldn’t go any further through the ditches and were within a hundred meters of the second Baneblade (which, by the way, the Ork Boss was sitting on half asleep), they just brushed off the sheets, wrote, “I am an Ork” on them, and went for it. When someone brought up the fact that Orks can’t read, the tech-priest just said, “That is not a problem, I will explain it to them”, which she had to do on a couple of occasions as they snuck across the square.

At this point, we had dicked around so much and taken so long (because we were all laughing our asses off) that it was game over time and I didn’t have the time for the final climactic battle. So I just had them tell me what they wanted to do, filled in some narration, and we spent a couple minutes co-op storytelling slaughtering a small Ork warband, driving a Baneblade around, setting things on fire, and generally pretending they were Clint Eastwood and Donald Sutherland running over Nazis with Shermans. We had a lot of fun, so much so that I said I’d totally blog about it, and now I have. Saturday ended with me, John, and Tim Cox sharing a growler of The Ram’s delicious porter in the Bladerunner-style corporate headquarters that John usually stays in during the con.

Sunday morning we were exhausted and footsore, but we made one more trip into the abyss. We had breakfast at the Pullman Cafe, which left something to be desired but the company was great and we used it as a chance to debrief on our Accursed stuff. After that John, Ross, and I said our goodbyes and The Wife, Tsarina, and I headed back for one more pass through the dealer’s hall. I got my final work hook up, talking to Wes from Paizo about some possible work orking and elfing and dwarfing for Pathfinder, and we were on the road back to Detroit.

So that’s it. That’s how I spent my summer vacation. Most of it, anyway. I had a good time, re-upped some contacts, bought some stuff, and had a pretty successful con. How about you, how was your con?

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