Tuesday, August 21, 2012

GenCon 2012: GM's Report Card

I am recently returned from GenCon Indy, so again, I pop my memory card into the computer, upload some photos, and share my experiences to all and sundry!

So, this particular GenCon was kind of a special one anyway. It was the premier of curse the darkness, the first roleplaying game from our new company, Play Attention Games. We weren't sure that we'd have the books there, but they did get delivered, in enough time to sell a few and hand them out to our Kickstarter backers that made the show. So that was nice.

Let me back up. We left Cleveland on Wednesday, my birthday. I was recovering from a god-awful cold (really felt more like a flu, but it went away too quickly for that), and so I kind of felt like hell. Michelle was, as you may know, an Industry Insider Gust of Honor, which meant she did a bunch of panels for them and got a free badge (but they didn't even give the panelists water at their panels. Really, guys?). But that meant we were both really busy all con, and Wednesday was the only day that things were really chill. (It was also my birthday.)

So we got there, and we checked in to the JW Marriott, which I recommend. Nice place. Check the view:

Blue, da-ba-di-da-ba-die.

We got checked in, and then headed over to the convention center to get our badges. This is what GenCon looks like on Wednesday.

Kind of empty.

Except that we then discovered that the line to pick up badges that had been preordered wrapped around the goddamned block.
Yeah, should've had them shipped.

We got the badges. There were some slight issues; I think the girl that was looking for my badge was not familiar with the convention that "Mc" tends to come before "Ma" in alphabetized lists, because it took her a really long time to find me. And then they gave me hassles about giving us the boys' badges, because they didn't have IDs to show (duh, they're kids). But we finally got it sorted. So we left from there and went to get dinner. We decided on Mikado's, because noodles and broth sounded good to me.

Mikado is only open to vampires, apparently. GET IT?

So we ate, and then walked back through the convention center toward the hotel. We saw Cardhalla being constructed:

There's an "after" picture later, too.

And then back to the hotel for sleeeeeep.

Next morning, the boys rolled out of bed and immediately turned on the Xbox.


No, screw that! This is GenCon! Time to go to the dealer's room! So they got dressed:

Gamer funk protection?
 ...and headed over to the convention center again, carrying a box of t-shirts.

This is what GenCon looks like on not-Wednesday.

We got to the booth eventually. Michelle was chipper.


Still chipper! Those blue things are curse the darkness shirts.

At the booth, we had lots of people come up asking for punches in their Cheese Weasel punch cards, including a member of the Miskatonic Cheerleading Squad.

Go pods!
 As I wandered out of the dealer's room to run my first game of curse the darkness, I saw a really tall Wookie.

 The first game turned out to be set in the convention center. The city was burning, and one of the community's people, someone skilled at firefighting, had vanished. The other characters found him baking on a rooftop and saved his life. I did not, however, snap any pictures.

So after that, we went to the Games on Demand rooms. Now, I'm totally volunteering to do this next year. It's a great system, folks get to play the games that they want, and it really showcases the strengths of low- or no-prep RPGs like Fiasco, Monsterhearts, Apocalypse World and curse the darkness. We played Apocalypse World, which was a lot of fun. I was a sex-club owner in a drowned city (Seattle; my club was in the space needle).

Somewhere in here, too, I got the emailed from Drive Thru RPG saying that my books had been shipped, and would arrive Friday! I was pretty damned elated. I may have squealed. Anyway.

Trevis, our maniacal GM.
The game was only two hours long, but we got a really good sense of it. Like TechNoir, which I had the pleasure of playing at Origins, this game starts you off with an archetype character, which you can then customize. It also makes a point of defining the relationships and connections between characters, and asks which character is making trouble for the guy running things. I was the guy running things (the club owner), and one of the other players was playing a psychic who wanted to either run my club or have a bigger piece of the pie. The game centered around getting the club up and running again, and ended with us taking someone hostage and fleeing back to the club. It probably would have been much bloodier if we'd had time to pursue it.

The GM, thrust into running this as all GoD GMs are, kept pace, threw complications at us and (and this I truly appreciate) asked us to supply details and backstory about NPCs. It was a lot of fun, and I was sad to learn that the game isn't available for purchase yet. My Grade: A.

And then I had a pickup game of curse the darkness. In this game, the characters were outside of Vegas and had to find out why their power went out. They biked to Hoover Dam and found some folks trying to blow it up, but they all went through a Removal Challenge together and all survived, and made the essential choice (seriously, everyone draws the same suit in a six-player Challenge? That's mathematically unlikely). Good time was had by all, however.

So then sleep. Next morning, I went down to play Four Colors Al Fresco.

This game uses d16s, which is weird.
 Now, I'd played this game a bunch of years ago at Origins. The system is wonky, but fun, and the setting is awesome. It's a supers game set in an alternate Renaissance Italy. Our group was a bunch of Omegas who were socially unacceptable - my character was Ozymandius, King of Kings (Deceased), a Mum-Ra kind of character. The other characters included a boy who cares for a goose that can lay golden (among other types) eggs; a necromancer who can only animate the bodies of fish; Princess Zoe, Midas' daughter, made of living gold; Swanmay, a warrior woman with power over birds; and Lazarus of Bethany, the man raised up from the dead by Jesus. Together, we were just too weird for polite society, and so eked out a living in the mountains.

I like this starting point, and our characters were wacky but had enough chemistry to be fun to play. And then the game was about a bear-demon that was killing people. It was fun, it just felt a little...pedestrian. I had to leave early because I needed to go pick up the books, so it's possible I missed something important. With that in mind: My Grade: I

After that game, I got the books and then we were going to play Advanced Dimensional Green Ninja-Educational Preparatory Super-Elementary Fortress 555 (hell yeah, I c/p'd that ). But that's a very hyperkinetic, random game and Michelle and I weren't feeling up for it. We rested a while instead, and then wound up going to dinner with some friends. I wound up bailing early. I felt like absolute shit for some reason, and I didn't want to relapse into sickness. I did see a couple of interesting things, though.

A living statue.

An unliving barista.

Cardhalla, now complete.
 Next day! Saturday! I had a 10AM game of curse the darkness to run, so I did that. That game was a lot of fun. The characters were coffee growers in Hawai'i, and were searching for their store of coffee that had vanished overnight. What was interesting, though, was that this group really latched on to the notion of breaking the rules, to the point that they would hand me Between Points when they referred to "our coffee" rather than "the coffee." More deaths this time around, very cool group of people.

So from there, I went to the booth and spent the afternoon there handing out copies of curse the darkness to backers. It was closing time before I got to leave, and Michelle and I got dinner at a food truck.


Food trucks are awesome!

Ya! Monsters!

And then back to the JW for our game of Fortune's Fool

That's my camera case. How meta.
So, I signed up for this game because it uses Tarot. Your draws are successful or not based on the number and whether the suit (or Major Arcana) is a favorable one for your character. The game was based on Beauty and the Beast, Michelle played a character called Belle, I played Sir Gilbert, who wound up contracting the curse of the Beast and getting all hairy and people-eat-y at the end. The game was a lot of fun. If I have a criticism, it's that toward the beginning the GM had a tendency to interrupt, but he got over that (he's a big personality, like me, so I know how it is). :) My Grade: A.

And then we went to the hotel bar, had a drink, went to bed. Nothin' fancy.

Next day, on the way to Clay-o-Rama, I saw strange and beautiful things:

I'm a sucker for supers.

More supers!

A dragon made of balloons!

And then I made it to the Family Fun Pavilion, where I found my table and folks got working on their Claydonians.

Preparing for war.

All set to the dulcet tones of Radio Disney!

Killlll meeeeeee.

The battle was joined, and it went the way it usually does. Bloody (clay-y?) melee...

And the adorable little girl that no one thinks will be a threat hung on with most of her hit points until the end, and then mopped up the survivors (hers is the purple thing up there).

So then it was finally time to wander the dealer's room, which, despite being in the room a good deal of the con, I hadn't been able to do. So I took some pictures.


Some...elf guy with a panther!

Michelle, Dave Brookshaw, and a box!

John Kennedy, and his girlfriend, Kat!

My GenCon 2012 haul.

 So in general, good con. Next year: Definitely doing Games on Demand. Definitely not doing Guest of Honor. Ain't worth it. They don't treat you right. Actually, the con in general could stand to step up its customer service game a little. This "no refunds" bullshit is getting a little stale.

But I hate to end on a negative note, so I'll just say: I'll be there next year, hopefully with some spankin' new games to show off!