Monday, August 18, 2014

GenCon: Wow.

Holy cats. GenCon.

This was seriously one of the best years I've had at GenCon, both personally and professionally. I got to talk to a lot of really awesome people, I made some connections for projects that I'm really excited about, and of course, Onyx Path announced the second editions of the World of Darkness lines and that the next WoD game is going to be Beast: The Primordial, which I am, of course, developing.

Good stuff. Also we sold all the books we brought with us, which is pretty baller.

But I know, you're just here for the pictures and the GM's Report Card.

Picture first:

Seconds later, she was on the roof.
I spotted this young lady in the convention center and kind of squeed a bit, because Mirror's Edge is one of my favorite games and her cosplay is awesome. But I did want to say: It's polite to ask if you can photograph someone, even if they're in costume. Don't assume that because someone is out and about that it's OK to take their picture. I mean, it's probably not illegal in any case, so you can, but that isn't the issue. There are lots of things that you can do that it's still unpleasant to do, so have a little decorum (for the record, I asked).

Anyway, Thursday I had a game of Daedalus to run, which went pretty well. I think I want a more dynamic scenario for when next I run it, but I also have some rules tweaking to do - it's not quite as exciting as I'd like. For all that, the players enjoyed it, and I felt bad telling them the game wasn't actually out yet (but they could go to the IGDN booth and find awesome games that were!).

Cardhalla, always impressive.

And then I had a game of Dime Stories to play, after a quick stopoff for dinner at a food truck. Dime Stories is an RPG that plays a lot like Dogs in the Vineyard, insofar as you have traits and gear that add dice to your pool, though the underlying moral element isn't there. It feels a lot like Firefly with the "space" part perhaps ramped up a little, and the game revolved around us surveying for a mine and stumbling into a corrupt little town held hostage by a cruel thug. In the end, we wound up basically trying to broker a deal between the "native" folks who actually owned the land the corporation we worked for, but the nuance was a little hard to get to that late in the evening (plus one player was kind of a dick close to the end of the game, which kind of soured the mood).

I'm not terribly impressed with the game itself. Like, I don't dislike it, but it felt kind of derivative, and I didn't feel like the mechanics did anything new or special, they just kind of worked. That said, my buddy Jonathan is a good GM and kept things humming along, and didn't let us get away with the easy ending, so that was nice. My grade: B+

It's Spanish for "Tell me stories."
And then, sleep.

Friday I ran some curse the darkness demos at the booth, and then sat on a panel about Kids and Gaming, which was pretty cool and reminded me I needed to pick up Little Wizards. And then I had to zip over to a game of Outbreak: Deep Space. Which turned out to be...not so great.

So, part of this is my fault. There are two zombie RPGs whose titles sound kind of similar. One is called Outlive Outdead, and I backed its Kickstarter and even have a picture of myself in the book. I've never gotten to play the game, though. The other game is called Outbreak Undead, it's a huge, pretty book, and I often pick it up at cons and then put it down after I flip through it, because it looks boring. I thought I was playing the former; turned out I was playing an offshoot of the latter.

The setup for the game was OK; we were on a prison ship, woke out of cryo-sleep early, there are zombies, argh. Simple enough. The problem was twofold.

First, the GM had never run a con game before, and was quite unfamiliar with this game in particular and this scenario for it. He understood the rules, but he was having trouble applying them in context. He called for rolls to do things like open our cryo-tubes, which would have been more silly than anything else, except that the characters in this game suck. It's a percentile system, but my character - who is a corrections officer - had nothing over a 40%. There are some modifiers that raise your target number, but not by much, and as a result I think I succeeded about...well, about 30% of the time. Which is boring and sucks and is not fun to play. (We could get into a big discussion about whether failure is fun to play and can lead to character development - I talk a little about it here - but this was pretty much a standard "roll and you miss and on we go" kind of thing.)

Plus, we didn't do any roleplaying. Not one scene. It was a minis game, except we abstracted most of the combat as well. My Grade: D

So then...well. Turns out Friday was my 40th birthday!

You know, I don't like parties much, unless they're mine. I know how that sounds, and it's not that I have to be the center of attention, but I like knowing the people (at least most of them) at a party, I like having a little bit of say about what's going on around me. Anyway, this was pretty awesome. There was this cake:
Don't be fooled, it's actually full of vibranium.
The cake was awesome, but I swear it weighed more than Cael. But I got it to the space, and people arrived.



Hey, it's me and Michelle!
One of the comments I made was "it's amazing how closely my 40th birthday resembles my 9th," by which I meant all the superhero stuff we use as decoration. But it was great - a lot of people, some of whom I don't see very much, coming to join me for my birthday. I didn't feel older at all. I felt loved.

And then, sleep.

Saturday I stumbled downstairs for the Onyx Path panel, where the aforementioned announcements took place. And then following that, I had a game of A Tragedy in Five Acts to run, for which I did not snap any pictures. That was, however, one of the most absurd games of Tragedy I've seen. A giant octopus named Calamara attacked San Francisco. One of the characters became a ghost in the first act, another a squid-mutant. And in the the, there was a nuclear blast set off at the Hostess factory, and everyone died, the ghost standing there in confusion. The winner (the Parent, playing the aforementioned squid-mutant) titled it The Squid's the Thing.

Something I did note: We had one female player. When she bid on scenes, one of the things she almost always changed was her character getting kidnapped or otherwise damsel'd. Food for thought.

From there, I wandered a bit, and caught some fellow freelancers in a bar (because where else would they be).

And also some of Batman's villains:

Either Batman has a plan to escape or they've prenegotiated. 

So then a spot of dinner, and then on to Fate of the Norns with Michelle! Now, this was another game I backed on Kickstarter and never played, but it's a pretty cool game. It doesn't use dice. Instead, you have a bag of runes from which you draw, and different colors mean different actions. The characters are neck-deep in Ragnorak (which, as the author/GM pointed out, isn't a one-night deal, it lasts generations) and we wound up fighting horrible death-bears. Two of us died, but in death, you have the chance to go to Valhalla and have the whole group (of players) "level up." I don't generally hold with levels, but I do like that death has a purpose and a mechanic. I would totally run this game for my players. My grade: A-

My character was a skald. I sang "Immigrant Song" in battle. 
And then, sleep.

Finally, Sunday! Sunday, of course, means Clay-o-Rama!

Now, strangely, I had 8 people signed up but only 3 showed, and then another joined us. So the match was quick.

Construction phase.
The battle is joined!
We had some pretty cool looking monsters. One guy - the oldest combatant - zipped off to the end of the table and waited for the other three younger boys to duke it out. He won, of course, but I do want to note that just before the killing blow was struck, his last remaining opponent used Bowl and threw his doughy butt down the table, whereupon his scorpion monster fell right apart. It was pretty satisfying.

Also, this game involves hedgehogs. 
From there, shopping. Michelle and I walked around, schmoozed a bit, bought a bunch of stuff, and killed time until it was time to tear down the booth.

Also a comp. 
And then onward, home!

I'm not experiencing con drop yet, though I might; it was a really good time, and I met some new awesome people and spent time with pre-existing awesome people. Next year, of course, should be the debut of both Beast and Chill, so I'm greatly looking forward to that, as well as seeing all my con-buddies.