Before heading out the Gen Con this year, I was planning on skipping Gen Con in 2012. I had such a great time, though, that I decided I would definitely be back to run events next year. That’s right, event participants: if you’re reading this, I’m coming back to Gen Con next year because of you guys.
I’m not good at making retail sales, and while I think I’ve developed a good booth display, all the hassles associated with booth setup, staffing, and teardown had really sucked the fun out of Gen Con for me. This was the first year in the 21st century where I just showed up to run events, and it was (naturally) a much more positive experience. The GPA sold our books out of their Showcase, and barring personnel changes with that program, we’ll use it again next year.
*BEST HELIOGRAPH EXPERIENCES*
--The adorable 10-year old girl (dressed like Link from Zelda) who played in her first RPG session with us. Her dad had contacted me ahead of time to make sure it was OK (he was there too), and I had planned on toning down some of the violence for her (PG-13 to PG). That turned out to be unnecessary. In addition to practically leading the party, she had a number of great ideas and seemed to get the scenario in a way other players have not. She seemed to have a good grasp of the rules, too, and was one of only two players all weekend to add dice to her character (though, in fairness, she had a ton of well-deserved Pavlov Points). But the real shocker was how casually, cheerfully bloodthirsty she was. At one point she politely requested (with a charming smile) that the party stop killing all the bad guys and save her two or three for questioning (which they did). Why did she want more than one? Because she said the party should kill one of the pirates in front of the other two to show them we were serious. In fairness, later she wanted to let them go if they promised to not follow the boss bad guy and live good lives. In the “I wasn’t expecting that” category, she now trumps the (similarly harmless looking) teenage girl from a few years ago at Gen Con who kept having her character pistol whip another PC who was annoying her.
--At every session, new-to-Zeppelin-Age players would read the cast list and ask “We can really play the dog and monkey?” Strangely(?), the presence of the monkey seemed crucial to party success. For example, one monkey-less party ended with a John Woo-esque standoff in the Zeppelin gondola between two factions of party members.
--Some great canine roleplaying from the woman who played “Blitzy” (the dog’s name was Blitz, but in this run that’s what the players called ze dog), leading to her companion to re-assert she couldn’t have a dog. While she really brought Blitzy to life, (and at one point covered her mouth with both hands as she had made a horrible mistake after she spoke in English instead of acting out Blitzy’s behavior), another player demonstrated a keen insight into the canine mind by stoutly guarding the Zeppelin and basing his action on how Blitz would interpret the other players' actions. _Note to self:_ be sure to let players with non-human characters know they can talk to other players.
--Most players reacted to the appearance of danger by opening fire on it. However, two more veteran gamers had their characters promptly run away when faced with a tentacled horror. I assumed they were veteran Call of Cthulhu players.
--Great advice from players on the scenarios, as well as some good advice on spreading the word about Zeppelin Age. More on that at a later date.
--Approaches to both scenarios were different every time, and that was unique in my convention experience. Some of the potential solutions were very appalling (and very 1930s). But a standout player in one event (the best player not ten years old or running an animal) went from a policy of ruthless extermination to reconciliation over the course of a two hour event.
--The overall quality of roleplaying was very, very high.
*BEST IN SHOW*
The best new thing I saw at the show was a pulp cliffhanger adventure boardgame, _FORTUNE AND GLORY_. It looks like a fun recreation of pulp serials and fiction, very much in the Indiana Jones world-hopping-and-artifact-collecting vein, though you can play a variety of other types of characters. It seems like a boardgame recreation of a roleplaying experience (like Fantasy Flight’s ARKHAM HORROR), and in the good old days I would have snatched it right up. I’ve still got a little regret there, because I do think it was worth $100, but it would have been irresponsible of me because of my current financial situation and lack of immediate prospects for playing it. It should be in distribution soon, and I think they’ve got a winner. If you’re a pulp fan (and have local game playing friends) you should definitely check it out. It allow for up to some crazy number of players (8?). It includes a Zeppelin as one of the playing pieces (though its function seems to be dropping Nazis around the world).
*THE OVERALL CON EXPERIENCE*
As I turn the corner into cranky-old-manhood, I must complain about something! I didn’t care for the exhibit hall layout: I thought putting the artists in the middle of the hall broke up the flow, but there seemed like there were plenty of people everywhere. Just walking the hall, and then making sure you’d walked the hall, was much harder than usual (for me, anyway, though my sense of direction is terrible). If I saw the WotC booth, I didn’t recognize it as such. The exhibit hall food was terrible even for exhibit hall food. If I could fix one thing, it would be that I would put more trash cans EVERYWHERE. The Disney rule (waste disposal every 30 feet, or something like that) would be great, but even having a waste basket in the event rooms would be a great leap forward.
The new Marriott complex was nice, and you could walk from one end of the event space to the other without ever going outside. I think our hotel room (in the new Marriott block) was as far away from where I ran games as you could be and still be connected to the convention center (it was a little over a mile), but the only times I went outside was when we went out to eat. Running events in the Crown -Royal- Plaza was very nice: the little bar/restaurant was tasy and quick, they had roving carts to feed people, and there was only a little confusion over tables. It was occasionally very loud (with seven tables in one room), but I used my pith helmet as an ear horn and that usually worked out, though I was worried I was going to lose my voice.
They’ve finally completed all the construction on the convention space, and there’s a lot of it, with plenty of room for expansion. I could be wrong, but it seemed like there were entire halls they didn’t use this year, and the open gaming space was an entire hall. While the will-call lines were crazy on Thursday (I thought they were lining up for entry into the Exhibit Hall), I didn’t hear anyone complaining about event problems (other than that). Everything seemed to go very smoothly from my POV, and I look forward to next year!