Michelle and I have returned from our first GenCon!
What is GenCon you ask?
It’s Mecca for gamers. For 45 years roleplayers, war-gamers, and all those who play adventure games have been gathering at GenCon, which began as an informal gathering at Gary Gygax’s house in Geneva, Wisconsin for war-gamers back in 1967. GenCon is now held in Indianapolis as the Indianapolis Convention Center (ICC) and draws over 35,000 people from around the world. Not just any people but our people -gamers!!!
It’s about a ten-hour drive from our home to Indianapolis and we took two days coming and going, which made the driving pretty relaxed. We had the perfect snack food of cherries and pistachios for the road trip, which was the high point culinarily speaking on this trip. Seriously, Indianapolis is not for foodies. Vegetarians be warned – this city is home to carnivores who seem to have had their tastebuds surgically removed at a young age. We tried a lot of places near the ICC but eventually gave up and settled on a food court in a nearby mall for the last day or so. It reminded us why we’re so spoiled living in D.C. when it comes to food.
Speaking of D.C., Indianapolis is actually modeled on D.C. so the city had a very familiar feel. It was easy walking around the downtown and we covered a lot of it Wednesday afternoon after we had checked into our hotel. It’s a very clean and tidy city.
So we arrived on Wednesday at the Holiday Inn Express, which is about two blocks from the ICC. I will say it’s an awesome feeling to enter your hotel and find the lobby and dinning area filled with gamers playing games. Throughout GenCon you could find people playing games in hotel lobbies, throughout the ICC, outside, at restaurants, really everywhere. All ages were represented from teenagers to people who might have attended the very first GenCon. The hobby isn’t quite as ethnically diverse as it should be but the balance between men and women was a lot closer that I expected.
A few things of note – vampires are clearly out. Not surprising but I’m not sure zombies are an improvement. Steampunk is really the cool thing of the moment, but of course anime, Star Trek, and Star Wars remain very popular all things considered. Dungeons & Dragons is iconic but it seemed like Pathfinder is the current RPG king, though looking at the bags and products people were carrying, well, Fantasy Flight was clearly rocking.
Anyway, we took a fairly low-key approach to GenCon hitting a few seminars, a few games, and mainly taking in the sights and sounds.
On Thursday we started the day at 9am attending an Introduction to LARP seminar that about convinced us that next time we attend GenCon to give it a try. The seminar was hosted by Figments of Your Imagination and they definitely communicated LARP in a way that this tabletop roleplayer appreciated. From there we went to the True Dungeon, undertaking the first part Giant’s Travail. You travel through a simulated dungeon facing puzzles and monsters to reach and defeat the Big Bad at the end. Michelle did very well figuring out the first puzzle room and keeping everyone healed as the cleric. I was the druid…I had to memorize leaf patterns that I could recognize when tested to cast spells. Michelle had to memorize prayer bead patterns for her spells. We were both 2 for 3 and I consider that a success. Now it’s a rather cool event but I’m not quite sure it’s worth $38 each for it but I was glad we did it as well as content we only signed up for the first half and not both parts. We then wandered about till 6pm when we went to Indie Games on Demand. Honestly, I didn’t know any of the indie games being played, but that’s the point: to try new things! We joined up with a group to play Fiasco and had a fantastic time! It’s a great party/pickup game. You make up the story as you go. So I was Michelle’s pathetic stepson in a relationship with another player’s waitress character and locked in opposition with a plumber and his partner in crime over ownership of 55-gallon drum of heating oil. It played out very much like a Coen Brothers’ movie. Over the top roleplaying, high dramatics over trivial things, and a complete fiasco. Also had a very good narrator who I suspect was running all manner of games at Indie Games on Demand all of GenCon.
I have to say that everyone we did stuff with – from the True Dungeon to the few games we played – were great people. Everyone played nice together and it’s the sort of stuff that reminds you why you love the hobby.
On Friday we started off with a game at 10am with the new Marvel Superheroes RPG playing the Guardians of the Galaxy trying to help a world evacuate before Galactus consumes it. It was a chance to see the system in action that I’ve tried a few times with the family. Picked up a few tricks, but was also reassured that I’ve been doing it right. It’s a very fun system, a little complicated, but a lot of good tactical decisions built into the dice mechanic. So a fun three hours. Afterwards we shopped a little, took a nap, and returned that night for Gamers Live!
Gamers Live! was an hour of improv by the actors from Gamers: Dorkness Rising and then an hour of filming some scenes for next year’s Gamers: Hand of Destiny, the sequel to Dorkness Rising. So we are part of the audience for a few scenes and it was neat to see the filming process and assist with hundreds of other gamers. I will mention that there is a Kickstarter for this movie here. Really Dorkness Rising is a great introduction to roleplaying just like it seems that Hand of Destiny will prove a great introduction to playing collectible card games.
Saturday was a few more seminars and more shopping as well as a lot of sitting around and watching people go around the ICC in costume. Saturday at GenCon is insane, awesome, but insane. Anyway, we attended a seminar hosted by Wolfgang Baur on starting an RPG company. It was a reassuring seminar as most everything he discussed we’ve already done or considered. Of course, he’s the master of Open Design and Kobold Quarterly, but he is also a game designers I’ve always been fond of, since back in the days he wrote for TSR. He was also nice enough to answer a few questions from Michelle while walking from this seminar to the next one he was part of. Great guy and very accessible. Our next seminar was on RPG editing by staff from Paizo (FYI: pronounced Pi-zo). Interesting and neat to get a look into how they handle editing. Once again, also reassuring because we seem in good steed in how we do things. It did seem the panelists were surprised so many showed up to this seminar but gamers are an odd bunch. Gamers, especially roleplayers, love language. After more shopping our last thing was attending a seminar on how to sell your game design by an older game designer from an earlier time. So maybe the information was a little out of date but the stories he told were far more entertaining.
We did buy stuff. Obviously. I actually got some Palladium stuff and a lot of Robotech RPG material to give my son if he does well in school this upcoming semester. We also picked up some new RPGs like HeroQuest, Reign, Icons, Hero System Basic, and also Hackmaster. People are pretty accessible, I mean we met Jolly Blackburn and the rest of those at Kenzer Co., had good conversations with people at Indie Press Revolution as well as at Cubicle 7 – talking about roleplaying and my quest at GenCon to find recommendations for RPGs for duet roleplaying. Speaking of which, two games were mentioned: Mars Colony and Murderous Ghosts, which are highly recommended two-person roleplaying games. I intend on ordering them tomorrow or the next day.
Another really great thing was meeting Lorraine Schleter who is a freelance artist we had do some art work for an RPG product we have yet to release. Fortunately, we actually got some ideas and tips while at GenCon that should accelerate that process and get out our first Duet Sagas’ product next year.
Coming out of GenCon, Michelle and I really feel energized and ready-to-write in the coming months and we have a lot of exciting product in the works. We are also kicking our roleplaying and gaming back into gear. Additionally, we’ve decided to return to GenCon in 2014. We don’t want to go alone this time. Seriously, if you’re a gamer, it is a necessity to at some point attend GenCon Indy – so why not 2014? There are far more events scheduled than you can possibly attend, so there is literally something for everyone, whatever aspect of gaming is your favorite. And it is a fantastic opportunity to expand your gaming horizons.
Thanks for reading,