Tuesday, August 28, 2007

GenCon report, and moving forward.

So, it's been a week since I've gotten home from GenCon, which probably makes this the latest report on the internet, but I honestly just kind of took the last week off. Not from work, mind you. I went to work the day I got back, and have been working since then to make up for the time I took off, but from games. With the exception of learning how to play the WoW card game I got as swag, I haven't opened a game book, taken a note, or typed a word on the campaigns I'm supposed to be working on. I basically took last week to decompress a bit and hang out with my wife and kids before school made our lives crazy again.

Anywho, I guess I had better start with talking a little bit about the awards. The ceremony was awesome, and best of all I got to spend a bit of time hanging out with all of the great people that I got to know on line over the last few months. There weren't a whole lot of surprises among the winners, though I sincerely wish that a few of the outstanding small press titles had gotten a bit more recognition. I really thought there would be at least a few more medals going out to them.

And then of course there were the announcements for the judge elections.

Since that night I''ve heard a huge number of people come out to tell me they were sorry that I didn't get elected, and how shocked they were. I appreciate that a lot, but it wasn't entirely unexpected. I was far more shocked that Jeff Ranger (who had been a judge in every previous year) didn't get elected. My election the first time was a fluke, and the result of a whole lot of hard campaigning, drawing from groups that most other judges simply didn't have access to. I hit local gatherings and nearly every gamer in central Texas looking for votes while the others campaigned among the people who could already be counted on to vote online. This meant that I got a nice little surge of votes, but it also meant that they went away as soon as I wasn't around to remind them to get online and vote for me. While everyone else was online, campaigning and answering questions like they should have been, I was on vacation with my family. I knew I was taking a chance with the election when I made the choice, and I don't really regret it.

This isn't, however, bad news. For the judging panel we got five qualified and excited people who came straight home with piles of books and got right to work. I think they're going to do a fantastic job, and I can't wait to sit back and see what they come up with. As far as what that will mean where this blog is concerned, well I have even better news. At least three of the judges told me that they are interested in blogging like I did, and together I know they'll do a far better job than I ever did alone. I have offered to give them this blog site, since it would be a bit disingenuous of me to keep using the enniejudge address, and hopefully they'll take me up on that. Even if they maintain separate blogs, a combined blog here might make for interesting reading. Liz also asked me to consider writing a guest column on occasion, which would be extremely cool, though I have no idea what I would talk about.

As for me, I accepted a staff position doing outreach for the Ennie Awards, and I'll be moving my private blog onto another feed just as soon as I figure out whether or not there is any way to transfer over all the stuff I've already written. I'll leave my entries here as well, but I wanted to archive them on my own site if possible. Beyond Ennies stuff, I'm thinking about starting a pet project. Dan Repperger told me that he believes that everything happens for a reason, and that he was able to speak far more for podcasting by presenting the award than he ever could have in a simple acceptance speech. That got me thinking, and though I personally feel the same way, I don't usually have many opportunities to apply that to gaming. Here perhaps I do. I have two RPGs that I have all but complete, that I never bothered to do anything with because I never had any desire to try and get them published. As a judge I never could have anyways.

Having met a lot of great publishers and writers at GenCon however, I begin to understand why people might want to put their stuff our there, even if they know it'll never make them a real living. So I think I may give it a shot as well. I'm going to take this year to try and get together at least an ashcan edition, and hope that the Ashcan Front has room for one more. I really loved what they were doing there, and it would be incredibly awesome to have the chance to be a part of that.

Anywho, enough of that. Let's talk about GenCon.

Maybe it's just been too long, or maybe I'm just older, but it sure seemed like GenCon was bigger and much more of a presence than it was in Milwaukee ten years ago. You couldn't swing a boffer weapon without smacking a gamer ("2 magic!"), and you couldn't walk down the street without meeting someone cool.

That's good, because I turns out that I am the worst GenCon planner ever. I went to the con signed up to run two unofficial games, and to play in one more. Beyond that, all I had to do was two shifts at the Ennies booth. That's it. Silly me, I thought I'd just find a few games when I got there.

I did, however, run Hollow Earth Expedition, and the players there made it the most fun I've ever had in a con game, and probably the best time I've had with any game in a really long time. I cannot express enough how much I love that game, and as glad as I am that it got a silver for Best Cover, I'm pretty saddened that it wasn't honored beyond that at the Ennies. It helps of course, that the people who make it are so completely awesome. Not only did they set aside a special copy of the limited edition Secrets of the Surface World supplement for me (number 10!), they gave me a copy of the GM screen for running the game at the con, even though mine wasn't an official game, and loaned me a ton of the extremely cool new style chips to use.

I also played in a game of Traveller20 run by Psion from the ENWorld forums. There I made the unfortunate choice of playing the pilot, and I basically spent the entire game sitting on the ship hoping to make myself useful. I'm sure I was a ton of fun for the poor other players who kept trying to encourage me to leave the ship, but the paranoid GM in me was sure that the moment we left the ship unoccupied it was going to take off without us. Yeah, it's tough switch from GM to player. If you guys are reading this, sorry if I was a stick in the mud.

Finally I managed to worm my way into Chris Hussey's Skies of Glass demo (the game written by the guys over at Fear the Boot). The game itself is still in early stages of development, but it looks really cool, and that demo adventure is the best written con game I've ever seen. It's really tough to write a game for a bunch of strangers. Doubly so for a group different enough to touch on all the features of a game, and that game was perfect. Everyone at that table had something to do, and we were all engaged the entire time. I can't heap enough praise that direction. Even if my best friend did betray me to the law and get me executed...

That's really it for my gaming experiences. Like I said, I just didn't plan well at all. I was really hoping to do some stuff that I never get to at home, play some board games, demo a few story games, and play in a LARP. Ever since I read the excellent new version of the Cthulu LARPthat was entered in the Ennies I've been dying to give it a try. Anywho, I never really got the chance. That's not entirely true. I did get to do a cool demo of Breaking the Ice, which was a huge amount of fun, but I was desperate to try out Dogs in the Vineyard and Prime Time Adventures, and I'm bummed that I never made that happen. Especially after hearing the latest Sons of Kryos talk about the great Star Wars game they played with PTA.

In spite of my terrible planning I did get to meet some extremely cool people. Wednesday night the guys from Fear the Boot took me out for a great dinner, and not only gave me a Baron von Badass mug, but introduced me to a new beer to fill it with. I also got to hang out with Jeff and Judd from the Sons of Kryos, though I never did meet Storn; Paul Tevis, who also introduced me to Ken Hite (sorry, Kenneth Hite in print); Jeff, Melissa, and the Exile Crew; Lenny and Fred from Evil Hat; all three of the All Games Considered crew, Jared Sorenson; Luke Crane; all the ENnies folks (Denise, Russ, Rich, Liz, Kennon, Michael, Gertie, Jeff, Stuart, Kevin...); the list goes on and on, but now I'm just listing people, so I'm going to stop while I'm ahead. Sorry if I missed anyone. I had such a great time at GenCon, and it was all because of the people I met.

So, I guess that's really all I did. I missed the Judges' Party Thursday night, so I don't have all the great stories everyone else does. I skipped it at first to run my HEX game, intending to show up late, but then promptly forgot about the party by the time the game ended at midnight, and went up to my room to sleep after my 20 hour drive earlier in the day. Other than that I spent all of my time in the dealers' room. You'd think that I'd have managed, in all that time, to get everything that I wanted, but I didn't. I don't have my stuff with me, but let me see if I can remember the list:
  • Play Dirty, by John Wick (Dude, if you stumble across this, you're my hero. Just throwing that out there.)
  • The Blossoms are Falling, by Luke Crane
  • Jihad, by Luke Crane
  • Cold City Companion, by Malcolm Craig (Who also gave me a second, signed copy, to give away at my game day next month.)
  • Monte Cook's World of Darkness
  • Hollow Earth Expedition: Secrets of the Surface World
  • Hollow Earth Expedition: Player's Kit (A cool little bag with Ubiquity dice and Style Chips.)
  • Hollow Earth Expedition: Game Master's Screen
  • Aces and Eights
  • Classic Battletech TechManual
  • Classic Battletech Technical Readout 3050
  • Shadowrun: Augmentation
  • Dogs in the Vineyard
  • GURPS: Martial Arts
  • Blackmoor: Clock and Steam (Which was given to me for review by the guys at Zeitgeist.)
  • and the guys at Eden sold me Forsaken Rites, Cryptozoology, and Atlantis Rising for Conspiracy X for $5 a piece on Sunday :)
I know I'm forgetting some stuff, but I won't remember any more until after I publish this I'm sure, so I'm going to press on. I guess the combination of crunchy and narrative games that I bought may make me the most eclectic gamer ever, but I just love new games. So long as they fulfill their design goals I'm willing to give anything a shot.

What's really notable is what I didn't get, mostly because I'm an idiot. In retrospect I'm angry with myself for skipping the new Battletech boxed set. I was already so far over budget I couldn't justify buying a starter set since I already had all of the regular books, but man I wish I had a copy. A similar thing happened with GURPS Supers, where I got money concious and started thinking about the likelihood that I would be playing a Supers game any time soon. Somehow I also missed three of the games that I specifically went into the dealer's hall to buy. Reign, Prime Time Adventures, and Dread were right at the very top of my too buy list, and I have no idea how I missed them. I went to the Forge booth to pick them up, got distracted when my inner fanboi took over and I went around getting my books signed, and managed to walk away without thinking about it. I didn't notice that I managed to leave without them until I packed up my suitcase Sunday night.

All in all however it was certainly the best four days in gaming. I can't begin to describe what a great time I had and how much fun it was meeting everyone. Next year I'll plan better, and I'll do all of my shopping Thursday in case I miss anything. Other than that, I have no regrets.

Thanks to everyone who made GenCon, and this blog, such a blast. Especially to all of those who voted for me or vouched for me when I was running for judge. I got a lot of love this year, and win or lose it meant the world to me.

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