Megan and I have been wanting to go to GenCon for a long time. This gathering of all things gaming and everything remotely related descends on Indianapolis for an extended weekend of gaming, gorging and oh so much spending. Indianapolis seems to love it: probably because this plague of locusts tips better than most.
I think we’re modest folks by and large, but we were pretty ambitious for our first major con. Our plan called for GMing three games and about two hours of game demos for Monte Cook Games, not to mention a few panels, all while staging out of a hotel in the outskirts of the city, we had this. Luckily for us, we had help, which honestly bailed us out of a jam or two in the four days we were there. Matt and Mike of MAMS Gaming have built up a truly spectacular organization of GMs that run events at GenCon with a level of quality and service that really stands out from the usual fare. I’d say this even if They weren’t podcast regulars and we weren’t running games for them. If you’re going to GenCon, I highly encourage you to check out their games to see if they’re running anything you’re interested in.
Megan and I arrived on Thursday morning by way of a red eye from Sacramento with a connection through Chicago. I do not recommend this. Time and finances permitting, I would prefer to fly out on Wednesday in the future. Hitting the convention floor and running a game on a few hours of questionable sleep slumped over in economy seating is not advisable. That’s before you throw in that if you come in from the west coast, you lose three hours on the trip. Megan and I were asleep embarrassingly early on the first night.
So what was that first day like? In a word, staggering. Words and even pictures are inadequate to describe the sheer size and scope of GenCon, you really just have to walk around it, hear it, feel it, and yes, smell it. We arrived in time to collect our badges and take a quick trip through the dealer hall to pick up a few things, Call of Cthulhu, The Esoterrorists, Fear Itself, Ashen Stars, The Book of Unremitting Horror, Cthulhu Pandemic, Feed the Shoggoth and Horror on the Orient Express dice, as well as the largest actual d6 I’ve ever seen. That was just the first day: we’d be back.
Later that day, we ran our first game. Megan and I sat down with two groups to put them through our Delta Green scenario, Shimmering Light. As expected, my players figured out what they had to do, but then didn’t make it out. Megan was nicer to her group: who’d have thought I’d ever say that… For the game, we, by which I mean Megan, prepared some neat little props: a notebook with some crazed ranting with a little wear and tear on it and some notecards with transcribed incantations prepared by our very own John d’Autieul. I think people had a fair bit of fun. The scenario basically required a team to babysit a small collection of artifacts as they were transported to Nellis AFB outside of Las Vegas. Along the way though, things happened.
Friday saw us returning to a TRF staple, as Megan and I ran two sessions of Numenèra. I had done most of the writing for Shimmering Light, but Waters of Deleon was almost entirely Megan’s baby from start to finish. It was a ton of fun to lead new players through the fast-paced adventure to a town that has suddenly become overgrown by plants of every conceivable type. Everyone survived, though some of the characters drank something they probably shouldn’t have… Purchases from the second day included Bubble Gumshoe from Evil Hat, A keeper’s screen for CoC 7E and new CoC 7E dice, as well as some cool souvenirs from Pagan Publishing, a coin commemorating Miskatonic University’s Antarctic expedition, some dog tags and hotel room keychains from a certain hotel in Innsmouth. The day ended with a visit to Crowne Plaza where we got to attend RPPR’s meetup panel, played a game of Shark Punch with the room and cast, and collected a hilarious poster by which to remember the occasion. And, Megan bought shiny new dice from Chessex.
Saturday got off to a later start, and we began by attending the Monte Cook panel where they announced their new game: Invisible Sun. I personally am not sure what I think of that one yet. We popped out of there early to make sure we arrived in time for the Delta Green Need to Know panel, where we got an update on all the moving parts of current Delta Green development. We had to spend a little more money before the day was truly done though, and we accomplished this through the purchase of Ross Payton’s Base Raiders and some awesome Delta Green lapel pins. We also bought Horror Adventures for Pathfinder, just in case 60 sessions of Runelords weren’t enough D20 fantasy goodness.
The highlight of the day and perhaps the con itself was a six hour game of The Strange, run across four tables with about two dozen players. Working as teams of Estate and OSR agents, players had to combat a multi-front assault from Karum and an unexpected ally before regrouping and going off on different missions to repel the threat. The mechanics all works splendidly and the players saved the day with some well timed applications of effort. After the game, we went out for drinks with Matt and Mike to pat ourselves on the back and plot new misadventures.
On Sunday we wrapped up with a few quick purchases from Monte Cook Games, The Encyclopedia of Impossible Things and In Translation for The Strange, before running some short demos of The Cypher System Rulebook and The Strange for anyone interested in trying the games out. Lastly, we picked up a Delta Green t-shirt and walked the floor to collect some autographs. Among the signatures collected were Kenneth Hite for Trail of Cthulhu, Robin D. Laws on Ashen Stars, Shanna Germain for Numenèra and Bruce Cordell for The Strange, as well as my personal favorites, Adam Scott Glancy, Greg Stolze and Dennis Detwiler for Delta Green. Oh yes, and of course we bought more dice.
We also got to meet a bunch of podcasters and other friends from around the internet during our wanderings. We almost literally ran into Michael Ross from RPG Academy, met Rich Howard at the MCG booth, and bumped into Steph Kingston, Adam Bash, Nika Howard, Kelsey Low, and quite a few others from the Geekly Inc community, as well as meeting up with a listener, Bryce! We also got to see Taylor from the Riverhouse Games and meet Darcy Ross as they also ran games for MAMS Gaming. We also chatted with David W. Brown and Marc Plourde from CypherCaster Magazine.
Aside from having a chance to see a more complete selection of your favorite publishers’ wares than you are likely to find in the average game store, you can expect some good deals on the convention floor. Pelgrane was offering four for the price of three and Chaosium, IPR, and Pelgrane were all offering PDF with purchase. Pagan Publishing raffled the contents of Delta Green related material at 5PM each day, when they opened the green box. Monte Cook Games had a mockup of their Invisible Sun box, something that won’t be coming out until late next year. Goodman Games also had printer proofs of the new edition of Dungeon Crawl Classic. And these were only the things that were coming into my email or I was hearing in person. There were a lot of vendors and I didn’t see even a substantial minority of it all.
I hope if anything this post conveys to you my sheer joy and wonder at the size of this thing. It provides so many amazing opportunities to try new things and enjoy the things you already like. I encourage everyone to go and check it out whenever you get the chance.