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Games, Beer, and the Con Plague: Nick’s Perspective of GenCon 2015

Another year, another spectacular Gen Con!

Day 0: The Journey

It was Fiona and I’s forth time making the 5 1/2 hour pilgrimage to Indy. We left Wednesday morning, in what has become all but tradition. It was a leisurely drive expatiated by Book of Mormon and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog, both in their entiretyas well as the lyrical stylings of our Nerdcore friends, 2d6. We knew are journey neared its end when it became apparent we weren’t in Kansas Ohio anymore:

 

We capped off the night with the Sun King Brewing Official Beer of GenCon Tapping Party (A Blonde Ale called “Drink on and Prosper” this year).

Day 1: Storming the Gates

We arrive at the Indiana Convention Center promptly at 10am after having to park out in the definition of B.F.E. (beyond the Lucas Oil Stadium parking, at least it was only $10). By the time we completed the extensive trek from the remote gravel lot a formidable mass of eager nerds has already coagulated in Hooser Corridor, the still closed gates keeping them from to the wondrous treasures in the Exhibit Hall beyond.

A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day…”

After a chant of “DO NOT RUN!” they opened the doors and the veritable fluid of gamers filtered into the vendor hall at a deliberate fast walk. It was at this point that all of my companions were promptly scattered to the wind.  I did’t buy anything yet though. I tend to prefer to mosey through the whole vendor hall taking in all of the sights before narrowing in on the things I wanted to throw money at.

After spending an hour or two weaving in and out of people taking in the sights it was about time to head to our first game. Fiona had opted out to attend the infamous Writing Women Friendly Comics panel. You can get her thoughts on that on her Gen Con blog.

Fate: Monster Fighters

I have been meaning to get in a Fate game the past few Gen Cons. Fate always interested me in premise, being a rules-light story driven system. I bought the Fate Accelerated book last Gen Con but had yet to really give the system a chance. We didn’t realize it when we signed up for the event, but this game was based on the Lego: Monster Fighters line which is totally a thing that apparently exists. This fact didn’t really affect the game too terribly much. It was still a pretty awesome game filled with vampires, zombies, and a werewolf who turned out to be one of the PC’s dad, and the GM was generally awesome.

I particularly enjoyed playing the dim-witted, hammer-wielding Scotsman, Jack McHammer. I had fun writing in my last Aspect…

After this game we met back up with Fiona and decided it was worth calling it an earlier day to go grab some food and drink since Friday and Saturday were stuffed to the gills.  We hit up a brew pub on the way back to our lodgings.

Day 2: Lumberjacks, Five-Gold-and-a-Party, and Shadowrunning Away

Flapjacks and Sasquatches

Friday started off with more vendor hall perusing. But it wasn’t long before we had our first game of the day. A fun little lumberjack themed card game called Flapjacks and Sasquatches.  It was a fun and simple game. I rather enjoyed it, even after I was part of a three way tie for first before Fiona just blew past all of us for the win. What!? I’m not salty!

Call of Cthulhu” Storytelling Game

After that we had a game that was listed as a Call of Cthulhu Storytelling Game. I had never actually played the Call of Cthulhu RPG, but our GM was quick to disclaim upon our arrival that this was not that game. I figured as much but I didn’t realize that it was affiliated with the popular RPG at all. The GM seemed remorseful that he may have inadvertently bait-and-switched some people with his misleading title. Despite this the game proved fun, with incredibly simplistic rules were narration of the story was handed around the table. The only part I was a little iffy on was the ability for anyone to try to retcon something someone just narrated by making them have to roll for it. It seemed a little shitty to me that someone could put time into thinking up and narrating a large chunk of a scene only for someone to be able to say “Nah, none of that happened.” My mind was quickly changed when this ability allowed us to shut down some of the more random/silly contributions from a young gamer (maybe 15ish) that was there. Ultimately we ended up accidentally ushering forth the return of the Old One over London (all successfully WITHOUT the X-files crossover, villains randomly deciding they are just going to walk away from carefully set-up confrontations, and flying caped vampire-looking guys).

TitansGrave Q&A with Wil Wheaton (and friends)

We got out of “Cthulhu” just in time to head over to Ballroom 500 for the TitansGrave Panel. If anyone is not familiar with TitansGrave, it is a RPG spin-off of Wil Whaton’s TableTop on the Geek&Sundry YouTube channel. The show features Wil GMing for a Hank Green, Alison Haislip, Yuri Lowenthal, and Laura Bailey in the sci-fantasy setting of Valkana using Green Ronin Publishing’s new Fantasy AGE system, based off of the popular Dragon Age RPG. I had been following the show since it first came out. Fiona, on the other hand, hadn’t.  It was really cool getting to see Wil talk about the process of creating a show that was both entertaining AND accurately exemplified what a tabletop RPG is like. Fiona and I met up with our companions afterwards and we hit the streets of Indy looking for food, and after weeding out a few options whose wait times didn’t exactly gel with the start time of our next game (Next year, The Old Spaghetti Factory, next year) we landed with an Irish pub a few blocks from the ICC.

Shadowrun

We made it back to the convention center and sat down for what was supposed to be a 2 hour introduction session to Shadowrun 5e. I’ve always been interested in Shadowrun but never really had the opportunity to play it before, so I was really looking forward to this session. However, at about an hour in (we originally thought it was a four hour session) we realized when we were still in the thick of character creation that we might not be actually playing. Thinking this was our mistake we sent one of group to grab a fistful of generics so we could jump into the real deal at the end of this event. Turns out it was their mistake though, the GM thought we were the Character Creation event when we were actually the first taste. Our GM was lackluster at best. His in entire session was obviously uninspired and improvised, running with the entire concept that since none of the party had a reliable fixer contact (we didn’t know any better) that our job we got was going to be as shitty as our shitty fixer. We made the best of it though by deciding to knee-cap every NPC that had the misfortune of being a witness and generally running from the authorities. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have Yakety Saxstuck in my head the whole time. All in all, I didn’t mind the system but there is a long list of systems I like better, that would work just as well in this sort of setting, in my personal opinion. But what I did really like about Shadowrun, and what has peeked my interested in the system to begin with, is the interesting Sci-Fi/Fantasy setting.

Day 3: Costumes. Costumes Everywhere.

I woke up Saturday morning with my first symptoms of the Con Plague. A mild sore throat. Fiona and one of our other companions got it early on and evidently gave it to me. Saturday has always been the big costume day. While I enjoy cosplaying I found after my first two Gen Cons that its too hard to both cosplay and get to events, or generally do anything in a timely matter. This didn’t stop our group though.

Women in Gaming after Gamergate

I started the day out going to a Women in Gaming after Gamergate panel with Fiona. I found it interesting to here stories from these women in the industry who have been subjected to so much unprecedented harassment from the hate-filled underbelly of the internet and how they continue to do what they do despite it all.  It also helped drive home the importance of being inclusive as community. Both as creators and consumers.

After that seminar, decided to finally throw some money away, buying a set of Q-workshop Dice, a Hello Kitty plush for my girlfriend, some miniatures and Fantasy Age and the TitansGrave adventure book.

Playthings

Playthings was a pleasant surprise. It was a simple, home-brew RPG were we take on the role of children’s toys, a la Toy Story, as we attempt to protect our kid from the manifestations of his nightmares. The game was an immense amount of fun. The GM was just animated enough to pull of something as whimsical as a bunch of living toys. My character was a Lego Bionicle line (which I also happened to be a fan of way back in the day). The rest of the party consisted of a plush bunny, a toy soldier, a transformer RC car, and a fitness Barbie type toy (which Fiona played hilariously well). They game was well paced and worked incredibly well and was definitely a highlight of the con. After this game Fiona and I attended a Writing in Comics panel, which was informative, then after that we took some time to hit up the food trucks and wandering the ICC for a bit.

Starship Troopers

A friend of mine told me about this system, based on the cult-popular (and awesome) Sci-fi film, but I have never actually gotten a taste of the system. I think I already knew it was basically D&D 3.5 as far as mechanics go but I was quickly reminded of this fact when we started playing.

The game was fun if a little one-dimensional. Like Shadowrun, I thought the setting here was the appeal more than the actual system. Although between these two games I am really jonesing to run a sci-fi game, though I will probably use D&D 5e or Fantasty AGE (which I really like so far).

We wrapped up the day with an hour-long ordeal exiting the parking deck, competing with all the tweens coming out of the One Direction concert happening in Lucas Oil stadium next door.

Day 4: Vigilantes and Homecomings

Con Plague update: the sore throat got worse. Took some cold medicine and headed off for the last day of the con.

Cold Steel Wardens

We wrapped up our Gen Con visit this year in what has become the customary closer the last few years:Cold Steel Wardens. A gritty silver-age style vigilante RPG along the lines of Watchmen or Frank Miller’s Daredevil runs. If you haven’t checked out this system I highly recommend it. This session in particular had more of a focus on investigation and political intrigue. It was a fun change of pace. After we got done cleaning up the streets of New Corinth we headed over to Scotty’s Brewhouse for food and drink before heading back home.

We headed on home, talking of our favorite games and take-aways from the convention.

The Con Plague stayed with me well through the following Wednesday in the form of a severe cold. Turns out having the foresight to bring a bottle of Purell to the con doesn’t work if I leave it in the bottom of my bag like some sort of totem to generate a protective aura from pathogens.I look forward to Gen Con next year. Tentatively, we here at Derailed Gaming plan to spend more of it actually on the other side of the GM screen. Next stop: Con on the Cob!

Nick Uroseva (@Nick_Uroseva)
Nick is a professional graphic artist and aspiring indie game developer from Youngstown, Ohio. He has a BA in Multimedia Technology. When he isn't doodling for one thing or another, he spends his time writing and Dungeon Mastering several D&D games, enjoying craft beer, shooting zombies with Nerf blasters, and tweeting about #CriticalRole. Buy him a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/nickuroseva

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