Tuesday, August 19, 2003

I have been told for a while that I should start a blog, and now that I'm looking at this blank screen I'm not sure what to start with.

So here's a little bit from GenCon 2003 in Indianapolis, Indiana, a few short weeks ago:

I drove by the convention center at around 10 a.m. and was stunned to see lines snaking down the block and beyond. I kept thinking, “Don’t let that be the ‘will call’ window!” and thankfully it wasn’t. In fact I waited just a few seconds to pick up my badge and tickets. Later I learned the line for day passes and site events was two to four hours.
I made a beeline for the sales floor, and the first people I saw were Troll Lords Games. They made a nice D&D module I liked called “Lion in the Ropes” and I was shocked to see their very nice products going out the door for $1 a module. They reported that the shift to D&D 3.5 was killing off their distribution. I was commiserating on the one hand while shoveling their modules into my bag with the other.
For better or worse this was not the case throughout the whole sales floor, though many vendors complained that they felt they had been abandoned by the d20 Open License people when they moved to 3.5 so quickly. I mean, there was what, a decade or so between D&D, AD&D, and 3.0? It seems a bit sinister.
I bought a used minigame called “Invasion of the Air Eaters” and a beat-up copy of the Star Wars d20 module “Invasion of Threed” and a pair of AEG pocket modules that were half off as well as another half-off d20 module and a recent issue of “Dugeon” that I had missed. I’m most happy with a photocopied ‘zine-style module I bought off a couple of kids, a guy with long hair and a girl with a shaved head with about 30 piercings between them. I read their module Thursday night and, ya know, I can hardly wait to play it.

My brother Eric and I rolled in around 10 a.m. and I took him on a whirlwind tour of the sales floor, and a few things he might be interested in, including the new HeroClix stuff, the “Spycraft” AEG books, Cheapass Games’ “Ogre” paper dice game, and Atlas Games’ “Nyambe” sourcebook for African d20 adventures.
I played “7th Sea” later in the morning. It’s a cinematic-style swashbuckling game that has a bit of buzz around it. It has a clunky mechanic but was fun enough. I will say this about the d20 empire, they are making a lot of these other mechanics seem redundant.
The day before I had breezed into the “paint and take” miniatures area and slicked up a quick soldier figure. Alarmingly, by the second day of the Con the line for this was about an hour. And several hours’ worth of lines curved back and forth outside to get in. Great for vendors, not so good for attendees.
Later on I played a Con favorite of mine, “Circus Imperium.” It’s a chariot race game that focuses on the, shall we say, more dramatic elements of chariot racing. The bad thing was they combined two tables of people to one larger, more sluggish, race. Bigger is never better at a Con, especially when teaching rules to newbies.
I had good gamers at both sessions but lackluster or indifferent GMs. I wondered again if a lot of these people sign up to run games to get in free, then put in the minimal effort. Overall at the Con, about half the time the GMs weren’t that great. However, in a stroke of great luck, I had no bad players—the legendary Rules Lawyer, the Angst-Ridden Teen, and so on and so forth.

Friday night overlapped into Saturday morning when my son Daniel cracked a radiator on 465. I didn’t get home from trying to bail him out until 4 a.m. and by the time I headed back to Indy to meet a tow truck and a mechanic the next day it would be 4 p.m before I would get back to the Con. Unfortunately I missed a “GURPS Supers” game I wanted to play as well as a “Silver Age Superheroes d20” I was signed up for. But my brother Eric played the Silver Age game, and must have liked it well enough to buy the “Stingy Player’s Guide,” a reduced-size player’s guide. I thought it was a little bold to call the book “Stingy Players” since the regular book clocks in around $40! A “Reasonable Players” or “Budget Players” guide may have been a bit more friendly.
Eric convinced me to stay for a “Real d20” game we had signed up for, even though I was butt-tired. I was glad we did. These guys have done real-world d20 game scenarios for Columbia, Afghanistan, and Somalia, and they all looked pretty cool. I asked them when Iraq, Liberia, and North Korea were coming out. If the Democrats win the next election, these guys are going out of business. We played, and Eric bought, a Columbia game. A good DM and great gamers made this one fun.

Stayed home and read all my stuff, dreaming of worlds to be conquered.

The homebrewed DM with the handmade module has been dying a slow death over the years I’ve gone to GenCon, slowly nudged out by companies running giant clots of their own printed modules, and appeared to be totally dead this year with the absence of the guy who used to run the Gamma World “Silver Star Adventurers” all the time.

Not too many “stars” worth seeing, and all the Star Wars ones were sequestered in a corner, behind curtains.

I think the general atmosphere, parking and dining situations at Indy were much improved, and seemed to be echoed by a lot of people. The down side is that it’s so much bigger, it didn’t look like there were 25,000 people there at any time.

Usually the ratio of nerds to hot girls in chainmail handing out free stuff is more balanced. This year the hot girls, and the free stuff, was an unacceptable smaller ratio to the nerd contingent.

Some things I would have bought if I had the money were that “Somalia” and “Afghanistan” sourcebook, some of the Goodman Games old-school modules, Atlas Games’ “Nymabe” sourcebook, an Oriental Adventures handbook (but I never found one!), and some Spycraft and Modern d20 stuff (but my brother bought me an early birthday present!).

On Saturday I saw groups of people playing their own games off to the sides in hallways and empty rooms, and my heart soared to the sky.


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