GenCon 2012 Report

I’m soliciting feedback on a few things in this longish report, so get busy replying and telling me what a huge jerk I am, or how I’m wrong!

It’s not clear ow long I’m going to leave this article up. I don’t like to clog up the reviews with pontifications.
Wednesday afternoon
I did some chauffeur work for some of the staff and then I checked in to the JW ad walked over to Will Call. I stopped by the lockers on the way but was out of change. This would hurt. Will Call just barely spilled out of the pipe & rope at 3:30pm and the line was moving fast. It looks like they switched over this year from ‘split in to multiple lines based on your last name’ to just a single line. I believe I recently read a paper that proved this queue mechanism moved faster and indeed it did. A much-needed improvement. Anyway, I was only picking up 3 last minute tickets for events Thursday and Friday so I was happy I didn’t have a long wait. I picked up the kids from the bus and we headed to Scotty’s for dinner before going home so they could do their homework. Scotty’s wasn’t yet stooopid crowded but they did have the con menu, had the banners up, and were playing fantasy movies on the Tv’s not showing sports. The menu was … difficult. I had a hard time figuring out what food item was what for several of the items and finally restored to asking the server if there was a burger on the menu. Little Girl and I split that while PokeBoy had a grilled cheese and we started off with pickle chips. The Pretty Girl then showed from her drive down form work and had a salad before dashing off to True Dungeon for the volunteer orientation. Our pickle chips never arrived. It was the servers first night. Hell of a weekend to start off your new serving job. I’m local so I get to try these places out when it’s not GenCon. The Ram sometimes has decent appetizers but entrees are not very good and the place stinks. Scotty’s food is just plain not good. I tok the kids so they could get some pre-con mindset going but next year I need to find something that doesn’t suck. It must be popular because they let people camp and play games?

Thursday morning
I dropped the kids off at school and hit the valet at the JW about 9:10am, just as the Big Rock Candy Mountain came on my phone. No Finer Song for a gonzo OSR guy! I’d be humming about the birds & the bees and the cigarette trees for the rest of the con. My intent was to hit the dealers hall when they opened and kill time till my 1pm game. While walking past True Dungeon, in the convention center this year, I saw V, The Pretty Girls best friend, working the door so I stopped to talk. She was on Badge Check duty which, as I just recalled, was the only ‘big’ room that didn’t have convention center staff at the doors checking badges. The entryway of the dungeon looked great, the best they’ve done yet. They had a bubble machine up high blowing ‘snow’ and totally revamped how they collect tickets/armbands. More on the ‘mechanics’ of TD later; I helped V at he door for a bit and tried, for the fourth time this year, to volunteer. They didn’t have any sign-up sheets. ARG! I played TD the first year it was at GC Indy. I volunteered just about every year since. I met my now-wife at TD while we volunteered. I built the beholder prop in my garage for TD. The lack of organization behind the scenes is why I stopped volunteering. I suppose it’s some entitlement issue on my part but I can’t stand the lack of organization. I could have just showed up and I’m sure they would have eventually found something for me, but I prefer to know my schedule so I can plan other things around it. One of the best times m wife & I have had is working a room together as a mimic and DM while we were dating. We tried to volunteer together last year but got split up. I’m sure they prefer full time staff instead of my ‘I can only work Thur & Fri’ stuff, and a part of me feels bad for volunteering ‘on my own terms.’ The TD people are VERY nice and I want to help them out but maybe I should just accept that I’m not a good fit. Comments?

I hit the hall as it opened and made my way to the OSR booth. I try and keep a low profile but Bill Barsh is an observant fellow; he saw through my secret identity immediately and outed me. There was a wide selection of product: Bills Pacesetter products, XRP’s AA line, LotFP and Frog God were all very represented, with ASE1, Black Blade, Chaotic Henchmen, Eldritch Enterprises and ACK all having a smaller presence … and maybe one or two that I have forgotten. I bought everything I didn’t already have. Bill was working by himself so I didn’t want to chat much, but he does promise some boxed sets in the future. I ran in to Bill Sunday morning on his way to his booth before the hall opened, while with my son. I wanted to tell him about my sons impression of The Thing in the Valley but he was gone by the time we remembered. (He loved it, and got the ring from the old woman because he was the true hero.) πŸ™ I bought three items from Troll Lord that I didn’t have, and then bought two interesting Hackmaster modules from Kenzer. These appear to be mostly straight modules and are saddle-stapled and a bit smaller than their jokey modules. I made a quick pass through the rest of the hall but didn’t see anything else of interest to the OSR gamer … or very interesting in general. Time flies and din’t seem a minute since the Tyrolian spa had the OSR boys in it, so I hit champs for lunch. I wanted soup. They didn’t have soup. WTF?!??! No soup or chili??! Seriously? I had half a buffalo salad and 22oz of beer before heading over to the Marriott for …

Thursday 1pm – Tunnels & Trolls with Ken St. Andre (Tunnels & Trolls)
I want to like T&T. I’ve tried in the past to read the rules but I don’t think I ever fully grokked them, especially combat. I initially left my R & F open so I could volunteer for TD, but when I didn’t hear back I picked some filler games for R & F and this was one of them. What better way to learn the game than with the creator! Most games have a certain feel to them and playing with someone that really knows and gets that feel is the best way to pick it up. Someone who cares about the game system is always better than someone just putting in time to pick up a free con badge. There were seven or so of us and when we picked characters I ended up as A MOTHER FUCKING SORCERER… er, I mean wizard. I was, perhaps, influenced by snidermans Thundar game going on at the next table. Anyway, we were given a choice of games and played Dungeon of the Bear. Much fun was had will slippery slopes, rolling balls, were-badger gems, and roving bears. I looted the body of a fellow wizard during combat, drank a healing potion because I was sweating a bit, received a ‘gift’ of 50′ of silk rope from a fellow party member, and kept a magic badger-gem in a sock that I used as a weapon. Oh, and I made an Uruk SPARKLE!!!! You can get away with a lot when your the parties last wizard, er, I mean a MOTHER FUCKING SORCERER!!!!It was a good game with a decent amount of good-natured horsing around, as my actions indicate. The game helped solidify one of my core beliefs further: the dungeon is just a pre-text to get some people around and have fun; the party will create their own fun and their own adventure given the pre-text. I liked the bizarre nature of the dungeon and thought it suffered most when it was normal: orcs in rooms and so on.

The Pretty Girl came down from work. She had a game over at Union Station and I wanted to play with her so I blew off my 8pm Frag tournament. I put on the tux and she put on a frumpy business dress and we took a cab. This was necessary because the JW and US are as far apart as you can get and I had on my opera pumps. After all, we were part of …

Thursday 7pm – The First Film Crew on Mars (LARP)
I don’t care if it does say LARP; keep reading and learn something. She had a ticket and I had generics and this was the first night of three interrelated LARPs. She was a reporter and I was the films producer in a steampunkish/pump setting. The ship had crashed after an encounter with a giant space whale and while the atmosphere was breathable, it was still rough going. I was trying to get my film made and I played the guy very overblown. I started to hit on the reporter, hard, and then changed my tactics after getting my camera confiscated. I decided that we were not going to get rescued and started hoarding/hiding supplies and trying to build a harem. Eventually I got caught by the ships nurse, and I wasn’t having much luck converting the ships guards to my way of thinking. Things did not go well for me after that. The game had some problems. A good con LARP needs to give you a brief background, some thoughts on the other characters, some goals for you to accomplish, and have no NPC’s. It also needs to be written with character circles. The first three get you started in the game and give you some things for you to work on and get you interacting with the other players. The presence of NPCs means the LARP is a railroad and Something Is Supposed To Happen. That’s not fun in an RPG or in a LARP. Character circles are important because of size. LARPs are generally written for a lot of people and if not a lot show up then you’ve got problems because people you’re supposed to interact with are not present. You solve this by writing circles of characters of various sizes and factions with a few hangers on to fill on the gaps. You pull out the circle that most closely matches the number of players present. This LARP didn’t really have any goals for us or any preset relationships on the sheets., just some motivations for us. Something like: you don’t trust people to do their jobs, etc. This made it hard to find something to do and motivations for interactions. Most of my crew wasn’t present so I couldn’t really even try to work on the film, hence the switch weasel survivalist mode. The Pretty Girl and I had to leave about 10pm and cab’d it back to the JW. Fing opera pumps! It’s not easy being pretty …

Friday morning the The Pretty Girl and I had breakfast at the JW restaurant. We try to have breakfast together at the hotel at least once at a con, usually on Sunday. The coffee tasted burnt. The agave yogurt teaser (looked like and had the consistency of ice cream) was different but not great. The jelly selection was the usual strawberry, grape, and orange. My chicken hash with hollandaise was very delicate … meaning severely under-seasoned. Srirache fixed that though. She went off to Pilates and Needlefelt while I …

Friday 9am – Escape from the Mucus Mines (Sixcess system)
I signed up for this based on the name. It’s a ‘new’ system, I think? based on d6’s, skills, attributes, and is a furry RPG in an arabian setting. Hmmm, I should read more then the titles next time, perhaps. Older crowd, 40ish, until three 20’s guys showed up, friends, just wandering trying to find a game. “I knew we’d find a game open in one of these rooms!” My type of crowd! Standard pre-gens and 40 minutes of explanation of the game world and races by the GM … not a strong start. Imagine someone tried to explain Jorune to you so you could play the game ‘right’ … The characters were standard pregens … who immediately were stripped of all gear in the opening monologue as we were dumped in to the Mucus Mines. It’s a kind of Chronicles of Riddick prison with a giant mucus lake in it. We started with flips-flops, a ragged tunic, and a cup. We used the cup to move mucus form the lake to barrels, and also for our water and food. My academic goes over to the lake, fills his cup, and tastes it. It’s essentially battery acid. The big trustee in the mines comes over and one of the other players starts mouthing off to him. Hmmmm … my character concept solidifies. While the other PC is poking the bigger trustee in the chest and starting a fight, I thrown the mucus in the trustees eyes and then start shivving him in the throat with my (blunt) cup in a very murderous and very calculated way. Meanwhile another PC is turning his cup, tin, in to a real shiv. This is about 3 minutes after we were allowed to start playing our characters, about 30 seconds after we were lowered in to the mines. Good Crew, my kind of people! This is all in stark contrast to the deeply historical accurate view of arabia on the characters sheets. Thus started the railroad. We should have killed the trustee and/or blocked his way about a dozen times … but it was clear we were being railroaded in a chase and in to a climax. Skill checks to climb, jump, open doors, fight, etc. Not my type of game system. Not my type of setting, although I can now mark ‘Furry RPG’ off my bucket list. The game dragged, a lot, and the GM had to check with someone else several times on rules questions. On the plus side the NSDM game was across the hall and I got to look at their stuff a lot.

I went off to the dealer hall, skipping lunch after the big breakfast, when I got a txt from the ex-wife. The school bus drivers are on strike! I was going to take a cab to their bus stop, pick them up, and then drop them off at their 5pm events with about 10 minutes to spare. A strike means they wouldn’t get home till 6:30 or so. Ought oh! I jumped in a cab and yanked them out of school early, getting back around 3:30pm. They got to have dinner and I dropped Little Girl off at Teddybear Chainmailing and PokeBoy at the Yu-gi-oh room for this sealed deck tournament while I went back to the JW to get ready for my next game. Turns out the Yu-gi-oh room was not crowded and they didn’t get 8 players until almost an hour later. He lost in the first round but was still VERY late for his next game, Wiz-War. We played on a 3d board last year and he really liked it. He then lost his Oh Gnome You Don’t ticket while trying to find the table, and went back to the room. Little Girl made it her Werewolf seminar but they were oversold and she didn’t push the fact that she had a real ticket rather than a generic. She made it to her 10pm game, Helix & Helix: The Fix. This is a boffer LARP, with zombies, I’m pretty sure. She LOVED it. It was one of her favorite things at the con. I’ve seen them at Union Station in previous years but they were at the Hyatt this year. I give my kids cash, show them around, schedule something with them each day, give them cells so they can txt me when they move around the con, but otherwise let them do their own things. They are good kids, well behaved and straight A’s at the best school in the state, but they are still 12 and 13. I know I hate unsupervised kids and playing with kids in games and I don’t want to inflict them on others the same way. In reality though most kids are well-behaved and not problems. We just tend to remember the wild ones which poisons our view of the world. Comments?


I was getting ready for:

Friday 7pm – One Night in Bangkok (LARP)
Based on Chess, the Musical. Oh yeah baby! The city don’t know what the city is getting! Look, I get the LARP hatred. _I_ hate LARPS. LARPs mean boffer weapons, people screaming “QUAD! QUAD! QUAD!” and Vampire players acting emo. Some games are different though, and this is one of them. These are social games and I LOVE social games. I love being gleefully evil, screwing people over, and having fun Fun FUN! That’s the definition of winning in my book, not something based on VP’s. This is based on the musical, whatever that is, and that Murray Head song! BADDDD!!! ASSSS!!! I contacted the organizers early and got the ‘black’ player Anatoly. He’s the center of the story, essentially. I swapped out my white tux shirt with a black banded collar and wore the tux again. Anatoly is kind of a sad person except when he’s playing chess; he loves the game. I tried to watch the musical tuesday night but could NOT make it through it. My Fair lady, A funny Thing Happened, and Paint your Wagon are the only good musicals in my book. Fortunately the wikipedia article is EXHAUSTIVE! Anatoly leaves beats the ‘white’/american champion Freddy (based on Bobby Fischer) and then defects to the west after leaving his wife & kids in Russia and stealing Freddies girlfriend. One year later the next title match is in Bangkok and the LARP is at a party before the game. The KGB guy is there, making veiled threats to me about my kids/wife, my wife is there causing a scene, the media is all over me, and the Russian champ is a machine. My goals are to stay calm before the match, take care of my loved ones, and win. The Pretty Girl comes in a bit late and plays Freddies mother. (Either The Pretty Girl and I are allied in a game or e have nothing to do with each other. Games in which we are at odds end with me selling her in to slavery for a can of peaches … I can be ruthless in my petty evil.) The guy playing Freddy is in all white, just like the musical, and I’m in all black, just like the musical. Everyone recognizes him as Freddy. No one recognizes me as Anatoly. DAMN YOU FREDDY! This is all very close to the way the musical played out where Freddy was brash and Anatoly subdued. Once the game started I quickly learned that the wife and KGB (undercover) guy were trying to cause a scene and upset me. I decided to trust Freddies ex, my new GF, implicitly, and arranged a live Tv interview … very un-Anatoly on the surface of things. All while keeping a very somber, straight face. This makes the media people VERY happy. During the interview I take my wife’s hand, introduce her to the world, and tell everyone how the undercover KGB guy is really KGB and is threatening to have my wife and kids and relatives killed. I then excuse myself. This protects my wife and kids, in my mind, since the KGB can now do nothing to them without loosing face, which is all the chess match is really about in their minds. It also takes care of the media since there is NO WAY they are going to put me on camera again, for fear of what I might do. 30 minutes in and I’ve now protected all of my loved ones AND removed the major sources of excitement/interruptions from my mind. No worries for me! I spend the next couple of hours taunting the KGB guy, playing with the girl who played The Arbiter (got her to sing the history of chess song from the musical, which she had memorized) and getting digs in at Leonid, the Russian champ. I had decided that Anatoly had learned a thing or two form the brash Freddy and was trying to get under the skin of the Russian Machine. “I’m going to use the Indian defense!” or “How about I open with a fools mate?” or “lets play using the original rules of the game!” I was being gleeful, since this involved chess and it was the only thing Anatoly loved. Freddy was brash and a media whore. Leonid was just a chess machine. The Arbiter loved the game in a mechanical way. Anatoly was the only one with a true deep romantic love of the game. I also mixed in a little of that crazy Kaissa champ, what I remembered, from one of those Gor books. At the end I went to the restroom and while coming back to the game room was confronted by the KGB guy just outside the door. He had a knife. He was totally defeated and humiliated by my actions earlier. I thought he was going to stab me. Instead, he stabs himself, falls in to me to get me bloody, and then collapses in to the room declaring, with his dying breath, that I had stabbed him. I was stunned! I looked over at Freddy and said ” Quite an excellent move. Quite good indeed. He does not play at any ordinary level.” The police are called and I get the Arbiter to start the final match. I’m calm, cool, and collected, knowing my loved ones are safe. I’m turning over cards with a quiet, casual confidence, as I lean back in chair. (We were playing the card game war to simulate the match.) The russian, Leonid, is hunkered down, concentrating hard, really trying to win War. He had no idea I was the 2009 World Rock Paper Scissors champion … the real one, not that stupid Spring Break rip off. I win easily, 5 to 2. Game over. GREAT game over. Leonids understudy elopes with my (now) ex-wife (divorce papers were on the KGB agents body) and they defect to the west. Gamblers make and loose money. Freddy re-enters the chess world, preparing to enter next years tournament. A fun time was had by all! I LOVED hearing Freddy yell out “leave me alone MOM!” or something similar during the night. When The Pretty Girl is on then she is ON. Back to the hotel where I worried about Little Girl making it to the room, but she did. Moto GP is in town and LOUD and I don’t sleep well anyway. I get about 3 hours before Saturday morning.
I have to skip my 8am Boot Hill game because I registered for it before the BGG Math Trade meetup was organized. I did show up and give away my ticket to the GM, in case someone with generics showed up. They all had on cowboy hats. πŸ™ I respectfully asked that if they gave away my ticket that they ask the new player to kill some schoolchildren and burn down a few houses in my name. Little Girl is playing the 4E D&D adventure Good Little Children Never Grow up, by Sneak Attack Press. She really enjoyed it and now wants to run it for the rest of us. It didn’t sound very 4e so I’ll pick up a copy. PokeBoy is in the Mayfair room playing giant size The Fall of Pompeii. Who doesn’t like throwing people int he volcano and burning people in lava? He also played Cosmic Encounter, Incan Gold, and Pokemon Rumble and the Zombie Ninja boardgame. He came back that night with a desire to get all of the Mayfair ribbons. Little Girl couldn’t find her ‘Build a Foam Weapon’ workshop and spent her time in the dealer hall. She bought an animal backpack and some Hetalia stuff. (She was cosplaying as South Italy all day Saturday.) I walked The Pretty Girl down to True Dungeon where was volunteering all day. She had been running around the day before organizing and buying dress-up clothes, and was going to be one hot elf Sorceresses. Instead they tried to make her an ugly spectre. She resisted and proceeded to give the parties a mission, every 6 minutes, for the next 8 hours, while fending off the advances of a desirous bluehand behind the scenes. Sometimes she’s too polite; she should have had him moved someplace else. I hit the BGG math trade, which I decided I won. You see, I traded away Outdoor Survival, Wizard’s Quest, Warhammer Quest, and about 80 OSR modules magazine for Duel in the Dark, M44: Tigers in the Snow, Cash & Guns: Live, Axis & Allies, Gammarauders, and Frag. I like M44 and C&G and Frag. I needed a wargame, hence the A&A. Gammarauders looks BAD ASS and Duel in the Dark is a backup game for when The pretty Girl and I get sick of trying to understand the rules to Downtown: The Air War over Hanoi. That was at 10am in hall E. I thought for sure they would get shut down because they were in the aisles. There were about 6 convention center security staff (yellow shirts) continually moving people form the aisle to the side, trying to keep the walkway clear. My last trade was late, finally getting there about 10:30. Un. Cool. I ditched the goodies in the room and then hit the Omni for some corn chowder and beer before going to the best game of the con for me …

Saturday Noon – Star Trek: The Trouble with Time Lords (Call of Cthulhu)
oooooooo… . droooollllll! Look at that game title ye mighty, and despair! CoC is one of those games you have to register for the very SECOND registration opens, and you still might not get a ticket. There is a good reason for this. THEY ROCK! This wasn’t really a mythos game. Me and two other people were red shirts while other players were Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and McCoy. The red shirts switched over 15 minutes in though when our real characters showed up with The Doctor in his Tardis. River Song, Data, and GARY 7!!!!! I got handed Data and the guy next to me (dutch or german, i think) got Gary 7, but we switched in the hallway since he didn’t know who Gary 7 was and I TOTALLY did! In this timeline Mudd was the HR officer of the Enterprise and my mission (turns out G7 was a timelord!) was to make sure the crew of a certain spaceship were delivered to a certain planet alive. The ship? The SS BOTANY BAY!!!!!! OMG! I’m such a fan boi!!!! I get Kirk to turn the ship around (lazy, apathetic, incompetent Kirk. That guy was great!) and we find the Botany Bay. Mostly empty, just four bodies left. In short order the survivors are beamed over to the enterprise and start reading technical manuals while the historian NPC is pushing for more access for them. The dead bodies are beamed over the cargo hold where they reanimate. Zombies!!!! An energy being is eating our dilithium crystals, and the Reliant is having some trouble with the REAL Kahn!!!! We kill the zombies, capture the energy being (I figured out, just from the laugh, that it was The Master!!!! Player skill, baby! A MOTHER FUCKING SORCERER!) We eventually defeat kahn by beaming the master over to the Reliant and then go tie up the loose ends. Oh, and Spock mind-melded with The Doctor, got a view of the time vortex, and went crazy, loosing a d50 in SAN. Like all great games it went fast and is just a jumble of AWESOMENESS in my mind. I played Gary 7 as being frustrated by the crews of the enterprise and their idiotic decisions, while stroking Isis. In the end I was going apoplectic trying not to scream at Kirk. It was great! I ‘won’ and got a prize pick. This happens a lot and I always decline. I have enough stuff at home; I don’t need more.

We all met for pizza at 5pm. Little Girl even made it on time, which surprised me … especially since SHE HADN’T BEEN TXTing ME!!!! Turns out her phone died and she could prove it (continuos reboot cycle.) We had pizza and a hotdog from the stand next to the Battletech pods and then went over to True Dungeon for …

Saturday 6:20pm – True Dungeon Draco-lich Undone (Combat)
I’ve hit TD every year and volunteered most years, even at SoCal when it was running. This year they moved to the convention center and added Sunday sessions. The entrance was GREAT, once of the most evocative ever. It was simple, a small hallway, until you rounded the corner and say the big player areas before it. It seemed to go on forever, with hang out tables and a snack bar that served booze after 6. There was one check-in room per game (they were running three main games and several smaller ones.) In previous years you had checked in outside, in the lights, and given your ticket and gotten your wristband and tokens. This year it was all inside and specific to the game you were playing. It seemed to run A LOT smoother and wasn’t nearly as hectic. Of course, we also got there earlier than we usually do. I got the fighter, PokeBoy was Wizard (Surprise!) Little Girl was Ranger and The Pretty Girl was Druid. Our other players eventually showed up and we went in to the coaching room. They had placemats this year for you to place your tokens on so they could calculate AC, saves, and bonuses. It went much smoother. Then it was off to the training room where the combat types slid things, the druid memorized her leaves and the wizard memorized his energy planes chart. They both did GREAT, never missing one leaf or plane chart quiz! PokeBoy, in particular, did a great job, memorizing the positions of about 24 different energy planes on a blank chart. In to the dungeon! But not before the training room guy read us the intro instead of a hot elf sorceress. πŸ™ First room we had to stack blocks up to make an arched entry way. We couldn’t get the order right and failed. Second room we met and fought a spectre, third room we fought a molten thing like a water weird (it was some clock based puzzle.) Hmm, we solved a puzzle dealing with anvils, fought a VERY realistic looking stone statue who did a good job standing still, failed a puzzle dealing with dwarven ancestors, and then fought the draco-lich. It killed everyone except for two people, starting with PokeBoy. Eventually the cleric and barbarian killed it and we left, getting two treasure draws each. Oh yeah, I dumped a whole bag full of hundreds of token out on the floor in one room, looking like an idiot. I don’t collect/get in to the token thing, but I had a bag from over the years and the kids like it so I was carrying the spares around when I tried to untangle one token that got caught in the handle. Oops! The DM was like “Sucks to be you Sir.” heh. It’s a good thing they hold no value for me. πŸ™‚

The Pretty Girl went to a bachelorette party for a girl who met her fiancΓ© in our meetup. They went to the Libertine, which has great food but is small and a decent walk, and then she met her old gaming group, The Indy Cool Gamers, at the Red Garter before they went to the Claddaugh. At the RG they met a stripper who had won a prize in the costume contest earlier that day and who knew a cosplay friend of ours. She mentioned how her friend was always trying to get her to go to a certain wild ass pool party thrown by a certain organization, at which point one of the group pointed at The pretty Girl and said “Its held at HER house!” A MOTHER FUCKING SORCERER! PokeBoy went off to play Mayfair games to get his ribbons, but couldn’t find anyone to play with him. He was down and went back to the room. Little Girl and I went over to Untion Station for …

Saturday 10pm – Shelter in Place (LARP)
Little Girl and I had a disagreement. She thought this was a LARP. I had seen the book in the Indie RPG booth and thought it was one of THOSE games. We were both right, in a way. The tagline is ‘How would you do in an Zombie Apocalypse.” Like all good modern americans I have a decent zombie defense plan so I was ready for this. I wasn’t ready for a room full of kids and a game of tag, which is what this was. Oh, and the mommies. Moms seem to like to out-mom each other when they are in groups, real or virtual, and a lot of it seems to center around being overprotective. Dads seem to be getting in on it now also. I saw a 10 year old at the state fair who father helped him zip up his pants. The moms were in full on over-protective mode while I pretended to sleep rather than be the snarky ass I wanted to be. I’m surprised they didn’t chew their kids food for them. Anyway, the game was tag. The zombie team shuffled while the survivors could run and had a shelter to hide in that we could not get in to. You tagged someone arms and said “1 2 3 Combat”. Humans as a CV of 2 and zombies a 1 in the first round. Highest CV won. There were some objects hidden by the zombies around the con room area to motivate the survivors to leave their shelter. Eventually they found a radio and parts to make a transmitter, as well as a shotgun, baseball bat, etc. Then the CV’s changed to Human=1 and zombies=2 and the zombies would get in to the shelter. Zombies, my team, won the first game and then we switched sides, with the zombies also winning the second game. The best part was probably watching the pre-teen boys on my team checking out the ass of a cosplay girl that walked by in the hallway. Not subtle at all. Live & learn boys, live and learn. The other team had mostly pre-teen/early-teen girls. Little Girl doesn’t get along well with the girl crowd yet and was happy to leave at 11:45pm and not stay for another round.

Little Girl slept in on Sunday morning, as did The Pretty Girl since she got back to the room at 3am. PokeBoy had an 8am game of Giant Ablaze so I got cleaned up and we walked down, stopping for drinks along the way. In the Mayfair room he was the only player for Giant Ablaze but there were several guys eyeing the Empire Builder game. He needed an ore ribbon, which you get by playing a train game. I HATE those games, but he wanted the ribbon, so he finally listened to the wisdom of age and played it with the other guys. (Long game, hard to get players, etc.) I went off and had breakfast at Padachu: bacon, toast, and a bloody mary. I came back and he was done with his game so we played Giant Ablaze together so he could get his wood ribbon. It’s like Carcasonne with more blocking. We then met Little Girl for …

Sunday 10am – Artemis
We could only get three tickets for this so The Pretty Girl had our luggage taken to the car at the JW while Little Girl and PokeBoy and I played this. It turns out our fellow crew were people The Pretty Girl and I knew. The kids blind0bought his for me for my birthday this year (and it sat unplayed) and The Pretty Girl and I saw it and then drooled over it till we played it at Origins this year. It’s a social 6 player Starship Bridge Simulator computer game. One machine runs the server and it hooked up to a projector, as the main view screen. Each of five players has a computer in front of them that is one of the bridge stations: helm, tactical, engineering, science, and communications. One player stands around as Captain. The other players feed him information and he gives orders to the others. it is SOOOOOOOOOOO cool! Little Girl was Tactical Officer, Mr Raccoon Hat. PokeBoy was helmsman PokeBoy. We also has Mr Scotchy at engineering, Mr Hawaian Shirt on Coms, Fearless Leader at Science and me, as The Captain. The Pretty Girl showed up during our briefing so she got to sit on the captains lap as Yeoman The Pretty Girl. We defeated everyone in the first game and then, to reward our boisterous behavior (we were all having a lot of fu and hamming it up) the organizers upped the ante on us. We tangled with a space monster, blew up several enemy fleets, hit an asteroid while Mr PokeBoy was looking for a black hole to fly us in to, and finally got killed EXACTLY as our tie was up. Great Fun! It’s only like $40 and you get 6 licenses for it. We played on awesome touch screens, but it runs on almost any PC. You should TOTALLY check it out. We had to hustle to make it to …


Sunday 11am – D&D Next Playtest
The Pretty Girl and I had been to DDXP in Fort Wayne so we had been among the first to publicly play-test 5E. I’d run it for her and the kids at home but the kids didn’t really get in to it. In one of my great shames, they seem to prefer 4e, although they like being murder-hobos. Go Figure. Anyway, this was supposed to be our big together event at the con so of course it didn’t go off. Bladman, maybe, was telling people they were oversold and could seat no generics. “No problem, we have real tickets.” I say. Yeah, the system sold too many, we can’t seat you. Sorry. I can give you some promo dice or I can give you a refund. Uh … Wizards and the RPGA is such a joke. What he meant to say was that all of their judges are off playing/running Pathfinder and they are a disorganized group of fuckwits, but he mispronounced it as “oversold.” I just got mail from the The Indy Cool Gamers guys and they claim to be disgusted with their RPGA experiences also (they play and judge both.) Bad judges and bad organization.

We had lunch at Harry & Izzy’s (expensive, which is ok if it’s good. It’s not worth it though.) and then all went back to the dealer hall and split up. PokeBoy went off to get more ribbons. He ended up as a Knight of Catan and a Defender of Catan, getting all 10 or 11 ribbons. He also bought a snail pewter mini and a purple dragon mini sculpture, as well as getting a lot of Yu-Gi-oh cards for free for beating The Masters, including one personalized Token card with his picture on it. The Pretty Girl split off, shipped some, and went home at 2 to sleep till 7pm that night. Little Girl and I shopped all the aisles and she bought an anime mystery bag for $40 tat she was NOT happy with. I bought a cool little picture and a copy of Jungle Speed Raving Rabbids edition!!! I LOVE jungle Speed and i LOVE the Raving Rabbids. I was screaming like a rabbid since I got the second to last copy (for $10! score!) The Asmodee people seemed to get a kick out of it. We met up with PokeBoy at 4:10 and left for home, a whole 2.5 miles away. πŸ™‚
Mutton chops seem to be making a comeback for guys. Daisy Duke/short-shorts seem to be making a comeback for women. The traditional hipster/poser indie rpg look seems to be on the outs. There was an awesome balloon dragon constructed in the hallways and an ad-hoc game of zombies vs humans taking place in the hallways also. Headbands vs armbands tag.

The con was super busy all four days. I’d be surprised if they didn’t smash attendance records. Nothing stood out for me in the dealer hall. RPGs seem lightly represented, with boardgames resurgent. The indie RPG scene, in the dealer hall, seems down. Disappointed to not see Greg Porter at The Other Indie RPG Booth … since the booth wasn’t there this year. I wanted one of those modular DM screens that I saw last year, but they weren’t there. OMG/Axe in the Head had a booth. I gave a spiel to The Little Girl describing the game that so good they gave me some free swag from under the table. Computer scene seemed less represented, both in games and in utilities. Lots and lots of great T-shirt booths this year, more than usual and several smaller ones with cute stuff on them. The cosplay clothing booths are well represented but not overly so, IMO. Mostly steampunkish but the pink frilly maid stuff is now making an appearance in a couple of booths. A scattering of anime items, including adult mystery bags. Tome of Adventure Design and Black Monastery were on sale at the Paizo booth. Mongoose was selling Sex, Dice and Gamer Chicks, which surprised me. Smirk and Dagger was showing off their Fresh Meat expansion for Cutthroat Caverns. It’s in a big box and can hold all of the games at once. It looks good. I picked up Moon Base Clavius (russians with nuclear mortars on the moon!), Valkenburg Castle (red dragons! nazis!) and Cyborg (the best cover OF ALL TIME!!!!!) from Zocchi’s booth. He claimed that he had never sold another of Cyborg at a convention but I know he’s wrong; I bought one about 7 years ago. πŸ™‚ Nothing gives you geek cred like a Zocchi purchase. I got numerous compliments the rest of the con from vendors in the dealer hall who saw Clavius and Valkenburg. A MOTHER FUCKING SORCERER!

Oh yeah, I hit the art show looking for 70’s style fantasy art of MOTHER FUCKING SORCERERS, but didn’t find any. I’d appreciate any pointers to some. Trippy 70’s fantasy pointers are also appreciated.

Hmmm … anything else you guys wants to know about?
From the $5 booth:
RPGA #2 (Cool cover!)
Dungeoneer Compendium 1-6
Ready Ref Sheets
A Challenge to Arms (Chris CLark)
Dark Druids (Kuntz)
Garden of the Plantmaster (Kuntz)
Prisoners of the Maze (Kuntz)
Dimensions of Flight (Kuntz)
Talons of the Horned King (Spaceship & Fantasy!)
Blackmoor (d20)
Blackmoor (4e)

From FBI:
Catacombs of the Bear Cult (Dungeon of the Bear not available)

From KenzerCo:
In the Realm of the Elm King
Dusk of the Dead

From Troll Lord:
Dwellers in Darkness – Ulgakur
The Black Librum of Nartarus
Goblins of Mount Shadow

From the OSR Booth:
F1 – The Fane of Poisoned Prophecies
The Final Chapter
Beyond the Black Wall
Beyond the Wailing Mountains
The Death Curse of Sven Oakenfist
Many Gates of Gann
The Mouth of the Shadowvein
Down the Shadowvein
Stonepick Crossing
The Palace of the Vampire Queen
The Things in the Forest
The Secret of Redscar
It Lurks Below

From Lou Zocchi:
Valkenburg Castle
Moon Base Clavius

From the Math Trade:
A&A (*2)
C&G: Live
Tigers in the Snow
Duel in the Dark

Other Buys:
Jungle Speed (Ravin Rabbids)
hellowithcheese print
Battlemaps, wilderness and dungeon 2fer from 9.


You can check out older reviews of NSDM, Indie RPGS, LARPs, etc, over at FAT.

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3 Responses to GenCon 2012 Report

  1. Sounds like you had a great con! Glad to hear that Will Call was better this year. I was working in Fulfillment behind the scenes there, and we were definitely trying to speed things up. I’m also in Indianapolis. If you ever want to play some games, drop me a line.

  2. Hello.

    I was directed here from someone on the GenCon forums, who mentioned your issues with the Sunday D&D Next Playtest at GenCon.

    I’m one of the Baldman Games staff, and I want to start by apologizing, first and foremost.

    You’re absolutely right – we dropped the ball on Sunday and found ourselves in an oversold situation (I posted a bit about how that happened in the GenCon forums here). In fact, I’m probably the guy who had to tell you were could only offer dice or a refund – so you have a face to put with the name AND the blame.

    I know we can’t un-do the mistakes we made, but I wanted to make it clear that we ARE listening, and we are also available for any feedback you’d like to give us.

    While we may not be able to make every player at every table happy – there are definately things we mis-judged and mis-planned this year. If you or your friends from Indy Cool Gamers would like to vent, I’m available to listen – even if we can’t win you guys back, we can at least make improvements for future shows.

    My e-mail address is available for anyone who’d like to chip in their thoughts.

  3. On a completely unrelated note: Artemis really IS an excellent game. I picked it up at Origins, and will probably be volunteering to help the creator (who’s local to me in Cleveland) show it off at local conventions in the area.

    I can’t agree enough that more people should check it out. πŸ™‚

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