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CONfessions of a Journeyman Gen Con Attendee: Part 2

This is the recap of the experiences I had at Gen Con 2013. Part one can be found here.

Day 3:

When I went to bed on Saturday morning, I was running on fumes. Upon waking a few hours later, though, I was energized and ready for Kobold Press’ Freelancing 101 panel.  (The Tome Show recorded the panel). Wolfgang Baur, Ben McFarland, Colin McComb, and Brandon Hodge discussed the steps to break into freelancing for the game industry (and some cheats for breaking in as well).

All of these guys have a bunch of experience in freelancing, so their advice was useful. I would strongly suggest that you listen if you’re interesting in busting into the tabletop games biz.

1004508_10151790782957438_1057252889_nAfter that panel, I attended Publishing 101. This one was a Wolfgang Baur solo affair, and he related stories from the first year of starting Kobold Press. He did a great job of relating the trials and triumphs of getting into publishing. I’m sure I’ll be listening to both of these panels again soon.

We were hungry, so our group ate some brunch (street food–I got some delicious wings) and did some shopping in the exhibit hall. We had a lot of downtime, so we spent part of it simply sitting and watching people. We also got to watch some games of Giant Star Trek Attack Wing.

Giant Attack Wing played exactly like regular Attack Wing, just on a much larger scale. In fact, I think they just attached a bunch of old Trek toys to larger versions of the bases, and let people play. They had giant dice, giant movement markers… it was pretty cool.

After our period of laziness, we headed over to True Dungeon.

True Dungeon is basically a life-sized dungeon supplemented with actors playing monsters. I was expecting something like a LARP, but it was something very different. Combat was resolved with something that reminded me of shuffleboard (you wanted to try to hit a 20 on a play area shaped like the monster). I think it was an interesting experience, but I can see it being a major money drain.

Your equipment is represented by tokens that you put on your character card before the game starts. You can buy extra packs of tokens, but you are given a certain amount before the game starts as well. There are also tokens for spells, potions, and other useable items; though, you have to give them up to the room’s DM when you use them.

1209341_10151790783407438_425928493_nIt was fun, but I had a few problems with my playthrough. 1.) There were two many people. The party was 10 people, and I think it was just too much. There were rooms when six people would be doing something, while four just hovered around. 2.) There was a dude in our group that stank really badly. That isn’t True Dungeons fault, but this guy was pretty pungent. Maybe he was staying at the convention center and got sick one night or something, but it was pretty bad as far as Con funk goes.

All-in-all, it was fun. I got to play a barbarian, and I was pretty good at the combat game (so was John, and he had to throw two at the same time because he was “dual-wielding’). Now that I’ve done it once, though, I’m hesitant to do it again. Maybe if I get 9 friends to do it.


1005481_10151790783302438_334450510_nAfter that we had dinner  at the Marriott hotel attached to the convention center. The food was pretty delicious. Miranda and I had the Turkey leg covered in gravy and served on a bed of mashed potatoes. As you can see, it was pretty delicious.

After that was the Masquerade Ball. This year’s theme was “Dance of the Dead,” but I don’t think theme mattered that much. It was a lot of fun to see all the costumes. And watch people lay on the floor and play their Nintendo DS.

Finally, the night ended with Artemis. We were all getting pretty exhausted at this point, but I think we overall had a good time. Our captain was getting a mite bit douchey and not really listening to his crew, but you know, sometimes that’ll happen. You just play the best game you can. We beat level 4, which was my personal record, so that was good. After that, it was time to sleep. The drive to the hotel took a lot longer than it normally would, since I was tired and kept missing turns.

Final Day

We slept in on Sunday. I’m sad that we skipped our first game, but I was barely able to move when my alarm went off that morning, so I just slept. I think the rest of the group was glad. After waking, we had the long task of packing up all the stuff we had bought in addition to all the stuff we bought. The back of the van was stuffed full of gaming paraphernalia.

We got to the convention center around 11:30 AM and played a fun little game called “Cosmic Encounter: Cosmic Alliance“. It’s a game of making and breaking alliances and stabbing your buddies in the back. Our game basically devolved into two teams, in which one side of the table started picking on the other side of the table. It was fun, but not very sportsmanlike.

After that, Tyler and I entered a tournament of Star Trek Attack Wing. He won his first game and lost his second, and I did the opposite. Either way, he walked out of there with three new Attack Wing ships to add to his fleet, so not a bad tournament. Certainly much better than the Magic: The Gathering tournament I took part in.

After that, we waited in line in the parking garage to go home. We were sad and exhausted to leave, but I’m already planning on how to do things better next year. If we decide to go (and I hope we do).

Tomorrow, I’ll relate my tale of running a game at Gen Con for Kobold Press.

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CONfessions of a Journeyman Gen Con Attendee: Part One

Gen Con is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s one of those times when I can completely geek out about gaming, and it’s perfectly okay to do so. It’s a time where I can chat with established game designers and meet with up-and-comers. If I was physically able, I could game 24 hours.

Now that I have steady internet (the hotel wi-fi was extremely slow and spotty), I can relate a little about my experiences.

Day 0:

This year, my Gen Con started in Columbus, Ohio on August 14. I received an invitation to attend “The Sundering” event hosted by the Thurber House at the Columbus Museum of Art. The Thurber House frequently hosts author talks and signings, and I was excited when RA Salvatore, Ed Greenwood, and Erin M. Evans were announced as guests pre-Gen Con.

All the authors seemed like extremely nice people, and Ed Greenwood even chatted with me about  beards for a few moments while he was signing a couple of my books. All seemed excited (especially Ed and Erin) about this new Sundering series, so I’ll be delighted to finally begin reading them.

You can see more pictures from the event, as taken by the Thurber House, here.

Day 1:

John already went into detail about our first day of Gen Con, but I wanted to talk about my experiences a bit as well. Let me start by saying that this was easily the busiest first day I’ve seen since attending. The lines for retail were un-real, and I kept hearing rumors about people finding copies of the completely sold out Firefly game. Finding a copy of Firefly was like living in a weird gamepocalypse where conjecture and rumor are your only companions and you don’t know if someone is deliberately throwing you off the trail.

I just decided that I’ll get the game online sometime.

Turns out, it WAS the busiest Gen Con ever. There were almost 50,000 attendees–almost a 20% growth over last year!

Thursday was also my first face-to-face meeting with some of the good folks from Kobold Press when I attended their book signing at the Paizo booth. Ben McFarland, Brian Suskind, and Wolfgang Baur were super friendly. You should go buy their books; did I mention they won two Ennie Awards?

Next up was the Magic: The Gathering tournament, where everyone but me did amazing. Seriously, I lost all my matches. I only won a free booster pack because I was given a by in the last round. The judges must have felt bad for me or something.

We ended the night by checking into the hotel and eating. I had pork loin. I remember it being delicious.

Day 2:

Friday is a blur. I started the day by running “Madman at the Bridge” — an adventure by Kobold Press. I had a great time, but I’ll detail it later this week in another post. It was the first game I’ve ever run at Gen Con, and I doubt it will be my last.

After that we played a game of Battletech. It wasn’t the tabletop game but instead was a series of 16 pods networked together that basically let us experience 16-player MechWarrior. The pods are completely enclosed, and you get a radar screen and a HUD screen, as well as various levers for movement, shooting, and firing your jump jets. It looks like a lot of fun, and if I get time, I’d like to experiment with it next year. I heard that late at night is the best time to go, so maybe I’ll take an evening to play a bunch of rounds of Battletech.

After that, we played a session of Artemis: Spaceship Bridge Simulator in order to get our Gen Con newcomers prepared for our 2-hour session on Saturday night. We did well, and I didn’t have to give up my engineer position.

After that, shopping and food ensued. St. Elmo’s has some awesomely spicy shrimp sauce that I recommend you try at least once in your life.

And finally, we ended the day with the Giant Pathfinder Society Scenario “The Siege of the Diamond City.” I’ve never experienced so many people playing the same Pathfinder adventure at the same time. I think Paizo did a good job of making the group feel like we were contributing to the greater experience. However, the part of the adventure we played seemed a little basic. I’m guessing it was necessary in order to keep things simple for the people who had to calculate all the information presented.

All right, that’s the first half of Gen Con. Tomorrow, I’ll detail Saturday and Sunday, and on Friday I’ll talk about running a game at Gen Con.


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Awesome Upcoming Indy Games

Shovel KnightKotaku posted an article by an anonymous game developer yesterday that explained how video game publishers are killing the game industry. Whether he is right or wrong, I can say that some publishers have made some really bad decisions lately. Luckily, there are some really awesome independent game studios that are putting out some games this year. Here are the games that I’m really excited about.

Shovel Knight:

Shovel Knight was just funded on Kickstarter (in fact, it raised more than quadruple the money of its original goal), and looks like an awesome 8-bit-style homage to the NES. It is an awesome mix of the gameplay from Ducktales, Mega Man, and Castlevania. The team is experienced, and the gameplay demo they put out looks solid (it doesn’t hurt that they sent it around to many videogame sites to let their reviewers play it).   I can’t imagine a better love letter to the NES.

I helped support this game, and if you want to support it as well, they are still accepting Paypal donations.

Here are the Game Grumps playing the demo of Shovel Knight. (NSFW Language)



Considered a spiritual successor to the excellent Terraria, Starbound is a big, ambitious game about space exploration. The story is that your planet is destroyed, and your shuttle is hurtled into space. From there, you land on a planet and your trek across space begins.

From what I’ve seen of the game, there’s going to be a lot to do. There are a lot of planets to explore, quests to complete, terraforming to do, and lots of things to build. It really reminds me of Terraria, but if you could build a spaceship and explore other planets, too.

If you liked Terraria or Minecraft, I have a good feeling that you’ll like Starbound, too. This is another project in which you can donate to help development.

Monaco: What’s Yours is Mine:

Monaco has been getting a lot of hype since it was first shown a few years ago. It’s a single-player or co-op game (though I think it looks the most fun played with others) in which you and your team have to case a building and then rob it. There are multiple classes to play and it looks like the game captured the fun of heist movies.

I can’t wait for me and some friends to become master thieves. Monaco will be available April 24 on Steam and XBLA.


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Gen Con Planning Tips

I love Gen Con so much. And I think a lot of readers of this site might enjoy it too, so I thought I’d give you a few tips for maximizing your convention experience. If you are bad at planning, or just have no idea where to start, I’m here to help.

1. Register Early

Gen Con’s badge registration generally starts in January. THIS IS THE TIME TO GET BADGES. Not only will you save money with early registration, you won’t have to stand in the MASSIVE line to buy your badge at Gen Con.

Early registration also applies to event tickets. Event tickets generally go on sale a few months before the convention starts, and if you want to do awesome things like True Dungeon, Artemis, or play in all your required Pathfinder Society scenarios, you NEED to buy those event tickets early. Gen Con is rapidly expanding, and that means more people are coming and selling out events. A week after registration is often too late if you want to do one of the really popular Gen Con attractions.

2. Contact Info

Bring business cards with your contact info. You are going to meet some great people who are going to rush away as soon as your game is over to get to their next game. Business cards with a phone/text number are an easy way to touch base with people later. Trust me, there’s rarely any time to chat with people after the game. Plan ahead.

We didn’t take business cards this year, and we immediately regretted it.

3. Indies

Indy game developers all over over the exhibit hall. PLAY THEIR GAMES! Maybe even take a chance and buy one of their games. A lot of these devs have to put their shyness to the side in order to sell themselves and their games; give them a shot and take a listen. They will really appreciate it.

This is how I found out about awesome games like Castle Panic, Bears!, and Quack in the Box.

4. Be Bold

No one ever got anywhere by being shy. Gen Con is pretty laid back, but the energy level is often very high, so there’s no time to be bashful. Do you want your favorite developer to sign a book? Ask.

You’ll find that game developers and celebrities are often just people like you, and many will even be flattered when you ask them to sign something that they put their heart and soul into.

This worked for us when I was talking to Joe Carriker, who was nice enough to demo A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying for us. He was the line producer and a heckuva nice guy. After John bought ALL the available books for the game, I asked Mr. Carriker if he would sign them, and he seemed a little big surprised that we would care enough to do so. Game creators make us happy. Why not try to make them happy to?

5. The Early Bird

Get to events a bit early, if at all possible. This will give you opportunities to chat with the people you’ll be playing games with. In our case, we got to chat a little bit with Tim Clonch, our Mutants and Masterminds GM, for a few minutes. Arriving early also allowed us to meet our fellow Artemis crew members for the session.

6. Don’t just attend game events

There is so much to do besides gaming at Gen Con: The Masquerade Ball, building larping weapons, making chain mail, seminars, speed dating, cosplay, zombie hunts, a film festival, music acts… the list goes ever, ever on. If I wouldn’t have stopped to listen to some of the musicians, I never would have heard a bunch of Klingons singing the Ewok song from the end of Return of the Jedi.

7. Get more people.

John and I decided that two just isn’t cutting it anymore. If you are one of our friends and are nominally interested in gaming, expect a call, text, Facebook message or email because we want to roll up to the Con in style with a bigger entourage. Seriously, if you are reading this, whether you know us or not, you need to get to Gen Con. It touts itself as “The Best Four Days in Gaming,” and it’s true. You WILL have a good time.

These tips should help you have an even more awesome time at Gen Con. For next year, The Cool Ship is considering hosting some events (we have some awesome ideas). If you’d like to roll with us at the con, let us know in the comments.


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