Saturday, August 24, 2013

Gen Con 2013

As you might guess, it’s been a very busy summer. Between the Primeval Thule Kickstarter campaign, a short vacation on the Oregon coast, preparations to send my oldest daughter off to college, and Gen Con, I’ve been on one deadline or another for months. Next up is the writing and design work for Thule, which is shaping up to 60,000 words or so over the next couple of months—but that’s the sort of deadline I have a lot of experience with, and I’m looking forward to snuggling up with this savage continent this fall.

(Speaking of Primeval Thule… you still have one last chance to get in on the Kickstarter if you haven’t already. We can take pledges at, and we’ll count those with the support we raised during the actual Kickstarter campaign. Your “late backer” pledge gets you the same books, packages, or PDFs that similar pledges during the actual campaign received.)
Anyway, for today’s blog, I thought I’d say a few words about things I saw at Gen Con. I didn’t go in 2012 or 2011, so it’s been a few years for me.

No Big Software Outfits
Throughout the late ‘90s and the early ‘00s, GenCon’s exhibit hall was increasingly taken over by big PC game and console game outfits. They brought in gigantic booths, deafening soundtracks, and huge screens showing off their games. This year, I didn’t see those guys in the dealer hall. I understand there were a couple who had rooms of their own elsewhere in the convention center. My guess is that most of these companies have decided to focus on other shows, like PAX. I’ll be honest: I don’t really miss them in the Gen Con exhibitor’s hall. I spent a lot of Gen Cons past shouting to make myself heard over super-loud digital games located in booths near the WotC or TSR booth where I was working.

With Wizards of the Coast holding off on D&D Next, it was a relatively quiet year for RPGs at the show. Paizo had a great show with a whole slew of great new Pathfinder material and a gigantic ballroom dedicated to Pathfinder gaming; pretty clearly Pathfinder is THE game people are playing these days. The new Shadowrun Fifth Edition book looks FANTASTIC, and I really can’t wait to roll up a gunslinger adept or a street samurai and play. Pelgrane was sporting their excellent new 13th Age book. Finally, Monte Cook brought his new game Numenera to the show, and that is also a fine-looking book. I haven’t had a chance to play yet, but I look forward to trying it out.

While WotC didn’t bother with a big booth in the exhibitor’s hall this year, they did draw plenty of people to their D&D Next Q&A sessions and special events like their Thursday night Forgotten Realms celebration in the Indiana Rooftop Ballroom. I think a lot of RPG fans are waiting to see what Wizards is going to do with D&D Next, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do a huge relaunch of D&D at next year’s show.
Dave, Steve, and I ran game sessions of Primeval Thule at the show, so I had a chance to GM some Pathfinder Thule on Friday. I managed to kill one of our big-shot backers by tearing his ranger to pieces with a saber-tooth tiger. That's Sasquatch, service with a smile!

If I didn’t know better, I would say that Gen Con is a boardgame show these days, with RPGs something of an afterthought. The sprawling booths for Mayfair, Fantasy Flight, Asmodee, and Catalyst were really the most prominent landmarks in the dealers’ hall. I had a chance to demo Flying Frog’s Fortune and Glory boardgame, checked out the Cthulhu Wars demo (boy, those game pieces are awesomely cool), played Monolith and Dungeon Roll, and bought the new Spyrium game from Asmodee. Asmodee is quickly becoming my favorite board game publisher, by the way; a few years ago I bought the excellent Mission: Red Planet game at Gen Con, and it’s one of my favorites.

Other Gen Con Observations
Cosplay is bigger than ever at Gen Con; I guess it’s just part of the con-going experience these days. The coolest outfits I saw belonged to a group of folks dressed as Steampunk-era Ghostbusters, complete with a colossal StayPuft Marshmallow Man. An important safety tip to Future Rich: Wear better shoes next year, dummy. I walked out my shoes on the first day of the show, blistered my feet badly, and had to spend the next three days limping around in severe pain. Finally, I was reminded that Gen Con is the place to be if you’re in the gaming biz; I saw and talked to scores of old friends, professional colleagues, and other interesting people during the show. My fellow Sasquatches and I are already talking about what we’re going to do for next year’s show.

Finally, I got a chance to play some Axis & Allies Naval Miniatures on Friday night, when I dropped in on the Battle for the Mediterranean tournament. I failed to bring tournament-legal fleets (that's what I get for not reading the whole event description), but I did have a chance to play a side game with longtime Forumini personality Weeds. My air-heavy Italian fleet was not particularly effective thanks to a twilight scenario, but my cleverly placed heavy shore battery caused Weeds no end of trouble, and late in the game I managed to vital the Nelson with a point-blank attack from the battleship Roma. Weeds defeated me in a real squeaker that came down to my last gunnery attack from the shore battery--it was a ton of fun!

That’s all for this time—I’ll be back in a couple of weeks!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Kickstarter, GenCon, the Oregon Coast

Greetings, everybody!

My apologies for the long gap; most of my blog writing over the last couple of months has gone toward knocking out design and overview essays about the Primeval Thule Campaign Setting. I was working furiously throughout the Kickstarter campaign to keep delivering new and interesting glimpses of Thule, and naturally I didn’t spend as much time on my own personal reflections here. So, consider this a catch-up session!

Hey, Our Kickstarter Succeeded! In case you haven’t been keeping up, my Primeval Thule project successfully funded back on August 1st. In fact, we ended up reaching a total of $75k on a $60k target. Me and my fellow Sasquatches (Dave Noonan and Steve Schubert) took a couple of days to recuperate and evaluate, but we’re already hard at work revising our estimates and business model to reflect the actual amount of backing we received, designing our backer survey, and laying the groundwork to go into serious development and production mode. GenCon throws a week-long hitch in our plans, but we expect to come back from Indianapolis and hit the ground running.
(If you missed out on the Kickstarter, it’s not too late – we have a PayPal-based pledge system online at just for late backers. Most of the options available during the Kickstarter campaign are still available even if you’re coming in late.)

See Me at GenCon: As I mentioned above, I’ll be heading off to GenCon in just a couple of days with my partners Dave and Steve. We’re running Primeval Thule playtests each day of the show (sorry, they’re all sold out), and we’ll be hosting a seminar on Saturday to talk about all things Thule. In fact, let me run down a few things that are on my schedule so you can track me down if you’re so inclined.

·        Thursday, I plan to drop in at the “A Night of Dungeons & Dragons” event Wizards of the Coast is hosting.

·        Friday, I’m busy running my Primeval Thule session. But later on I intend to don a disguise and sneak into the War at Sea: Battle for the Mediterranean event at 7 pm. I designed the darned game, and I hardly ever get a chance to play it!

·        Saturday, I’ll be hosting the Primeval Thule seminar, at noon in the Westin Hotel Grand Ballroom III. I will then scurry over to join the Emerald Spire All-Stars panel in progress at 1 pm. You’ll also be able to find me at the Inside Pathfinder Online seminar at 5 pm in room 231.

·        Sunday, I may try to sneak into another game or two, but I’ll probably be roaming the dealer hall trying to decide which game or games I just have to bring home.

I hope to catch up with many rarely-seen friends at various lunch hours and dinners, but we’ll see how it goes. I have a number of Sasquatch-oriented business discussions I’m hoping to knock out over the course of the show, so I’m not exactly sure when and where I’m going to do my socializing. I will try to Facebook my whereabouts and plans as they come up!

The Finer Things: The Oregon Coast. I took my family down for a long weekend in Lincoln City over the past few days. The weather was not great—dense fog just about every day—so it wasn’t really a fun in the sun kind of beach vacation. But the scenery of the coast is just spectacular, and we had lots of fun beachcombing, looking at tidepools, and enjoying the views (when we could see them). The highlight of the trip for me was finally getting a chance to hike out onto Cascade Head, which is a 1200-foot tall headland jutting out into the ocean. I’ve wanted to do that hike for ten years, and we’ve driven by it three or four times without ever being able to make it work. This time it all came together. The fog parted long enough for us to enjoy a twenty-mile view south along the coastline, while being able to look out at shining blue ocean and, weirdly enough, the *top* of the impenetrable barrier of clouds that was then hovering about five miles out to sea. It was like being on an airplane that was flying over a dense cloud cover. Kim and I just love it down there; might be my favorite place on Earth.