Wednesday, August 23, 2017

GenCon 50, Monuments

Hi, there! Thanks for stopping by. I haven’t posted in quite a while, so I thought I’d share a few quick updates about what I was up to. I just returned from GenCon, where I spent four days running Alternity games, participating in the “GenCon 50” special presentation track, and meeting interesting people. Here are my ten takeaways from GenCon, in no particular order:

10. It was great to sit down side-by-side with Peter Adkison, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, and Jonathan Tweet to reminisce about the job of designing D&D 3rd Edition. I haven’t been in the same room with all four of those guys in almost twenty years. I know that the whole seminar was recorded; if you’re interested in D&D history and 3e in particular, I think it would be worth your time to track it down.

9. Pearl Street Pizzeria is one of Indianapolis’s hidden gems. I picked up pizzas there to bring to a game session we ran for a special backer, and I gotta say, that’s a damned good pie. I find myself doubting whether I should tell you about it, because I don’t want to see it buried under a Ram-like avalanche of hungry con-goers. Anyway, twenty beers on tap and the best pizza in Indy. You heard it here first.

8. No, Sasquatch Game Studio didn’t have a booth in the Exhibitor Hall this year. We didn’t have any new products to debut at the show, and without something new, we weren’t sure we’d see the sort of sales it would take to justify the expense of the booth. Instead, we focused on running Alternity with Baldman Games and the Herald’s Guild event management, and spent most of our time actually playing games for once. But there’s a good chance that we’ll try to booth-up again next year.

7. Wow, companies left money on the table this year. Paizo sold through their Starfinder stock on Thursday. Ditto Fantasy Flight Games with some of their new releases. I guess I’d rather sell out early than overprint for the show, but Thursday’s a little too soon to run out, isn’t it?

6. Flying in late on Wednesday is rough. I didn’t get to bed until 2 am on Wednesday night, and I had to get up a little after 6. Even without a booth to set up, it might be better to fly in on Tuesday.

5. There’s a great little game store called Good Games just a couple of blocks from the convention center. They ran a 40% off sale on Warmachine and Hordes during the show. I took the opportunity to break into a second faction: I now have a lot of Skorne to assemble and paint after I get through some more of my Menoth painting.

4. I happened to run into Mark Tassin of the Writer’s Symposium while looking for somebody else, and we had a great chat. I’ll be adding some Symposium panels to my schedule next year, somehow; I’ll also be trying to run games and maybe staff a booth!

3. The Baldman Games team at GenCon is first-rate. They’ve got a great set-up and they’re providing hundreds of tables of great gaming throughout the show. They really took care of us, even though our Alternity presence was small potatoes compared to D&D. If you’re looking for games to play at GenCon, you really should check out the Baldman Games events over in the JW Marriott.

2. I played Alternity with a lot of awesome gamers over the weekend. Every single player I had the pleasure of hosting at my table was smart, engaged, and happy to be there; when you’ve got a good table of players, running a fun game is a breeze. Thanks to any of you who might be reading this! You guys really made my show.

1. Wow, I think we’ve got something with Alternity. People picked it up fast, they had a lot of fun playing, and I heard the things every publisher wants to hear (“where can I get this?” and “when does it come out?”) Kudos to my fellow Sasquatch Steve Schubert for creating a great adventure; it was a little bit of a tight fit for a con slot, but the players seemed to enjoy it quite a lot and there were a lot of ways for those of us GMing to try out different endings.

Current Events
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Confederate statues and what to do with them. As it happens, I just finished reading Michael Shaara’s Killer Angels (a fascinating study of military leadership, as well as a great historical novel). As a history buff, my default position is don’t remove monuments. To me it seems like an effort to erase history, and I put a lot of stock in the Santayana quote about what happens to people who don’t remember history. But . . . then I thought about what it would be like to be a person of color who has to walk by a Confederate statue every day. And I also recalled that quite a few of those monuments were built by people in the early 20th century who were trying to rewrite history for their own purposes. Leaving the statues in place endorses the narrative of the Lost Cause, and that narrative’s done a lot of harm to a lot of people.

I do think that some Confederates deserve remembering. Robert E. Lee performed an enormous service to our country by convincing his fellow Confederates to lay down their arms; without his courageous choice to surrender at Appomattox the war could have tapered off into years of unrest, local uprisings, and guerilla fighting. James Longstreet endured vicious opprobrium for his support of recently freed slaves after the war; it seems to me he tried to atone for the part he played. Perhaps because of my recent reading of Killer Angels, I feel some compassion toward men who felt that they couldn’t participate in a war against their home states. People of the time saw their states like we see our country; Lee loved Virginia the way you love America. Could you imagine helping the United Nations to subjugate America, even if you thought America might be in the wrong? I wouldn’t want to make that choice.

Anyway, I guess I come down on the side of removing statues to places where they no longer symbolize state power. They don’t belong in courthouses or capitol buildings or maybe even city parks. Leave them in museums, battlefields, and cemeteries—and make sure the true story of those men, both good and bad, is told. And I wouldn’t destroy works of significant artistic merit. Stone Mountain is wrongheaded, but destroying that relief would be a terrible thing to do. Tell its story instead, including how and why it came to be built and why we would never build it today.