I think I’m getting old. I spent all of last weekend at Nine Worlds complaining about how tired I was, how stupid it was to attend the week after GenCon, and how I’d never be that stupid again. So I was pretty surprised to look back at old blog posts and learn that not only did I do the same cons back-to-back two years ago, but that I seemed pretty chipper by the end of it. The weary refrain of all men in their late-twenties: grant me the long-lost vigour of my mid-twenties.
This is my attempt to justify why I wasn’t posting from-the-con updates this year, and why I bailed on #RPGaDay after a single day. Hopefully it strikes the right note of pitiful whining.
Anyway, GenCon was fantastic. Here’s a rundown of the highlights of my trip to America:
- This year was the first that I took the time to explore non-GenCon parts of the continent whilst I was over here – New York, Washington DC, Ravenwood Castle. From the latter’s board game collection I borrowed the Sentinels of the Multiverse cooperative card game, and had a couple of plays with the friend I was travelling with. By good fortune, my trip to DC happened to coincide with Labyrinth Games and Puzzles’ Used Games Sale, so I managed to get a very cheap (if slightly incomplete) copy of the now out-of-print Warhammer Quest Card Game! Look, this is a gaming blog, so I’m focussing on the gaming stuff. But DC also had a Lincoln Memorial.
- Whilst in town on Wednesday to pick up our con badges, we decided to try our luck and squeeze into the sold out Fantasy Flight Games panel. I’m glad we did, because as well as getting the scoop on game announcements that are now common knowledge (Star Wars Clone Wars content! A beautiful Super Star Destroyer!), we also got a couple of free decks for the Keyforged card game, months before the game is released. Which is cool.
- The first day of GenCon is usually our trade hall today, but this year we mixed up the formula a little. First, we missed the grand opening of the hall to watch Shut Up and Sit Down’s live podcast – I hoped it would give us a pointer on what games we HAD TO TRY at the con, and whilst that didn’t really happen, it was still lots of fun. Second, this year I volunteered to run four RPGs for Cubicle 7 in return for a GMs badge, which meant popping off in the afternoon to run a One Ring game; it ended with curses, death, and just two hobbits escaping to tell the tale! We still had plenty of shopping time though, and as well as trying out The Mind, I picked up a copy of Wrath and Glory, the new incarnation of the Warhammer 40K roleplaying game. 40K RPG reviews are the backbone of this blog, so I’m sure a review is coming in the next year or two.
- Friday was absolutely manic, starting off with a morning One Ring game (this one ended happier!). After running round the trade hall and picking up the Fate Horror Toolkit, I squeezed in a few seminars in the afternoon: Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, a history of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game, and a run through of what to expect following the GenCon release of Vampire: The Masquerade. But surely the most memorably part of the con was a late night presentation of Critical Role, recorded live in a packed theatre full of very excitable nerds, broadcast via streaming to thousands of nerds around the world. I’d never seen Critical Role before – four hours a week is more than I can reliably commit to – and I doubt I’ll start watching now I’m back in the UK. But being in that theatre, feeling that energy, watching the crowd go wild for every hit, crit, and roll for initiative… that’s not like anything I’ve ever experienced before. Matt Mercer’s appellation a “rockstar GM” is fitting. He received a standing ovation for walking ON the stage.
- Saturday is usually our longest con day buy after getting home from Critical Role at 2 in the morning, we decided to take things easier. We started with a demo of the Sentinel Comics RPG which was… not good. I chose a pregenned character at random and ended up with a female PC; the first thing my GM had happen to my character was sexual harassment, which pretty much set the tone. I got out, cleared my head with more shopping and my last One Ring game (the “middle” ending, with a split party going their separate ways), and eventually ended up at The Expanse RPG seminar. Not only was this a great panel, with fascinating insights from the authors of the book series the game is based on, but they also handed out free hard-copies of the Quickstart Guide. I love free stuff!
- On Sunday, I got to run something a bit different for Cubicle 7 – the upcoming 4th edition for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. I can’t say too much about it, since I signed an NDA. GenCon winds down early on the last day, but I made one last trip to the trade hall to buy Predation, then settled in to our traditional post-con cinema stop. (Ant-Man and The Wasp, for the record.)
Phew! Well, when I look at all of that lot, I’m not surprised I lacked the energy to throw too much into Nine Worlds – I left early on the Friday, and arrived late on the Sunday. In between, I helped to organise five seminars, a dramatic change from previous years in which I’ve run one RPG session only. My events were:
- A panel on the Animorphs and its comparative lack of cultural impact, hosted by me, my friend and my partner. This was better attended than expected, apparently there are a lot of enthusiastic Animorphs fans out there!
Though we disagreed about the quality of the cover art.
- Mass Effect and Philosophy, a panel exploring various interesting themes that emerged from the video game series. I’d asked to do a solo-talk about Parenthood in Mass Effect specifically, but it was rejected – I ended up on the panel as a consolation prize.
- Another panel about Star Wars: The Last Jedi, with particular focus on the theme of sacrifice. This was very well attended, and was probably the most successful talk I was a part of.
- A solo-talk about the last twelve months of the roleplaying hobby, since solo-talks about RPGs are my Nine Worlds tradition.
- I helped to organise an event about diversity in Warhammer 40K, but didn’t talk myself because I’m a cisgendered able-bodied white male heterosexual.
In between, I attended a bunch of other people’s panels, caught up with friends, and played some board games. My highlights were a Critical Role panel, a Time Travel talk, and finally getting to try out the board game Azul. As for the lowlights… I didn’t attend The Future of Nine Worlds panel, but it sounds like it was an absolute shitshow. Sadly, this would seem to be the logical conclusion of a convention founded on inclusivity, that has consistently failed to provide a platform for people of colour, and is consequently unable to cater to the POC community’s quite basic needs. Here’s hoping things improve next year… if there even is a “next year”.
SO WHAT’S NEXT?
Sleep! And after that, a return to a more normal routine. We’re already two-thirds of the way through the year though, and there’s still a bunch of other things I want to do before that milestone. Here’s some of the most exciting:
- Game Chef 2018 launches tomorrow. I’ll look at the ingredients, see if I get any inspiration… but I’m expecting to give it a miss this year. I was so proud of getting a game completed for the first time at last year’s Game Chef, but since then I have successfully written first drafts of a few short games – now I want to try harder to get those games playtested and published. That’s probably a more productive use of my time right now than writing something else new that’s going nowhere.
- Next month is the first ever Tabletop Gaming Live. Again, not entirely sure if I will be partaking. It’s in London, which is where I live, so it wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice… but I’m kind of feeling conned out right now. Good chance I’ll be feeling differently by this time in September though.
- And of course, December is Dragonmeet, my annual tradition as a Londoner. That one I’ll definitely be attending.
- I’m about to start playing in a 7th Sea campaign and I’m very excited about it. We recently tried out the new edition at our monthly gaming brunch, and we enjoyed it; but the most remarkable feature of 2nd edition is surely its stories/advancement mechanic, which is the kind of thing that requires a campaign to explore. Character generation in next week, so we’ll see how it goes.
- Meanwhile, I’m desperately struggling to find enough available players to get a Cold City campaign off the ground. Mostly it looks like people are too busy to roleplay anymore, but to at least some extent the intensity of the game’s setting has been a turn-off for potential recruits. Maybe I’ll end up running something else to round out the year: perhaps the Doctor Who Roleplaying Game to celebrate the arrival of the Thirteenth Doctor; or Predation to put my GenCon purchase to good use; or Undying as my response to Vampire: the Masquerade’s latest revival.
In short, more games, more cons, and hopefully progress in getting my own systems published. Whatever it turns out to be, here’s the place where I’ll be blogging about it.