Saturday, August 06, 2011

GenCon Day Three

Or: Looking for a Needle in a Haystack, and More Robin Laws!

Today I managed to wake up early for Laura and Tracy Hickman's Killer Breakfast, which was fantastic. It's the first year they've ever done a second showing of the Breakfast (it's usually on Saturday mornings), and so the hall was only about half full, though there were more participants, I think, than Tracy was used to. There were songs. And some dancing. And beach balls. And mass murder. It was basically great. 

I think one of the coolest things about GenCon is that it strips down the biggest personalities in gaming to a human level. I mean, I'm not implying that I ever thought Tracy Hickman was a godlike individual, but I was, at some points in my life, fairly convinced that he was Fizban the Wizard from his Dragonlance books. In person, he's an approachable, funny, witty guy and he improvises his strange-ass DM show with a ferocity and speed that I've never seen before. He easily handles tables of eight people throwing ridiculous actions at him like he's been prepared for them all day, that every single eventuality is already thought out, that he's seen everything and knows the answers to the most dire of questions. That's why he is a legendary writer, game designer and Dungeon Master, and I am the guy who mans a comic shop games center. ^_^ 

After breakfast, I again hit the Exhibit Hall. I was on something of a quest for Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. I'm a huge fan of Daniel Solis' other recent hit Happy Birthday Robot, and I figured that a role-playing game drawing inspiration from Avatar: The Last Airbender couldn't possibly be horrible. I could not, for the life of me, remember who published the damnable thing, though, and the lack of free wifi at the convention center made it impossible for me to check while I was in the hall, so I had to make a systematic row-by-row search for the damnable thing. I didn't pick it up until well after this point (chronologically). The game is better than I had originally anticipated, especially for something designed for the 12+ crowd, and I have every intention of playing the shit out of it. Also, I will be getting a bunch to sell at the store, so if you want it (and you want it), you can pick it up when I have it.  

I also picked up a package of the magnetic miniature markers. I've seen them in play a few times, and I've meant to pick a set up, and the 15% convention discount more than convinced me to throw money at the Alea Tools guys. One of the cool little bonuses about buying from them at GenCon was the ability to mix and match my magnets so that I could tailor them to my play style. There are a lot of blue magnets to designate how high in the air a person is, an a number of brown tokens to show how far underground a person is. There are a lot of red tokens to signify that a person is bloodied. There's a solid mixture of magnetic strips to put on the bottoms of miniatures so that they can adhere to the bases. It's very pretty and came in an awesome carrying case. Again, I'll be looking to pick some of these up sometime in the near future. 

One of the coolest things about conventions, for me at least, is getting to chill out with the people who make the stuff I sell. Maybe that's just weird to some people, but I like to be able to shake hands with folk I deal with on a regular basis, let them know who I am and let me get a feel fro who they are in person. A distributor or wholesaler or manufacturer can be a great person over the phone, but until I've had a chance to meet someone in person, I don't think I have a very clear idea of who that person is. To be honest, I'm something of a rarity in the industry in that I greatly prefer to do things over the phone than on the internet with the people I buy things from, and meeting someone in person just gives me a much clearer idea of who it is I'm dealing with. 

I collected a lot of business cards today. I gave out as many as I got. 

So I'll be doing my best to make arrangements that include magnetic miniature markers, Do (and related games, because games for kids are amazing). I also picked up a new Chessex megamat and got to have some solid conversations with the guys at Gamescience, Dwarven Forge, Fantasy Flight, and more. Tomorrow is going to be my primary business contact day, so I'm looking forward to a lot more of that.

We stopped by a seminar about using wikis to keep track of your campaign data, which was actually pretty informative. The wiki system they support is called Obsidian Portal, and you should almost definitely check it out. The service is free, and there's a LOT going on for it, including the ability to make maps for your campaign that zoom in and out, have pins, tag various things in various ways, and make all sorts of crazy notes about your game (including secret notes, player secret notes, lists of NPCs with their bios, the places they were encountered, etc). With one of their paid memberships, you can get even more in-depth with multiple maps, more wikis, etc. Definitely a service worth checking out.

Next up was a seminar about the Gumshoe system, which is one of the most innovative things to come out of Robin D. Laws' head (and that's saying something, because Robin Laws has a ridiculous amount of awesome in that head of his). For those that are unfamiliar, the Gumshoe system is an investigative role-playing game in which you never fail to get the clue you were looking for. No matter what happens, if the character has the appropriate investigation skill, they find every clue in the room. Always. If you want to find the clues in the room in a particularly spectacular way, or you want as much information as the clue has to offer, you can spend a point and learn more. It's pretty neat. It focuses the attention on the exciting bits, where failure might actually be interesting. 

There was supposed to be a seminar about Intergenerational Gaming, something that is sort of near and dear to me as a retailer. How do you get kids gaming? How do we invent a new generation of gamers to take part in this ridiculous hobby of ours? Sadly, the speaker didn't show up, but we did have something of a rousing conversation with the folks who did show up.

Right around now is where, chronologically, I found my copy of Do. ^_^ 

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