I hadn't gone to Gen Con for five years. It is a long trip, and I generally prefer my local conventions for tabletop role-playing. Still, I went this time since to join up with family. It was my nephew's first time to a game convention (he's 12), and he'd had a really tough year. Most of my time was spent with kids and board or card games, as opposed to my usual convention schedule which is usually role-playing. I did run three RPGs, but I didn't play in any.
Compared to when I last when in 2007, Gen Con Indy has become even more huge. According to early reports, there was a "turnstile attendance record of 134,775, including more than 41,000 unique attendees" and attendance was "up 12% from last year and 30% from 2010". This made it at least exciting as an experience for kids, but the crowds were a definite hassle for parents. The organization was better for me than my previous visits, but it did seem like RPGs and larps were being pushed to the side in favor of board and card games.
This was a silly quick multiplayer card game, where you have a stable of zombie hitmen and you need to collect a weapon, vehicle, and disguise to "whack" another zombie. Players do target each other, so it has the standard multiplayer issue of everyone picking who they gang up on. There is tactics to targeting, though, that reduces the "popularity contest" issue. Part of the fun is the silly zombie pictures and the ridiculous items (pogo stick as a vehicle, or santa claus suit as disguise).
(There were more board games and card games in the afternoon, along with browsing the giant dealer's area.)
This was a run of the pulp conspiracy larp that I had first run as KublaCon 2012. This event was sold out nearly instantly after signups were opened in May, but I only got 12 out of 16 players who showed up - and I think three were walk-ins. The players and their characters were:
In general, I think the run went quite well - similar to my last run which had 11 players, and the picks were almost all the same. This does suggest to me that maybe the last four characters should probably be switched out, as it seems that players aren't interested in them.
The action of this larp is light, amusing fare suitable for kids and teens. Still, it touches on global politics of the 1930s while still being moderately true to the pulps. I might analyze it more at some point, but mostly I leave it as is.
This was just running Dominion in a kid-friendly fashion. I had brought the Intrigue set that allows for more players when combined with the basic game. However, we had extra players show up (half of them family). So we eventually split into one group (with the boys Milo and Truman) playing in one game, and I ran a session of the basic game for the beginners and my niece Lillian.
This was a straightforward run of a new edition of the dungeon-fantasy deckbuilding game Thunderstone. Milo and I played, and we liked a few aspects of the new edition, but were a little disappointed in the hero sets that were used.
I had put this in as a seminar event. In some years this had just been done as announcements on the Dealer's Room floor near some booths selling indie RPGs. There were about 7 people - so I took fifteen minutes of show-and-tell with the RPGs I had brought with me, including Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple, Bulldogs!, Tools of Ignorance, and Star Run.
Milo and I were both preregistered for this - a game of the latest edition of the classic fantasy boardgame Talisman, with two expansions, the more notable one being a dragons expansion that meant we were constantly picking up three different color dragon tokens. The expansion lead to some unclear points about encountering a token vs. the square or card, which slowed down an already long game. It went four hours and we ended it when our time was up with no resolution in sight.
This was a run of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying with the Runaways as PCs. I had chosen them because I thought that their characters and situations are a lot more prone to personal drama than slugfests. I had five players who were all on time - a near miracle, it seemed to me. I had trouble with my first two games of Marvel, so I prepared more for this one - mainly a bit of practice, a lot of index cards, and a bunch of color-coded dice. Dice out on the table were used for resources (green dice), damage (black dice), and my Doom Pool (red dice). I thought the bright primary colors went reasonably well with the comic book feel even though I didn't have a lot of visuals to use in the game. (If I run this again, I'll also have a bunch of pictures from the Runaways.)
The game went more smoothly, but the characters didn't click as well as my run at KublaCon - which probably has to do mostly with the mix of players and their state of mind. Everyone had fun with the action, and the myriad of dice options went about as well as can be expected.
Midday on Saturday, Milo and I spent a while at "Cardhalla" - an area with thousands of donated collectible cards to be used (and destroyed) in building elaborate houses of cards (along with towers, arenas, and so forth). This was surprisingly very engaging, and we spent quite a while there.
We also played a session of "Poo: The Card Game" with a large group of kids and adults. This is a multiplayer game of monkeys flinging poo at each other, which is supposed to go to a last-man standing resolution. This makes the subject very suitable for kids, but having players knocked out of the game is non-ideal for play structure.
The family went out to dinner, then went back to the hotel to play a session of Deadfellas and a game of Dominion Seaside in the room. Interestingly, aggression in Deadfellas was mostly acceptable to all the kids - though they argued some about why their guy shouldn't be whacked. I went on the aggressive side with my Dominion play, though, and that was much more of a problem with the kids. It's a finer point of play with kids for me to ponder.
This was my run of a scenario using the lead characters from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in a custom scenario, using a version of the FATE system. It was motivated mainly by my nephew, who is new to role-playing (and a bit skeptical of it) - but loves Deep Space Nine. I had a total of six players:
I lost the names of the other three players, but there was an enthusiastic player of Quark who had downloaded the Laws of Acquisition onto his phone, and two others playing Major Kira and Chief O'Brien. We had no Dax of Dr. Bashir. The scenario was set in an unspecified time during the third season - so there was no Dominion War but the Dominion was known. This made the background a little simpler for those who aren't fans of the show (though the only player who that was true for was Milo).
I lead off with a bang that there was a Federation runabout firing on a Cardassian shuttle that was approaching the station. This lead into intrigue as they had to deal with a possibly-rogue Federation commander - in keeping with the DS9 tone. It turned out that both the rogue Federation commander and his quarry were infected by a Cardassian biological weapon that made people into war machines - that got loose on the station. It was a little tricky to pull in both Garek and Quark, and so Quark was left out of a number of scenes - but he still played an important role. I don't think it converted Truman into a role-player, but I think he and the others did enjoy it.
The organizational problems that I had from five years ago seem cleared up this year. Everything went relatively smoothly, but they did seem to put in red tape for me as GM - especially to get my refund. I'd prefer to stick to my more local conventions and ones that I really enjoy, but it seemed generally good. Below are links to some pictures...