Every year I leave Gen Con with a few, crystal clear thoughts that guide my gaming and writing for the upcoming year. This year was no different. So here’s my list of lessons learned.
I need to GM RPGs less… so I can study other GMs more.
I was again blessed to play with awesome GMs this year. GMs that make me learn more about the Craft that I could absorb through reading stacks of books and megabytes of blog entries.
Luke Crane is, as usual, a legendary Game Master, yielding high-energy enthusiasm for his new game (Free Market) with a perfect sense of pacing. I love how he always says “this is great! You do that” whenever a player uncertainly describes an action to him.
(I’ll post about Free Market soon. Suffice it to say that I bought the 60$ boxed game without hesitation).
Chris, with his “Welcome to Dark Sun Bitches” game, showed me how to inject massive dose of cool and attitude in encounters without breaking the complexity bank. His “Leave-that-baddie-alone-while-the-party-tries-to-end-the-ritual-skill-challenge-while-fighting-cool-minions” encounter was gaming art.
Spoiler-free hint: Take an unbeatable monster busy doing something really dreadful other than trying to kill the PCs and put in a 12 success skill challenge interrupted by tons of minions appearing in 2s and 3s every round.
NewbieDM (newbie no longer in my book) reminded me about what I liked so much about low level D&D. His awesome descriptions and impeccable pacing of a lvl 2 Chaos Scar adventure (the one where the party chases 2 dragonborn murderers into the cave of a wyrmling Scrappy Doo Brown Dragon). While we completely pwned all encounters, it was a fast paced game peppered with Newbie’s silly voices and vivid description.
Plus, he’s one handsome Latino DM ladies, you WANT to play at his table.
I need to GM RPGs less… because playing is hella FUN!
In my 30 years of tabletop RPG gaming, I somehow lost the sheer fun of playing characters. I used to tell myself I was a bad player, or a backseat DM but I think I was just denying myself the pleasure and simplicity of playing just one character. At Gen Con, I rediscovered that I love being a PC. I love challenging the GM and see how they get to deal with a psycho-dramatist instigator (i.e. moi).
Phil: I see my (Free Market) PC like a low grade brain hacking telemarketer.
Luke: Dude, I think you underestimate the power of the PC you just made. What you have done here is create a freaking sociopath in an Utopia.
Phil: Well I’ll be…
People Trust my Opinion on Games More Than I Thought
Here’s a funny story. I spent most of Sunday’s early morning hours with Jared von Hindman, like the two sleepless nightbirds we can be. During the long hours, I made the following pitch for the Free Market RPG:
What if Facebook and humanity’s evolution collided and caused the Singularity, leading to a space station standing at a Lagrange point between Saturn and a hollowed-out moon turned into the mother of all hard drives?
What if trans-humans living on that station were immortal, telepathic and lived in a utopian society where the best way to thrive was to band up in micro enterprises/cults/armies/clades and create stuff (read “apps” and “gifts”) that you gave away to make friends and gain influence?
What if you could trade that influence to get things you really needed or get out of the all the troubles you created while making all that stuff?
And what if you used short and long term memories to fuel your character’s development?
Jared: You had me at Facebook man.
I’m not done yet.
When I brought Jared and introduced him to Free Market’s co-creator Jared Sorenson (Jared squared!), two or three people saw me at the booth and/or noticed the copy of the game in my shoulder bag… and BOUGHT IT!
Fan #1: I’m buying it because it’s ChattyDM approved.
Fan #2: My wife will kill me, but if you got it, so will I.
I knew I had influence in the online RPG world. I knew that people trusted my opinions about the stuff I wrote, but here I was, standing in a booth and people walked in and bought it because I happened to be there!
I love being a gaming advocate, I just didn’t think I had that much torque. This “year of playing other games than D&D” will be interesting indeed. I’ll make sure to pass on trustworthy feedbacks about them as I always try to.
People Want to Buy Stuff I Write and they want to work with me.
We were sitting at a bar, quaffing pints and relaxing from a hectic day, when the subject came to my having sold a surprising number of copies of the One Page Dungeon Codex (we sold like half of the copies we had and 75% of the CDs). People, Milambus and Chris in the lead, started telling me to get my ass into gear and start writing something else that I could sell, because they would totally buy it.
The conversation continued later at the Media Meet and Greet and we stumbled unto an idea that could very well be commercially viable and awesome. I’ll get into later as I don’t want to make announcements that I can’t meet later.
Speaking of which, I was asked about my RPG for kids projects, and when people noticed that I was being wishy-washy about it, I got a solid jolt from artists and game designers I respect a lot. They all made it clear that I had to make it and that they wanted to do it with me.
So I returned from Gen Con with the fires of creation relit in my belly!
Gen Con is for gaming. Don’t forget about it.
I played like hell this year. I managed to combine networking with playing and it worked well for me. Yes, I didn’t get to see Wil Wheaton in person (I was at his reading) because I was walking the floor for games for my kids (and selling tons of Free Market apparently). I also didn’t hang around with the people of Wizards of the Coast much, but I did spend some awesome time playing Dark Sun, Chaos Scar, Drunken D&D, Parsely games and even a tremendously tense full on Magic the Gathering Base Set Draft…
…of which I made the finals and lost at the 3rd game against a very evenly matched opponent and deck. I love drafting Magic the Gathering, I miss it. I’ll get you next year TME!
Suffice it to say that gaming is what Gen Con is about and if I’m going to spend so many hundreds of dollars to get there, I might as well make it worth my gamer’s while.
What about you?
Were you at Gen Con? What was your take home lesson? What was the cool stuff you got? You weren’t there? How about others cons you attended?