Dave’s Gen Con 2010 Wrap-up

So you may have seen all the Gen Con schedules posted last week that told you where various Critical Hits staff members were going to be, I am going to buck the trend and tell you where I WAS at Gen Con… or at least the highlights.


Arrived in the morning, was able to check in relatively early (the Hyatt rocks, by the way, except for the completely awful slow and expensive internet connection.) We then managed to get into a game of Castle Ravenloft, the new cooperative board game, for which E summarized the game play and we later did an unboxing video. We also helped Asmadi Games haul in product to their booth, giving us an early look at the exhibit hall before it was fully set up. From Asmadi, I later got a copy of Innovation and the Win, Lose, or Banana promo card Cake.

Thanks to Sarah Darkmagic‘s husband Fred, we found a good liquor store with a very helpful owner and I dropped over $200 on booze. (Thanks again, Fred!) We then returned to the Hyatt to secure tables, and at 8, ran DD&D. I’m still delighted and amazed that the event worked out, and have even more ideas for next year. Primary on my list is expanding to another table, since the worst part was having to turn away friends. I also want to organize a simultaneous teetotaler D&D game for our non-drinking friends.


Dave at Mayday Games with Get Bit!

Dave at Mayday Games with Get Bit!

Thursday was the busiest day for me. I was able to duck into the exhibit hall very briefly and say hi to a few folks, and check with Mayday Games about Get Bit! I was disappointed to learn that they didn’t have the copies yet, but they did end up arriving on Friday so only a day was lost.

I met up with Chatty DM to conduct a Dungeon Master Guys interview with “DM to the stars” Chris Perkins. We’re hoping to include the interview in the next episode- unfortunately, NewbieDM’s plane was delayed and he wasn’t able to make it to the interview, which had the additional downside of using less sophisticated recording equipment. So we’ll see how useable the audio is for podcast. At worst, we’ll transcribe it as a blog post.

I caught the end of E’s gamer girls panel, and then was one of the panelists (along with ChattyDM and Chris Sims) on a 4e DM Tips panel that was entirely Q&A. Audio should be posted by GameSalute in the coming months.

Directly after, we played in a Critical Hits staff game of Chris Sims’s “Welcome to Dark Sun, bitches” game, with myself, Bartoneus, Chatty DM, Vanir, The Main Event, and E. We were very close to beating the first very hard encounter, but ultimately were all captured by slavers. Then the second encounter was an awesome set piece on top of a tower featuring all kinds of interesting pieces to interact with to disrupt a ritual. We managed to stop it (with only one player death) and then ran out of time. The game definitely gave me some ideas for my own Dark Sun campaign, and Chris is a very descriptive DM with every hit and miss being fleshed out in evocative detail. Much fun was had… and man do I love to hate Dark Sun halflings.

My favorite picture from Roleplaying Therapy for the Severely Disturbed

My favorite picture from Roleplaying Therapy for the Severely Disturbed

We went from there to Roleplaying Therapy for the Severely Disturbed run by our good friends at Stupid Ranger. I played an inspiring compulsive liar whose real name was never revealed (he claimed at different points to be named George Washington and Napolean.) I look forward to their wrap-up, since everyone’s character had a different imaginary, hilarious mental disorder.

After that we ducked in to the bachelor party D&D game at Hooters organized by Jared for our good friends Graham and Christine. I didn’t end up playing D&D and just socialized but still had a blast. I heard great things about the bachelor party adventure too.

Finally, I got to play Mouse Guard for the first time run by Chatty DM with Bartoneus, Chris, Tony, and Jake. Chris and I got into a social conflict about whether to venture into weasel territory, arguing being a task at which my character was completely ill-equipped, but I loved every minute of it anyway. Though my cunning lie about bats and falcons almost swayed the group, we opted not to go on the mission… until we were swept into the area by weather anyway.


Panorama from the WotC Penthouse (1)
Panorama from the WotC Penthouse (2)

Panorama from the WotC Penthouse

Bartoneus and I conducted an interview with Mike Mearls and Rich Baker in the “WotC penthouse” which was kind of hampered by being before the big announcement instead of after, but was still informative and fun. I then ran off to Wil Wheaton‘s talk, where I grabbed one of the very last seats (though about 100 people took the standing room space in the back after me.) Despite a nasty sinus infection, Wil gave a great talk where he absolutely nailed what it’s like to be a gamer and completely captivated the crowd. I wore my dice shirt- though there was no group photo.


After some more socializing, I met up with other members of my gaming group to venture into True Dungeon (not my first, but most of theirs.) I played a Paladin, which might end up being my preferred class for TD. We rocked our way through most challenges (the colored shape/dice one posing the most difficulty) until we encountered the dragon at the end, which TPK’d us despite some amazing saving throws. For many in the group, the near-unwinnable challenge at the end soured the experience a bit, especially since our previous victories did nothing to help us in the final challenge. I still had a great time despite that, but I hope they find a good middle ground for next year in the final battle that is challenging without being frustrating.

There was some downtime before the Ennie awards. We didn’t win our category- my two predictions took it (Gnome Stew for silver and Kobold Quarterly for gold), but that’s OK because they both rock, as did the rest of the nominees. I can’t claim I wasn’t disappointed and it might have shown a bit, however both Wolfgang and Martin were class acts and both said they thought Critical Hits would win which took a lot of the sting off. Maybe next year…?

The rest of the Ennies also held only a few surprises. Pathfinder (rightfully) took many of the awards, leading to some in the audience to change the name of the awards to the “Pathies” or the “Pazies.” Kevin “Piratecat” Kulp did an excellent job MCing as always, and the Old Spice parody was spot on.

I didn’t stay for all of the awards, and didn’t hit up any of the traditional post-Ennie parties: I was just too spent and could feel the onset of con crud. My last event of the evening was to stop by E’s speed dating event, which seemed to go great.


Top priority for Gen Con for a few years in a row has been the big D&D announcement seminar, and this year was no exception. I live-tweeted the event while Bartoneus took pictures, which was a lot easier this year having press seats as opposed to last year where we stood in the back of the room. We had arranged a Critical Hits press game, which I opted out of in favor of writing up the seminar. It was probably for the best since my voice was going anyway- though it was funny to me to pass off 6 players who have played in my game to Jeremy Crawford, one of the WotC professionals. I’m not insecure at all, honest.

Andy Looney ran a session of his Parsley game “Muffins” that I’ve been trying to play in for months. Despite it being a gigantic group, we found our way out of the underbelly of the muffin factory in under an hour, and had a great time- possibly my favorite Parsley adventure so far.

The media meet and greet in the evening is a great place to catch up with all the bloggers and podcasters I might not have encountered during the course of the convention. I’ve been able to put a few more faces to blogs, which is always great. I wasn’t able to stay long, however, as I had scheduled a Magic: The Gathering 11th edition draft that evening. After a strong start, my white/blue deck petered out in the 2nd half of matches. The final round was Chatty DM vs. The Main Event, with The Main Event coming out on top, and I declared victory for the USA. (Not really fair since there was only one Canadian in the draft.)



I had a few unaccomplished tasks to take care of on Sunday, mainly in the “find people” variety. I had my copy of Hamlet’s Hit Points signed by Robin Laws, I picked up my backer’s signed copy of One Page Dungeon Codex, and finally, stood in the autograph line to once again talk to Wil Wheaton. I was two spots behind the cutoff to see members of The Guild as well, so I had to settle for some snapshots of them signing stuff for other people. Then I got to see Wil, picked up a copy of his limited edition chapbook, a signed print (a Scrooge McDuck reference, how could I not?), give him dice for his collection, and talk about how awesome Fiasco is.


Other than some final shopping and a round of goodbyes, we were pretty much done at Gen Con. After what could be described as a, heh, fiasco in getting our boarding passes printed, we were off to the airport, content that we were finished with Gen Con.

We made our way to our gate, and decided to stop at one of the last places to eat in that section of the airport. The place was crowded and we needed to seat three, so we made our way to one side of the restaurant with the only set of tables that could seat us. As we sat down, I thought to myself “hmm, I think I know the guy sitting next to us” and when I sat down, I confirmed it. Cognizant that it could be a faux pas, I still leaned over and said “Hi Wil!” startling both E and Bartoneus who didn’t notice that we were sitting next to the Secretary for Geek Affairs himself. We talked some more about his Fiasco game, about Maschine Zeit, and other Gen Con highlights. He then offered us the rest of his pizza, which in some ways is kind of a funny thing to geek out over, but how many of you can say you shared a pizza with someone who was on Star Trek?

Anyway, that was the awesome capstone to another great Gen Con. Is it August 2011 yet?


Gen Con 2010 Swag

  • Ascension – a Dominion-like game described to me as “Thunderstone with good rules.” That plus a convincing short demo convinced me to pick it up, though I still haven’t played a full game.
  • Innovation – the hot new card game from Asmadi Games about creating different technologies to score achievements.
  • The Dungeon Masters DVD – for the collection.
  • Psionic Power – we were able to get a hold of one of the few copies there, which I claimed for review as the resident psionics expert. Expect it sometime this week.
  • Hamlet’s Hit Points – examining classic story beats through an RPG lens, written by the great Robin Laws and produced by Gameplaywright (makers of Things We Think About Games and The Bones), making it a no-brainer.
  • Flip-mats from Gale Force 9 – Market Square and Tavern.
  • Dominion: Prosperity – I playtested this set back in April and it’s probably my favorite Dominion expansion. Reportedly it sold out on the second day of the convention.
  • One Page Dungeon Codex – I was one of the judges on this, so it was very cool to see it in print, and of course very cool for Chatty DM and Chgowiz.
  • Kobold Quarterly #14 – We placed an ad in this issue, so we had to get it. (It’s filled with useful articles too.)
  • Why Games Matter chapbook and print – Limited edition stuff from Wil for Gen Con.
  • Spooky Manor and Space Station Parsley games – looking forward to playing these, and then running them for other people.
  • Maschine Zeit – A highly recommended horror science-fiction RPG that I plan on reading soon.
  • Critical Hits t-shirt – Obviously a must-buy for me and a total surprise, the folks at The Owlbear make this shirt, along with a number of other really creative and well-made shirts.
About Dave

Dave "The Game" Chalker is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Critical Hits. Since 2005, he has been bringing readers game news and advice, as well as editing nearly everything published here. He is the designer of the Origins Award-winning Get Bit!, a freelance designer and developer, son of a science fiction author, and a Master of Arts. He lives in MD with e, their three dogs, and two cats.


  1. Hey cool,
    I thought that was you a few people ahead of me in Wil’s line, but I couldn’t be sure.

    That’s very cool that you got to sit next to Wil at the airport and share in his food too. It’s funny, in his blog, someone admitted to buying that pizza for him. I think it was one of those “excuse me, miss, could you add that bearded gentleman’s meal to my ticket please?” things, as opposed to “excuse me, miss, but could you send this pizza over to that bearded gentleman?”. heh.