GenCon 2011 – The Recap

For the second year in a row, I had the pleasure of going to GenCon on behalf of Troll in the Corner. If you follow me on Twitter, then you know about the great time that I had this year. Last year was all about me running around like a chicken with my head cut off. This year was all about meeting people. What follows is a recap of my time at GenCon. Since I met a lot of people, expect a lot of names. And, as an aside, if I am unable to remember someone’s real name, I’m just going to use their Twitter handle, linked to their page, so you can see how awesome they are.


Wednesday isn’t an official day for the convention, though there are Trade Day events happening. For me, the real reason to arrive on Wednesday was so I could participate in Drinking D&D. Designed by Dave Chalker of Critical Hits (congrats on your Gold ENnie, guys!), DD&D takes D&D and turns it into, well, a drinking game. The premise involved a reality TV show wherein various D&D worlds (Shadowfell, Gamma Terra, Athas and Nentir Vale) all were competing to save their own reality. We had combat, commercials we had to cut, product placement and more off-color jokes than you could shake a stick at. I was on team Gamma Terra, along with Michael Robles, Greg Bilsland, Thadeous Cooper, and Danny Rupp. Our GM was none other than Dave Chalker himself, and we managed to be the winning team after we showed our dominance at Jenga. It was a bit too chaotic at times, but I would love to participate next year. What a way to kick off GenCon!


Thursday morning saw me getting my press pass, hitting the Dealer’s hall and generally having a good time meeting people. I stopped by a number of booths Thursday and talked to people about getting review copies of new games. I usually pick those up on Sunday (which I did). I also sauntered over to games on Demand, where I met and talked with Ryan F. Macklin of the Internet, who is a fine, upstanding citizen who may or may not have given me some scotch, and whom I may or may not have punched. The rest of Thursday is a blur to me now, but I do remember the events of the evening.

I started my night by playing half of a game of Fiasco with E. Foley and Thadeous Cooper, observed by Phil, the ChattyDM. We used a playset that Dave Chalker was working on (I don’t know if it’s available yet), and had a blast. We’re hoping to finish it up over Skype. We only got to make it to the Tilt because Thadeous and Phil had a late-night Magic draft event, to which I tagged along. There, I opted out of the draft itself (it helped keep the numbers even), and instead played Minimaster with Greg Bilsland, Tracy Hurley and Jeff Griner. I’m not much of a Magic player nowadays. I played quite regularly about ten years ago, but had to make a financial choice between Magic and D&D. D&D won. However, Minimaster is a format I can get behind. The idea is simple: get a booster pack and three lands of each regular variety. Open the pack, shuffle the lands in and play your opponent without having looked at your deck. It’s quick, the decks are fun and varied, and the investment is low. I would love to do this with my Magic-playing friends because they would likely want the boosters when we finished, which means my investment would be nothing. Fun, quick, and cheap? My kind of game.


Friday started off with more hanging out with random folks from Twitter, Google+ and practically any other service you can think of. The highlight of my Friday was running a Pathfinder Sand and Steam with some of those folks. I had arranged the game over Twitter and what I thought was going to be only three players turned into seven, which was great. One of the players, Aaron, even recorded video of the session. So, if you ever want to see what I look like when I run a game, I’ll be posting a link to the video one he gets it uploaded. The other players were @KatoKatonian, @MerryDragon, Brittani, Adam Ford, Chelsea, and Thadeous Cooper. They were awesome. The session didn’t go exactly to plan, but that’s the way of things. Also, I had two more players than I had been anticipating, which, though very welcome, can throw things off. Still, I think we all had a good time. Thanks, guys!

Friday night had two events lined up for me, neither of which went off the way I expected. I was supposed to have had dinner with Gary Sarli and then play in an e20 game with him. Dinner happened, but Gary had some more work to do to finish the digital version of the e20 book, so I passed on the game. To kill time, I headed over to the ENnie awards and spent time with the guys from Critical Hits as the awards were announced. It was a big night for one company in particular (aside from Paizo). Evil Hat took home six ENnies for The Dresden Files, which is both awesome and well-deserved. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings from all of the publishers out there. Following the ENnies, I went over to Scotty’s to hang out with the Critical Hits guys and a bunch of other people for D&D Pub Trivia. I didn’t stay long, though. I had a run through the True Dungeon scheduled for around 11:40pm.

I went over to the True Dungeon, and it was the other part of my night that didn’t go according to expectations. I had planned for this event for a while, but it turns out I was running through with a group that were what I now call “True Dungeon Lifers.” These are the guys who collect the tokens, drop a lot of money on this event, and try (by their own enthusiasm for it, admittedly) to get others to do the same. It was not my cup of tea. There were individual moments that were really fun (we beat the first room faster than any group had for the entirety of GenCon to that point), and there were some moments where it felt like we were really adventurers. However, most of the event felt rushed, and after we failed a few rooms, folks in the group were got testy about it. It was all capped off with a video of the founder asking for volunteers. Left a bad taste in my mouth. If you have a chance to go through the True Dungeon with 8-10 people you know, and it’s a casual event for you, I say try it. However, if you’re going to be in a random group of people, save your $39 and buy yourself a good meal instead.


Saturday started off with me realizing that I had been nursing a bad mood for the first few days of the convention. It was one of those things that I hadn’t even been aware of. I’m guessing my feelings about the True Dungeon brought it to a head. The good news is that, upon realizing it, I was able to kick the bad mood right out of the door and get on with really enjoying the convention. Saturday morning and early afternoon were not terribly exciting. Spent time in the Dealer’s Hall, walked around and, again, hung out with random, awesome people.  I am sure that, this many days removed from the events, that I am forgetting something, but that’s as may be. What  I was really looking forward to on Saturday was running another session of Sand and Steam for people I had lined up. Eventually, three in the afternoon rolled around, I met up with Bill, Liz, Bryce, and Katie, and we got to gaming. I had learned a good deal about how the session was to run when I GMed it the day before, but it still went differently than I had expected. The group used completely different tactics, and I made some changes to the session, based on what had happened the previous day. It went really well. There was some great RP (not what you always get in a convention game) and it seemed like everyone had a good time.

The adventure I ran was titled The Left Back Tooth of Sizzle Watts, and will see publication on the Sand and Steam site soon, but for Savage Worlds, rather than Pathfinder.

After the game, I had dinner with the same gaming group (awesome people, I’m telling you), and then went back to the hotel for a short nap before a Gamma World game.

I have a confession. I love Gamma World. I mean, really. I might offer to have its children. I’ve only played it twice, but each time has been spectacular. The world, the rules, all of it. Love.

So when I got an opportunity to play said game with the guys from the Flagons and Dragons podcast, I jumped at the chance. I played a character with the Seismic and Gravity backgrounds. I have him the name of Metric Seizington. He was a lot of fun. The guys from the podcast recorded the session, and I’ll let you know when it posts.


Sunday is usually a wrap-up day for me at conventions. Not so for GenCon. After having breakfast with my friends, notably Ethan Parker of the Gamer’s Haven podcast, his lovely fiancee Beth, and Jeff Griner, I went to a  nearby hotel to play Dresden Files for the first time. I’ve wanted to play Dresden for a while, and when Morgan Ellis offered to run it for me at Games on Demand, I jumped at the chance. We played a scenario called “Minor Talents, Big Problems.” We played quickly because I had to get to the Dealer’s Hall before it closed, but it was a blast. I found myself really enjoying FATE, and it made my mental gears start turning in regards to Sand and Steam, which is always a good thing.

After one last spin through the Dealer’s Hall with Thadeous, I headed over to the RAM for a late lunch with Ethan and Beth. After that, it was time to head home.

GenCon was great. I met a metric ton of cool people and had some really memorable experiences. As well, I got some really good items to review here on TitC, so keep your eyes peeled. If you weren’t able to make it to GenCon this year, I encourage you to try for 2012. Who knows? Maybe we might find ourselves in the same game session.

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