Hey there folks, my name is Chris and this will be my first vagrant contribution to 9to5. I was planning on making my debut talking about Anime but it just so happens that I got back from a rocking tour of one of the biggest games conventions in the world: GenCon. So I’m going to break that one down.

First off, I’ve been going to this 4 day con on and off since 2005 and it never fails to impress. Getting there is a bit of a bitch though as it involves a 16 hour drive from Montreal to Indianapolis. Perks along the way; Kraken Spiced Rum, decent pork rinds (#keto) and catching up on TV Shows on the iPad.

Some people might wonder: “why would you subject yourself to 32 hours of driving there and back just to check out a bunch of games? Can’t you just do that in your basement at home like a normal person?”

Well yeah, but GenCon hosts 40 to 50 thousand people every year and it’s a great place to meet like-minded folks plus revel in the 12000 possible events including; 360 different companies presenting their wares, artist and writer panels and the world’s largest game of Settlers of Catan  plus a 50 hour Guinness world record for longest game played. All that aside, the main reason I headed out was to help out some friends run their Dresden Files LARP.

922 players at once on really really really long boards.

922 players at once on really really really long boards. There were like 20 of those long tables which just as many people.

After a night’ sleep I tackled Day One:There was a nostalgic walk down Robotech lane where I got to play out a miniature battle between the SDF and 2 packs of Zentradi Pods, took us an hour and after losing a Valkyrie squad SDF triumphed with our betas taking out the stragglers. It was pretty neat as the board had little 3D buildings you had to maneuver through or even blow up.

After that, I checked out the webcomics and met Something Positive’s Randy Milholland. I’ve been a fan of his series since Jono introduced me in 2001. I got my very own signed ChooChoo Bear pic which rocks a little part of my fanboy heart. I also chatted up the guys from Least We Could Do and Jennie from The Devil’s Panties.

Choochoo Signed

During this whole thing, there was cosplay of all shapes and sizes. There was even a booth where girls would dress up as your favorite characters and pose for you. No time for that though and frankly the line-up was way too creepy.

That night was game one of Dresden and I’ll have more of the system on Day Three review. The LARP was amazing. I was rusty with the rules but the players were A-1; plenty of great costumes and fantastic character roleplay. I got to handle a bunch of Wardens which was tricky since the magic system in Dresden is probably the most complicated thing about it. My Mage: the Awakening experience came in handy. The night ended with a trip to the local late night eatery: Steak’n Shake.

One of my first stops after breakfast on day 2 was the Onyx Path booth which they shared with Drive-Thru RPG and Monte Cook. I’ve always been a Werewolf the Apocalypse fan and this year marked the release of W:tA 20th Anniversary edition.  I got the chance to talk about the development of the project with Ethan Skemp. Turns out he was the one writing all the supernatural powers for both Werewolf and the upcoming Exalted 4th Edition. They did a great job balancing out the gifts in this edition. I picked up the book for 89 bucks.. the 80% color illustrated book was well worth every penny and is like 3 inches thick. What a beast.

After that, I met with Monte Cook and his developer team to talk about his newly released project: Numenera. This game is set in the uber-future of Earth after seven great technological civilizations have risen and fallen. The setting was designed based on Isaac Asimov’s principle that: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Players incarnate adventurers researching and digging up ancient relics called Numenera. The XP system is used to influence the game as it progresses. For example, if the GM tells you: “the bridge collapses and you fall into the chasm!” you could spend an XP to alter that outcome.  The game rewards discoveries instead of defeating monsters.

I closed off the afternoon by checking out the Anime rooms and watching a few episodes of Devil Survivor II based on the Altus RPG series: Shin Megami Tensei then headed to the second session of our evening LARP.


Day three is where I really got better acquainted with the FATE System. Incidentally, FATE is the system we were using for our Dresden Game. The principles are simple and fun. The system is not setting specific and encourages the players and the GM to work together on creating a cool world to play in. Everything revolves around creating Aspects for people, places and situations. The game also uses 4 dice marked: Blank, Plus and Minus. You add them all together vs. a set target to try and succeed. Your imagination is your only limit.

Next up was an original horror game system called Dread that uses a Janga tower as its main game mechanic. As the game progresses, you pull away blocks to represent the stresses that your character has endured. If the tower falls then your character dies.

Next up was an awesome meeting with Margaret Weiss, the author of such DnD timeless classics as the Dragonlance Chronicles. She was promoting her new RPG based on the Joss Whedon Sci-fi epic Firefly. I bought the demo and she was kind enough to sign it for me. I thanked her for making my high school years much more interesting and headed over to the Tracy Hickman booth. I thought; well hell, why not go for the combo. Tracy was way busier with his own project and I was a little sad that I didn’t think to bring my graphic novel version of Dragonlance.

On the way to my LARP I noticed a roller derby inspired game called Jammer Up: Roller Derby It had a lot more strategy than I had originally expected. Including special moves.

On the last day of my stay I picked up the celtic-ish fantasy game by French designers Agate: Shadows of Esteren. The coolest thing was that one of the illustrators was on location and he added an original fully inked kraken like octopus thingy wrapped around the lettering of the inside cover page. I’m not talking quick sketch here, it looks like it belongs in the mass print; freaking awesome looking.

Shadows of Esteren Custom

I checked out the Ennie Award winner for Best Rules of 2013 Dungeon World. The book was a steal and the writers published through an independent collective combined with Kickstarter. It’s a real blast from the past and goes back to classic dungeon diving and monster hunting. The system uses character Looks, Basic Moves and Special Moves to add spice to various classes and templates.

Before heading home, I got the chance to test out Fantasy Flight’s upcoming Ancient Ones investigative board game: Eldrich Horror. I’ve had plenty of chances to play their other Cthulhu titles with Keith, Scott and Jorn so I was familiar with the setting. The biggest diff with this one is that it spans the whole world instead of just a city! Seriously epic. Similar to its predecessors, Eldrich Horror plays out differently every time. When you choose an Ancient One, you pick out 3 objectives that will declare how the game will progress. The game still includes; investigators, monsters and travel from place to place via boat and airplane. It also maintains the cooperative aspect which I always appreciated.

That was GenCon in a nutshell. There was plenty more cool stuff like; virtual reality style robot fighting pods, arcade rooms, panels on storytelling and costume design as well as all manner of geekery. We made one last stop at a Steak’n Shake and took on the long ride home. Can’t wait till next year!

Next review will be all about the Anime.. stay tuned.