Seven Days of GenCon 2006

15Aug06

Well … I’m back.

I played hard. I worked hard. I had a great show. I’ve got to do this brain-dump before I head back to work tomorrow and Real Life seizes me by the throat.

Here’s what I did.

Tuesday
Picked up the van after work. Loaded it to the ceiling with boxes of books, racks, posters and the like. Oh, and our stuff.

Wednesday
Left the house at 5:08 AM. Dalys slept most of the way there, poked with boxes all the while. We were making good time (I thought) so since we were going through Columbus, we stopped at the North Market for lunch. It took an hour. I thought that wouldn’t matter since Indiana had an hour time difference last year. This year, that was not the case. I didn’t get to the convention center until 5 PM. Then there was the rush of unloading, checking in, booth meeting, dinner, and the Diana Jones awards. Of course I would have liked to see Game Chef win, but if not, the Irish Charity Auctions were an excellent choice. Next year, however, I think I’ll skip the DJ Awards. Not that I don’t appreciate what they stand for, but I hate the “Stand in a dim room and shout over the really loud music at people standing right in front of you” thing. I’ll spend the time gaming.

Thursday
Did the booth thing. While everyone was pitching the new stuff, I tried to demo WGP to booth folk in the hope that they’d be able to demo it themselves. Plus, sat for demos of Mob Justice, Agon, Perfect, Primitive. Very strong, tight demos. Helped folks polish their pitches. Caught up with people. Had lunch with Kat & Dalys. Did not go near the bookshelves/registers at all. At the end of the day, found out that WGP had been hidden behind some big 8.5″ x 11″ book all day and thus, only sold a pair of copies. From 7-11 PM I ran a scheduled With Great Power session. It was the best rendition of “They Came From Beyond” EVAR. Mnemonic replaced the alien hive-mind and became a major supervillain. The President defeated the invasion but lost the midwest. A great time was had by all.

Friday
More boothing. Had a heck of a time finding interested parties, getting folks to sit down for my (or anyone’s) demo, avoiding the brush-off. Had lunch w/ Kat, Dalys, & Michele which revitalized my spirit. I returned and demoed strong for the rest of the day. Sat for a demo of 1001 Nights. Had dinner w/ Thor, Dro, and Alexander. Then … it was time for the Master.

Ran a session of My Life with Master for Thor, Dro, Alexander, and Keith Sen*owski. Their Master wanted to possess the most beautiful Courtesan in all of Europe. To win her attention, he was forging a necklace made of flawless gems. The gems were formed of the distilled essence of the good qualities of the Townspeople. Afterword, they were left a withered husk. Keith taped it for posterity. It will be downloadable at some point. Due to a late start, we only played for about 2.5 hours, and that’s what kept it to a good session, but not a great session. But wearing gloves while the Master worked very well.

Saturday
The big, big con day! Wall-to-wall gamers! I walked to the booth with Jasper, and he gave me some eye-opening advice. I mentioned that with the new booth geography, I had trouble noticing who was looking at my game in order to pitch them. Jasper said: “Dude, look at what they’re wearing. If they’ve got a Green Lantern shirt on, tell them about your game!” I slapped myself in the head for never having noticed that before.

I did some demoes before lunch, as well as a team-podcast with Tony for the fine folks at Fist Full of Comics and Games. From 12-2 I ran a With Great Power “system tour” where I showed four folks the ins and outs of how the system works. It went very, very well and several of the players expressed their intention to pick up the game. Three times I sat down for a demo of Mechaton and three times I gave up my seat to potential customers, who were all eager to play.

I had dinner with Kat, Dalys, Paul & Danielle. After that was the Sons of Kryos “veteran” interview panel. That went well and the best moment for me was when someone mentioned how hard playtesting is and how it sucks to keep running un-fun games for your friends. There was this universal grunt of “Yes! That’s exactly what it is!” I’ll try to cement it in my head that asking someone to playtest your game with you is NOT in the same category as asking someone to game with you. It’s in the same category as asking someone to help you move. It *might* be fun, but it’s certain to be work. Offering munchies might help offset the guilt.

That evening I playtested Acts of Evil with Paul, Keith, and Clyde. We didn’t go too long, but gained a bit of insight into how the mechanics might promote caring for the NPCs. It’s tough because Paul’s design goals are only going to function in the long term, and are thus only testable in the long term.

Finished out the day by staying up far, far too late chatting with Keith, Thor, and Matt Snyder about marketing, promotion, and the like.

Sunday
Boy was I tired. I did a few demos. Did a bit more pitching. Did all my shopping. Then ran around to get the van into the parking lot so we could load it up. And we ended up taking more stuff back than we had brought (due to restocking)! Dinner with the whole group at Del Sol. I was too tired to actually play anything after hours, so I just went to bed.

Monday
Got up. Ate breakfast. Pulled everything out of the van in order to repack it. Thank God for Alexander and his bottomless gumption reserves! Drove, drove, drove. Made good enough time that going directly to Brennan’s seemed feasible. So we did. After picking up kid and dropping off van, I got home at 10:10 PM. I was finally home!

All in all, it was a great con. The Forge had its best year yet. WGP… didn’t do quite as well as I’d have liked, but it didn’t totally tank. I picked up a number of tips for writing the new game–some of which you’ll see right here very soon. Thanks to everyone who helped make this great trip possible.

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24 Responses to “Seven Days of GenCon 2006”

  1. Michael, it was really a boon to hang out with you and Kat and Dalys at this Gen Con, and I’m so glad I was able to lighten the load on you a bit. I promise it will get easier next year!
    Not to be too vain, on the topic of t-shirts, quoth I, “take cues from what they’re wearing. There is a lot of self-identification going on at a convention, where tribe members seek each other out by showing off their true colours. If you know what game’s artwork is all over someone’s chest, you may know what to pitch.”
    Apologies for the heinous placement on Thursday; again, we’ll do better! Anyway, it was good to make sure that Peter got hold of a copy of WGP… this year.

    • i commend you on surviving two 12+ hour drives, michael. you should have taken before and after pictures so that we can show folks what it means to be hardcore.
      With Great Power was the best game of last year, for me at least, and i look forward to seeing what’s next!

  2. It was good to see you again, man, even if we didn’t get much conversation in. Will have to address that next we meet — Dreamation, maybe?

  3. I think WGP is an act of brilliance. Really. I love the approach. To be honest it changed the way I read comics. i have been a gamer far longer than I read comics (by a few years, anyway). So when I looked at a comic I often looked at it in respects to mechanics – this ppower vs that power and this stat vs that stat. Sure I understood the story dynamics but it was hard for me to seperate the “needs” of the powers. Many hours lurking in the Forge and reading WGP really was an epiphany looking at things through stakes and deliberate story setting has really made all my games better.
    I am looking forward to mixing it up at the next indie gathering. MArk Smylie and I will be at UberCon and we’d love to see ya 🙂
    So what did you buy?

    • I had a lot of fun helping with the WGP demo you grabbed me for. I enjoyed the hell out of that system and really loved the Anne Frank superhero I was playing (there’s good in everybody). That character had a lot of grabby potential.


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