This year’s GenCon was one for the record books, both on attendance for the actual con, and on fun. Last year was my first GenCon and I thought I’d have a hard time toping it. I was wrong.
New Kickstarters, panels, podcast recordings, interviews, and so much gaming.
Oh, Monte Cook Games. Not only have you created two multi-award winning games in The Strange and Numenera, you are now doing what I wish all RPGs would do: go Into the Deep.
Into the Ninth World details three different environments not covered much in the core rules of Numenera: Space travel, dimensional travel, and the ocean. The Kickstarter for Into is still running with 29 days to go. They’ve already hit 6x their original target and unlocked a number of stretch goals. Of course my favorite ones are 1) a 22″ x 33″ poster map of The Deep, 2) a supplemental PDF detailing one of the aquatic races being introduced.
With 29 days to go, they’ll undoubtedly crank through an absurd number of other stretch goals so if you love the Cypher System, this one is a must.
My love for Lone Wolf is well documented. In the days before Game Boys and iPads, Choose Your Own Adventure books were the only way to enjoy an RPG on the go. But the original CYOAs told you who you were and whether or not you succeeded at your choices. They didn’t “feel” like an RPG. Joe Dever and Lone Wolf changed all that. With the Lone Wolf CYOA books, you created your own character. Yes, you were Lone Wolf, the sole survivor of the Kai Monks, but you could roll your statistics and choose from a selection of powers, equipment, and weapons that would affect your available choices in the book. To top it off, for each book you completed, you got to choose an additional power and roll equipment over into the next adventure. Analog video-game style roleplaying games were right in your hands!
On top of the innovative mechanics of the CYOB, the stories were intriguing, with NPCs you met again and again, and a feeling that your actions truly affected the world. Joe Dever, and artist Gary Chalk, were my heroes.
I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with Joe from time-to-time through the magic of social media, but it was a highlight of my Con to meet him at the Cubicle 7 booth and have him say, “Rich Howard? I know you!” In fact, I was so star-struck I forgot to get a picture with him. I didn’t, however, forget to pick up a copy of the Lone Wolf Adventure Game!
“In The Lone Wolf Adventure Game you are Kai Lords – brave and noble warrior-monks sworn to protect the realm of Sommerlund from the evil of the Darklords – adventuring across the world of Magnamund. You and your friends will face terrifying enemies and uncover fiendish plots, working together to overcome the wicked plans of the Darklords and emerge victorious!”
Shawn here at Tribality had the pleasure of interviewing Keith Baker earlier this year, creator of both Eberron and the fan-favorite card game Gloom. Keith is also the mind behind the new card-based roleplaying game, Phoenix: Dawn Command and he was kind enough to carve an hour out of his GenCon to run a demo game for me and my family. In short, the game is wonderful. Characters are built as a deck of unique cards plus a set of core abilities. The mechanics were easy to learn and smooth on the table. Storytelling involved not only the GM, but the players as well, knitting together to create an integrated storytelling experience. Not surprisingly, the world Keith has created puts a unique twist on the tropes we’re all use to in standard fantasy RPGs.
I had to leave a little early for a meeting and as I left I started to say “Don’t die,” to my group. The thing is, dying is how you learn in Dawn Command. In fact, it’s how you die that determines how you level up! Dawn Command is a game of resurrection and world-changing destiny.
Huge thanks to Keith for intro’ing the game for us. We all had a fantastic time.
From the Depths of the Empire
Thursday night I ran my first Edge of the Empire game and it was special for a number of reasons. First off, I’ve become a huge fan of the narrative dice system Fantasy Flight Games created, as well as the One Shot Campaign podcast that highlights them. Second, I convinced my oldest and dearest friend, Steve Magan, to come with me this year. He’s also become a fan of EotE by listening to Campaign and it was great to run for him again after decades. Third, two of my newest and dearest friends got to game with us as well. Cartographer Chris West and his wife, Angela, are not only cornerstones of the Star Wars and RPG communities through www.mapsofmastery.com, they are two of the sweetest people you’ve ever met. Lastly, and the icing on this aquatic Star Wars cake, is that I extended an invitation to L5R Master Jim McClure from the upcoming “Talking TableTop” podcast, and James D’Amato and Kat Kuhl from One Shot and Campaign to join us. Not only did they all graciously accept, they recorded the session for the One Shot Secret Archive.
So let’s recap: My first Con scenario. My first time running EotE. My second time playing EotE, period. Six people I have a ton of professional and personal respect for. Recording the experience for the public. What could possibly go wrong?!
The answer: Nothing. Well, the scenario ran longer than I expected, which I chalk up to little Con-Scenario design experience. Having said that, the game accomplished everything I set out to do; have fun, showcase Chris’ new and incredible Sunken Ruins map, show how aquatic games can be easily folded into any genre, and run a game for some of my industry heroes as a show of thanks for all the incredible work they do.
The scenario, “From the Depths of the Empire”, will be presented here on Tribality soon, but you can see the build-out of the crews’ ship, the Undine, right now.
I love maps. 3D terrain, though, strikes a chord in my kid-brain that maps can’t. My mom owned a dollhouse and miniatures store when I was younger and her passion for dioramas fed into my love for gaming. The upside of 3D terrain is its ability to pull players into story. The downsides are transportation, expense, and painting.
The dealer floor at GenCon is difficult to wrap your brain around. The sheer size and number of booths filled with cool stuff is amazing. So when something catches your eye it can’t be just another awesome thing, it must be exceptional. Warsenal was one of those things.
Warsenal is a series of 3D terrain pieces built with the same idea as 3D puzzles. They are easy to hang on store shelves as you can see in the photo, light, sturdy, and easy to transport. Though they still require painting, these terrain pieces are easy to put together even for someone who has minimal handiness skills (like me!).
Hero Forge miniatures was an hugely successful Kickstarter campaign that took miniatures into the 21st century. Unfortunately I didn’t get in on the KS early, but I did check out the site soon after they launched. It was a cool concept with an easy-t0-use website, though the selection at the time was relatively limited. No longer. Their options have expanded wildly since I last checked, and the ability to mix-n-match genres offers a ton of flexibility. If you’re having a hard time finding just the right mini, link over and check them out.
The Strange Adventure: “Leaf on the Wind”
Saturday night we had the pleasure of having one of the best GMs in the industry run an adventure for us. Cypher-System Master James August Walls and his wife, Jennifer, from Living 4 Crits took a few hours out of their crazy schedule to run a custom Firefly-recursion adventure of The Strange. Saving Wash from his terrible fate scratched a storytelling itch I’ve had since Serenity first hit the big screen, not to mention that the game was tons of fun!
I’ve been eye’ing the DC Deck Building Game for over a year. I’d heard great things about it and when Heroes Unite was released with Nightwing, I knew it was only a matter of time. GenCon was that time.
Teen Titans was, and remains, one of my favorite series of all time and the brilliant animated series, Young Justice, captures everything I loved about Titans and brought it to modern audiences. Once I saw the Teen Titans version of the DC DBG on the Cryptozoic shelves, I snagged it, Heroes United, and the Crisis Co-Op expansion. We played a ton of the core game at the Con and it was, in fact, the last official game we played on Sunday.
I’ve since combined key cards from all three versions to build my Titans/Young Justice themed deck (soon to be posted at www.gameschangelives.com). Though I’ve heard people say that the Marvel Legendary Co-Op game is also huge fun, the DC DBG takes only minutes to set up, rules are quick to learn and teach, and breakdown is also fast. The only thing that’s strange to me is the lack of out-of-the-box Co-Op play, but the Crisis expansion takes care of that as well.
I love that my 11-year-old gamer nephew came up to join me at GenCon and had a brilliant time! He playtested all the games he could get a spot in but walked away with only one. Evolution from North Star Games. Evolution is a simple card-based game where you and your opponents take new species, give them a combination of characteristics and build their size and/or population. All species start as herbivores and eat from the same limited food-pool. At least until something evolves into a carnivore and starts feeding off of everyone else!
We loved Evolution and played it at every opportunity we had. It’s not only a solid game that inspires the imagination, it’s a conversation starter.
You can learn more about Evolution, including a How to Play video below.