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Gen Con 2010 After Action Report

As the week of distilled geekery known as Gen Con comes to an end, I am sleep-deprived, mentally exhausted, and exhilarated. Much was achieved, much was learned, and much fun was had.

The Good

Happy Gnomes [1] As probably know by now, Gnome Stew won a silver ENnie [2] (and I jumped off the  stage wearing a kilt – not one of my brighter moments). We’re honored to have been among the excellent blogs nominated, and are proud to have taken the silver. Kobold Quarterly [3] (despite the horrible choice of mascot) took the gold, which gives us a goal: Gnomes vs. Kobolds – a classic matchup.

Eureka [4] sold out! It’s a bit surreal to see your name in print at a convention. It’s downright moving to see the book sell out on Saturday. And it’s head-swellingly flattering to have complete strangers request autographs and give compliments. I’m glad I came home, where I get to change diapers and clean toilets…

I successfully ran my very first convention game, “A Stitch In Time [5]”. I’ll have more in a lessons learned article, but a full table of novice to experienced players had fun while their brave characters managed to go back in time (twice!) and fix the past.

We Gnomes gave our own seminar [6]. From my perspective, the most interesting aspect of the seminar was the disparate view of the Gnomes on various topics. We do not always agree, yet we are not disagreeable with each other.

Meeting other gamers. Not Big Names in the industry, but meeting some of our readers and some who’ve never heard of us. Gen Con is a rare time when we gamers don’t have to explain our peculiar hobby, but can instead just ask, “What’s your game?” Lifelong friendships have started with a chance meeting at Gen Con.

Scotty’s Brewhouse [7]. Where else can you eat a jalapeño bacon cheeseburger with peanut butter (the “Paladin’s Reprieve”), listen to live nerdcore, and watch Ice Pirates [8] with members of the 501st Legion [9]? I just about had a nerdgasm…

The Bad

The biggest failing in this year’s Gen Con was my own fault. Despite my own experience and the advice of wiser gamers, I overscheduled myself, and ended up ditching two games on Saturday to hang out with my friends. This is the secret curse of Gen Con – There are just too danged many shiny toys to play with!

Another sour note – One of the four elevators at the Embassy Suites was out of order. In fact, it was entirely missing. One of the remaining three was extremely slow, sometimes taking ten seconds at a floor before the doors opened, and then there was occasionally a step up or down to the floor. Luckily, our floor was low enough that we could walk to the lobby.

The Ugly

There wasn’t much ugliness at Gen Con this year. Frankly, everything went smoothly for me, and for those I ran into.

Event Registration was frustrating this year, especially when compared to last year’s Great Success [10]. In hindsight, it was still better than the years before, when it had to be rebooted, and a future Gnome [11] wrote a certain someone [12] a famous letter [13] and got a solid response [14]. (Holy Hyperlinks!) I did get confirmation from Someone Who Should Know that RUBI is already getting tweaked and tested, and should be in good form next year. Time will tell…

I played in a convention game (which will not be identified). The plot was fun, the GM was good, and the other players were really into it. But the gaming system did not fit the scenario. There are few bad systems, but each one has strengths and weaknesses. GMs should match the right system with the right scenario in order to maximize the amount of fun at the table.

What’s your story?

Did you attend Gen Con this year? What was your view of the elephant? Got a good or bad story to share? Sound off in the comments and let us know!

15 Comments (Open | Close)

15 Comments To "Gen Con 2010 After Action Report"

#1 Comment By jasales On August 12, 2010 @ 8:29 am

Will you be publishing the adventure you ran? It sounds fun and we can use all the Savage Worlds adventures we can get.

#2 Comment By kwixson On August 12, 2010 @ 10:17 am

Our second year at Gen Con and our experience was a little less wide-eyed, but because we’d been once before we were better able to min/max our fun.

I’m sorry to have missed the Eureka and Patrick Benson’s Pimp My Game seminars, both of which I’d scheduled to attend. You know, it would be great for your fans if all the Gnome Stew (and affiliated) seminars and events were back-to-back in the same slot (and ideally in the same room) at Gen Con. That way it’s easier to resist getting yet another Pathfinder Society event in because I’d only be missing one game and getting two great seminars. Tell Patrick I was especially sad to have missed his event — I went to his Improve DM talk last year and now I’m a fan, and I look for his events. I would totally love to play at a table with him as GM.

I need to register earlier for games, but apart from some stuff being full, registration, ticketing and will-call were all much better for us this year than last. I have no complaints there.

No real downers, all positive. Best experience, though, might have been pre-con gaming at Scotty’s Brewhouse. More and more I’m tempted to show up Tuesday so I have a full day of pre-con action. There are certainly enough people to support it.

#3 Comment By kwixson On August 12, 2010 @ 10:23 am

[15] – Holy crap. Just figured out that Mr. Benson is a “former Gnome”. I’d missed that. I still think y’all should pack your seminars together. 🙂

#4 Comment By Patrick Benson On August 12, 2010 @ 11:18 am

According to DNAphil I am a Gnome-Emeritus and therefore retain my title. 🙂

Thanks for the kind words about my past seminars. I had a lot of fun running games and giving seminars again this year. Genesis of Legend publishing actually recorded one of my seminars and you can listen to it online if you missed it:


I think this is last Gen Con that I plan so many events though. 16 hours of GMing and 8 hours of seminars leaves too little time for gaming! But I did get in a game of TerrorWerks with Telas which was great fun. Airsoft rifle + geeks in zombie costumes = happy geeky me!

#5 Comment By mrsachmo On August 12, 2010 @ 11:45 am

Was your kilt a utilikilt? apparently, those are the last word in kilting.

I didn’t like the Ravenloft game very much. It could have been the “teach yourself the rules” aspect of my introduction, but it just seemed to be tedious. I’ll have to play again to be sure, but i certainly won’t be buying the game right away.

I did play some wonderful games, though. Smallworld is on it’s way from Amazon as we speak, with Citidels on my radar. I nice 6 hour game of the new edition of Talisman started me off, and playing Rail Baron against the Train Gamers Club was a wonderful experience. I avoided roleplaying because I can do that at home.

#6 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On August 12, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

[17] – I hadn’t thought of it, but yes, I should publish it. I’ll have to actually write it all down; much of it was off the top of my head…

[15] – Back to back seminars is an awesome idea. I’ll keep that in mind for next year.

[18] – It was, which may have saved my reputation. 🙂 I also have a Kommando Kilt, which is shorter and lighter and subject to breezes (and a bit less expensive). I also just got an Amerikilt, which is frankly awesome. The Amerikilt is the equal of the Utilikilt, but each has advantages.

#7 Comment By jasales On August 12, 2010 @ 2:44 pm

A time travel adventure is always fun. One where you have to go back again and fix what you messed up is great!

#8 Comment By Alan De Smet On August 12, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

[19] It opens mostly with game reviews, but eventually rambles on about the cryptic exhibit hall non-appearances of White Wolf and D&D.

#9 Comment By kwixson On August 12, 2010 @ 10:59 pm

[20] – Yeah, right after posting I went to your site and found the link. Listened and thought it was great, though I couldn’t quite make out the bit about the software you use for generating room descriptions. Linky? Also, can I preregister for one of your Fudge games for next year, now?

#10 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On August 12, 2010 @ 11:25 pm

[21] – Wow, that was pretty cryptic. I have no idea what’s up with WotC’s lame exhibit. It’s the kind of thing that makes me think an executive was involved. Someone get a stake…

I do know that a few friends picked up Dark Sun; WotC apparently only had a few books for sale each day.

#11 Comment By Martin Ralya On August 13, 2010 @ 6:06 am

[21] – Thanks for a great read, Alan! I followed the WW link and confirmed my take on their “booth,” which was similar to yours. It’s a shame they’re moving away from an awesome and successful business model.

#12 Comment By Patrick Benson On August 13, 2010 @ 8:29 am

[22] – The software I mentioned was NBOS’s Inspiration Pad Pro v2.0.


It is free and you can create your own random generator lists.

As for registering now for next year’s Fudge games, well I’ll be running less games next year if I run any at all. I want to actually play more games at next year’s con. If I do run events I register my company as SinisterForces. Just search for that in the events catalog. If I could pre-register folks I would, but every year the games sell out. More due to the limited number of Fudge games then because of my GMing skills I suspect. 🙂

#13 Comment By John Arcadian On August 13, 2010 @ 9:26 am

[21] – Great writeup Alan! It sheds a lot of light on things that went on at Gencon. My friends and I were talking about the odd presence of WW and WotC. It is a pity that White Wolf has abandoned printing, but there were a lot of rumors about this when CCP took over. In a lot of ways the industry is becoming smaller with less big players. That has good and bad connotations. New technologies for producing and for consuming put the ability to create into the hands of more talented people who fill the gaps left by the big boys, but it can also glut the market with lots of products of varying quality. In a market of 3 big makers and a lot of small makers you have some central unifying figures and quality standard to work towards. In a market of 1,000 small players you have a lot of static, less concentrated resources to drive up the quality barrier, and fewer large communities being supported. Bigger conventions (like Gencon and Origins) will shrink in size given enough time. It’ll be interesting to see where things go in the future. I don’t think things are getting worse by any means, just changing to fit new technologies and demands.

#14 Comment By mrsachmo On August 13, 2010 @ 10:00 am

[24] – Hi John! The thing about gaming is that you can always count on good products getting a lot of buzz! I think digital media is a great thing for gaming, as having all of your books in an ipad is much easier than lugging around a big nerd bag full of books, and if more and more digital options are available, and publishing becomes cheaper, then we as games reap the most rewards. Gencon will still be big, because Gencon is as much about the attendees as the presenters, it’s just that we will all have our heads down looking up stats on digital devices rather than leafing through books.

The main advantage I see for smaller shops is that it will keep the big ones from taking advantage of the market. For instance, say WOTC goes to a total subscription model for content. Pay a monthly fee, get some content, pay a larger fee, get all of the content, but own nothing. So if you stop paying, you lose the content. Smaller publishers could not h sustain this sort of model, so if they have a pdf that is very popular, it will sell, and people will actually OWN the media. At some point, you audience must decide if they want to pay every month or if they want to pay once and own something. I know what I would choose! 🙂
I see Pathfinder as a real-life example of this competition.

#15 Comment By John Arcadian On August 17, 2010 @ 5:04 pm

[25] – Hi Louis!

I’m definitely not saying it is a bad thing, just interesting to watch the evolution of the industry. I don’t get into digital as much, but were I to pick up a tablet computer or iPad, then I might make use of digital books more. As is, I’ve got a few digital products and could have them all if I ever went to the dark side. The nice thing about this new digital age, like you said, is it lets smaller shops compete with good products. There are a lot of things out there that I heard about because they got buzz from their PDFs and went on to do print-runs. It is just odd, but the logic is understandable, not to see the big boys doing print runs. They aren’t selling the numbers they used to. White Wolf never picked up the new audience for New WOD (which is a pity, because I could get into that much more than old WOD), and a lot of the D&D players I’ve been speaking to over the past few years are sticking with 3.5 or going to Pathfinder. Unfortunately, this doesn’t keep the sales constant and big companies NEED to make profits. Smaller companies are often labors of love, or their projects often have a smaller scope and execution fees. It makes it much more viable to produce when you only need 100 copies sold to break even.

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