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What I Did On My Summer Vacation (GenCon 2009!)

Posted By Phil Vecchione On August 27, 2009 @ 4:00 am In Gaming Conventions | 10 Comments

Hello everyone.  I think I might be the last of the GenCon Gnomes to chime in. I wanted to give a quick recap my GenCon experience, as well as dispense a few GMing tips along the way.

Hackmaster Basic

DNAphil picks up HackMaster BasicAs requested , I made a beeline to the Kenzer & Company booth and picked up my copy of HackMaster Basic. I have started reading the book in earnest, and I am fully enjoying it. I will be doing a full review in the next few weeks, after I have digested the book and given it a proper play test with my group. My initial reactions to the book are very positive.

The book looks and reads very old school, but the mechanics are much more interesting than THAC0, and look to be a lot of fun to use. The humor of the book is not lost, but the slapstick nature of the original HackMaster has been removed. The end result is a book that as I am reading it, I can picture running an old school type of dungeon crawl, punctuated by moments when I laugh out loud at some of the text.

If you want to keep up with my progress on the reading and play testing of the rules, you can follow on Twitter: @DNAphil #hmbreview

GameScience Dice

Sharp and Random I blame Zach over at RPGBlog II for this one.  Before GenCon he ran an article with a link to Col. Zocchi’s speech about dice. After seeing some strange behavior from my own dice over the past few months, and their tendency to keep bouncing around my Dwarven Sweat Shoppe dice tray every time I roll, I decided to grab a cup of kool-aid and join the ranks of the precision dice throwers.

I made my way to to the GameScience booth to get my dice to find out, I was not the only one who saw that YouTube video (in fact it’s been viewed over 65K times).  In the past, GameScience’s booth was a modest booth. This year, under new management, and in anticipation of their viral marketing campaign, the booth was 4 times larger, and was very busy.

I bought a few sets of dice, and have had a chance to play with them a few times now, and I am very pleased with them. They are not the prettiest dice I own, but they roll randomly. They also, much like craps dice, come to a quick stop after being rolled in my dice tray. Most of my gaming group followed suit, and our new motto is “Sharp and Random.”

Gaming Paper

Gaming Paper in Action
One of the other things I was asked to look at, while in Indy was Gaming Paper. A new product, that as far as I know, made its debut on the Dealer’s Floor. Gaming Paper is a roll of paper (30ft long) that has a 1″ grid printed on it. A roll of battle mat if you will.
I knew that my friends and I would be running a few games while we were in Indy, and none of us wanted to bring battle mats (as cleaning them at the con can be tricky) or our tiles (as transporting them can be a pain). So we decided to get a roll of Gaming Paper.

The rolls are priced at $4 each (30″ wide x 12′ long). Price-wise, we were able to run just over 2.5 games with a single roll. Not bad for $4.

The paper is thin and has a bit of shine to it. It accepts all writing implements; though we just used a Sharpie marker on it.  As advertised, the paper rolls out flat, unlike my battle mat which needs about 10 minutes to flatten out. The only downside that I saw was that it did pick up fingerprints, when you poked at it or if your fingers were oily; so use a napkin after your fist-full of Funions.

In all we found the paper to be very useful, especially in a convention environment where you need a gaming surface, but do not want to haul around your mat, bottle of water, paper towels, dry eraser, etc.

Another advantage to the paper is that the GM can cut off pieces, draw on them and put them aside. Unlike a wet erase that may smear, or a dry erase that will rub off, you can use a permanent marker on gaming paper. When you are done with the current map, no clean up, just toss it in the garbage and pick up the next map.

I like Gaming Paper a lot. I am not sure if at home it can replace my battle mat, but for any games that I play at conventions, local game stores, etc, I will take a roll with me.

Gaming Paper!  Huzzah!

PS– A shout out to the guys at Gaming Paper for passing out some free rolls late on Sunday. We were already playing a game with some, but it was nice to have a few rolls to take home with us.

Savage Event

A little Savage WorldsUnlike many of my fellow Gnomes, I had a great experience playing games this year. I should say that I only got to play in one RPG event (my other event was canceled just a few days before we left). Thanks to the very informative article from Telas on Savage Worlds, I decided I should try this game out.

I signed up for an event using Savage Worlds based on the Deathlands novels by James Axler. This was the best session I have ever played at GenCon. The GM for this did everything right. Not to beat a dead horse (see last week’s articles), but I am going to put a of my own tips down here for running a good one-shot or Con game:

  • Good Character Sheets– The GM for this event made his own character sheets that were just large table tents. The side facing me had all the information I needed (stats, skills, etc). The side facing him had all the combat numbers he needed to run combat, and the inside had background information for me to read. Awesome.
  • GM Helper– This GM had a friend on hand to help out with the game. The friend ran some of the monsters to keep combat moving, and he also came around and answered any questions for the players, while the GM kept combat moving.
  • Straight Forward Story– The game is only 4 hours long, no need to make a complicated storyline. In 10 minutes every player understood our goal for the session: break out of the  slaver camp and get to freedom. Our backgrounds gave us personal motivations, which we all read to ourselves.

All Grown Up and Still Gaming

All Grown Up Telas, Patrick, and I, along with long-time friend of the Stew, Vicki Potter, hosted a panel discussion about how to adjust your gaming style as you start a career, get married, and have children. The talk was a lot of fun, and we got a number of good questions. There is a rumor that there may be a viable recording of the talk (Patrick?) and when it becomes available we will post it somewhere for download, so that you can hear gnomish nuggets of wisdom.

In the meantime there were several great points made at the talk, and I wanted to list a few here:

  • Real life comes first—it’s all about priorities, and as you get older gaming must be important, just not the most important.
  • Quality beats quantity—as the all night game sessions vanish, you learn to make the most of your 4 hour Sunday night sessions.
  • Keep it simple—with a career, spouse, and kids, your life is complicated enough. Avoid complicated game systems, crazy campaign ideas, etc.
  • Be willing to compromise—often in order to get the gaming experience you desire, you will need to compromise on other things…eliminating other hobbies, reducing expenditures on gaming materials, changing the location of your gaming sessions.
  • Advice for the non-gamer spouse–if you respect the Gamer, you need to respect the Game.
  • SpouseKarma—learn it, live it, love it. Go out of your way for your spouse to show them just how appreciative you are of the compromises they make to keep you gaming.

Gnome Dinner

L to R: Patrick, Martin, John, Kurt, Walt, Phil We Gnomes are not just about work, we like to enjoy ourselves. This year we got together at the Claddagh pub for some fine Irish beer and food. I would like to tell you that it was a great meeting of pointy hats, where GM insight flowed forth, but really we talked about a few games, strip clubs, and spent a lot of time making fun of Martin’s typing skill on his iPhone (Chrome Dew! — sorry inside joke).

I am pretty sure I insulted Martin after I related Shadowrun to a bad girlfriend who breaks up with you, burns all your stuff on the front lawn, but you keep going back to her; to which he then produced a shiny, new 4th edition rulebook from his backpack. Good for him, and you can always buy new stuff after she burns it all on the lawn again.

While the restaurant was loud, it was great to sit with my fellow Gnomes (and friends) and share a meal since we only see each other face-to-face once a year.

GenCon 2009 was another great time. It’s something that I look forward to all year. If you have not gone, start making plans (and saving some money) now, and we will see you for The Best Four Days of Gaming.  If you want to know anything else about the trip, just ask.

If you want to see more pictures from GenCon, you can check out my Flickr feed and Martin’s.

About  Phil Vecchione

A gamer for 30 years, Phil cut his teeth on Moldvay D&D and has tried to run everything else since then. He has had the fortune to be gaming with the same group for almost 20 years. When not blogging or writing RPG books, Phil is a husband, father, and project manager. More about Phil.




10 Comments (Open | Close)

10 Comments To "What I Did On My Summer Vacation (GenCon 2009!)"

#1 Comment By Patrick Benson On August 27, 2009 @ 8:48 am

It was great hanging out with all of you guys at Indy this year! Yes there is an MP3 of so-so quality of the seminar, and I am working on an intro and credits. I hope to upload it to Gnome Stew soon.

And remember that next year all gnomes must wear kilts! :)

#2 Comment By Walt Ciechanowski On August 27, 2009 @ 10:23 am

@Patrick Benson – Hey, I had a condition placed on that!

#3 Comment By Scott Martin On August 27, 2009 @ 3:46 pm

You sell it well– I know I wish I’d made it. Not that my “backup” plan was too shabby, but GenCon’s high on my priority list for next year.

#4 Comment By John Arcadian On August 27, 2009 @ 8:09 pm

@Walt Ciechanowski – Oh we remember the condition, but if it doesn’t get met we can still be prepared for the backup gencon plan. Kilts make it that much easier!

#5 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On August 27, 2009 @ 9:09 pm

Good coverage, Phil. Thanks for listing those points from the “All Grown Up” seminar.

And yes, that’s me, checking for the fifth or so time to see if the Red Bull can is really empty. Curse you and your emptiness, Red Bull can!

#6 Comment By zacharythefirst On August 28, 2009 @ 5:46 am

“sharp and random”

Love it! Welcome to the club!

#7 Comment By Alberonn On August 28, 2009 @ 6:52 pm

I really enjoy a lot of the posts here; thanks for writing! I do have one question about preparing to go to GenCon, something I’ve wanted to do for about 20 years or so. Next year I will finally try to make it. So, would one (or more) of you guys consider writing a post about preparing to go – logistics like much to save for hotels, how to register for games, etc.? If all this has been covered elsewhere, I’d not be offended by a good link or two… Thanks in advance, ‘Ronn

#8 Pingback By Tim’s Snarking Post » Blog Archive » This guy is really serious about his dice On August 30, 2009 @ 7:05 pm

[...] (via Gnome Stew.) [...]

#9 Comment By DNAphil On August 31, 2009 @ 1:32 pm

@Alberonn – With a number of us being regulars at GenCon, we can put some posts together with our tips for going to GenCon.

GenCon discussions typically start around January, when registration opens for the upcoming GenCon. I am witting myself a note, for a January article to start putting together our GenCon tips.

We will be looking forward to seeing you at GenCon next year.

#10 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On August 31, 2009 @ 2:15 pm

@DNAphil – I can see it now…

“GnomeStew presents: The GnomeStew Guide to Gen Con, by GnomeStew (a GnomeStew production, (c) GnomeStew)


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