The service workers of Indianapolis absolutely love GenCon, “The Best Four Days in Gaming”, and they’ll tell you so every chance they get. (Well, everyone but the hotel staff that has to clean up the mess.) Our cab driver was elated, sharing stories on our entire trip of people he’d met, and how GenCon is the only convention he sees come into Indianapolis’ massive convention center with a crowd that is entirely happy to be there. Try getting that out of your National Association of Dental Hygienists. Our server at P.F. Chang’s gleefully told us on Sunday evening that gamers were such great tippers that he managed to score his entire semester of tuition in tips over the course of this four-day weekend. The people of Indy make all us weirdos feel very welcome.
While general scifi cons seem to offer a somewhat broader demographic, the GenCon demo is this: 30,000 introverts bursting out of their shells to call Indianapolis home for a long weekend of gaming into the wee hours, free from the ridicule we face from family, coworkers, and even sometimes friends. And GenCon *is* something like home. It’s a land that changes the status quo, where “cool” means something entirely different than it means in the outside world, where overheard restaurant conversations revolve around what that guy’s silver mage did in the heat of battle, or what the other dude plundered in his attack on the Nazis. It’s like nothing else.
Every year at GenCon @mythandros and I do something different. While last year was spent almost entirely in the board game room, playing an endless supply of new games with friends, this year it was time for roleplaying with friends.
On Thursday night I got to play the demo for the absolutely beautiful Dresden Files RPG by Evil Hat Productions. DFRPG utilizes Evil Hat’s brilliant Fate system for gaming which is, hands down, the easiest game system I have ever learned. DFRPG writer Clark Valentine was able to explain the system to me easily and we were up and gaming in minutes. It was a beautiful thing. The magic system is clever and versatile and, thanks to the incomparable universe created by Jim Butcher, the possibilities are simply endless.
We were also fortunate enough to play in a very fun Call of Cthulhu game called Snows of Early Winter, a standalone adventure run by its writer, Louis Agresta, that had me shrieking and flinching thanks to the GM’s mad skills and our fantastic group of roleplayers.
We left with a bagful of new games to play, including Zombie Dice and Cthulhu Dice from Steve Jackson games, beautifully elegant pickup games with super easy rules (that will most likely be manipulated into drinking games for DragonCon this year), and the Ennie-Award-Winning Eclipse Phase RPG, a phenomenal game by Posthuman Studios that is best described by a trip to their website where, yes, you can download this game under the Creative Commons License. But, if you like it as much as we did, you’ll want to purchase the book or at least throw some money their way to thank them for developing an original universe that managed to best the powerhouses of Paizo and Wizards of the Coast to win the First Place Ennie for Writing. This is no small feat, mind you. And, of course, we picked up the Smallville Roleplaying Game from Margaret Weis Productions.
Once again, GenCon left us feeling out of sorts when we arrived home surrounded by people like our coworkers, not people like us. The return from conventions always makes home feel a little less like home, at least for a couple days. We’ll be back next year, of course, eager for another set of adventures.