Didn’t actually realize it until I began writing these blogs, but this was my 5th year attending Gen Con. I can remember talking about going for years and years as this thing that maybe could happen. So to not only have been able to go, but to be able to make it somewhat yearly as my own form of a “guys’ trip” has been really cool to consider.
Wednesday (Day O)
The drive up was fairly uneventful. We arrived at the Hyatt just across the street from the Convention Center and got settled in fairly quickily. In previous years we’ve spent time in hotels that were a few blocks away to ones across the street. Obviously across the street is the best, but I hadn’t considered how good of a placement this year’s hotel turned out to be. You had access to the convention center. We were on the Stadium side for that one event (which was one of the later ones), so the walk back wasn’t so bad. But the biggest thing is all of the food was on the end where we were staying. It’s one thing to have to walk a few blocks back and forth to your hotel and then a few more blocks to potentially get to food, but this location made everything very convienent overall.
However, while it was better this year, I do have to ask why some of the resturants don’t bother to stay open later during Con Week? When Dragon Con sets up shop in Atlanta, I feel like everything stays open until at least midnight, if not much later. Multiple resturants closed by 11 that week. I’ve never understood that.
Thursday (Day 1)
We began shortly after the initial rush of people that had gathered outside the Dealer’s Room to get Lorcana cards. I am apparently completely out of touch with card games not named Magic the Gathering, so I had no idea that Disney had a card game coming out, much less that there would be the level of demand where people would begin lining up at 6 PM to get cards the following day.
But as we entered the Dealer’s Room around 10:45 AM, I was unaware of any of this. So when we literally couldn’t make it down Aisle’s 100 and 200, worry began to set in. We figured that Gen Con would likely be back to roughly its pre-Covid attendance this year (and it actually exceeded it – over 70,000), but to have Thursday be so packed that we couldn’t manuever set a bad presedence in our minds. If Thursday was going to be bad, what would Friday and Saturday look like? In some ways it is a bit of a struggle to make it through the Dealer’s Room in the one or two hour bursts. Sunday ends up being the catch-all for last minute shopping, but we were concerned about the next couple of days.
Mothership was/is one of those games who really just found its niche in the roleplaying space. The idea of playing in a horror space setting (think Aliens or Event Horizon) with a fairly straightforward system is definitely appealing. A couple of years ago I ran a game for our group that tried to focus more on a John Carpenter’s Thing vibe of “Who do you trust”. I think I did an OK job, but overall didn’t manage to quite hit the beats I wanted to. I’d wanted to play it ever since just to see how someone else ran the game.
The one concern I’ve had is I wasn’t sure how exactly a longer campaign might go. As with any horror based game, characters are supposed to die or go insane, which makes investing in your character a little more difficult. It felt like more of a One Shot style game, perfect for conventions.
This game was a little less horror and much more straightforward story of Salvagers trying their best to make their way from shitty job to shitty job. The game played pretty much how I remembered it, though maybe our rolls were better than average as during the firefights, none of our people died. If not for the suicide run that one player made while piloting a captured ship we might have all survived. Sadly, his ramming of the enemy spacecraft ended up killing three of our crew.
Lucky for me, I wasn’t on the doomed ship!
The key though was that after this one session, I could see a little bit better how a longer style storyline might go where you lean a little less hard on all the horror monsters and instead let the dread simmer in the background as best you can.
Stealing Stories for the Devil
This is the game I could see running like it was a tv show. Setting up your overall storyline and then having the big payoff after 12 or so “episodes”. The basic idea for the game is that you are time travelers from the future who have become stuck in the current era of Earth. Time is breaking down due to the existence of certain anomolies. These items create a version of a world where the impossible is possible and where time exists differently. The heroes job is to discover what the item is and remove it from the area (which will revert things back to normal).
What transpires within play is that as a group we effectively created the scenario: A Costco where time had slipped such that it was always both Halloween and Black Friday at the same time. We would need to work as a team in order to extract the 8 foot tall skeleton from the premises. And since all that really required was lying really well… that ended up creating a bunch of really goofy and fun scenes spread out amongst all of the players.
Like I said, I really enjoyed this one and could see running a short campaign with the system.
Friday (Day 2)
Pretty much each day was much the same. We’d grab food somewhere, head into the Dealer’s Room and see as much as we possibly could before our first game took place. Food, if there was time, between the games, and then rush off to the night game. The only bad was not being able to meet up with a few people as most of the time we were either in a game or on our way to a game (which is certainly the whole point), but it is nice to catch up sometimes as well.
Deadlands: Weird West (Classic Edition)
Next on the list was a game I was looking forward to. I’m a big fan of Weird West style stories and Deadlands is really (as far as I know) the granddaddy of that genre within RPGs. However, you should always read the fine print. We thought we’d signed up for the current edition of the game (the Savage Worlds version) but instead we found out that we were going to be playing in a 1st edition version of the game.
There is a lot to the overall world of Deadlands. I supported the Savage Worlds Kickstarter and have read some of the book, but that’s about as far as my knowledge base will take me. So it can be a lot to dump on a bunch of players. That said, I understand why 1st edition rules might be considered too cumbersome. There were so many things to do. Some characters had decks of cards to help with their abilites. There was another deck of cards that you used for initiative. You had your bennie chips that could help alter dice rolls. There were dice rolls where you only took the best score and others where you definitely wanted to roll a ton. Once you hit someone, you rolled again to potentially figure out if it was a head shot or body shot.
Too much stuff going on honestly.
This is a game where we were very lucky to have a GM who knew the system, but in the end the system really felt overly complex. After the game we definitely talked about places you could just cut out potential rolls (and rules). I’d love to play in the world, but I don’t think I need to play 1st Edition again.
Check back in for part 2 next week where there will be teenagers in a Flood, zombies in a hospital, and pirates on the seas!
John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.
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