Gen Con 2017 Recap – Part Two

You can read Part One Here.

Day 1 Continued

The thing no one realizes is that navigating the Dealer’s Room requires a commitment of time. As it turned out, we had about an hour and a half before the room closed on the day. The goal became see as much as possible while also visiting with some contacts and old friends.

While not the largest Dealers’ Room I’ve been in (New York Comic Con takes that prize), Gen Con doesn’t short change you on the options. Who knew there were so many board, roleplaying, and card games being developed and played?

We immediately ran into David Rodriguez, of Skylanders, Destiny, IDW’s First Strike comic series, and about a billion other things that I’m forgetting right now. I met David many years ago (through Egg) when we roomed together at Chicago Comic Con. It’s always nice to see the successes he’s had over the years, and it led to one of my favorite conversations ever:

Egg – So what are you working on these days?

David – Destiny.

Egg – … um, what’s Destiny?

Yes, Egg doesn’t know what Destiny is. I thought we were going to have to pull David off of him. Luckily, calmer minds prevailed.

After our examining of 5% of the Dealer’s Room, it was on to the game library inside of Lucas Oil Stadium. I’m not sure I’m ever going to be in Indianapolis for a football game, so it was cool to be on the field in an empty stadium.

The Game Library was pretty extensive. So extensive that after our failed attempt to play Arkham House (I’d suggest if you are going to play really complicated games that you get someone who has played the game previously to be around to assist). As it was we spent over an hour setting the game up, played a bit, realized we were playing wrong, still couldn’t figure out how the good guys might end up winning, and put the game away.

At this point, we were saved from our own indecision by Ben. Ben was just looking to game and luckily had bought a copy of Hero Realms earlier that day. It was a fun game (I ended up winning our 4 player game). Pretty easy to teach the rules, and seemed like it had a fair amount of replay value. After the game, though, it was nearly 2 in the morning and time to get back to the hotel and catch some sleep.

Day 2

Friday was a tale of 2 different games: Call of Cthulhu and Tales from the Loop.

Call of Cthulhu is one of those games I often read about. People love Lovecraft and to hear it spoken about in such high regard made it one of those games we had to check out. It also helped that Danny O’Neil was our GM for the session (this was just Egg, Lee, and myself). Egg had contributed to the Dread House Kickstarter, so we were interested to see how it played. Luckily the scenario wasn’t the one he wrote for.

It felt like CoC was very much a Roleplaying game vs. a Roll-playing game. Yes, there are dice rolls, but much of the beginning session was spent gathering clues, talking to NPCs, and interacting in character with each other. When the weirdness began and Sanity checks were called for, it was almost more fun when you failed a check. What did that mean for your character? How would you react to the next bit of oddness? And would you have anything left when it was finished (my character’s answer was a NO, as he failed nearly all of his checks)?

I had a great time. Danny was an excellent GM. It would definitely end up as one I’d like to play again next year.

Tales from the Loop was the second game we played. It was just Lee and I as Egg was the Ebay high bid to be the guest of Cubicle 7 at the Ennies. And from what I understand, he had a great time. But I still feel a little bad for him, because after playing Tales from the Loop we proceeded to talk about it for the rest of the weekend.

There is a reason it won Game of the Year.

I want to write more about it, so I’m not going to go into a ton of detail about the session (in a forthcoming post). What I will say is that all those 80’s kids movies where all sorts of crazy nonsense seem to happen when the parents are away: Goonies, Explorers, Monster Squad, etc., well, that’s what this game is. It takes the best of that genre and lets you play as a kid.

Do yourself a favor and check out the game.

Day 3

Lesson Learned from Gen Con: don’t schedule things at 8 in the morning. That is waaaaay too early. You will skip it.

So it was that Mouse Guard was our first session. I really like the comics, so I was interested to see how the system worked. The basic setup was our group of Mouse Guard needed to find a snake’s nest and deal with the eggs we found there. Using pre-gens, each character had a few roleplaying style traits that they could appeal to during the course of play. Say that you often put other’s needs above your own – you might get a bonus dice to help with that particular skill check. In addition, if someone wanted to assist another character with a check, they could as long as they were willing to accept a condition (tired, injured, etc.) if the roll backfired.

The bigger question I had about the system was more that one of your Skills was your Mouse Nature. You could use this skill when nothing else seemed to fit (or pretty much whenever it might make sense – which could be nearly every time you checked something). As my character’s Nature was probably his best stat, I wasn’t so sure why I would ever use anything else. Perhaps it works itself out in longer campaigns?

The final Boss battle was very different. Basically, you could choose one of 4 different tactics (Defense, Feint, Attack, and Maneuver) as did the GM and then one by one you would almost play a game of Paper Rock Scissors where however the cards came up different things happened. In the end, the Guard was trying to reduce the enemy to 0 before they were reduced to 0 (this was a team determined score). A very interesting idea, but for some of the characters, there wasn’t much to decide. If you were primarily a defensive character, you should probably go with your strengths, but this would leave your combat turns more or less the same. Again, in a longer campaign, I could see a metagame forming as the DM tries to anticipate your moves based off previous battles.

The evening saw us play 7th Sea. Egg and I had supported the 2nd edition Kickstarter and now have more pdfs than I could read in a hundred lifetimes (seriously, it is the gift that keeps on giving). In regards to the session itself…

The successes (known as Raises) work well enough, but my problem is things don’t always feel balanced. The number of Raises you get basically helps to determine the number of things you can accomplish in a round (# of actions you get). Multiple times I saw people get 5 and 6 Raises to my 2 or 3, which meant that they were getting to just do more things. Over a short combat this is less of an issue, but as the rounds increase, the difference of 2 additional “things” means one of the players just isn’t able to do as much.

So while the over the top play was fun, the actual rules didn’t sit well with me.

Day 4

Did I mention not to schedule things at 8 AM?

In the morning.

When you should be sleeping?

Because we didn’t make that session either.

Since this was get-away day, we tried to do the remainder of the Dealer’s Room (you know, that last 95%). I’m proud to say that I think I saw nearly everything, even if it was a drive-by. One of the stand-outs was Shadows of Esteren, a series of RPG books that I nearly bought just to look at the beautiful artwork. It’s definitely one I’m going to keep my eye on for possibly adding to my pdf collection.

As to purchases, I did get a copy of Tales from the Loop (I told you I really liked the game) and a card game called Brass Empire (go figure a Steampunk game MIGHT appeal to me). Still, haven’t busted either of them out to play, but I’m looking forward to doing so.

Wrap Up

Would I go back? Absolutely.There are so many things that I would have liked to do. I’d never roleplayed at a convention before, so this was an eye-opening experience to that. There were tons of games and systems I would have liked to

There are so many things that I would have liked to do. I’d never roleplayed at a convention before, so this was an eye-opening experience to that. There were tons of games and systems I would have liked to play, so those would go to the top of the list.

So did the Convention live up to what I had in my head? Yes and then some.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

Kickstarter RPG Reward Level: Validation – Chris Pramas of Green Ronin Publishing’s Thoughts on Breaking into the Game Industry

Chris Pramas of Green Ronin Publishing (publishers of Fantasy AGE, Mutants & Masterminds, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, and D&D 5e’s Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide among other role-playing products) wrote a post about how to break into the game industry. It is an excellent piece covering the practical ways to become a game designer. I recommend reading it for all of his thoughts.

Green Ronin Publishing Logo

Green Ronin Publishing Logo

Chris’ blog, falling at the end 2016, is an apt sounding board for a year-end review. For what my experiment – purchasing role-playing game writing opportunities via Kickstarter to build a resume and advance from RPG wanna-lancer to RPG freelancer – I want to compare the parts of his article that relate to my process as a gauge for how well I am doing.

Where is Chris Pramas at as 2016 closes? President of Green Ronin Publishing with a slew of games he’s designed and the awards to testify to their quality. He has two-plus-decades of experience seeing freelancers break into the game industry. With his position in the industry, his thoughts will make an excellent progress marker.

Where am I at the end of 2016? I’ve leveled from fan-with-a-plan to fan-acting-on-a-plan with a few pleasant RPG credits and I was invited to join this blog. With my day job and life leaving limited time to work on creative pursuits, I’ve enjoyed this year as I ramped up my skills and consistently met deadlines.

Let’s compare my plan to Chris’ suggestions. (All quotes are pulled from Chris Pramas’ article.)

Green Ronin Publishing - A Song of Ice and Fire

Green Ronin Publishing – A Song of Ice and Fire

Blogger

“[…] create a blog and write about games.”

I started buying vanity press RPG writing credits in mid-2015 and started blogging about the results fourteen months later. To spread out the blog’s content, I have not covered all of the writing opportunities I have bought to-date. At the close of 2016, I have 10 Kickstarter RPG writing credits (published or forthcoming), 1 RPG art credit, some RPG work-for-credits, 1 trip to Gen Con, and a comic book mini-series pitch approved. I’m not out of the wanna-lancer stage but I’m taking baby steps to get there. With content and a consistent theme for my blog, 2017 should be a good year in my journey to freelancer.

“This costs virtually nothing […] writing regularly is good practice.”

While blogging does cost “virtually nothing”, the route that I chose, buying RPG writing credits, does have a cost. Being financially invested heightens my interest in finding time to make this happen. It’s less about wouldn’t-it-be-nice and more about I-need-to-make-that-money-back.

The same thought process applies to regular blogging. Having a blog that runs two to three Tuesdays a month, while not a hard deadline, helps to build deadline “muscle memory”. It also makes the most of the money and time I’ve invested in these by turning each Kickstarter into a part of the narrative of my quest.

“[…] I suggest writing actual game content. […] pick a game or two that you like and start writing material for it. […] Design some monsters or magic items. Write a short adventure. Make some NPCs with adventure hooks. If you start creating useful content, you can develop a good reputation in the game’s community. This may eventually lead to freelance work.”

The beauty of buying a RPG writing assignment is being given a small, specific project to develop that you know will be published. As Chris suggests, I am developing a monster or a magic item or whatever the assignment is. However, instead of putting it onto the internet and hoping that gamers and publishers see it, I am putting these short projects into successfully crowdfunded RPGs that will be read by editors and fans. It is Chris’ advice turned up to 11.

Celltar Drumthunder. Art by Egg Embry

Celltar Drumthunder from Ember Design Studio’s Yrisa’s Nightmare and Rats in the Street. Art by Egg Embry

“At the very least you are developing a body of work that is easy to show off. If a developer asks you for a writing sample, you’ll have ready material for that.”

My plan has always been two birds with one Kickstarter pledge. Bird one is, of course, the writing and credits themselves. The opportunity to be handed an assignment from a publisher, work for them, get published, and, hopefully, open a door to become a RPG freelancer. As Chris suggests, I have submitted my published work as writing samples. Bird two is to blog about the experience and build interest with gamers for the product I’m in and the work I’ve contributed to it.

“Writing reviews can also be useful. It can show that you can think critically about games. Checking out a wide variety of game material is never wasted time either.”

Writing about the purchase and the creation process means, in a limited way, I get to review the product that I was in. With respect to these reviews, since I am not an unbiased observer, I don’t do an in-depth discussion. But, these blogs are a chance to bring up the product and cast a new perspective on it with some minor production information.

Some of the RPG assignments are for systems that I have limited experience with. My comfort zone is Dungeons & Dragons 5e. But, through purchasing assignments, I’ve added development work in Pathfinder, W.O.I.N., Call of Cthuhlu 7e, and touched on Castles & Crusaders. Doing this has exposed me to a growing list of game material, lockstep with the suggestion from the President of Green Ronin Publishing.

Green Ronin Publishing - Mutants & Masterminds

Green Ronin Publishing – Mutants & Masterminds

Freelancer

“[…] I’ve mentioned a couple of ways to break into freelancing already but there are others. Some companies do open calls from time to time. You will end up in a big slush pile but it’s a chance at least.”

In the year and a half I’ve been experimenting with this, I’ve only submitted for one RPG freelance assignment and that was under a month ago. Why did I wait this long?

  • It’s easier to buy an opportunity because, through the logic of commerce, they have to work with you because they took your money. For freelancing, the reverse is true – You have to work with them if you want their money. That means their schedule, their style, their notes, their way. I want to make sure I’m ready to follow other people’s rules before I raise my hand.
  • It seemed almost pointless to cold submit for projects with no resume. With no prior experience, I expect it would be a long while before anyone takes a chance on me. Now, I have some entries which have led to intern-esque opportunities.
  • I mention time a lot because I have very little of it that I can spend in front of a computer writing. That situation has improved recently so it is time to try these type of opportunities.

“You’ll also find game design competitions out there. You may not win—you probably won’t, in fact—but good work can get you noticed and may result in freelance opportunities. Once you get a gig, the most important thing to do is hit your deadline. If your developer asks for revisions, do them in a timeline fashion. It is better to do solid work on time than produce something of sheer genius months late.”

Through the Kickstarter for Kobold Press’ Tome of Beasts for 5e, about 100 backers and I submitted monsters for consideration in their book. Twenty were selected. Mine was not one of the selected entrants. However, I did get quality feedback from Wolfgang Baur and Dan Dillon on the design that improved the monster. Dan shared that mine was in contention for one of the final two slots (as were about 20 others). I lost but, based on their thoughts, I was not hopeless. Taking their advice, next time I’ll have a better idea of what to do.

Green Ronin Publishing - Fantasy Age

Green Ronin Publishing – Fantasy Age

Publisher

“[…] The biggest game changer though is crowdfunding. […] I’ll just note here that sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo make it possible for game companies to overcome the biggest hurdle most of them face: funding. […] Just do your homework before trying your first crowdfunding campaign. There is much to absorb about the process and the best practices of crowdfunding […]”

While I’m not racing to be a publisher, what I am doing would not be possible without crowdfunding and their decision to offer writing opportunities as rewards. Without those two things, I do not believe I would have a path to become a freelancer.

* * *

I only touched on some of Chris Pramas’ article. But based on it, I’m doing a number of the right things and I’m doing them my way. 2016 has been a successful year in terms of dipping my toe into the game industry. As I head into 2017, I have more products coming out and other irons in the fire. I am ready to make 2017 the Year of the Wanna-lancer!

* * *

I want to thank my gaming buddy, Sir Leland Beauchamp, for sharing Chris’ article with me. And Chris Pramas for sharing his insights with the world.

As the year closes, I want to thank Erica and our nieces and nephews for making every day worth living, my parents for their spirit of independence, the members of the Tessera Guild for letting me play in their sandbox, Michael Phillips at Midcity Comics for all of the good conversation and motivation, all of the RPG publishers that I have had the privilege to work with and all of the wonderful content that they’ve produced, and Michael Bugg‘s RPG group that keeps me in-character. Without each of you, 2016 would not have been a success for me.

* * *

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at DriveThruRPG.com
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at DriveThurRPG.com
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at DriveThurRPG.com

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – The Dread House and Salt in Wounds Tabletop Setting

I want to freelance in the tabletop role-playing game industry. To get there, I’m buying a resume of writing credits via Kickstarter rewards. So far, I’ve largely bought into D&D 5e. But the RPG industry is wider than D&D and I want to add as many systems to my resume as I can. That makes these projects of interest to me.

"Fascinating." - Mirror Mirror Robert Jeffrey

“Fascinating.” – Mirror Mirror Robert Jeffrey II

 

* * *

 

The Dread House (Pathfinder/5th Edition/Call of Cthulhu) by Hammerdog Games

 

Kickstarter campaign ends on Saturday, October 29th, 2016 at 3:00 EDT in the afternoon.

 

Their pitch:

 

The most haunted house in the world, presented with multiple storylines, in multiple time periods, and for multiple RPG systems.

 

Dry leaves crackle under your feet as you make your way up the hill towards the dark manse, your path lit by a bold harvest moon. The taste of rain is in the air and you hear a distant peal of thunder. The townsfolk begged you not to come up here. Not tonight. Especially not tonight.

The Dread House

The Dread House

 

You reach the grounds as storm clouds slip across the moon, darkening the yard. You make your way carefully to the front door but find it barred from the outside. It would take a crowbar and some muscle to get in this way. The windows are high off the ground but seem breakable. You test your theory with a large rock, and the glass shatters as the first bolt of lightning slashes across the sky. You climb up and through the broken pane, carefully turning and lowering yourself to the floor of the room inside. The townsfolk may be afraid of this place buy you aren’t.

 

“Good Evening” says a deep strong voice that makes you whirl with shock. Your eyes search the darkness but you see nothing. A flash of lightning verifies to your eyes that you are alone.

 

“I trust you will be staying?” says the voice. “Excellent, it’s been a long time since we’ve had company.” Lightning flashes again. The drawing room is empty of everything but old furniture. You turn and scramble to the window, ready to leap through it and to the ground below. But the window isn’t broken any more. Somehow it’s healed.

 

You stop to puzzle this impossibility for the briefest of moments. That’s all it takes. The voice in the darkness gets you, and nobody hears you scream. You should have listened to the townsfolk. You should have come better prepared…for The Dread House.”

 

Egg’s thoughts:

 

The Dread House is a series of adventures set in different eras that utilize different systems – Wizard of the Coast’s D&D 5e, Paizo’s Pathfinder, but, most important to lil’ Egg Embry, Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu. Call of Cthulhu is not on my resume. Add to that the concept – a haunted mansion that exists from medieval times to present – offers a growing tale and world to explore. Character’s actions from one era can be felt in the next. The vanity press offer – “an adventure, encounter, or monster in the Dread House” – combined with the chained nature of these adventures will, I hope, allow me to write something a little longer than many of my Kickstarter vanity press pledges.

The Dread House's Gentleman Ghost

The Dread House’s Gentleman Ghost

 

Their vanity press rewards:

 

“$150 or more

Architect of Dread

 

An undead professional, you seek to further your career even after death. You gain a copy of The Dread Wedding and all PDFs. You will participate in the development process of an adventure, encounter, or monster in the Dread House. No prior experience is required but the more experience you have, the more you can contribute. You will gain a credit as a developer. [Freight Extra]”

 

* * *

 

Salt in Wounds Tabletop Setting for 5th Edition & Pathfinder by J. M. Perkins

 

Kickstarter campaign ends on Thursday, October 27th, 2016 at 2:03 EDT in the afternoon.

 

Their pitch:

 

A gore splattered, monster-fed, city based dark fantasy setting for your favorite Tabletop RPGs.

 

Salt in Wounds is a fictional city; a detail-rich dark fantasy setting designed specifically for tabletop roleplaying games (although it can be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates intricate works of imagination). More specifically, Salt in Wounds is a city whose culture, economy, and existence is beholden to the reality of the giant, regenerating kaiju called the ‘Tarrasque’ which is imprisoned within the city center so it can be butchered over and over again.

 

Salt in Wounds City Map (Rough Draft)

Salt in Wounds City Map (Rough Draft)

There are few monsters in role playing games more iconic than the Tarrasque: the ‘end game’ boss that’s been terrorizing high level characters (and delighting players) for decades. The Salt in Wounds setting takes the beast in an entirely new direction: as the perpetually slaughtered ‘natural’ resource that has been feeding the population & fueling economy of the sprawling metropolis of Salt in Wounds for the last two centuries.

 

Since 2015 I’ve been fleshing out the city, its inhabitants, and setting the stage for adventure: first on the Ennie nominated gaming website Tribality and then on its own page www.saltinwoundssetting.com. I’ve written fiction, created monsters, and worked hard to create a compelling, incredible world just begging for exploration & play. Here’s just a sample of some of the work that’s already been made public about Salt in Wounds:

  

Now, with your help, I want to take my mishmash of ideas, player options, lore & creatures and turn it into a proper series of books & supplements that will inspire your Pathfinder, 5th Edition, and other gaming for years.

 

Egg’s thoughts:

 

Salt in Wounds. Any city with a title for a name (like King of Prussia, Pennsylvania) screams out, “Visit me!” more than, say, one of the early titles of my home city, Marthasville [Note – Marthasville, where Superman and Batman get on like chocolate and peanut butter.] Title alone states this is an engaging product. J M Perkins has a fully realized city with enough real estate to share some pretty views with the public. The reward – design one of the 13 main families in the city for both D&D 5e as well as Pathfinder – has curb appeal. This reward could lead to a dynasty write up, information about their home, magic items, and NPCs. Lots of potential to show your RPG writing skills.

Salt in Wounds. I spy a Tarrasque.

Salt in Wounds. I spy a Tarrasque.

 

On the other hand, by the time I noticed this one all of the rewards were gone. Fiddlesticks. I believe the individuals that chose this one picked a great vanity press option. I cannot wait to see the results.

 

Their vanity press rewards:

 

“Pledge $250 or more

Binder-Lord

 

You rule Salt in Wounds, and you get everything listed above, three additional pieces of Sway, and design considerations (see text below for more information).

 

INCLUDES

  • Name the Harpoon Release Command Word
  • Help Design a Meridian House
  • Swag x 6

 

Limited to only 11 (there are 13 Aristocratic Meridian Houses, and two Binder-Lordships have already been claimed by patrons) you get all the above rewards + an *additional* 3 pieces of Swag (for a total of 6 pieces of Swag) and you get design considerations for your chosen Meridian House, invitation to an exclusive design session hangout, and you select the legendary ‘command word’ of your house’s immoveable harpoon. Legal possession of this command word grants Binder-Lords their authority within the city of Salt in Wounds and can be used to actually free the Tarrasque.”

 

* * *

 

Closing thoughts:

 

The Dread House offers the chance to add Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu to my list of vanity projects. Sold. Salt in Wounds lives up to its name because it looks amazing but all of the writing rewards are spoken for. Regardless of my salted wound, I think both of these projects are going to be fun. I’m looking forward to seeing how they progress.

 

* * *

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

 

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

 

Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at DriveThruRPG.com