College Daze

Lately everywhere I turn I see guys I went to college with. It started with Snakes on a Plane. I noticed Todd Louiso in the credits, so I watched the set-up with the passengers carefully but didn’t see him. Turns out he was the snake and venom expert they consult about half way through the film. You may also remember him as the nerdy scientist in the Rock. I wonder if he was disappointed he didn’t get bitten to death in SoaP.

Then I’m reading a magazine article about upcoming movies and I see that Todd Phillips has directed a film called School for Scoundrels. Todd was roommates with a friend of mine and we shared a taste in punk rock. I’ll always remember him as the guy who booked the infamous G.G. Allin to play at NYU’s Loeb Student Center. Who would have guessed that the school wouldn’t like an act known for stripping naked, cutting himself with broken bottles, and throwing his own excrement at the crowd? Ironically, this was key to Todd’s career, as he directed a documentary about G.G. Allin called Hated, which had the good fortune of debuting mere months after G.G. died (also in NYC, at a show I may have gone to if I hadn’t been working that day).

The other night I’m flipping around the TV and I notice that VH-1 has done yet another “I Love the 80s” series. This makes #3 and one wonders who long they can keep it up. Well, sure enough there’s my former suite-mate Michael Ian Black (not his real name). I think he and that Hal Sparks guy have turned these nostalgia shows into full on careers. That dude still owes me money from the phone bill he skipped out on at the year’s end too. I’m coming to collect, Schwartz!

EndGame Anniversary Party

EndGame, a way cool game store in Oakland, CA, is having a party to celebrate their fifth anniversary next month and they’ve invited me to be their special guest. The event is on Saturday, September 30, from 9 am to 7 pm. I’ll be there for the duration, so if you are the in the Bay Area stop by if you have a chance. As part of the day’s activities, I’ll be sitting in on a session of True20 Adventure Roleplaying. Five seats for the game are being raffled off, with all proceeds going to a charity of my choice (which means I ought to pick one soon!). You can buy raffle tickets at EndGame for $2 each. Drawings will be made that day. For more info, go to This should be a really good time and I’m totally looking forward to it. Hell, I may even let EndGame’s Chris Hanrahan con me into a game of old school Battletech, something no one’s been able to do since about 1991.

Mystery Basket

Someone sent me a gift basket right before GenCon with chocolates, coffee, crackers, and other goodies. It did not come with a card, however, or any indication of who had sent it. It could be a sympathy basket because of the death in my family or maybe a gift from a vendor, I’m just not sure. Whoever sent the mystery basket, thanks.

What Is Best in Life?

What is best in life? For game industry folks and gamers alike it must be GenCon. I will say that going into I was not as psyched as I’ve been in some previous years, but the show exceeded all my expectations.

If the Kids Are United
First of all, it was great to see 25,000 plus people going crazy for games. There were crowds everywhere and you could sense the excitement in the air. No matter what kind of game you were into, there was something for you at GenCon. When so much industry talk is doom and gloom, it was invigorating to see such enthusiasm for our hobby. And man, did the gamers come ready to buy. Our booth was mobbed on Thursday, with folks snapping up both the new products and our bundle deals. Ultimate Power was gone by noon on Friday and we sold out of a bunch of other stuff over the course of the weekend. I had a sales goal for the convention, which Hal thought was too aggressive. Until Monday morning I didn’t think we had made it but then Nicole tallied the credit cards and we hit it spot on. Yeah, baby.

Hat Trick
Friday night was the ENnie Awards, which have become the premier RPG awards in a short span of time. The room was too small and really hot, but otherwise the awards went off well. Kevin “Piratecat” Kulp was a good MC and the guest presenters also did well (particularly Rich Burlew from the Order of the Stick, who was a riot). The first half of the night our M&M; books won a succession of Silver awards. Green Ronin has done so well at the ENnies the last two years I figured that was fair enough. Then Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Edition won the Gold for Best Game and Best d20/OGL Product. Finally, they moved on to the Best Publisher category, which we’d won the previous two years. For that alone I figured we wouldn’t win, never mind that we were competing against WotC this time. So when Peter Adkison announced that WotC has won the Silver, I was surprised. I turned to Nicole and said, “Who beats WotC in a popularity contest at a D&D; fansite?” We thought it was probably Paizo, who had done very well throughout the night with their Shackled City Adventure Path. Then Peter announced GR and I was gobsmacked. Needless to say, we were thrilled to receive such recognition. Afterwards I changed and met the crew at the Rock Bottom. We were joined by the Fiery Dragon crew and proceeded to celebrate until the place closed down.

I’ve Got Your Warhammer Right Here
Marc Gascoigne and Kate Flack from GW were over for the show, along with novelist and bon vivant Dan Abnett. It was great to catch up with our English cohorts. There was much talk of WFRP and 40K of course, but it was also nice to grab a few meals together and socialize. The four of us did a 40K RPG seminar on Saturday. It had not made it into the event book, however, so very few people knew about it. Six people showed up and we just pulled chairs into a circle and let them ask us questions. I talked to many people later who were disappointed they had missed the seminar because they hadn’t heard about it. Hopefully next year we’ll have better luck getting things listed.

He Must Be a King
I had left Thursday night free so I could game with some of my college friends. Bill had said he’d have an RPG adventure to ready to run, though he wasn’t sure what. He punked out though and had nothing, so roleplaying was out. We were able to rent a copy of Shadows Over Camelot in the open gaming area though and played a couple of games of that instead. I was King Arthur the first game and Sir Palomedes the Saracen the next. The game was fun and it’s always great to see my old friends. We’ve been playing games together off and on for almost 20 years now.

A Reunion of Sorts
Saturday night Nicole and I had plans to dine with John Tynes. We thought it was going to be a small group, but when we arrived (15 minutes late due to a GR staff meeting) there were already 15 odd folks there. As I looked around the table, it hit me that we had a full on 1990s game industry reunion going on. There was Tynes and Scott Glancy of Pagan Publishing, John Nephew of Atlas Games, Christian Moore of Last Unicorn, Rob Heinsoo of Daedalus, and the always-independent Robin D. Laws. Nicole represented White Wolf and Bootstrap Press. All we needed was Ray Winninger, James Wallis, and Lou Prosperi and the table would have been an eerie recreation of GenCon about 10 years ago. It was good to catch up with folks I don’t see too often, particularly those who have moved out of the game industry.

It wouldn’t be GenCon without bringing home some stuff. I had hoped to pick up some historical minis, but there wasn’t much to choose from. I did do my traditional trade with Reaper and got some of their cool new monster minis and a couple of their Warlord army books. I also got Vlad the Impaler for Warhammer Ancients and the Alamo for Legends of the Old West. On the RPG front I got Qin, Artesia, Faery’s Tale, MMS: Silk Road, Castle and Crusades, and some of the recent Dungeon Crawl Classics (including the new campaign setting boxed set). I paged through Cadwallon and it looks gorgeous but decided to wait and hear some reviews. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to work my way through the dealers hall, so I’m sure I missed some cool stuff. But hey, that’s what game stores and the internet are for.

I think those are the highlights I can talk about publicly. As always, it was great to have the GR crew assembled and to get to spend some time with everyone. It really is too bad we don’t live closer together.

For our travel woes, check out Nicole’s blog and read about the Spawn of Satan. Even creatures from the bowels of hell could not dampen our spirits after such a great GenCon though.

Leaving In the Dead of Night

More fun with flights, this time to GenCon. Our shuttle pickup is at 3:15 am, so we’re packing before trying to grab a couple of hours of sleep. Then a 5:20 flight to Phoenix, which the astute amongst you will realize is nowhere near Indianapolis. But hey, at least there’s only one connection.

Seems hard to believe GenCon is upon us already. GR has four new books, so it should be a good show for the company. There are some folks I’m really looking forward to seeing too. I will hopefully get a chance to game a bit with some of my old college friends. We’re spread out all over the place now and don’t get a chance to get together much these days. At the very least, we’ll get some time to hang out and that’ll be fun. We’re also going to have the full GR staff in attendence, something we haven’t been able to do in several years. It’s always great to get the whole group together, since we spend some much of the year communicating by e-mail and phone.

I am also trying to make time to walk the hall more than I have the last couple of years. There are a couple of things I have my eye on, but there’s nothing coming out that really has me jazzed. Perhaps some browsing will turn up something that wasn’t on my pre-show radar.

I won’t have time to update while I’m at GenCon, so it’ll be a week until you here from me again. Please keep an eye on the internet while I’m away. It better be where I left it when I get back.

Roscoe: ASL Interpreter

There’s a teller who works at my bank branch named Roscoe. According to his nameplate, Roscoe is an “ASL Interpreter.” While I know this stands for American Sign Language, it nonetheless makes me chuckle whenever I get his window because the idea of having an interpreter for Advanced Squad Leader is not a bad one. I’ve considered asking Roscoe to explain why rules like Bypass Movement and Residual Firepower are worth having in Advanced Squad Leader but I’m sure the last thing he needs is some smartass making wargaming jokes at his expense. He probably also doesn’t want to hear that Roscoe: ASL Interpretter is a perfect title for a network crime drama.

Memoir ’44: Pacific Theater

Rick’s been moving into a new place the past couple of weeks, so our usual minis gaming has been interrupted. This means we haven’t been able to try out the new edition of Flames of War yet, so that’ll have to wait until after GenCon. We were in luck, however, because the new Memoir ’44 expansion just came out. Pacific Theater brings the Japanese into the game, with a full set of playing pieces, counters, new rules, and scenarios. Both the Japanese and the US Marines have a small selection of special rules to model them in the game. These are easy to implement and like the previous Eastern Front expansion they change play enough to keep things interesting. For example, Japanese infantry get an extra die in close assaults if the unit is at full strength. When I was playing the Marines, I found that I had to rethink my usual tactics. Normally in Memoir, you want to pile on a damaged unit and wipe it out before it can slip away. Fighting the Japanese, I found that splitting fire was sometimes desirable because even one casualty neutralizes a unit’s close assault bonus and makes it less dangerous. We haven’t tried out the rules for night fighting or naval artillery support, but they look fun. I would have liked more than 8 scenarios but Days of Wonder is good about providing new ones on their website. All in all, another excellent installment to what’s become one of my favorite boardgames.

At Least Snakes Would Have Livened It Up

I guess I should have paid more attention to my return itinerary. I knew I had a 6 am flight, but how long it would take me to get back to Seattle hadn’t sunk in. I got up at 4 am and was at the airport by 5. My itinerary said I was going Boston to Las Vegas and then Las Vegas to Seattle. Not too bad. What my ticket didn’t say was that the first flight actually went to Charlotte for an hour and a half layover before continuing on to Vegas. Then I had a three-hour layover in Vegas. I was really tempted to grab a cab to the Strip, have a good lunch, and then race back to the airport, but I wasn’t sure I could do it in three hours and a roundtrip cab ride would have made that one expensive lunch. So I sucked it up. Fifteen hours after I got to the Boston airport, I finally touched down in Seattle. A direct flight, had one been available and affordable, would have got me there in six.

Now we’re counting down to GenCon and I’ll be heading back to the airport next week for another 6 am flight. Wohoo! This will be my 18th GenCon in a row and I really shouldn’t dwell on that.