August 04, 2011

Gen Con Day 1

Few moments in the professional life of a roleplaying designer outshine having a new core game book make its world premiere on the Thursday morning of Gen Con. Better still to have the book show up looking gorgeous. Best of all is to see people pick it up, perhaps inviting a pitch, and plunking down their hard-earned cash or credit. I could not have asked for a stronger response to Ashen Stars. Nor a more receptive mood—it seems like something out there in the gamerverse has folks hankering for a new space opera game. Writing for a living, whether we're talking games or fiction, can seem unreal and disconnected. The work seems real but the eventual end product can be hard to envision. Gen Con offers many bounties, but for me the emotional reward that comes when a book seems to be making an ideal landing brings all of the months of writing, rewriting, playtesting, fixing, replaytesting, and polishing come into focus. Creators in other fields don't necessarily get to experience this final stage of the process first-hand. This is why I am grateful to work in this very special scene of ours, with its “I've got a barn, I've got a resolution mechanism, let's put on a roleplaying book” ethos. This is the sound of blessings being counted.

Today was all about doing the booth thing. Trade at the Pelgrane booth proved brisk in general. Simon's ingenious 4-for-3 deal encourages gamers to pitch each other on the merits of the books, as they try to assemble the ideal group buy. I even heard several perfect renditions of the Ashen Stars elevator pitch! I guess Internet outreach works or something.

I refined my signing signature over the course of 400ish Ashen Stars bookplates for the Stellar Nursery and Limited Editions. (My legal signature is an illegible scrawl and no fun as an autograph.) Perhaps soon I will be Walt Disney, with a hallmark signature so ornate that I am unable to draw it myself.

Dinner kept me among the Pelgranistas, where we discovered that a St. Elmo's bread pudding stands momentously athwart its plate, providing enough delicious dessert for 5 or more stunned non-Americans. We repaired to a quiet bar to moot various future projects. Among issues mulled: balancing the ideal commercial presentation for the Gaean Reach game with what I might design in a universe unfettered from practical constraint.

Tomorrow (Friday) attendees can catch me at the 10am Hamlet's Hit Points seminar, the 3pm GUMSHOE seminar, or a 5pm book signing at the Paizo booth.

Gen Con Day 0

Last night at the Diana Jones Awards party, the clawed hand of the shadowy cabal, ably spokespersoned by Matt Forbeck, pointed its index finger at Jason Morningstar’s Fiasco, deeming it the year’s exemplar of excellence in gaming. This earns Jason the honor of being the first repeat winner of the DJA. And rightfully so—Fiasco fulfills the promise of Grey Ranks. Its excellence can be seen in its impact on the RPG scene: in the number of people excitedly playing it, and participating in its scenario generation culture. As such it earns its award not only for design but for community-building.

Some quarters have quibbled that no surprises lurked among this year’s nominees. However, it’s hard to say that it was a weak slate. And when we look back over the list of winners from a future vantage point, it’s hard to argue that Fiasco should have been set aside in favor of some quirkier choice.

Speaking of vast vistas of time, a curious but delightful apparition manifested at the party. Steve Jackson is back at Gen Con, for the first time in something like a decade. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in more ebullient form.

Another devoutly wished-for arrival: the print gods have smiled on Pelgrane. Ashen Stars (my new GUMSHOE game of freelance troubleshooting in a gritty space opera universe) made it to the show in its thick and full-color glory. Other books hot off the presses: Dead Rock Seven, a collection of four ready-to-play scenarios for Ashen Stars, and Out of Time, a collection of non-1930s Trail of Cthulhu adventures appearing for the first time in paper format.

So I’m off to the new exhibit hall to hold Ashen Stars in my hands for the first time, and to warm up my signing hand for 400+ Stellar Nursery Edition signatures. If you’re here at the show, be sure to stop by.