August 06, 2011

Gen Con Day 2

At last year’s Hamlet’s Hit Points seminar, I was surprised to discover that most of the attendees hadn’t heard of the book. They’d come either on the strength of the snappy title, or because they knew my name. This time around, the audience included a few newbies but mostly consisted of people conversant with beat analysis. After I supplied a rundown for the uninitiated, I supplied As for the participant’s Qs, focusing on such issues as charging expository scenes with emotional weight (as seen for example in the opening of Casablanca), and how to ease players anxious for constant success into a dramatic rhythm where occasional defeats make victories all the sweeter*.

A like phenomenon occurred at the later GUMSHOE seminar with Kenneth Hite and Simon Rogers. We’re used to describing the system to prospective players and GMs who are concerned about potential issues without having put the game through its paces. Here we had an impressive turnout of folks who have been playing GUMSHOE for a long time were looking for fine pointers. We talked about what to do if the players solve the mystery too quickly (answer: increase the challenge of antagonist reactions and other non-investigative sequences, rather than punishing the players for being too good at what the game asks them to do), embracing players’ choices to hold onto ability points in the early going, and how to calibrate your degree of improvisation to a given group’s expectations. Talk of Lorefinder, the upcoming GUMSHOE bolt-on for Pathfinder, aroused much interest.

Speaking of matters Golarion, later I headed over to the Paizo booth to hang out with fellow Pathfinder Tales authors Dave Gross and Howard Andrew Jones, signing copies of The Worldwound Gambit. Paizo fiction impresario James Sutter says that the novel is selling quite nicely at the show, which is gratifying to hear. If you picked up a copy and would like it scrawled on, I’ll be signing again tomorrow (Saturday) from 4-5. Or grab me after the Pathfinder Tales panel at 2 (also tomorrow.) Or swing by the Pelgrane booth, which is where I’ll be the rest of the time.

Trade remained brisk over in Pelgrane territory, where the company has already exceeded its entire impressive take from last year. Other vendors report results as least as encouraging. There may be a stock market plunge and a possible double-dip recession outside the convention hall, but it’s an upbeat year in our little universe.

*I’m afraid this wasn’t my smoothest opening in seminar history. For most of this year I’ve been struggling with ergonomic issues in the home office. In an effort to stop this from becoming the most boring blog on earth, I haven’t talked about this pins and needly saga here. Long story short: I finally have a properly adjustable chair at home and have it properly adjusted. But I’ve not yet fully returned to total shipshape, meaning that if I sit in a less than perfect chair for too long, I can mess myself up, often the day after an extended bout of wrong sitting. Both the exhibit hall chair I perched on yesterday while signing Ashen Stars bookplates and the chair/desk combo in the hotel room have shown themselves to be way less than optimal. I probably also need to swap out my many-pocketed manbag for something that isn’t constantly giving me the Vulcan nerve pinch. The upshot was that a spate of wooziness struck me during my intro to the seminar. Embarrassingly, I had to step outside to shake off my discombobulation, leaving Gameplaywright honchos Will Hindmarch and Jeff Tidball to vamp in my momentary absence. I mention this only to reassure those present that I am fine and have not been stricken with Venusian pleurisy or anything like that. For the rest of the show I’ll be much more vigilant against the malign intent of Indianapolis furniture.