August 17, 2013

Gen Con Day Two: Read to the Bottom for the Giant Dangling Hint

If you ever get a chance to attend a Q&A-format panel moderated by Jack Graham of Posthuman Studios, take it. He works the room like a nerdgeist standup comic, softening up questioners by asking them where they’re from and then hitting them with a leftfield question. Do Oklahomans add more tornado threats to their games? Would you sooner be Mork or Mindy? The gauntlet thus having been run, he hands the foam Talking Axe to the participant, who then throws his query to the panel.

Here it was a question for the Campaign Doctors on how to address particular ongoing problems in one’s game. As they often do at Gen Con, the basic “what do I do about this one guy in my group” query took on unusual permutations—how not to stump players when you distribute narrative control, or how to run for an outwardly detached 14 year old. Amanda Valentine provided sage advice, seizing high ground as the voice of reason. Luke Crane served up delightful iconoclasm, particularly when hilariously informing one group of Burning Wheelers that they were playing his game wrong. Comically heightened apoplexy abounded. And of course I said the Things I Always Say.

Speaking of which, the later GUMSHOE panel with Kenneth Hite, Simon Rogers and your quasi-humble correspondent started with the basics and zoomed out to masterclass detail in the second half. As far as I can tell I succeeded in recording it, and we’ll be mining the choicer bits as a recycled audio segment on an upcoming instalment of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff.

Then I got to do the Bob Hope thing, showing up to deliver a cameo appearance in Jeff Tidball’s intensive RPG design workshop. If you are thinking of jumping into the field and see him doing this at a future show, block out that chunk of time and get ready for an invaluable crash course. I dropped some choice design science, told a few jokes, and swanned out again. Next time I’ll have to have “Thanks for the Memories” loaded on my smartphone as I stroll in.

Last night saw Ken once more dipped in silver glory as he clutched two such medals, honoring Night’s Black Agents for Best Writing and Best Game. He has become so accustomed to such feting that the later uptick in his overweeningness was barely perceptible.

Or perhaps John Kovalic, back at Gen Con for the first time in nine years to promote his fab new party game ROFL, noticed it more acutely than the rest of us.

Oh, and somewhere in there I had a very fruitful meeting concerning the Battlechimp Potemkin. Make of that what you will.