Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Super SUPERS! Revised Interview

I was able to interview several of the individuals behind HAZARD Studio and the recently-released SUPERS! Revised Edition RPG. It turned into a pretty awesome talk not just on how the Revised Edition of the game about, but on the underlying ideas of the system, what makes a superhero RPG tick, and what's coming up for the SUPERS! line. You can check it out at the new Articles section over at theRPGsite!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Best Of Gen Con 2014

After every Gen Con, the first thing I do is rest, because my legs are about ready to fall off. After that, though, it's time to assess just what the highlights (and some of the lowlights) of Gen Con were. This was a fantastic Gen Con in nearly every way, but here are some of my "Bests" that I'm giving out for this year.

If you missed out on my pictures and photos at theRPGsite, you might want to go there first. Otherwise, read on to find my opinion on the Best of Gen Con 2014:

Best RPG Accessory, Part 1: Collapsible Construction might just be getting started up, but these pop-out huts, walls, and towers are simply amazing. They fold down flat, pop into place with zero difficulty, and can be stored in a 3-ring binder. They can bear the weight of even large pewter models with no apparent stress or bending. They should be having a Kickstarter soon, and a completed website, but I already grabbed several of their models. I'm looking forward to doing a long review of these soon, and can't wait to pick up more. For the Game Master who wants sturdy terrain, but doesn't have a lot of time or space, this just might be the best thing I've seen yet.

Best RPG Accessory, Part 2: I really had discounted Syrinscape as another sound program that would overshadow my game and be of limited utility to a campaign. Hey, I was wrong. This is a very polished product that seems to have sound sets and sub-sets for just about everything fantasy, and they just released a sci-fi player as well. I have toyed non-stop with this, and thing the mixing capability, collection of ambient sounds, and a few whimsical on-demand touches (Wilhelm scream, anyone?) are going to really help set the mood in  my upcoming campaigns. Hands-down, this is one of the coolest RPG programs I've seen in some time.

Best-Looking RPG: This was close, because Monte Cook Games is putting out some fantastic books, and no one will doubt how amazing Shadows of Esteren looks, but I have to say for my tastes, the One Ring line is absolutely beautiful while being truly evocative of the best traditions of J.R.R. Tolkien. The revised One Ring rulebook is just incredible.

Best Board/Card Game I Tried: I got to demo a fair amount of games, but aside from Regular Show Fluxx, the only one that I actually went home with was Snake Oil, from Out of the Box. At least two other folks in my gaming circle picked it up as well. It's a card game that's probably going to people who like persuasion-type/funny combo games along the lines of Apples to Apples. I think it's going to be a great game for both the family and for parties.

Best RPG Booth Design: I really thought Shadows of Esteren displayed their product very well, and had a nice layout. Paizo's wasn't as exciting, but they did a good job contending with as much traffic as any booth at the convention, save probably Fantasy Flight and WizKids. I also thought Troll Lord Games was probably the most improved booth overall, with a nice, open layout, with plenty of room for browsing.

Shadows of Esteren
Best RPG Booth Idea: I'm not really a player of Catalyst Game Labs titles, but their booth was very attractive for the passer-by this year. They had shelves of colorful, free quick-start rules for games like Shadowrun, Cosmic Patrol, and Valiant Universe. I know that's not practical for every gaming company at Gen Con, but it sure seemed to work for them.

Best 2015 Opportunity For A Booth To Improve: That's a nice way to put it, right? I was continually frustrated at the Savage Worlds part of the Pinnacle booth. They had amazing stuff, and I had the hardest time trying to get in there to look at product, let alone buy anything. The rows of books were small and crowded, and partially blocked by a bunch of boxes. But on the bright side, there was tons of Savage World love at Gen Con! They should get the display out there for all to see.

Best Dice Pick-Up: Shockingly this year, it wasn't Gamescience! I picked up a lot of dice this year, but my kids love the animal dice I bought from Koplow Games.

Best Fancy Dice At Gen Con: Tough call, but I have to go with Artisan Dice. They aren't cheap, but they are beautiful! Plus, how many places can you get dice made of alligator bone?

Best Non-RPG Thing I'm Not Sure I Can Live Without: Ladies and gentlemen, the Chewbacca Bathrobe:

Best Blast From The Past: I grew up on the Lone Wolf books, so this map of Magnamund made me super-excited to hopefully see this Kickstarter keep blowing past their funding goals:

Best Opportunity To Grab A Print Copy Of Rules Cyclopedia I Missed: One of the vendors had three copies of it for $40 each early Thursday morning, but by the time I found out about it, they were gone.

Best Booth Moment, Part 1: Getting to talk with some of the guys from Troll Lord Games, grabbing my copy of the Black Box, and chatting it up with a few fellow Castle Keepers.

Best Booth Moment, Part 2: Listening to some guy rail about how much he disliked Green Ronin's Legend of the Five Rings for a good two minutes before being corrected on the obvious.

Best Trend: This one is very much personal for me, but as a big fan of Castles & Crusades, it really seems like the game has some serious momentum--I know I steered a few fellow gamers their way, and there was a pretty robust off-the-grid gaming schedule. It just feels like the game line has fully matured and is hitting a really nice stride. I left Gen Con feeling really good about TLG and the future of Castles & Crusades. Hey, it's not Pathfinder-sized, but I think it's going along pretty darn well.

Best Example of The Type of Person You Don't Want At Your Gaming Table: In a year which saw an exhibit hall booth full of rather extreme furry erotica, this honor still goes to the guy who berated a poor convention hall employee for what seemed like three full minutes over his going through the exit door instead of the entrance during a heavy traffic period in the D&D hall. Dude, we get it--you were "just" throwing something away. "Just" go through the right door to do it, and stop acting like the poor lady had simultaneously violated your civil rights and was below your level of intellect. Meanwhile, you're standing in the middle of people trying to get around you and your whining.

Best Upcoming RPG Product I'm Excited About Thanks To Gen Con: Getting a look at the map and some proof pages for Design Mechanism's Mythic Britain for RuneQuest 6 was definitely exciting. With any luck, it sounds as if that one will be out by the end of the year--and I can't wait.

Best Overall Moment: I thought about this, and I don't think I could pick just one. I suppose having breakfast with my daughter just before going into the convention hall, and seeing her face as she grasped just how big this convention is now--that was pretty special.

Best Practice For Gen Con To Follow in 2015: Work a bit on the Exhibit Hall outlay to help the flow of foot traffic. Some of the larger booths could probably be better-placed, as jams tended to knot up around the huge lines at booths like Fantasy Flight and AEG. It would also help clear up some of the "gamer stink" that was pretty bad in places on Friday and Saturday.

Best Takeaway From Gen Con, Part 1: You know, outside of the Supers genre, I'm pretty happy with the games I have right now. That was confirmed at Gen Con--I saw a lot of RPGs I could likely mine for ideas, but right now, I'm pretty happy with my core systems I run. At the same time, there are so many brilliant items in terms of accessories and software right now, I know there's a lot that I can use to enhance the gaming experience for my group.

Best Takeaway From Gen Con, Part 2: It's easy online to get a skewed version of just how many people actually invest themselves into whatever the Social Online Crisis of the Week is for the RPG Community. In reality, most gamers just want to play good RPGs with their friends. They choose to do that in a lot of different ways with a lot of different systems, but most of them are more likely to stress more over how many attacks per round their characters get or where to find a good mini than anything else. I suppose that sounds like a "Kumbaya" bit of drivel, but really, I'm just trying to say most gamers aren't extremists, perpetually offended, or the type to boycott. When we get too far bogged down in the online stuff, we can forget that. I'm glad stuff like Gen Con is there, for gamers to talk about awesome stuff, make awesome stuff, and play awesome stuff. I hope for that same type of focus in my gaming until the next Gen Con and beyond.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Zack's Gen Con Blog Day 3

For more coverage and pictures from Gen Con, please check out the full thread at theRPGsite. Thanks!

9:13am: Just a quick update from Saturday morning at the convention. I've picked up a couple of products I'll be reviewing at length on here in the next few weeks, and feel like I've seen a pretty good look at what people are getting out there for RPG product. I have the GM's Jam seminar later today and a few obligations, but I'll have plenty of coverage on the tail of this thing, too.

Here's a shot of outside the convention this morning, before the light rain started:

I'll be honest--I'm pretty sure my legs might fall off, and I'm ready to bust out some of the products I bought--like Syrinscape. I got to play with this a bit last night after I left, and all I can say is WOW! I also went to delve into the Black Box for Castles & Crusades--I heard the Adventurer's Backpack book therein is seriously cool, but haven't had a chance to read it yet.

Perhaps the booth with the most variety, if not a ton of copies, is the DriveThruRPG booth. You won't see all those book cloistered together in many places:

More later on today, hopefully!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Zack's Gen Con Blog Day 2

For more coverage, remember to visit theRPGsite for plenty of Gen Con commentary!

3:18pm: Just a quick update, as we're on the move again. I've had some folks asking for shots of the Geek Chic tables. Yes, they're still amazing!

I haven't really seen an overwhelming RPG favorite so far (outside of Pathfinder), but whether I'm just keyed for it, by luck, or for another reason, I've seen multiple Dungeon Crawl Classics t-shirts or books today.

My daughter's having a great time, but she's also definitely getting tired! We'll press on, though--more soon, I hope.

12:30: What a morning--again! So what have been the highlights of the show so far? Let's talk about two booths in particular that have wowed me:

One of the absolute, hands-down coolest things I've seen at Gen Con is Collapsible Construction (Booth 465). Their fold-down building essentially lie down flat, and pop into place with an absolute minimum of work. Seriously, this was AMAZING to see. I think I just stood there with my jaw dropped open. I deal all the time with having either the time or space for minis buildings, and here's a really cool solution to that--everything can just be kept in a page protector, popped up when needed, and folds down with zero hassle!

Here's a Facebook page--the website is still under construction. Seriously, seriously impressive.

By the way, that is a HEAVY pewter mini sitting on top of this stuff with no bend or apparent stress.

Received a GREAT demo of Syrinscape, the sound effects player and software that is on display here at Gen Con. I'll confess--I thought this was going to be another simplistic product that detracted from the focus of a game, rather than add to it. I was wrong, I think. The various sound packages, the sliders to increase and mix, and the push-button one-off sounds are presented in a seriously smooth package. Sold.

I was also fortunate enough to receive a look at some proof of Design Mechanism's upcoming Mythic Britain book. Look for an end-of-year release on this one. The map is going to be layered to turn on/off certain features. Can I just say again how great RuneQuest 6 has been?

This one's for my daughters. More later.

Good morning! It's 9:45 am, and I am here today with my daughter. (Awwwww.....)

So, there are a few booths we're going to hit right off, but I wanted to talk about Ticket to Ride for a minute. I know it isn't a RPG, but I know plenty of readers are fans. There's a 10th Anniversary Edition here, and plenty of cool tidbits about the game at the Days of Wonder booth:

On the RPG side, I wanted to show some pics from the Shadows of Esteren area yesterday. They really have a nice booth, and you can tell their quality and production values are top-notch:

More later today!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Zack's Gen Con Blog: Day 1

For additional coverage, make sure to tune into theRPGsite, where there are more pics and commentary! Thanks for reading!

1:29 pm: Just a quick update--the D&D Attack Wing minis are on display here, and look awesome!

Also, Artisan Dice (1455) has some incredible dice of both bone and wood!

More later...off to eat!

11:30am: We woke up extra-early this AM, because it's Gen Con! We wait all year for this. We made good time down, grabbed our press badges, and had an awesome breakfast (the most important meal of Gen Con!). We managed to get into the Exhibit Hall early, but oh, the sea of gamer humanity outside those doors!

Once we were inside, it was definitely the calm before the storm, though lines of early entrants were already forming at booths such as Fantasy Flight, AEG, and Pazio. Speaking of Paizo, it's tough not to be impressed with the effort they've thrown towards their presence here. Banners of their iconic characters and games are all over, and the Sagamore Ballroom was chock-full of Pathfinder Society Gamers:

Fans were eagerly grabbing up both the Advanced Class Guide and Pathfinder Skull & Shackles Expansion for their card game:

What of Wizards of the Coast? They have an entire back of an exhibit hall apart for their presence. There were quite a few gamers playing 5e, but not too big of a line to buy the Player's Handbook--at least at 10:45 today, when these pics were taken.

I made a beeline to Inkwell Ideas, where I checked out their new DungeonMorph Dice (nice!), and got a special convention deal for Cityographer:

Also, I continued my streak of seeing a super-awesome Darth Vader:

More this afternoon! Back in I go! Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Gen Con Blog: Gen Con Eve

It's time for Gen Con again, and I'm back for another year of coverage--including plenty of pictures. We picked up our buddy Jeff of RPG Circus today, and decided to head downtown to the convention center.

The airport was absolutely full of gamers! Say what you will, but we can usually sense our own. I really like Indy's airport, and it has plenty of signs for Gen Con, including an awesome floor sign welcoming gamers to Indy:

Inside the convention center, there was a huge line for registration and badge pick-up. The Gen Con staff and volunteers were legion, however, and seemed to be moving things along as quickly as possible. 24-hour registration was a good move, I think:

So many, many banners advertising companies. I love these.

Gamers are already gaming, of course--anywhere there's a spot:

Of course, D&D 5e is going to be one of the big draws:

Of course, the Pathfinder area is HUGE, and has a massive presence here, too:

Plenty more in the days and the weeks to come.