Monday, August 12, 2013

Gen Con Preview: 20 Booths/Events to Visit

I'll be returning to Gen Con Indy after a year hiatus, and I absolutely cannot wait to get back. There's something about Gen Con that makes a lot of the unpleasant bits of the hobby fade away, while accentuating the creativity, love, and joy of gaming. I plan on being there Friday and Saturday, and possibly Sunday. While planning out this year's festivities, I again wanted to highlight a number of booths and related events I found interesting or intriguing.

But before we get to the 20 highlighted booths for this year's Gen Con Indy, I wanted to take one more opportunity to invite everyone to our Gen Con seminar, the 2013 GM's Jam. If you've been to this event before, you know it's usually a very fun give-and-take with a variety of Game Masters, where GMs talk about table issues and get advice from the panel and audience alike on how to fix it.

The seminar is free to attend, and there are still some spots available, so please stop by. It's Saturday, SEM1345325, 11:00am-12:30pm, in Room 242 of the Convention Center. The panel will include myself, Phil Vecchione from Gnome Stew and Engine Publishing, Chris Sniezak of the Misdirected Mark podcast, and fellow GM and blogger Steve Sigety. I've always come away from this seminar with new and great ideas on how to do things at my table. Whether you're a novice or veteran, there's no pressure, and we'd love to have you!

I'd also be remiss if I didn't offer up what I think of as my keys to a successful Gen Con Indy:

-Don't Overbook. This is one of the most common mistakes I see folks make at Gen Con every year, and I think that's because there are so many awesome games and seminars possible. But if you're running or playing in events 12 hours a day, you can lose out on touring the exhibit hall, finding booth demos, or just taking it easy for a bit or having a nice, sit-down dinner one night (which is a great chance to relax and hang out with your pals). It's easy to get overwhelmed at Gen Con, and then you're reading online a week later about all this cool stuff you missed out on because you decided to run four 12-hours marathon sessions of Aftermath. Keep your schedule a bit more open--let the Gen Con experience come to you, as it were.

-Keep An Open Mind In The Exhibit Hall. There are a lot of companies you may not know know in the exhibit hall, and new products that have somehow escaped wide notice, even in this day of micro-coverage and all-consuming social media promotion. Make time to stroll about--Gen Con is your chance to interact with gamers and companies you haven't met yet, and find something new. The Paizo and Mayfair booths will still be there, I promise!

-Be Cool (Nerds)! There's been a lot of discussion online lately about appropriate, and what should and should not be regulated. In 99.9% of situations, the cure is simply to be polite, respectful, and realize your values aren't the values held by everyone else (as a devout Christian, I can tell you this is something you learn very quickly at Gen Con!). Don't make unwanted advances, ask before you take a photo, and keep your hands to yourself.

-Hydrate! This sounds like cliche health-pamphlet advice, but seriously, keep the water flowing into your body. You'll lose water quickly walking around (and it can be warm in the convention hall), and if you aren't careful, you can head for a crash. Going hand in hand with this is the reminder to eat. I've not taken care of myself before, and felt like garbage on Day 3.

With that out of the way, here are 20 booths and events (picked out of many, many worthy entries) that you won't want to miss:

20 Booths/Events Not To Be Missed At Gen Con Indy

1) Alea Tools (Booth #204): For a decade now, Alea Tools' Magnetic Status Markers have been absolutely indispensable at my game table--for marking enemies, showing a character is poisoned/bleeding/confused/etc., or as a quick representation of a host of bad guys. Alea should have all new color status markers at their booth this year, so I'll look forward to checking them out and seeing how I can incorporate them into my upcoming RuneQuest game.

2) Paizo Publishing (Booth #203/403): Paizo has continued to expand their Gen Con presence, both in terms of sponsorship, the exhibit hall, and organized play. This year, Paizo has a host of Gen Con releases, including Mythic Adventures for Pathfinder, the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, new adventure paths, and much, much more. There's almost certainly going to be a line early at this booth, so keep that in mind when planning your visit.

3) Posthuman Studios (Booth #367): Posthuman not only produces the Eclipse Phase RPG, but they're gearing up for the release of their first card game, Shinobi Clans. They'll have some beta copies at the booth, and will be running demo games continually. Ninjas are always fun, and this is a chance to check out a new game that might otherwise be off your radar for now.

4) Inkwell Ideas (Booth #449): One of my favorite RPG accessory/resource companies makes its return to Gen Con once more, and they should have some goodies for attendees. The convention coupon book should have an offer for a free mini-deck of their Encounter Decks, and a discount off a full deck of the same. Additionally, they'll have their Creature Decks, which were also part of their successful Kickstarter earlier in the year.

5) Chaosium (Booth #501): Chaosium is as active as they have been in years, and their Gen Con presences seems to support that. Fresh off the funded Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Kickstarter, Chaosium has some swag at their booth for those participating in any sort of Chaosium demo, including some collectible coupons/bookmarks. I know I want to take a peek at Magic World and Mythic Iceland, both of which should be at the show.

6) Geek Chic (Booth #549/649): Long wowing Gen Con attendees with their line of top shelf gaming furniture, Geek Chic's star is shining even brighter since they appeared on Shark Tank earlier this year. They always have a great Gen Con display, and I'd count on them to be especially on their game this year.

7) Indie Game Development Network (Booth #571): This is one of those booths with a lot of creators and companies represented, including Obatron Productions with their Savage Worlds/systemless tribal setting, Tunse'ai, the Spark RPG for you storyteller gamers, John Wick's products, and much more.

8) Cubicle 7/Moon Design/Design Mechanism/Legacy of Mana (Booth #643): This booth packs a lot of punch. If you're following along with our upcoming RuneQuest 6th Edition campaign, this is the booth you'll want to check out. Cubicle 7 itself also has several new releases coming out for Gen Con, including Victoriana 3rd Edition and the much-awaited Rocket Age. The C7 booth is always chock-full of associated companies and designers, and well worth the time.

9) Pinnacle/FASA/Paradigm Concepts (Booth #619): This is another booth that features multiple gaming companies. The biggest release here has to be Deadlands Noir, which appears to be headed for a very big Gen Con debut. If there isn't a lot of chatter on this product, I'd be very surprised.

10) Patrick Rothfuss and the Tinker's Packs (Booth #661): Patrick Rothfuss is one of my favorite fantasy authors, and he should be very visible at Gen Con this year. Not only will he be signing books and selling , but I heard about a really cool game his booth will be selling--Boss Monster, which looks like an absolute blast. I'll be looking forward to checking it out, as well as seeing what they have from the eclectic Tinker's Packs site.

11) Fantasy Flight Games (#811/819/1111/1119): We can expect the Stars Wars products to again be a huge draw, and like anything Star Wars, you can expect a line for anything you want to pick up. That's just how it is at Fantasy Flight, year after year, for whatever new hotness they've announced.

12) Palladium Books (Booth #1025): This is a very big year for Palladium at Gen Con, as they'll be demoing and showing off prototypes of their big upcoming Robotech RPG Tactics game. If you're a fan of older Palladium games, I've also occasionally found rare sourcebooks for those games on their shelves at the convention. Stop by, check out a free demo, and see what Palladium has going.

13) DriveThruRPG/Numenera (Booth #1201): Numenera is the big reason to stop by this booth, as Monte Cook's latest published work will be available. I'll be honest, the game didn't quite sound like my cup of tea, but positive word of mouth is enough for me to check it out.

14) Cheapass Games (Booth #1359): Casual fans of Cheapass Games may not know they have not had a large convention presence in years. This year, however, they are back at Gen Con, which means some of the best, most affordable board and card games going will be available. It sounds as if they'll be running demos of their upcoming Deadwood Studios game, which sounds like like a lot of fun. Welcome back, guys!

15) Morland Studios (Booth #1449): With Reaper Minis largely abandoning Gen Con the last two years, I've increasingly had to look elsewhere for my minis browsing fix. Iron Wind Metals (Booth #903/1103) is usually a good bet, but I'm intrigued by Morland, who I don't know much about. I do know they are debuting their Order of the Stick line Gen Con weekend, and they look to have some pretty cool sculpts besides. I'll look forward to comparing them to other show miniatures booths, such as Wyrd Miniatures (Booth #931), and Impact! Miniatures (Booth #1720).

16) Gamescience (Booth #1803): Sure, there are plenty of dice manufacturers at Gen Con--Crystal Caste, Chessex, Q-Workshop--but whether you're looking for sharp-edged precision dice or something strange and wonderful, Gamescience is the place. If you've been wanting to pick up that d3, d5, d14, or something else that isn't in the standard dice sets, this should be your stop. They also carry standard dice sets, but this is a great booth for picking up dice you didn't know existing, but can't possibly live without.

17) New World Mugs and Woods (Booth #1824): This booth is probably the least gaming-related on the list, but the mugs and woodwork on this site are absolutely fantastic. What Game Master wouldn't want to preside at their table with an exotic hardwood mug? It's not cheap, but that's what Christmas lists are for.

18) OSR Publications (Booth #2033): You didn't think we were going to leave this out, did you? A nice selection of neoclassical and traditional old school renaissance RPGs should be available at this booth. Pacesetter Games seems to be the main point of contact, but I can't wait to see the mix of old school products available here.

19) Gen Con Writer's Symposium: This isn't a booth, but if you're an aspiring writer, here's your chance meet some of the bestselling sci-fi and fantasy authors working today. The Symposium track features over 110 hours of panels and workshops, and includes names from Brandon Sanderson to Patrick Rothfuss. Check out the Symposium's website for much more.

20) Tablets and Titans: This also isn't a booth per se, but one of the many games available in the First Exposure Playtest Hall, where gamers can check out new and upcoming games. Tablets and Titans just launched its Kickstarter, and is an RPG meant to be run on tablets (both iPad and Android). If you find the idea as interesting as I do, you can check out the demo in the Playtest Hall Friday at 10am and 2pm, and Saturday/Sunday at 10am.

Of course, there are many other fantastic booths to visit, and the above list is just a sample of the Gen Con awesomeness that awaits!


Unknown said...

Alea shows up at our local conventions occasionally here in Denver, and recently I picked up a new product which are numbered magnetic 'gems' - they stack with their magnetic status markers, and now you've got a nice looking orc 1-10 to engage your party with.

And if you're worried about being mugged, they have a nice weight in your hand and probably are worth +2 damage in hand to hand combat. :)

Kaiju said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kaiju said...

Great list!

I didn't know about Shinobi Clans. I'll be sure to check that out.

mortellan said...

I hope to run into you there, Zach.

Zachary Houghton said...

I hope so, Mortellan! If you aren't doing anything, stop by the GM's Jam Seminar on Saturday!