The Gen Con 2016 Experience

I don’t even know where to begin with talking about this convention, if I’m to be completely honest. This wasn’t just my first Gen Con, but the first convention period that I’ve ever been to. Considering I’m relatively new to the RPG hobby ( about 4-5 years now) it was a little intimidating to be running games for people I’ve never met or even spoken to. Alas, I made a commitment and within that fear I found unabashed excitement for the endeavor ahead.

Three o’clock in the morning on Wednesday, my three companions and I (one of which being Fancy Duckie) set out for the long drive from Boston to Indianapolis. Fourteen hours and some change later, we arrive at the Hyatt Regency right across from the convention center. I had a meeting with Pelgrane Press at 6 and we were slightly late and tension was high. I take off in a near sprint, although I have absolutely zero idea as to where I’m going, to find the Pelgrane Press meeting room. Sadly, I missed all of the advice for running at a con but the room was still full. After the crew was done wrapping up the lecture/discussion, they were making up the packages that we needed to run our games.

A little disappointed, I decided to chat up some familiar (though only via internet) faces. Among that were people like Wade Rockett, Simon Rogers, Cat Tobin, Kevin Kulp, whom I’d known outside of shop,  Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan and Rob Heinsoo. While packets were being made up, Robin D. Laws was playing a little game with those in the room to give out our GM T-shirts. All I can say is, “Wow.” What a stellar team Pelgrane has running the show, not even just at cons but in general. Both Simon Rogers and Cat Tobin had recognized me once I introduced myself and it was an incredible feeling, it made me feel like I had accomplished something with this blog! It’s really inspired me wedge my foot in the door of the industry and scream, “Wait! I have more to say!”

After introducing myself to the top dogs, it only made sense to turn to my brothers in arms, the GMs that stand with me to take on this convention. Mostly everybody was busy demanding the attention of Rob or Gareth, and this is where I found Aaron Roudabush, another well known GM in the community. We’d had a couple of exchanges on Twitter and the 13th Age Facebook group occasionally but never a conversation. In short: What a fantastic guy. I’m very excited to work with and be friends with him as time goes on, a brilliant mind for gaming and a very personable man outside of that.


From left to right: Fancy Duckie, me, Paul Hastings and Jessica Hurd excited to finally be in Indy


And with that, It was time to sleep and wrangle this beast of a convention. Before my first game, I had recalled a promise I had made before the convention and attempted to wade through the ocean of people that was the exhibit hall to give Mark Morrison from Campaign Coins a quick visit. It was exactly that, we said hello, we shook hands, and then before I knew it I was almost late to the game I was supposed to run.

Having just got there in time, I set up, collected my tickets and sailed that boat as if it was my own home table. It was seriously surprising how easy it was to run a game for strangers. Perhaps it’s the subconscious knowing that we’re all nerds and we’re all here to do the same thing: play pretend and have a good time. After that first game, all of the intimidation evaporated into thin air. Every game was a blast, even the ones that were short handed on players and I felt were a little awkward. I had only three players for one of my Into the Underworld games and four for another. Seeing how those were two hour blocks, explanation of the rules and character completion ate up a lot of time.

If I’m going to be completely honest, I apologize for a less than premium experience to those players. If you’re reading this, hunt me down on social media and I’ll be more than happy to round up some troops to do a game on Roll20 to make up for that. To be clear for those who weren’t involved: I still received praise for a fun and engaging game after both sessions and it’s only me who wasn’t satisfied with them. It wasn’t to my standard of game and I believe that there’s some degree of compensation owed from my end.

Outside of those two, every session was mind blowingly good, a truly great example of what 13th Age can be. Thanks to all of the people who played in my games, you truly made this convention worth the trip!


My handy, dandy Pelgrane Press shirt

Without a doubt, I ran more games than I played. I saw this convention more as a service to be done rather than a trip for me to have fun on my own. Running games was the focus of the trip in its entirety. That said, the games I did get to play were great. I played in a Star Wars Miniatures game for a mass dogfight over Coruscant. It was four on four, Fancy Duckie was on my team with another gentleman and his six (I’m guessing) year old son. Now, most people would be a little agitated at a child being involved in a competitive game that they actually payed for, and this guy was more than aware of that. Me, personally, I couldn’t care less. If it’s a fun game, win or lose, it’s a fun freaking game. But, man, did this kid steal the show! He was a riot, funny as all hell and completely engaged in what was happening. His dad kept apologizing for him and I truly felt bad because I was having such a great time and there was simply no need. Easily one of the two high lights of Gen Con outside of my own games.


Game board for Battle of Coruscant

The second most memorable moment? Well, that’s thanks to Mark Morrison. We had been dodging each other the whole damn convention, him busy with the Campaign Coins booth and me with making 13th Age the best presented game sessions in my power. My final game on Saturday night, which had two reoccurring players in it, shout out to Jeff Fuller and his buddy on that one, I received a message from Mark via Facebook mid-game. Now, I know that it’s against everything I stand for to check my phone during a game, and for anyone else I really wouldn’t have. I thoroughly apologized to my players but there was indeed a but of a time crunch to respond. Long story short, I ended up playing a 13th Age game with him and Wade Rockett.

I speak in a lot of hyperbole in most everything I talk about, but that aside, Mark Morrison is easily one of the most animated GMs I have ever seen in my entire life. It was stunning. Alongside that, the story wasn’t lacking and characterization among the other players was both entertaining and engaging. It blew me away, I was actually the dud of the group! Maybe I was taken aback by how great everyone else involved was, or maybe I was just being shy around two big names that I look up to, but holy hell, did I feel useless. That said, although not exactly sure how to engage with the story and other players, it was probably the most entertaining game for the whole week.

As far as con loot goes, I owe the world to Fancy Duckie. She loves me enough to the point where she bought me FOUR 13th Age supplements: Eyes of the Stone Thief, Shadows of Eldolan, High Magic and Low Cunning and The Strangling Sea. Buying all those came with a free copy of the Free RPG Day adventures, one for Night’s Black Agents and the other for 13th Age. With my GM swag bag came a new game from Robin D. Laws called Fear Itself. Not entirely sure what that’s about, but the art is great and I love horror so it should be interesting.

Having absolutely adored the Star Wars Miniatures battle I had, I figured it’d be a good idea to invest some money into a similar game: Attack X-Wing. A big fan of space dogfights but not a huge fan of competitive games, I wasn’t sure how much I’d like this, especially since it’s more of a “that with the deepest pocket wins” type game. I played it a day before writing this post with a friend and what a blast it was (pun totally intended).

Some more immaterial loot came from the personal interactions. After more conflicting schedules I was able to meet up with Ro from Gamersplane, though at a very late hour when I was thoroughly exhausted (and maybe a tid bit buzzed). Another fantastic personality with a wonderful view of what the industry is like. I actually learned quite a bit from our too short, hour and a half conversation. The next day was when I was able to meet up with Michael from The RPG Academy. Again, a little bit of a rushed interaction but equally as enjoyable. I was able to cover a little more ground from this meeting as Senda and Emily from She’s A Super Geek and Kevin Smith from Mevlin Smif’s Geekery were also there. It was an immensely pleasant surprise! While waiting for my last group to show up, I found Dani from Drunken Geekery playing a 13th Age game that was wrapping up just as mine was starting. So many awesome people at this convention, a truly pleasurable time meeting up with everyone and being further acquainted.


Showing Cat Tobin and Simon Rogers the way of METAL!

Overall, this convention was probably in the top five experiences of my whole life. The folks at Pelgrane Press made me feel like I was a true part of the family. Although I may have been a little overworked at times, it was one hundred percent worth it. It was a little sad to come back home, but much needed since I was thoroughly exhausted. This trip was hugely expensive but I hope I can come back next year. Even if it’s not in 2017’s budget, this will not be my last Gen Con by any means. Thanks to everybody who helped make me a functioning part of this convention, it was an enlightening experience.

And remember…

Stay Metal \m/

7 Comments on “The Gen Con 2016 Experience

  1. Had a great time, that’s why we came back for more. Pitching 13th Age to our local group based on your games. Would love to join a ROLL20 sometime, or now that I know your into Star Wars mini’s, TableTop Simulator has good support for both Imperial Assault and X Wing.

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. Pingback: Adventures at GenCon2016! | fancyduckie

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  6. I still tell people about that Saturday Night 13th Age Session with you, Mark Morrison, and Wade! Likely, close to, if not THE, best session I’ve ever had!! A Gambino Goblin, who knew I had it in me?! #StayFrosty

    Liked by 1 person

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