This was an amazing year at GenCon! I’ve talked with other publishers/fans/creators/random people on the street and heard the same thing. Short Version: I didn’t feel good the whole time, but the convention as a whole delivered in such a great way! All around, probably my favorite time at GenCon thus far. It also had record attendance this year of 56,614 (versus 49,530 last year). So, let me tell you how year five went!
We had a great booth team (maybe even a few too many people) this year. Thanks to Kristen and Kitty for grabbing the majority of booth time, but also thanks to Lee Langston, John D. Kennedy, Carol Darnell and Josh Vogt for stepping in to take some of the weight off them. We set up the booth slightly different this year too. We stuck with the table in front and one in the back, but we didn’t have two book racks in the back this year (the other one was being used some another Studio 2 booth), so we threw our floor banner on top of the table (which helped with visibility) and stacked all the books on the front table. When all was said and done, we couldn’t have fit another title on the table since we have so many! It was exciting to see everything laid out in that way and it made it easy for anyone coming to the booth to see everything we had available, so that was cool too. AMP: Year One took up the space of four books really, though, and even got it’s own little banner just for it. It was the obvious star of the show as the new release of the con.
I actually wasn’t at the booth that much this year, so every time I did get there, I was bombarded with books to sign, interviews to do and hands to shake. We did the Cheese Weasel program again, which is a great way to generate traffic for your booth, by the way. A great little scavenger hunt program, and most of the players are REALLY excited to hear about what you have for sale (there are a few bad apples who just want their card punched though, but they are easily mitigated by just punching their card right away and not dealing with them. LOL).
So, I had four panels planned! I only made it to one. My Thursday panel fell at the same time as a game I had to run and then I started feeling sick about halfway through the con, which made me miss my last two as well. The one I did make, however, was the Kids and Gaming panel and it was very awesome! It was myself, Enrique Bertran (RPGKids), Amanda Valentine (Little Wizards) and Matthew McFarland (Veteran designer who games with kids all the time). We had a lot of great questions from the audience of about 15 people and I learned a lot about my fellow panelists and their design ideas/concepts. It was fun to talk about a topic I’m passionate about with others who are just as passionate. I wish I had made it to the others, but such is life (and GenCon).
Camp Myth: The RPG was up for an award this weekend at the ENnies for Best Family Game, but was unfortunately beat out by some very worthy contenders. FATE Accelerated ended up with the Gold ENnie and the Hobbit Tales with the Silver. To even be nominated is a huge honor, and it was a pleasant surprise to hear how the crowd reacted when Camp Myth: The RPG was announced as one. Most of the audience cheered and whistled, which was very heartwarming. So, even though I didn’t win, others in the industry are starting to notice this little upstart of mine and appreciate what it is that we do. Plus, back to back nominations counts for a lot methinks.
After the ENnies (or right before the end), I ducked out to attend a birthday party being run for my friend Matthew McFarland. I really didn’t feel good, but I wasn’t going to let him enter a new decade of life without sending him off with a cheerful hug. I ended up meeting a ton of other people I had never met before too, which was the awesome part. Neall Raemon Price, Renee Ritchie, Ian Watson and Tanya Cohen-Diaz just to name a few. The cake was pretty tasty too!
Games I Ran
This year I ran the most games of any GenCon I have attended, which was exhausting but awesome.
Thursday was my Part-Time Gods game that went amazing. It was the same adventure I usually run, called the Assault, but the players got into character so well that they flew through a lot of my usual obstacles. Especially since someone used one of the new gods introduced in Divine Instruments that I didn’t realize unbalances the adventure in favor of the pantheon in a crazy way. Good thing I know how to GM on the fly. It was a great game and meant I finally got to game with Neal Tanner and JT (short for Jewel Thief – Not his real name, but his name bag was always turns around so I never caught his actual name), which was a pleasure.
That same night we had two AMP: Year One games on the schedule: One at 6pm and one at 8pm and both were sold out. But we had 4 additional players show up hoping to try out the game. If it was just one extra player, I would have said no, but I couldn’t turn my back on 4, so I ran a pickup game of AMP: Year One and actually got a chance to use my brand new adventure I had just finished the weekend before. It focused on the events after the bee attacks that occur in the setting and everyone had a ball! It was a dark, mysterious adventure that was also an interesting antithesis to the crazy, high-action sessions Lee was running. Proves the game can be run in a variety of different ways for sure.
Friday I didn’t run anything, but I did have one of my GMs drop out of running the Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade game on Saturday, so I took it over. I had a great group who really got into character and I kept it mostly investigation since there were 7 players in this session. Really there was 5, but Ronnie and Phillip wanted to play in every Wu Xing game that weekend so I let them sneak in. While running the system, I could tell a couple people didn’t “get” it entirely, while the others dug it a lot (especially my repeat players who pretty much have the whole system mastered at this point). Exciting game and everyone had a good time though.
Saturday was my kids day and I ran back to back sessions of Mermaid Adventures and Camp Myth: The RPG. Both were 2-hour sessions and pretty packed. Mermaid Adventures had an entire group of 9-year old girls and we ran the Queen’s Pearl adventure from the book. I think my favorite random character we got out of it was a Fishfolk with a red afro, red eyes and claws. Freaky right? Fun time had by all. I even had one father/daughter combo stay over from Mermaid Adventures to Camp Myth: The RPG cause they were having so much fun! The Camp Myth: The RPG game went really well too. We were joined by a couple of young veteran Pathfinder players and a cute 5-year old who played a character with her mom. We ran the Phoenix Watching adventure, which is from the books, and we had a very fun, scatterbrained time of it all.
Worst thing is I regret not taking pics of my gaming groups. If anyone did and I just didn’t notice, send me some pics!
Sales this year were my best in five years. To give you an idea, my first year sold amazingly well (about 100 total books) and my second year sold about half as much. Years three and four were able to get into the 70s and 80s, which was great, but 2014 hit 120 books. We brought 50 copies of AMP: Year One and sold out! Combined with a smattering of sales from all our other games, we had the best sales weekend in our company history. I attribute this to a combination of Kristen being a pro with Third Eye Games product now, the new hotness of AMP: Year One and the ENnie nomination for Camp Myth: The RPG.
I want to call out the extraordinary sales for Mermaid Adventures this year too. Two years ago when I launched the game, I remember people walking by and saying “Heh, look at that. Mermaid Adventures, heheh” in a very mocking way. This year, I was walking back to my hotel and someone on the street pointed at me and yelled “Woot! Mermaid Adventures!” Talk about a complete 180, right? Mermaid Adventures is a force to be reckoned with!
I tried oh so very hard to find time to hang out with people this year, but it didn’t happen as much as I would have liked. I did get to chill with the IGDN members on Wednesday at our hopefully now-annual social, Andy Hopp (Low Life) on Thursday, obviously Matthew McFarland and Michelle Lyons-McFarland (A Tragedy in 5 Acts) on Friday, Jerry Grayson (Khepera Publishing) on Saturday, and Mario Dongu (Gamer Chick) and Daniel Jones on Sunday. Great times, guys!
Of special note I want to thank Ryan Schoon (Edara), Bill Keyes (Widening Gyre), Marc Huete (Eclipse Phase) and Josh Vogt (a bunch of stuff) for hanging with me. I don’t always get to meet my freelancers in person and it was a blast. Bill (and his lovely wife) checked up on me to make sure I was feeling better throughout the con, which I appreciate immensely, and Ryan was the best ride from the airport/lunchmate/new friend I could have imagined. Marc’s excitement was contagious and got me even more excited for what 3EG has in store in the future. Josh was the coolest guy ever too. I could learn a lot from how he carries himself, totally.
I also got to meet Margaret Weis and Cristi from MWP in person, which was a pleasure. Putting faces with names always helps. Got to hang with a few other Firefly RPG team-members at the IGDN Social too, and just talking shop with them proved how awesome it is to work on such a project. I want to throw out a big thanks to Monica Valentinelli, as well, for taking time out of her booth break-down to talk with me. She’s a pleasure to work with, and I couldn’t be a luckier freelancer at this very moment.
One other quick mention too is that I was told by another designer, whom I respect for both his enthusiasm and creativity, that I was a big reason why he became a designer. It was one of those moments where all I could do was blink. I didn’t know how to process this. This was genuinely the exact thing I wanted to do when I set out to make games in 2008. I wanted to inspire others and be a positive force in the industry. I could have cried, but I held it back, but yeah… wow… just wow. I couldn’t have been more humbled by anyone.
Adventures of Me and Maeve
If you remember my report from last year, then you met my biggest (in terms of excitement) and smallest (in terms of size) fan in the world, Maeve. She came back this year, a year older and a lot wiser. I didn’t get to see her as much as I would have wanted, but I was away from the booth (which is usually Eloy-Central) this year. I got to talk to her about what games she’s playing now, her trip to Disney and just life in general. I have to say she’s got awesome parents, imho.
Best part is that Maeve and her mom made awesome loom mermaids for me! I got a really awesome necklace that had her a mermaid, me as a merman and the mermaid from the cover with the magnifying glass. I wore it all weekend and got a lot of compliments. She also made a bunch of mermaids for me to give to others who bought copies of Mermaid Adventures this weekend. The other kids were impressed by how much work she put into them (and so was I)!
Maeve and her family bought a copy of AMP: Year One too, which I was told she is already itching to play. I really hope she keeps coming back every year and I can watch her grow into probably one of the coolest kids in the world.
Even with me feeling sick, GenCon 2014 will go down in the record books. I tell people all the time that if you want to be in the industry, you NEED to come to GenCon. It’s where everything happens. All the ups and downs can be experienced here, from great games to amazing players and awesome moments. This year did not disappoint, that’s for sure. I met so many people I didn’t know (and a lot of them sought me out to meet me, which was also pretty cool). Loved this year!
Until next time.