New conventions are fun. They’re also worrisome. You’ll never know what you’ll find out there. Let’s just say it can be a little Deadwood and sometimes in that $2 extra way. A few years ago, I went to this dud of a convention. The con staff was terrible. Even though they invited me as a guest, they couldn’t seem to find my badge. I spent nearly 4 hours jumping from person to person until I got that laminated slip of paper that allowed me to enter the areas where the panels were held. The hotel had elevators that wouldn’t work, or you had to go up to the third floor to used them, maybe both. It’s a blur now. Even when they were working, they were always crowded, and it could take 45 minutes to get back to your room. It was a progression of panels, room parties, and awkward conversations, and I hated nearly every minute of it.
I’ve also had great times. Most conventions fall somewhere in-betweens. Now I used to run cons, or facilitate the running of cons, and I have a lot of respect for people who do it. Nerds (myself included) can be hard to please. So let’s just say I’m a sympathetic observer, with a mind toward professionalism, but not without the occasional bug up my ass.
Comicpalooza is the real deal. It is full of the awesome. And if you get a chance, go. My wife. My non-gamer, “you’re a total fucking nerd, baby” wife, liked Comicpalooza. It had roller derby, costumes, and steampunk jewelry. I knew she liked the first two. The last was a surprise. I’m not complaining.
Last time, I talked about the weird of the show. The things I found askew, all rather benign. Now it is time to look at the wondrous.
A little full disclosure first. I can’t say with certainty that I will be going back next year. It’s the same weekend as my beloved Enfilade! A universe of old dudes, Roman infantry writ in shaped lead and acrylic, and terrain tables swirling around its axis: The Boys.
The Boys are friends at their best. In the vernacular of the isles, they’re the type of blokes that always give you shit, a quick salute (of the most obscene sort), and are quick to help you down a pint…and then another…and then something harder. That and they speak all of nerd dialects you love the most. And they listen, laugh, and are entirely supportive, even when you are being a fool. Everyone needs friends like that. That’s the rub, and the only reason I would not go to Comicpalooza next year.
But enough of my personal idiosyncrasies and confessions. Onward to the awesome.
I do love my old school D&D. Sure, I’m a modern guy with all the toys and baggage, but take me back to the days of yester-year and I enter of mode of consciousness none of the pills in your medicine cabinet or that hollowed-out gargoyle you keep on your bookshelf can rival. When Dave “Diesel” LaForce brought his art collection into the good ol’ 570, I nearly squee’d. We all did. It was not the manliest moment of the show.
They came in old frames, nice ones, with the character that you can find in second-hand stores, the ones that make you silently wonder why no one seems to make them anymore. Roughly a score of art, maybe more, a large chunk from Deities and Demigods, included my beloved Loviatar. Sweet, wicked, bare-breasted Loviatar. Along with her was the cover to The Dragon #2, Steve Bissette illos for an earth elemental and a bullywug toy, Spelljammer originals, and Dragonlance maps. It was a walk though gaming’s past and I was grateful to be so close. It’s crown, though, was the art on the cover of the OD&D Greyhawk supplement, the original book of “broken” new options, so much of what people consider core to the D&D experience made its first appearance in that little, brilliantly crazy, book. Diesel rescued it from the trash; the noblest of dumpster dives in gaming history, if you ask me.
The collection should be in a museum. Short of that, it’s in Diesel’s good hands, but it should come to Gen Con so Indy can bask in its splendor. Just say’n.
You can bring all the classic art you want, if the show sucks, the show sucks. And like the truth that every RPG is as good as its GM, every show is only as good as its staff. George Comits, the fella who ran the gaming section, and his GMs and staff are some of the best around. And I know what I’m talking about. Friendly, helpful, and more than eager to get people in games, George and his crew are the epitome of what it takes to ensure that people stop seeing gaming geeks as freaks, and realize they are just a group of fun-loving geeks. I don’t know if I said it enough at the show, George and crew, but thank you.
George’s professionalism, hospitality, and fun was nearly matched by everyone I met who helped run that show, volunteers and all. There wasn’t a grumpypuss in the lot. That was unexpected and welcome.
Of course, the games were fun. I played some Pathfinder Society, ran some Pathfinder Society, and participated in a playtest of the upcoming D&D Lair Assault. It wasn’t without some hick-ups. My Pathfinder wizard (Ezren the Diplomat, with a 8 Cha, no ranks, and a knack for saying the worst possible thing in any situation) nearly died because the night watch decided to go exploring. Hello! I’m the fucking wizard. I need rest to get back spells you fucking yahoos! In another game, I had a cleric who was loathed to heal. Let’s just say that this kind of activity will not win the D&D Championship. But it did create many fun and funny moments, and allowed to be an ass in the charming way that I enjoy.
(Yeah that’s what I’m calling it…got a problem?)
But let’s get on to some topical game news nitty-gritty. Chris Perkins ran me though a playtest of Lair Assault. If you’re not familiar with the premise, check it out here. Basically, this kind of game was tailor-made for folks like me. Quick, deadly, and to the point. I loved it, and I had Chris as a DM, so that’s like starting your comic book collection with Watchmen. But one of the things that surprised me was it actually had a fun and compelling story—a nice smash and grab (along with the repercussions), and fully versed in Forgotten Realms fun. We all died under the demented gaze of a laughing Mr. Perkins, but had a great time doing it. Well at least I did. If the playtest is any judge of the program, I think people will be pleased. Just warn your casual gamers away from it. You have to be able to face (fake) death and not flinch. I love that, but a lot of people I know play D&D to triumph over evil, again and again.
Conventions are about the experiences you have. A good convention is warm, accepting, fun, a tad irreverent, and must feature excellent, challenging, and surprising conversation in this bar, that nook, this hallway at a moment’s notice. For me, they must have games, but that just speaks to my own proclivities. A modern convention must have something for every sort of geek under the sun.
Guess what show has it. Ask my wife. It was her favorite show ever.