Gaming Convention Review

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Origins 2013 Report – Day 2: First Full Day

My second day at Origins – my first full day in truth has been a mixed bag, much like the day before.  It started fairly early because we wanted to get a good breakfast before being there when the doors open for the dealers room/vendor hall.  Before leaving for breakfast, however, I wanted to check out my tickets since I had not heard from Customer Service about them.  It took a matter of 15 minutes to get my tickets, which they had to re-print, and cash in my generics for chips.  A very good start to the day.

Once again, despite the silliness of the bureaucracy, they traversed it well and took care of me.  Bureaucracy can be bad, and in a con this size, it really could have destroyed my experience.  However, they have very competent people handling things so it was far less problematic than it could have been.  They did a great job handling things.

We had a good breakfast at a place called Sunny Street Café.  Once we arrived at the doors  of the vendor hall, the crowd was building up considerably.  The dealer room was awesome.  Not quite as  big as GenCon but still very awesome.  One of the very unique things they did this year was a coupon book.  I got the impression that this was a relatively new thing for Origins.  Instead of a swag bag, they gave out a coupon book with various freebies and discounts that you can obtain at the various booths in the vendor hall.  Free dice, free tote bags, 10% off this, or free expansions if you buy the core game.  It was a considerable booklet and there were some pretty cool stuff you could pick up.

I set out to schmooze with many of the gaming companies and passed out many of my business cards for The Gamer’s Codex.  Many were very receptive of our concept and open to working with us.  I had no expectation of anyone handing me review copies right away, as we are still a young site and it was only Thursday.   Many of the smaller companies need to know they are going to make their money before thinking about giving out free copies to a single guy they don’t know from Adam.

I also scanned for prospects of personal purchases.  There were a lot of cool games out there, but I wanted to be very selective in what I got involved with.  Shadowrun 5th edition was released this weekend, for instance.  I have enjoyed the times I have played that game but it’s not one of those games I really find myself getting involved in.  The Star Trek Attack Wing game looked really awesome.  There were expansions for Zombicide, a game from Steve Jackson called Castellan, and a variety of small press board games that looked really sharp.

I had a game at 1 pm, but I was able to get in a demo of Mage Wars before my game.  These guys are very cool and have a very cool concept behind their game.  They were very interested in our web site, as well as MACE in November where we will be holding a Mage Wars tournament.  They were more than willing to throw us a lot of support and I really look forward to working with them.  Be sure to watch for our review of Mage Wars.

My first game was a Call of Cthulhu 6th edition game set in World War II.  I had recently ran a WWII game at MACE 2012 and we had a blast.  I wanted to have that kind of experience as well.  Origins has a dedicated group that runs a majority of their Cthulhu events.  They have a great set up in one single room with mood lighting, music and props.  They call themselves Rogue Cthulhu.  They looked like a good outfit that knew what they were doing and I really looked forward to what they had to offer.  Be sure to watch for our interview with Marx Stead, head of Rogue Cthulhu.

Unfortunately, the game did not live up to my expectations.  The Keeper was very unenthusiastic about the game he was running and he was also very hard to hear.  He kept his head down below his Keeper Screen and never really spoke in an acceptable volume for a GM at a con.  I am sorry, but if you have this incredible ambiance set up, a group of very enthusiastic players and a great overall mood for the game, you need to show a little enthusiasm.  The group of players were great and had great potential for role play, but this guy just sucked the energy out of everyone and did not make the game a pleasant experience at all.  I was glad that I finagled a way to get my character killed 2 hours into it because I do not think I could take another 2 hours of that guy.

Any experience like that, I really try to draw lessons out of it.  Lesson #1 – As a GM running a game at a con, you need to show some enthusiasm for running the game.  Get your group of players inspired and ready to collectively tell a great story together.  Lesson #2 – Do not read the adventure behind the GM screen.  Know it well enough that you do not have to read it.  Just use copy of the adventure you have as a reference but you should not have to put your head down and read unless it is required in the adventure.  Lesson #3 – this applies mostly to military stile games, especially in Call of Cthulhu – let one of the players be the commanding officer.  Do not take the commanding officer of the unit as a NPC.  This will promote way more role play and player interaction.  This is one of the more subtle mistakes this guy made but it did annoy me.  I think we would have been better off if he had let us handle our own unit.

Probably the most important lesson to draw out of that is the hardest.  I see it all the time, and it is a matter of maturity with respect to con games and con experiences.  Do not let an experience like that taint the rest of your con.  Do not let it define your entire experience at the con.  It’s ONE game.  ONE bad GM.  I thoroughly expect to have a much better experience over the next 2 days.

Just playing those two hours had almost entirely exhausted me, but I had promised Andy Hopp (Low Life setting for Savage Worlds RPG) that I would demo his Dementalism game.  I sat down with two other pleasantly enough looking players and had a great time playing this game.  Once again, stay tune for a review of Dementalism.

After that demo, I walked around some more, networking and talking.  Got a short demo of Titanium Wars, a sharp looking card game of war and diplomacy in a interstellar steampunk like setting.  I will be reviewing that as well.  I also stopped and watched a game of the large scale version of Star Trek Attack Wing. This game seems VERY cool!  And at large scale, it was even more awesome!

The night ended pleasantly with dinner at BD’s Mongolian Barbecue and their awesome deep fried Oreos!

 

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Ron McClung

June 18, 2013 12:26 pm Reply

UPDATE 06/18/2013: ROGUE CTHULHU RESPONSE

I never intended to make a big stink of the Keeper/GM that ran the CoC game mentioned in this article. I could have been just a bad day for the GM. Or maybe the others were having a better time than I was. I like to avoid drama at all costs and that just seemed like too much drama over one single game.

But apparently I was not the only one that had a problem with it and the head of Rogue Cthulhu was very nice and professional about getting back to me.

“I’m very sorry to hear that you had a bad experience in one of our games. The issues you experienced have been brought to my attention by several other players from that game, and I was disgusted by what I heard. Rest assured that these issues are being addressed. Quality is the cornerstone of our group. We pride ourselves on having quality scenarios and Game Masters who are passionate about gaming. The kind of game you experienced is exactly the kind of thing that we find absolutely intolerable, and the primary reason that we started our group’s activities. The GM for that game will no longer be running games under our banner. ”

What I liked the most is this statement “Quality is the cornerstone of our group.” The other tables were all having a great time, and seemed to embrace the atmosphere Rogue Cthulhu had set up. I believe that statement wholeheartedly and feel that this one experience was a fluke. Just one bad apple in a room full of good ones.

I do appreciate his quick response even though I never sent him a complaint. I suppose he read my entry and although I did not mention the GM name, I connected the game to Rogue Cthulhu. I t was never my intention to tarnish the reputation of Rogue Cthulhu, and the response he sent shows that they are a quality group.