Category Archives: Gen Con

My One Gygax Story

My one and only Gygax story.

Overheard at Gen Con 2010

I can’t do an overheard at Gen Con this year, because I didn’t go.
So, reruns!

Here’s my list of things overheard at Gen Con 2010!

Overheard At Gen Con

One of the amazing things about Gen Con is being completely and constantly surrounded by gaming culture. Restaurants offer you meals with Apocalypse Ale or Black Pudding for dessert. Random people in the elevator opine on the likely ENnie winners. And everywhere you go, people are talking games and geek culture. Every year, I hear snippets of conversations I wouldn’t hear anywhere else, and I do my best to write them down. It often takes a few minutes to get pen to paper, so these may be more paraphrased than quoted, but the gist is intact. (I’d say the intent is clear, but ofttimes I have no idea what the intent was!)

These were al jotted down on my Guest of Honor schedule. In no particular order, Things Overheard at Gen Con.

“My waitress just gave me the bird.”

“It was the most heroic death I’ve ever been cheated out of.”

“If you can’t get rich with a time machine and Orac, you just aren’t trying.”

“Yes, I’m a girl. Yes, I know how to play. No, you can’t touch them.”

Voice 1. “Can my paladin be weary of all humanity, and believe the gods are cruel assholes perpetuating a lame joke?”
Voice 2. “Man, just get the divorce already.”

“You boys need to be taking that plastic weapon stuff to your mother. If you need dice or minis I’ll buy you some, but I ain’t got no money for larping crap.”

“The wish has now been vetted by twenty people, and is more than twelve pages long.”

Voice 1. “The problem is, none of the campaign’s female NPCs are believable.”
Voice 2. “Wait, isn’t your GM a woman?”
Voice 1. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Next year, we need to try the Sailor Shoes on before we hit the costume contest.”

“The DM said we could use any sources, so I went all Mongoose on his game.”

“It’s a lot like playing at home, but with less bugs and poop.”

“If I can’t cheat, I don’t play.”

“If that next card is what I think it is, I will eat your face. With ketchup.”

Voice 1. “Is it savagaed?”
Voice 2. “Very savagaed.”
Voice 1. “The most savage?”
Voice 2. “Well… it’s pretty dang savage.”
Voice 3. “What the hell are you two talking about?!”

“Oh my god, your napkin is yellow. Ours are all white. You’ve been marked for death!”

“Satanism must not be as profitable as it was in the 90s.”

“If I put it in my cleavage, do you think he’ll sign my dice?”

“What’s the over/under on being eaten by rats?”

“If your gnome isn’t a spellcaster, you’re doing it wrong.”

“The GM didn’t cry until the second hour. With us, that’s a record!”

GOLEM CHESS (1.1)

Since almost no game design is perfect with just ten minutes of work:

GOLEM CHESS (1.1)

A chess variant with 20 minutes of design time. (Traditionally played on a black-and-purple checkerboard)

Each side has one golem, one hero, and one wizard. These are determined randomly, and have special powers. Other than that, the game is played as normal chess.

Each player should do the following:

Number you rooks, bishops, and knights each, 1-2.

Create a deck of cards (index cards work). This is your “court deck” that has two rook cards (1, 2), two bishop cards (1, 2) and two knight cards (1, 2).

Before play, shuffle the court deck. Then, without looking, deal one card each in the golem slot, hero slot, and wizard slot. Remove the remainder of the court deck from play without anyone looking at it.

You may now look at the cards in each slot. Do not reveal them to your opponent.

Golem: The top card in the golem slot determines which of your pieces is a golem. A golem can only be permanently captured by specific opposing pieces. When a golem is captured by most pieces, it is removed temporarily from play. You may, as your entire turn on any turn thereafter, return it to a space on your back row. The space must be one from which no opposing piece can immediately capture the golem, and from which the golem could not capture a piece if it were to move immediately. Also, the golem cannot be palces in a space that would prevent the king from being in check.

A pawn can never permanently capture the golem. The king, queen, and hero automatically permanently capture the golem if they are used to capture it. For any other piece, the golem is captured only temporarily unless a piece of the same type (bishop, knight, or rook) has previously captured it.

Hero: OInce per game, before or after its normal move (or in place of its normal move), a hero may move as a knight. If a hero captures a piece, its turn ends with no further movement. Each time a hero captures an enemy piece, it gains the ability to move as a knight in this way one additional time during the game.

Wizard: A wizard may do do one of the following things during the game.

Fireball: The wizard captures one adjacent enemy piece. This cannot be used to capture the king, and the threat of this ability does not place a king in check. This counts as the wizard’s move.

Polymorph: The wizard becomes any one normal chess piece, and then moves as that piece. It captures as that piece. After moving (and capturing, if appropriate), the wizard goes back to being its normal piece. This counts as the wizard’s move.

Summon: The wizard summons a pawn into any adjacent space. This counts as the wizard’s move. The pawn can move, capture, and be captured normally (but cannot move two forward on its first move). You must have lost a pawn to use this ability. If the pawn reaches the row that allows it to be promoted, it can only choose to be a bishop, knight, or rook.

IN PLAY

You do not have to reveal that a piece is a golem, hero, or wizard until it does something a normal piece of the same type could not. When a pawn is promoted, it cannot choose to be a golem, hero, or wizard.

Golem Chess!

Since a bunch of people asked me for the rules after an offhanded comment this morning:

GOLEM CHESS

A chess variant written on a 10-minute break. (Traditionally played on a black-and-purple checkerboard)

Each side has one golem, one noble, and one wizard. These are determined randomly, and have special powers. Other than that, the game is played as normal chess.

Each player should do the following:

Number you pawns 1-8, your rooks, bishops, and knights 1-2.

Create a deck of cards that has 8 pawn cards, numbered 1-8. (Index cards work)
Create a second “court deck” that has two rook cards (1, 2), two bishop cards (1, 2) two knight cards (1, 2) and a queen card.

Before play, shuffle the pawn deck. Place one pawn card at random in your court deck. Do not look at which pawn it is. Remove the remainder of the pawn deck from play without anyone looking at it.

Shuffle the court deck. Then, without looking, deal two cards in the golem slot (the one on bottom upside-down), one in the noble slot, and one in the wizard slot. Remove the remainder of the court deck from play without anyone looking at it.

You may now look at the cards in each slot. Do not reveal them to your opponent.

Golem: The top card in the golem slot determines which of your pieces is a golem. A golem can only be captured by one specific opposing piece. When any other piece attempts to capture a golem, the piece fails (and shares the same square as the golem until one of the two pieces moves). The first time this happens, the player of the golem must reveal both that this piece is a golem, and which piece can actually take it (by reveals the upside down card in the golem slot). A golem must move into an enemy piece’s space to capture it – it cannot capture a piece that moved into the golem’s space on the opposing piece’s move.

Noble: A noble may move as its normal movement, or as a knight. Each round it can only move one of these two ways.
Exception: If your knight is the noble, it may take two knight moves in a single turn. If its first move captures a piece, it cannot make a second move.

Wizard: A wizard may do each of the following things once per game.

Fireball: The wizard captures one adjacent enemy piece. This cannot be used to capture the king, and the threat of this ability does not place a king in check. This counts as the wizard’s move.

Polymorph: The wizard becomes any one normal chess piece, and then moves as that piece. It captures as that piece. After moving (and capturing, if appropriate), the wizard goes back to being its normal piece. This counts as the wizard’s move.

Summon: The wizard summons a pawn into any adjacent space. This counts as the wizard’s move. The pawn can move, capture, and be captured normally (but cannot move two forward on its first move). You must have lost a pawn to use this ability.

IN PLAY

You do not have to reveal that a piece is a golem, noble, or wizard until it does something a normal piece of the same type could not. When a pawn is promoted, it cannot choose to be a golem, noble, or wizard.

 

 

 

Adventurer-Formal

Quick story, as Gen Con looms.
When I went to interview for a staff job at Wizards of the Coast in 1999 (they flew me from OK to Seattle), I wore a suit. Slacks, dress shirt, tie, jacket, black shoes, the whole 9 yards.
One of the things everyone made VERY clear to me during those interviews was that WotC had a casual atmosphere, and there wasn’t really a dress code at work. I felt overdressed.
OTOH, I a: got the job and b: later heard that another candidate showed up in a fast food uniform. No one ever told me that made a difference… but no one said it didn’t. And one person tad me that the fact I showed up in a suit proved I was taking the job seriously. I have never regretted wearing a suit to that.
When I went to a dinner at GenCon that Sword & Sorcery was having to see who they wanted to work on the EverQuest Tabletop RPG, I wore a polo and jeans. I didn’t feel either overdressed or underdressed, and I got a lot of work from that meeting. I have never regretted wearing a polo to that.
I always recommend looking professional and tidy, and give the impression you take every opportunity professionally and seriously. If you later get told you can dress down, feel free.
But first impression really can count.

Fandom’s Acceptance Problem

I think fandom has an acceptance problem.
I know, sounds weird.
At least when and where I was growing up in fandom, it was the place I felt accepted. I was fat, precocious, a thinker and dreamer rather than a doer and builder.
I was also a self-important little shit.
But fandom accepted me, at least insofar as it accepted anyone. My weird preferences, my social awkwardness. I meant no harm, though I sometimes did and said harmful things.
And I found my flavor of geek, and we hung out, and became friends, and grew up.
But for decades, when I saw someone saying or acting in appropriately, if they weren’t causing immediate harm, I was inclined to leave them alone. After all, they were clearly outcasts too. Awkward. And surely they meant no harm.
A wildfire means no harm. You still need to takes steps to prevent it from ravaging town.
So, I think too many of us ignored the problems of the misogynist few for too long. We allowed ourselves to be drawn in by people who liked military fiction, but were also racist, or transphobic. We overlooked their flaws at moments when we shouldn’t, and now they are a cancer growing among us.
I got used to accepting people in fandom, because where else did they have to go? And I never considered that accepting them meant condoning them. And it does.
I hate confrontation, but I’m not afraid of it anymore.
I dislike personal interaction with anyone but close friends, but I’ve gotten used to it.
And there are things I can’t just mutely accept anymore. Especially now that I have seen what that acceptance leads to.

Ways I Have Failed

clin*It’s 1982. My older sister and I are staying with my aunt and uncle for the summer while my parents go to Europe. I want my uncle to run D&D for us. My sister isn’t particularly interested in playing. I cajole. I beg. I pressure her into playing the game. She hates it. Despite being a brilliant part of fandom, she never touches rpgs ever again.
*It’s 1984. On another family trip, some older kids of friends of my parents invite me into their D&D game. It’s three other boys, and one girl. My character is encouraged by all the boys to rape the girl’s character – because they aren’t allowed to. I refuse, and get kicked out of the game, but tell no one. I don’t even remember their names anymore.
*It’s 1987. The woman who will someday be my wife recounts how her first game group sacrificed her first character to a volcano, then decided to gang-rape her character because their Twilight 2000 campaign got boring. She doesn’t play with them anymore. It doesn’t even occur to me that *someone* might play with them again.
*It’s 1992. At a live action RPG session, I am asked by still-underage women to stand in front of their tent while they change costumes, so they feel safe. I do. I feel good about myself. I don’t wonder why they don’t feel safe to begin with. I never investigate. I never try to find a way to make a safer environment,. I never even make sure there is someone they trust around in future games.
*It’s 1995. A woman tells me she doesn’t want to play in my paramilitary Hero System game anymore. I am offended. I let her know she is free to not play. I never ask why.
*It’s 1998. I get my first article published in Dragon Magazine. I feel great about it. A woman I know mentions she’s been trying to get published for three years, while I got published on my very first try. I assume it’s because I am better than her. I assume we exist on an absolute level playing field. I don’t even question that narrative in my head.
*It’s 2000. I write my first work as an employee of Wizards of the Coast. My manager calls me in. I have created a damsel-in-distress story. It’s cliched and, worse, belittling. But he’s careful to make sure I know it’s good, and this is only a small concern. We change the gender of a single character. I’m annoyed my story won’t happen the way I saw it in my head.
*It’s 2002. I am running demos of Forbidden Kingdom at Gen Con. Two women come up and want to play together, but I only have one seat left at my table. There’s plenty of room. I refuse to seat them both. They leave the game room.
*It’s 2009. I’m part of Super Genius Games. I’m not even thinking about the art we use in our all-white, all-male game company, until someone calls us on it.
*It’s 2014. I’m developing an adventure. After I am done, an editor brings up that a major plot point concerns her. It’s super skeevy. She has to explain why.
She’s right. We change it.

I am sure there are scores of occasions where I was part of the problem that I don’t remember. Hell, in most cases I may not have noticed. And that’s a huge part of why this is such a big problem. I get to live in a safe version of the game world that the women who are my mentors, employers, colleagues, friends, patrons, and employees don’t.
And this is mostly a list of sins of omission, though that doesn’t make them any better. Like full-blown rapists, sexual abusers, and even common-variety bullies, the people who *actively* assault and harass women and minorities are amazingly good at knowing when they will, and won’t get away with those actions.
If you haven’t seen it that’s not because it’s not happening. It’s because they know to stay on the fringes of your vision.
Which means if you are actually dedicated to a safe and fair hobbyspace, not being an abusive asshole yourself isn’t good enough. You have to do more.

Tales from Gen Con

Paizo was kind enough to ask me if I had any thoughts on Gen Con. I ended up writing more than 1,000 words on my experiences, and how they have both shaped and been shaped by my career path.