By Christopher Helton
The second day of Gen Con was a busy one, busier than the previous day. More people were milling about the convention center. The crowds were very diverse, which is a good thing, with more women and people of color attending panels, playing in events and wandering about in costume. It was a fun day as well. I was able to demo a couple of upcoming games and talk about the next generation of character creations apps for the new edition of D&D.
There were a few copies of the Monster Manual for the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons floating around the convention, with pictures surfacing online. Unfortunately (for those who didn't pay for the privilege), these copies were only given out to the Very Important Gamers (those people who spent a lot of money on the VIP version of a Gen Con badge). The Monster Manual won't see a general release until September.
For me the highlight of the new games here at Gen Con has been The Strange from Monte Cook Games. I haven't had a chance to finish reading it yet with everything going on, but my first impression has been really good. The art in the book is spectacular and it has an interesting science fictional setting built around the concept of dimensional incursions. I can't wait to finish up this book and give it spin for the gaming group.
I spent some time around the Steve Jackson Games booth, talking games and upcoming releases with company Chief Operating Officer Phil Reed. I'm not a board or party game person, only only occasionally will I play a card game, but the Mars Attacks Dice Game demo was really fun. It was fast playing and easy to learn. I managed to destroy Las Vegas and capture Memphis during the demo. This and a reprint of the classic Car Wars game are both coming out in October from Steve Jackson Games. Car Wars I didn't get to play, but from the sample they were showing it looks like the same game of cars and big guns that I played years ago. Rumor has it that a Kickstarter for a new edition is somewhere on the horizon from them.
Another Mars Attacks demo that I was shown was a dexterity game called Mars Attacks Ten-Minute Takedown. It is still in the prototype stage, but you take a die and try to flip it onto cutout circles. Each time you land on a circle you take a ring off of it and score points accordingly. It wasn't easy to play, I kept missing the circles, but it still seemed fun. With a bit of practice it would probably be easy to master. It was a game that would also be complimented by adult beverages.
The Exhibitor Hall at the show is huge this year, the biggest that I have seen at Gen Con. Just walking around it is a daunting undertaking, and there is so much to see.
DungeonScape is going to be a character creation app for Dungeons & Dragons 5e from Trapdoor Technologies. I talked for a while about it with their community manager Rachael Bowen. With a release of the iOS version in a "couple of weeks," followed by Android and web-based versions, this app will allow players to create characters and have some campaign maintenance capabilities as DMs will be able to store adventures for Wizards of the Coast and eventually customize their own content. The app will have rolling releases that will include more functionality to the app each time.
Players will be able to export characters into PDF character sheets, store information in "the cloud" and eventually input their own custom information for their campaigns. It isn't a virtual table top or an online aid because the company wants to, as Bowen put it "emphasize face to face games and roleplaying." There will, however, eventually be options that allow Dms to share maps with the players. From the screen shots, and the examples of the beta version of the app that I saw, this looks like it will be a useful app to D&D groups. Bowen also said that players and DMs will "always have access to their content."
I was able to pick up a copy of The Strange, the new RPG from Monte Cook Games, using the same system as their award-winning Numenera game, but with a different setting. I haven't been able to read enough to get anything more than some vague first impressions, but the art is phenomenal and the bits and pieces that I read made me want to read more. Sadly, I just didn't have the time to read it in greater detail. This game is probably going to taunt me until after Gen Con, when I am home and have more time for reading a new game. I predict that The Strange is going to be another success for the people at Monte Cook Games.
Talking to Shane Hensley and Clint Black of Pinnacle Entertainment I learned that the have licensed the rights to produce a Savage Worlds-powered game based on the writings of Fritz Leiber set in the world of Nehwon and the city of Lankhmar. To be called The Savage World of Lankhmar this line will see setting material, collections of foes, adventures and even a line of miniatures. No release date has been set yet for The Savage World of Lankhmar.
Another license they have announced should be familiar to fans of Bleeding Cool: a savage Worlds-powered game set in the world of Cullen Bunn's creator owned comic The Sixth Gun. As Pinnacle has corned the market for weird Westerns with their Deadlands game line, it seems natural that they would do a supernatural Western like The Sixth Gun. No release date was set for this either.
And, while the series would no longer be done through the Xbox Network, the Deadlands looks as if might come to actual television now. Hensley said that the project was moving forward and that a 2nd script being ordered. Of course the entertainment business being what it is, it could still not make it to the small screen.
The last gaming bit of the day were the ENnies Awards. Sadly, my own Dorkland! Blog was beaten out by excellent Gnome Stew and AdventureAWeek.com sites. The people that blog with me have pledged to rectify this for next year. Paizo Publishing won a number of awards for supplements for their Pathfinder game and various accessories. Monte Cook Games justifiably won a number of ENnies for Numenera. Evil Hat Productions won for their Fate Core System, Fate System Toolkit and for one of the sets of their Fate Dice. Evil Hat Productions and Paizo Publishing both took fan favorite publisher awards. You can find the complete details on who won what here at the ENnies Awards site.
There were a lot of great games at the show, and all of the winners were deserving of their awards. One thing that this year's Gen Con has really highlighted is that we are really in a period of so many great designs and great games. Just a few short years ago a lot of people in the industry and among the fandom were lamenting that gaming was dying off. As has been demonstrated by the ENnies Awards and all of the great games that I have been finding, this has been turned around.
And then, nothing better sets off a long awards show like ending your convention day with a nice beer. The Froth of Khan was the official beer of Gen Con, available on tap for a limited time in area bars. It was a tasty brown ale with coffee aftertones from local brewery Sun King Brewery. It ended a long day of games, fun and meeting new people on a good note.
Christopher Helton is a blogger, podcaster and tabletop RPG publisher who talks about games and other forms of geekery at the long-running Dorkland! blog. He is also the co-publisher at the ENnie Award winning BattlefieldPress, Inc. You can find him on Twitter at@dorkland and on G+ at https://plus.google.com/+ChristopherHelton/ where he will talk your ear off about gaming and comics.
Christopher has a crowdfunding page to help raise money to defray the costs for going to the Gen Con gaming convention and cover it for his Dorkland! blog and Bleeding Cool. Please click here to go to the page and help out.