Bleeding Gen Con Day Three – Is Gaming 'Graying'?

By Christopher Helton

Day three of Gen Con was probably my busiest day at the convention. I talked with a lot of people and was able to meet some designers who's work I have been a fan of for a while. For me, this is really the best part of going to a convention, whether for gaming or comics. Being able to talk with and share experiences with the people with whom you share these common interests and fandoms.

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I started my Day Three earlier than I expected because I was asked to join an Escapist Magazine podcast. There I got to talk about D&D and the cool stuff at Gen Con with Jon Bolding of The Escapist and Mike Mearls, one of the lead designers for the fifth edition, and a couple of other roleplaying reporters on the web. It is always great to be able to talk about things that you love with people who share that interest. I was a bit intimidated by being on the panel, I have to admit, and I did flub talking about a mechanic for the 13th Age roleplaying game, but it was a lot of fun.

After this I talked with the guys from Warpo: Bryan Katzel, Tommy Baldwin and Eric LeFerber. You may remember them from their recent Legends of Cthluhu Kickstarter. The prototypes of the action figures that they had at the show were fantastic, making me regret that I did not back their Kickstarter in the first place. Now I have to wait until the end of the year with everyone else. Seeing them in person, the figures really reminded me of the Kenner action figures that I had as a kid.

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After this was another stroll around the enormous Exhibition Hall. Seriously, after all four days there were still things that I missed out on because of the sheer size of the Hall. My last Gen Con was two years ago and the size of the Exhibition Hall was nearly twice what it was then. There was so much to see.

One thing that kept coming up in conversations over the course of the convention was the fact that in the last decade there was a lot of talk among fans, and even among some publishers, that gaming was "dying" and the fans were "graying," without enough new blood coming into the hobby. What I was while wandering the convention was a lot of people of all types, with a lot more women and people of color than I have seen at conventions in the past. The D&D room and Paizo's Pathfinder room had a lot more women, including GMs, than I have seen. It really gives me a lot of hope for the continuation of tabletop RPGs. There were also so many publishers, many of whom were brand new to Gen Con, and so many different types of games being published by them to sustain a variety of different modes and styles of play. It was a great thing.

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After years of playing Palladium Books games, I finally was able to meet publisher and owner Kevin Siembieda and tell him about the Rifts game that my friends and I did back at the beginning of the year. Being able to thank someone for giving you many years of enjoyment makes the whole experience worthwhile. We talked about a couple of their new releases and their recent zombie roleplaying game, Dead Reign.

Iocane Productions produces LARP (live action roleplaying) events, and at Gen Con this year they put on a massive (at least to me as someone who doesn't LARP) Game of Thrones LARP. Sixty four people took place in the LARP and Cylla Greyjoy won the Tournament of Swords during the event.

Game of Thrones LARP Group

Day three also had the added bonus of Jim Zub involvement. A gamer himself, Zub is breaking some kind of gaming commandment by working on the comic adaptations of D&D and Pathfinder. He and I talked about his upcoming Wayward comic as well. I have seen a preview of the book and it is pretty cool. Set in Tokyo, the comic combines elements of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural. I cannot wait to see the next issue.

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At the Kobold Press booth I was able to talk a bit with Wolfgang Baur and feed my growing 13th Age roleplaying game addiction. I grabbed a copy of their Midgard Bestiary for 13th Age. You can never have too many monsters, and I always enjoy the weird and unusual creatures that Kobold Press puts out. With 13th Age and The Strange game battling it out in my headspace I almost regret that our group's next game is going to be the new edition of D&D. News that Fire Opal Media would be putting out a 13th Age supplement for Greg Stafford's seminal setting Glorantha is also making not running a 13th Age game difficult for me as well. Really, if you like fantasy games and haven't picked up 13th Age…why haven't you?

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I was also able to meet a couple of publishers that I know from my social media streams. One of the things that people kept asking me about was the Adventures in the East Mark boxed set that I was carrying around. This old school D&D-style retroclone was published originally in Spain and was translated into English through a Kickstarter by David Wilson Brown's Extra-Dimensional Publishing. While I haven't had much of a chance to read through the game itself yet, the artwork (carried over from the original Spanish game) is simply gorgeous. Plus it comes with a set of Gamescience dice and a crayon to fill in the numbers with. How can that not be cool?

I also got a chance to talk briefly with Christina Lea of Peryton Publishing. I got a copy of their game Qalidar:Resitance, a modern-set roleplaying game based off of the d20 SRD. The game looks like an interesting science-fantasy game, with a modern setting (another of the many games picked up at the show that I need to dig into more deeply). This is just another example of all the great stuff being produced in the industry.

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Another interesting fantasy game that I cam across on day three was the French-made Shadow of Esteren. Another gorgeous book with incredible production values and art, Esteren is a horror/gothic inspired fantasy game. Like with Adventures in the Eastern Mark, I am curious about this game because a clear majority of the games are American ideals of what a fantasy middle ages Europe would look like. I am interested in seeing what the European view will be like.

Getting to talk to Dustin Wright at Chaosium Games was also pretty cool. One of my first "not D&D games" as a kid was Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu game. Seeing the company still going and still making games was a good thing. While not ready for Gen Con, we talked a little bit about the upcoming 7th edition of Call of Cthulhu. I have seen some previews and it looks like the new designers have made a game that is a great sucessor to one of my favorite games. Their generic Basic Roleplaying game and the fantasy game Magic World were on sale at the booth, with a lot of supplements as well.

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Gen Con day three was very busy for me, but it was a good kind of busy. The day was filled with with great conversations, and meeting (or meeting again after a long time) friends that I have made online, or from other conventions over the years. I have so many new games to talk about with all of you, and just not enough time in each day.

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Day three didn't end with a lovely beer like day two did, but it did end with some friends and I playing the new Mars Attacks game that I talked about yesterday and having a blast with it. And, really, this is probably the best way to end a day at a convention. This is what gaming is really all about, spending time with good friends and having a blast with some game.

Here's a further photo-gallery of Day Three and the Game of Thrones LARP event:

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.

About Christopher Helton

A geek blogger and rogue game designer. Lead writer for the Dorkland! blog (http:http://dorkland.blogspot.com ) and co-publisher of the ENnie Awarding winning tabletop RPG company Battlefield Press, Inc.

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