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Games Entertainment

Gen Con Indy 2005 In A Nutshell 225

Every year, the pilgrimage to Gen Con brings tabletop roleplayers, wargamers, boardgame enthusiasts, and LARPers together for four days of unbridled nerdery. Besides participating in games, some of which have been around for decades, there are always new releases and previews to tantalize the gaming public. Gen Con is the tabletop industry's version of E3, where the year ahead is laid out by the big names. Read on for a taste of what your Friendly Local Gaming Store will have to offer in the near future.
The biggest kid on the block in the tabletop market is Wizards of the Coast. Publisher of Dungeons and Dragons, D20 Modern, Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, and the Avalon Hill stable of games, WoTC is a major sponsor of Gen Con and regularly dominates the Exhibition Hall. This year the company had a two faceted pavilion, each side themed to their major releases this year. One side was a decaying and blasphemous Cathedral, with images of demons and spirits splayed across the facade.

The imposing edifice was advertising the release of Hecatomb, a somewhat unique collectable card game. Instead of the traditional cards, Hecatomb is played with semi-transparent pentagonal playing pieces. As a player, you take on the role of a Summoner of foul creatures large and small. Spirits from your hand can be played into your manapool and later tapped to fuel the summoning of other creatures. The transparent nature of the cards allows for the different beasts to be amalgamated into horrible creatures they refer to as Abominations by stacking cards atop each other. Rules text shows through the highest card to allow Abominations to combine the strength (and sometimes powers) of numerous smaller critters into a ghastly whole. The play style was very reminiscent of Magic: The Gathering, but the presentation and art gave the game a very mature tone. The quick Demo I had the chance to take in wasn't enough to make me run off and buy it, but I look forward to taking a closer look in the future.

The other side of WoTC's coin was a more traditional church, albeit one broken and battered by the ravages of war. The release of the Axis and Allies miniatures game was the rationale for the theming, and the addition of several vintage military issue vehicles (an APC, a jeep, etc) on the show floor added to the atmosphere. The minis game itself received a lot of attention, as the "random pack of pre-painted miniatures" concept that Wizards has used with great success in their D&D and Star Wars lines reached a wider audience. The Axis and Allies line will invite WWII aficionados to recreate battles of the war, and engage in their own skirmishes, using a simple set of battle tactics and their miniatures. The D&D and Star Wars lines have tournament support and an avid collector base, and I imagine this series will garner similar attention.

Wizards also publishes tabletop roleplaying books, though sometimes pavilion visitors seem not to notice. The two campaign settings that the company supports most heavily right now are Ed Greenwood's venerable Forgotten Realms, and the recently minted Keith Baker world known as Eberron. Products for both campaign settings and the core Dungeons and Dragons line seem to be moving beyond some of the tried and true formulae they've used before.

The core line, for example, will see the release of Heroes of Horror, a follow-up to Heroes of Battle that can be used to overlay a traditional D&D game with a horror tone. Races of the Dragon will explore dragons, and half-dragons, and kobolds but it will also contain a transformative race. IE, a race a character can become during the course of play. They're not completely breaking the mold, though, with a new Tome of Magic set to introduce some new styles of spellslinging to the core books.

The Realms will have a title called Powers of Fearun, which will discuss the impact a character can have on the Realms as a whole, given sufficient power. A new adventure entitled Sons of Gruumsh will welcome back published modules to the FR setting, and a semi-monthly column by Ed Greenwood in Dragon magazine will explore the Cities of the Realms. Companions of Valor will explore what it means to be a hero in the Realms, and grew out of the Forgotten Realms seminar from Gen Con 2004. The book will be a series of tools for PCs, ways for them to make their own name as heroes. The next Mini set, Underdark, will feature several prominent Realms personalities and monsters.

Eberron, meanwhile, moves on from the basics as the company continues to widen the world's scope. A Player's Guide to Eberron will act as a sort of gazeteer, with two page spreads on each topic, personality, or location. The guide aims to be a completely player-friendly tome that you can use to get to know the lay of the land. Magic of Eberron will delve more deeply into some of the unique arcana in the setting. Elemental bindings, Artificers, and warforged all get a look. Another adventure will be in the offing; separate from the previous three-book adventure set but with ties to it, entitled The Voyage of the Golden Dragon. Voyage will introduce a ship of war that never got the chance to be used in battle. The Golden Dragon now acts as a vessel of peace, traveling the five nation and usable as a kind of floating base of operations by PCs.

Love them or not, WoTC is a publisher of some great games. A new version of RoboRally!, and the title Monsters Menace America also made their debut this month. They're likely to continue to be one of the top names in the tabletop industry for many years to come.

Wizards of the Coast wasn't the only publisher at Gen Con this year, of course. FanPro, in association with Wizkids, put out the latest version of the magic/cyberpunk RPG Shadowrun. Now in its Fourth Edition, the setting has received its most serious overhaul to date. The basic mechanic has been reworked, major advancements have been made to the state of in-game technology, and the political boundaries of the North American Nations have been redrawn. Though the plot elements are compelling, the new simplicity of the core game mechanic will be the most widely felt change. Previous editions of Shadowrun required a player or GM to roll a number of six-sided dice equal to a skill or attribute, with the intent of hitting a target number determined by the situation. The lowest a target number could get was 2, but the sky was the limit for difficulty. The fluidity of combat often meant there would be high target numbers, which required a participant to roll a six on a die, so that the six could be rerolled and a higher number achieved. Fourth Edition does away with this clumsiness, with all dice rolled in the game now seeking either a five or a six to be determined a hit. All rolls are made with a number of dice equal to the requisite attribute + skill combination. Penalties result in fewer dices being rolled at the outset, and the GM is encouraged to assess penalties on the fly rather than being confined by arcane tables. The simplicity of this mechanic allows for the GM to gain a better grip on the fast and loose nature of combat in the real world, the astral plane, and the virtual reality of the Matrix. Speaking of the Matrix, the most important plot change is probably the advent of a wireless Matrix. The old "decks" have been removed in favour of an Artificial Reality overlay to normal vision. This requires computer criminals to come on-site with the rest of the Shadowrun team in order to participate, and opens up the role of the hacker in the game to a previously unknown degree. I've been playing Shadowrun for 15 years now, and I'm very excited about the changes this latest edition have brought around. Here's hoping FanPro follows up the new edition with some material that allows us to better come to grips with the setting changes.

Recent years at Gen Con have seen video game publishers arriving to show off their work as well. NCSoft has been a presence at the con since the release of City of Heroes (partially because of Jack Emmert's background in the tabletop industry). This year all they really had to show was the City of Villains character creator, and not even all of it. All the action was over at the booths occupied by Blizzard and Atari.

Dungeons and Dragons Online is still something of an enigma. While the closed Beta recently got underway, there are still too few firsthand experiences out there to really get a sense of what the game as a whole will be like. I had a chance this past weekend to get a feel for what the dungeon-crawling experience will be like, though, and I was very surprised by what I saw. Given the nature of online games, I've come to expect a level of abstraction in the mechanics. DDO was incredibly hands on, and in many ways felt like a single-player mission that you really wanted some help on.

Talking to a villager netted my cleric a quest, a trip into the Maw of Xoriat. Immediately I saw that they are aiming for a unique feel, as each mission had a time limit associated with it. If you didn't complete the mission in time, you would be unceremoniously summoned back to the village. Entering the crypt, there were several sarcophagi that could be interacted with. Swinging his heavy mace, my cleric smashed through the rock exteriors to get at the sweet loot within. Looking down a corridor, I was presented with a series of traps. A pair of swinging blades blocked my pack on either side of the hallway. Good timing was required to make it past without taking damage. Further down the hall was a series of large blades which snapped up from the floor in quick succession. When one set of blades was up, another was down, allowing the observant player to pick a path through the blades. If I'd had a rogue in my party, she could have disarmed the traps and allowed us to pass without having to deal with them.

Moving through the dungeon, I encountered various beasts and undead. Combat was realtime, with a clickyness that satisfied. A notification in the corner allowed you to follow along with the dice rolls and Challenge Rating of the creature you faced, if you were so inclined. Besides satisfying thwacks with my mace, I was able to counter the creatures by turning undead and flame striking the creatures with magic. One flame strike near a locked doorway revealed that the doors are as destructible as the crypts. A team without a rogue can bash through an impediment, assuming they have a strong enough fighter or a well equipped spellcaster. The whole experience had interesting little touches, such as a perverted altar that was cleansed by a use of the turn undead class ability. In a nod to gamers of all stripes, one room had me utilizing a simple version of the 'Pipes' game to allow magical energy to flow across the room. The energy stemmed from a source in the floor, and tiles around the room had grooves in them which allowed the mana to flow. By right clicking on the tiles, I could rotate them such that they formed pathways. While my time with DDO was relatively short, I found the entire experience much more interesting than I'd originally thought it would be. The near constant attention at their booth led me to believe others had the same impression.

Blizzard also had no trouble keeping their booth full, with machines allowing play of World of Warcraft (and several 60th level characters to tool around in) and StarCraft: Ghost. I'd yet to have the opportunity to try out Ghost, so I gave the tactical shooter a try, on the XBox. My reactions were, unfortunately, somewhat mixed. While the overall Starcraftyness of the experience was very enjoyable, the actual gameplay left something to be desired. Squishy controls, simple tactics, and a lack of polish on the game made it hard for me to fully understand what the title will look like when it is released. In the demo level I played, Nova stalked her way through a Terran base already overrun by Zerg. The Zerglings where just as fast and ferocious as you'd hope, and actually walking through a Zerg structure was stomach clenching. The scenery was nice, but the gameplay needed help. I'm sure that when the title is released (whenever that will be) there will be little to complain about, but the rough demo I saw this past weekend didn't have enough "there" there to give me an accurate impression.

Anyone familiar with tabletop roleplaying has likely heard of Vampire: The Masquerade and White Wolf. Two years ago at Gen Con they re-launched the World of Darkness and rebooted all of their campaign settings. This year's con saw the relaunch of the magic-bound title Mage. This time appended with the subtitle "The Awakening", the new version of the game takes a serious textual shift away from the old version of the game. While the original Mage was a grand tapestry of gifted individuals making and unmaking the very fabric of reality, the new Mage is a much more accessible storyline. There are now distinct spells used by Mage characters, a backstory involving the continent of Atlantis, mana points as a game mechanic, and an elimination of the inherent conflict between magic and technology. I'm just going to come out and say that, while I like the new World of Darkness game mechanic and think White Wolf is doing interesting things with their old brands, this particular relaunch is a kick in the face to old Mage players. Mage was a fundamentally different game from every other title in their library, and a change a pace from most titles on the market. By reorienting it with the "vision" of the other World of Darkness lines they've essentially gutted everything that was special about the setting. I'm not really a big fan of this decision.

Two board games that have gained a lot of attention recently, and with good reason, were shown off at the convention this year. Shadows Over Camelot and Arkham Horror are examples of some of the new ideas that are entering the boardgame market. Five years ago you had to buy a German title in order to get a great adult boardgame experience, but today Days of Wonder allows the same enjoyment factor with their Arthurian style epic. In Shadows Over Camelot, you take on the role of Knight of the Round, fighting dark knights, dragons, questing for the grail, and holding off the barbarian hordes. The game is cooperative but doesn't allow totally free communication between players, so the title encourages creative collaboration on the numerous quests that knights can go on. For example, in order to obtain Excalibur a knight or knights must travel to the Lady of the Lake's lake and each round expend a card in order to make the sword draw closer to the shore. In the meantime, as each player goes a "bad things" card is pulled. One of these types of bad things makes the sword float away from the shore. While one player can often keep the sword from floating out of sight, in order to actually obtain the relic several knights must collaborate to assure victory. The game also incorporates subterfuge, by allowing for the possibility of a traitor in your midst. The traitor will actively work against the other players, seeking to destroy Camelot for his own victory. A complex title with easy to understand rules, Shadows Over Camelot is a great way to makes sure you stay friendly with your friends.

Indeed, if you are looking for cooperative games this is a good year to do it. Arkham Horror, from Fantasy Flight Games, also allows players to band together against a common foe. In this case, players take on the roles of investigators into the occult. There are many characters to choose from, and each has a special quirk. As your character, you and the other players work together to ensure that the arrival of a Great Old One does not occur. Based loosely on the works of H.P. Lovecraft and the roleplaying title Call of Cthulu, Arkham horror pits you against things from beyond our ken as they enter our world through mystical gates. In order to ensure the survival of the town of Arkham, MA, investigators must slay the creatures as they exit the gates. Once the path is clear they must enter the mystic realms, where they have otherworldly encounters of the horrifying and fantastic. If they are successful there, they can return to the village and seal off the gate. Changing conditions in the village constantly keep the gameplay from getting stale, and after only a short time there will be monsters a-plenty to challenge even the largest group of investigators. This Call of Cthulu in-a-box is a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and another way to make sure you do more than just frag your friends on the weekends.

There are literally hundreds of new products shown at every Gen Con, and I couldn't hope to explore them all. Dice Boxes, card games (including a World of Warcraft CCG), roleplaying games, boardgames, and virtual reality games were all shown off to the general public for the first time this past weekend. Every year is a different experience, and I've always had the opportunity to look back and say that it was worth the trip. This year was especially meaningful, as I was wed to my fiancee Katharine on the 13th. Though Gen Con wasn't our honeymoon (we're not that dorky), we did have the chance to be serenaded by a Klingon and his Vulcan wife in honor of our union. There are few places in the world where such a thing could be experienced, and I'm already looking forward to next year.

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Gen Con Indy 2005 In A Nutshell

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  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @12:11PM (#13380914) Journal
    to the Bi-Mon SciFi Con?
  • Board Games (Score:1, Offtopic)

    Play Scrabble! [sourceforge.net]

    /Has no shame.
    //Play, its good for you!
  • Impressive... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by markild ( 862998 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @12:12PM (#13380930)
    Don't know what tfa is about, but it sure must be important when slashdot hosts the images on their own server!

    Self-/.-ing ;)
  • Hmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by nullkill ( 835502 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @12:17PM (#13380994) Homepage
    I wonder if there will be an entire section of the parking lot devoted entirely to segways.
  • Is there a Gen Con at Indy every year? Or does it move around?
    • It's only been at Indy the last couple years. I think its there (here) again next year but then it could move again.

    • Re:Indy (Score:5, Informative)

      by echocharlie ( 715022 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @12:30PM (#13381106) Homepage
      The big one is in Indiana. They're branching out into other areas though. Here's a link to the Gen Con website [gencon.com].
    • Re:Indy (Score:3, Informative)

      GenCon was originally in Lake Geneva, WI because that's where Gary Gygax lived. It got too big for Lake Geneva, so it moved to Milwaukee, WI. It was held in a couple of different convention centers in Milwaukee before it moved to Indianapolis, IN a few years ago. Now, it is held about the same weekend every year in Indy. There is also a GenCon SoCal (Southern California).

      For more details, look here [wikipedia.org]
    • GenCon has moved around in the past, but generally it stays in the same spot for consecutive years. It previously spent many years in Milwaukee, before outgrowing the convention centre facilities, and the hotel capacity, before that (and well before my time), it was held in Lake Geneva WI(?), hence the title. There have also been several GenCon spin-offs, the first being GenCon UK, and now GenCon Europe, and GenCon solCal.
      • I really hate to do this, but I think the GEN in GenCon stands for "Generals" as in "Generals Convention." This dates back to the days when tabletop wargames were transitioning into Role Play.

        • Re:Indy (Score:3, Informative)

          by cybergrue ( 696844 )
          Hmm, could be, although I always thought it was because the first con was in Lake Geneva
          History of GenCon [iupui.edu]

          From the above web page
          1968: The first Gen Con was held in the Lake Geneva Horticultural Hall (a.k.a. 4H Hall) and was sponsored by the Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association, with around 100 people in attendance.

          Also on the page
          1977: Gen Con expanded into the Playboy resort, where the Playboy Bunnies were delivering drinks and were later banned in the gaming area for being a disruption. Old ti

    • History of GenCon (Score:5, Informative)

      by arete ( 170676 ) <areteslashdot2@x[ ]net ['ig.' in gap]> on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @01:03PM (#13381422) Homepage
      GenCon was originally in Lake Geneva (hence the Gen) It was actually held at a Playboy mansion there. I don't know what the official history says, but the real reason it left there was because the Playboy bunnies serving drinks were too distracting and it was too hard to get good gaming done. How's THAT for geeky.

      To actually answer your question: As some other posters have said, the main GenCon doesn't move around like a traveling con, but it did permanently move from Milwaukee to Indianapolis a few years.

      Lots of oldtimers thought Milwaukee was a much cooler place, but Indy does have much more hotel space. In my opinion GenCon at this time definitely got less COOL, but more ACCESSIBLE. Lots more mainstream families came...

      The last few years in Milwaukee, for instance, had seen They Might Be Giants and the Violent Femmes play with pretty serious afterparties. Indy was more water-down and family friendly. But I think it was a ton more profitable for the same reason.

      We published Starchildren:Velvet Generation The Roleplaying game where Glam Rock Aliens Save the World from Big Brother. Never heard of it? Not surprising :)

      www.starchildren.co.uk (yay for sucky web design)

      I've been an Exhibitor at GenCon, partied with the "Gaming Mogul" a couple times met the founder of TSR and lots of other similar geeky goodness. We also threw a few crazy parties - one at the Safehouse and an afterhours party in the lobby of the Westin attended by about 40 people at 3AM.

      There's about 4000 more stories, of course.

      • GENCON had a need to become more family-friendly. Their core participants now have families. I've been going every year since I was in grade school when it was held at UofW Parkside. My cousin who took me now has a 14 year old son. I have kids ages 3 & 5. The next generation os GENCONers isn't walking to Indy by themselves, they are being brought with their parents who have been going for years.

        Now, I loved Milwaukee, but Indy is a great town. There is plenty of things for the kids to do when they are n
        • I understand, sortof. On the one hand I completely agree that you have to look to the future - but there were quite a few kids in at the recent GenCons in Milwaukee too.

          It's been mainstreamed and filtered. Like anything else, the REASON you do that is because more people will like it just enough rather than fewer people really loving it.

          Essentially you used to find 80 things you loved and 20 you hated, now you find 8 you love, 2 you hate and 90 you sortof like. Which is better, sortof.

          But relatively spe
    • This is the third year it's been at Indy. It was in Milwaukee before that. With all the fests in Milwaukee during the summer it became increasingly difficult to book a hotel room. For a long time Gen-Con ran the same weekend as Irish Fest. Spend the day drinking and listening to bands at the fest, spend the night gaming at the Con. Sleep when you get home. Ah, to be young again.

      Before Milwaukee I think it was at UW-Parkside and originated in Lake Geneva Wisconsin.

      I've been going about 12 years now and
      • So do the games at Gen Con revolve around board games(Catan, Puerto Rico,etc), Card Games(MtG, etc), Role Playing(Palladium, D&D, etc), or War Games(Axis Allies, etc), or Minitures(PotSM, MechWarrior, etc), others?

        If every game can be found it there a heavy leaning or certain types of games?

        Also, which games are the easiest to find game to play?

        No more questions for now.

        • I don't know if it revolves so much around one genre of game anymore. DnD was the big game when it started (the con was started by TSR). Magic the Gathering was big. Now you can find plenty of pretty much any kind of game you want.

          I've been doing LARPs for the last few years. The guy that runs the game I play wasn't there this year so I got into a Star Wars RPG. I'll probably do a lot more of the RPG since I had a blast.

          There was a huge display for Axis and Allies this year and they seemed to run const
  • 1D20 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DNAspark99 ( 218197 )
    No news from the Palladium table?

    I've recently re-taken up playing Palladiums' 'Rifts' RPG - more for an 'imagination workout' than any pre-pubescent nostalgia ... (ok a bit of both)

    • Ick. I played a lot of Palladium RPGs in my day. They're kinda like Piers Anthony novels - you enjoy them while you're in it, but you get a dirty feeling when you look back on yourself as an adult.

      Rifts was a great concept horribly abused by blazingly incompetent writers. Siembeda had the originality of a stump, and Carella was just too much of a dreamer - he had no interest in researching the existing settings. All his books were just "old country X is gone, replaced by alien race Y" and he loved to ju
  • by iFuLeng ( 909618 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @12:25PM (#13381056)
    We may be somewhat lacking in new releases, but the Traditional Games area at Origins is worth stopping by. The US Chess Federation, American Bridge League, the American Cribbage Congress, and the organization I belong to, the American Go Association, all run events at Origins. Come by our booth in 2006 for a game, or to learn how to play!
    • Chess, feh! That game has even worse class balance than D&D. The fighters are horribly weak (which is probably why you get so many of them), and even the mounted units have trouble getting anywhere. The clerics and the wizards (represented by their towers for some reason) really dominate, even though they're weak at the beginning because the fighters are in their way. But it's the cleric/mage character (the "queen") that really rules.

      Combat is lame. The encounters basically come down to whichever side w
  • by Cr0w T. Trollbot ( 848674 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @12:26PM (#13381073)
    "In my day, we didn't have any video games! We just used dice and pieces of cardboard!"

    "That's nice gramps, but could you take care of those orcs on the right side of the screen?"

    "I remember playing D&D when you had to triangulate between the Basic Edition boxed set, Grayhawk, and the AD&D Monster Manual! Good times, good times..."

    "Yeah gramps, I'm sure that was the hotness back when Lincoln was President, but could you cast a fire spell at that troll, like, now?"

    "I bet you've never even seen a 20-sided die!"

    "Gramps, unless you stop pining about the stone age and start kicking some monster butt, I'm never going to let you play co-op on my PS2 ever again!"

    Crow T. Trollbot

    • by StefanJ ( 88986 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @12:58PM (#13381383) Homepage Journal
      Really! Early "Green Box" D&D sets came with little blocks of wood, a whittlin' knife, and a fountain pen to write the numbers.

      It was really satisfying coming up with a perfectly shaped tetrahedron all on your own, and many old-timers rue the day that bastard Zocchi introduced his perfectly formed, gleaming jewel-dice.

      True, carving dice had its drawbacks. It was really easy to end up with a d13, or a d20 that came up 19 half the time, so it was a good idea to bring that knife to gaming sessions to settle disputes.

      Also, the staples that held the books together were put there by Arneson and Gygax themselves.
      • Whittling knives and green boxes? You were lucky.

        We used to get up half an hour before we went to bed and orally recite the Monster Manual, stopping whenever a gazelle walked by to determine random encounters. Encumberance was determined by how much we could actually carry, and we never progressed pass level 1 since we hadn't yet invented base-10 math...we only had a maximum of 20 digits to count with.

        But tell kids that today, and they won't believe you.
      • I didn't have to carve my own dice, but I *did* have to take a felt-tip marker and color in the numbers. And of course on the d20, I'd color half the numbers in black and half in red so that you could tell 1-10 from 11-20.

        I actually went to GenCon back in.. geeze... '81 or '82. It was a fun thing to do once.

  • by dividedsky319 ( 907852 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @12:27PM (#13381077) Homepage
    You know you're a dork when SLASHDOT READERS are mocking you ;-)

    Dorks mocking dorks... all hail the uber dork.
    • When you have nothing better to do than spend all you time on a web forum finding people to make fun of so you look cooler in comparison :)

      How pathetic is that? So I'm a dork - short of a miraculous touch by his noodly appendage, that's not gonna change. But I might as well enjoy it like these gamers, than waste life pretending to be cool.

      Note: this is not necisarrily aimed at the parent.
    • Mock us all you want, but the day you set foot in the Indianapolis convention center is the day you will finally realize that dorkiness scale is actually cyclic--shove tens of thousands of the dorkiest people on the planet together in one place and suddenly it's extremely cool to be a dork.

      Witnessing jocks mocked by mobs of people dressed as anime characters or with T-shirts bearing clever jokes (incomprehensible to anyone who hasn't taken several years of physics) is just too priceless to put into words.
    • Well, of course. Even geeks have a pecking order. Lore Sjoberg's "Geek Hierarchy" sums it up nicely:

      http://www.brunching.com/geekhierarchy.html [brunching.com]

      At the top: "Published Science Fiction Authors"

      At the bottom: "People who write erotic versions of Star Trek, Where all the characters are furries, like Kirk is an ocelot or something, and they put in a Furry version of themselves as the star of the story."
  • No news on Ravnica, the next Magic:TG cycle? I'm sure Wizards leaked some stuff there.
  • You bastards, you killed Wizards of the Coast!!!
  • by Yekrats ( 116068 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @12:36PM (#13381158) Homepage
    As a gamer, game designer, and game illustrator, I went to this year's GenCon. I think it was probably the smoothest GenCon that has been held at Indy. Past years featured computer foobars which really put a damper on the rest of the show. I didn't hear any complaints about those kind of glitches this year. The lines seemed to move along better, as well.

    Dominating the show, naturally, were WotC and WizKids. WizKids were giving away free crack, I mean, HeroClix starter packs. Damn, I fell for the trick, too, picking up some cheap booster packs at another booth.

    I participated in TrueDungeon, a "live action" old-skool dungeon crawl, which had each room feature a puzzle and/or combat. If you failed, your character took damage. My group managed to make it through without losing any party members. There was a reported 90% death rate, so maybe we are just really smart, right? :-)

    On the other hand, I was a bit dismayed that TD seemed like a money-generating machine, with (stupid and rich?) players allowed to buy treasure with real cash. I saw geeks walking around with vests composed of TD treasure tokens. I saw other geeks with three-ring binders full of treasure tokens. Me? When asked if I wanted to buy their stupid tokens for $10, I said, "No thanks, I'll just use my massive intellect!" :-) Also dismaying... I prefer story to mindless dungeon crawl. I wanted a hint of a story, but we really got none of that.

    On Saturday night, there was a bit of tension between the gamers and fans of the Indianapolis Colts. That was worth seeing: freaking the mundanes. OK, someone please tell me which is weirder: a guy dressed up as a Stormtrooper, or a guy that paints a blue horseshoe on his face?
    • On Saturday night, there was a bit of tension between the gamers and fans of the Indianapolis Colts. That was worth seeing: freaking the mundanes.

      Tell us more. That sounds like the only interesting story that could come from this shindig.

    • Hi Yekrats,

      I'm one of the directors of True Dungeon - I was primarily involved in building the Tavern/Town space, but I do have some influence in the construction of the rest of the dungeon...

      As far as story line, this year's dungeon had a fairly complete story, if you watched the intro video and/or listened to the speech in the room where they seperated the parties.

      Quick Synopsis:

      A giant rift has opened up above the city of Grayhawk, much like happened many years ago. There is only one way to close it - f
      • And I for one really appreciate it.

        The tokens representing your gear are fun, but are not really necessary. The point of True Dungeon is to solve puzzles (mainly). Indeed, the best tokens cannot be bought, but must be found in the dungeon itself as loot. One of the reason I did buy a limited number of tokens this year is I heard it was used to raise cash to build the town area (yes, there was an entire *town* before you went into the dungeon), and I wanted to support what is now Gencon's premier event.

        • And by the way, the town turned out Amazing, full of hidden alleys, shops, etc.

          As one of the four people that built it, Thank You! We worked very hard to create a place we thought gamers would enjoy. Design started last September, and construction on it started in January. Toward the end, we spent every day after work (we have normal full-time jobs on top of volunteering for TD) working on it.
    • How small was the MegaTraveller table this year? This is the game that absolutely will not die.

      They must sell about 3-4 books per year, and still manage to afford a table in the hall every damned year. How does that work?

      • The reason why Traveller is the game that absolutely will not die is that Traveller is so damn good. The original Traveller "Little Black Books" are going for crazy money on eBay and are being sold in brand new virgin reprints for even crazier money.

        The reason why people are still literally and figuratively "questing" for these books is simple. It is a damn fun RPG to play and a damn fun RPG to "Referee." (Traveller-speak for DM/GM) You get to create a character that is better than a first-level character b
      • Traveller has a very dedicated following, on the Traveller mailing list, on the Citizens of the Imperium web-forum and other places. With a number of generations (Classic Traveller, still incredibly popular, MegaTraveller, T4, T20, GURPS Traveller, Traveller:The New Era, and soon T5), it is probably one of the longest lived RPGs. The setting is what keeps it alive - the setting spans the rulesets and lives on. MegaTrav itself had a very easy to run yet functionally complete skill system and thus is a popula

    • As a gamer and game designer, I stay the hell away from conventions.
  • Great Experience (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @12:41PM (#13381213)
    I spent most of my time in the Boardgame Room this year. Played the classics El Grande and Princes of Florence for the first time. Was thoroughly pleased with both.

    New games I tried out were Boomtown, King of the Elves (a card game based on the classic Elfenland), Powergrid (high marks for this one) and Niagra. Niagra had a terrific mechanic that involved clear plastic discs that simulated a moving river as you attempt to keep your kayak from going over the falls.

    Was in a Formula De tourney and trashed my suspension on the last lap running over my own piece of debris. (I was in a distant 3rd anyway)

    Circus Imperium was fun as usual. It's a chariot racing game from the 80's that involves mayhem and plenty of bloodletting. A group fo friends decided to cause as much pain as possible as fast as possible. I ended up getting slammed into a wall before ever leaving the starting line. I ran 2 chariots into the ground (catching rides as other unmanned chariots came around). At the end of the second lap I sent a player into the wall, we both fell out of our chariots -- I jumped into his faster cab and he was forced to fight it out with others on foot. On the final lap, the victor of the melee climbed on board my chariot and we had to fight to the death for victory -- I won!

    My big surprise this year was with Dawn Patrol -- an old TSR game based on WWI dogfighting. Enjoyed ripping up other players planes and causing general mayhem. The mechanics were abstract enough to make it fun but involved enough dice rolling and table checks to please any grognard.
  • by Wysen ( 860324 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @12:43PM (#13381237)
    Back in the day, when TSR ruled the D&D community, Gen Con was the true vision of nerdyness. The games were hosted by DMs and GMs who just like to play games. The games were fun because they were created by any Joe out there who could come up with a game. There would be a prize given to the winner of the games to. Usually a $10 to $25 gift certificate for anything on the convention floor. When you played with a table full of strangers, you did your best and had fun. Nowadays, the role playing games that are played at Gen Con are hosted mainly by big organizations that crank out the same 10 games and play those 10 games at 35 different times. Their GMs and DMs are all handed the adventure about an hour before they play the game, so they just dully drone through whatever is written to say to the players. There is no prize given, WOTC killed that idea. So no one tries that hard to role-play, they just listen to the cardboard cutout DM drone on. It makes me sad.
    • Indeed. I'd say the biggest mistake was moving it from Milwaukee. A GenCon without the Safe House is no GenCon at all.
      • I never attended when it was still at Milwaukee, but by all accounts Gencon simply outgrew the city. Shops closed up insanely early (6 or 7 PM) and there were few 24 hour restaurants. The hotels, restaurants and retailers Indianapolis simply make more of an effort to welcome Gencon and its attendees.
    • by ChaosDiscord ( 4913 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @02:13PM (#13382104) Homepage Journal

      You're pining for a Gen Con that never quite existed and placing the blame on events that didn't quite happen.

      TSR killed off the gift certificate prizes. TSR did it because TSR was in deep debt after about a decade of gross mismanagement by a woman who hated gaming. It was an expense to be saved. TSR was in such back shape that if WotC hadn't bought them out, TSR, D&D, and Gen Con all were doomed. You can thank WotC for Gen Con surviving at all.

      The death of the gift certificate prizes was good for the industry as a whole. Yes, you could redeem them with anyone in the exhibit hall. Did you know that TSR/Gen Con only reimbursed an exhibitor for a fraction of the value of the gift certificate? (From memory, it was 70% of face value). TSR was giving away other company's money. It drove exhibitors away from Gen Con, especially smaller publishers with very tight margins.

      Finally, so you didn't get a gift certificate. So what? Do you really need gift certificates to enjoy yourself? Myself, I'm thankful that Gen Con survived and that event ticket prices have been pretty stable.

      Your other primary complaint seems to be that the RPG events are dominated by big organizations. Which organizations are you thinking of? The RPGA? That's about it. After that, perhaps the D&D Open or NASCRAG, but both of those are long standing traditions at Gen Con. Indeed, I suspect that the Open and the NASCRAG (Fez/Zef) events predate you attendance at the convention.

      As for the specific reason that often the GM is running the game with little notice, it's often because an event is so popular that the group is scrambling to find someone to run the game. Back the in early 90s I ran events for the RGPA and was frequently asked if I could squeeze another game in. The RPGA hated turning people away (even people with generic tickets). Perhaps a bad idea (because you get GMs who haven't read the module in advance), but not one bourne out of malice.

      Even if there are so many big organization run games, again, so what? WotC did not put up any new barriers to running a game at a convention. Signing up to run a game is just as easy today as it was 15 years ago. Perhaps the number of group-run game has increased more quickly, but given the growth of Gen Con that may be the only way to scale up. Perhaps they're popular like McDonald's you get a certain level of consistency; never great, but never awful. Indeed, during the RPGA's hayday of the early 90s the events were generally quite solid and well run. Conversely, while some of the best games I've ever played have been independent (like Todd Furler's games [anunlikelystory.com]), some of the worst games I've ever played have been independent (Gen Con is not the place to try GMing for the first time).

      Ultimately, if you don't like group-run games, don't play them. I had a great Gen Con, playing only independent games. They're there. The existance of the group-run games doesn't force you to play them.

    • What is it with WotC/Hasbro's monopoly? It's like every product they have is infused with mind altering chemicals. What else can explain the clone mentality of their customers?

      I remember the old days when TSR merely had a large market share. Most people played AD&D, but would still try out different games. Walk into a convention with Runequest and your game was instantly filled with AD&D players wanting to try it out. A couple of years ago my Runequest game was cancelled by the RPGA(tm) because they
    • Oh come on. There are literally thousands upon thousands of games that you can join. Want prizes? I can think of at least a dozen events offhand that offered some form of prize. Want a completely unique, personal, completely-devoid-of-any-trace-of-commericialism game? Make some new friends and strike up a game in the hotel room or on the floor of one of the less-crowded hallways.

      I don't exactly like all of the commericalism either. The ticket policies are downright Nazi-ish (no refunds, no replacement
  • by SFEley ( 743605 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @12:51PM (#13381316) Homepage
    Ignore the haters, Zonk. I liked your review. It's nice to see some variety on /., and some articles with a personal voice.

    That was probably the best wrap-up of Shadowrun 4 that I've seen in one paragraph. I'd been following that news somewhat closely; my regular group is just starting up an SR3 game, and I had to debate seriously whether to wait a few weeks for SR4. I finally decided against it, as I'm very familiar with the old Shadowrun and like the system, weirdnesses and all. Plus, it'll take a long time before the core sourcebooks are all updated to the new rules. But it is nice to see the game's still alive and in-demand.

    • We're switching to Hackmaster until the SR4 PDF comes out, I've already ordered my LE copy of SR4 but it isn't even in the mail yet.

      SR4 PDF should be available by Friday if not sometime next week at BattleCorps [battlecorps.com]. I can't wait, argh!
    • I've been a longtime Shadowrun fan with a great love for the game universe and wealth of background material and numerous misgivings about the game mechanics.

      My group picked up a few copies of the new 4th edition rules and we've been reading through all the changes. Keeping in mind that these are merely first impressions, I'm generally impressed with the changes to character creation and the Matrix, but am somewhere between dismayed and horrified at the new 'streamlined' skill and combat system.

      Charact

  • by bad_outlook ( 868902 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @12:56PM (#13381361) Homepage
    Not pictured: any girls
  • whipper snappers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PMuse ( 320639 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @12:56PM (#13381366)
    Gen Con is the tabletop industry's version of E3,...

    Gen Con has run annually since 1968. (40th anniversary in just 2 years, wohoo!) It is the grandfather of gaming cons. E3 started in 1995.

    For most of its life, it took place in Wisconsin, but moved to Indy in 2003 [wikipedia.org]. Since then, they have begun running additional shows [gencon.com] in other locations. Gen Con and its progeny were even spoofed in the movie Galaxy Quest.
    • I believe Galaxy Quest was specifically spoofing generic science fiction conventions, not Gen Con or gaming conventions. Geek conventions for comic books, science fiction, or other areas of geekery long predate Gen Con.
  • by n-baxley ( 103975 ) <(gro.syelxab) (ta) (etan)> on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @12:57PM (#13381373) Homepage Journal
    OK, I was just geeking out reading about the new release of the original A&A game, apparently came it was revised sometime in 2004. It got me all syched up to go and play some more. Then I remembered the trouble with long board games that often get played in several sittings. Now that I have three young children, leaving it setup and unattended for more than 10 minutes seems like lunacy. Also me war gaming friends are all in the same boat and our chances to "geek out" over a game and a beer are fewer and fewer.

    I own the Hasbro game that came out about 5 years ago and it was a real disappointment. It did allow you to play over the Internet, but the game play itself was full of bugs and just not very user friendly (no undo for mistaken moves to name one). I would love to be able to play an electronic version with the new rules, board, and units. Something that I could get together with people in person or online and when the parenting duties call we could call it a night and start up where we left off later without writing positions down and picking it all up.

    So, have there been any rumblings of a new electronic version coming out? Is Avalon Hill still leary after the last debacle? I know just write one yourself. I'm a programmer, but not a game writer and I just don't have the time (see above about the three kids). If it was out there I would definetly buy it. Love to hear about any projects working toward this.
    • TripleA is an open source version that is very well done and allows you to play the 1st edition, 2nd edition, 3rd edition (what the old computer version was) or the new revised edition (which is the 2004 version you're talking about). It also let's you load any kind of variant rules/boards that other people of come up with.

      Very nice, very free, very open source...

      http://triplea.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] :-)
    • The Hasbro version truly sucked. And the upgrade Iron Fist(???) was no better. Dogs of War was better then the Hasbro version.

      I tried Triplea a few years ago and wasn't impressed, but the latest version is quite nice and I was impressed. nice job to whoever worked on it.

      It is also very easy to modify the game stats.

      So like the other poster said check it out.

  • Regarding Shadowrun (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ichoran ( 106539 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2005 @01:16PM (#13381522)
    Shadowrun has been changed away from a tactical game with rules that work in a broad variety of situations into a game that works best if you don't pay much attention to rules and whose rules behave sensibly for a narrow range of characters.

    Some people will love it, some will hate it, some probably will find the new version the same as the old. It's a huge change, though--as big as if SR4 used the d20 mechanic. (It doesn't, but the d20 mechanic is as different from the old mechanic as the new one is from the old mechanic.)

    If you love WoD-style mechanics, SR4 is probably for you. If d20 is your thing, it's worth a look. If you're into GURPS and Rolemaster, proceed with caution. If you liked SR3 because of the flexibility of its dice system and the tactical nature of combat, you'll likely be very disappointed.

    The setting and feel of the game are too subjective to review--it's still a near-future-with-magic game, and that will appeal to or turn off people depending on their preferences for game setting.
    • Shadowrun had "flexibility" in its dice system?

      This is the same system that had a statistically identical chance of rolling a 6 as a 7, right?

      The new Shadowrun rules have changed, but it doesn't affect the game anywhere near as much as the changes to the setting have.

      Yeah, it's a shame you lose the dice pools, but Edge (the Karma Pool replacement) is more flexible and makes up for the loss of decisions involved with it.

      If anything, the changes made in Shadowrun 4 make it a more flexible and general-purpose
  • the best part (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cangeceiro ( 712846 )
    i think they failed to mention the best part of the whole weeked....mc chris playing at the patio in broad ripple while he was in town for gen con. \m/
  • ushering in the Light Lotus edition for L5R. I was hoping for dark. :(
    • Oh, well, at least it was a tainted victory.
      And the old card that tainted it was the Shadow Dragon.
      And he used Gozoku Sensei.
      Rich and Shawn from the story team will have a field day with this, I'm sure ;)
  • Ah, those old Sci-fi RPGs...

    Metamorphosis Alpha?

    Traveler?

    Gamma World?

    • While you're in the old lists:

      Star Frontiers & Knight Hawks?
      Apocalypse?
      Morrow Project?
      Twilight 2K? (Not quite sci-fi...)
      Star Trek, the RPG?
      Star Wars, from WEG?
      Star Ace?
      Freedom in the Galaxy?
      Timelords?
      Original Paranoia?

      That's all from memory. I know I'm missing a bunch.... :)
  • It's been a long while since I stopped playing tabletop RPGs, and I'm uninpressed with the d20 system and mostly everything new in the scene. A pleasant surprise was The Riddle Of Steel [theriddleofsteel.net], with a truly innovative combat and evolution system which I'd like to try. Unfortunately the core book is a bit difficult to import around here.

    Anyone who has been to GenCon got any news about TROS?
  • Somehow an icon with a joystick just isn't right.

    Hell, they even got one for RTS, so why not RPGs? I'm pretty sure the /. crowd has a critical mass for this.

  • Reading this review I would get the impression that GenCon is all about selling stuff and "products". There's that element, and the vendor area is fun. But that's not really the point of going to the convention for me. The point is to get together with gaming geeks and play games. There's a huge catalog of events for role-playing, board games, & card games. It's a blast.
  • I arrived in Indy Thursday afternoon for some shopping and then dinner with friends. I settled down to serious gaming Friday morning.

    Except for one slot of Shadowrun Missions, I played Living Arcanis and Living Force the entire time. These are two of the ongoing campaigns in the RPGA, and two of the best, IMHO.

    Living Force had a relatively strong trilogy, though the third part was a little weak. They've been hampered all year by the forces as Lucasfilm, who get to approve everything in the campaign
  • Are there any girls there? [nyud.net]

    (summoner geeks)

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