Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Gen Con 2019 - Pictures and Brief Recap

Last August me and my local gaming pals, Steve Ellis and Matt Ryan, made a road trip to Gen Con. Steve is an artist who does the excellent Only Living Boy comic, and also illustrates for many of the major gaming companies like Fantasy Flight, Wizards, etc. If you've ever played any of the Fantasy Flight Cthulhu games, you've almost certainly seen some of Steve's art. Matt does maps for Chaosium, among other things, and was a writer for Ars Magica (5th ed). So yeah, nerd party!

I used to go to a fair number of gaming cons, but that was my first Gen Con experience. Steve goes every year for professional reasons - he almost always has a booth on artists alley. I'd always wanted to go since seeing the ads in the back of my Dragon mags back in the 80s, so going with Steve, who has the connects to get a hotel room nearby, was a no brainer. Obviously Gen Con is a totally different thing now than it was then. Well, maybe not totally different...

Here's me and Lou Zocchi, the original master of randomization. His booth is probably the single best direct link to the classic spirit of Gen Con. If you go to Gen Con you MUST stop by to see him and buy some dice. Check this insane original Range 1 digital randomizer he had:

Gen Con was especially sweet for me this year because I got to meet up with my niece, Celeste Conowitch, who was there DMing a live Twitch feed for Wizards. Long time readers might remember this old post, from when Celeste was 16 and running an all-girls D&D game. Now she hosts a popular D&D actual play podcast called Venture Maidens, is a frequent guest on many other podcasts, and is publishing 5e material with Onyx Path and Kobold Press. Here's Steve, Celeste, and myself hanging out Steve's booth (Steve did the cover for Celeste's Blood Sea book from Onyx Path):

By the way, I ran into GWAR in the hallway near the Chaosium rooms:

Paizo is a huge thang at Gen Con. I was curious to try out Starfinder, so I played in one of their "adventure path" games, which was ridiculous and pretty much sucked. Not because the system was bad, necessarily, but the tired, unengaged gamemaster was basically reading each step of the adventure off of a laminated card and we just did a scripted series of easy combats and guided dice roll games. Lame. I think a lot of people spend most of their Gen Con time grinding through these "path" games to build up their characters. The size of the Paizo gaming hall is difficult to imagine unless you've been there. It was pretty impressive:

I did play a lot of excellent games, especially hanging around the Chaosium rooms with Matt, including Call of Cthulhu, Runequest, and Pendragon. So maybe I'll talk more about those games later. But probably the best surprise of Gen Con for me was all the artists showing off their work. I spent a long time checking out the work and chstting with artists. I ended up buying a piece from Jon Sideriadis, who ended up winning the Jury Prize for Best Artist. I will definitely write more about Jon's art in a future post.

There ya go... some good memories. I'll be going back in 2020, so we can talk more about that too.

Monday, January 20, 2020

12 Years of Cyclopeatron

I started this blog in 2008. That’s a long time ago. The blog peaked in 2010/2011. Then I had kids, two boys, and had to keep focus on my day job (professor) to get tenure. I ended up getting tenure, and even better, I was recruited to join the faculty at Cornell University. The move to NY shook up my gaming life, and most other aspects of my life, and I had to find a new gaming crew. I also had to raise little kids and run a growing genetics lab. So, yeah, the blog slipped away. That’s why I haven’t posted for 6 years.

I have been gaming though. I gamed with several of local groups. Dungeon World, Castles & Crusades, D&D, Call of Cthulhu, board games, miniature games. There are a ton of cool gamers, artists, and developers around Ithaca, and there's no shortage of opportunities to play. Around 2013 I ran a ~10 session white box campaign in the cloud mines of Catheign which was awesome, but I couldn’t keep it going with adult schedules and family pressures. Some of the players traveled in from pretty far.

Things are very different for me now, though. I have an amazing group of local RPG friends, both my kids are D&D players, I run a weekly D&D game for kids that I have a lot to say about, and I was promoted to Full Professor, so I have a bit less pressure than before. And, importantly, the new edition of D&D arrived over the period of blog dormancy. This new edition is really good, in my opinion. And, more generally, over the last few years it seems like the entire cultural institution of fantasy role playing has changed in North America–not only because of the new D&D, but because of various cultural, technological, and generational forces as well. Twitch, Instagram, Stranger Things, DM's Guild, more and bigger conventions, actual play shows like Critical Role, generational transmission of the game, entertainment industry movers and shakers talking up D&D, etc. It's been fun for me in this world. Gaming, creating, and navigating the expanding landscape. I predict, or at least hope, that we will see interesting things happening within the next few years when this newer generation of players (including returning adult players) burns out on the Forgotten Realms and Ravnica pastiches served up by Wizards, and starts branching out to find their own voices.

And there is amazing new art to look at too.

So maybe we can talk about all this a little bit...

Friday, January 17, 2020

Should I revive this blog?

So, I'm thinking about signing up to run a game at GenCon this year (2020). Probably a 5e overhaul of the CACODAEMON TRANSLUCENT PLANETOID scenario I ran at SoCal Minicon in 2011 (see review of session by Telecanter here). Cosmic horror Spelljammer essentially.

I'd love to talk about this, and other material, some more. Share art. etc.

Also, I'm thinking about starting this blog again after... um... 6 years...?

Is anyone still out there?

Are blogs still even a thing anymore?