This post is a conclusion of my own adventures at GenCon 2013. For the first part, follow this link.
I woke up still in the dark of night. I must've been really tired cuz I can honestly say that I slept pretty well. Up and about in a short interval and back to Gencon. I did a mandatory stop as the Starbucks (I hadn't slept THAT well). I managed to reach Gencon around 8:30 which allowed me to walk around, get into the early slots. Looking thru my program the only thing I knew where to find was PFS. So I showed up!
I met Karim-M the VC from France and an all-around nice guys. I had been talking with Karim since the days of LFR but never met him face-to-face. Spoke with Florent some more, nearly mustered with my current VC, Chad and his lovely fiancée. I was bouncing back and forth until I finally sat down with Lynn-R whom I hadn't seen in years. We had a fun adventure with our wacky band of heroes going through the Secrets Stones Keep. Wolfina reach 8th level, making my spread: 15, 13, 11.2, 10.2, 10, 8, 5, 4 (but will jump to 6 shortly) and "the rest".
I liked the idea that Paizo thought to offer French-speaking (and Spanish-speaking) tables but these need to be mustered more clearly. I'm not sure that one of the French tables went off, to my chagrin. I will admit that I was not particularly looking for them myself, though playing with Karim or Florent would've been really cool. It didn't happen, oh well.
We finished the game around 1pm, which gave me 3 full hours to travel through the dealers' room. I pass through most of them without stopping: I was not looking for the same stuff I can get at my local games store... There were a few interesting surprises. I got to speak briefly with Henry Lopez from PCI, with Danny about the Grande Temple of Jing (I can't wait for my copy to arrive), spoke with the guys from Cool Mini or Not as well as a number of smaller miniature companies about their games and products. There are a few I would've bought but the minis I liked were sold out. DANG. I got to talk with Charlie Krank and Paul from Chaosium.
I also learned that Reaper will make another million bucks this year by running another one of their "Bones" Kickstarter. This time I will NOT miss it... I will have enough minis to give the kids! Then I'll be the best dad ever!
I did not really spend much time at the booths of the big guys: Paizo, Privateer Press and I avoided Games Workshop - though I did look at their boring and uninsipired display. Why? Because Paizo was not offering anything special or new. The GenCon exclusive from Privateer was of no interest to me - unlike last year's - and well I don't buy GW unless its second hand - and even then...
I was about to go home when I spotted my one and only purchase: I bought the last of the Razor Coast Miniatures! I got me two minor weresharks and the cover girl pirate. Now I have to build a character for her! Really a nice model! You can expect to find her posted here in the near future.
Here are a few pictures I took at Gencon. Things I was impressed with - or remembered to take a picture of. (the latter being more accurate)
Rant: If you do a Kickstarter, FIRST DELIVER before running another one
I'm looking particularly at CMoN here... They are asking for more money for their new "Wrath of Kings" games. While the art and the models look awesome, I will not participate in that one. Not until I get my Relic Knight models. I've been waiting for almost a year for them when they were supposed to be out in March. While I can understand delays and design issues, you don't start another similar project with the first one unfinished.
I told the guys there about it and while I do not expect them to do anything about my case, I'll keep my money for that one.
I did not agree - or participate in Paizo's two Kickstarter but they delivered what they promised their backers. Same with Reaper.
Rant: PFS Year 5... More miss than hit?
One thing that struck me was the lack of understanding of the new rules. Perhaps it is because the new rules had come out just before the con - but I don't think that's the case. I think the rules intrinsically transform what PFS is. We now move from a campaign where the players worked for their factions above all to a group of generic adventures with minor affinity.
Unlike NeoExodus Legacies, which was based on that premise, the PFS transformation does not feel natural. Even this meta-plot where the Society joins the Crusade of Mendev does not feel natural, more like "flavor of the year."
I'm sure that after yr5, we will all be fully equiped and ready never to meet a demon ever again! That's too bad.
So far, this feels very bland. The lack of factions really takes away one of the elements I liked best about the campaign. Now its... well bland.
Perhaps one of the elements that really did not help me with that vision are some of my GMs. One seemed more interested in going to sleep than to run a game. Another one did not know the monsters (on a 5-9) where we just destroyed everything, encounters after encounters when I *KNEW* the monsters had a ton of really nasty abilities. They just became a bland thug encounter: Like a dragon only fighting with its claws when it has a number of spell-like abilities that can destroy the party. I was not impressed by the PFS GMs. And I just expected the GMs to be... better. For 32$ a slot (counting me entry badge), I expected more. Even counting 6$/slot... You have to be on your A-game throughout the weekend. There is simply no excuse, you must put on your game face (though I'll pardon the sick GM as I was there myself and it really sucks).
I'll admit that the item logsheet is just a piece of junk. It assumes players are cheating and encourages GMs to be jerks. I will have to generate one electronically so I don't have to carry all that paperwork. When adding paperwork, I always ask myself: What are you trying to fix? Here, I can see they are trying to make it easier for new players to deal with that. But it is annoying to old players (like me). I will not have one of those useless things, esp since I rarely ever make any purchases at the game table (or I do so at the start of the adventure).
Rant: The PFS Muster Area
This one is not Paizo's Fault or the volunteers' fault. However, I have never seen anything so disorganized or completely impossible to understand.
First off, must was inside the room (fine), under the iconic banners (fine), however each slot there were 3 or 4 of these banners that mustered the same game! So you had to walk around and hope to find somewhere. I realize there were many adventures to muster, but why not have all of the same adventures be in one place - or close to each other. Not sure what they wanted to do here, but mustering was the most confused I ever saw at a con. Not the best experience.
However, once everyone you had a table, the marshalls did a good job of seating you quickly. Kudos on that!
Rant: Vowing undying loyalty to Paizo is great, but...
You would no believe the number of people who, in so many words vowed eternal loyalty and patronage to Paizo. While I'm sure Paizo loves this, I have to wonder about the accuracy. As most of them in the same breath say they will never buy a single WotC product again.
I strive for people to play RPGs (so *I* can play RPGs), for people to try different games, and for the best idea to win.
Right now the best D&D product out there is Pathfinder. Will it remain so in 2 years? Will Paizo jump the shark and make everything suck? I do not know. With 5e looming large these declaration of eternal servitude may be misplaced. Play and encourage people to play Pathfinder, yes. But don't make plans spanning 50 years.
I mean after 4 years of Pathfinder, the game is bloated. There are so many products, so much lore, so many game options that when I hear of the new stuff that comes out (esp stuff that is not in their Core book line), I shrug and reply "not in my campaign" before quickly moving on. This is very much like 3.5 was in its dying days. Are we about to see Pathfinder version 2? I think the signs are there. Unlike 5e (see later), I have a strong belief in Erik, Jason, SRM and SKR to bring us a great product.
Rant: 4e is dead people! End the Edition War
I will admit to being the first to not like that edition (4e) of the game, but really people. Stop talking about it. No one want to know how much it sucked and how much you did not like it. A story I heard SO often throughout GenCon, to the point where I had to become its defender and clarify that it was "not all bad and it had a number of points and some new ideas that even Pathfinder took.
As a whole it wasn't for me, but it did have a number of nice things (I'm a fan of the Standard-move-minor breakdown among other thing). Even Pathfider vs. 4e vs 5e are old and passed. There is NO argument that has not been heard.
I just thought it was such a role-reversal where I has to defend the game and paint it in a positive light. Just for fun, rather than trying to bash it, try to find the elements that worked for it. Really it is an exercise I did myself and though it did not make me suddenly fall in love with the game, it gave me perspective and a new enjoyment for 3.5/Pathfinder.
For all the smack talk that 4e brought (on both sides), one great thing it did was to force us to think about what we liked and why. The OSR would never have happened or been as big without it. We had a number of people who had to rethink what they liked, didn't like. And that could've been the biggest and best thing about 4e.
Rant: We don't know how 5e will turn out
This one is related to the previous rant, really. Bashing and destroying 5e before its out is like blasting next year's McLaren F-1 cars this year. It's futile and we just don't know how it will turn out. I'm cautiously optimistic about it myself - and that's my official position. I choose to reserve judgment until I get a "real" product in my hands to decide (which will likely be a PDF prior to me buying it). WotC seems to have done a lot of soul-searching and this could be what brings them back on top. So far, I have not involved myself too much in the playtest simply because, well I don't want to and second, my limited gaming time is spent playing established game system. But I also understand and support those who really want to try and participate in the playtest (even if the public phase is coming to an end).
Okay, okay, I am quite willing to bet that when 5e comes out, WotC will skyrocket to the top of the gaming world again. How long they remain there is a mystery, but I'm sure that they will be the talk of the town for the first 6 months to a year, if not more. It will be a time of transition for the gaming community where old ideas will be shuffled and rethought.
Beyond that 6month/1year timeframe, we get into the speculation: what will Paizo do to react? will there be another big name that rises? etc. That's like saying to a bunch of history nerds "You know, if Hitler had waited for 1942 to attack Russia, the world would be German right now..."
For the LOVE OF GOD, do NOT say that... or you are in for endless arguments. Like saying something like "The First Edition of Traveller is when gaming reached perfection..."
I guess the big question I have to ask myself is the following: Do I want to go back next year?
Without a doubt, the answer is "YES!" Although I plan on offering some Legacies there, I think I will split my play-time between Witch Hunter/Arcanis (I hope) and PFS. I will also bring my kids for Sunday, get them exposed to a little gaming. Next year will be a full-time attendance of course. No 2 day trek.
Overall and whetever my ranting seems to indicate, I really enjoyed myself and met a lot of great people - some I knew some I didn't - but I can only encourage you to come.