JP On Gaming

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Neoncon 2010

Where I come from

Those who know me know that I attend cons for one reason: play or run. But at this year’s Neoncon, I decided to do it differently. Instead of wall-to-wall playing/running, I would try to breathe between slots and attend a number of lecture/ seminars/ workshops with some of the gaming industry’s biggest names. People whose work I like (and sometimes dislike). People I respect. From whose experience my projects could benefit.

I will admit that though excited I did not really know what I was getting into. How would it be? Fun or boring, active or passive (on my part), did the speakers really want to impart any of that wisdom and experience I sought? From the huge lineup of names, I expected a lot.

Neoncon: Thursday

After walking around the con, I was told about Stan! Owen KC Stephens and Ed Stark’s workshop about world building. Having learned that, I quickly made my way there and took a seat. The guys proposed a framework for world creation. With each participant throwing ideas for a world they were thinking about. We worked on two different settings participants were thinking about.

What I got out of that workshop was the format of the idea pitching. Though the why was not new to me, it gave me a different perspective from some of the guys who had already done this. Frankly, if I had done this workshop before we started working on Akos, a lot of time would’ve been spent. Thanks guys!

After that, I gathered a few stragglers who trickled in and ran a play test of Opening Moves, my second Akos adventure. The feedback was positive. Although there were a number of items I have to change, some great feedback and notes came out of the play test (some flow element, some boxed text, some GM text, a few corrections on the character sheet, etc).

Neoncon: Friday

Today started with an early breakfast at the Excalibur’s buffet with fellow Venture Captain, Issak, Robyn any Jeremy. Good to put actual faces to names I’ve only seen in e-format.

With that done, I joined a table of PFS-03 Murder on the Silk Caravan where I had a lot of fun playing with my Opera Singer. After like 6 tries to play the adventure, I finally got it done.

After that, I joined a seminar by John Wick called “Hating with the haters”. Yes. It was exactly what it said on the tin. Almost every sentence or comment started with “you know what I hate?” Awesome! We discussed important topics from Tom Cruise in a L5R movie to bad games to house rules to hating on the haters themselves. While not very serious, this was extremely funny and a nice change of pace.

Then I took part in Adam Daigle “create a monster” workshop. The three participants included someone who was only conversant in 4e, someone who was very much into more freeform games (such as Gurps) and me (another aging curmudgeon gamer). You would think that such an eclectic group would have difficulty coming up a coherent monster for the Pathfinder system. However, what happened was an odd synergy of influences that created a very dynamic discussion (meaning we spent more time pitching ideas than we did on the number-crunching). The resulting monster just SCARES THE PANTS OFF ME. All of us pitched some ideas that made this monster very nasty. The monster will be featured in an upcoming post on Kobold Quarterly. I’m sure you will also get to see it as part of CreativeU’s web casts.

The one-hour discussion could very well have continued on for more, with such a dynamic team. I’m almost sad that we only designed one monster.

Adam presented the technique he uses when he designs monsters, which is both simple and very useful. He takes a sheet of paper, physically folds it in two along the short edge, creating two columns. On the right side, he brainstorms his ideas, nothing specifically system related. Things he wants to see on the monster, things that would be cool, etc. The left side, he keeps to stat-out the creature. I really like his technique, and will VERY likely steal it away.

After a quick dinner with Issak and Robyn it was more PFS. This time I played in the "Classic" (what we call Fiesta in Denver) PFS-34 Encounter at Drowning Stone. Very interesting party! We hated on each other… Actually, I hated on them through the game calling them minions and thugs.

Neoncon: Saturday

First order of the day (after shower, getting dressed, coffee, and food) was to attend Jason Buhlman’s workshops. I got to sit and chat with him a little before the seminar. While with Jason, I got to meet SRM whom I met back in ’04 or ’05 and Sean (and now, Mrs.) Reynolds and chat with them briefly.

The first seminar was about game design. A few good ideas came out as we talked about one guy’s idea. I’m curious to see if he will go forward with his idea and publish the game.

Next came the big one. Jason, Stephen and Sean offered a workshop where those present became his design team for the upcoming Ultimate Combat (Gencon-ish 2011). We worked on the ninja and samurai for Pathfinder. I can’t say much other than I now have to save up for another awesome book. Keep an eye out for it.

Next slot, I sat with Issak, Mike-A and Robyn (and Cheri) to play PFS 02-08 The Sarkorian Prophecy. It was one of those times where there really was not need for a mod. We just all had great time. Oh! And we kicked ass too!

For the evening slot, I offered to help in running Year of the Shadow Lodge. My services were immediately picked up as I managed to tag out other VCs suffering from various ailments. Since my voice projects, I also read the boxed text. I had a blast beating up on my players and giving them a hard time. Since none of them hit me over the head, I think they enjoyed their experience. It has left me with a number of ideas for running it again.

Dark points

Everything can’t be rosy and perfect… It just can’t… Two issues arose. First, the lack of fast food joints to run to when you had only 15 minutes between slots. Okay it’s not like my own fat butt will lose much by skipping a meal. Second, I could not be there for more Sunday goodness.

In the end

Wow what an awesome con. Doug Daulton and his staff run a top-notch event. If you haven’t been, you are missing out. Plain and simple. I was very lucky to attend and have really like Doug’s events (went in ’08 to a similar high-quality experience).

The seminars/ talks all added to my weekend in some way. I did receive some of the wisdom that I looked for. I returned home to a whole series of new ideas and plans to make things work.

I want to give a big thanks to Doug Daulton, the mastermind behind Neoncon and his staff. It was a tight ship they ran and something I was partially privy to (I helped here and there with errands and odds and ends). I am very glad to call Doug my friend. Thanks to Steve, Rene and all the GMs who stepped up. And of course, thanks to those who ran workshops.

Next year, I have to go back!



  1. Very cool! Sounds like a good time was had by all.

  2. Neoncon was a lot of fun and I enjoyed meeting you at the breakfast Friday morning


  3. @Louis-> Yes... it was great!
    @Jeremy-> Same! Neoncon was as much a social event as it was for gaming.