GenCon Indy 2005, Day 221 Aug 2005 0
A pattern is starting to emerge with the crowds at GenCon: mornings finds the halls packed. There is almost no standing room in the vendor area as the crowds surge into the hall. Later in the day most gamers seem to disappear into the events in the areas. The hall is still pretty crowded, but nowhere near the mob that is the morning crowd.
Meanwhile Down at the Local Pub?
Passing through the halls, a big sign caught my eye for the Fantasy Tavern. I was intrigued. It was set up so that folks could go in and hang out in-costume, if they desired, or simply sit around and chat about how things were going (for a small cover charge). It also was a place where gamers could gear up for their next True Dungeon adventure. Last year I got a real treat when the sponsors let a group of us in on a last run of the night. We couldn?t attend the True Dungeon game, but they led us through the True Heroes adventure, which is a superhero version of True Dungeon. Players take the roles of some of the cartoon characters represented in the cards from the VS system, and I found it very entertaining. Part role-playing (costumes are optional), part puzzle solver, and part test of skill and wits, these adventures are great fun, though winning requires discipline and the group to work together.
While at the pub, or elsewhere, gamers looking for a game to fill their time may want to check out Eagle Games? latest release, Wench. Billed as the ?The thinking man?s drinking game?, Wench is a game with a straight forward goal: get rid of all your cards. Starting with five cards in a hand, the game commences to the left of the dealer. Cards come in two types: Table and Action. All Table cards and some action cards are printed with a gold border, which are the only cards a player can play on his turn. They require some kind of action, such as being able to touch the player?s significant other, or being able to keep their eyes shut until the end of the next turn. Spicing this up are a series of Fast Action cards which are played whenever a particular condition is met, such as a player receives a card if they break their own rule. Wench is clearly lightweight fare, and intended to simply add variety to an evening when the intellectual heavy lifting is done. Nowhere in the game does any rule appear to require players to drink ? a misconception that I had when I first saw it ? fueled perhaps by the subtitle?s billing. In fact, the rules specifically recommend that players not consume alcoholic beverages. (Yeah, there won?t be any house rules with this game, will there?) Wench probably derives its name from the skimpily clothed illustrations that adorn its deck. While somewhat suggestive, they manage to stay on the PG side of the fence. Even so, the game comes with a mature label on the outside, and isn?t suitable for kids.
Everywhere I turn is Middle Earth
Going down to the pool the evening of Day 2 I run into some early 20-somethings who are chatting about how strong their competition deck is. I have no idea which game they?re talking about, but they kindly make room for some laps in the pool. Later that evening, I try to let my thoughts congeal. I?m not a huge fan of TV, but it serves an entertaining purpose when room service arrives. Flipping through the channels I am delighted to discover The Fellowship of the Ring is on. As great a treasure as that is, I have to wonder if the whole world is being subsumed by the fantasy genre: TNT showing a Lord of the Rings flick in the middle of GenCon? What are the odds? Remembering that fans of the Colts game will storm the stadium immediately next to the convention hall the next evening like a horde of Visigoths I realize that possibility of RPGs taking over the world is unlikely. Better that I set an extra watch tonight and calculate my escape to friendlier ground.
Rather than worry about how many yards the Running Back Du Jour is garnering, I contemplate on the masterpiece on TV. Tolkien?s message is too compelling to ignore, and I find myself pinging between my laptop and the TV. He once wrote (it?s in the movie), ?Even the smallest person can change the future.? I agree: heroes can come in various forms, some of them not obvious. RPGs allow gamers a freedom that is in many ways unparalleled in gaming. Most boardgames constrain the participants in various rules, using only prescribed units. That isn?t to say that they can?t be fun ? even extraordinarily fun. But there are a finite number of possible outcomes in a boardgame, no matter that the number exceeds what a gamer might be able to reproduce in a lifetime.
RPGs are about role-playing and the human interaction between players that is inherent to them is a unique gaming experience. Players who want to act in a Good way are free to do so; those who prefer neutral or evil paths are likewise free. Some RPG systems have no prescribed alignments, others require players to declare their intentions and penalize them from deviating from that declaration. The freedom of action in RPGs means that sometimes, just as in life, players may exceed the boundaries of their alignment. I play with a group of guys who often seem to interpret my Lawful Good Monk?s alignment as Lawful Stupid. I?ll admit that too much honesty can be detrimental ? integrity taken too far can be a burden at times. But Truth is Truth and self-consciousness leads to and borders on enlightenment, not evil. Lawful Good doesn?t mean trying to make a last stand to redeem past sins like Boromir in one of the last scenes of The Fellowship of the Ring. The judicious use of discretion as the better part of valor can often be the Right Thing To Do. Even so, I am baffled by the numbers of people who attend these cons supporting the Imperial Stormtroopers, Drow elves, and covet Orc swords. On the other hand, they?ll make great fodder for my Level 13 Monk if and when I meet them in-game.
In Any Event
Regardless of the fact that I?m seeing too many Call of Cthulhu t-shirts and ocr swords, the greater portion of humanity remains, as it always seems to, tipped toward the side of Good. That doesn?t mean a few folks won?t dress eccentrically at GenCon, but by and large I found the crowds to be more than tolerant of the occasional excess. Yeah, the guy walking around in the pink fairy costume was down right weird, but expecting that everyone else seemed to be within the bounds of whatever the median norm of fantasy con-goers is. I don?t mean to mislead readers ? the vast majority of attendees were dressed in cool ?geekwear? t-shirts or just plain regular stuff. But, as always, the exceptions seem to garner the most attention. So for Day 2 I?ve taken a bunch of shots of exhibits and the rather exceptionally dressed folks who are attending in-costume.