Gen Con Wrap Up, Part 4


With The Shotgun Diaries and Houses of the Blooded both sold out, you would think I’d be less busy at the booth. That would not be the case. People kept dropping by, asking me questions, looking for books, telling me about their campaign.

Now, I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. Write a roleplaying game and people will tell you about their character. Write a game master advice column, and people tell you about their campaign. It’s a mixed blessing. I love hearing people how people enjoy my work and how it helped them entertain their players. And some of the stories are so powerful, I carry them with me after the show. But then, some folks have never heard The Bard talk about the soul of wit.

I kid because I love.

1:00 PM
I arrive with  and 

 for the Robin’s Laws vs Play Dirty Steel Cage Deathmatch. As I anticipated, our styles compliment each other very well. Robin and I give fifty minutes of advice that can really be boiled down to "LISTEN TO YOUR FRIGGIN’ PLAYERS!" Robin talks a lot about narrative structure and trying capture what makes stories work in a game. I tell them to stomp their characters’ faces in. It’s a grand day.

Unfortunately, neither Robin or I have the ability to record it. Someone was video taping the event, but I don’t know who he was. Maybe we’ll be able to get hold of that video/audio someday.

 and I spend a couple hours with a group of really nice guys who buy us whiskey. Actually, they bought us whiskey the night before. We caught up with them again at one of the many Irish pubs in Indianapolis and hang out for a couple of hours. We talk about games, wrestling, politics and a whole bunch of other stuff. Here’s one of them.

See that look on his face? What a fanboy. 

Honestly, if I had more fanboys like him, I’d be living next door to The Lucas. Don’t let anyone tell you any different: the best reward in this business is people who take the time to tell you they love your work. I’ve been on both ends of this industry: making Big Time collectible card game end and the paying for books out of your own pocket end. The reward for both ends is the same: folks playing your game. And there just ain’t any way of paying them back. 

Yeah, paying them back. They could be playing World of Warcraft. Or Magic. But they aren’t. They’re playing your game. They spend the time and the money to play your game. They’re the reason I get to do what I love: design games. Not write novels or script films. Make games.

So, thank you to all my fanboys. A lot of folks use that term in a very derogative way. Not me. I love every one of them.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  and I left the Irish pub for the White Wolf party. I was told that last year suffered for want of air conditioning. Not so this year. In fact, this was the first WW party I’ve been to that I really enjoyed myself. Kudos to the organizers. You guys did a great job.

Except for playing the ’80’s hair metal. What was up with that?

I got to spend a lot of time with a few people.  and I talked a lot about my unreleased game about magic. We talked a lot about it because I really don’t have any idea how to do it yet. I’ve gone through about ten different iterations, but all of them feel so mundane. So, we talked a lot. It’s so deep inside my head, it’s like trying to pry it out. I’ve never had any luck with a game that I got to that way. Games like Houses of the Blooded and Wilderness of Mirrors and even The Shotgun Diaries flowed from my head so easily. One day, it’ll come. Just not yet.

This lovely lady is Jennifer Brozek. You must always greet her with, "Oh My God, You’re Jennifer Brozek!" It’s a rule. And I’ll give you a Style Point if I catch you doing it.

More of the lovely folks I got to spend time with at the White Wolf Party. There’s Dominic (from Cubicle 7) and Melissa (from Exile Game Studio) and in the back there, there’s Jared trying to maintain his Awesome in the midst of mediocrity. And yes, I’m holding a cup within a cup. I don’t remember why.

I should also note that while I spent my time in the company of beautiful and intelligent women,  spent the entire evening dancing with gorgeous British boys. I was surprised she didn’t ask if we could bring one home. She’s such an Anglophile. She’s also a magnificent wingman. Should be only a couple of years until we cement our reputations as the Fitzgeralds of the Game Industry. In fact, the next day, the questions I was getting about our behavior at the WW party indicates to me that we’re already on our way.

2:00 AM
On our way back to the hotel, I stopped for a hotdog and a Coke. The vendor was dressed in what looked to be two loin cloths wrapped around her chest and waist and she was getting a lot of attention from the drunken revelers making their own ways back to their beds.

I was polite and made no comments. She looked very tired and a little distraught. I said "please" and "thank you" but it didn’t seem to ease her at all. But the hotdog was good and the Coke was very cold.

I don’t know why I remember her so well. Even now, I can picture her as if she’s right in front of me. A striking, but frustrated woman, quietly asking, "What the fuck am I doing here?"

She was in my thoughts as I fell asleep that night. My last thoughts of the day.

Gen Con Wrap Up, Part 3


Take a good look at the man on the left there. Take a good, long look.

That man is The Enemy.

Sure, he looks harmless. In fact, he is. Mostly.

Sure, he looks like a sympathetic, compassionate fellow. In fact, he is. Mostly.

But he is also The Enemy. And he cannot be trusted.

His name is Sean K. Reynolds. And under that beneficent disguise lurks the heart of a cold-blooded killer. A ruthless psychopath. 

He is The Enemy.

A little explanation may be in order.

I’ve been doing some freelance work for Sean, working on a few Pathfinder books. I asked for some work and he gave it to me. That’s because he appears to be a valuable human being who listens to the needs of others and does his best to fulfill them within the powers bestowed to him. At least, that’s how he appears.

On Friday, I stopped by the Paizo booth to see if I could trade for a copy of the new Pathfinder RPG. Sean got me one without even needing to trade for it. We talked for a little while and when he asked what I was working on, I explained The Enemy rules in the Houses of the Blooded larp. Or, Sean had seen them and was explaining their pure brilliance to someone else who happened to be there. One of those two sounds right. I particularly like the part where I’m brilliant.

The Enemy Rule. You go to a buddy of yours and ask him to be your Enemy in the game. The two of you get bonus points for various things. Bonus Style, bonus Advantage, etc. It’s a rule that’s my attempt to dismantle as many of the emotional land mines that lurk around in the larp setting as I can.

And then, I asked Sean, "Sean, would you be my Enemy?"

He agreed. And thus, our rivalry began.

3:00 PM
Meanwhile, back in the booth, The Shotgun Diaries and Houses of the Blooded were both gone. I still had Play Dirty, Cat and Discordia. We sold a bunch of Cat and much more of Discordia than I thought. We also had PDFs of Curse of the Yellow Sign Act 1 and 2, but those didn’t sell as well as I thought. The common question was, "Can I download it?" When they found out they could, they passed on the CD. A lesson to learn.

I also talked to a French publisher about the rights to print HotB in their native language. We bargained, chatted and agreed it would be a good idea. Keep an eye out for full-color, hard bound HotB… in French.

8:00 PM

Finally, Friday night, I agreed to run Houses of the Blooded for what turned out to be a whole ton of people. I think there were as many as eleven folks in the room. I’ve run the game for that many people before and learned a few tricks. Here’s what I did.

I assigned the rank of Count to three of the players–including the very ambitious and devious Mike and the very friendly Rob from the Bear Swarm podcast.

Oh, and speaking of Rob, I should post this little beauty here. It’s a real tattoo, not a fake. And it’s gorgeous and highly humbling.


I assigned the role of Count to three players and then put the rest of the players in a position of finding a Count. The group divided themselves up and they all got into their carriages to party with Shara…

By the end of the game, there were two poisonings, three allegiance switches, a duel and an attempt to start a Romance with Shara. In short, all kinds of dangerous activities. I believe fun was had by all–there were a whole lot of "Hell yeah!" when I inquired–and many of us retired downstairs to McCormick and Schmick’s where I drank a lot of whiskey and ate a lot of happy hour appetizers.

We bumped into some friends of ours from Phoenix, chatted, laughed and eventually went back upstairs and fell fast asleep.

Gen Con Wrap Up, Part 2


(image courtesy of Matt McElroy)


We arrived at 9:00 AM. Got our hotel room. Hired a taxi to get ourselves down to the convention center with our boxes full of books and poker chips. We finally set up in the corner of the Cubicle 7 booth at around 11:00.

Our boothmates notified us that they were very tired of answering the question, "Where’s John and The Shotgun Diaries?"  and I would soon share in that plight.

TSD nearly sold out on Thursday. We had only five left at the end of the day. Houses of the Blooded, also, was going fast. Usually, on Thursday, I have a chance to make a quick round of the room to say hello to everyone. This year, there was no such chance. A horde of people were always at the booth waiting to buy a book, have me sign a book or tell me about their campaign.

(Write a roleplaying game and people will spend hours telling you about their character. Write a GM advice book and people will spend hours telling you about their campaign.)

I got to meet a whole slew of fine folks. The (fucking) Bear (fucking) Swarm (fucking) podcast (fuck) guys were incredibly friendly and generous. And they put up with my (fucking) running gag long after it was (fucking) funny.

But the sales of TSG was what blew me away. People were storming the booth looking for it. I planned on having a few copies left over for friends, but it was gone, baby, gone by the end of Thursday. 

Oh, and the new best place to eat at Gen Con for the gamer on a budget is Noodles and Company. Delicious food for what you’d pay for a burger. Highly, highly recommended.

And being in the Cubicle 7 booth meant I got to answer a lot of questions about the upcoming Doctor Who RPG. I withheld my Discordian temptations and did not just make stuff up, but referred customers to folks who knew the right answers. Although, making stuff up would have been a lot of fun.

Thursday night, instead of going out and having fun,  and I hit the sheets early so we could get a decent night’s sleep. Notes for Next Year: Do not take an overnight flight on Wednesday night and expect to have any kind of coherence on Thursday. I’m pretty sure somewhere in there, I introduced James Lowder as Steve Long.

Also, never ever fly Delta again. Ever.

And never get connecting flights, no matter how much money they save. It just isn’t worth it.

Gen Con Wrap Up, Part 1

Wednesday, 10:00 PM, Phoenix, AZ

Someone was out to get us.

Driving to the airport,  and I got pulled over by a cop. We were doing 40 in a 25 construction zone. A construction zone, I might add, that had no workers in it. At 9:00 PM. Following the flow of traffic. He asked for our IDs and then let us go with a warning.

Then, we got to the airport. I dropped her off at the curb so we could unload heavy book-laden boxes and I could park. I’ve thrown my back out at Gen Con before and I didn’t want to do it this year. I pulled in to short-term parking, got my laptop bag and waited for the tram to pick me up. That’s when I got this text on my iPhone:


And our adventure began…

Our flight left the ground in exactly one hour. Luckily,  recently had reason to pick up a passport and knew exactly where it was. We were twenty minutes away from home–at best. I told her we’d take care of it. I got out of short-term parking and picked her up, driving like a bat out of hell back to our apartment. Twenty minutes.

She got the passport and we broke many, many speed limits getting back to the airport. To save time, I dropped her off on the curb again and parked in the nearest lot. Not short-term parking. Well, we’d be paying through the nose, but we’d get there.

And then, there was running. With book-laden boxes. I could feel the twinge in my back. I ignored it. I ran.

I got to the ticket counter.  wasn’t there. They told me she already got her ticket and was on her way to the gate. I was relieved.

That was when I realized that when the cop gave us our IDs back, Ro put mine in her purse.

I didn’t have my driver’s license. It was in Ro’s purse.

I ran.

I got to the security checkpoint just as she was crossing it. There was a small issue of the security guards being dicks, but otherwise, I got my ID, I got through the metal detector and we ran for the flight. We arrived just as they were closing the doors, found our seats and collapsed.

We made it.

And in the middle of the flight,  found her driver’s license in the cuff of her jeans.