Monday, August 12, 2013

DF 34: Just the Facts, Man

Mmm-mmm-mm. A lot to talk about, and not sure where or how to begin.

Fortunately, I was already able to “decompress” a bit with Tim (with whom I rode to and from the convention yesterday). Otherwise, this might just be a spewing of random, unconnected thoughts into the cyber-verse. Let’s see, where to start that will express my thoughts and capture my feelings?


Dragonflight ran from Friday afternoon till Sunday afternoon. Due to my regular obligations (work, family) I was only able to participate Saturday and Sunday. I signed up to run games in every available four-hour time slot during those two days…a total of five. Unfortunately (or not) I only ended up running in a couple of slots. I’ll give folks the briefest of briefs regarding WHAT happened, then I’ll dig a bit more into my impressions and analysis of events as well as “what I learned.”

Saturday I rode in early enough to set-up for 9am time slot in which I planned on running 5AK. This was to be a demo and I had a bunch of books in a suitcase for sale. As per the last Dragonflight I attended (2010?) the show was at the Bellevue Hilton and the (non-Pathfinder, non-indie) role-players were put down one particular corridor, waaaay off from the rest of the convention (war gamers, board gamers, dealers, etc.). This hallway has a couple conference rooms (with tables) attached to it, but also tables in the hallway itself…my table (where all my events were scheduled) was one of the ones IN the hallway, the second table from the very end of the hall, in fact. Geographically speaking, I was one table away from being the farthest away from the action of anyone there.

By 9am I was set-up. After a while of no one showing up at my table (no one had registered on the sign-up sheet either) I pulled my laptop and started making notes for Sunday’s game (specifically some pre-gens for 5AK , which I would be running a second time in the 9am time slot). I did not go out hawking players or stragglers to the table. I did not sign up for anything else myself. It is possible that someone was off-put by my laptop use. Whatever the reason, no one showed up for the game.

Around sometime between 10 and 11 I went upstairs for a coffee and breakfast sandwich from the Tully’s in the Hilton lobby. I then reviewed the other RPGs going on and decided to instead hit the “Story Game Lounge” where Ogre was again facilitating the a slew of various indie-RPGs for the malcontents that don’t want to play GURPS or Dungeons & Dragons. We played eXXXtreme Street Luge where your character has ability scores based on his comparison to Vin Diesel. That was fun, if pretty light-weight.

In the 2pm time-slot (might next one) I was scheduled to demo Cry Dark Future, and I had three people show up for the short adventure I’d written up. Unfortunately, my print-out of CDF is in an extreme state of disrepair at the moment, being a jumble of loose pages, notes, and edits as I work through the publishing lay-out I want (this was something I hadn’t even considered when I was putting together my “prep” for the convention…I was just like, “oh good; I have a copy of CDF in this binder, already printed,” but didn’t bother putting it into a reasonable shape for playing). Despite the lack of organization on my part, the game went off with very little hitch and the players appeared to enjoy themselves. One of the players wanted to know if CDF was available yet for purchase which of course made me realize the stupidity of demoing a game that’s not ready for sale.

[later that day, I would receive unsolicited feedback from another one of the players purporting to be game designer with 15 years of experience. In a nutshell, he would ask why I was bothering with such a project. More on THAT conversation in a later post]

My 7pm time slot was slated for the B/X adventure I had just written and play-tested Thursday. As with my 9am time-slot, no one showed up. There seems to have been some confusion because folks had been looking for a B/X game and instead ended up at the single table running Labyrinth Lord (and there were double digits worth of people at that game)…perhaps because that table was in one of the well-lit conference rooms while I was still down the at the end of the hallway (though now with dimmer lighting since the sun had gone down).

This actually turned out to be a mixed blessing because our babysitters flaked out and my wife was able to pick me up early, rather than dragging the toddler out to Bellevue after 11.

Sunday I was back at the convention early again, and hit up Tully’s first. Even though folks did not come to my B/X game the night before, I had had the chance to talk to several people…about both B/X and 5AK…and drum up a little interest. This time I did NOT pull out the laptop and (instead) had a nice display of books and such to entice folks. However, the 9am spot was pretty darn slim (for ALL tables in the role-playing hallway) and in the end only one individual took the plunge, enjoying the game enough that he was interested in buying it, save that he didn’t have enough cash on hand (and I didn’t have a phone app to run a card). I did get his email info, so that’s probably at least one sale.

Having only one player to run for (and having used pre-gens to boot), the adventure didn’t take all that long, so I was left with time on my hands to play. Again, I checked out the other games being run (including Shadowrun 4E, and more GURPS) and decided instead to head to the Story Games Lounge, where I got involved in a pretty beefy game of The Dresden Files.

[I have no experience with Dresden…neither the fiction or the TV show nor the game, but I have played Spirit of the Century before, which uses a similar version of the “Fate” system].

The game was going well and around 1pm I decided to cancel my last game of Sunday. That was my Star Wars supplement for Bezio’s X-Plorers, which I had planned on demoing at the con. There were several reasons why I decided to cancel. Firstly, after my CDF experience I realized it was pretty frigging silly to demo a game that was neither published (by anyone!), nor in any state ready to sell/give away. Second, I had done the least amount of prep-work of any of the games I’d scheduled to run (no pre-gens, for example). Third, I’ve only even PLAY-TESTED the rules once and the results had been, well, mediocre. Finally, I’d seen a ton of Star Wars games (RPGs) at the con already…using GURPS, D20, and other designers’ original systems…and had seen the lack of response most received, so I figured this would end up being another event with an empty table.

So I excused myself from Dresden to go write “cancelled” on the sign-in sheet. This would be the first thing written on ANY of my sign-in sheets (since even the players who had showed up to the other two games hadn’t bothered to register before sitting down). Or, rather it would have been the first thing…except that four people had already signed up for the game!

So I had four players (none of whom were anyone I knew) out of a six seat table, no pre-gens, nor print-outs, and only about 45 minutes before the time slot started. So I sat down at a quiet table with my lap-top and copy of X-Plorers with the determination to “make it work.” Or at least the intention.

That’s when I found my computer was dead.

Which I still don’t understand: I had charged it all night and it had held its charge fine the day before (from its Friday night charging). Hell, I’d just used it that morning (at around 5am) to print up the 5AK pre-gens I’d written (at the con!) the day before.

Frankly, I figured my 2008 laptop had simply “given up the ghost,” but when I brought it to an IT guy he did indeed confirm the battery was dead…and later Sunday night when I had it plugged directly into a power cord it turned on (that was the reason for my “test post” yester-eve).

However, at the moment I didn’t have a power cord. I had brought one the day before, but had used my computer so infrequently (there was no wireless access for convention goers) that it hadn’t been necessary…plus I had charged it the whole night. I had decided not to bother packing my cord…and since I use an older Mac (and all the folks with laptops at the con appeared to be using PCs), I was SOL.

And so were my players. There was NOTHING printed of the game…it is, entirely, stored electronically and was thus locked into a device to which I had no access. And so I was forced to cancel my game anyway, except NOW I was left with the embarrassment of apologizing to the players for being a complete dumb-ass.

Which I did. The four guys all showed up…punctually at 2pm. Young guys (certainly younger than me…I’d put them in the 20-25 year range) of exactly the type I’d like to expose to some “old school” style gaming. And me with nada to show ‘em. In hindsight I probably should have broken out another game to see if they wanted to try it…but I was so disgusted with myself and embarrassed by the incident that I just wanted to bring the whole thing to a close. I think they ended up playing 4E Shadowrun.

So, having (unsatisfactorily) resolved that, I went back to the Story Games lounge, where Dresden was still going on (I’d been absent for an hour or more) and helped resolve the story and its climax. That was fun. After Dresden, I helped Tim pack up his stuff and then hitched a ride back to Greenwood where the rest of my day was fairly mundane…though I was completely exhausted from the experience.

Let’s see…I want to read back over what I’ve written so far…

[okay, yes…a lot of pathetic parts to the story, but at least it’s honest]

So THAT is what actually happened at the con…I’ve left out a few things (like my wife and child taking me “off-campus” to lunch at Chipotle which turned into an absolute cluster) or anything non-convention related (like our current nightmare houseguests that decided to “invite themselves” into our lives this week). And, oh yeah: I completely forgot to mention my awesome score at Sunday’s auction (said score taking place between my one-player run of 5AK and my adventures into the world of The Dresden Files)…but that’s one that really deserves its own post, too.

But otherwise, that’s all the (basic) stuff that happened to/for me at this year’s Dragonflight. Over the next couple days, I’ll try to post up my thoughts and feelings on the whole deali-o, as well as my encounters with a number of game designers of various stripes and what I learned from them and about them and about the business of marketing one’s game in this kind of venue/setting.

Later, gators!


  1. What a ride! ROFL

    Better luck next year!

    I'm glad that some interest turned up, even if it was "late in the day" and didn't work out.

    Sadly, it happens.

  2. Over half of that other labyrinth lord game were friends who used to game together, plus some folks they'd met the morning before. Tough competition.

    Anyway - I had intentions of attempting one of your games on Sunday. But even my amended (no Divine Right) schedule was too much. I was tuckered out and didn't attend Sunday at all.


  3. @ Red/Jon:

    Hey, man, no explanations necessary; it was cool just shooting the bull with you. I figured it was the 9am thing (again) that did you in...either that or the flask!
    ; )