Friday, September 17, 2010

The View from Dragon Con

So it's been a while since my last post - but this one took a while to get out. There were just too many people to thank, talk about, and hotlink.

So anyways, I went to Dragon*Con this year, marking my 17th visit to the largest sci-fi convention in the South.

A Sister of Battle and a High Priest! Long live the Emperor!

And what makes this year so special? Well, I got shanghaied into being the game programming director at Dragon*Con. That means I was in charge of game panels. Things like Dungeon Design 101, How to Make a Better Character - things like that.

This year, we were able to get some fairly esteemed guests to our game panels. For our two indie games panels, we got Fred Hicks, who is responsible for creating Spirit of the Century and the recently and highly successful Dresden Files game.

Fred was at Dragon*Con just to hang out with Jim Butcher, the author of the Dresden Files books. Turns out these two were old friends that go way back. And not only that Jim Butcher's agent happened to be a gamer-geek, so she got him to put forth his material in RPG form.

Also, appearing in our panels was Jason Bulmahn, the lead designer for the Pathfinder RPG. Jason, too, arrived at Dragon*Con by way of vacation and was kind enough to sit in some panels for us as well.

Finally, we had Eloy LaSanta, who, while not as giant a personality as Bulmahn or Hicks, is living the dream that all gamers have - he has his own gaming company and is actually in the black. He's putting out his own games, game systems, and game worlds and getting returns. And he has one Hell of a combat system, I must say.

But we didn't just draw people from the pen and paper side of things. We also had Michael Capps, who is the CEO of Epic Games. Epic produces the Unreal engine, which is used for most of the console games you see nowadays for anything from the recent Transformers game to Batman: Arkham Asylum. But Epic is best known for producing both of the Gears of War games.

Mike literally hopped off of a plane coming from San Francisco where he shared the stage with Steve Jobs touting his latest upcoming game - Project Sword - to be on a panel with me. That, my friends, is the definition of graciousness. To come from a big, thousand plus sized hall and rush to be in a room with just 100 people for my lil' old panel...well that's just class right there.

Here's the presentation that Mike was at just before he joined me at Dragon*Con.

Coming with Mike was Alexander Macris and Julianne Capps. They were, respectively, the CEO of Themis Media and former Editor-in-Chief of the Escapist Magazine. Not ringing any bells? Well, Themis runs the award-winning Escapist Magazine site. Still not ringing any bells? The Escapist hosts Yahtzee - the famed "No Punctuation Critic". If you haven't seen or heard of Yahtzee, well you just lost some geek cred. No worries, though. Check out his reviews of video games. They're friggin' hilarious. How that guy maintains his level of comedy year after year is beyond me.

Alexander, it turns out, is a huge D&D nerd so we kibitzed about that quite a bit. It all led up to Mike, Alexander, Julianne playing in a game of 3:16 Carnage Across the Stars. We were joined by Alexander's VP Newton Grant and some long time friends of mine, Doug and Melanie.

And, you know, I have to really give credit to the Minions of the Monster Master for being able to introduce this cool group of people to 3:16. We all had a blast while playing it and even after the con, these folks were still emailing me about the game.

Other games played were Weird War II, using the Savage Worlds system. In a nutshell, think Castle Wolfenstein. Put Nazis, zombies, and Cthulhu into the same soup and you have yourself a game. Again, anyone from the Minions podcast would be familiar with this setting, since my pre-generated characters for the scenario were from a campaign we all played together.

Finally, I also got to play Zombie Cinema, which was introduced to me by the Minions. That was very interesting because what should have been an hour to hour-and-a-half game turned into a four hour deep-roleplay experience. If you haven't checked out Zombie Cinema, it's one of my favorite RPGs of all time. It has no GM. No character sheets. No stats. And yet can often yield very powerful role-play experiences.

But despite all of this gaming goodness, the highlight of the weekend had to be me getting to see Stan Lee. Back in the day, Stan Lee could come to Dragon*Con and you could walk up and just say hi. While he was always popular since the launch of the Marvel movie franchises he's a little more in demand. He nearly filled a 1600 seat hall with people wanting to see him. The wait in line for Stan was nearly two hours long. But it was worth it, because we were just three rows back from the front and could see everything quite well.

And, of course, you cannot leave Dragon*Con without a one-on-one celebrity moment. My celeb moment this year was getting to hang out with Brent Spiner for about five minutes. I was fortunately enough to catch him at a good time when the line to see him was light. I paid my money for an autograph and chatted with him about Star Trek and his random cameo on the new show, Leverage.

Of course, I would be completely remiss if I didn't mention my Dragon*Con friends that I saw as well - people that I get to see about once a year at Dragon*Con. Many of my friends are now staffers of the convention like myself, but I'm happy to have seen Dave, Joe, Beau, Shaun (both of them), Rebekah and her new significant other, Rob. Perhaps my only regret this Dragon*Con is that I didn't see more of them.

Two of my players were there - Nick and Doug. The guy who plays the battle-pskyer and the seneschal, respectively. Nick was brave enough to attempt to indoctrinate his fiancee into the convention scene. A complete and total geek-virgin, Jen bravely wandered about the convention taking everything in. To understand how uninitiated Jen is...she didn't even know what Lord of the Rings was until Nick introduced it to her. (I am exaggerating...but only a little.)

One more time, I have to give out major props to the Minions of the Monster Master. While I was at the convention, I met lots of hardcore gamers and game designers. But I was more well versed in the wide variety of RPG games out on the market than most folks that I knew. Most everyone I talked to had no idea about 3:16, Zombie Cinema, With Great Power, or Dogs of the Vineyard. And I have to really give credit to Duck Sauce and the gang for continually exposing me to new games and new experiences all of the time.

Anyhow, that's all for now.


  1. Finally some Dragon Con pics, nice! Sounds like you had a good time, I haven't been down to Dragon Con in years.

    Thanks for all the Minions plugs too, I hope you represented with your Minions t-shirts.

    Oh, when did I get demoted to just being part of "the gang"? ;)

  2. Sounds like a damn good time. One of these days, I'm going to have to get back into going to Cons. Posts like this make me twitch with withdrawal. :)