Gen Con 2005 Report

Gen Con down. Two more to go and the summer con tornado is complete.

Deciding to leave a little early on Wednesday, I packed up the car and zoomed down the 401. With boxes of Exalted #0 and the art prints in my back seat, I thought for sure that I’d be hassled at the border about the items, the con and selling stuff in the States. The border guard didn’t care about that. He wanted my sandwich… another glorious one I made up on a croissant.

Guard: What’s in the mini-cooler there?

Zub: Uh… a couple cans of pop and a sandwich I made so I didn’t have to stop for fast food.

Guard: What kind of sandwich?

Zub: Roast chicken, salami, cucumber, marble cheese… uh, mustard?

Guard: Is the salami made from beef or pork?

Zub: *looks around for a camera recording this as part of some joke* I don’t know…

Guard: Sir, Canadian beef is still outlawed in the United States. Since we can’t prove if that is pork rather than beef salami, I’m going to have to confiscate your sandwich if you want to travel into the US.

Zub: You’re gonna… what? Are you serious? You’re just gonna eat it, aren’t you? Can’t I just take the salami off?

Guard: I am very serious. I’m not going to eat it. You can watch me dispose of it here in this trash bin. I’m afraid I can’t risk Canadian beef contamination.

Then he threw out my sandwich and I passed through the border with boxes and boxes of product for the con. Such a strange start to my trip.

Imagine this for about 10 hours. Well that, and me singing off-key to the radio.

After that, the drive was uneventful. I arrived in Indianapolis in time for dinner, checked into my hotel and met up with the Wolfies for dinner at Buca di Beppos. At dinner, Will got crazy tipsy and dumped half a glass of Cianti in my lap. I also discovered that I’m in the Special Thanks part of the Lancea Sanctum book, immortalizing an in-joke from Bay Con last year. Good food and chatter all around. Afterwards was meeting up with a bunch of industry folk and drinking until the wee hours.

Panoramic compilation of photos taken from my hotel room window.

Thursday kicked off with a bang. Mage the Awakening won’t be hitting stores for a couple weeks, but White Wolf had 75 copies per day to sell at their booth. They went – fast – inhumanely fast. On Day One the gang wasn’t prepared for the booth assault that followed. The 75 allotment sold out within 10 minutes. On the other days when things were running more efficiently, they went in 7-8 minutes.

Mind you, it seemed like every booth had a killer product this year. By show’s end, Fan Pro sold out of Shadowrun 4th edition. Green Ronin sold out of Mutants & Masterminds 2nd edition (which has some kick ass art in it by Udon’s Chris Stevens!). Sabretooth and Green Ronin were selling scads of Warhammer Fantasy RPG books. Sovereign sold out of the Serenity RPG. Fantasy Flight sold out of their new board game called Descent. There were happy customers and retailers everywhere, which was a big upswing from the slower selling pace of Origins.

Standing with Ron Glass, Shepard Book from Firefly.

Thursday night Matt Millberger and I had a nice dinner and chatted deep into the night about RPGs, comics and Racer Knights. Racer Knights is White Wolf’s new constructible game that Udon helped design over the past few months. It was a hectic project to add to our schedule during the cons, but finally seeing the results and getting a better feel for what it’s all about, I’m now pretty excited about it. I’ll see if I can post up some of the characters I designed for it over the next week or so.

Friday whipped by. A couple of the German translators had lost a bet with White Wolf president Mike Tinney and were forced to wear costumes all day. Mental Note: Do NOT make bets with Mike. Dinner at PF Chang’s with Rich, Aaron and Matt from White Wolf was delicious. I had a really good martini that tasted exactly like a key lime pie – it even had little pie crust powder on the rim of the glass.

Don’t make a bet with Tinney – You’ve been warned.

Afterwards we headed to the ENnie Award ceremony and started drinking it up. Paizo, Green Ronin and White Wolf all kicked some major ass at the awards, which was great to see. Denise, Hound, Crothian and all the EN World people did a great job on organizing the evening. It was nice to to see the industry showing so well.

ENnie moments:
– Eric Mona putting his foot in his mouth by thanking people for supporting Dungeon and Dragon magazine, so that the employees “wouldn’t be reduced to selling PDFs or something.” Note that the evening was sponsered by Drive Thru RPG.

– Monte Cook following up with the next award speech by reminding all of us how his career was built off of the strength of PDF sales and that the future is digital.

– Justin dropping the F-Bomb in front of the two children who gave winners their awards.

– Peter Adkinson sitting at my left telling me over a couple drinks that his proudest moment was revitalizing gaming with D&D 3rd edition.

– The Green Ronin crew getting ‘Best Publisher’ and telling all of us how they’d pushed through unbelievable hardships over the past year and were stunned to receive the big gold at the end.

After the awards, major dancing and boozing commenced. It got pretty ridiculous. We went to the Shadowrun launch party for a bit, then found an Irish pub that served Strongbow and later on went to a dance club that played a strange mix of retro and hip-hop. The dance floor was packed, but Justin and I found a way to clear enough space to bust things out and have a good time.

Will was in tow with a bunch of friends who all went to the same college as he did. They use Gen Con as a reunion spot since they’ve spread out all over the US since school finished. It made me nostalgic for college and all the stupidity that seems so simple in retrospect. They seemed like a nice bunch of people all pursuing different lives, dealing with interpersonal problems, gossip and all those other troubles but having this one thread in common that they held on to.

By the time the night wrapped up at another bar, I mentioned how surprised I was that we’d all gotten so drunk and yet Justin hadn’t tried to kill anyone, as he’s apt to normally do. I went back to my hotel to crash only to find out the next day that stupidity happened 15 minutes after I’d left. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Something about an ambulance, people being dropped on their head, Justin kicking furniture and people blacking out. I’m glad I missed it.

Saturday was a big selling day, but my head was pounding to its own drum and my body groaned, making it hard to concentrate. I got to meet quite a few Exalted fans and chatted it up with people at the booth. Leo and Sara came by and I finally got a chance to chat with them. Mike and Janet also arrived and we were able to get caught up on the crazy year gone by. By mid-afternoon my body let me know quite clearly that it had just about had enough. I crashed in my hotel room for a couple hours to get rid of the body aches and feel human again. By the time I got back the show was pretty much wrapping up. My good friend Claire took me for a swanky dinner and then we headed to the White Wolf Mage Party at the Ugly Monkey. The bar was jam-packed with no air conditioning, so I stuck to the outdoor patio for a majority of the time, with occasional quick missions heading in to dance or grab a drink.

Loads of game demos on the show floor.

I headed out the back around 2am to go back to my hotel, but when I turned the corner and went past the front of the bar Hal, Claire, Peter and Justin dragged me back in for a few more songs and a drink. Chatting until after 4am, I finally got some restless sleep and felt lucky that I decided to ease off on major drinking the night before I had to drive home.

Sunday flew. I went around to the booths and said good-bye to everyone I could find, grabbed some books from friends and hit the road by 2pm. Stopping only for a quick bite and a couple quick rest stops, I made it back home just before midnight. Twelve hours of sleep later and I felt almost human.

Good times, though quite exhausting. Lots of business deals coming down the pipe and opportunities to grab hold of. The Exalted comic went over well with people and talks are already starting about foreign language editions. It was nice seeing people oohing and aahing over the artwork.

Home now and there’s tons of things to do before the Toronto Comic Expo in a handful of days. I’m feeling socially hermit-like and tired, but okay overall. I hope to see friends and fans this weekend at the show. Ideally I’ll be well rested up for it.

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