Posted: August 22, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: Anatema, BattleTech, Call of Cthulhu, Catalyst Game Labs, david hill, Delta Green, Dennis Detwiler, Devon Oratz, DriveThru RPG, End Transmission Games, ENnie Awards, ennies, filamena young, GenCon, HERO Games, HERO System, Kevin Siembieda, Machine Age, Misspent Youth, Onyx Path, Palladium Books, Phantasm(2010), RetCon, RIFTS, shadowrun 5, Singularity System, Splinter, The Forge, White Wolf
Made it to, through, and back from GenCon alive. Some candid impressions/highlights, in virtual stream of consciousness fashion (but with bullet points). As I type up these recollections I can’t help but feel like I’m forgetting dozens and dozens of things. Probably so, honestly, my mind feels shattered and, horror of horrors, I’ve got another convention to take on starting tomorrow. Still here’s what I can currently remember.
- Many thanks to David and Filamena from Machine Age/Onyx Path for making our attendance possible. I think we still need to iron out some details if we’re going to go splits on a booth for next year, but the assist on the last day logistics was really clutch.
- The overestimated initial print run of The Singularity System continues to be a large, heavy, expensive, inconvenient albatross around End Transmission’s proverbial neck. No surprises there.
- As I’ve hinted in the past, GenCon is really not friendly to small companies. In fact, GenCon hates small companies. I think the real problem is their priority points system, which is a Catch 22 that would make Joseph Heller blush. Basically, the placement of your booth determines your sales. Exiled in “exhibitor siberia” in the far rear right corner like we were, you only see a tiny percentage of the foot traffic that you would if your booth was closer to front and center. What’s more, the people you see have passed through the entire commercial/retail gauntlet, and have become mentally jaded and financially exhausted. Your booth placement is determined by a Priority Points system. The more conescutive years you’ve been exhibiting at GenCon, and the more money you’ve put into Sponsoring GenCon (or so I gather, the specifics online are distressingly elusive and I’d appreciate any hot tips or leads into deciphering it all), the more Priority Points you have. The more Priority Points you have, the better your booth placement. But coming to GenCon consecutively is expensive, and expenses require revenue from sales. Ergo, your shitty booth placement means you lose money, and you must suffer through several consecutive years of losing money in order to qualify for slightly better booth placement and maybe stop losing money. It sucks, and what makes matters worse is that the Priority Points go only to the company that serves as the primary contact point with GenCon, the guys whose names are on the booth application. In this way, and because priority points seem to be non-transferable, the priority points system strongly discourages booth co-ops and booth sharing, a la the old Adept Press/Forge booth. So basically, End Transmission sat through a year of shitty placement and shitty sales, and because our booth didn’t SAY End Transmission on it, we don’t even have the priority points to show for it to improve our standing next year. Fuck.
- We did not win an Ennie award. On the other hand, we were seriously overdressed, so I’ll take some consolation in that. Also it was a big honor and delight just to be nominated. And my condolences to the good folks at Hero Games, my understanding is they went 0 for 6 this year. Personally speaking, I was glad that there was a reasonably priced cash bar to dull the pain.
- I actually met Kevin Siembieda, who is more or less virtually universally reviled on the internet, moreso than any other personality in gaming I can think of. Yet when I met him at the Palladium booth, the impression I was left with was that he was one of the sweetest, nicest people I had ever met. He signed my copies of Rifts UE and Chaos Earth, and even threw in a free promo copy of Northern Gun just because I was a guy that shook his hand and talked to him; that’s a big deal as certain game companies (*ahem*) are very stingy with free copies. I was blown away; my mind could not handle the paradox.
- Actually played in an enjoyable convention game (for once), a World of Darkness joint called “Immanentize The Eschaton” (I was sold on the name) run by ceremonial magician, author, and podcaster James L. Wilber. One of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, although he denies it. I’m partway through his novel now.
- Played my first ever game of BattleTech, kind of, and the Catalyst Demo Agent running the “boot camp” (as they call it) sold me. I think I might have a new fandom/addiction in the making. The BattleTech Starter Box Set proves incredibly difficult to find, however, not just at the convention exhibitor’s hall, but on the internet at large.
- Shook hands and rapped with Dennis Detwiller, one of the creator of the Delta Green RPG/Campaign Setting which I’ve been in love with since high school. Swoon!
- Grabbed Scott Holden of OneBookShelf at the DriveThruRPG Booth, talked his ear off about how freaking hard it is to be an indie publisher. He told me to follow up on the conversation and I intend to.
- Concluding the “People I Met” saga, ran into the guys from Daydreamer Interactive. It was their first GenCon as Exhibitors also, just like us, and it seemed like they were having an even weekend than we were. Swapped them copies of Splinter, Phantasm(2010), and The Singularity System in exchange for soft and hardcover copies of their new post-apocalyptic RPG, Infinum, which looks gorgeous.
- Oh yeah, we actually sold some books. Again, I’m not ashamed of our gross, and if it was just the booth cost to balance against, we’d have done better than break even. But when you factor in travel, lodging, shipping, and logistics, we’re deep in the red.
- It seems like it is really nice to have an established following. No, I don’t mean us. Machine Age folks had tons of friends from the internet, pre-sold customers who’d heard of them from Kickstarter stopping by to pick up their books. I was mad jealous.
- David and Filamena left before I could trade my games with them for a copy of Apothoesis Drive X, Amaranthine, and their two Kinko’s games about the apocalypse. I wanted to pick up ADX for Evan, but I wanted the rest for myself.
- Given business cards by several printer/print consolidators/manufacturers who make cards and packaging and the like. Assuming I didn’t lose these cards, visions of designing board and/or card (collectible and/or deckbuilding) games are dancing through my head.
- That brings me to the final category, stuff I bought: now the proud owner of a weird-ass set of novelty dice, including d5, d7, d14, d16, d18, d24, and so on. From the same place, purchased a “band of orcs” mini set that appears to be an orcish metal band; incredibly Shadowrun for something not associated with Shadowrun. Speaking of Shadowrun, in spite of my best intentions I picked up the $100.00 Limited Edition Shadowrun 5th Core Rulebook with red leather dragon-embossed cover and gold-leaf edged pages. To my credit, this is mitigated slightly by the fact that I did not purchase the $200 Mayan Edition. Purchased various apparel, which I won’t detail here; if you know me in real life then you can appreciate the dark nerdery of my wardrobe. I also bought an awesome looking indie RPG called Misspent Youth from IPR. It seems like it’s right up my alley, conceptually if not mechanically. And…honestly that’s just scratching the surface of the crap I bought, and I’m out of time to make this blog post. So maybe I’ll follow up with a “more crap I bought at GenCon” post, because there were some really interesting finds.