Archive for August, 2010


As GenCon goes, some of mine are just grand and some so-so. I’ve never had a bad one, so like pizza I can rest assured that no matter the quality, it is still GenCon. 🙂

After my first day of putting in some solid work volunteering, I put in a whole lot more work over the course of the weekend. Of course, my time was about 1/2 of what the “full-timers” were putting in at about 40 hours. These guys (and gals) floor me. I don’t know how they do this and get anything else done. I’m not sure they did get much else done.

The Auction was absolutely packed at times this year, especially for the Charity auction Saturday night, but I’ll get to that in a minute. One disheartening realization with the Auction this year was a smaller quantity and variety of RPG material. A lot of the old favorites are just not being sold anymore and there’s less and less each year. Is this hobby really fading, or is more of the used material just in the hands of the online stores and ebay? For example, I heard of only one copy of the 1992 Greyhawk’s “From the Ashes” being sold and I watched it go for a decent, though not obscene amount. If you want obscene, look what the book dealers are charging for it on Amazon.

As the years wear on, fewer of these products survive and they appeal to fewer still gamers, but they are no less desired by those who want them or want a spare copy. However, Auction still has the deals. Consider the companion piece to the one sided above, the year-older “Greyhawk Wars” which went for just $15, but which you’ll find on Amazon again for no less than $40. Naturally I have them both. I love Greyhawk material and the world was my first real non-custom fantasy setting that I explored in depth. Despite my interest in the Mystara setting and campaign that Frank Mentzer created, it was actually some years later that I explored it. Still to this day love Greyhawk and with the Realms I’m always looking for new information for it. I liken it to finding a new novel from your favorite author and setting to expand your understanding of his/her worldview. Speaking of, in fantasy for me lately that’s been Scott Lynch. Somebody needs to get him tied down to his computer and forced to type cuz the boy’s got work to do. If you haven’t read his stuff and you like low/rare magic fantasy settings, do yourself a favor and find his paperbacks.

Ok, let me talk about the Charity Auction a little. Remember this is the last event of the Con and these guys are worn out by this point. That they’re a little loopy is a tremendous understatement. Right before they do this they auction all the unclassifiable crap that gets dumped on them over the course of the weekend. The “mystery” box this year was a box of porn. I kid you not. Someone dumped a volume of vintage VHS porn on them. Amazingly or perhaps not so, it sold for $150. As was noted by a dear friend of mine “They do know you can get that free these days on the internet, right?” Perhaps, but I’m not willing to pry.

I have to say I was impressed by those who still had money Saturday night how willing they were to spend it for charity. There were so many older gamers and gamer couples there all willing to shell out serious cash for sometimes minor stuff. Some of it was not so minor of course, with custom-painted dice bags worked up by some of the best artists in the industry (I didn’t see one go for less than $50) and a medallion Frank put up for Auction for the Gygax family’s new Con that if I’m not mistaken went for around $450. Impressive. I can’t wait to see the numbers.

I passed on Sunday for many reasons, but one was that I was emotionally, physically and financially drained. Plus, people I would have rather attended the Con with were unavailable, which reduced it in some ways for me. It’s not as fun if you can’t share it, as some of you likely understand. When you’ve seen it all before, what’s the big deal?

I’m hoping in the podcast to go over old stories and memories of GenCon’s past. My first was by far the most eventful and my first exposure to a lot of new aspects to the industry. I went as a volunteer for a gaming company I eventually ended up writing for, and got to see the best and worst of downtown Milwaukee (best – tie between Saz’s hamburgers in the mall and the Safehouse/ worst – panhandlers…frickin’ panhandlers).

For now though it’s off to catalog my new (used) purchases and to see if once again I’ve bought duplicates of anything. I know of at least one. I ended up with an extra copy of Harpoon. I love the game but this is I believe copy three. Any takers? 🙂

So I survived my first full day of volunteering at Auction. Most of it consisted of my playing gate keeper at the Auction Store. It was a bit of a torturous thing. You’re _that_ close to all those games and can’t touch. Can’t thumb through them. I did meet a lot of interesting people, though and many had a variety of comments regarding my not letting them in as quickly as they wanted.

One guy asked “Oh so you’re the sheriff huh?” I replied “Look buddy, I’m just the guy they got standing at the entrance.” No, I don’t have an inflated sense of my own importance. Sorry to disappoint.

Although some people were difficult to deal with, most readily handled the waiting, bumping and annoying hassles. I was a little rough myself getting started, but I finally figured the pace of things and kept the line moving. Of course, I had my share of hassles. I had a couple difficult souls and I had a couple of emergencies. Kids wandering far away from their parents (please don’t let the 10 year old lead the other two younger ones away to find mommy in some nondescript nearby location!) were one crisis and a woman trying to buy a truckload of games for her 3 year old (all under $5 – if you’ve got kids, you know how critical it is that they have variety and that it’s cheap for you), but needing her husband who had the list and cash to pay for them waiting for 30 minutes while he took his time coming over to the room.

Customer service at a Con. Have I been reduced to this? 🙂 Everyone else was a blast. There were some interesting people and hey you still get to bid on anything that comes up. I certainly did. I fought for a shot at a nice collection of FASA Star Trek books. It was a lot of the Intel and Romulan/Klingon guides mixed in with the original rules in an old rules box set. Bidding went over $40, which I didn’t really want to spend, but I should have. It was a nice collection.

There weren’t that many RPG’s this year, which is sad. The used book industry in that area seems to be diminishing. I’m sorry to see that trend accelerating. It sucks. I miss tabletop RPG’s more and more every year and mourn the lost companies.

Hey on the bright side I did get to meet Frank Mentzer and chat a bit with him. The guy’s a legend, but of course he wants to be treated like anybody else. He’s very cool. I botched my mentioning to him that his Basic Set revision was my first gaming product. I imagine it’s easy to do. I’m not a fanboy for much, but gaming is definitely one of those things.

The staff’s outstanding. These guys are a well-oiled machine. They’ve been doing this a long time and it shows. Not much gets missed and product just frickin’ moves. A nice side benefit has been to peak into the collectibles room. It’s like walking into a bank vault. You’re afraid to touch anything…and you know, you shouldn’t. Old gamer books are fragile. 🙂

I did get to stop in for a bit of the NSDMG lecture on the Cold War. Wish I could’ve stayed for Mark McDonough’s talk. The brothers were always entertaining. I never did hear the official on what happened to Dan. I imagine it’s not good. I miss his stories at the NSDMG. That was a very funny individual human being.

Well that’s the first day and I’m tired as hell. I’ll be back tomorrow with more amazing insights into the phenomena that is GenCon.

The title says it all. We finish our tales of woe with some interesting further discussion about just how bad someone can screw up your game and make you wish you’d never agreed to play with them. And, we digress and side track often, because that’s sort of what we do. Enjoy.

First Day at GenCon 2010

I’m exhausted. That’s the best way to put it and I need to sleep, but I thought I’d post a quick note on Day 0, better known as the extremely active day before the Con starts.

I volunteered to help out at Auction this year, surmising that since I spend so much time there, it would be logical to help out. Well, of course the first couple of days are all about getting new material entered into the system, sorted and put up in the “warehouse” or “shop” as directed.

There’s a lot of gopher work involved and at my age that’s an interesting task to try and undertake. Most everyone there was exceptionally friendly and we all tried to have a good time despite the extreme amounts of work to be done. There were some minor “personality” issues with one person, but otherwise things went swimmingly. And sadly, I get to experience that being in a supervisory position for years has left me less than fit for runner work. Ah…age. 🙂

Otherwise, combined with my day job, I’m tired as hell and I’m going to turn in. I’ll discuss the Con more as the weekend progresses. Take care all.

Told you I was busy working on something. 🙂 In this episode, I attack the issues brought up in some of my early posts about problem gamers and how to deal with them (and in some cases how I have dealt with them). Joining me is my good friend and EERIE co-host DK. This discussion ended up taking more than an hour (and likely could’ve taken several), so Part II will be on the way shortly. ENJOY!

Ok, now that I’ve figured out libsyn’s new and rather byzantine interface, I have uploaded Episode 1 of Tales of an Old School Gamer. My EERIE Radio cohort, Fizz, joined me for the inaugural episode. We discuss how we got into gaming a little bit and later on the demise of the Friendly Local Neighborhood Gaming Store (FLNGS). Enjoy! You can visit the web site or download it directly here.

Ok, so real life’s taking a bite this time of year and it’s causing me enough grief that I can’t easily post, but prepare for I have managed to get you some content in a slightly different form.

Tales of an Old School Gamer is now live as a podcast and will be found at http://tosg.libsyn.com. The show will release (preferably) monthly, and I will continue to drop blog posts here as often as possible to fill the gaps in between releases.

This month of course will be interesting because tomorrow starts GenCon, where of course I shall be. 🙂 If you’re in town, stop by the Auction. You’ll undoubtedly find me there. Should I be able to break free from the Auction area, I’ll likely be stopping in to the RPG podcast and blogging forums just to see who’s where, what’s what and all that good stuff. The guys (and gals) that I met at last year’s forum were a real pleasure to speak with and I hope I get the opportunity to see them again.

My hope is, should libsyn behave and play nice, to get a few episodes up in honor of GenCon and to give you a taste of what to expect. I hope you find the end product enjoyable and I’ll certainly accept any feedback you might have. Now, let’s hop to it and get those files posted.