Here’s the thing: When I’ve attended Gen Con, I haven’t gone for the games. Teenage me would be shocked. Teenage me always wanted to attend Gen Con ((Lake Geneva was just a three hour drive away!)), but I never made it out there. Four days of gaming goodness and I, at most, play three different games.

So these last times — and I’m not counting the time I was doing booth duty for a Mayfair Games offshoot project — what do you do at a gaming convention when you’re not gaming?

Mainly networking.

Gen Con 2016, before the exhibit hall opens. Image courtesy of Gen Con's official facebook page.
Gen Con 2016, before the exhibit hall opens. Image courtesy of Gen Con’s official facebook page.

It was difficult to break into the industry as a graphic designer at a show like Gen Con when I went back in 2011, but what I did was this: load a portfolio onto my iPad, and lug that around (along with more business cards than I actually needed) through the exhibit hall every day. The first two days, I had a list of booths I wanted to stop into to drop off cards and — more importantly — get business cards from. ((I also had a pen, which I’d write down on the card a quick note about who I spoke to. Business card design tip: leave some white space on your business card so others can jot a note down, too!))

Lunch and dinner, I’d probably be eating by myself because I didn’t know anyone at the show.

Evenings would be spent wandering around, looking for open gaming and the occassional acquaintance or friend that made it to the convention. When I was at Gen Con, the place to go was the Embassy Suites where a large group of indie RPG people would meet up. These days, it seems to be the JW Marriott. If I found people I knew, we’d hang out for a while. If I didn’t, I’d head to the open gaming hall. ((I met another lonesome soul there once. He had just purchased the Robinson Crusoe board game and we sat down to play for three turns. As it was the first time either of us had seen the game out of the box, those were some looooong turns. Just at turn three the whole game just clicked for us, but that was about 1:30 in the morning, so we called it. Still, fun.))

Sometimes I’d even take in a game.

But now that I actually know people in the industry and people know me (or my work), I suspect my downtime — meals and after hall hours — would be more social. Unfortunately, I haven’t attended Gen Con since I hit that level of recognition.

One year ago: Most recent RPG purchase.

No, it’s not déjà vu. This was a question asked on Day 4 the first year and Day 5 the second. I dunno. It’s probably the “real” Day 6 question this year. I don’t know, I’m not following the real schedule for the most part.

So let’s look back and not cheat. Yes, I did buy something this year: BubbleGumShoe. ((I’m going to camel case that for readability.)) It’s the Veronica Mars high school girl ((Although Evil Hat dropped the “girl” part from the initial solicitation.)) investigator game. “A teen detective story game,” the book reads.

BubbleGumShoe is a cool little book that seems a bit more light-hearted than Veronica Mars, maybe a bit more on the PG side of PG-13 rating, ala Nancy Drew. It uses a modified version of the GUMSHOE game system and a town creation system — because in a show like Veronica Mars, the town of Neptune drives a lot of the class action. Everyone builds the town at the table, as in Dresden Files or in Fate Core. ((And while that’s fun those games, it seems a bit off in this one. I think that’s because of the way the “Town Map” is presented. I wouldn’t mind playing around with it and comparing it to, say, Cortex plus Drama like in Smallville.)) Overall, I think this would be a great game to play with the girl, once she’s a bit older.

Two years ago: Most old school game I own.

Ah, yes. It’s still the game in that article: Shadowrun, 5th Edition. It’s a game that manages to hold onto the clunky late 80s simulationist game design where they really really want to model what happens when you throw a grenade at someone in a hallway in a game where you can have an elf cast a spell to make everyone in a nightclub have a simultaneous orgasm. ((Seriously. That’s a spell you can cast.)) Everything in Shadowrun takes two steps too long to resolve.

But there’s good news! Catalyst Game Labs is working on Shadowrun Anarchy, a fast-play more story-driven game system that I’m really looking forward to. It’s going to be a race to see if that comes out before The Sprawl‘s “Touched” setting is finished.

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