Miscellaneous Musings: Gencon III
So…how do I encompass the experience I had in Gencon, beyond what I’ve written already? How do I convey the level of gravitas, the level of joy, the level of joy I constantly felt while there? Ultimately, words must fail me, have to fail me, but I shall try.
I began this series of posts with a quote about a sense of non-belonging that has been a leitmotif for my life. Well, I am not exaggerating when I’m saying that, going to Gencon, has basically made me feel like a cherished part of a huge family. I was basically starstruck all the time, but at one point, I realized one thing: Those game-designer legends I meet? They are exceedingly cool people! I spent all this time in a hazy blur or impressions and endorphins, a constant, natural high unlike any I’ve experienced in years. I already mentioned Lou Agresta, BJ Hensley and Jonathan Nelson as instrumental and awesome people…but they were, by far, not the only ones.
I actually got to meet Monte Cook and Bruce R. Cordell! That was absolutely insane and I think I was the equivalent of a teen-aged girl shaking the hands of her boyband idols while talking to them.
But to a more significant extent, I realized something else: There is this immediate, clicking, this immediate reaction to getting to know some of these fine folks, when you look at someone and really like them; feel as though you’ve always known them and have this instant sense of kinship. I experienced that. A LOT.
An anecdote. One morning, I went outside the hotel to have a smoke and stood around, noticing that I’m running out of cigarettes. There was one older gentleman there, who had the style of a meta-head/rocker and looked pretty cool. We talked, I asked him where you can get cigarettes around here, he told me and we started hitting it off, talking gaming and everything, sharing stories…and then his convention badge flipped over and my face just froze. My eyes widened and all I could do was to try to not start stammering – I had been chewing the ear off of none other than Frank Mentzer! That is probably as close to a stammering idiot as you can ever see me get, but he was exceedingly cool and I think I probably have told just about everyone at the con how I ran into him.
That was stunning, but adding Margeret Weis and Larry Elmore to the crew I met was similarly a truly stunning experience – and having SnarfQuest, signed and collected in my own hardcover is certainly one of the brag-worthy occurrences I took home with me.
There are two more groups of people that rendered me starstruck and utterly surprised by how cool they are: Number one would be the Paizonian crew: I honestly, from the bottom of my heart, couldn’t have asked for more intriguing people to hang out with: I was completely delighted to spend time with Adam Daigle, who is just a thoroughly awesome guy I’d love to game and spend time with; I adored talking to Rob McCreary about post-modern Czech literature and Prague and speaking with Mark Seifter of Jason Bulmahn also was absolutely amazing. Talking to Brandon Hodge made me just realize how much I wanted to talk about hermetic scholasticism and alchemical traditions…and while Dave Paul of Rite Publishing is no Paizonian, talking to him about philosophy and hermeneutics has been exceedingly fulfilling.
A strange blend of the starstruck and at the same time very unique and glorious was hanging out with Erik Mona – who also was kind enough to see to it that I got some Paizo books…so yes, expect to see at the very least 2 Paizo-reviews hit site! Kidding aside, Erik is not only a legend to me, he is an awesome human being and translating some German sentences on artworks and crests was a true delight – should you read this, master Mona, feel free to contact me any time if you require similar services!
The next big group, which obviously overlapped in significant ways with the Paizonian crew would be the glorious werecabbage crew: I’ve can’t emphasize enough how awesome both Lou Agresta and Greg A. Vaughan are. And David Hall deserves accolades for one of the most fun gaming experiences I’ve had in a long while – at the werewolf dinner, I played a mean hunchback and he was a truly superb GM…though each and every participant here was a true joy: Imagine playing with a group that only consists of the most inspired of GMs and players and you pretty much get that experience. I haven’t laughed that much in a long, long while. Oh, and we got the werewolves!
Speaking of gaming: Greg A.- Vaughan’s CoC purist game was absolutely GLORIOUS: Thanks again to Michael Azzolino for giving up his spot for me…and to Greg A. Vaughan for running the game, for it was hilarious: We were boyscouts (all with insanities that rendered us stereotypes, Fear Itself-style) that set out towards a horrid island featuring inbred cannibals, strange pseudo-Mayan caverns with a Camazotz-theme and worse…and while my insane luck almost allowed me to climb out of a huge cenote, I failed the very final check and fell down almost 100 meters, impaling my body on a stele, gurgling forth with my dying breath “You will all die!” Love it! (And yes, dear people – dying and becoming insane can be a huge blast!) I spent the next couple of hours observing the game and while, at one point, fatigue got the better of me and I staggered home at 6 AM, it was absolutely glorious…and I did get the award for the most spectacular death. A special shout-out to master Hall, Jason Nelson, Noel and master Helt (and the other players) for making me truly enjoy this game!
I feel honored to have been able to properly play with you fine folks! Apart from a card-game, I didn’t have much time to play beyond those instances, but that was, by far, not everything. Meeting none other than Wolfgang Baur was mind-blowing – and I mean that literally! He speaks accent-free German and is one of only two non-Germans I know with this precise an pronunciation. Beyond that, the master of Kobold Press is just an all-out joy to talk to and discuss topics of all kinds with.
Which brings me to a more holistic view on gaming: If talking to people like these legends, Jaye Sonia, Alexander Augunas, Brian Berg, Neil Spicer, Brian Suskind, Adam Crockett and similar people has made me realize one thing, then it’s that the very mindset, just as much as the kindness, is what drew me to gaming…and made me stay. My experience is that meeting your idols and those people you only know from talking online often is disheartening, because meeting them does not hold up to one’s fantasies.
Because it tells you not enough or the wrong things about people. This experience was pretty much the anathema – as an example, Erik Bauer of Gaming paper fame, while very busy and court in e-mails, is an absolute blast to hang out with and talk to and Jeremy Smith of Dreamscarred Press and his lovely wife similarly are just awesome, awesome folks.
Where else could I switch between the hundreds of eclectic themes I love, between gaming and all my numerous weird interests pertaining literature and culture and talk shop with folks that actually care as much about these themes as I do? I truly felt like a prodigal son returning home to his clan, with mind-boggling experiences like master Adkison’s private party, hanging out with Tom Knauss, Stephen Radney-MacFarland and Tim Hitchock just going back to back in the most awesome manner imaginable.
The kindness show to me was great; but it, on its own, would not have really made me happy; it is the intellectual stimulation, the sense of kinship suffusing everything, that blew me away, that made me as happy as I haven’t been in a long while. I haven’t even begun scratching the surface of all the glorious things that happened to me over there and I feel I will never be capable of properly depicting the vibrant rush of impressions and joy that flooded my system. I slept a maximum of 5 hours a day while there, all jacked up on endorphins and adrenaline and while I didn’t play that much, didn’t go to True Dungeon (in spite of the kind offers I had)…Gencon was a blast. I went there for the people and the experience and my one complaint about it will ultimately be that it was over too soon. I wish I had so much more time to spend with all of you great ladies and gentlemen, to play, talk and laugh more. Due to a hiccup in the airline’s system, I spent a day at Indy airport, but not even that did anything to curb my enthusiasm and I certainly had enough reading material with me, so it did not become boring.
Returning to Germany was a pretty somber affair, as rain greeted me as an appropriate physical manifestation of the return, but in the end, it took the weeks following that for me to truly realize how reinvigorating, how absolutely inspiring my stay at Gencon was; there was so much strength and joy I have drawn and continue to draw from the experience, it is mind-boggling. When I close my eyes, I can still see the streets of Indy, hear the words of all these cool people ring in my ear and feel the warm breeze.
I salute to everyone I’ve met and those I haven’t had the fortune of meeting – in particular the readers who were so kind to make this whole experience possible. Your generosity was NOT in vain. So, a toast to all of you! I do this for you. I do this because I’m passionate about RPGs. And actually getting to talk to you has stoked the fires of my passion more than you can imagine.
One more thing: I have been gifted a vacation and since my patreons told me to go when I asked, I will do so. I’m not yet sure how often I’ll be able to post reviews during this vacation, but I will be to my regular schedule back on the 17th of October -and yes, with reviews appropriate for the dark time before Halloween!
P.S.: A note for all Germans. I’m from Franconia, pretty much the premium beer area in the world. The craftbeer revolution in the US has frankly delivered some of the best beers I have tasted anywhere, Franconia included. In particular the red beers, rather rare and one of my favorites, have been glorious indeed. So yeah, gone are the stereotypical days of bad American beer – there is some seriously great stuff around here!
P.P.S.: If you haven’t joined my patreon and like what I’m doing, please considering joining. Every contribution matters! You can find my patreon here.