Life is weird... sometimes it's a good weird... sometimes it's a bad weird.)
I went to GenCon for the first time in 7 years(last time I stayed with Zeim/Neptune/ and their game friends/ 2012). Before that? it was 2003, the last GenCon in Milwaukee. I had gone to almost all of them in Milwaukee. The point? I really had no idea just how big and wildly different this Con was going to be, given what I remembered.
583 unique dealers/vendors in the dealer's hall (I think- maybe i got the last two numbers mixed)/ and 70,000 unique badge sales for the 4 days. I am not always good in large crowds, mostly stems from the fact that I don't like people. Some times on some days, the hallways were congested, but the Con is so spread out now, all nearby hotels and the convention center itself have activities... so, most of the time, the hallways were manageable. The Dealer Room? Well, Caveat Emptor, right? If you are going in there, then you already know what you are getting yourself into. One neat thing though is how they opened up the whole interior of the convention center and the back half of it was for the vendor booths, and directly attached were rows and rows of tables that many of these vendors used for running sessions of their own games.. It made finding these game 'in play' very easy for an observer.
well, enough of all that... this post is really about what happened at one particular vendor booth... Actually, what happened after the Con to be more precise. There were 30 numbered rows of vendors, and the wife and I started at 30 because that just happened to be where we entered the dealer hall. In row 29 I... fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous of which is "never get involved in a land war in Asia," but only slightly less well-known is this: "Never go in against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the line!"
Wait... sorry- got a little lost there as I was typing what I wanted to say, and then Princess Bride took over in my head and I had to make a trip to the google place and steal a quote... No, I made eye contact with a guy dressed up in period clothing, hawking a game I had never heard of. I made this mistake because the game had all kinds of artwork on display, that was promised to be included in the game as potential handout material for an immersive fantasy setting. I wanted to see the artwork and marvel at the shiny packaging that this never before heard of company had brought with them this year. It was all very pretty but i have no idea if it was playable. AND, I don't really have an ftf gaming group anyway. I figured I would look at the artwork and move on. But the old guy in the garb saw me as a fish on the hook. So, I respectfully listened to his pitch. He was the owner of the company trying to break in with a storytelling style of play for 5e. Fair enough. And then I felt his passion for it and saw the quality they had put into the game, because it was all on display. 'And the Lord did grin, and the people did feast upon the lambs, and stoats, and orangutans, and breakfast cereals, and lima bean... '
"Skip a bit, brother."
I said, "Take my money."
Jumping ahead, the con is over... I am home and I am still opening the boxes of the board games my wife and I bought. She, BTW, had a blast and played a lot of games at the con. Because I am friends with the owner of the GenCon Games Library and I ran my amber games under his banner, he gave my wife and I weekend passes to use their library 24/4. My wife got her money's worth. She loved it. She wants to go back next year.
When I bought the bundle I was given a coupon for some downloadable content as well, so I set out to my computer to get my digital loot. And the coupon mentioned a facebook page. What the Hey,right? Why Not?
The Owner had put up a Post-Con thank you message for all those who stopped and talked and for those you supported them. Standard kind of thing. It was their first con as a company and their expectations for success were low, but they felt they did well. There were a number of responses already as it was august 8th and I was just getting caught up with the unpacking of my con-bling. People were excited and the company was responding back quickly and asking for feedback and offering support to everyone who posted. And the owner, whom I had spent some talking with, was also responding under the moniker of his Con Persona(possibly a character of his own from gaming past) Alphinius Goo, an old mad wizard. So I thought I would have a little bit of fun, and tell a story on their page of how I stumbled upon their booth... I figured they would get it and appreciate it... or they would just shrug and think I was weird. (You guys know the truth and you let me stay around here anyway).
I will cut and paste the exchange starting with a snippet from their post...
Cheers and greetings! So much fun meeting so many great folks at Gen Con. Thanks for the amazing response to our adventures and for all the love for our team. (message goes on about their upcoming releases)
My tale of discovery, told within a metaphor-
I guess it was friday. I don't know. It all blurred together. There I was, with wife in tow, feeling the curmudgeonly instincts rising as the tide of humanity swelled and swept me along the first two aisles. Having only started in row 30, i was already feeling too much 'closeness' with my fellow travellers, and I'm not a claustrophobic person. I was in row 29 now and this was not boding well for me I realized. But, then again, I am generally grumbly about wading in six inch steps like cattle being herded into or out of a trailer among so many others doing the same as I, whilst they do it with less respect and regard for others around them.
But there was an eddy in the rivers of humanity that washed the flotsam and jetsam along the banks of vendors. That eddy washed back against the flow to create a small pocket of respite. I stepped into it, just to catch my breath. I feared this adventure, known lovingly as the Running of the Nerds was going to bring me to my knees and drown me.
But then, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of artwork. But it wasn't an artist's booth. It was a gaming booth. I knew nothing of the game, but the art caught my attention. I scrabbled and splashed my way to the bank so that I might get a closer look, and that's when a kindly, albeit self admittedly mad old wizard extended a hand to me and dragged me ashore.
This Old Wizard... Goo, he said he was called... regarded me with a steely gaze, focusing on me with one eye more so than the other. It was hard not to meet this stare with my own, and I realized I was about to hear a tale, one that I could not escape. One I would not wish to escape.
I looked about me and my wife was gone from my sight, washed away to explore another vendor in another eddy perhaps. In the many out-turns in this snaking convention hall river one could find any number of merchants with wares to proffer in the hopes of a sale. All of them had a story to tell and for the majority I simply had to nod respectfully and slip back into the river and be on my way. Not here... Not before the Wizard and that Eye of Understanding. I was willingly held in thrall by the images I saw upon his table, and the words he spoke, like a siren's song for the weary GM.
I know not how much time passed. I don't know that it mattered. My wife found me again, somewhere during the tales told by the Wizard, images he painted on the canvas of my GMing mind. She thought perhaps she might have to rescue me... But I did believe I had already been saved from the doldrums of the same fantasy adventure repackaged over and over through the years. I had found something new- something different, something that spoke to the style I already believed to be the better way. She would roll her eyes and laugh as I explained I think I found a new game. She knew me well enough. When I find something valuable, I want to make it my own.
Alphinius Goo took me aside and whispered a secret... a secret about the Third Book. I won't reveal it here. But I understood, in just those few words, the grip of the storyteller's magic and how this Wizard also possessed it as a gifting.
Thank you for catching my eye, and making me believe...
and the message sat there. a couple hours went by and there was no response. Previous messages had been answered quickly by the company account itself. Uh-oh. Wouldn't be the first time I misread my audience.
More time passed and I came back from a chore from the wife and saw that still there were no responses, but that I have a couple 'hearts and thumbs' likes, more than other messages. Okay. I looked at the names and realized that all of them were listed as part of the company team. And then I got my response, from the owner, using his alias as the wizard:
Alphinius Goo: YESSS! HaHA!! 'Twas most excellent to make your acquaintance, Sir Jim! We met so many wonderful and amazing personages at the convention. And I cannot tell you how good it felt to receive such love from so many.
Your words are fine and worthy of respect... a most quality tale. Likewise, I have every confidence that when you bring the saga of The Darkest Dream to your players that it will carry all the magnificence of this enthralling story.
I wish you the best in this endeavor, my friend. If there is anything that I might do to assist... I am, humbly, at your disposal. Please ask any question... request any clarification... and offer any criticism. As you know better than most, we wish to help those who Game Master bring better games to their players, while making running the game easier for the GM. Please let us know anything we could do to improve on that mission.
Now... on this business of my eye. I tell you true, I have tried to affect this affliction with many magical incantations and have even sought the assistance of the priests of Aeliera, the goddess of healing. For some infernal reason, it simply does not respond to any of these attempts to stop it from its worldly wandering. That said, it is sometimes helpful to be able to see two things at once, which, when facing a Hydra, can be a very valuable commodity, if you get my drift.
HaHA to you once more, Sir Jim! Believe in yourself. Believe in the richness of tale and lore. Believe in bringing something better to the table for your players. Cheers to you!
That made me happy. It was a fun thing to receive.
and I figured that would be the end of it...
and then the next morning- friday, i received a PM message through facebook messenger:
If you are so inclined, please send us a private message.
We very much enjoyed your tale and have a question for you.
Of course I agreed. everyone likes to be recognized and I thought he wanted to chat a little. I wasn't wrong, but I wasn't entirely, or completely correct either.
But my next message was from the company fb account again:
Would you be ok with sending Alphinius Goo an email?
He'd like to correspond with you.
He really liked the post you made.
Again, I agreed. chatting in email is just fine with me...
What would follow would be an exchange of 10 emails and I won't paste them all here. But, I will say that his first reply told me that I made him guffaw(who uses guffaw except goofs like us, right?)He asked if I was a writer and that he believed so because of how I responded. He told me that word spread through the office quickly after I posted. This made me a little emotional, though I kept it in check and didn't cry on my keyboard.
so 10 emails... He said he is a small company and everything is sunk into this venture but he has some capital but can't pay contributors much. I understood, and told him whether or not i was getting paid, I would still be writing. it's who I am... I told him of my history with Phage Press/Amber and getting my first paid byline piece there. I told him after Phage Press stopped publishing anything after shadow knight book, and now my Golden Circle book(co-written with Carol Dodd- actually she did the majority of the work)was shelved for good(as well as another book already in process)I backed away from pursuing other companies and pitching myself. I wasn't pitching myself here either. I was just having some fun because the Con had been a fun time.
so, where were we... oh yeah, ten emails between us... I sent him some stuff
He asked me to send him some samples of my current musings. I sent several things that I dug out of my computer, mostly amber related since writing three games for GenCon were my most recent musings(to use his words). he thanked me in the next email and told me he would read them over the weekend and get back to me.
and then I waited. Truthfully I never expected an opportunity would offer itself like this. I was just having fun. But now, he opened up a door that I didn't ever expect to see again. And I knew that whether I succeeded or not, I wanted to try.
I had read some of the game now and knew it was different than other games I had played. somewhere between 'one door' and 'sandbox'. What they came to the Con with was two box sets, serving as 2 chapters of an ongoing campaign set in a totally new and unique world. It was very deep and rich with lore, but the lore resources were still being prepared and that a lore and background book was due at the end of the month. They wanted to be at the con and so they prioritized what they wanted to get in front of people and put enough lore material into the box set to get people started while more products were scheduled for release after the con. Man it was a lot to take in...
anyway, saturday came and everything was quiet. And I couldn't think of anything else except this.
SORRY to you guys... I just couldn't focus on any gaming here at DL. I read the material i had purchased and it mixed in my head and I started to imagine being in the world itself. And then an idea hit me early saturday. I would write another offering for him, set in his world. I was determined to fire all guns. If this opportunity was not to come to pass, at least it wouldn't be because I was tentative or didn't try my best to seize it. (although- if I bodged this new idea up because I simply got in over my head and didn't know enough of what I was writing about to make it believable then I would have beat myself up for a long while)
all saturday I let the ideas machine in my head work. Perspective, point of view... who would be the focus of he story? What would they be seeing and doing? Nothing was coming to me, nothing that just didn't feel like a journal entry in a gamer's log book... my character did this, and then went there, and saw that... blah blah blah.
Still no response from the boss man as Saturday came to a close. I couldn't shake the idea that I needed something else to let them know I was the guy for this opportunity, no matter what the opportunity was or what they needed of someone outside their core team.
Sunday morning... and I had my idea. Something just came to me. I would take one of their pre gen characters and blend it into a lore story they offered as a roleplaying filler for the immersion aspect of the game. The story was about how 3 children were rescued from slavers who had snuck into the camp the night before. The children weren't named, they weren't the focus of the story so much as who the rescuer was... now one of those children was grown up and that same story is being told to the next wave of young children and I described what that campfire evening would look like as this character was there to hear it being told.
I was happy with it. I did an edit pass, Cathy asked to do one, and she was a huge help, and then I tried to buff it up a little, make sure I wasn't overusing similar words, wherever I could... It was sunday afternoon. I had put in about 4 hrs writing with breaks for errands and chores and then editing time... 3 pm I decided it was as good as it was going to get. I had wanted to give them a sample of writing from a perspective they could relate to. From their world. I wanted them to see that I could enter their world and add to it without damaging it. All writers are very protective of the worlds they create, right? I wanted them to know I respected them. Yeah yeah, that was what I was telling myself to buffer against a possible rejection.
I sent it off.
I now felt I had done everything I could... I had made my best effort.
and it was right after that, not long at all, when I got the next email:
Cheers and greetings Jim!
Well my friend… I was already going to talk with you about doing a little writing for us…
You did not need to go to such… wonderful… lengths.
Gave me chills.
(some private info excepted here)
I sent your story to our whole team.
Give me a call if you want anytime this afternoon/early evening.
Thanks for the good read!
this is good weird, right?