Gencon Report


Five Days of the Living Gamers

Wednesday, August 8th: We got up VERY early in the morning (around 3:30 am local time) so that we could make our flight. By ‘we’ I mean my wife and coauthor Laura, our immensely talented daughter Tasha and my own author self. We had purposefully chosen an earlier flight so that we could make it to Indianapolis earlier in the day. This brought us to the Minneapolis Airport all in good time — except that walking from our arrival gate in Minneapolis to our departure gate seemed like a trek half way to Indiana. Making matters worse was the fact that in all the years I have been changing planes in Minneapolis, the airport seems to perpetually (1) be in a state of massive reconstruction and (2) NONE of the automated walkways were working. At least now they appear to be putting in a tram system which, no doubt, will also not be functional any time I am in the airport. However, we did discover we were traveling to Gencon on the same plane as the Fantasy Flight team, including my friend Christian Petersen. We promised to get together at the convention in our spare time — time which, of course, is only found with a crowbar and an iron will.

We arrived in Indianapolis and were, well, somewhat delayed in getting into our rooms. The man at the front desk was most courteous but his litany of ‘another five minutes’ was beginning to sound a bit hollow. At last we were admitted into our suite — just about long enough for me to change and get ready for my first podcast interview. This was with ‘The Established Facts’ podcast and you can listen to the interview we did here if you can find Episode 028. I really enjoyed doing this podcast and the interaction with the wonderful cast … so much so that when Laura and Tasha came to retrieve me forcibly from the recording session … I completely forgot my iPad and case and left it in the room.

Off I went with my wife and daughter to join our crew — the vaunted Kokomo Irregulars — for our crew dinner. It is a tradition that we all get together on the night before the show, touch based, reconnect and share a few stories before the REAL work of providing fun begins. It was in the middle of this repast that I realized I was without my iPad, panicked and fled the dinner in search of my precious. It turns out I managed to contact the podcast folks by cell phone before I had gone more than a block — who assured me they had dutifully turned over my treasure to the hotel front desk who promised to put it safely in my room.

What a way to start the roller coaster that was to come. Tasha finished the day asking me when we were going to finish the script for the ‘Hickman’s Pick-a-path Musical’ we were scheduled to perform on Saturday night. I told her I had ‘top men’ working on it… me.

Thursday, August 9th: First day of the convention and we had purposefully left this day devoid of any scheduled appearances. Good thing, too, since there was plenty for us to deal with in the booth! It was a whirlwind of meeting and greeting and showing off our new Batman novel, ‘Wayne of Gotham.’ Most of all it was connecting with old friends from down the years whom we only get to see each year at the convention. What a joy for us to come together again.

Friday, August 10th:We open the day with our ‘Second Killer Breakfast’ event. Gail Gygax began our show by making an appeal to support the Gygax memorial in Lake Geneva. It was wonderful to see her again and I hope we helped her cause. Then Tasha opened the show with a number from our ‘Pick-a-Path Musical’ that we were performing this coming Saturday. “When will the script be done?” she asks. “When it is finished,” I reply and we start our game.

We held a private luncheon that day for our Scribes Forge authors. We gathered at our secret lunch place and got to talk story just with those friends who were part of our online writing seminars.

That afternoon I run an XDM seminar and everyone wants to know when we are going to do another XDM book. “Next year,” I say and actually believe myself. We end the day in near exhaustion but managed dinner together in the hotel at Schula’s.

“About that script…” Tasha says. “It’s a mystery,” I reply.

Saturday, August 11th: It’s time for an all NEW Killer Breakfast — and again I am back stage wondering how I will possibly pull this off yet again.

Gail Gygax is again there to present and Tasha again opens the show for us. After the ‘Safety Presentation‘ I then come on stage and launch into my parody of Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep’ which I have entitled, ‘Roleplayin’ for Keeps.’ It’s a tragic torch song about someone coming to Killer Breakfast and rolling a fumble on his only roll.

There’s a gamer deep within my soul
Reaching for all my dice and making another roll
Finally I can go to this game con
Show the world who is the best; the player number one.”

Kill-er Breakfast was the best said all my crew
Don’t underestimate the things that guy will do.
Came way early so that we’d get a good spot.
Reached for my dice bag
And I’m waiting to take my shot.

The T-P-K churn turned into my turn
I stepped up thinking that this time I’d win it all.
No T-P-K burn, would send me packing,
I can’t help feeling…

I could have won it all!
Role Playing for Keeps!
I held my dice inside of my hand
And I fumbled… I’m dead meat.

Hickman looked at me and asked how I got here
I opened up my mouth
But nothing came out but air
Think that DM was about to make me dead.
When some Larper sang
And her life he took instead.

The T-P-K churn turned into my turn
I started thinking that this time I’d win it all.
No T-P-K burn, would send me packing,
I can’t help feeling…

I could have won it all!
Role Playing for Keeps!
He held my life inside of his hand
And I fumbled… I’m dead meat.

I could have won it all!
Role Playing for Keeps!
He held my life inside of his hand
And I fumbled… I’m dead meat.

Throw your dice at every DM call
Count your hit dice and check traps on every wall.
Turn adventures into treasured gold.
By big-ger weapons while your character grows old.

I could have won it all!
I could have won it all!
It all, it all, it all…

Then the mayhem begins in earnest. At one point, my old friends Frank Mentzer and Tim Kask. At one point, I even traded places with Frank, letting HIM be the DM while I sat at the table. I knew I could trust Frank with that one.

I also look forward every year to those who come prepared with their own routines for the game. One of my favorites is always Henry Henwy and his friends who gather from far and wide to challenge me every year. This year they all came onstage looking sickly and wearing surgical masks. I thought my job would be VERY easy since they looked half dead already. Little did I know that they all had…

…Bieber Fever!

Coming into the midpoint of our performance, Tasha performed another of my parody songs, this time to ‘If I Die Young’ by ‘The Band Perry.’ Our version was called, ‘If I Die Dumb’ about a newby at Killer Breakfast who dies too soon.

If I die dumb, leave me in the dungeon
Take my stuff and just, strip my carcass
Loot my magic items, my gold
Just walk away with a shrug as I grow cold.

Uh oh, uh oh

Never was a gamer, that always was my brother
He said I’m safe with him if I just stand behind the others,
oh well
Hit point weren’t exactly what they ought to be, no
They made their save, but the trap I did not see…

A high price for low hit dice, well
I’ve had not enough time

If I die dumb, leave me in the dungeon
Take my stuff and just, strip my carcass
Loot my magic items, my gold
Just walk away with a shrug as I grow cold.

A high price for low hit dice, well
I’ve had not enough time

And I was wearing plate, when we came into the castle
I was green when you said, ‘stand in front it’s no hassle!’
I’ve never seen a dragon quite so near
But it sure felt warm when he was blowin by ear,
There’s a cleric back there, says he’ll heal me forever,
Who would have thought forever would be never with‘

A high price for low hit dice, well
I’ve had not enough time

So keep rolling dice boys and I’ll just go home.
What I never did is done

My sword cost me a grand, oh no, I really should bother
It’s worth so much less now that I’m a goner
And maybe while my pockets you are pickin’
Funny you don’t hear your own death-knell ringin.’

If I die dumb, leave me in the dungeon
Take my stuff and just, strip my carcass
Loot my magic items, my gold
Walk away, shake your head as I grow cold.

Uh oh (uh, oh)
My character is done (oh, uh)
You said it would be fun
Gather up your dice, keep ’em in your pocket
Save ’em for a game when you’re really gonna need ’em, oh

A  high price for low hit dice, well
I’ve had not enough time

So keep rolling dice boys and I’ll just go home.

One of my favorite memories from this convention was Tasha asking me to sing the backup duet with her on this song. I loved the sound … and I loved doing that with her.

It was an epic Killer Breakfast and, somehow, we managed to kill all the characters just before our time was up. We returned to the booth, Laura holding her amazing roses from the Bieber Fever episode and took delight in giving them away to people who came by our booth… including this brand new fan.

We barely had time to catch our breath before it was time for our Dragon’s Bard luncheon. Every year for the last two years, friends who have subscribed to our Dragon’s Bard series and their friends have gathered with us for a special private lunch so that we can talk about the series and what is coming next. We really enjoy his private groups as it gives us a break from the crush of convention work and lets us get to know each other so much better. We talked about the third book in the series and how excited we were to be starting it with them soon.

Back to the booth again but not for too long since I had a Batman seminar Q&A and reading. I rushed back to the booth in time to sell the last of the Batman books and, for that matter, the last of a number of our other titles as well. Wow!

The dealer room was closing and it was time to wrap it up … especially since our performance of the ‘Hickman’s Pick-a-Path Musical’ was only about an hour away…

Oh, and about that script for the musical… I had found time somewhere to have copies of it bound at a Kinko’s in the hotel. True, most of the pages were still blank but I had also spent my every spare moment in the hotel room and in the booth hand writing that script. I had a good idea where it was going, how we were going to make it work.

Tasha looked at her mostly blank script.

“Trust me,” I said. It was perhaps with a bit more conviction that I felt. I was exhausted and we had another ground-breaking performance in the works. Tasha had worked so hard on the sixteen songs — that’s right, SIXTEEN original songs — to make this work and we had even engineered a CD album for sale of the ‘musical score’ for sale at the convention. It is even available on itunes. With a stack of CDs on site — we very much needed the show to work.

The room assigned to us was completely inadequate for a performance. There was a screen but not the promised projector. Certainly no sound system. It was hot and without air circulation. Laura managed to cajole, guilt and otherwise manipulate a convention staffer into getting us a projector.

And, when the curtain rose on our production … something magical happened. Somewhere between Tasha’s amazing lyrics and music and the storytelling of Laura and myself a beautiful experience was shared by all of us.

And by the end of the evening — the CDs were absolutely gone.

Sunday, August 12th: Somehow, we managed to get to the airport and into our seats. Gratefully our flight was direct with no stops. It was a happy journey home. We had found new friend, found each other, too, in a way, and had given memories as well as taken our own away from the convention. We were tired … but smiling.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *