April 5, 2016

The REAL Best Four Days of Gaming - my thoughts on GamerNationCon 2016

Yeah, the title is sure to piss some folks off.  But to be honest, after the amount of fun I had this past weekend, at this point GenCon can go screw itself.

So this past Wednesday, I flew down to Texas to attend the 3rd GamerNationCon, a fairly small gaming convention/gathering of various d20 Radio members.  This year's Guests of Honor were Rodney Thompson, formerly of WotC (now working for Bungie) and the man largely responsible for Star Wars Saga Edition as well as mapmaker extraordinaire Christopher West.  Other important folks (aside from GMs Chris, Dave, and Phil) were Sam Stewart and Sterling Hershey, both returning for another round of gaming goodness.

My trip down was mostly uneventful, with a slight delay due to windy conditions in the Plano area.  I will admit that Texas drivers take a bit of getting used to, and that I don't exaggerate that I nearly got hit three times just on my way to the hotel.  Of course, getting to the hotel was its own adventure, due to Google Maps wanting to take me to some entirely different location.  But, I got to the hotel in my rental car, though a tad more frazzled than I would have preferred.  Still, the Wednesday Dinner get-together was great, as I got to sit and chat with the ever-so-sweet Adi, who flew over from Scotland to attend the convention.  It's a shame that Chris Brinkley went through the trouble to arrange things, but then couldn't attend due to a combination of food poisoning and exhaustion from having to do all the driving he did to get down there.  Also got to meet GM Hooly, which was very cool, and of course meeting up with folks from last year's GamerNationCon.

I won't go into too many details, but the con was rightly billed as "Four Days of Gaming Goodness."  I got a chance to play in two games run by Christopher West, that being his Deep Cover adventure, which was set during the Force Awakens era.  Second time around was a lot more fun, with me playing a BB unit that had formerly been property of the First Order.  I also got to play in an eight player pick-up game run by Sam Stewart, which was such a laugh riot, due in no small part (just the tip) to GM Chris playing Dorbecca the Mad Claw and really getting into character.  My buddy Eric Brenders ran a slew of games, earning his Iron GM badge the day before the con ended (way to go!), and I got to play in two of his Star Wars sessions and a D&D 5e pick-up game he ran, playing a 3rd level Human Paladin and having a blast with all three, though sadly I kinda had to duck out in the midst of his "Save the Princess" module due to an issue I'll touch upon later.  Also played a 3rd level version of a Human Monk I'm playing in a local game (running through the "Curse of Strahd" adventure) in a 5e pick-up run by one of the Canadian Contingent, which was fun.  Both D&D sessions were played with a lass by the name of Jody Kinkaid, and the session that Eric ran was one of the few times where a player (her) ran a halfling thief in the vein of a kender without being a jerk about it.  With the child-like way her character was acting, it was very easy for my paladin to be very protective of her, even if she was dishing out heavy damage almost every round.  For the final day, I played in a Star Wars pick-up game run by Sterling Hershey, and while we didn't get to properly finish the adventure due to a lot of fun conversations side-tracking us, it was still a fun adventure, with a very interesting development about half-way through, one that I won't spoil here.

I also got to play a couple rounds of Artemis with GM Phil as our captain, and had a lot of fun.  Just re-inforced the idea that game can be a lot of fun if you've got the right group of people.  I got to play tactical (much fun) and communications (not so much).  I think I'm best suited for tactical, as during that first session I was largely on top of things with keeping the right missiles in the tube and flipping laser frequencies to best punch through enemy shields.

One of the highlights of the convention was the opportunity to help induct Rodney Thompson as an Honorary Member of the Rebel Legion.  To provide a bit of background as to why this was such a highlight, I myself am an Honorary Member, thanks entirely to Rodney willing to give me a shot at doing some freelancer work for Star Wars Saga Edition, first for Galaxy at War and then again for Unknown Regions, where I got to add two entirely new planets to Star Wars lore as well as sneak in a reference to a Jedi General Morningfire, who for a time was indeed canon (low level canon, but canon all the same).  So back in March of 2012, my dear friend Linda Whitson arranged for me to be named a Friend of the Rebel Legion, with GM Phil backing the nomination.

However, upon further review by Phil, it turned out that they'd overlooked something.  I was considered a writer for Star Wars thanks to those freelancing gigs, and as such qualified for Honorary Member status.  So, in GenCon of 2014 at the GamerNation Pre-GenCon Dinner my status was officially upgraded from Friend of the Legion to Honorary Member (occurring the day after my birthday).  Apparently that upgrade was meant to happen during the first GamerNationCon, but a freak blizzard that shut down the airport the morning I was due to fly out nixed that idea.  Sterling Hershey was named an Honorary Member on the following Saturday, and given the sheer amount of history the man has with Star Wars RPGs, I feel it was an honor that was long overdue.

And at GamerNationCon 2015, Sam Stewart was named an Honorary Member of the Rebel Legion, and as of this year's GamerNationCon, Rodney Thompson joins the ranks.  Being the one to hand Rodney his plaque and gold badge was great... and almost didn't happen.

The Saturday that his induction was planned, I'd overslept and in my rush to make sure I had everything I forgot the most important thing... his badge and plaque.  I had packed them, but they were sitting back in my hotel room, along with the boots for my Jedi costume.  A huge thanks to GM Chris for being willing to ferry my dumb ass back to the hotel so I could grab those items, since he was also grabbing Christopher West and Rodney Thompson; I was able to hide plaque and badge in one of my boots, keeping Rodney in the dark about what was in store for him.

The induction ceremony was something of a "seat of the pants" operation, with GM Phil having to step away from the middle of a game he was running, and GM Dave nearly missing the ceremony (and not being able to do music) as he was in the midst of running an event as well.  But, in the end we pulled it off, with Chris Bradshaw in a very awesome Tusken Raider costume and another member of the Rebel Legion in attendance in her Rebel trooper costume.  I don't think I looked too bad in my Jedi robes, and a few folks joked that they had finally gotten to meet the real Donovan Morningfire as opposed to the New Yorker that used that name as a forum handle.  I think it was safe to say that Rodney's gob was indeed smacked when the four of us walked in at the tail end of a panel that he was hosting.  What a found out not long after was that Rodney had noticed Sterling wearing his RL Honorary Member badge, and being impressed asked about how one went about getting one.  Well, he found out, and was very appreciative of the accolade.  For the Sunday Auction, there wasn't anything that I really wanted and would have had a chance to actually win, so I opted to donate my points all to Phil to boost up his chances to win the Star Wars Armada starter box and still have points left for him and his brother Andrew to use to bid on other items they may have wanted.  Seems I wasn't alone in that, with Eric and Sam Stewart also donating some of their points so that Andrew could get the trio of custom Star Wars minis that he really wanted.

It was kind of sad that 4DoGG had to come to an end, but it was a memorable experience, and left me eagerly looking forward to doing it again next year.  As was officially announced at the end of the convention, issues with the space we used prevented GNCon 2017 from being held in that same spot, but it does seem that Chris and Dave have plans to help ensure the GamerNation can gather up again next year.  The whole thing was capped off with a Mexican restaurant that Dave suggested, with us having many more laughs at the dead dog dinner as we enjoyed some really good food.

About the only downer to the whole thing (apart from it ending) was flying back to the northeast to learn that Mother Nature had decided to dump a whole lot of snow on the area, in spite of it being April and thus the early stages of spring.  The snow's slowly fading away, but I was not expecting to come home to freezing temps and having to dig my car out.

Well, that's my general experience with GamerNationCon 2016: Beyond Thunderdome.  As I expected, it was a lot of fun, even if my one attempt at a PUG flopped simply due to bad timing.  And hopefully there will indeed by GamerNationCon 2017: A New Hope, for which I will most certainly be posting up some pre-registered games.  What those games will be, I'm not 100% certain beyond that there will be FFG Star Wars, and maybe one or two other things.  I could be balls-out crazy like Eric and Phil and try for the Iron GM badge, but since I also like playing RPGs and I go to these things to relax, that's probably not gonna happen.