Hello! The Nerdarchy crew is back home from Indianapolis and back to work on all our nerdy projects. Gen Con 2018 was an incredible experience for Nerdarchists Dave and Ted, Nerditor Doug and Intern Jake, and we wanted to share some of the highlights from our excursion to the Best Four Days in Gaming. Our favorite thing about conventions is meeting up with and hanging out with friends from all over the place; seeing all the awesome roleplaying games, art and other swag; and the incredible costumes and cosplay. But more than anything, the best part is hanging out with thousands of fantastic folks from around the world to celebrate nerd culture. Down below you’ll find links to a lot of the stuff mentioned in this recap, in case you’re interested, plus a photo gallery of our adventures at Gen Con 2018.
Working vacation at Gen Con 2018
Rolling into downtown Indianapolis for Gen Con 2018 was a special treat for all of the Nerdarchy crew in attendance. For Nerdarchist Dave and me, the now-familiar territory felt like a home-away-from-home. The Indiana Convention Center, Lucas Oil Stadium, the Gen Con Block Party and all the surrounding hotels were decked out as always, ready for the tens of thousands of us to enjoy the Best Four Days in Gaming. For Nerdarchist Ted and Intern Jake, it was their first time attending so they got to experience the wide-eyed amazement at the size and scope of the event.
After hotel check-in, the crew wasted no time getting down to business though — we were there to enjoy ourselves, sure, but we had serious work to do. With the studio equipment in tow, we set up a makeshift studio in the hotel room to shoot as many videos as we could over the weekend. With so many amazing people in town, we had to get some of them on camera. Intern Jake scheduled set visits like a champ, contacting and coordinating a ton of creators who stopped by to talk nerdy with Nerdarchists Dave and Ted.
Instead of doing interview-style shoots though, we produced a string of videos like our regular daily content to discuss the same kind of helpful topics, tips and tricks we usually do, except with a special guest sitting in for one of the Nerdarchists. Stuff like designing monsters for D&D, live streaming roleplaying games, creating pantheons and deities, running the best game ever, and creating an urban campaign (with a bit of insight into the upcoming Waterdeep: Dragon Heist) are just a few of a videos you’ll see in the coming weeks. There were so many guests, it’s hard to remember them all! But here’s a few to watch for on the Nerdarchy YouTube channel in the near future:
- Keith Baker
- Monte Cook
- BJ Hensley
- Ryan Schapels
- Dan Dillon
- James J. Haeck
- Sarah Dahlinger
- Brian Stillman
- Andrew Armstrong
- Rob McCreary
All in all we shot about 24 videos between Thursday and Sunday! There’s a bunch more cool people who swung by the set and we’ll be posting those videos in the weeks to come. Stay tuned to Nerdarchy for those!
Hanging with friends new and old to celebrate nerd culture
Pretty much everywhere we went, the crew ran into someone we knew and had great experiences spending time with them. If you enjoyed any of the official video content from Gen Con 2018, you can give thanks to our buddy Bill Allen. He and his crew handled videography for the official Gen Con Twitch channel. Bill was super busy all weekend making sure everything ran smoothly. But we managed to sneak in some time with him on Wednesday night. He’s an awesome guy, and his job as an educator means he brings student creators along to learn while doing. How cool is that? His students get fantastic experience behind the scenes at big events like this, plus chances to network with industry professionals and help build their future in the field.
Along with Bill, we hung out with our friend Cody Lewis from the Taking 20 YouTube channel. Cody was there with his wife, who got to see another side to her husband’s endeavors. Fans of Cody’s work stopped to say hi and thank him throughout the weekend, which is an awesome feeling for any creator. On top of all that, his wife played her first RPG session at Gen Con 2018! She played a barbarian in a Second Edition Pathfinder Playtest game and genuinely loved rolling her first critical hit against a kobold.
Another night, unMadeGaming’s Mike Hunt co-organized a Twitch streamer meetup with fellow streamer Speedy, where a whole bunch of people showed up to celebrate together and get to know one another. Andrew Armstrong from Dawnforgedcast, Grant Ellis, MsGingaNinja, Jorphdan, Askren, Ted from Nerd Immersion, Eric Vulgaris, and a whole bunch of other people hung out. It wasn’t just for Twitch streamers exclusively, or even gamers. There were streamers who make pottery, streamers who make quilts, authors, game designers and more. It was really terrific to meet and spend time with so many creative people.
On Saturday night, Nerdarchist Dave and I wound up at a party hosted by Peter Adkinson. There were a ton of people at the shindig. Our friends Satine Phoenix and Ruty Rutenberg were there, Kyle Vogt, Matthew Lillard, Dwarven Forge founder Stefan Pokorny, Ivan van Norman, filmmaker friends Kelley Slagle and Seth Polansky and a throng of others. I had a wonderful time geeking out about layout design and editing with Chris de la Rosa from Hunters Books, and Nerdarchist Dave did what he does best — making new friends and talking shop. (Okay, maybe tied for best — he’s a pretty good Game Master too!)
Nerdarchists Dave and Ted ran into a ton of people they know on the convention floor, and fans stopped for photos or to say thanks to the guys for doing what they do. So may awesome people we know had booths at Gen Con 2018 too! Everytime we turned around, there was someone we knew. Creature Curations’ Brian Colin, the entire Starcalled Studios crew, Jetpack 7’s Aaron and Sarah Hubrich, Dan Dillon and Stephen Rowe manning the Kobold Press booth, Rone Barton at the booth for…you know what? I don’t recall exactly. There was a bunch of different stuff there.
A very special sighting for me was Jared Sorensen at the Burning Wheel booth. I’d been hoping to catch Adam Koebel there, since he was sharing the booth with his Dungeon World RPG. He wasn’t around, and as I turned the corner I caught sight of an indie RPG called Lacuna Part 1: The Creation of the Mystery and the Girl from Blue City. I literally exclaimed “Holy $**t!” when I saw it. Years ago, after I saw the film Inception, I immediately felt like I had to find an RPG similar to the world of the movie. I discovered Lacuna Part 1 while searching for such a game. It’s a really terrific RPG where you travel into dream worlds looking for anomalies and insidious thought-creatures. The guy at the booth asked me how I knew the game and I was gushing about it before realizing he was the creator, Jared Sorensen! This was one of my most fond convention memories right away. Jared was super cool and we talked about games for a while, and he gave me a sticker and patch of his game company logo, Memento Mori.
Oh! And I ran into D&D party fam! Late one night heading back to the hotel I spotted Lauren Erwin in the hall. She is an original member of the Iron Dabbers, a D&D party from the live stream Secrets of Castle Greyhawk game I play in every Thursday on The Greyhawk Channel on Twitch. It was super cool to see her. I love that campaign and although Lauren wasn’t able to continue (she’s a busy lady!) she’ll always be an OG member of the crew and I am happy to call her a friend.
And we got to see the premiere of Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons & Dragons! Nerdarchist Dave and I were among the first people anywhere in the world to see this phenomenal documentary by our friends Brian Stillman, Seth Polansky and Kelley Slagle. IT IS AWESOME. If you have ever played D&D, you will love this movie. They traced the history of D&D art back to the beginning and talked with dozens and dozens of artists whose iconic work has been bringing the game to life for over 40 years. And I’m not the only one who thinks this film is the most — it won the Gen Con Film Festival award for best documentary.
All of this only scratches the surface of everything and everyone we saw at Gen Con 2018!
Awesome RPGs and other stuff
For me and Nerdarchist Ted, filling out bags with new games, minis and other swag is one of our favorite convention activities. I don’t have a complete rundown of Nerdarchist Ted’s haul, but I know for sure he got a whole slew of minis. On top of his own gets, many creators donated items to add to the Nerdarchy giveaway vault. Make sure to check out the Saturday Quests & Adventures live chats on the Nerdarchy YouTube channel and stay informed about these giveaways. We do them all the time so there’s lots of chances to get all sorts of great stuff.
This year I tried to be a little more conservative with my purchases. Usually I come home with twice as much luggage as I arrive with, but I reigned it in a bit for Gen Con 2018.
For starters, I picked up two Kickstarters I backed. Masters and Minions from Jetpack 7 and Kids on Bikes deluxe edition with the Powered Character Deck are two things I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. The PDF versions were sent out already, but there’s something special about having the physical books in hand for any RPG product. Masters and Minions is gorgeous. No surprise there, as the artwork in Jetpack 7 stuff is always top notch. The book is packed with detailed NPC creatures and the forces serving them, featuring design work from Aaron Hubrich, Jim Pinto, David Adams and one of my favorite creators, Dan Dillon. I’ve been waiting to get my hands on this one particularly to check out Grissek’k The Orc Queen, which does not disappoint. My other favorite master and minion combo is The Created. Check out this book if you like fleshed out villains for your Fifth Edition games!
Kids on Bikes is another one I hotly anticipated. Anyone who knows me knows I’m one of those D&D nerds who is comfortable using those rules for all sorts of genres beyond fantasy. So beyond the D&D ruleset, my favorite sorts of RPGs are modern-era (or close to it) games featuring regular folks in extraordinary circumstances. Kids on Bikes is all about regular people confronted with irregular situations like the supernatural, along with a group-controlled character who has special powers. It’s a toss up between this and Tales from the Loop for the one I like the best. But if I’m honest, after reading through them both I might take a bit from column A and a bit from column B. Kids on Bikes contains a ton of awesome ideas for creating characters and group dynamics, making it a valuable resource for roleplaying games in general.
Outbreak: Undead Second Edition from Hunters Entertainment and Renegade Game Studios is the other RPG I added to my collection. Truth be told, I didn’t know anything about it but the book is slick, and after flipping through it looks like a suggested style of play is taking the players themselves as characters and imagining a zombie apocalypse in your own hometown. Told you I like those sorts of games 😉 What really sold me though is the layout and design of the book. It has a lot of cool thematic and artistic elements making it fun to look and read through. And guess what? The person who wrote it and contributed to graphic design and layout is Chris de la Rosa — the guy I would wind up talking with the next day at that Peter Adkinson party!
On the same whim I picked up Arboretum, a tabletop game by Dan Cassar. Never heard of it, didn’t demo it but got it nevertheless. Why? The art intrigues me. The cover has a big purple tree and a multitude of colorful symbols around it, and the back shows the various card types, also trees of various colors. The goal of the game is to “create carefully planned paths for your visitors to walk as they take in the colorful explosion of buds and leaves.” Doesn’t that sound wonderful? It’s a competitive game, but with all the players competing to create something beautiful, it sounds like a delightful way to spend 30 minutes.
One game I did demo was the Final Fantasy Trading Card Game. I loves me some Final Fantasy, so I had to try it out. It’s really fun! Cards feature all the characters you’d imagine like Cloud, Lightning, Squall, Tidus, Yuna, Garland, Sephiroth and pretty much every character from all the games including Dissidia, Tactics and more. It was easy to understand and pick up, but of course like any card game there’s deeper strategies to discover. I got two decks so I’d have enough to play with friends, one featuring Lightning and the other Cloud. Also, I got a free Kain card for doing the demo. Dragoon FTW! On a side note, it just struck me while at Gen Con that many FF protagonists are named after atmospheric conditions. Derp.
I also came home with two Atmar’s Cardography dungeon decks from Brian Colin/Creature Curations. These are really special to me, because I was part of the team that brought them to life! Brian is an amazing person, and I did some editing work on the project. These are very cool products, basically huge dungeons with a room on each card. You can play through the whole thing following a preconstructed pattern, or follow small mini-dungeon setups, or just deal out rooms randomly as you go. There’s one for the Fiery Pits, a volcanic dungeon, and another for the Icy Divide, a frozen labyrinth. PDF guidebooks are available for both Fifth Edition and Fate. The adventures are designed to take place in Brian’s World of Revilo, a fantasy realm he created with his son while telling bedtime stories. It’s really amazing. Coming up, he’ll be launching a Kickstarter for three more sets as well. While at the booth, some passersby stopped to take a look and since the booth attendant was occupied, I explained the decks to the two people who came by. The attendant made their way over and commended my on the salesmanship. (I’m pretty familiar with them!) Also I got to meet Isaac Skaggs in person, another creator on the team.
Of course, I had to get myself some dice because…dice. It’s a tradition for me at any convention. For Gen Con 2018 I went with Elder Dice: Astral Elder Sign. They’re pretty snazzy and come in a spell book box you can use for a dice tray. Hopefully I’ll be able to snag a Yellow Sign of Hastur set at some point too. I missed the Kickstarter for them but maybe with a little eldritch luck things will pan out.
The last two things I picked up are both pieces of art. The first was a print from Voidbug, an illustrator who had an awesome selection of vibrant, ethereal art. Choosing one from everything she had to offer was tough, but I’m more than happy with the one I got and can’t wait to hang it up in the office. The second piece of art was one of Chris Seaman’s Cameo Creeps. Chris is a phenomenal artist who’s done a bunch of work for D&D, Magic: The Gathering and other games. One of my favorite pieces of D&D art is by him, the tiefling Star Pact warlock from fourth edition D&D. His Cameo Creeps are tiny monster paintings inside cameo frames. There’s a ton of them, making this choice even harder than my Voidbug print. In the end I went with Lady Wanda Glubberneck. She’s got an aquatic look reminiscent of sahuagin, one of my favorite D&D monsters that I’d been talking with someone about earlier that day.
Best part of Gen Con 2018
All parties, get-togethers, events, games and fun new stuff aside, there’s one thing about Gen Con that’s better than all of it combined. Being a nerd and enjoying this culture with so many others is absolutely priceless. By and large, the nerdy community is supportive of one another, encouraging, and welcoming. When we invite others to our games or accept invitations to theirs, we’re making new friends and connecting with new people. They might look different, or see the world different, live vastly different lifestyles or whatever. But overwhelmingly, one similarity is despite any of these differences we can all come together to share these fun and often deeply personal experiences. You can always find a fellow nerd to remind you that you can do anything you set your mind to, you can be you — the best you — and that’s a great thing. Maybe I have rose-tinted glasses on a bit, but I know there’s a heck of a lot more good out there than bad, and my fellow nerds do a fantastic job of showing it.
Round up and wrap up
Here’s a bunch of links to check out some of the stuff I mentioned above. And I also want to know about you! Did you go to Gen Con 2018 and have some awesome stories to share? Or have you gone in the past, or plan to go in the future? I’d love to hear about your best Gen Con memories, or any of your favorite convention stories in the comments below. And if you got any photos of the Nerdarchy crew from the convention, please share them and tag us on social media!
- Official Gen Con Twitch channel
- Hunters Books/Hunters Entertainment
- Kids on Bikes
- Jetpack 7
- Final Fantasy Trading Card Game
- Atmar’s Cardography
- Elder Dice
- Voidbug — Keep an eye on streams with me, Nerditor Doug, to see which print I got!
- Cameo Creeps
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Nerditor-in-Chief Doug Vehovec is a proud native of Cleveland, Ohio, with D&D in his blood since the early 80s. Fast forward to today and he’s still rolling those polyhedral dice. When he’s not DMing, world building, or working on endeavors for Nerdarchy or his own blog The Long Shot, he’s a newspaper designer, copy editor and journalist. He loves advocating the RPG hobby and connecting with other nerds and gamers on social media and his site thelongshotist.com.