Origins 2017 – game convention from a new perspective

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Origins Game Fair 2017: A Nerdarchy report
D&D Adventure Awaits with Tomb of Annihilation and More

Attending a game convention is not new territory for me. Fresh off of Origins 2017 in Columbus, Ohio, the gaming juice runs at an all-time high and I’m pumped to plow forward with gusto on as a fan of tabletop roleplaying games as well as a savvy up-and-coming Nerdarchy aide-de-camp.

My first game convention was, coincidentally, Origins Game Fair back in the early 90s when civilization was at its peak. I’ll never forget inadvertently joining a world championship tournament of Diplomacy, having never played the game. For about an hour I had my opponents thinking I was some kind of savant, making bewildering moves they’d never seen. Then they realized my cluelessness and my stint as a global leader quickly ended.

Origins 2017 – came for the D&D stayed for the people

Origins 2017 game convention
The crowd at Origins 2017 game convention. [Photo by Jacob Sigafoos/Official Origins photographer]
Since then I’ve hit up game conventions here and there. Crossing Gen Con off my bucket list was absolutely amazing – and I attended as press! During my brief time living in Austin, Texas there was Chupacabracon where much D&D Adventurers League took place. And then there was Origins 2017.

For this game convention I headed down as a regular ol’ attendee with a normie badge. The twist was I tagged along with Nerdarchist Dave for the week for his first big game convention experience. He had a press badge through Nerdarchy and we rocked the Origins 2017 game convention together.

For another view of Origins 2017 check out Nerdarchy.com’s web editor-in-chief Ty Johnston’s take on the convention.

According to the post-game convention press release, Origins 2017 featured over 7000 events. Record-breaking attendance of 17001 unique badges was 10 percent growth for the con and turnstile attendance rose as well, indicating an upsurge in return daily visits.

“I am very happy with how well Origins went this year. We couldn’t have done it without the support of our sponsors and show co-sponsor Dungeons & Dragons, our exhibitors, volunteers, and Game Masters! We especially want to thank the awesome attendees who come and support Origins every year.” – John Ward, Executive Director of GAMA, in a press release

Origins 2017 game convention
Love this color combo. Reminds me of my Spelljammer game’s beholder lounge singer. [From Easy Roller Dice]

Wheeling and dealing

Going into the game convention, I was stoked about all the gaming to be gamed at Origins 2017. And while Nerdarchist Dave and I only played in three game sessions over the four days we were there, the experience was far from disappointing. The time we spent was exhilarating and energizing. Very quickly, I recognized how hard-working Nerdarchist Dave is; he hit the game convention floor with a mission to make the most of the time at Origins 2017. For my part, I became his de facto assistant, guiding him around the enormous Greater Columbus Convention Center and attached Hyatt Regency hotel where the game convention took place.

We got into a groove organically and it was a total blast. For Nerdarchist Dave, Origins 2017 was an opportunity to meet in person for the first time many people he’s had dealings and business with. One of our first stops was at the Easy Roller Dice booth, which is a longtime Nerdarchy sponsor. Like any respectable gamer I got a set of dice right away. Later on during our first game of the con, the very first roll came up a nat 20 with my new Purple Dawn dice set.

Along with meeting people with existing relationships to Nerdarchy, we discovered tons of cool exhibitors proudly sharing their games, accessories, art, books, doodads and paraphernalia on the game convention exhibit hall floor. As a dutiful assistant, the collection of business cards grew throughout our time at Origins 2017. We came across a lot of terrific people Nerdarchy hopes to connect with again and share with fans through daily live chats or other projects and events – and games! At our heart, Nerdarchy is all about growing nerd culture and nerdy hobbies and it would be awesome to do some gaming with the people we met at the game convention.

Just as exciting as meeting business partners and potential guests was meeting with Nerdarchy fans. We would not be “for nerds, by nerds” without all our fellow nerds out there that we are so proud to have as part of the Nerdarchy community. Origins 2017 was a huge game convention, and in retrospect we wished we’d planned more and spread the word to our fans when and where we’d be at the con. But it was awesome when fans recognized Nerdarchist Dave and came up to say hello, take a photo and talk about games. Nerdarchist Dave and I will be at Gen Con, Aug. 17-20 in Indianapolis, so if you’re going to that convention please stop and say hi if you spot that famous beard in the crowd. Gen Con is already a mammoth game convention and no doubt will break records this year for its 50th show. We’ll be sure to keep fans up-to-date on our whereabouts at that one.

Rolling those dice

Origins 2017 D&D
Meeting with fans was one of the best parts about Origins 2017.

The gaming we did, although only three sessions, was all incredibly fun and memorable. The first was a living world game in Arcanis. It was basically fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons with some setting-specific modifications. I had a great time playing a fire sorcerer while Nerdarchist Dave played a lizardfolk-esque ranger. As it turns out, our party wound up causing some ripples and having a major effect on the campaign world because we sorta kinda got a very important NPC beheaded. I consider it a success. Our characters got their gold AND no major factions have marked them for death. Good times!

We also played a game with GM Stephen Rowe, a game designer who was there with Kobold Press. Staff writer Megan R. Miller and her fiance and brother joined Nerdarchist Dave and me for a Pathfinder adventure. Rowe was a fantastic GM, not surprising since he has won awards for his skills running games. Full of tension, action and drama, we all had such an awesome time and made great memories.

Finally, we got some straight up D&D in with a sneak preview adventure from Tomb of Annihilation. I snagged a half-elf rogue and Nerdarchist Dave played a halfling fighter for our foray into the jungles of Chult. Our DM Curtis Isley was excellent, and the other players at the table were amazing roleplayers, especially the dragonborn bard player who blew us all away with her vivid descriptions and gestures of the character’s actions. I was already in the bag for Tomb of Annihilation and our Adventurers League game only reinforced that for me.

Great people, new friends

Origins 2017
Commander Holly Conrad and me at the Big Bar on 2, part of the Hyatt Regency hotel where the D&D action took place.

For me, the best parts about Origins 2017 were all about that Hyatt Regency Ballroom. That’s where Dungeons & Dragons reigned supreme. The lobby was festooned with incredible art from the upcoming Tomb of Annihilation book and had me geeking out pretty much the entire time. D&D luminaries and icons I look up to were milling around like it was no big deal, from Chris Perkins to Ruty Rutenberg, Satine Phoenix and Christopher Lindsay. A special nerd moment for me was talking with Holly Conrad, who I’ve been a fan of for years. I came across her when I was deep into Mass Effect and saw her legendary Commander Shepard cosplay. It was a terrific fan moment that she stopped and talked with me for a few minutes.

In addition to those prominent people, I made a bunch of new friends with industry folks like freelance game designer Dan Dillon, Social Media Manager for D&D Adventurers League and a bunch of other stuff Robert Adducci and Twitch chat moderator for Nerdist and Geek and Sundry streams Axis of Anarchy Rachel to name just a few. All of these people are doing really cool things supporting this hobby we all love. Getting to know them a little was fun and a terrific learning experience for me.

Like at any industry gathering, a lot of rubbing elbows and great conversations took place in the bar. The Big Bar on 2 was the place to be in the evenings during Origins 2017. One of Nerdarchist Dave’s friends that we hung out with a lot was Seth Polansky who was co-directing the Origins Film Festival.

Seth is a contract and IP lawyer among other things. He is also outgoing and knows a ton of people so I kinda glommed onto him for social purposes. He is a genuinely cool dude. He was the executive producer of the film “Of Dice and Men” that screened at the game convention. Go check out this film. You don’t need to be a gamer or D&D fanatic to enjoy it; the story is an authentic human one with humor, drama and all the feels. The characters are roleplaying gamers, but that is only the backdrop for an emotional story about a friend who enlists in the military. After the screening, it was a fantastic treat to have Cameron McNary, the writer and star of both the play and film versions, there to take questions. The story is based on real events from McNary’s life, and as a testimony to the authenticity, a veteran in the audience spoke up to say say the film portrayal of the situation is honest and realistic.

“We don’t write plays about games. We write plays about human beings.” – Cameron McNary

Origins 2017
Signed copy of Spymaster by Margaret Weis. Her Dragonlance books had a HUGE impact on my childhood.

Recently, McNary has been traveling to perform his play “Shoggoths on the Veldt” that he described as a two-fisted Victorian action adventure romance comedy, “like you do with Lovecraft.” Sign me up. McNary definitely made a fan out of me. He is also part of The Play Better Podcast that I see had Chris Perkins as a guest recently. Nerdarchy will get there eventually!

Standout moments

The highlight of Origins 2017 for me was shared between two distinct moments. The first of these was when Nerdarchist Dave and I were hanging around the D&D live stream area while Ruty Rutenberg and Satine Phoenix set up their equipment. We pitched in to help a little, and it was cool to see that these on-air personalities aren’t just the pretty faces you see online. Both Rutenberg and Phoenix are knowledgeable and skilled with all their own gear, production setup and so forth, so if you think they just show up, sit down and play games you are selling them short. While setting up, it became evident they were missing a lens for their camera. Hoping to help, we thought perhaps Polansky or his wife Kelley Slagle might have the needed gear.

Origins 2017 D&D
If you’ve got to go, go with style.

We rushed over to see them and as it turned out, their associate, filmmaker Francis Abbey, had just the lens they needed. We explained the situation and he generously lent the lens to two strangers who disappeared back into the convention with it. How cool is that? Thankfully it was just what Rutenberg needed and he got everything set up to stream, which you can see from the D&D Twitch channel was a success. Being able to help out this way was a great feeling. At the end of the day, I’m a big ol’ D&D nerd so that tiny taste of behind-the-scenes was a thrill.

The second moment also involved Rutenberg. I was tasked with finding him and guiding him to where Phoenix was being interviewed for the documentary “Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons & Dragons” with her thoughts on interactions with fantasy art. Hopefully we’ll see her segment in the film when it releases but you never know for certain what will make the final cut. At any rate it was cool to sit in on the filming of her segment.

All-in-all, the Origins 2017 game convention left me feeling more convinced than ever that this is the best hobby in the world. The great fun and memories we have at gaming tables with friends extends to the new friends we can make when we gather together for our shared love of D&D or whatever games you enjoy the most.

Sitting around the table face-to-face with people sharing imaginations is what makes

Origins 2017
Lazer Ryderz from Nerdarchy friends Cardboard Fortress Games on display in the exhibit hall at Origins 2017.

D&D so special and the opportunity to do so and connect with so many other people at a convention is an experience every gamer should have at least once. I highly encourage everyone to seek out a game convention and check it out, whether large like Origins 2017 or small.

You’ll discover that, whether you join a game with an 11-year-old playing their first adventure or a grognard who designed the game itself, when we sit down and get out our character sheets and funny-shaped dice, we’re all the same nerds creating memories of not just our heroic characters’ deeds, but the fun times we have together as people.

For more great photos from our trip to Origins 2017 and other nerdy images check out Nerdarchy on Instagram. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and like, share and subscribe to the Nerdarchy YouTube channel for all the daily content, including live chats with fellow nerd and industry pros. Check us out on Patreon where you can get exclusive monthly content, chances to game with Nerdarchy and priority for asking questions to live chat guests and more.

And as always, stay nerdy!

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Content Director

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, worldbuilding or working on endeavors for Nerdarchy he enjoys cryptozoology trips and eating awesome food.

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