Every year when GenCon time rolls around, I feel two distinct emotions: panic and smugness. The panic is because, holy shit, we’re planning for a con in August and it’s only January. The smugness is because of Origins.
Origins is great, consistently. It’s 20% of the size of GenCon (maybe less depending on turnstyle numbers), and is well-attended by friends in the industry I want to spend time with. Those same folks are at GenCon, but instead of a hug or a wave as we pass each other, at Origins I get to sit, talk, and game with them.
Don’t get me wrong, I love GenCon and I’m sure Origins isn’t stellar for everyone, but when all you do is run games you love at Games on Demand, hang out with good friends, and eat good food, it’s hard to have that go sideways.
Games That Were Fucking Metal
I had two games on my menu for Games on Demand: War of Metal and Bone, and an early playtest for Vault Hunters. I got to run War of Metal and Bone five times during the 4.5 days I was at the con, and got one good playtest of Vault Hunters in. The games of Iron Edda were some of the best I’ve been part of. Here are the highlights:
- With the Snake Clan being killed one at a time by the jealous ex-lover of the most renown warrior in the holdfast, the dwarven armies are advancing. The warriors of the holdfast need diamond-edged weapons to fight off the dwarves, but the dragon that lords over the diamond mines objects to a recent diversion of the river and will not give over the diamonds.
- The Jarl is ill, and soon to pass. Amid the turmoil, the Raven Clan has exiled all Bonebonded, claiming that the Ravens know the true secret of stopping the dwarves. And a Raven seer claims that for couples’ vows to be right before the gods, a Bonebonded warrior must be sacrificed.
- The true secret to stopping the dwarves is the fabled Chicken of Asgard, and a group of warriors must journey up the Bifrost and confront Fenrir himself to claim the precious poultry.
- A skald claims secret knowledge gained from Mimir’s well itself. The priests and priestesses believe the story to be true and will pay any price for the skald’s secrets. Meanwhile, the Wolf Clan and the Bear Clan war over an ancient Bear burial ground, a ground a wandering scholar claims holds giants’ bones and the secret to creating more bonebonded.
- The statues of the gods have been stolen from the holdfast. A quest must be undertaken to find the lost idols, but the group must pass through dangerous tribal lands to find them. With them, they must bring, protect, and definitely not eat the Chicken of Asgard.
We had a really good time.
The highlight of those games came in the fourth one, where I had eight players, including three girls aged 14, 11, and 7. The 7 year-old fired a hundred arrows at the head of Mountaincrusher, the dwarven destroyer, and set up the group’s runsescribed warrior to unleash the power of Thurisaz and rust the destroyer where it stood.
If you’re not familiar, Vault Hunters is a card-based RPG that Brian and I are working on. It’s designed to be an homage to Borderlands and Destiny. Origins saw its second-ever playtest, which went… well. I say that in a qualified manner because I mainly wanted it to have been more successful than I thought it was. The game needs a lot of work to be good, and it will take a while to get there.
It’s a notable difference between running an established system like Fate, and through the lens of War of Metal and Bone, which I know really well. By contrast, I’m fumbling around wondering if I’m asking the right questions or setting up the right scenarios to test with Vault Hunters. Still, the group of three that chose to give the game a shot were engaged and enthusiastic in their feedback, which was awesome. I got a lot of good notes, and a lot to think about.
The Rest of the Con
The rest of the con was great. Good food with awesome people, getting a chance to talk shop about Kickstarter and the industry at large, and a lot of positive buzz about War of Metal and Bone. I think that last was really the highlight for me. I got to give backers their copies, gave some copies to friends, and saw people come to my table at G0D with copies for me to sign.
I had the game for sale at IPR and it did well. Better than I expected. I brought them extra copies during the show, and near the end, they requested I bring almost 100 for their warehouse. I’d like to think that the folks who run IPR have a good idea of what will sell and what won’t, so to have them request that many copies of Iron Edda bodes well. It’s not paying the rent or anything, but getting that much interest is no small thing.
So, Origins was great. If you want a GenCon-like experience without the crush, press, and overwhelming nature of GenCon, you should go. Games on Demand was amazing, with over 400 people coming to play games across the weekend. Also, the food around that part of Columbus is way better than what Indy offers.