This year was the first time I had ever been to GenCon. Which is kind of odd considering I’m a long running fan of basically everything represented there, and I’ve lived in Indiana for several years. But by whatever unfortunate circumstances I had always either missed it by being out of state, or just not had the money to go. But not this time. 2016 would finally be the year….
….Probably. I mean, I still didn’t have the money. But I had the will and a couple of friends who regularly volunteered for True Dungeon to get their badges. Since I had worked in haunted houses and construction jobs before, and True Dungeon is basically a haunted house + LARPing (sort-of) I figured it wouldn’t be that hard. I had my way in, and I was going to take it.
But then I had another way in. Dead Gentlemen (the amazing people behind Gamers, Journey Quest, and Demon Hunters) were looking for a DM. I threw my name into consideration figuring that it’d be easier to get into GenCon running a game than it would be doing physical labor. But I was passed over in favor of someone else and figured it just as well to commit to True Dungeon, since I still wanted to go to GenCon and that was my “Plan A” anyway.
Now this is part 1 of 8 in my GenCon adventure. If I had only got in through True Dungeon, the story would probably be 4 parts long or so. You see Dead Gentlemen managed to secure a few more tables, and in doing so would require a couple more DMs to run their game. They contacted me about it and I said “yes” naturally (who wouldn’t?) It only occurred to me later that I had entirely filled my schedule from Aug 1st – Aug 7th, but at the time I was just happy to be a part of things for people who I respected and who make stuff I love. (Seriously, go watch Journey Quest. Come back and tell me how much you love Glorion.)
So the True Dungeon part of things I wasn’t worried about at all. Like I said, I had done all the stuff they would expect me to do before and none of it was particularly difficult. The thing that I started to get nervous over was running Demon Hunters for Dead Gentlemen. If I screwed up in True Dungeon and broke something it’d be an expensive mistake and I’m sure they wouldn’t invite me back, but I could live with that. I could handle being one of the many, many people that True Dungeon has cycled through as incompetent. (They have a couple horror stories about people unplugging things and shutting off power in the dungeon while players were going through it.) It would suck, sure, but I like to think of the stories I get to tell from whatever I do and maybe it’d be funny a couple months later to be the “guy who accidentally smashed an entire wall” or whatever horrible clumsy thing I might have done. (Spoiler alert, I didn’t become this guy and I did well enough to not get a bad reputation… I think… I hope.)
However, if I screwed up running the Demon Hunters game and made it look boring, or represented Dead Gentlemen or Zombie Orpheus poorly, and people I pretty much look up to had a bad impression of me, I don’t think I would live it down. It’d be one of those things that 20 years later still popped up in my mind when I’d be trying to sleep at 3 in the morning.
“Remember that time you got invited to run a game for Dead Gentlemen and ended up totally blowing it? If you had to pick one moment where your dream of making a living in Tabletop RPGs when horribly wrong, it’d probably be the moment you ostracized yourself from a beloved group and made a total ass of yourself.”
So the days before the con were a little bit ridiculous. I was reading the PDF of Demon Hunters in a frenzy, trying to learn how people played other FATE games (because I had never played FATE before) and, what I swear was the hardest part, trying to get my sleeping pattern set so I could wake up in the mornings. It started to feel like training and studying for an event where most people went to just have fun. I justified it to myself by saying cosplayers, event managers, and vendors probably had to do some mental preparation as well and that I wasn’t being that weird. But then I remembered that I don’t fall into any of those categories and just felt like an oddball again.
It didn’t really matter though, I’m used to being the odd one out and I was determined to get in. How weird could I possibly be at GenCon anyway? That’s like… my people. I couldn’t be out of place there. So I just assured myself everyone would be too busy double-checking the extendable wings on their cosplay, or struggling to justify spending money on MORE boardgames, or rushing to get to whatever event and that if I was out of place no one would notice me.
Thankfully this whole train of thought started to get put to rest when I showed up for the DM training session hosted by Don Early over google hangouts (a link to which is right here if you’d like to see how it went. I’m the guy in the hat.) It was him acting as DM, a couple other people who would be running the same game and adventure I would be, and myself. And as far as I know, I was the only one who was not only unfamiliar with the Demon Hunters game, but who had never even played FATE before. Right off the bat I felt like there must have been a couple thousand other people who would have been better for my position and who would have loved to have it. But I kept my mouth shut, pretended to be confident, and waited until the moment someone inevitably said “You’re just not right for this” at which point I would do my best to gracefully agree and bow out.
That moment never came though, and for that I’m really grateful. As a general pessimist, cynic, and all around “guy-who-assumes-the-worst-and-is-usually-right-to” it really felt like my lack of experience was the elephant in the room. Or elephant in the google hangout, or whatever the phrase should be. But Don took the time to crash course me through it, and thankfully the system isn’t so complex that I couldn’t flip through it in time. On top of that, the book itself is really well designed and features “TL;DR” sections that help for quick notes and references. The training session went off without a hitch, and was actually really fun for all of us. The moment when I threw an exploding skeleton at the big bad gave Don a good laugh and it was a comforting moment for me to know that just by being my regular self I could probably get through this.
This one is kind of cheating. I promised GenCon stories, which this sort of isn’t just because at this point in the story GenCon hadn’t happened yet. But it did feel important to include how nervous I was and how it happened that I ended up wrapped in True Dungeon and Dead Gentlemen. So I hope it’s at least kind of interesting since it opens the floodgates for the rest of what I plan on saying.
True Dungeon can be found here.
Dead Gentlemen Productions is right here.
and the Archfossil patreon is here if you like these stories, or RPG a Month, or whatever else and you want to be one of my favorite people in the world.