Paizocon 2012 was the first convention I ever got around to attending. As such, I may not be entirely aware of the proper etiquette involved. However, my understanding is that I am now expected to write a ‘Con Report,’ detailing my activities during the event, along with any thoughts I have regarding the quality of the con.
So be it.
I currently reside in a little town called Auburn, Washington. There is little of value to be found here, which makes the town’s motto of “More Than You Imagined” depressingly ironic. The best thing I can say about Auburn is that it isn’t too far away from the really cool parts of my home state. Ya know…like Seattle. Paizocon was held a little further North than that, but still within easy driving distance. As such, the cost of attending the con ended at the price of the ticket for me. No airfare, no hotel room. That was really nice.
The night before, my ladyfriend and I printed out all of the events we were interested in attending, and put them onto a schedule. We then cut a few based on conflicts, or because there was no way we were going to wait around for 4 hours for something we were only mildly interested in. We discovered that there was really nothing we wanted to do on Sunday, so we decided to limit our attendance to Friday and Saturday.
We arrived quite early on Friday, and were given some toys by the convention staff. Posters, a map pack, a novel, and even a miniature! I’ve been told that this is a custom called ‘swag.’ I found it rather odd that I paid $40 to gain entry to the convention, only to immediately be handed perhaps $20-$40 worth of merchandise. But I have no complaints! I can only hope this entry in the Pathfinder Tales series of novels is a significant improvement over the others I’ve read.
We still had a great deal of time before our first seminar, so we wandered into the dealer’s room. Here I gleefully filled in the gaps in my Order of the Stick book collection by picking up On the Origin of PCs, No Cure for the Paladin Blues, and War & XPs. I also had a brief conversation about skills with a representative from Louis Porter Jr. Design, which I briefly discussed in an earlier post. I can’t say I was too impressed with the Neoexodus setting he was hyping (it sounded like a very generic attempt at ‘non generic fantasy.’) but I was intrigued by two of the other sourcebooks he had available, “Dangers & Discoveries” and “Debatable Actions,” both of which I purchased. Long time readers may recall that I am in search of an improved social resolution mechanic, and hope to perhaps glean some ideas from the latter of the two books.
Following this I briefly attended a sort of round-robin discussion group titled “Game Mastering 101.” It was focused on Pathfinder Society play, and I left after the second discussion group failed to offer anything of interest. Instead I sat in a hallway making notes for upcoming posts until it was time for the first workshop Morrie and I really wanted to attend: “Gaming Terrain: Working with Styrofoam. “
This is a hobby I’ve been interested in for a long while. Despite the fact that I’ve always felt reservations about the use of miniature figures, the prospect of crafting landscapes and environments is enthralling to me for some reason. Recently my ladyfriend learned about this craft, and became pretty excited herself! She spent the last month buying tools and materials, setting up a crafting table, and working on her first few tentative projects. Like this one pictured to the left.
Sean K. Reynolds (one of Pathfinder’s developers) ran the seminar, and we probably learned more from him in an hour than we had learned from the several dozens YouTube videos we’ve been watching. I was particularly happy to learn about hot wire foam cutting tools, which we were able to try out ourselves. I also didn’t know that nailpolish remover melts a crater into the foam, though I don’t know how much of an application that has.
After the foam workshop was over, we were allowed to sit in on a second terrain workshop. This one focused on plaster. I’d never actually heard of this before, and it was fascinating to watch. It seems as though the molds are not difficult to acquire, and the results looked fantastic. I have no doubt I’ll be looking into this, and posting about it, more in the future.
Following this there was a seminar on freelancing which I wanted to attend, but during the two terrain crafting workshops we had made friends with another couple in attendance. We instead opted to have a nice lunch with them, wherein we discussed gaming groups, RPG mechanics, and stories of heroism (or lack thereof).
Once we had finished eating and parted ways, I was able to sneak into the last 45 minutes of ‘Everything You Didn’t Need to Know about the RPG Industry,’ which I must say I’m still somewhat confused by. This was the description of the seminar online:
“What was the dress code at TSR? What was playtesting like for 2E? Why did Gary make that table? All this & less will be revealed at our sekrit panel seminar! Expect nothing & be pleasantly surprised.”
I suppose I broke the rules by expecting something. But based on the description, I thought it would be a lighthearted bit of goofiness where some experienced industry professionals told amusing stories. And maybe I missed something in the first 15 minutes, but really the whole thing was just about maps. How much they can affect a game world, and how important it is for freelancers to include nice maps with their modules. And based on the large number of map samples they had on hand, it was obviously something they had planned to talk about.
On Saturday we again arrived early in the day, this time with the intent of finding a place to eat breakfast, since we had been unable to eat at home. To our delight, we found that there was a huge farmer’s market being run only a few yards from the buildings the convention was being held in. Thanks to this, all of our meals on Saturday were absolutely delicious treats prepared masterfully by some very talented cooks. Being the fat nerd that I am, I particularly liked the fresh banquettes which were stuffed with Italian sausage and bell peppers.
A few more vendors had set up since early Friday morning, so we again visited the dealers room. I picked up copies of The Complete Kobold Guide to Game Design, as well as The Complete Kobold Guide to Board Game Design, both of which have been on my list of things to purchase for a long while now. They gave me a free set of dice with my purchase, and I was able to spend several minutes talking to the Kobold Quarterly staff about their submission policies.
I also snagged “Zombiepocalypse Now” and “Thrusts of Justice,” two choose your own adventure books aimed at adults, both written by Matt Youngmark. I haven’t had a chance to dive into these myself yet, but I’m curious to see if it was handled well.
At 10am I made my way to the first seminar I was attending that day, which focused on how to create a homebrewed game world. Amusingly the panel was largely made up of Kobold Quarterly staff, one of whom I had been chatting with only a few minutes before. There was some very solid information presented here, particularly with regards to how magic items and religion can be used in a home brew game world.
Immediately after that was a panel on the art of Pathfinder. Not being an artist myself, I don’t really have a lot to say about this. It was very interesting, but we largely attended for Morrie’s sake, as art is a hobby of hers. Unfortunately much of the discussion focused on art as a profession, which didn’t really help either of us out. Though I did find it extremely amusing that one of the artists on the panel said they were a biologist by training, artist by trade. My ladyfriend is currently training in a lot of biology classes, but insists art will never be anything but a hobby. I prodded her in the ribs a few times when he said that.
Reaper Miniatures had a table set up out in the hallway where anyone could come up and paint their own miniature for free. This is something I’ve been wanting to attempt for awhile now, but I’ve always been a little bit nervous about ruining my nice pewter minis. I’m thankful I was able to make my first attempt with a free, plastic miniature. I’m sure my second attempt won’t be much better, but at least I know it won’t completely ruin the figure at this point. Personally, i think Morrie’s knight turned out a great deal better than my dwarf did.
After breaking for lunch (fresh pizza baked in a wood stove!) I attended a seminar on rules design by myself. Unfortunately I can’t discuss that seminar, but once it was over I attended my final seminar of the convention: Secrets of TSR.
As best I can determine, this is a bit of a Paizocon tradition. They get 4-6 fellows from TSR to just…sit around and talk about the old days. I actually had a little bit of small talk with the group of them before the panel started, not realizing who they were.
Once the panel began, I managed to score a seat in the front row, and get my voice recorder up on the podium so I could have the talk for posterity. It didn’t turn out very well, but that’s okay, because someone very kindly uploaded the entire thing to YouTube!
I’m pretty sure you can hear my laugh more than once. I’m often made fun of for the volume of my laughter.
So that was Paizocon. Conclusions? It was a lot of fun, even though it caused me to question my place in the Pathfinder community. It was educational as well. I do feel as though most of the content was geared towards someone who thinks about tabletop games far less than I do, but that’s not exactly surprising. And it’s not as though anything was ‘beneath me.’ I learned a lot about a number of subjects I’d never really thought about. All in all it was a good time, where I learned some useful skills, and had some great (though unrelated) food.