I spent most of last week–Aug. 2 through Aug. 8–at GenCon in Indianapolis. Thirty or forty thousand gamers, dealers, exhibitors, models, musicians, and cosplayers were also there. What a scene! I talked to a lot of people, sold and signed a lot of Tunnels and Trolls stuff, and got some incredibly kind words and compliments from nearly everyone I met. I had a blast.
Last year I devoted my camera work to people in costume. The costumes were abundant this year also, but I’m not going to do that again. This year, I just took a bunch of pictures, and each one reminds me of the fun I had. Sit back and enjoy the show.
Rick Loomis and Corencio are having supper at Steak and Shake near the convention center.
Rick Loomis, Mr. Flying Buffalo himself, is my principal publisher and patron. I go to big conventions like GenCon and Origins with him to help man the Buffalo booth and to promote Tunnels and Trolls. This year I brought along my son Corencio to help with the heavy lifting. We arrived late on Tuesday, set up the booth on Wednesday–that’s a miserable job as the convention hall is not fully air-conditioned before the show starts–and it’s 90 degrees and 200% humidity inside. After setting up we all went over to Steak and Shake to have supper–yum! I do love those double fudge shakes, and this is the only place I ever get them.
Three Amigos--Grimtooth, Shrek, and Trollgod.
Later in the day, I ran into my friend Steven Crompton, and Corencio took this Three Amigos picture for us. I didn’t expect to see Steve at the show, but he came to demonstrate his new Powers superhero trading card and sticker game. Steve is an amazing artist–and the creator of Flying Buffalo’s Grimtooth the Troll character. Steve is an Arizona boy from Scottsdale, and also a member of my <a href = “http://trollhalla.com> Trollhalla </a> web fanclub for Tunnels & Trolls fans. That gigantic ogre is really a foam rubber creation and lighter than it looks. He was extremely busy taking pictures with Con attendees for the whole week.
Rick and Corencio teach retailers how to play Nuclear War.
On Wednesday night before the show we went off to demonstrate our games for retailers at Victoria Station. We showed a few people how to play Nuclear War and Lost Worlds. Wizards of the Coast hogged most of the visitors with their lavish spread and demonstrations of Magic ™ and their Dungeon Assault version of Dungeons and Dragons–not available for purchase, but playable by groups in game stores that sell their products. Steve Jackson Games and Mayfair were also there in force. I ignored the big companies pretty much–I’m there to see what the little guys are doing.
Typical of the small exhibitors was this company with their pirate miniatures game. Very nice toys they had.
Explorers back from the Center of the Earth.
When the show opened on Thursday morning I went around and talked to some of the dealers. I most admired the ones who came in costume and wished I had more than an old Tunnels and Trolls t-shirt to wear. Before it opened on the first day was the best time to see what was at the show–after it opened it was a shoulder to shoulder crowd scene most of the time. That’s great for dealers, but not so good for rubber-necking game designers.
The Flying Buffalo booth number 501 just before the doors opened to the public on Thursday morning.
Flying Buffalo shared 1/8 of our booth with a small company this year that couldn’t get their own booth. Studio 9 does small fantasy-themed card games. Last year they released Treasures & Traps; this year they came out with Villagers and Villains. People in the picture include Cameron and Lisa in the light green shirts, Bill who helped us in the booth, Rick in the command chair, and Corencio hanging around the back. One of the few games I got at the con was the T&T card game. I liked the initials.
Christian, also known in Trollhalla as Dupin, stopped by to say hi.
Death wandered around during the convention. He didn't seem to be taking anyone with him, though.
The Olde Guard was there in force. Here I am with colleagues Robin Laws and Ken Hite.
A member of Trollhalla demos my new DewDrop Inn solo adventure.
Trollhalla member Brrrennt gives A TRAVELER'S TALE a thumbs up plug.
Trollhalla member Kopfy shows off the latest two publications from Peryton Press–Elder Tunnels–Tunnels & Trolls fiction and games that don’t come from me and Flying Buffalo. I think it is very good to have some outside support for my game.
Perrryton and Aarrra'aghaa are both members of Trollhalla.
Classic profile of a winner--later in the afternoon, Perrryton came and whupped Corencio, Brrrennt, and me in a game of Magic.
Brrrennt explains some of the finer points of the game to Corencio.
The convention center provided a couple of good places to simply sit down, eat, relax, play your games. I spent a fair amount of time in this area gaming. It wasn’t as noisy as the main halls, and food was close at hand in the form of small convention center cafes just out of sight. I ran my one game of Tunnels and Trolls at this table on Friday afternoon.
I had to walk a mile for my supper on Thursday night.
When the dealer room closed on Thursday, Corencio and I joined some friends for a Mexican supper. Afterwords, we went to their domicile for a Call of Cthulhu game–everyone died, but no one went mad. Thursday was actually the first and the best day of the Con for me. Flying Buffalo had a very good day for sales, and most of the friends I actually wanted to see at the Con came to see me that day. Then we finished it all off with a game. Can’t beat that!
Fast forward to Friday . . . We had so many helpers at the Flying Buffalo booth that I couldn’t actually stay there all the time. In one way that was bad because some of the people who came to see and meet me actually missed me. In another way it was good because I got out and saw more of the Con.
Friday morning found me at the Namaste booth where I went to see my friend Liz Danforth–she who is the very Goddess of Fantasy Illustration–and the creator of the classic Tunnels and Trolls 5th edition cover.
Dungeon delving is a blast.
Aaron wants to revolutionize MMORPGs. I'll help him if I can.
I’m in the picture here with John Harmon who is one of the artists at Namaste games. He spent some time explaining their storyblocks system to me. They brought Liz Danforth to the con for the first time in ten years, and signed her up to do concept art for the mmorpg they are creating. I demoed their system, and I like it–very story based, and not so much twitch gaming like most of the runner/shooter computer rpgs you see these days. I hope they succeed.
Liz Danforth (in purple) is talking to some of her fans.
It was great to see Liz out on the convention scene once again, and apparently having a good time. On Saturday night Liz had supper with me and Rick and Corencio and Steve and Rick Roszco at the High Velocity Sports Bar in the Marriott. That’s living the high life, folks.
Arch geekery with Steve Jackson.
Liz and I connected with the ever reclusive Steve Jackson at the Namaste booth. Twas really good to see Steve again–it has been more than a decade since our paths last crossed.
LIfe-sized Robo Rally.
When I wasn’t in the dealers’ room trying to sell stuff or talking to people, I hung out in the convention lobby a lot. In once place they had a life-sized Robo Rally game going for the whole convention. It attracted a lot of attention and was beautifully produced. Where do they get those fabulous toys?
Steve came by and talked business with Rick later in the day.
Richard Roszko is the Nuclear War apps developer for Flying Buffalo.
One of the people who helped out at the Buffalo booth was “Nomad” Rick Roszko. He created the spinner map for Android cell phones for Nuclear War, and is working on a complete Nuclear War app. The two Ricks think that if Apple Computing would only approve these apps, they would soar to undreamed of heights of popularity and richness. C’mon, Apple, get off your butt, and approve the Apple I-phone version of the Nuclear War spinner. Later you can approve the T & T cell phone interactive stories we intend to do. Nomad took us all to dinner on Friday night at the Claddagh Pub. Thanks, Nomad!
Saturday was Shadowfist Day!
On Saturday Corencio and I spent a lot of time playing cards at the World Championship Shadowfist tournament. You may see me write about Magic a lot, but my real favorite collectible card game is Shadowfist–the game of Hong Kong action science fiction movies. My son, Corencio, is currently the Arizona State Champion of the game–though I think he was lucky when he won that–and we tried our hand at the World Championship. Now this is sort of typical of my life in gaming. Here I was, competing for the world championship in a game, and there were only 14 other competitors. Neither Corencio nor I even came close to winning–we didn’t even make the finals–but we had a good time, and saw some great players in action.
Do these guys look like kung-fu killers to you? The Shadowfist Championship tourney.
After the Shadowfist tournament I went back to the Buffalo booth for the afternoon. Rick went off and ran a Nuclear War tournament at 4 p.m.–he had 30 players. Ha! He should bill it as the Nuclear War World Championship tournament at GenCon. He might get 100 players if he did that. When the hall closed a bunch of us went off and had supper at the High Velocity bar. What a feast! But what will forever stick in my mind was the fact that they had television monitors in the Men’s restroom. You could stand there doing your business and never miss a moment of whatever game was currently playing.
Sports TV heaven and the food was good too. I could not say the same for the Champions Bar in the other Marriott hotel down the street where I had lunch on Sunday.
We parked across the street from the football home of the Indianapolis Colts. The whole stadium is enclosed within this gigantic brick building with huge neon lights on the outside.
The City of Indianapolis has a lot of bizarre and impressive structures in it. I would have a good time just riding around and photographing strange places. The football stadium is one of them. So is the church that follows. I wish I had time and a local guide to get to know these places better.
Twin Towers--the top of the cathedral across the street from the convention center.
Go for baroque front facade of the church across from the convention center.
The church was so massive I couldn’t get it all into a single photograph. Likewise for the stadium, and I didn’t even try for a photo of the power plant or the convention center itself or the state Capitol buildings a block to the north.
Some Uruks got lost in the Dealers' Room on Sunday--three of them.
Did I mention that the hall costumes were incredibly great this year? They were spectacular and none were better, imho, than these lost uruks. The leader, above, had this harsh rasping voice you could hear halfway across the hall, and yet he was the soul of courtesy and couth. I tip the trollgod’s battered fedora to the Uruks of GenCon.
Looks real to me.
This fellow had an axe to grind--luckily not with me! I'd sign him up in a hearbeat to guard the trollcave at Trollhalla.
Sunday was the least eventful day of the trip. I had lunch with my Trollhallan friends and said goodbye to them. Perhaps we’ll meet again some time. By 6 p.m. the Con was over, and we had packed the stuff we didn’t sell and were ready to head out. This concludes my tale of GenCon Indy 2011. It was the best I’ve ever attended. All the dealers seemed to do well, and the gamers, cosplayers, etc. all seemed pretty pumped up and pleased with it. My congratulations to Peter Adkisson for running a great Con. Long may it continue!
Goodbye to Indianapolis!
I know thousands of you were at GenCon with me. There were a million other things I could have mentioned, but I’ve been working on this blog for half the day already, and I have to stop some time. What did you enjoy most at GenCon? I’d welcome your comments for this blog.
I’ve been friends with Terry Lee Ballard for a very long time, since early college days at least, and I graduated from college more than 40 years ago. He is the man whose wise advice turned me to a career in librarianship, and that has been a very good career for me.
Terry Lee Ballard--librarian, photograjpher, amigo.
Decades ago, Terry went east to seek his fortune, and he found it as an academic librarian in New York. From time to time, he returns to Arizona–he still has family here–and when he does we usually get together for a few hours–have a meal, talk about old times, catch up with what’s happening in each other’s lives. Good times! When he called me to set up something for his current trip, I suggested we do a photographic expedition together–Arizona is full of interesting places to photograph. I suggested Wickenburg as a place to go, and he did some research and made a counter-suggestion of a trip past Wickenburg to a hole-in-the-road called Nothing–Nothing, Arizona.
When he arrived at my place yesterday morning, we got into his rental car, and took off for the Arizona desert and wild small towns northwest of Phoenix. The rest of this blog is a photographic record of that journey. He also took photos and should be telling his side of the story in his own blog.
Now, to be fair, these two blogs are designed to be a bit of a friendly competition. After you look at mine, please go look at his, and then leave a comment on whatever you like the best. Terry’s blog can be found at: http://terryballard.blogspot.com/2011/06/hometown-blues.html. You will notice that he is much better at integrating words and pictures into a connected flow than I am; however, whatever the reason, I think I got the better pictures on the trip. I really enjoyed the expedition, and hope we’ll get a chance to do it again some time.
Beautiful downtown Wickenburg.
This was my first photo of the day. How often do you see a horse on the roof of a building? I guess that’s not too uncommon in the West–the Big Apple Restaurant in Phoenix also has livestock on the roof. But you have to admit, it’s not a common sight. The horse is a pinto–a common cow pony type. No, it’s not a real horse–just a wooden effigy of one, but it looks good.
We got out of the car here and walked around town for a couple of blocks. The following pictures were all taken on the streets of Wickenburg.
Flags and Flowers
Sun-blasted map. I like the ironwork above it.
Can you read the beer signs hanging down? They say "Stay Thirsty", and it's an ad for my favorite beer--a Mexican brew called Dos Equis (Two Xs), On the sidewalk ahead of me are my son James and Terry forging ahead in search of who knows what?
I almost took a picture of the Mexican pots in front of this bar. They were very pretty.
I really liked this window. We almost had breakfast here. I kind of wish that we had, although the other place was ok.
Notice the key word “almost”. It turned out the be the best description of the day. Things almost worked out the way we wanted them to.
Terry, posing by the Wickenburg Jail Tree.
Before Wickenburg got big enough to build its own jailhouse, prisoners of the law might find themselves chained to a tree until they sobered up or met the Hanging Judge.
The Jail Tree itself. Such a tree would have to be over 150 years old, and I don't think this tree is that ancient. I suspect they made up this story, or maybe this is the son/ddaughter of the original Jail Tree.
It's a public clock for people who don't carry watches. Cool store beyond it--I must return to iit some time.
Wickenburg was gold mining country. Here's an old prospector, fully provisioned, and heading back out to the desert.
You can almost hear the music. Ay ay ay ayyyyyy! Canta y no lloras!
High point of the morning--breakfast. My friend is a restaurant architect.
Horses are things of the past. This is how today's western outlaws get around. These are some sweet rides.
You've heard of the Iron Horse . . . ?
The turning-back point. We didn’t find Nothing, Arizona. Here’s Terry again in front of Arizona desert.
We found this ruin that symbolizes all the ghost towns of Arizona. Desolation, but judging from the graffitti, also the scene of some good times.
The last picture of the day--a truckstop trading post that symbolizes all the back country of Arizona highway life. Everything you need can be found inside, and a good time when it gets dark.
We never made it to Nothing, Arizona–took the wrong turn in Wickenburg. But, we had a good time–a pleasant ride through the desert, a good meal, interesting scenery. Why do I call it a Five Hawk Day? I saw five hawks gliding over the desert during the trip. They have a distinctive look, and I always enjoy seeing desert wildlife in its own setting. When was the last time that you had a five hawk day?
Creating fantasy games, reading fantasy novels and comics, and thinking and writing about such things are all things that I also do for fun. Here are some slightly chaotic thoughs inspired both by Tunnels and Trolls and also by the card game known as Magic the Gathering.
Muscular Tunnels and Trolls goblins deal with a tentacled horror that lives in their lake. This picture was painted by and used here with the permission of Simon Lee Tranter. You can see more of his work, and possibly engage his services at http://www.simari.co.uk/.
Dragons and Goblins and Trolls!
Dragons and Goblins and Trolls!
DRAGONS AND GOBLINS AND TROLLS!
I think that I’m likely to die.
With a tip of the Trollish sombrero to A. A. Milne and Winnie the Pooh . . .
Yesterday I was talking a little bit about my latest Magic ™ deck–modified from the Dragons and Knights set. Today it won some games against my son’s decks–lost some too. I felt it did well, and the modifications were successful. I still need to try it out against a variety of other decks. Here’s a picture of my favorite dragon in the deck.
Voracious Dragon gets its power by devouring goblins. I wonder where the card designers over at WotC got that idea. To the best of my knowledge I have never read any fantasy story that used the idea of dragons eating goblins. The great archetype for all fantasy role-playing games was Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien used both goblins and dragons in his book about THE HOBBIT, but they didn’t eat each other. In fact, they were widely separated geographically. The Hobbit started out as bedtime stories of John’s son Christopher, and featured trolls first, goblins, second, and Smaug the Dragon for the grand finale. When Tolkien got serious about his fantasy, the goblins disappeared, and the main bad guys became Orcs. Tolkien invented the Orc.
I’ve read a ton of fantasy–probably hundreds of different novels and stories. I’ve never read about dragons eating any goblins. If dragon’s eat anything, it’s usually domesticated animals, or the occasional human army foolishly trying to slay them. But the very imaginative card designers at WotC came up with the planar world of Jund–a place where the two most common Kindreds are–you guessed it–Goblins and Dragons. Dragons have to eat something, so why not have them chow down on the most common other critter in the landscape–namely, Goblins. It makes perfect sense.
Dragons don’t seem to spend much time eating Trolls in fantasy literature either. As far as I know, I’m the first person to even postulate the idea of a massive war between Dragons and Trolls. I set it at the very dawn of Trollworld history. Even then, Dragons wouldn’t eat my Trolls. My Trolls are made of living rock–they would break the teeth of even the mightiest dragons. Granted, the Dragons could melt my living rocks down into slag, but T & T trolls certainly aren’t good to eat.
Dragons and Goblins both feature prominently among the cards available for playing Magic. There are dozens of varieties of both. On the other hand, Trolls are few and far between, and not very interesting. The only power the Magic designers have given Trolls is regeneration. They all regenerate. Kinda boring, really. And there is something called Troll Shroud–the immunity to spells and effects cast by the opponents. It’s a nice power. I’d like to see it used more often, and more creatively.
Magic Trolls all seem to have been inspired by Dungeons and Dragons. They are all what I call Meat Trolls–that is they are made of flesh just like you and me. They may be big and mean and regenerate like crazy, but there aren’t any Trolls that I have found in Magic the Gathering that are actually made of living stone. I protest! Tunnels and Trolls is being unfairly slighted by the world’s greatest collectible dueling card game. (grin)
Well, Dragons don’t eat Trolls, and Goblins don’t eat Trolls, but guess what . . .? Trolls are more than happy to eat both Goblins and Dragons given the opportunity. They especially like the crunchy calcium bones.
Dragons and Goblins and TROLLS!
This rock troll in a stone boat was drawn by David Ullery and is used by his permission and that of Trollhalla Press.
The Stylish Blogger Award
A couple of days ago i was given the Stylish Blogger Award by two of my blogging friends who both run excellent blogs. It looks like this:
This award is making the rounds.
While I appreciate the honor that my friends offered me with this award, it comes with conditions. I’m supposed to link back to those who gave me the award, and I’m supposed to tell you all seven true things about myself. However, I’m kind of grumpy and contrary today–I’m not accepting any conditions. I don’t want to list seven true things about myself? Pontius Pilate once asked Jesus “What is Truth?” and I repeat the question. Nobody knows the real me. I don’t even know myself. I’m not going to do it. I guess that means I’m not a Stylish Blogger. To Hell with it! I never aspired to that title.
To some extent WordPress controls what I can do in these blogs. They limit me by the tools they provide. I accept those limits in order to put my messages on the internet for anyone to read/see. If I were more savvy about the tech, I could do more than I do with the WordPress tools–I really don’t know much–I can put up words and pictures. Sometimes I can’t even get that simple format to come out the way I want it. I’m a pretty lazy guy. My motto is K.I.S.S. Keep it simple, Stupid. I’m Stupid. I like things simple.
So, WordPress can limit my blogging form because the site is making the whole blog possible. I don’t see why I should accept any other limits on what I choose to enter. I’m only accepting my own self-imposed limits on what I share. Just because some yahoo thinks up an award and it starts going around on the internet doesn’t mean I have to follow his rules for what I write. I reject it. I write what I want to write–tell you what I want to tell you. You read what you want to read, and think what you want to think. That’s our bargain as blogger and reader.
If you want to know more about the Stylish Blogger Award, and perhaps find the many stylish blogs that have accepted it, then Google it. I’m opting out.
(The civilized and courteous thing to do with the Stylish Blogger Award, other than complying with its restrictions, would have been to simply ignore it. Well, I choose to express myself on how I feel. I’m neither civilized nor courteous today. I am Atroll.)