Star Wars Wednesday - GenCon 2014

Last week was GenCon 2014. As usual, I didn't have time to post, or even the time to prepare a post beforehand. It was a fantastic convention, and record setting at 56,614 attendees, up from last year's 49,000 or so. The dealer hall was even bigger than past years, and I had the least amount of time to see it this year. I had few things going on, and a few things were announced...

Where to begin? Star Wars it is. 

Things started off with....a meeting for my day job...but then, off to the d20 Radio / Order 66 podcast get together at the Old Spaghetti Factory. About, I don't know, 40 or more people who don't listen to the Order 66 podcast, or appear on it, um....mysteriously and spontaneously got together Wednesday night. Right. Thanks to GM Chris, GM Dave, GM Phil, and all of the d20 Radio crew for getting things going. Most of the FFG Star Wars RPG developers and several freelancers dropped by. There was also a surprise promotion of Johnathan Steven (Donovan Morningfire) to Honorary Member of the Rebel Legion.

Fantasy Flight Games had their own RPG room again this year, with all three Star Wars RPGs running, plus Dark Heresy. As expected, the Force and Destiny Beta was released. I wrote the GM chapter (most of which isn't included in the beta) and another one that will appear in the full product release next year. I ran two sessions of Age of Rebellion - essentially the first chapter of the first Age of Rebellion stand alone adventure, Onslaught at Arda I, with a few tweaks. On Saturday, I ran a session of Force and Destiny but before that, somone - or rather several some ones - had a surprise for me...

Before game time, I was standing just inside the door to the FFG room, talking with Andrew Fischer of FFG (Age of Rebellion lead), when GM Phil walked in, in full Jedi gear, followed by an impressive group of Imperials and Rebels. He called out, "Where is Sterling Hershey?" in a booming voice. 

"Behind you." I replied.

After that bit of amusement, GM Phil, flanked by Imperials and Rebels, announced my induction as an Honorary Member of both the 501st Legion and the Rebel Legion fan organizations. He made a great speech about my contributions to Star Wars over the years, and presented a pair of cool plaques and badges for each organization. It was a lot of fun, and much appreciated.

Afterwards, we posed for a few pictures in front of the Age of Rebellion and Edge of the Empire banners in the room, with the appropriate costumed members, of course. I'll post more when I get them...I wasn't exactly in a position to take them myself. The costumes were very good, and Vader was appropriately impressive, looming over everyone else. I found out later that most of them were from the local garrison and base. 

Click for more on the 501st and Rebel Legion costuming and community work.

As expected, Fantasy Flight made a number of announcements before and during the show: 

  • Debuting at the show were two products I contributed to - Force and Destiny and Far Horizons. Chapter 3 was my contribution to the latter. I'll follow up with more on both of those in future posts. 
  • Armada - Star Wars capital ship combat, based a bit on X-wing, but definitly its own game.
  • Imperial Assault - a Descent style boardgame. 
  • The new Scum and Villany faction for X-wing Miniatures.
  • Rebel Aces Expansion Pack debut for X-wing Miniatures.
  • Star Wars Empire vs Rebellion debut of a 2 player stand alone card game.
  • Adversary cards - these are NPC stats and art on cards for the Star Wars RPG. I saw them used in freelancer Keith Kappel's pick-up Age of Rebellion game, and they're very handy. Unfortunately, they were also sold out before I made it to the FFG booth. They also don't appear to be on the FFG site yet.

It wasn't all Star Wars for me at GenCon, however. Wizards of the Coast released the much anticipated new Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook, and the kickoff of the organized play Adventurers League Epic adventure in the Tyranny of Dragons storyline. The D&D events were essentially sold out, though I was able to attend the Ready, Set, Play workshop where the leading developers presented the highlights of the game's principal design strategy, introduced character creation, and the factions (complete with a folder of info and faction sticker) for Adventurers League play.

I also went to the Tyranny of Dragons launch party, held outdoors in the middle of a closed off street in front of the convention center. I didn't solve the puzzle (ok, I didn't really try), but ended up with a great poster and an entertaining paper Dragon helmet/crown handed out to the crowd. It wasn't really designed for glasses, so many of us were wearing it in unconventional fashion.


While I couldn't get into the Epic, I did drop by to see the results, plus all 600-700 players all playing at the same time. 


BTW, the Players Handbook topped the Amazon chart for all books in the US today, and three D&D products took the top three spots in the Canadian version of the site. Incredible. The game has been largely very well received so far. 

I went to the Pinnacle seminar to get the latest on Savage Worlds. They announced or updated a long list of upcoming settings. I'm looking forward to The Last Parsec, a sci-fi setting reminiscent of old sci-fi rpgs like Star Frontiers. That is slated for an upcoming kickstarter. Also of interest to me is The Sixth Gun setting, based on the comics of the same name. For those who remember Lankhmar, it's making a comeback. 

Just after that, through a quick series of confusing events including at least two mistakes, I ended up in the front row of the Spin a Yarn seminar, where Ed Greenwood and others take ideas from the audience and turn them into a future Forgotten Realms story. I had heard of this from past years, so I wasn't sure what I was in for, but it seemed more fun than what I planned to see. I was right. Plus I ended up sitting beside Matt and Brian James (two of my co-authors on Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale) and Realms author Erik Scott de Bie. I contributed a couple of things - a haunted town square and an invulnerable guard - so I'm looking forward to the results. Others were much more creative and lengthy in their descriptions. This went on for almost 2 hours. Past results seem to be collected here

I managed to make it to a few other things, like the Diana Jones Award. On a more somber note, a group of us gathered to remember Sam Adams, a long time and charismatic member of the Roleplayers Guild of Kansas City, Ltd, who passed away unexpectedly just a few weeks ago.

As a finale, actor Sam Witwer (Vader's Secret Apprentice, Darth Maul in The Clone Wars) made a sudden, unexpected appearance on Sunday, along with his brother Michael and other friends and family. Michael is writing a biography about Gary Gygax. They talked to many of us at the FFG booth before running off to see as much of the dealer hall as they could in the short time before the con closed. I have some pictures, but they're either blurry phone pics, or catch someone in an awkward moment since none of them were posed. I hope to get a copy of some of the posed pictures later. 

One last thing that has nothing to do with GenCon. Geeky Jerseys makes limited runs of themed hockey jerseys. I got the Rogue Squadron one last year, and it's really good. Plus it happens to match the colors of my local team, so bonus there. They just announced they're doing another run of Rogue Squadron and Mercs (Boba Fett), so check it out.