|Their registration system is awful, but they've got a cute mascot!|
Now, that being said, what did we do at Origins? I worked the booth a lot, spent a lot of time I wanted to socialize off in my room by myself, which makes me sad too (stealthy pine nuts, I abjure thee! Cigarette smoke, my bronchitis-affected lungs abjure thee as well!). I didn't get to do anything like as many things or talk to as many people as I wanted to. That said, there were some successes that happened.
1) +Amanda Valentine and I worked with +Evan Torner to salvage our hoped-for Kids Track that was harpooned by Origins and work it in with Games on Demand. As a result, for the first year Origins GoD had a kid's track that featured young GMs running games for both adults and kids, and adult GMs running kid-appropriate games. It was a small start as we were so late getting it together, but the results were really positive and we're going to move forward with it for next year as well. Our young gamers deserve to have options that aren't D&D or Pathfinder, there are wonderful indie games available for them, and the next generation of GMs needs a chance to practice their craft in a supportive atmosphere. It's a win all around!
Baker Street, a Sherlockian RPG set during Holmes' disappearance after the Reichenbach Falls incident. You're all Londoners who've been recruited by Watson to help solve the problems of people who haven't gotten the memo that Holmes isn't around anymore. Watson can't do it himself, but with enough smart people on the job, maybe they can make up the difference. It's got a fun investigative mechanic and a lot of ready-made cases you can run. The GM was great and I really enjoyed my character. My one complaint was that of the female pregens available, one was a prostitute, one was a flower girl who explicitly addresses the fact that she's not a prostitute, one was a street urchin, and one was an opera singer. This is compared with all the upper class and professional male characters. I enjoyed my Eliza-Doolittle-knock-off character, but a greater attempt at parity and/or not having all the women in "professions" that were or were often confused with sex-workers would have been lovely. BTW, I don't think this was at all intentional -- they were pulling from literary sources from the period, and if there was anything in Victorian Britain that was problematic, it was its gender issues. (Also, Woman GM! Whoo!)
3) I got to play in an alpha playtest of Pillars of Fire, Cam Banks' upcoming game (also woman GM! Woo!). +Renee Knipe ran a lovely intro adventure with lots of conflict potential to keep us moving. It's an attribute (which I think might need its name changed, because they really aren't like your standard set of attributes) and a drive (there's about 10 of them -- love, loyalty, justice, curiosity, etc.). They form a dice pool of d6s, with 1-3 counting towards successes and 4-6 counting toward powering up your special powers. This encourages action on the part of the characters early in the game, which is really nice. You can also help each other out, which raises the difficulty slightly, but pays off on more difficult actions when teamwork is more important. I really enjoyed this game, and I'm looking forward to playtesting future versions of it. I loved the setting and the multi-faceted nature of the characters, as well as the fact that they all have some built-in blind spots that are easily incorporated into play.
4) Con food has steadily improved over the years, and this year was no exception. BareBurger is awesome. The number of delivery options that are a) tasty and b) not pizza is vastly improved. The Brazilian BBQ place (all the meat, all on skewers) is very tasty and a good time. The Happy Greek is worth the walk down into Short North, as is Jeni's if you miss the Market hours, and North Market is still worth its weight in gold. Even the food court, which is a Columbus Convention Center staple, is improving in some ways -- I look forward to seeing it after the renovation is complete.
5) Our sales (the IGDN and Growling Door respectively) were up slightly, though it didn't feel like it. One big problem is that, particularly with indie games, sales and having people play in your events have very nearly a 1-1 correspondence. If people enjoy playing your game, then you'll like have 2 our of 5 people purchase it -- sometimes more. Word of mouth counts for a lot, and if no one plays, no one talks. Our events getting fubared meant fewer sales than we expected for the companies who were running events, at the same time as our expenses were up because we brought materials and even personnel to run games that didn't happen. Games on Demand took in a couple of our orphan GMs to run stuff through them, but that's not what they're there for, nor is it something we could or should rely on. It's problematic, and I'm not sure what it's going to mean for next year.
In short, I like Origins. I wish it was easier to work with reliably. I know we're not the only people with horror stories from this year, particularly as it relates to events, and that worries me. I would like to continue participating as a vendor and in running events, but doing the math on it gets harder each year, and that's a problem I don't have a solution for.