2019 Gen Con In Review: The Gathering of the Tribes
By Harley Stroh
Like most gamers of a certain age, I began daydreaming about Gen Con as a child.
Back then the logo was usually some sort of compass rose, printed in black and white, close to the end of a rule book. Growing up in rural Colorado, where the nearest gaming store was a sewing shop, I didn’t know what a gaming convention was, but I knew I had to get to this thing called Gen Con. The kid that had never been more than 60 miles off the ranch grew up fantasizing about loading up the car with his brother and some high school buddies and driving out to Milwaukee.
Twenty-odd years later, Gen Con retains that same magic. For all the challenges – the crush of crowds, the annual scramble for housing, the dubious meals, and inevitable con crud – when I step off the plane and look down the escalator to the massive Gen Con logo, I’m that kid fresh off the ranch again, coming home to 70,000 friends I’ve never met before.
At Gen Con, even the most jaded grognard can be a fan again, awash in a sea of gaming wonder.
And the opportunities are endless. The sounding of the doom gong. Seeing, firsthand, the original art that defines Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG and sets it apart from all its imitators. Getting the chance to talk with and learn from all the judges that I admire, and marvel at their creativity and skill. To bear witness to Wayne’s latest creations, nerd-dreams made the material. To see Troy’s pyramid crawl games, replete with clay tablets and Egyptian headdresses. To walk through the chaos of DougKon and watch while it stabs a dull knife at the veils between reality, social critique, and gaming. To raise a toast in Skach’s Secret Gaming Lair, while the year’s judges scrutinize every corner, crack, and edge-case of the tournament. To look around ICC 127 (you know the place) and marvel at the crowds, and what we – the fans – have wrought.
And the small moments, too. Hand-folding hundreds of Gongfarmer’s Almanacs with Taco Jon, and then watching strangers ask for them by name at the booth. Seeing the first-time judges, daring to share their personal vision of DCC before an audience of hundreds. When the judge you love brings over extra chairs to make room for the father-daughter team at her table, even while another judge forces a new friend from Brazil to accept his gift of weird dice. The dozens and dozens of generic tickets accepted as folks stumble in and ask, “What’s this?” And then, inevitably, “Can I get in a game?”
I’ve always imagined Gen Con to be akin to a gathering of tribes. Far-flung raiders, shamans, and merchant-lords hailing from a thousand different traditions, coming together for a few short days to game, argue, fight, eat and drink together – only to wake up hungover (if we slept at all) and do it all over again. We all come bearing stories, adventures, and innovations to share – and all for the love of the game and the family, it has fostered.
If DCC RPG aims to bring magic and wonder back to gaming, so too does Gen Con offer us the chance to marvel anew at the magic of RPGs.
2019 was a great time to be a fan of the DCC RPG. And in 2020 we aim to be even greater.
So as one humble reaver to another, pass the word along. Sound the horns and light the signal fires. Bring the brothers and sisters, the high school rowdies, and the friends you just met at the FLGS. Make the trek, raise your standard, and share what DCC is to you.
Already the call has gone out for new judges and new adventures. Soon it will be time to bloody your knuckles, roll some bones, and come away with new friends and new stories to share, and maybe some hard-won treasures.
See you at the show, reaver!