Pax East in Review

This comes a little late, but here are some details on my Pax East experience.

I participated in the Save My Game seminar with Organized Play guru Chris Tulach and expert DM Mark Jessop (Trevor Kidd, our Community Liason, was also in attendance). This seminar reminded me how much I love doing seminars. I’ve only done a few; I participated in some last year at GenCon. One of the things I love about the Save My Game seminar is that it is like a conversation, more than a presentation. We even encourage members of the audience to help answer the questions that fans bring us. We had well over one hundred people in attendance at the seminar, which definitely stretched the limits of our one hour timeframe. Fortunately, I found time to chat with folks after the seminar and help address a few rules questions. One guy even recorded my answer so he could bring it back to his gaming group at home.

We still got a few 3E questions—I suppose it wasn’t really clear that the seminar was aimed at general game questions or 4E questions. We still addressed all the questions, though, even the one about how the earth creatures moving around underground are able to see each other. In Trevor’s words: “What happens underground, stays underground.” There were quite a few funny moments like that. One DM had a problem with his players killing everything and not roleplaying. He also had a problem being able to afford all miniatures. To solve both problems, I suggested he have a player have to purchase the miniature of any monster killed by his or her character.

I’m hoping to go to GenCon this year and do even more seminars. If you’ve got some good ideas for seminars, I welcome the suggestions.

Also at Pax, I checked out the D&D program on the Microsoft Surface table that some grad students over at Carnegie Mellon cooked up. This thing was badass. Okay, granted it crashed when one of us accidentally rolled a die too hard, but despite the bugs, it was an impressive piece of engineering. It stored all the powers from the character builder, and each player had a private terminal near his or her seat that could be used to browse combat options. In my mind, the coolest feature was the tables ability to highlight the areas to which you had line of sight or line of effect. I imagine for many people, the automatic mathematical calculations would be the best part of the table. Another cool aspect was the ability to clearly see what squares your bursts and blasts would effect. The terrain looked pretty good, and they also had some neat animation for stuff like fireball or when the dragon descended onto the table.

For more pictures, head to my Photo page.

The table was unfortunately limited in size. Despite its limited play area, a DM could program a map into it, allowing the players to explore and reveal new sections of the map. Movement was pretty good, and it would automatically choose the best path to a given square (avoiding opportunity attacks), or would show you how far you could move with a single move. All in all, an impressive piece of software and hardware. Perhaps unfeasible in a home situation, but definitely a real possibility in high-end game stores or in demo booths. I’d love to be able to run learn to play experiences on the table. Maybe someday there’ll be small, touch sensitive LCD plates (1 foot x 3 feet) that can be laid out and connected over a dining room table. If that could be done, I’d definitely buy in to this technology. Until the, my money is going to Dungeon Tiles and Dwarven Forge (take a look; they just got a new website!).

I played a lot of D&D at Pax. We were short DMs, and since most of the people coming to the booth were interested in the cool new demo, I spent the majority of my time in the D&D Area running games. The new demo was a really cool taste of D&D; if you didn’t get a chance to try it at Pax, I recommend catching it at a future show.

 person checks her character card to see if her attack against the dragon hit (oh, and you get to keep the character cards).

We had nonstop lines of people interested in playing D&D. First we were short tables, then we were short rooms, then we were short DMs, and finally, we were short of product.

Ultimately, we managed to accommodate a large number of people, and Willie, the coordinator in the area, did a fantastic job of filling slots. I think part of the phenomenon of D&D at Pax was the fact that once a person has gone to the exhibit hall in PAX, there’s a lot of idle time. Sure, there are some great panels, but the waits were long, and sometimes you’d only end up getting to spend an hour in the seminar. D&D Encounters and the Dark Sun adventure provided a 2- or 4-hour experience. Aside from the excitement that D&D was generating at the show, I think the appeal of being able to sit down and play a game for a solid block of time got people interested. And once they played one game, they kept coming back for more. I sincerely hope that we’ll have a big presence at Pax Prime. I’ll definitely try to be there, playing games or running them.

Pax was also my opportunity to meet a lot of members of the D&D online community. I met D&D bloggers like ChattyDM (who ran a game for some of us in a totally sweet Irish pub), Sarah Darkmagic, Dave the Game, Asmodeus Lore, Geek’s Dream Girl, Neldar, KatoKatonian, and Gamefiend, among others. (Sorry if I missed you!). Being able to sit and chat with fans and members of the online community is probably one of the highlights of my job. It’s great to get out of the office and find out what people are actually doing in their games. Many people cringe at the “tell me about your character” or “tell me about your campaign,” but I love it. That’s what makes working on D&D great—the enthusiasm of the people who play the game.

The ceiling of the Irish Pub (The Asgard) where we played D&D one night.

Next Blog: Thursday

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3 thoughts on “Pax East in Review

  1. It was real cool finally meeting you and playing some D&D at the Asgard was one of the highlights of the con for me. Looking forward to seeing you again at Gen Con.

    Thanks for the link! 🙂

  2. I had a great time as well! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me a bit and giving me some great suggestions. Oh and I talked to my player and we both agreed that the lower level White Lotus Riposte was a bit broken so he’s going to swap it out. Hopefully I’ll get to go to Gen Con as well.

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