Greetings, readers! It has been far too long since I last put up a blog post here. My apologies – April and May were just a madhouse around the Watson household.
Rather than make any excuses, I’m going to jump right in and talk about something a lot more interesting. This blog post is about Comicpalooza 2014 in Houston, Texas.
I was one of the gaming guests of honor this year, and it was an honor to come to Houston and talk about gaming with tons of great fans and other industry professionals. As for the convention itself – it was amazing! There were a ton of celebrities in attendance, from Cary Elwes to Erin Grey. I actually got a chance to briefly meet and speak with two Doctors; Colin Baker and Paul McGann. I met Mike Mignola and told him how much Hellboy had influenced Accursed! These celebrities included Stan “The Man” Lee and a host of cosplay celebrities like Ivy Doomkitty. The Dealer’s hall was enormous; easily the same size as Gen Con’s, but the walkways were very nice and wide. This made travelling through the Dealer’s room pleasant rather than a chore, and I definitely appreciated the feeling of space—which is not to say that the Dealer’s room was empty. It was chock full of amazing stuff, including some comic book legends like Neal Adams.
Costumes and Arcades
Another amazing feature of Comicpalooza was a free-play arcade on the 3rd floor, featuring some amazing classic pinball and arcade video games. I simply couldn’t pass by it without stopping to try out a round or two of Attack on Mars.
Costumes were another memorable fact of Comicpalooza—I haven’t seen this many fantastic costumes since Otakon in Baltimore. I took a ton of pictures and saw many, many more great costumes that I didn’t have time to snapshot.
And as for being a gaming guest of honor, I was in good company… Adam Daigle of Paizo and Owen KC Stephens (a designer for many companies, amongst them including his own Rogue Genius Games). These two gentlemen have a lot of experience and insight into the gaming industry, and it was a pleasure to sit next to them in many panels on design and game elements.
Breandan O’Ciarrai was also in attendance (although his name is so Irish my keyboard can’t quite cope! Sorry!) of Dark Nova games, and he and his wife were great ambassadors for their games. I had a good time running through a quick demo and I wished I could find more room in the schedule to continue exploring his setting.
Jason Yarnell of D3 Adventures was the gaming guest “handler,” and he did a great job of herding cats—I mean, game developers—to all the places we needed to be on time. He also moderated our panels, and was a big part of what made the gaming track so awesome. We did a panel on getting into the industry, a panel on networking (awkward when it turned out two of the panelists, myself included, forgot to bring business cards…), a panel on encounter design and a panel on monster design. The design panels were incredibly fun, and we ended up working with the audience to design some monsters that were quite interesting; Pirhanaloths, strange, bloodthirsty fish-men who raid coastal villages in packs (or schools?). A unique feature is the hallucinogenic fog that they can create above water.
The Comicpalooza Gaming Track
Joe Charles was the Comicpalooza representative who organized all the gaming at Comicpalooza, and he deserves special mention for his hard work. The gaming track went very smoothly all around, and Joe wasted no time diving right in whenever there was trouble. The gaming areas were full most of the time—Skirmisher publishing had their own pavilion (again, with plenty of space) where they had set up “Little Orc Wars,” a family-friendly miniatures gaming area with lots of great terrain and rubber-band-powered catapults slinging tiny stones around willy-nilly. It was great! Darryl Mott, my co-host for the Gamer’s Tavern podcast, joined me in a game of Pathfinder with the Dungeonstone folks. This game was quite fun and showed off the nigh-indestructible dungeon terrain that they make. I give it two big thumbs-up!
One other great feature (and something I sincerely hope the convention continues) is the “indy game alley,” a setup where four independent game groups were able to showcase their stuff right in the main area where they get maximum foot traffic on the third floor. The alley was adjacent to the main gaming area (convenient for both guests and the game groups themselves) and it really helped raise awareness of these smaller companies who can’t really afford a big booth in the dealer’s hall.
In addition, the Cracked Monocle crew was in attendance promoting the steampunk RPG Tephra. These guys are at nearly every Texas convention, and they always represent their game very well—from the awesome costumes to the magnificent facial hair, the Cracked Monocle guys always manage to make many larger game company crews look jealous! I got to play a short game of Tephra, and it was quite enjoyable—I played it with the designer of the game, Daniel Burrow.
The Skirmisher crew teamed up with Darryl and myself for a D-infinity webcast live from the convention on Sunday. It was a real treat to sit at the table with Wil Thrasher, Mike Varhola, and the rest of the Skirmisher guys! We got a chance to return the favor later on when Wil joined in for a Comicpalooza special episode of the Gamer’s Tavern recorded in Darryl’s hotel room.
In fact, Wil has a real talent for setting up some amazing industry parties. The Skirmisher open house was absolutely the place to be nearly every night. At least two Doctor Whos showed up to party with us gamers, and plenty of folks in some really memorable costumes. The food and drinks were top-notch as well. If you ever attend Comicpalooza (or really, anywhere that Skirmisher is running the parties), make sure you check out the Skirmisher “traditional” attire of hospital scrubs.
Comicpalooza was awesome, I had a great time, and I would unhesitatingly recommend it to anybody… especially gamers. I’m already planning to head back next year as a guest to run some Star Wars: Edge of the Empire games. I hope to see you there!