In which our intrepid hero gets a little more roleplaying done.

Continued from Part I

The following morning, I arrived bright and early for the How to Fight Like a Jedi workshop, presented by General Grievous’ fight double, Kyle Rowling. Unfortunately, the workshop was cancelled at the last minute, as Rowling had injured himself shaving whilst trying to articulate that extra set of arms.

Instead, I joined Mim for a hastily rebooked seminar on Philosophies of Game Design, hosted by Steve Darlington, god of independent gaming Robin Laws and (belatedly) Peter Adkison, frighteningly charismatic founder of Wizards of the Coast and CEO of GenCon LLC—the latter pictured at right.

Adkison came directly from Brisbane Airport and soon the panel became a Laws-v-Adkison debate on breaking into the great untapped female teen-and-tween sector in the market. They presented an interesting dichotomy: attempts to “girlify” tabletop gaming are often too heavy-handed and only serve to alienate the potential new clientèle, but at the same time, are necessary to target products to said clientèle and hold their interest.

Adkison also made the observation that the barrier between geekdom and the mainstream had eroded to the point where not only are most people geeks to some extent, but even that geek is becoming sexy.

(Perhaps, then, tabletop roleplaying suffers because it’s failed to position itself as a conduit from the mainstream into geek culture in the way that, say, World of Warcraft or the iPhone have. Just a thought, but one that might merit some further blogging…)

This was immediately followed by Nasty, Brutish and Short, ostensibly on the subject of horror gaming, hosted by accomplished Western Australian author Stephen Dedman (right) and Sydney roleplaying writers Kyla Ward and David Carroll.

What, in fact, it turned out to be was Dedman struggling to keep the seminar on track and attempting to partition its subject matter from the following day’s Can Rolling Dice Really Scare You?, whilst Carroll and Ward annoyed the audience with self-congratulation and in-jokes about their Ravenloft campaign.

Although Mim and I were due to go to the Authors Talk Worldbuilding seminar, we needed to stretch our legs and our brains needed a break. We had lunch and then parted ways.

Mim headed to Someone Else’s Playground, a seminar about the interplay between gaming and fiction, followed by Hickman’s Mythic Journeys in Writing, an examination of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth.

Meanwhile, I plunged into the RPGA’s 4e and Living Forgotten Realms preview modules, Escape from Sembia and Scalegloom Hall. The former consisted of a series of rolls against a poorly-explained skill mechanic, the latter a collection of combat encounters from out of the back of the DMG.

I was even less impressed than Beaver looks. I know we had the Game Day adventure to get a feel for the new edition, but these adventures (along with the following day’s Death in the Skyfire Wastes) are supposed to give us not only a sneak peek at 4e, but the RPGA’s new Living setting. Not so.

Although WotC would have us believe otherwise, I can only take them on example. I’ve yet to play Keep on the Shadowfell (my nascent gaming group dissipated after the first encounter), but all I’ve seen is combat, combat, combat, and a chance to roll against an obsolescent skill mechanic. Four adventures—four officially sanctioned adventures—and nary a roleplaying opportunity in sight.


To be continued