Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tales from FanExpo 2014

I am back from the Expo, back in the comfort of my routine, reviewing endlessly in my head the events of the past six days.  I can say with conviction now that I have spoken with the people.  My daughter and I met hundreds of role-players, of every interest and sort:  D&D, Pathfinder, Rifts, Traveller, Gurps, Vampire the Masquerade and many others.  Not a single S&W player, however, and not one single person who mentioned Paizo.

By final count, we sold 62 books - 39 Guides and 23 How to Plays.  On the whole, I'd guess we sold about 25% of the existing client base (that is, 1 in 4 people we spoke to).  People came up to the table who never expected anyone would be there to talk about role-playing, so we caught a lot of people by surprise.  It must be remembered that it was a FanExpo - not a game-based event - so we had to compete against a lot of product that had nothing to do with us.  None of that kept us from being a success.

At times, it was so thick I couldn't text a sentence without two interruptions; at times, we went a hour or more without anyone approaching the table.  It was not, for one second, boring.  People told me to take a book - nonsense! I never had time to do more than check for comments on this blog.

We met one fellow - ONE! - who claimed he already "knew how to DM."  No one else who spoke to us remotely considered themselves arrogant enough to know all there was to know about role-playing. The vast proportion of would-be and willing buyers were desperate for the book's purpose.  They were plainly exhausted with the corporate agenda, with this genre vs. that genre, with glossy empty minded-content and so on.  The fact that my book had no pictures was a selling point!  Seriously.  I actually sold one unsure fellow by demonstrating that the book lacked illustration.

On two occasions with long-playing grognards (both 30+ years in the game) I could see from their expressions that they wanted the book, that it was exactly what they'd been looking for - but they just couldn't believe that I wasn't bullshitting them.  It was plain from their questions and from their repeated opening of the book to have another look.  In the end, neither bought.  They couldn't believe. I couldn't blame them.  Anyway, once the word gets out, they'll come back and find it has what they've wanted.  It will all be good in the end.

Here's what I did NOT find:  people bitching that the game is supposed to be fun; people complaining that the book was in depth, heavy, too big or otherwise too academic; people arguing one type of genre or system over another; people who felt any need to embrace D&D Next; people who mentioned GNS Theory (one fellow I talked to had heard of it - no one else had, so I stopped mentioning it); people arguing dice vs. role-playing; or people bitching about girls in role-playing.  In other words, none of the endless crap-festival tropes that come out of the online community exist in the real world.  No one cares about those things.  They just want to play - and they want as much help as they can get.

We talked to dozens and dozens of girls, many of whom ran games, many of whom bought either book, most of whom had a long history with role-playing and were anxious to talk about it.  The girls told less war stories than the boys, but on the whole I have to admit that war stories in general were far less common than I expected.  People wanted to talk about their issues, their limitations and the things they were trying to improve about their games.  They wanted to express in the most real terms their sincere, enthusiastic desire to play in better campaigns.

I have never felt so validated as a writer.

Six months ago I struggled with one dilemma: did the community really want the sort of book that I was proposing?  Certainly, there was very little reason to believe that they did, given online discourse. I had to believe in a silent majority, a reader and participant that fitted more accurately with the sort of person I'd met in my 35 years of gaming - even though I hadn't had very much personal experience with that person in the last two decades.  I had stepped away from the community, concentrating on my players, and spending the time on this blog tossing out message after message screaming that the online rhetoric was propaganda.  As the weekend progressed, it became encouragingly clear that I have been absolutely right about that.

People do not care about role-play vs. roll-play.  They just care about playing.  They do not care about inappropriate grammar or strawmen or derailing the conversation - because in the real world, the vast part of the community is exceedingly polite, all the time.  They don't play in clubs or groups or organizations, they don't playtest for the WOTC and they don't know anyone who does.  They play with their families and their friends, they seek the opportunity to play with people, they wistfully consider the days they used to have time to play - but they don't whore themselves out to anyone for the opportunity.  It is tremendous, enlightening, reassuring - and of great motivational inspiration for me.

These are my people.  They understand the way I think . . . and as it happens, I understand the way they think.

As the rest of you - those of you who are stuck in this board-group-association mindset - I think for the first time I don't need to say that your time has come.

I don't think that, really, you ever had a time.  I don't think that the WOTC has ever actually mattered. I believe now that I've allowed myself to focus too much upon it because of the noise that it makes - but I have spoken to the people now and my mind is changed.

Traditionally, returning from an event, it is expected that I have some pictures.  I most certainly do:

He told us it was the first time he had ever tried make-up.
Was a very frightening effect.

Make it all herself - except for the stockings.  Spectacular detail.
Had never heard of Girl Genius, which was hard to believe;
was very excited that there's a huge steam-punk community in
Western Canada.

Her own work; the horns were excellent.

She made every inch of the costumes; he's only her 'dummy.'
Married and they bought a copy of the book, were very excited
by it.  She wants customers, so find me and I'll put you in touch.
We talked for about 20 minutes after the sale.

These two were overjoyed that we recognized them - actually,
tagged it from his dog ears first.  Great pair, lots of fun.

Agreed with us that there needs to be more evil and less
nice Catwomen.  Told her to threaten her boyfriend
with the whip and he said, "She does anyway."

It's not a con without Darth Vader on vacation
in the south seas.

We like Harley Quinn with the bomb.
We saw hundreds with hammers. 

A sweet, sweet girl with a definite cruel streak.
We liked her immediately.

Game of thrones was making a huge appearance -
quite a lot of whole cast groups wandering about.
Had to keep this one for the girl-as-king - she totally
pulled it off.

Both these girls are over six feet.  Which tells you how tall
the captain is.  They came over just to get their pic
taken, then stayed once they learned what we
were selling. The captain bought both books - has a very
serious campaign - love to run in it.

Sadly, the quality of the work doesn't come through
the picture.  Was deep and eye-popping.  She was great
about letting us look her over.

This is Jerry.  Let me talk about the book for nearly half-an-hour,
asking questions and looking for more and more detail.  Never
did buy, though

The rest of these are those my daughter took - so I haven't anything to add.


  1. Sounds like a smashing success- well done. I am very happy for you. I am even happier hearing your description of everything that the RPG scene is currently not. Thanks very much for re-verifying my faith in humanity.

  2. Mmm...if only Paraguay had a post office.

    Sounds like a successful excursion! Hopefully the good word will spread.
    : )

  3. The Expo can help remind us that the people online are your power-law distributed 8-HP super-aggressive orc marauders/bad L.A. cops, while the people out in the real world tend to be more of that friendly-yet-quiet majority of reasonable orcs/peaceful police officers.

  4. Well Tim, it was damn fine to meet you there, and your friends. Brings me great hope.


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