4DVENTURE ! (Gencon: Thursday, August 16)
This is probably going to be the longest of the Gencon reports. Take a deep breath!
I woke up Thursday at a reasonably civilized hour -- actually other got up and hit the shower before I did. I wasn't in any particular hurry since the only thing I had planned for the morning was the dealer's hall, and I found out from someone (Kathy?) that it wasn't opening until 11am.
I was content to loll around even longer, but Kathy and I were the last left in the hotel room and Kathy wanted me to walk to the convention center with her so she could look around a bit before her shift in the True Dungeon tavern (at 11:30, I believe). First stop though -- the CVS next door so I could buy a toothbrush. I also considered getting a razor there, but decided to not worry about it and just be fuzzy for a few days. Probably the longest I've gone without shaving my head in the past two years.
Kathy and I meandered a bit around the convention center. I returned a couple of event tickets that we weren't using (but got the word in time NOT to return my extra badge, so that Tony could use it). We decided to go past the dealer's hall even though we couldn't go in, to browse some of the stuff that gets set up in the halls.
That's when we ran into the mass of people.
I didn't know about this, but not only was the dealer's room opening late (except for VIPs and press), there was also an elaborate opening ceremony for Gencon (especially for the 40th anniversary, I guess). So, there was a crowd near the doors into the dealer's room waiting for that ceremony. We could see balloons in a net above the area, waiting to be dropped.
That area was also below the balcony/skybridge from the Marriott. So, I took Kathy in tow and back-tracked, going across the street (at street level) to the Marriott, up the stairs there, and back toward the sky bridge. We could at least get on the balcony overlooking things there, though we still had people two deep ahead of us lining the edge.
From there, I could see red carpet up to the entry to the dealer's room. Oooh. Maybe even some of the guests of honor were wearing fancy gowns, but I couldn't see anything like that. Hopefully not Gary Gygax.
Kathy's feet were bothering her standing, so we retreated a little way back on to the skybridge, to a spot where we could sit and wait for everything to be over with. We knew that the festivities had reached climax when we heard lots of popping noises -- the balloons had been dropped and the crowd let loose onto them!
We waited a couple more minutes for things to clear. There was still a large and steady stream of people going into the dealer's room from the left (where we were originally), but coming down the escalator from the balcony we could easily get to the right-most doors and walk right in. Kathy collected a couple of the non-popped green balloons to take back to the tavern, and we strolled a bit.
Kathy left again after a few minutes, and I started my usual methodical coverage of the dealer's room -- up and down each aisle so I could check everything. The dealer's room was bigger yet this year -- they opened partitions and added the ballroom A space that had been used last year for card games, and the previous two years had been the RPGA space.
I found the Wizards of the Coast area in the far right back corner of the hall. It was a bit busier than I'd hoped, though, so I didn't start collecting marks on my card (or even a card) to show what I'd gotten a demo of there. Instead, I checked out other bits of the hall. Nothing excited me too much this year, though. I wound up in the Paizo area where they also had the Looney Labs games. Andrew Looney was demonstrating "Zombie Fluxx", which I wanted to sit in on. While I was waiting though, I got pulled (by Kristin Looney) into another demo, first of "Aquarius" (which I won) and then of "Treehouse" (which we played with Narf last year at the KoDT live read - I didn't win that :-) ).
So, then I played a game of "Zombie Fluxx". I think I won that game, but now I can't remember. It was great fun, though, and I got the author's autograph (on a special, playable game card). "Zombie Fluxx" isn't out yet (he says he keeps tweaking it), but I decided to buy a copy of the original "Fluxx". Which we then played several times over the rest of the weekend, at pretty much any opportunity I had.
I then hung around the Wizards area for a while collecting demos and marks on my card (see Friday recap when I write it for explanation, if you don't know). Then I saw the computer screens in the Wizards area with that same "4DVENTURE" graphic that was on our hotel key card, as well as a countdown and a hand written sign about a D&D announcement at 6:30 in the Sagamore Ballroom (the RPGA room). And then all the pieces fell into place in my mind -- 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons.
I met Matt for lunch, then did demos with him most of the rest of the afternoon (as I remember - I don't really remember now), and then went with him to the Sagamore Ballroom at about 6:00 to check out the big announcment. They were handing out T-shirts with the new Dungeons and Dragons logo on the front, and a beholder and "4RRIVAL - May 2008" on the back. Well, that pretty much gives the major part of the announcement! They were also handing out USB flashdrives (which want to connect to wizards.com, and I haven't totally got working yet (in a couple tries)). Matt says it's a tiny flashdrive anyway, so not particularly useful in iteself.
As for the other clue I'd missed: on the "4DVENTURE" image on our hotel keycards it has a bunch of dice of different types. I hadn't noticed they were all showing the "4" face. I'd also pretty much expected 4th edition coming when Wizards wasn't renewing the licenses they had out to other companies. But for some reason I wasn't expecting them to announce the new edition quite yet.
Anyway, many of the aspects of the announcement were largely met by the huge crowd with a giant "Meh". Not the overwhelming show of enthusiasm that I'm sure Wizards wanted. Most everyone was taking a wait-and-see attitude (as am I). The best reaction was when they said that if you purchased a hard-copy book it would unlock an online version as well. What's not clear is if that also requires a subscription to their new online service, and no real details are available on that yet.
Moving on, the big announcement meeting took us right up to our True Dungeon start time. We had the core Tjarks team: me, Kathy (token-mistress), Kalen, Ryan, Matt, as well as two other TD volunteers that Kathy knew and recruited for the team since others weren't available to join us (Tony, Narf, Rob, either Amber). We also said we were willing to pick up a walk-in 8th player, and we got one (he said he had zero wait time, so the 8th player slots were in higher supply than demand, at least on Thursday).
The did the adventure on the puzzle side rather than the battle side, since I'm really in this more for the puzzles. And they were HARD this year, or at least we rarely got that Aha! moment in solving them. One turned out easier because we got the right clue (way to go with the rumors, Kathy) and had females that knew birthstones (I'd have been lost). Others we weren't looking at right (literally). I'm not sure they played quite fair with the last puzzle, and Matt and I both sacrificed ourselves guessing the solution until Kathy guessed it right and got the rest of the party through. I played the rogue this year, and I only got one of the rogue traps unlocked properly. I had better luck on the sliders combats though -- I didn't land the solid blows myself but I did purposely knock other sliders forward to hit the '20', so we got two good hits from that that we wouldn't have otherwise. And I think I get credit for getting most people to have mirrors tokens in their supplies -- they've done that bit too frequently, this year with a live-action medusa, to not be prepared for it.
Overall, the effects in True Dungeon were great this year and, yes, I'll be looking forward to it again next year. Pricey, yes, but worth it to me.
After True Dungeon we mostly (all except Kathy) retired to Houlihans for a nice dinner (with a couple games of Fluxx), and then went back to the hotel to crash. Matt, Ryan, and I had to get up early the next day for the Living Greyhawk special in the first slot.
Need I say it? To Be Continued!