Is nobody else also interested in hearing about this awesome up-and-coming regional indie-focused convention? Awesome, let’s begin.
MadJay Brown and I hit this a couple years ago, when it was 35ish people. The hotel was nicer and the crowd was tiiiiiny tiny. Setting up games is a muster system, where GMs pitch their games and then wither under self-doubt and misery while they’re passed over for a Magpie Games playtest or version 475 of Blades in the Dark or Jason Corley’s 15th consecutive Primetime Adventures slot. In 2015, the pitch space was so small that it fit inside, basically, a large hotel suite. And it was great! The games I arranged were generally strong and well-curated, I didn’t feel the need to run all my available slots, which is always a good sign.
Zip ahead a couple years. I skipped last year because I hit Dreamation in Morristown instead, so it was nice to see the large-ish time jump and what it had wrought on the con. Well it’s now twice as big and held in a total dive of a hotel, but to the hotel’s credit at least they’re willing to pull the beds out of the reserved game space: it’s 100% private room gaming, which has become for me my only Total Deal Breaker if I don’t get it. But, you know, the place is still rough. Upsides: a couple decent sit-down restaurants and a couple decent fast-food options within walking distance. That’s huge.
I got MadJay back in on road-tripping it out of Tempe, about a 7 hour drive from Albuquerque across the marvelously apocalyptic wasteland of Four Corners Arizona. Our common friends Jeremiah Frye and Patrick Riegert hopped on and so the four of us, all grayer and fatter and a few years closer to our Final Con Slot, headed out.
We pulled in a day early to hook up with event organizer, friend, and Licenced Good Guy Nicholas Hopkins. He was, of course, running around like a headless chicken because even a smallish event like this has a thousand moving parts and none of them are especially lubricated. We, stupidly, hung out past our welcome and then arm-twisted Nick and Phil Lewis into a gratuitous game of Urban Shadows that ran well past 0100 Friday morning. We’re old men! We can’t do that! Dumb but fun.
Friday I’d arranged a private non-con game of my favorite-favorite one-shot game, Sagas of the Icelanders, with Ara Winter, his wife and sister (my requirement: Do not run SotI if it’s going to be a sausage fest) and the roadtrippers in the hours before NewMexicon formally started. It was great, six players and some of them had fairly minimal RPing experience. Really a wonderful experience. After listening to brutal criticism of my favorite-favorite game from Mark Diaz Truman and Marissa Kelly, it got me thinking a lot about that funny division between the “play to the spirit the designer intended” indie cult and the “bring absolutely nothing but what the text says” indie cult. I’ll talk about that more later.
Friday night was Tomer Gurantz’s Fallout Shelter, this PbtA-esque adaptation of the app game thingie of the same name. But with Legos. Very cute, lots of novel presentation — character sheets and the map were all Legos, upgrades were little Lego bits, he must have put literally hundreds of hours into assembling the thing, never mind writing completely original rules for it. For all the love the OSR scene gets for its DIY arts-and-crafts element, this was really an astonishing work and entirely 100% Indie Approved.
It ran too late. I couldn’t sleep, used a sleep aid, woke up dizzy and spun out and ill Saturday morning. Boo. Ten billion grams of protein and fat at The Owl diner set me straight. I won’t poop right for a week (just saying).
Saturday morning was the expectedly excellent introduction to Joe Beason, who jumped on my Space Wurm vs Moonicorn one-shot. I’d never run the one-shot rules, which are … quite different than the full Dungeon World reskin campaign. Building a working game out of completely original playbooks and no common moves is audacious and genius and frankly I can’t fathom why every PbtA going forward doesn’t take this approach. Joe was great and a knitting fiend at the table, and had to Joesplain to me that no, dummy, knitting =/= checked out and bored. The experience was great, probably 50/50 worldbuilding and Actually Playing. The lack of common moves was surprisingly more robust than I was expecting. It’s definitely going in my one-shot con bag.
Saturday afternoon was I N H E R I T A N C E with nine total rock stars, and I know all but one of their names. First contact with the elusive feathered Sage LaTorra, who was cruising around with his NM posse Daniel Lofton, Isaac Milner, his extravagantly theatrical wife Jenni (is she on Plus?), Sage’s brother Whit LaTorra, uh uh uh Yoshi Creelman, Jeremiah Frye, Joe Beason aaaaand the other woman whose name escapes me god damn it. I had no idea at all how it would play out and holy wow, luke crane has put together a nearly flawless larp-in-a-bag experience, totally fun even for non-larpers. I think several of the folks who played were Not Larpers, in fact, and it was super-fun, metal, melodramatic, and snappy. Not once did it feel like the energy level ever really got saggy. Murder, so much murder. We debriefed after and at Bosque Brewing for literally two hours. That’s nearly as long as the event!
Saturday night I saw Phil Lewis pitch a silly Dungeon Crawl Classics game that Sage LaTorra and Daniel Lofton and that whole crew jumped right on. Decision time! I’d just played with everyone else in the posse, totally solid folks and I’d go out of my way to play with all of them if I lived in NM. And DCC gets mad indie love for reasons I don’t really understand although I have both charitable and uncharitable Opinions about why that is. I’m probably wrong on both counts. The experience was fine, honestly, but I know for sure now that DCC is Not My Jam. I was probably that dick who should take advantage of an open door policy so as to not drag everyone else down. But! That crew is bonkers and fun and, honestly, totally worth sticking out a not-fun-for-me game experience for a so-very-fun-for-me social experience. I regret nothing, and I hope Phil et al don’t either.
Another night without enough sleep. No drugs. Suck it up Beakley, sleep when you’re dead.
Sunday morning was an off-the-books game of Star Wars run under Fate by Morgan Ellis, widely regarded as The Guy You Talk To When You Don’t Get Fate. And he is! Our hand-picked table (I say hand-picked but really it’s hand-picked and oh look, that loudmouth Beakley has invited himself, how mmmmmwonderful) had Stras Acimovic, Brendan Conway and Marissa Kelly reprising roles from two years ago (!!), and MadJay Brown and I taking on new characters from a big package of pregens Morgan had put together when his campaign concept was, I think, not where it is now. But it was super-Starwarzy, he was patient with my petulance questions, and I can say it was my overall best experience of the con. Strong table and facilitation and all that. Just saying, being a pushy loudmouth pays off sometimes.
Sunday night was a really nice BBQ and Strong Gamer Opinions Fight Club session at Nick’s house. Chatted with Sarah Richardson and boy am I glad I did. Her game Velvet Glove sounds fascinating and I’m looking forward to following it. Kenneth Hite was there out-opinioning Mark Diaz Truman, quite amusing. Excellent post-event unwinding to a good event.
tldr played games, will do again.
Some thoughts about the event:
* Pitching still seems to work at 70ish participants but boy howdy is it hectic and occasionally weird. You really need about a dozen games getting pitched every slot and pitching is its own skill.
* Adding larps to this event is exactly the right thing to do. Not too many, all good events (I heard only good things about the two scheduled events, and of course Inheritance was fanflippingtastic), and indienerds have heavy crossover with non-boffer larp. Yay, more of that.
* Not sure the convention actually needs guests of honor. It’s so player-facing, and totally lacking roundtables, workshops, panels, what-have-you. TBH I’m not even sure the guests had that good a time. Dunno, I’m always sensitive to that stuff. Personally I’ll never attend nor not-attend an event with GOHs, it’s just not a thing for me.
* As seedy as the hotel was, jeez, pretty much perfect for private room gaming. The rooms were a nice size, nothing was really far from anything else, private bathrooms were a non-trivial amenity.
* The organizers now have several years’ worth of experience and it shows. From where I was, there were no problems at all. Don’t know where the ceiling is before all the usual con problems start to crop up. Whatever that number is, let’s maybe not hit it? Depends on the goals of the organizers of course. I thought this was juuuust right.