Indulgent and Tedious NewMexicon Debrief

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.

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0 thoughts on “Indulgent and Tedious NewMexicon Debrief”

  1. I tend to prefer smaller cons, and smaller GoDs within cons, so the desire for growth dismays me. But it’s not my baby, so I hope it grows into whatever they want it to be.

    With you on GoH. Just gimme the gaaaaames. But I’m super glad Michelle Lyons-McFarland​​ came, because playing her game was a high point for me. So, selfishly, I’m glad they did it this year!

  2. Paul, are you going to do deeper after-action reports about the games themselves, or just topics like the “funny division” you mention above?

  3. Yes for Indulgent and Tedious Debriefs! I’ll be posting my slightly-longer and less-interesting (but with more-picturing) version in the near future.

  4. Mark Delsing Joe said that about Forge Midwest as well!

    Don’t think I’ll do any deeper reads/writes. I’m very much in-the-moment at con events in a way that I’m not at my home games.

  5. Aw. 🙂 So, I enjoyed the guest experience. I would have liked a bit more of an opportunity to play as well, but that’s as may be. All my games filled, though, and all with top-notch players, which is all anyone can ask for.

  6. Would be interested to hear more about the ragging on SoTI. It must be a Magpie thing. I did a house con of it with Brendan Conway and now he takes every opportunity to excoriate it. It has obvious problems, but IMO, a rock solid core. To him it’s cancer of the heart attack.

  7. Keith Stetson I also think it’s a Magpie thing. Follow-up thought: I also think it’s reflective of their quickly evolving and idiosyncratic PbtA ideals. It’s great! It means they have an actual design philosophy, which I’m not sure every or even most designers really do.

  8. The plan is to break 300 attendees next year! No, really, I don’t think we have much of a “desire for growth” so much as a plan to put on a good con and not turn people away.

    Paul, your thoughts all echo my own. But I’m jealous of several of the games you played.

  9. No regrets! That game was bonkers and fun and just like I like my DCC and my Saturday night games, even down to the mid-session beer run. If anything I was worried you jumped in hoping for the hawtness and found yourself with a bunch of badwrongfun.

    If nothing else maybe now you’ll actually get around to watching Goonies. 😛

  10. Wow! You got some serious bang for your buck. I’m in awe. Having been in enough Serious Gamer Opinion discussions, I’m probably glad I missed that one Sunday night! Instead I was doing Canadian impressions with Patrick. Which I could do for, oh, I don’t know, about ten hours straight. I’ve seen the Ken and Mark out opinion each other show before. It’s… impressive.

    And my open door policy wasn’t just you. One person in the afternoon session had a similar “what the hell is this” look about him. I just need to make sure to a) set expectations and explain what’s going to happen better during mustering and b) give people a “no hard feelings / no questions asked” escape hatch. I sometimes use the X-Card, but I don’t do the open door policy at all – and I’m beginning to think it’s arguably more important.

    And if someone wants to stick around after that, I won’t feel as bad if I think they’re not into it! But yeah, in the moment I did feel a “damn, this sucks that Beakley isn’t into this thing I worked on” gut reaction. Had it just been some random module I pulled together – probably wouldn’t have been as invested as much.

    And I’m sure you’re right that there are both charitable and not so charitable reasons DCC gets indie love. And I’ll cop to that. The OSR indie presence is always a little tense. Although, it was cool that Sarah ran something in that space as well. I’m allowed to do stuff with the OSR people until one of them reads WotA. Then I’m probably out.

    Anyway, cool to see you and Jay and the growing crew of people driving from that direction! Hope to see you all next year!

  11. Newmexicon felt more formal than Forge Midwest.

    Some of that is the mustering. At Forge we have a similar system of pitches to the crowd, but then everyone just shakes out. No priority system. I usually get what I want, but I am large and loud and a regular. And pretty.

    Some of that is the private rooms. Forge is in a few small conference rooms, two of which are connected, so everybody’s flailing around together all day. Intimacy!

    Some of that is size. Forge is around 50-60, I think, so about 20% smaller?

    And much of it is me. I know practically everybody at Forge. I knew relatively few at Newmexicon.

  12. I was going to say the same thing about GNPW, which also doesn’t have GoH or panels, it’s all games, all the time (except for The Feast where we all eat together and get to socialize and hopefully meet new people). And we also started that one with about 35 people back in 2007.

  13. Hey Willow Palecek​, Tim Jensen​, my gut says Forge Midwest 2016 had pitch sessions with 70+ people. Yes?
    Tayler Stokes​, how big have the pitch sessions been at Gamestorm?

  14. GoPlay and Gamestorm both use a combination of paper sign-up sheets arranged on a central table and then a pitch circle (or a different method, “the Donut”) to allocate whoever doesn’t already have a game (or to fill openings in sign-up games). So the crowd gets split 50-50ish, plus some off-books games that just happen by word of mouth.

  15. Thanks for coming, Paul! We have lots of questions before us before we start making changes for next year! Glad you had some good games! Most everything else can be fixed but I’m really glad the games were excellent!

  16. Forge Midwest attendance was down slightly this year, but I think we had almost 70 people on Saturday afternoon and evening. The Saturday night pitch session was hobbled a bit when a group of 20+ was delayed by slow service at Red Robin across the street.

    I think it would be useful if all of the Play Con organizers could compare notes on how we manage time slots, pitch sessions and anything else that helps attendees enjoy themselves more.

  17. You didn’t have to invite yourself into the game too hard Paul Beakley. I’m glad you had a good time, you certainly added a lot to the game. Your pushy loudmouthness is welcome back any time.

  18. Something to be noted about New MexiCon is how fluid and responsive the organizers were. The Friday night slot felt a bit scattershot but as of the Saturday morning slot? Lessons learned, better practices put forward, and damn . . . it felt really on.

  19. By the way, it was great to meet you (and all the people at the convention!). It’s neat to come in to this small con and see all these people I consider to be Names in the gaming scene. Not only that, but to see those people getting along splendidly with one another! This was my first time there, and although I knew a handful of people at the beginning of the show, it felt like I was among friends the entire time.

  20. Paul Czege The largest I recall Gamestorm/Indie Hurricane getting is just over 40. This year was a little smaller for a lot of reasons, but our largest pitch session still had mid 30’s.

  21. This makes me think that all pitches should be done by proxy. (That’s probably just my game mechanic mind spinning it’s wheels.)

    For some reason it sound funs for me to pitch someone else’s game though!

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