Steven S. Long is a writer, game designer, and all 'round great guy. According to the secret files of the KGB, he once singlehandedly defeated the Kremlin's plot to attack America with laser-powered Godzillas.

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Origins 2013 Report

I spent this past week in Columbus, Ohio attending the Origins Game Fair, the second-largest gaming convention in the United States. It was my nineteenth year attending Origins, and as usual it did not disappoint.

This year was particularly special because I was one of the con’s Gaming Guests of Honor. The theme of this year’s Origins was “Superheroes.” For that reason John Ward, the Executive Director of the Game Manufacturers Association (the industry organization that operates Origins) asked me to be a GoH. Of course I said yes — while being GoH means a little more “work” on my part (such as participating in seminars), it also means GAMA covers my hotel room and travel expenses, and treats me really well. If you ever get the chance to be a guest at Origins, I suggest you take it. ;)

Of course, I wasn’t there just to do GoH stuff — I also had to help my business partners Jason and Tina Walters run the Hero Games/IPR booth at the show. This year we were trying a new booth arrangement with new booth hardware. Things got off to a rocky start when we discovered that the company we’d bought the hardware from had sent the wrong brackets for attaching the big vertical racks together. Fortunately we found a way to lock everything together with about 200 zip-ties and it was as sturdy as sturdy could be.

That wasn’t the only problem we had during set-up, though. In mid-afternoon we heard a loud BOOM coming from the loading dock area — and then the lights in the front half of the exhibit hall went out. Soon convention hall staffers came along to shoo us all out because there was a fire! So we soon found ourselves standing outside waiting to be let back in. Rather than linger in the summer heat, we took Tina’s suggestion, went across the street to the Char Bar, and got some drinks. We sat there, joking about how great it would be if they had to turn on the sprinklers, thus ruining all our stock — which would mean we could claim 100% value on insurance and spend the next four days just hanging out and playing games. ;) But that didn’t happen, and about an hour later we were back inside continuing our set-up.

The con opened strong Thursday. I had an enjoyable Q&A session with some attendees, and sales in the booth were brisk. Our big sellers for the con (some of which we only had limited amounts of, sadly) were (in my estimation) the new print version of Dungeon World, the gorgeous Tenra Bansha Zero (a new anime RPG translated from the Japanese), and Noteboard (a whiteboard that folds up and fits into a pouch you can carry in your pocket). But many other products sold well; we had verrrrrry little to pack up and send to GenCon at the end of the show. Jason will have to send a big restocking order to Indianapolis so we have enough stuff to sell in our GenCon booth.

Late Thursday afternoon was the con’s special reception for the GAMA board and the Guests of Honor. I spent most of it talking about this, that, and the other with fellow Gaming GoH Steve Kenson and authors Pat Rothfuss and Mike Stackpole. After that I had a quick dinner with Jason and Tina and then called it an early night; I was still tired from booth set-up.

Friday morning I had another Q&A. This one went a little sideways when I found out that the Artist Guest of Honor, the highly talented Charles Urbach, had been scheduled for his own Q&A in the same room at the same time! Fortunately it worked out really well. We only had one fan in the audience, but we talked for an hour about gaming/publishing and art, sort of combining our two Q&As into one and having an enjoyable conversation with the fan. He had such a good time he later bought a print from Charles and had both of us sign it for him as a memento.

Friday evening was my Upgraded Play event, in which the con moved a game (in this case, a Champions game) to a special room, made me one of the players, and kept us all supplied with sodas and snacks. This year it was one of Barton Stano’s fun Teen Champions games, and we all had a great time. I got to play a character who could change shape into various giant insects and similar critters, which I naturally had a hoot with.

After the game I wandered over to the Big Bar on 2 in the Hyatt, one of the favorite industry gathering spots. There I became involved in “BarCon” with Jaym Gates, Lenny Balsera, Miranda Horner, Jason Buhlman, Erik Mona, and a plenty of other great folks. I stayed up waaaay too late and drank waaaay too much, but it was a truly awesome evening. (Hey, is it my fault if the waitresses are so busy I have to order two drinks at a time?) I called it a night when they decided to go in search of a food truck that supposedly had great barbecue, because (a) I wasn’t hungry, and (b) I come from North Carolina, and there is no better BBQ than NC BBQ. ;)

Saturday was another busy day at the booth. Fortunately my only serious activity that day wasn’t until 7:00 PM: the Origins Awards ceremony. The con’s main guest, actor Kevin Sorbo, hosted. Initially it looked like it was going to be a disaster, but soon his phoning-it-in, I-can’t-pronounce-these-words “performance” made the whole thing downright hilarious. The fact that he breezed through the presentations in about 35 minutes was the best part. After that I returned to the Big Bar on 2 for “BarCon 2,” which was somewhat lower key than the previous one. I still stayed up way later than I usually do, though. I only get to see my gaming industry friends a couple times a year, so I’ve got to take advantage of it when I can!

Sunday, as usual, started slowly but finished up pretty strongly. The best part, though, was that between record-breaking sales and the new booth arrangement, we broke down the whole booth with just five people in only 2½ hours! Compared to our usual exhausting 4+ hours with many more people, that was perhaps the best thing about the entire show. We topped off the evening with a delicious dinner at BD’s Mongolian Barbecue, followed of course by some drinks in the Big Bar on 2. ;)

Stuff I Bought

I didn’t pick up too many things this Origins. In part this was because some companies I usually see in the dealer’s room — Osprey Books, Paizo, RLBPS — weren’t there, and partly because I still have plenty of games I haven’t tried yet, so a new one has to really impress me before I’ll pick it up. But I did grab a few things, including:

—60 Osprey books from Chimera Hobbies, which was selling them at “buy one get three free” rates I just couldn’t pass up

—Bradley Beaulieu’s first novel, The Winds Of Khalakovo, which he calligraphically signed

The Singularity System, a new science fiction RPG from End Transmission Games. It bills itself as “All-Purpose Science Fiction Roleplaying,” and seems on an initial read to make a good stab at living up to that claim. It’s always great to see new companies enter the RPG industry to take their shot at gaming greatness, and having more Science Fiction RPGs available definitely ain’t a bad thing, so I wish the folx at End Transmission all the best!

—some Pathfinder books for use in the PF campaign I’m playing in, including their latest, The Ultimate Campaign, since I’m always interested in rules for “kingdom-level” play.

Carcosa, a weird, moody setting for the Lamentations Of The Flame Princess RPG

—I liked, but didn’t buy, some miniatures from Mercs Minis. The ones I particularly wanted were only available as part of “faction sets” for their game, and I didn’t want to spend $50 for one or two minis. I’ll wait until the ones I like are available for individual sale on their website.

The rest of you out there who attended the show — what did you pick up? What new games or products caught your attention?

In Closing...

...thanks to John Ward and the rest of GAMA for having me as a GoH at Origins! I had a fantastic time and am already looking forward to next year’s con. ;)

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Reader Comments (1)

Ahhh Barton's Bug Boy!! He runs a solid teen hero game. Lots of fun. Good to see you getting the recognition you deserve and Origins is a wonderful venue for that recognition.

Will have to look at singularity.



June 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan Hazel

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