PAX South 2017

Honestly, I spent most of Acquisitions, Inc. watching it on a screen. I can do that at home.

Scheduling conflicts turned attending PAX South 2017 into a minor fiasco. While Robin and I enjoyed what we could, the time we spent downtown at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center functioned better as a reconnaissance mission for next year than it did as a weekend’s entertainment in its own right.

The bigger scheduling problem was that Robin teaches late Friday afternoon and Saturday morning classes this year, and so she wound up missing over half of the convention. The other scheduling problem was that Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff of Mystery Science Theater 3000 were in San Antonio on Saturday night for their The Mads Are Back live tour, and there was no way we were missing that. (Honestly, if we had known way back when we bought our PAX badges that Trace and Frank were going to be in town, we probably would have bought only single-day passes.) Thankfully, the live riffing show interfered more with afterhours options than with convention attendance; we had to give up a night out with Clint and Jodi Black, Preston DuBose, and Shane Hensley and family, but we’ll see them in May at Chupacabracon.

(Just in case I don’t get around to writing a separate piece on The Mads Are Back, Trace and Frank are warm and hilarious live. We watched Glen or Glenda? – my first time seeing that Ed Wood film – and they riffed hard on it while also expressing great admiration for the film’s progressivism. There is a distinct aesthetic and philosophical difference between the Cinematic Titanic alumni – who genuinely love the corny B-movies they promote through their riffing – and the RiffTrax gang – who will riff even classic films like Casablanca – and I am decidedly on the side of the former.)

Thankfully, between The Mads Are Back and the panels we attended at PAX South, Robin and I spent most of the time we did get together over the weekend laughing our butts off. The two main panels we took in were the Late Night Dub Fight on Friday and Acquisitions, Inc. on Saturday. While we currently doubt that we’d want to spend so much time standing in line for Acquisitions, Inc. next year, it was a fun experience to try at least once. We’ll probably take in Late Night Dub Fight again, but only if we can get in right before it starts.

(We really hated standing in line as much as we did.)

Late Night Dub Fight features a panel of internet personalities making up goofy improvised dubs over various media both good and bad. It was funny and we laughed a lot, but there’s not much to report there. Acquisition, Inc., for those who are reading this and somehow don’t know what it is, is an ongoing celebrity D&D campaign run by D&D 5e designer Chris Perkins. Despite the terrible line to get in, it was pretty enjoyable – but would it kill the players to actually learn about the Forgotten Realms?

Seriously, they would have gotten much further with the plot if someone had just read one or another of the various Waterdeep supplements that have been published over the years. They wasted at least half an hour trying to suss out where an antagonist was living when I immediately realized she had rented one of the rental villas in Sea Ward. Hmph! Oh well, I guess I can’t blame the players entirely. Perkins could have simply given them an info dump like “As long-time residents of Waterdeep, you know that several large mansions are available for rent high above the cliff-face in Sea Ward” rather than trying to lead them to do things the way he wanted.

While that matter – and the way the players ignored several intriguing plot hooks – aggravated me, I was overall entertained by the sessions (not enough to stand in line for hours to see it again, but pleased to have done so once). Perkins started the game off with a rooftop chase, so he immediately earned some respect from me, and kept the game moving while still dropping in enough setting detail to make his Waterdeep seem alive. It was the kind of D&D session I’d like to run or play in.

Speaking of running and playing games, during the time on Friday and Saturday when Robin wasn’t around, I attended a panel on game mastering and played in a session of the Dungeons and Dragons Adventurers League. The panel – made up of Perkins, Third Eye Games’ Eloy Lasanta, and (as pointed out in the comment below) Sarah Lynne Bowman, Anastasia Marston, and Danielle Lauzon Harper – taught me nothing I didn’t already know, but it did remind me of some things I’ve let slide. I wouldn’t call it educational so much as eye-opening, not just for the reminders but also for the insight into just how freaking self-doubting a lot of new GMs are these days. I know it’s just me being an old man, but seriously, people! The answer to 70% of the newbies’ questions was “just make something up,” the answer to 15% was “ask your players,” and the answer to another 10% was “just try and/or practice.” 

(I’m sorry; I’m still a bit tired and sore and it’s making me grouchy. Also, I keep seeing these kinds of questions in my Facebook and Google+ feeds recently – by the gods, the D&D 5e Facebook group is jam-packed with people who want other people to tell them how to do things! – and it is really driving me nuts. While I disagree with the OSR in many ways, “rulings, not rules” are words to game by.)

The DDAL game was fun, even if we barely got anywhere. Most of the players were more familiar with older D&D systems and we perhaps moved too cautiously, but we also got a late start because the previous group at our table ran long. At least I got to BS a storm giant into not killing us. The DDAL leaders in the area were very good at inviting in new people and making sure everyone was welcome, so hats off to them. I think I’d still prefer playing more eclectic, more one-and-done games at conventions, but I’m willing to play DDAL again.

Let’s see… Aside from that, our PAX South experience was mainly about wandering the exhibition floor and talking to friends. We discussed teaming up with our friends Paul Scofield and Kate Lytle Elsinger of Too Real Games to stream some The King is Dead games to cross-promote each other, Robin talked with Jodi Black about some of our project ideas down the pipe, we shot the breeze with Shane and Clint (Shane keeps forgetting our names, but he’s warmed to us as people), and we met some friends of friends and hung out. (I'm not going to say more about the streaming or other projects because I don't want to jinx very early plans.) Assuming we go again next year, I definitely want to spend more time with people and less time in lines.

Also, the chairs Clint and Jodi sell through Carolina Game Tables are really comfortable. They really don’t need cushions. Amazing!

Also also, we bought Mermaid Adventures for our niece (who probably won't read or play it, but really should) and ArcKnight's Highborne Manor map pack for ourselves. We finally found a map that could work for Pemberley!

Also also also, we bought Red Flags, but we haven't played it yet.

Also also also also, thank you, Sam Slocum, for the ride on Friday. We owe you at least a meal. 


  1. The other panelists at the GMing panel were (from left to right looking at the panel) Sarah Lynne Bowman, Anastasia Marston, and Danielle Lauzon Harper.

    I think its important to recognize them by name.

  2. On your bit covering "The Art of the Table: Storytelling Beyond the Basics" panel, it is extremely disappointing to see that the three women out of the five people on the panel are marked down to being "friends of friends". When things like this are posted in blogs that are seen by a large population, it really discredits women in game design overall, and like much nerd culture, is such a male dominated society. Danielle Lauzon Harper, Anastasia Marston, and Dr. Sarah Lynne Bowman are all amazing women who have contributed so much to tabletop and larp communities.

    As another female game designer, this hurts us because it makes us feel invalidated. When you mark these remarkable women as "friends of friends", it really devalues who they are in the game design world, much like the rest of the world does that the female athletes and scientists. This is why we need more women designers in the spotlight, and oversights like this really disappoint all of us who are trying to get our name in the world. Especially when you are a game designer yourself, it really devalues your amazing female colleagues.

    As for the amazing women (and nonbinary folks!) game designers that are reading this article, keep doing the good work. Keep fighting the good fight! Keep being the representation we need in tabletop. We need more people like you! Let me know who you are so I can support you personally! :D

    - Morgan Nuncio


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