Pitching games to publishers at Gen Con 2013 – Part 2

Yesterday I talked about my first day at Gen Con 2013 and the experience of pitching my game designs to publishers. Today, I pick up where I left off in order to talk about Friday and Saturday. And yes, another reminder about the Chaos & Alchemy Kickstarter campaign!

Meeting 4: Medium publisher follow-up: Everest

On Friday while I was eating a late-ish lunch with my wife and a friend (at a restaurant called Patachou, which I STRONGLY recommend if you’re looking for healthy food within a block of the convention center at Gen Con), I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. I decided to step outside and take the call – and I’m glad I did! It was from one of the publishers from the speed dating event who had seen Everest. This is a medium-sized publisher, with over ten card and board games in publication (plus role-playing games). The rep wanted to meet with me that day, so we set up a meeting for an hour later.

Everest game board

Everest game board

This was pretty exciting for me, as I wasn’t expecting to get attention from such a well-established company, especially for my secondary game! The meeting itself was great, I think. Since Everest is such a quick-to-play game, we were able to play an entire two-player game in about 15 minutes. We won in round 8, which was a fantastic result, too (Everest can be hard!).

The rep had lots of questions throughout the meeting, all of which I answered honestly and was glad to see that the rep liked the answers. In a couple of cases, I was worried that my answer would not be what this company was looking for, but it ended up being a really nice fit.

We talked a bit about a possible re-theme, which had also come up with some other publishers during the speed dating event. This was surprising to me, as Everest is really my only theme-first design so far (cooperative mountain climbing), but as I thought about it, I realized that the mechanics could also work for any theme where a group moves through tougher and tougher challenges. This could be a dungeon delve, a group infiltrating an enemy base, going through deeper layers of Hell, etc.

As with the previous night, I left this publisher with a no-bits prototype copy of Everest. I’m curious to see if this meeting leads anywhere!

Meeting 5: Pre-arranged meeting with up-and-coming publisher: Alchemy Bazaar

I had arranged to have dinner with the head of a small but quickly rising publisher Friday evening, after which we would play Alchemy Bazaar. Dinner ended up not working out, as the restaurant we met at had nothing my wife could eat (she has a gluten and soy allergy, and everything there was cooked in soybean oil), but the gaming afterward happened as planned.

I sat down with two people from the publisher and two of their friends and taught them to play Alchemy Bazaar. The game itself went just fine, though I realized that I hadn’t shuffled the Formula deck well enough and we ended up with a glut of gigantic Formulas on the board, which was not ideal. I plan to try cutting down the number of those Formulas in the deck, and to explore ways to cycle undesirable Formulas, too.

Alchemy Bazaar components

Alchemy Bazaar components

Anyway, it was a good experience, and the players were happy to sit and chat about the game afterward, offering great feedback. I was making it clear to publishers that I’m not done with the game yet – there are still a few things I want to play around with.

I got some good suggestions, as well as some ideas for other themes (one person suggested time travel, which blew my mind). I also loved hearing some thoughts about possible graphic design directions we could go with the game; for instance, making it look like a cave system with connecting passages or a deep forest with paths, if we were to re-theme it. That’s the sort of thing I never think of on my own, so it was really cool to hear.

This is a case where the publisher was already interested in Alchemy Bazaar before Gen Con, and I think the publisher is very much still interested. Good possibilities!

Addendum: After I originally wrote this but before the post went live, I received an email from this publisher telling me that his group had spent some more time talking about the game (an excellent sign) and he had a suggestion for a new theme: an archaeology dig! I love the idea, and I think it might be a great fit for the mechanics, too (possibly even solving one mechanical problem I’ve been wrestling with). I’m working on that theme now; we’ll see how it goes.

Meeting 6: Follow-up meeting with a large publisher: Robo Battle

This was a micro-meeting, and hard to arrange, but this came out of the publisher speed dating event from the publisher who asked, “What else have you got?” He wanted me to pitch Robo Battle to a colleague of his, and it was hard to nail down a time.

We finally made it happen at a point on Saturday when we each had only a few minutes before another meeting. I laid out the board (just a partial setup) and a few cards and explained how the mechanics worked. It was enough for the rep to get a feel for the game, and we’ll have some conversations in the future, but I have no idea whether this might amount to anything or not. If it does, great, but if not, that’s fine; this is still an embryonic design.

Meeting 7: Follow-up meeting with a small publisher: Alchemy Bazaar

This was another meeting that came out of the publisher speed dating event. The publisher and I set up a meeting via text message on Friday to meet Saturday afternoon (in my case, immediately after the Robo Battle meeting). We found ourselves a table in the big board gaming hall, and I taught the full rules to Alchemy Bazaar.

We played through one “day” of the game (the first of five rounds for a two-player game). It was enough for him to get a good feel for the game, and he made it clear that he really liked it. When he described what type of game he was looking for, he almost perfectly described Alchemy Bazaar (medium weight strategy game, not too heavy, somewhere between Caracasonne and Agricola).

My plan is to finish my design work on Alchemy Bazaar and then follow up with this publisher in October. This was another case where the publisher and I “clicked”.

Actually, I would say that I clicked with the publishers really well in every meeting except Meeting 1 (the very large publisher) and Meeting 6 (Robo Battle). And even in those two cases, we got along just fine; I’m just less optimistic that those two publishers came away feeling like, “Man, I really want to work with Michael.” I think that the other publishers felt that they would like to work with me, and I felt the same way about working with them.

Closing thoughts

Overall, I couldn’t be happier with the way things went at Gen Con 2013 for Clay Crucible Games. My Chaos & Alchemy demos were great. I got to meet some of my Kickstarter backers (thank you all!). I picked up some sweet metal dice to trick out my own copy of Chaos & Alchemy. We picked up lots of pledges for the Kickstarter campaign throughout the Con, with great momentum heading into the final few days.

And on the game pitching front, I was thrilled. Getting call-backs from well-established publishers, finding interest in THREE of my games (when I was really only planning to talk about two – and one of those only secondarily), building good relationships… it was everything I could have hoped for. I think that there is an excellent chance that both Alchemy Bazaar and Everest are going to see publication in the not-to-distant future, and I’m feeling really happy.

So, the main lessons I walked away with are:

  • Be prepared with sell sheets and a polished, short pitch about how your game works and what makes it special
  • Be honest with publishers about your game, no matter what
  • Set up meetings ahead of time if you can
  • Be prepared to be flexible with your schedule if meeting publishers at a convention
  • Keep in mind that you’re partially selling yourself here; you want publishers to feel comfortable working with you, whether it’s on the game you’re pitching or something else that might come up in the future. Present yourself as someone who has their stuff together and is easy to work with.

And if you’ve found this post to be useful and it’s before August 23, 2013, as you read it, please also have a look at Chaos & Alchemy on Kickstarter! (Hey, this is my blog; I’m allowed to plug my Kickstarter, right?)

Michael Iachini

Clay Crucible Games (@ClayCrucible on Twitter)

Pitching games to publishers at Gen Con 2013 – Part 1

Gen Con 2013 was wonderful! While I did get to play some games, most of the time was spent meeting people, and I loved it.

This was a “work” Gen Con for me; I was there mostly to pitch games to publishers. I did a small, self-funded print run last year with Chaos & Alchemy, which led to Game Salute picking up the game for publication. That has worked out great, so yay! (We’ve just hit the $25,000 stretch goal on the campaign with several days to go – please check it out if you haven’t yet!)

But in the future, I would prefer to not deal with self-publication. I want to be a game designer, not a game publisher. That means that if I want my games to see the light of day, I’m going to work with publishers and convince them to publish my games.

Today I’m posting Part 1 of my recap of my publisher meetings at Gen Con 2013, since this ended up being a LONG post. This part covers Thursday (a busy day!). I’ll post Part 2 tomorrow. (Here it is.)

Meeting 1: Pre-arranged large publisher meeting: Alchemy Bazaar

Months before Gen Con, I reached out to a large, well-known publisher to see if I could meet with them at the Con to talk about Alchemy Bazaar. This was a little out of my league, frankly, but I figured why not?

Alchemy Bazaar components

Alchemy Bazaar components

I had 30 minutes Thursday afternoon to meet with the head of this publisher in the publisher’s dedicated room at the Con. I really enjoyed this meeting, as it turned out. I was mostly there to pick the publisher’s brain on how they think about this sort of game. The publisher liked the core “worker movement” mechanic of Alchemy Bazaar, but did NOT like the randomness from the Ingredient Die and from the Action cards.

What I took away from this meeting was that different publishers are looking for different things. This particular publisher doesn’t like much randomness in games (which surprised me a bit, knowing some of the games they publish). Now, I could certainly tone down the level of randomness in Alchemy Bazaar. I think this would make for a less interesting game, but if I officially submit Alchemy Bazaar to this publisher, it’s a change I could make.

At the end of the meeting, the publisher said, “Once the game is finished, if you don’t find another publisher, come talk to me.” I realized that despite some criticism (delivered well, I hasten to add, not cruelly), this publisher is actually intrigued by Alchemy Bazaar. That’s a great sign!

Meeting 2a: Publisher Speed Dating: Everest

Thursday night, I had two hours at the Publisher Speed Dating event to pitch my games. I want to give a huge shout out to James Mathe of Minion Games for setting this event up in the first place (web site, Twitter, Facebook). This was the part of Gen Con that I was most looking forward to, and it was fantastic. Thank you, James!

From 9:00 to 10:00 PM, I was at a table in a medium-size hall (20 tables total, I believe), demonstrating my light cooperative mountain climbing game, Everest. This was for the “light family game” track of the speed dating event.

Everest game board

Everest game board

I believe at this point there were five or six publishers on the light game track (I think there were more in the 7:00 to 8:00 and 8:00 to 9:00 slots, but unfortunately I had a late-night time slot and some publishers couldn’t stay the whole time). They would spend five minutes at a table, hearing a designer talk about a game. At the end of five minutes, a bell would ring and the publishers would move to the next table to hear about a different game from a different designer.

Everest was very much my “secondary” game at Gen Con; I’ve been spending far more energy on Alchemy Bazaar. This is part, though, because Everest is fairly simple, so it didn’t take as much design work to make it a pretty polished game.

I was very energized giving these quick pitches. Five minutes is not enough time to actually PLAY any of these games, but it’s enough time to describe what the game is all about and why it might be of interest to a publisher. I usually finished talking about the game in three minutes, leaving two minutes for questions from the publishers. I highly recommend this kind of balance in a pitch; if the publisher is interested, they will want to be able to ask questions.

I’ll also note that the designers were asked to make sell sheets available for their games – a little one-page sheet that gives a publisher the important information. Here is the Everest Sell Sheet. This sheet also included my contact information so that publishers could follow up with me if they were interested in the game.

One particularly interesting bit during this process game when a publisher heard the first part of my pitch and said, “This isn’t the kind of game we’re interested in. What else have you got?” I mentioned Alchemy Bazaar, which I didn’t think would interest this publisher either – and it didn’t. But I then talked about an early work-in-progress design called Robo Battle. It’s only had three play test games so far, but it’s quite promising. This publisher was intrigued and asked me to come by his booth later in the con for a quick demo of Robo Battle. All right, then!

Meeting 2b: Publisher Speed Dating: Alchemy Bazaar

This was the “main event” for me, so I was sad that it was taking place so late at night (10:00 to 11:00 PM). The biggest-name publishers had already left by this point, but I still had about five publishers to talk to on the “heavier Euro game” track about Alchemy Bazaar. You can see the Alchemy Bazaar sell sheet here.

One highlight of this cycle of pitches was when one “micro publisher” (as he described himself; only one published design so far) sat down and immediately told me that he was at this event in part because he wanted to see Alchemy Bazaar. He already knew me by reputation and was intrigued by what he knew of the game so far. That was a fantastic feeling! He was interested in Everest, too.

Meeting 3: Micro-publisher follow-up: Alchemy Bazaar and Everest

My first follow-up meeting came immediately after the Publisher Speed Dating event wrapped up. The micro-publisher I mentioned above really wanted to see Everest and wanted to have a chance to try a bit of Alchemy Bazaar, so we stayed after the speed dating event to play some games.

This was a great meeting, even though it might not lead to anything. As it turns out, Alchemy Bazaar is a bit heavier of a game than this publisher was expecting, and Everest might be too light of a game. Still, the working relationship with this publisher was really good; we clicked well. We might end up working together on one of these games, but even if we don’t, we might work together on a different game in the future.

And since Everest is such a light game, I had made up a couple of extra prototypes without the bits (just the map, rules, cards and reference sheet), stuck in Tyvek envelopes, that I could leave with publishers who expressed interest. I left one with this publisher, which he appreciated; it sounds like his young son might enjoy this game.

Next up: Part 2!

Tune in tomorrow for more. And don’t forget to check the Chaos & Alchemy Kickstarter!

Michael Iachini

Clay Crucible Games (@ClayCrucible on Twitter)

Between GenCon and TactiCon 2012

Just a quick update since I haven’t written in a while.

GenCon was an awesome experience. The highlight was getting to meet so many of my friends from the online D&D world, mainly from Twitter (d20Monkey, Jennisodes, LawOfTheGeek, deadorcs, FELTit, GeekyLyndsay, d20Blonde, Squach, TheIdDM, SlyFlourish… the list goes on and on). A lot of these were at the Thursday evening GenCon Social, with more coming at the Saturday evening recording of the Tome Show and dinner afterward.

I sat in on several seminars during the convention, with the highlights being a Kickstarter panel, the Law of the Geek panel and a panel on board game design.

I was on an episode of This Just In From GenCon as a sponsor.

I did some informal demos of Chaos & Alchemy in the general gaming areas with some good success. I was only able to do about 30 or so demos over the course of the weekend (not having a booth makes it hard to do that sort of thing), but 10 people did end up buying the game after playing it – a pretty good conversion rate! It was enough to make me want to keep going with this thing, and I’m currently talking to some small publishers and also doing the research about maybe running a Kickstarter for a big print run.

I’ve learned that my Wednesday bowling league that usually keeps me from running D&D Encounters in the fall and spring is going to be on Tuesday instead this year, which means that I’m DMing Encounters again. Yay! No write-up for this week, except to say that my table full of evil drow did a good job of role-playing. They’re scheming and backstabbing and having a lovely time.

Now I’m on the eve of TactiCon, one of the two local conventions each year. I’m running Fiasco tonight, followed by two days of Ashes of Athas (the D&D 4e organized play set in Dark Sun). I’m going to try to find time on Saturday between Dark Sun games to demo some Chaos & Alchemy as well.

So, I’m still out there, still gaming, just very busy!

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

GenCon 2012: OnlineDM’s plans

I am fortunate to be able to say that I will be attending GenCon this year for the second year in a row! Last year was my first GenCon, and I had a blast (those posts are available here and here and here and here). This year, I was not planning on going until my wonderful wife convinced me that the card game I’ve been developing, Chaos & Alchemy, was good enough to deserve a GenCon debut.

What do I look like?

If you want to find me at GenCon, it will probably help to know what I look like! I’ve had some Chaos & Alchemy T-shirts printed, and I’ll probably be wearing them most of the time, so I’ll look something like this:

Michael Iachini, the OnlineDM himself, wearing an awesome Chaos & Alchemy T-shirt

If you see me and want to talk to me, please do! I’ve never been recognized by a stranger before. That would be cool!

Chaos & Alchemy

Obviously, I’m going to be demoing the heck out of Chaos & Alchemy, the game that inspired me to come to GenCon. Unfortunately, I don’t have a booth or anything like that. This means that I’ll be camping out at vacant tables wherever I can find them. I plan to hang out in the board game area somewhat, but since I’ve discovered that Magic: The Gathering players seem to love my game, I plan to hang out there, too.

Chaos & Alchemy cover art by Chris Rallis – Logo by Bree Heiss

My general plan is to put myself at a table and invite passers-by to sit down and play. It’s not a well-thought-out plan, I’ll admit, but I’m going for it! If you see me and you want to try out my game, please do! Really, I would love that.

As I write this, I have pre-sold about 40 games, and I have about another 10-15 that I don’t plan to make available for sale (complimentary copies for certain folks, or copies that I plan to keep as extras for myself, just in case I need them later). Since my print run is 125, that means that I plan to have about 70 copies available for sale at GenCon. If you know you want a copy of Chaos & Alchemy and you would like to pick it up at GenCon (and get the special GenCon promo card for sure), you can order in advance and just let me know that you’ll pick it up at GenCon. Several people have chosen this option already.

Edit: Since I put up my original post, I’ve learned that I won’t be allowed to run anything that resembles a formal event, which means that my banner is a no-no. I’ll do my best to be easy to find, but I’m new at this!


As I mentioned in my Making the Game post about marketing, I’ve signed up to sponsor two GenCon events.

On Thursday at 5:00 PM, I’ll be in the CSO-4 room of the convention center (wherever that is) to be part of a recording of This Just In From GenCon in which I’ll get to talk a little about Chaos & Alchemy (and GenCon so far). I believe this recording is open to the public, so if you like the show you can come to the recording and have the bonus of seeing me there, too!

Later that evening, at 7:00 PM, I’ll be over at Rock Bottom Brewery for the GenCon Social. For those astute GenCon schedule trackers out there, yes, this conflicts directly with the D&D keynote address. Sigh. Still, I definitely want to be at the social since this is where folks will get their dice bags containing goodies, including the GenCon exclusive Chaos & Alchemy promo card! I’ll reveal that here for the very first time:

Social Convocation – the GenCon 2012 promo card for Chaos & Alchemy

Those of who who have been following my game know that the card illustrations are black-and-white, but since Social Convocation is a special one, I hired an artist to do it in color. She did a fantastic job, too! Everyone who buys a copy of Chaos & Alchemy from me at  GenCon will get one of these cards (while supplies last – I’ll have about 65 of them).


I do have tickets to a few seminars that I may or may not attend depending on how things are going with the Chaos & Alchemy demos. If I have a line of people who want to try the game, I’ll probably keep playing rather than stopping to attend a seminar.

  • Thursday 10:00 AM: D&D Digital Future, ICC room 139
  • Thursday 6:00 PM: Kickstarting board games, ICC room 210
  • Friday 1:00 PM: D&D “The Sundering”, ICC room 139 (most likely to be skipped, I’d say)
  • Friday 3:00 PM: Law of the Geek recording, ICC room 201
  • Friday 6:00 PM: The Tome Show advice episode with Robin Laws, Crowne Plaza Victoria Station C/D
  • Saturday 10:00 AM: Board game design with Rodney Thompson (Lords of Waterdeep), ICC room 211
  • Saturday 6:00 PM: The Tome Show Gamer to Gamer with Chris Perkins, Crowne Plaza Victoria Station C/D
  • Saturday 7:00 PM: The Tome Show Behind the DM Screen, Crowne Plaza Victoria Station C/D

I’ll be interested to see how many of these I make it to. I think that the board game Kickstarter seminar might be useful, since I might be doing one for Chaos & Alchemy soon, but it’s right between This Just In From GenCon and the GenCon Social. I really want to attend Law of the Geek since Geoff Gerber was kind enough to talk to me on the phone about general legal stuff with my game, and I’d love to attend the Tome Show recordings to meet Jeff Greiner and Tracy Hurley in person (since I’ve been on their show a bunch of times now).

The board game design seminar with Rodney Thompson mainly interests me because Rodney was one of the main people behind Lords of Waterdeep, which I think is an excellent game. I’d love to pick his brain about the design process.


Naturally, I plan to spend some time in the vendor hall when I’m not otherwise engaged, and I’d like to at least play a few board games or indie RPGs while I’m at the convention, too. The vendor hall might be especially interesting, since one company has already asked me for a copy of my game. Who knows – maybe a publisher will decide to pick up Chaos & Alchemy and run with it!

In any case, I know I’m going to have a blast. If you’re looking for me, watch my Twitter feed – I plan to post updates on my GenCon whereabouts regularly.

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

Making the Game part 8 – Marketing

Previous entryPart 7 / Next entry: Part 9

Welcome back to my blog series Making the Game, in which I talk about the process of creating my card and dice game, Chaos & Alchemy. Today, it’s time to talk about getting people interested in the game.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a natural salesman. I have a good head on my shoulders and am easy enough to get along with, but I’m not someone who will naturally draw people in and make them want to buy whatever I’m selling. Still, when you run your own company and have a good product (even if it’s a game), you have to be able to get the word out if you plan to actually get people to buy it.

Because I had so many parts moving at the same time, I had to figure out marketing while I was still developing the game itself. It’s not an easy task to market a product that you don’t yet have available for sale! But it can be done.


Frankly, the blog series you’re reading right now is a form of marketing. Those of you who read my blog regularly and like my style might be interested in a game written and developed by me. I don’t want to force Chaos & Alchemy on my blog readers, and I do intend to keep writing about Dungeons & Dragons, but I realized early on that I was putting a lot of my gaming energy into my new card and dice game, which meant that there was little left over for D&D.

Also, I write my blog because of passion, not because of some goal of being hired as an RPG writer or anything like that. Since I’m passionate about my new game, I’m writing about it! No one has complained so far, so I think I’ve done an okay job of balancing “Here’s something else I’m passionate about, even though you probably started reading my blog for D&D stuff” with “Here’s some D&D content, too.”

Web Site

With a new game and a new game company, I was going to need a web site for it. I did the first part of this fairly early on, registering a bunch of domain names related to my game, but I didn’t start a real site right away. Once I was ready, I called up the company I use for hosting here at onlinedungeonmaster.com and learned that the simplest approach would be for me to upgrade my existing web hosting account to allow for multiple sites on the same account.

The web site for Chaos & Alchemy came in fits and starts. At first I was hosting it at claycrucible.com, since the name of my game company is Clay Crucible Games. However, I made a marketing decision that I didn’t really care so much about the Clay Crucible Games brand, at least not now, since the focus should really be on the game itself. Thus, I migrated everything to ChaosAndAlchemy.com.

At first, I just had a simple home page. Since I’m familiar with WordPress from this blog, I installed it for use on the Chaos & Alchemy site as well. I used the logo that Bree, my awesome graphic designer, had put together for the banner at the top of the home page. I wrote a few lines describing the game and left an email address as a “for more information” link.

Then, as I started getting actual content, I started adding pages to the site. When artwork for the cards started coming in, I added an Art Gallery page. When I was ready to accept pre-orders, I added a tab for that. Sample cards. Rules. Print-and-play cards. FAQs. Even a page with a link to all of these blog posts for people who want to read about how the game developed over time.

The web site is obviously important from a marketing perspective because it’s the only way I have right now to let people actually buy the game. It’s also the way for people who are curious about the game to figure out if they want to buy it or not by letting them see the rules, the cards and the artwork.

I should note here that I intentionally decided to take a very open approach to my game on the web site. The full rules are available for download with all of their glorious formatting, as is a set of print-and-play cards for people who want to try the game out and don’t mind a little arts and crafts work. The print-and-play cards don’t have the artwork and formatting, but that’s intentional – there has to be something special you get for actually buying the game aside from a box and dice! 🙂

The rules look beautiful; this is the inside of the booklet.


I don’t have a ton of Twitter followers; I just passed my first demi-milliwheaton (250 followers), but I have enough that makes it worthwhile to let folks know about the development of my game. I try to make sure that my Chaos & Alchemy related tweets are something I think will interest my followers; stuff about game development, calls for playtesters, announcements about new stuff they can check out, etc. I try to be sensitive not to flood my feed with marketing, but I know that I have followers who are interested in the game.

As with lots of marketing, it’s a fine line.


I have a personal Facebook page for friends and family, most of whom are not gamers. Still, I popped onto Facebook with the occasional post about my game, mainly focusing on how excited I was about it. I did let people know about pre-ordering, and I was surprised to see how many non-gamer friends and family did so, just to support me. I have awesome people in my life.

Suffice it to say, this is not a marketing channel I plan to use much any more now that the game is done and I don’t have tons of exciting announcements about the thrill of development. But if anything changes with the game (expansions, etc.) I’ll mention it for folks who might be interested. I’d rather my customers be mostly gamers rather than just kind friends and family in the end.


This is one that I knew about but that I waited to get involved with until the game was done. I’m glad I finally jumped on board, though, because BoardGameGeek is a community that’s great to be a part of. I’ve found it enlightening just to read the forums over there.

Once I was ready to talk about Chaos & Alchemy on BGG, I started a thread in their Board Game Design forum where I mentioned the game, talked a bit about it and linked to the site. I was encouraged by the folks on that forum to submit my game to the BGG database, where it has now been accepted and even expanded upon by other users (another kind user submitted a link to the game rules).

Intriguingly, BoardGameGeek was also how I was contacted by a person from a well-established game company asking if I would be willing to swap a copy of Chaos & Alchemy for a copy of one of their games. Having a game publisher approach me to say that they wanted to get their hands on my game… well that’s pretty cool! My game was also added to a list of “games debuting at GenCon.” Which brings me to…


As I mentioned in an earlier post, once we realized that Chaos & Alchemy had actual potential, my wife told me that I should go to GenCon to show it off. While I plan to find open tables and drape my banner over them, demoing the game to anyone who’s up for it, I thought it might be good to spread the word a bit more as well.

The banner I’ll be displaying at GenCon


First, I happened to hear about the GenCon Social on the Jennisodes podcast. This is an event that’s mainly for RPG podcasters rather than card and board game players, but it sounded like a fun event. If I were to pay some money to sponsor the event, I could put some kind of advertisement in the goody bag that will be going to folks who come to the dinner. I thought it might be fun to put a card from my game in the bag, and I hit upon the idea of creating a special GenCon promo card. Every attendee at the GenCon Social will get two Chaos & Alchemy cards – one random card from the game with normal black and white art, and one special GenCon 2012 promo card that has the web address in the flavor text. The promo card also has color art (which looks amazing, I must say), but I’m going to hold off on showing you that card until GenCon itself.

I’ll mention here that anyone who buys a copy of Chaos & Alchemy at GenCon will also get the promo card (while supplies last).

The other sponsorship I decided to participate in for GenCon is the This Just In From GenCon podcast. I’ll be appearing on the Thursday evening podcast from the convention. I’ll be curious to see if this actually results in anyone discovering my game!

Also, if I get the chance to see Wil Wheaton while I’m at the convention, I’m totally giving him a copy of the game.


Past GenCon, I have no idea what I might do for marketing Chaos & Alchemy. If the game doesn’t really succeed, I probably won’t do much. I’ll leave the web site up, and that will be it. If it does succeed, well, who knows? A Kickstarter to do a bigger print run with color illustrations would be my dream, but I have no idea if that’s going to happen. We shall see!

– Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

The RPG podcasts I enjoy (and participate in)

I’m guessing that lots of folks who read RPG blogs like Online Dungeon Master probably also listen to some RPG podcasts, and I wanted to take some time to discuss the podcasts I listen to. I’ve also been lucky enough to be a guest on two podcasts recently, so the topic is on my mind for that reason, too. Go check out the latest episode of The Tome Show to hear my dulcet tones!

Dungeon Masters Roundtable / 4 Geeks 4e

These used to be two separate podcasts, but I understand that they’ve since merged into one. I believe this might have been the first D&D podcast I discovered. Basically, you get Thadeous Cooper, Tracy “Sarah Darkmagic” Hurley, Randall Walker and Samuel Dillon chatting about whatever D&D 4e stuff comes to mind, usually for an hour and a half to two hours.

Sometimes they grab other folks on Skype and bring them into the call (Mike Shea has been a regular recently). They run new podcasts irregularly, but I think a lot of podcasts are like that.

As of this writing, their last episode is over two months old, but they’ll have periods where a new podcast comes out every couple of weeks. It’s not a well-oiled machine or anything like that, but it’s entertaining. I like listening to the contributors. I even attended their live taping at GenCon. Clearly, something is wrong with me.

The Tome Show

Jeff “JEFF GREINER” Greiner has been running this podcast for 186 episodes (as of this writing in mid December 2011), focusing on “news, reviews and interviews” mainly about 4e. He brought on Tracy Hurley as co-host about a year ago when he found out his wife would be having a baby and he would have less time to devote to the details of the podcast.

Typically, episodes of The Tome revolve around a particular guest, new product, or hot topic (generally guests and products; The Tome tends to avoid rumors and drama). They’ve been doing a series of Book Club episodes recently, where the hosts and guests will all read the same RPG-related novel and then discuss it on the air. Since I don’t read RPG-related novels, I’ve been skipping those episodes, but I’m sure they’re well done.

Unlike 4 Geeks 4e, The Tome Show is a more well-oiled machine. They have nice production for their intro out and outro, and they have regular sponsors. They even have a script for certain parts of the show, and an actual agenda of topics with something of a timeline to them.

I’m rather giddy to say that I was a guest on a recent episode of The Tome Show in which we reviewed Heroes of the Feywild. It was a cool experience.


Haste is the official Obsidian Portal podcast. I enjoy it even though I don’t personally use Obsidian Portal (mainly because I tend to run published campaigns, not because there’s anything wrong with Obsidian Portal). It’s hosted by Jerry “DreadGazeebo” LeNeave and Micah Wedemeyer.

The name “Haste” is a reference to the fact that it aims to be a short podcast. I believe they were originally shooting for 20 minutes or so per episode, but they tend to be more like 30 most of the time. Doesn’t bother me!

Like The Tome Show, Haste usually has an agenda of topics. 4e issues are covered frequently, but not exclusively. Haste has also seen a recent trend of having guests on the show, whereas the earlier episodes were generally just Jerry and Micah. They don’t shy away from controversial RPG topics, either. They covered the kerfuffle that resulted from my posts about the online RPG community this summer, for instance.

Haste is a newer podcast and one of the most regularly updated as well. They aim for once a week, and they hit it more often than not.

Enchanted Grounds / Goblin Gurus

I’m guessing nobody but me in the RPG community listens to these, but they’re worth publicizing. These podcasts were started by the folks at my friendly local game store, Enchanted Grounds. Wes and Bill have been talking about comics and games on the Enchanted Grounds podcast for about two years, and they’ve recently spun off into an RPG-specific podcast called Goblin Gurus. I tend to skip the comics section of the main Enchanted Grounds podcast, but the non-RPG gaming parts of the show still interest me since I do like board games as well as RPGs. Give these guys a try!

Dice Monkey Radio

This is a newer podcast started by Mark Meredith of DiceMonkey.net. It’s hosted on The Tome Show’s feed, so if you subscribe to the Tome Show, you’ll get Dice Monkey Radio as well.

Only two episodes have been released so far, and I was the guest on episode two, so I’m biased! But I think it has a lot of promise. Mark is aiming for one podcast a month, and I understand that episode three has already been recorded and will soon be released.

Dungeon Master Guys

Hosted by Enrique “NewbieDM“, Dave “The Game” Chalker and Philippe “ChattyDM” Menard, the Dungeon Master Guys is an entertaining little podcast that ran pretty regularly in 2010 and not so much in 2011. I know that Enrique drifted away from 4e for a while and has recently drifted back, so perhaps we’ll get more episodes in the future.

The format of this podcast has been for each host to create a segment of their own, and they combine these segments with some group discussion as they lead into and out of the segments. They cover more than just 4e, and I find the podcast to be well done. It would be a shame if they shuttered the thing, but the archives are still worth listening to.

NewbieDM minicast

This was a relatively short-lived podcast (though I believe there was talk of reviving it) from Enrique “NewbieDM“. The format was pretty cool; less than 10 minutes, with a rotating cast of co-hosts, and a question from a caller. Bite-sized podcasting – yum!

RPG Circus

A  long-running, regularly-updated podcast hosted by Jeff “bonemaster” Uurtamo with a semi-regular cast of co-hosts, RPG Circus covers some recent RPG news but also has plenty of talk about older games. I keep listening to this podcast, although I’m not quite sure why. I can’t  say that I like it exactly, but I still find it worth listening to. Jeff is not a 4e player, so the 4e conversation on the podcast tends to be minimal and usually comes up in the news section, but still, I think it’s useful to hear from a podcaster who has experience with non-D&D games.

That’s How We Roll

I only recently discovered this podcast, hosted by Fred Hicks and Chris Hanrahan. Apparently Fred is one of the the main people behind Evil Hat Productions, producers of the Dresden Files RPG (which I’m looking forward to trying at Genghis Con in a couple of months). They talk about the RPG industry from an insider perspective (publishing and retail), which I find fascinating.

This Just In From GenCon

Exactly what it says on the tin. These guys talk about what’s going on at GenCon, with a pretty broad brush. Great for folks who aren’t able to make it to Indianapolis but wish they could. Obviously only relevant in the summer.

Critical Hits Podcast

I haven’t listened to all of the back episodes of this one, but recent episodes have featured Mike “SlyFlourish” Shea interviewing someone in the D&D world about their particular area of expertise. I think Mike is a particularly good podcast host and does a great job of putting together interesting talks.


So, that’s my current RPG podcast list. Are there others I ought to be listening to? I’m always looking for more RPG talk radio, apparently!

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

200 Posts: My favorites of the second century

This is post number 201 on my blog, so I thought I’d continue the tradition I started with number 100 of looking back at my previous 100 posts and picking out a few of my favorites. The OnlineDM Greatest Hits, Volume Two:

1. My players are smarter than I am. This post talks about my experience of using player ideas during a session. In this particular example, one of my players mused that he thought the bad guys would try to push a wall over on the PCs. I’d never envisioned that possibility, but it sounded like a great idea, so I ran with it. If your players give you ideas about what might happen and they’re good ideas, use them!

2. Creating D&D converts. Lots of us have friends or family members who we think would enjoy gaming, but it’s tricky to get them into it. This post describes my experience of introducing my brother-in-law and his wife to D&D via Castle Ravenloft and then some Living Forgotten Realms adventures when they visited over Christmas. It obviously worked, since I’m getting ready to run yet another session for them this evening over MapTool even though they’re in Texas. Their characters are at sixth level now, by the way!

3. Bonus points. Lots of DMs have used similar ideas; this is my own take on it. Basically, when one of my players does something creative or cool or especially in-character rather than just focusing on the numbers of combat and tactics, I hand them a bonus point that they can use in the future to add 1 to a die roll they make or subtract 1 from a die roll made against them. They’re great incentives to encourage the kind of play I enjoy.

4. Out of the gaming closet. In my first 100 posts, I had talked about the fact that I’m in the closet at work about gaming; I didn’t mention it to my colleagues out of fear of… I don’t know, ridicule? Well, I’m over that now, and happier for it.

5. Running an online game for new players. I’m really excited about how this particular game went, because I’m such a sucker for introducing people to gaming. In this particular instance, I had some people coming to me online, saying that they wanted to learn D&D but weren’t sure how to go about it. So, I recruited a group and ran a game for them. It was a lot of fun, and something I’d like to do regularly (maybe every few months or so).

6. Tallinn’s Tower. I’m including this post as a representative of my free adventures posts. I’ve posted two so far; Tallinn’s Tower was the second. The third is almost ready, and I’ve just finished a major revision of the first. I’m personally excited about this, although I haven’t gotten much feedback yet. I love free adventures, and I love to share them with the D&D community.

7. My first Pathfinder game. Yes, I’m branching out beyond D&D4e! I love learning new games, and since Pathfinder is so popular I really wanted to learn it. I think that so far I prefer D&D4e, but I do get the appeal of Pathfinder, too.

8. MapTool flexible monster creation. This continues to evolve for me, but I was quite happy with my take on flexible monster creation. I’ve been using this method exclusively since I wrote it, and it’s made monster building much faster. Also, I love the goofy damage dice I can use (2d13+16 for instance).

9. D&D Encounters. I DMed for the Encounters this summer and loved doing it, mainly because of the opportunity to introduce new players to the game. This particular session was great because it was my grand finale (I missed the final week since I was at GenCon), my wife played, and I met a new friend. Encounters was a lot of fun, and I hope to run it again next summer when my Wednesday night bowling league is over.

10. GenCon – D&D New Products Seminar. I have to include this one, even though it has no original material. This is my minute-by-minute note taking from the seminar at GenCon where WotC talked about their plans for the next year. To say that it was a popular post would be an understatement! I typically get around 300 hits per day on my blog; I topped out near 1,500 during the weekend of GenCon when this post was live. You guys love GenCon news!

Thank you all for reading Online Dungeon Master. I’ve really enjoyed having this way of talking to the D&D community and hearing from you, too. Remember that you can also follow me on Twitter as OnlineDM1.

GenCon 2011: Afterword

GenCon is now over, for real. And I’m okay with that. I had a ton of fun, and if I were living GenCon every day it wouldn’t be as special.

I’m writing this particular post from my room at the Marriott – my wife and I decided to stay Sunday night and go home to Colorado on Monday. This was a good way to do it, since we were able to enjoy all of Sunday without having to worry about checking out of our hotel or scrambling to catch a flight or anything like that.

It also meant that I was able to do some gaming Sunday night. I put out a call on Twitter to see if anyone was around the Marriott post-Con and wanted to play some games, and I ended up playing a fun game of Smallworld Underground and having a nice dinner with four new Canadian friends. Cool people, cool game, and good food.

Quick-hit thoughts from GenCon

  • The RPG blog reading community loves GenCon. I got a lot of traffic on my blog during the Con. I’m glad you liked reading what I had to say!
  • The RPG blog reading community especially loved reading my detailed notes about the Wizards of the Coast New Products Seminar on Saturday. I’m not surprised, really, but my normal daily traffic is 200-400 hits per day; Saturday and Sunday had nearly 1,500.
  • True Dungeon is a must-experience part of GenCon. It costs $38 per person, but it’s worth it. And the token-trading community around it is amazing!
  • Watching all of the costumed attendees is a ton of fun. They’re clearly proud of the work they put into the outfits, and they all seemed happy to pose for pictures (though I personally wasn’t in picture-taking mode).
  • I think the way to try out RPGs you’ve never played before at GenCon is to sign up for a session in advance, which is a little disappointing. I was hoping to stumble into someone looking for another player for old-school D&D, Traveller, Dresden Files, Fiasco, etc., but it never happened.
  • Staying at a hotel connected to the convention center isn’t cheap, but if you can afford it, it’s money well spent. I loved not having to drag a heavy bag with me at all times, since it was easy to drop stuff off and pick stuff up back at the room.
  • Getting food at the convention was not the problem I feared it would be. The sit-down restaurants even a couple of blocks from the Con were able to seat us quickly every time, and if we went, say, 5 or 6 blocks away we pretty much had the place to ourselves. There’s no real place to buy groceries, though (I was glad I took care of this on Tuesday when I was staying on the north side of town for work).
  • The temptation to game late into the night was easy for me to resist, as I really enjoy a good night’s sleep. Had I given in to that temptation I probably would have had miserable days of exhaustion. Heading back to the hotel around midnight worked well for me.
  • Twitter is beautifully suited to GenCon. Being able to send out a quick blast to find people for a pick-up game is great. It’s also a good way to find out the location of people you want to meet.
  • I really enjoyed getting to meet so many members of the RPG blogging and podcasting community, and I wish I had met more. I at least said brief hellos to NewbieDM, Jeff Greiner, Mike Shea, Tracy Hurley, Thaddeous Cooper, Randall Walker, Ameron from Dungeon’s Master, BrainClouds, and Matt James. I also met Morrus and PirateCat from EN World and some other EN Worlders. I missed out on meeting Ryan “RangerWickett” Nock, which I horribly regret, but I never knew where he was.
  • Meeting folks like Mike Mearls, James Wyatt, Rob Thompson and Mike Robles from WotC was pretty cool, too.
  • Running into a friend from California who I hadn’t realized would be there was awesome, and he had two other awesome friends with him. Good stuff.


I also wanted to post some follow up comments about the D&D New Products Seminar from Friday. First, I did do a little light editing before I sent it live (a quick read-through to correct a few typos or unclear sentences, plus adding a little bold facing to the various new announcements); I wasn’t planning to do that when I wrote the intro, but decided I really ought to do a basic amount.

Second, I wanted to add some clarifications after a post on Greyhawkery to which I responded in the post’s comments. Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium is intended to only be available to game stores, though those stores themselves are allowed to sell it online. However, Mike Mearls did say something about Amazon being able to buy it, but this part was really unclear. I think the intention is to make it so that Amazon et al are not able to offer the book at a massive discount relative to what hobby stores charge, but it wasn’t clear how they were going to do that.

Also, Greyhawkery offered speculation that next year’s setting will be Council of Wyrms. I wasn’t familiar with that setting, but he linked to a post from NewbieDM in which the original was unboxed. From having sat in the room at the WotC seminar, I agree that Council of Wyrms would fit their description of next year’s setting.

Thank you – come again!

So, thank you everyone for reading my GenCon posts. If you have questions about any of it, please let me know. And I’m always happy to have more readers for my usual talk about running games online, creating maps, using a projector setup with MapTool and so on. Comment, email, etc. – I appreciate the feedback!

GenCon 2011 Day 4: The End

And so it ends – GenCon 2011 is coming to a close. Today was all Exhibitor Hall, all the time. I hung there for an hour on my own, finally working my way to the far end of the hall, having seen all of the booths (however briefly). I chatted with the people from Fantasy Grounds; of the many virtual tabletop programs I checked out at GenCon, Fantasy Grounds is the one that would actually make me consider switching from MapTool (though it would cost me $150). I stopped by the Ennies booth to pick up my swag bag to thank me for volunteering on Friday. It contained a whole bunch of books – unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to get much use out of most of them (although Mythmere’s Adventure Design Deskbook looks intriguing). There was a nice mini in the bag, though, that will be great for one of my wife’s characters.

I then brought my wife over to the Exhibitor Hall and we did some shopping. She picked up a Dragon Pet (a rubber dragon that wraps around her arm), a copy of Caylus Magna Carta (a board game she played last night), some minis and some paints. Also, a purple cat tail to wear on her belt (we intend it ultimately as a toy for our cats).

We admired the Dwarven Forge and Hirst Arts terrain. We drooled a bit more over the Geek Chic tables (especially one that was filled with awesome Hirst Arts terrain). We tried to find T-shirts but didn’t really see anything that struck our fancy (I’m still shocked at that). I caught up one last time with Jason, the player from my Friday night online game who lives here in Indianapolis.

On the way out of the convention center, we stopped into the video game room where people were playing Kinect games and Rock Band projected hugely onto the walls, as well as playing other games while sitting at normal computers. The “center stage” area had people playing one of the original 8-bit Nintendo Mega Man games. Too cool.

And thus ends our experience with the best four days in gaming. We’re staying one more night in Indianapolis to give ourselves a chance to rest before getting back to real life. We get home Monday night. It has been a ton of fun, and I feel confident in saying that this first GenCon will not have been my last.

GenCon 2011 Day 3 wrap-up

Sorry for not having an evening post for Saturday; I was gaming late into the night.

After the D&D New Products Seminar, I spent about an hour in the vendor hall. I bought myself a nice mini to represent my beloved bard, Factotum, from Dark Sword Miniatures. I don’t think I’d heard of that brand before, but they had some great options. I love the way miniatures sellers at GenCon display their wares by having glass cases filled with beautifully painted versions of their minis, so you can imagine what they could look like. You find one you like in its finished form, and they’ll sell you the unpainted version. It makes a ton of sense.

From there, I went to a late lunch at Shapiro’s with a couple of friends. This is a huge deli / cafeteria about a half mile walk from the convention center, and I had a delicious reuben sandwich. A nice thing about this place is that it was all Indy locals; I don’t think I saw any other GenCon folks there. If you’re eating where the locals eat, you’re probably getting a good meal. Amusingly, I put up a tweet mentioning this lunch, and then later in the day saw that @ShapirosDeli was following me. I guess they pay attention to social media! I wouldn’t have guessed based on the place itself, but okay.

After lunch was a little more time in the exhibitor hall, then to the 4:00 taping of the Dungeon Master Roundtable podcast. Being the D&D blog and podcast fan that I am, this was something I’d really been looking forward to all weekend, and it was great. Aaron from 4Geeks4e wasn’t on the panel, but they had Tracy Hurley (Ennie-award nominated Sarah Darkmagic – wild cheering, much to her embarrassment), Randall Walker (the “old man” of the group), Thaddeous Cooper (the frequent-talker – and yes, I actually saw him sip from a flask during the taping after his water cup went dry) and special guest Mike Shea of slyflourish dot com slash book. They spent a little time talking about the future of their podcasts (apparently some changes to the lineup of 4Geeks4e – Aaron won’t be in it?) and then basically took questions from the audience for an hour. I had a ton of fun.

Tip for seminars at GenCon (or anywhere, really): Sit in the front row. There have always been seats available in my experience, and dude, you’re there to get close to people you want to listen to! You can even interact (very briefly) during the talk itself if you’re right up there with the panelists. For both seminars I attended (D&D New Products and the DM Roundtable), I sat right in the front and really enjoyed it.

By this point my wife was in the exhibitor hall, so I joined her for some massive dice shopping for herself and for our gaming friends back home (my wife is so thoughtful – I felt like an ass for not having already gotten anything for our gamer friends). When the dealer hall closed at 6:00, we went to dinner at Palomino, which is only a block away. I read some blogs before the convention saying that you’re going to have long waits to get food; we really haven’t found that to be the case. We’ve often gone during slightly off hours, but right when the dealer hall closes on Saturday night is NOT off, and we were seated right away. I’m guessing that maybe cheap eats have longer waits (like Steak n Shake or Noodles and Company right down the street from GenCon), but sit-down restaurants (Palomino, Weber Grill) have been no problem so far.

After dinner, the wife and I checked in to the board games library. For the evening, you pay $6 in generic tickets and then can come and go as much as you like, checking out any of the massive number of board games they have available for no additional cost. The window lasts from 6:00 PM to 3:00 AM. It’s awesome.

My wife and friends got started on the board games while I made my way to the “media meet and greet” event. This was a get-together in a bar that’s below Union Station (it’s called The House, and Google Maps on my phone couldn’t find it). I’m terrible at mingling, but I gave it a go. I talked with Mike Shea for a few minutes, since we had interacted a little bit at the DM Roundtable. I had submitted a question asking about ideas for traps or hazards for the adventure I’m running on Thursday (Descent Into Darkness), and Mike gave me some good inspiration. Thanks, Sly Flourish!

I spent some time chatting with NewbieDM and BrainClouds, and then ended up getting into a conversation about D&D4e and Pathfinder with a friend of Mr. and Mrs. Sarah Darkmagic (Tracy and Frank). I didn’t catch his name, but it was useful to see his perspective on the issue. I imagine he’s a pretty typical Pathfinder gamer, and he didn’t seem especially rabidly anti-4e, but it was clear that he’s definitely the type of person WotC wishes they could regain trust with, and they’re nowhere close right now. They’ve got some work to do, and it’s going to take more than words. I hope they succeed – I’d love to see a more united gaming community, or at least one with less distrust.

At this point, a woman from a local Indianapolis paper came over to the table to chat (she liked my bright-blue Hawaiian shirt). I guess this WAS a media event, but I was still surprised to see anyone from the actual print media there! She said she and her husband mainly came in the (alas, vain) hopes of free beer. Anyway, we mainly talked about Indianapolis restaurant, their Fringe Festival for theater, etc. Nice lady… but wow, did she love to talk! Still, she gave me some good restaurant recommendations.

I left the media meet and greet after about 90 minutes (I wish I’d have stayed – apparently some Fiasco games broke out later) and rejoined my wife and friends in the board game library. We saw a game called Trailer Park Wars and simply had to play it once. Once is the correct number of times to play a game like this. It was really, really funny to us at this point, but I’m sure it would have gotten old. I was tied for second place with 23 flamingos at the end, falling to Ryan’s 24.

After the game I was getting tired, so we decided to play one more quick game. We went with Quo Vadis. I’ll come right out and say that I personally ruined the game right at the start, and I’m sorry! It was described as a political game, which I thought meant that politics was just the underlying flavor. It turns out that this can be seen as a perfectly fine trading game without the political flavor, but I didn’t get that for the first few turns. See, I can’t stand politics. And when Ryan asked if I would vote for one of his pawns to advance early on, for which he would give me nothing directly but the game would give me one point, I couldn’t see how this would be good for me at all, and I basically said, screw it, I’m not voting for people. This totally wrecked the game, and I backed off on that position two turns later once I understood that this was just at trading game, but my early actions had definitely screwed up the play of the game (Ted thought that I’d never work with him, so he never asked, for instance). I finished in last place, which didn’t bother me in the slightest. I just felt like a jerk for having ruined the last game I’d get to play with Ryan and Ted and GenCon. Sorry, everybody!

Now it’s the morning of the last day of GenCon, and it’s already feeling bittersweet even though I haven’t left my hotel room yet. We’re staying Sunday night as well, and I’m sure that Monday will feel surreal. But for now, there are hours of gaming ahead of me, and I’m going to make the most of them!