Archive for August, 2011

Of Trees And Servers

You may have noticed this site hasn’t been loading for the past two days.  I apologize for the outage, but the fact is the server this blog runs on is sitting right here in my basement.  What can I say, my old-school tendencies reach beyond just gaming.  I’ve been running my own server since I was in college, and I guess it just stuck.  There’s something very satisfying though about knowing exactly where my site is.  I have complete control, and if anything ever goes wrong with it, I don’t need to go through anyone else, it’s all on me to fix it.

Of course, that cuts both ways, and basically whatever happens in my house affects the site as well.  What can bring down the server?  Well, the same thing that brings down trees:

Downed tree behind the house to the right was split right in half.

 

Downed tree to the left intercepted by other trees and the fence from crashing into our garage.

And of course this is just the two houses directly adjacent to us.  There were more trees down the block down, and power lines in the street as well.  The cops came and bocked off our street, and it sat like that for two days.  Finally tonight the power is back.  Thank goodness.

Hopefully now we can return to our regular scheduled geekery.

Piercer, I hardly even knew her

Let’s talk about a classic D&D monster: the piercer.  For those who don’t know (c’mon, go get your monster manual out), this is a monster that basically looks like a stalactite and hangs out waiting for its unwary victim to walk underneath it and then drops down to impale the poor sap.  I had one of these show up in the AD&D game I ran last HelgaCon, but it made only a very brief appearance.  The thing missed its target, who happened to be standing on a ledge above a massive chasm, and thus disappeared into the blackness below never to be seen again.

Now let’s get one thing straight, I actually rather like this bizarre monster.  Players never think to look up, and you can only throw so many giant geckos and giant spiders at a party.  However, I have a logistical problem with the thing.  Basically, the question is, what happens on round 2?  Whether the thing hits or misses on its surprise attack, what happens next?  Does it continue to attack?  If it missed, what form does that attack take?  If not, what happens to it?  Does it just lie there and take a beating?

Anyone have any experience with these things, any good stories to share or advice on how to run them?

More on Cleric Spells

Based on yesterday’s poll, I decided to actually compare side-by-side the OD&D magic-user spell progression and the Labyrinth Lord cleric spell progression up to level 15, ignoring spell levels above 5.  Here’s that chart:

OD&D MU LL Cleric
1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5
1 1 1
2 2 2
3 3 1 2 1
4 4 2 3 2
5 4 2 1 3 2 1
6 4 2 2 4 3 2 1
7 4 3 2 1 4 3 3 2
8 4 3 3 2 4 3 3 2
9 4 3 3 2 1 4 4 3 2 1
10 4 4 3 3 2 5 4 3 3 2
11 4 4 4 3 3 5 4 4 3 2
12 4 4 4 4 4 5 5 4 3 3
13 5 5 5 4 4 6 5 4 4 3
14 5 5 5 4 4 6 5 5 4 3
15 5 5 5 4 4 7 6 5 4 4

 

The first thing I notice about this chart is that if you chop off the 6th level spells from the OD&D magic-user chart, basically you stop getting new spells at level 13.  Secondly, I notice that for levels 1-9 the progression really isn’t all that different.  The magic user gets an extra first level spell at 4th level that the cleric doesn’t get until 7th and the cleric gets his first 4th level spell a level earlier,  but other than that the charts are basically the same.  Then at level 9 the cleric starts getting more low level spells, while the magic-user gets more high level spells.

Given that the cleric has fewer spells to choose from, and that his first level spell Cure Light Wounds is basically one of the most useful spells he gets, I’m kind of OK with this.  I think ultimately I’m just going to leave well enough alone here.  The cleric gets more low level spells, but has fewer to choose from and never gets a sixth tier of spells.  That’s about as balanced as I care to get, and frankly, I don’t really care all that much about balance.  I like that the classes are different and have different mechanisms.  It’s part of their charm, and frankly if you’re choosing your class based on these kind of concerns, you’re probably not someone I really want to play D&D with anyway.

Clerical Spell Progression

Earlier in the week I looked at the spell progression for magic-users across OD&D (O), B/X D&D (B), and AD&D 1e (A). Today, I thought I’d take a look at the same for clerics.  In this case I stopped the comparison at level 10, as that’s as high as OD&D goes, and 11th level is where AD&D starts adding 6th level clerical spells, which do not exist in the other two editions.  Interestingly, I’m just noticing on the AD&D chart that there’s a note that 6th level spells require a 17 Wisdom, and 7th level spells require an 18 Wisdom.  It’s an interesting attempt to try and continue to limit access to these higher level spells, but with the ability score glut the game gets into by this edition, I wouldn’t be surprised if most PC clerics had access to these spells.  Anyway, here’s the chart:

O1 B1 A1 O2 B2 A2 O3 B3 A3 O4 B4 A4 O5 B5 A5
1 1
2 1 1 2
3 2 2 2 1
4 2 2 3 1 1 2
5 2 2 3 2 2 3 1
6 2 2 3 2 2 3 1 1 2 1 1
7 2 2 3 2 2 3 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1
8 2 3 3 2 3 3 2 2 3 2 2 2 2 1
9 3 3 4 3 3 4 3 3 3 2 2 2 2 2 1
10 3 4 4 3 4 4 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 2 2

 

Interestingly, in this case it’s AD&D that’s the outlier.  B/X hues pretty close to OD&D, and not just in the fact that it starts 1st level clerics with no spells.  For the first two levels B/X gives a few more spells at higher levels, though the charts are identical up to level 7.  Spell levels 3 and 4 are exactly identical, and then oddly B/X grants fewer 5th level spells.

AD&D, on the other hand, not only starts the progression earlier granting a first level spell at level 1, but it also grants spell levels 2 and 3 a character level earlier.  It grants more of these spells faster, but by the higher levels it tapers off to be equivalent of the other editions.  Let’s not forget though that this is also the edition that grants even more low level spells for high Wisdom scores, which as mentioned before your PC probably has.

Then there’s spell level 4, where everything goes crazy.  In OD&D and B/X for some reason both spell levels 3 and 4 are first granted at character level 6.  I’m pretty sure this always surprises everyone.  It seems very strange to me that one level would grant you access to two new tiers of spells.  AD&D does not do this, rather it grants access to higher spell levels at a steady pace, meaning that by character level 7 suddenly the AD&D spell progression is well behind the other editions.  Fifth level spell access remains behind, with AD&D only granting them at character level 9, and catching up in number to B/X at character level 10, though both are still behind OD&D.

Oddly in this case, I find my personal preference aligning with AD&D of all things.  I like the idea of granting a spell right at first level (an idea even Gary mentions preferring in Cheers Gary), and I like smoothing out the weird bump at level 6.  That said, I also like my level cap around level 14-15, where OD&D takes magic-users and B/X takes everyone.  However if you follow the spell progression talbes of either B/X or AD&D up to that level, you’ll find clerics gaining access to many more low level spells than the equivalent magic-user.  In B/X a 14th level cleric has 6 first level spells, and likewise in AD&D he’s got 6 first, second, and third level spells.  In comparison, the magic-user tops out at 4-5 spells per level.  I can’t help but wonder why?

I’m conflicted here.  I see three options.  Hmm, maybe a poll is in order:

Which spell progression table is best to use for clerics levels 1-15?

  • B/X chart by the book. (50%, 2 Votes)
  • AD&D chart by the book. (25%, 1 Votes)
  • Same as for OD&D magic-users. (25%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 4

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Spells Through the Ages: Spell Progression

OK, this isn’t really a normal Spells Through the Ages.  I was looking at the pre-generated characters in the A-series modules and thinking about how I might translate them into the flavor of B/X-esque D&D I usually run.  The spells are the hardest bit, especially when one of the PCs is an illusionist, and I happened to notice that he also had more 1st level spells than I expected for a 5th level caster.  I did some digging and found out that it’s not illusionist vs. magic-user here, but that AD&D has a pretty different spells per level progression than B/X for all classes.

I started plotting the numbers for magic-users against each other, and felt I needed to add OD&D as well for the comparison.  Here’s the table I generated, I’m sure someone with better spread-sheet skills could make this into some kind of fancy graphical 3D bar chart or something, but I think it’s enough to spot the differences.  To explain a little, the y-axis here is character level while the x-axis is spell level by edition (O=OD&D, B=B/X, A=AD&D).

O1 B1 A1 O2 B2 A2 O3 B3 A3 O4 B4 A4 O5 B5 A5 O6 B6 A6
1 1 1 1
2 2 2 2
3 3 2 2 1 1 1
4 4 2 3 2 2 2
5 4 2 4 2 2 2 1 1 1
6 4 2 4 2 2 2 2 2 2
7 4 3 4 3 2 3 2 2 2 1 1 1
8 4 3 4 3 3 3 3 2 3 2 2 2
9 4 3 4 3 3 3 3 3 3 2 2 2 1 1 1
10 4 3 4 4 3 4 3 3 3 3 3 2 2 2 2
11 4 4 4 4 3 4 4 3 4 3 3 3 3 2 3 1
12 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 3 4 4 3 4 4 3 4 1 2 1
13 5 4 5 5 4 5 5 4 5 4 3 4 4 3 4 2 3 2

 

The interesting thing to note here is that B/X is the real outlier.  All editions are the same for the first two levels, and oddly at third level OD&D grants an extra 1st level spell over the two newer editions.  AD&D quickly catches up, and then more or less agrees with OD&D all the way up to name level, while B/X regularly lags behind, especially in first level spells.  Then bizarrely at 11th level B/X jumps the gun granting a 6th level spell before AD&D and OD&D, but by 13th level B/X is one spell behind the other two for every single level.  I stopped the comparison at 13th level as AD&D grants the first 7th level spell at 14th level at which point I think it’s not really fair to compare to systems that don’t have those higher level spells.

I’m especially intrigued by the progression of 1st level spells.  While B/X pretty regularly lags by one spell per level, it’s especially slow to ramp up the first level spells.  It doesn’t grant a third spell until 7th level, 2-3 levels behind the other two, and it doesn’t hit 4 until 11th, 6-7 levels behind the others.  Why?  If anything, it seems to make more sense to me to grant plenty of first level spells early on, as at the later levels how big a difference is one more 1st level spell?  Aside from Magic Missile, most 1st level spells aren’t particularly useful to a level 7-11 Magic User.

To be honest, I’m kind of tempted to just retro-fit the OD&D chart for my own game.  I’m sure my players won’t complain about getting some extra spells.  I’d be very curious though if anyone can argue in favor of the B/X progression.

Tournament Modules – A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity

As mentioned in my first GenCon post, I got to play a session of A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity this year, and later A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords as well.  I’ve been aware of this series for a while and vaguely knew it had a reputation of being a good group of modules, but had never played or read them.  I enjoyed myself enough that I bought the modules at the auction, which I may have done anyway, but having just played the module definitely left me excited to buy it.  It’s definitely a fun one and highly recommended.

What’s really interesting about this module though is its glimpse into the AD&D tournament scene of early GenCons.  The entire series of modules was originally run as a multi-part tournament at GenCon XIII (1980), a fact I know from reading the module itself.  You see, the module includes copious information about running it in a tournament setting.  I was aware from Delta’s description that the G series modules were likewise originally a tournament, and included some notes for scoring.  I still haven’t read those modules yet either (don’t want to spoil the surprise until Delta completes his run), but I suspect they’re not as detailed about tournament play as this one is.

A1 includes a separate set of maps for tournament play, reduced in scope from the full maps, though likely this is backwards and the smaller maps were expanded for the module instead.  It also has a lot of notes throughout for how specific rooms function in tournament play, the scoring system, and the original pre-genned characters used to play it.  It also has an interesting description about how the module was broken up into rounds for the original tournament:

Originally run at GenCon XIII, this module contains only two parts of the seven part ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS™ Open.  … In the original tournament, modules A1, A2, and part of A3 were used for the first rounds, the second part of A3 was the semi-final, and A4 was the final round.  A1 and A2 each contain two sessions (the above ground and underground sessions).  Therefore there are 5 first rounds, each requiring nine players for a total of fourty-five players in the tournament (minimum).

A1 pretty clearly delineates the two parts, and the funny thing is that while I recall in our running the DM saying something like “you made it a good way through”, in fact I see that we completed exactly the first half of the module, or one round.  Wow, they really had these things timed well to fit a standard 4-hour slot.

What I found really interesting though is the fact that there are 5 different first rounds.  My theory is that in each time slot (say 8-12 Thursday or 12-4 Friday) they ran a different module.  This way nobody who played in a later time slot could gain an unfair advantage by questioning a player in an earlier time slot.  Of course that doesn’t answer the question of how many people from the first round get to proceed on to the semi-final, nor how many play in the final.  I’d be very curious to know how they worked that, though I suppose at that point you also have to know how many total people they actually had, as I assume they ran with many more than the minimum 45.

One thing that tickles me about the idea of multiple first rounds though is the parity with the fiction.  I love the idea of there actually being multiple teams all dispatched at the same time to infiltrate the slavers’ hideouts, with only one of those groups making it through to their innermost sanctum.  Granted there’s nothing really pushing this idea in any of the modules, but I bet having them all played simultaneously at the convention really led to that feeling.  I can just imagine the gamers hanging out during lunch, chatting with each other about which approach their group tried to get at those pesky slavers.

Another interesting thing about the printed module is comparing the tournament maps to the campaign maps.  The tournament maps are in fact extremely linear.  Again I’m surprised to discover this, as I felt when playing that we had made some choices in our path.  It’s possible our DM was running the expanded campaign map and that we simply managed to luckily hew to the tournament path.  Personally, I’m a big fan of having multiple in-roads and some feeling of choice in the game.  Were I designing a tournament game, I think I’d like it to look like an inverted tree, with lots of entry points all leading down to a single final climax area.  But I digress…

I also notice that anywhere where there’s a trap with random damage there’s a note regarding specific damage for use in the tournament.  Wow, they really worked hard at making these things “fair”.  It seems pretty silly given that combat will always be very random.  I suppose at some point someone must have complained about losing a tournament simply because their version of the trap caused more damage than someone else’s.  Given that “number of players to survive” is usually a factor in the scoring, I guess it’s understandable.

Anyway, those are my thoughts reading through A1, A2 is next on my list.  Also, I definitely have to find an excuse to run these things.  The two I played were great fun, and I’m hoping for more of the same from A2 and A3.  Though I have to admit, having now read both halves of A1, the half we played is clearly the more interesting half.

More Gygaxian Wisdom

Here’s a nice bit I discovered in Cheers Gary which I wanted to expound upon:

[I] have observed the coddled state of many new gamers as they died before my now beloved Old Guard Kobolds or met otherwise useless deaths because they: 1) were not thinking, and/or 2) assumed that whatever they met in an encounter they could deal with, and/or 3) they expected a special DM intervention such as a save when they totally screwed up.

I found this interesting as I was just discussing the deadliness of old school D&D with one of my players, Kyle,  after our last game.  Interesting things to note about Kyle: he’s a young guy, young enough that his first introduction to D&D was 3rd edition, and my game is his first encounter with the old stuff, and he works here with me at a video game company and thus has a fair exposure to what is probably the most new school type of RPG: the MMORPG.

We were discussing my tendency to roll in front of the players whenever possible, especially when it matters, the presence of save-or-die mechanics, and the difficulty in raising the dead.  In my campaign cleric spells stop at level 5, making “Raise Dead” about the most powerful magic in the world.  Furthermore, I made it that it actually requires the sacrifice of a 500 gp gem to the gods, which is quite a lot of money in my depressed economy, the equivalent of 5,000 gp by the book.  For a group of levels 2-3, this comes pretty close to breaking the bank.

Kyle actually agreed that he found it very gratifying to play with these kind of rules in place.  It adds to the tension, it makes your decisions matter, and it makes the challenges feel real.  If raising your dead character costs no more than a trip to the local town and has no real repercussions, where then is the challenge, and thus the satisfaction of success?  Without any risk of failure, the game is just so much dice rolling and math problems.

Last session was quite a hoot by the way.  Blood Mallet, a 2nd level Fighter had died in the previous session gloriously.  He was taken out by some ghouls, the party fled, rested for a day, and when they returned were horrified to find him raised as a ghoul himself.  They fled again to town some 2 days ride away.  Raise Dead has a time limit — it must be cast within 4 days per level above 8th, and the cleric they found to do the honors only had a window of 8 days.  Thus they had 6 days left, with 4 days travel required, leaving just 2 days to get back into the dungeon, kill the ghoulish barbarian, and bring his corpse back.   Even once this was complete they had to do some serious haggling to try and raise the funds required to bring the poor guy back.

So I say to you DMs out there: don’t be a coddler!  Challenge your players and they will rise to the occasion.  Or, they might not, and then you get wonderful emergent story like that above, which is just as good.  Plus one hopes they learn their lessons and next time apply a little more cunning.

Cheers Gary

While at GenCon this year, I made a donation to the Gygax Memorial Fund, and received a copy of a Cheers, Gary, a book that compiles together various posts Gary made on ENWorld’s forums.  Though it really is little more than a reprinting of posts readily found for free online, it is awful nice to have them all put together in a physical volume, and makes for some nice light reading before bed.  I’m also glad to have finally donated to this worthy cause, something I should have done ages ago.

I just thought I’d share a few quotes I’ve marked in the book while reading it that spoke to me.  There’s not meant to be any implied judgment here on “the right way to play the game”, such is nonsense.  Everyone makes D&D their own.  However, I can’t deny that I do find it gratifying when I see Gary say something that pretty much gels directly with how I play now.

On with the quotes:

…the more rules one must pay close attention to, the more difficult it is to create adventure material

 

Fact is, I have a lot of fun just playing and “winging it.”  If the players arent’ lost in known rules they tend to have more fun that way, and the sense of wonder comes back…

 

I have nothing against the use of miniatures, but they are generally impractical for long and free-wheeling campaign play where the scene and opponents can vary wildly in the course of but an hour.

 

Disputing which game or variation thereof is superior is much the same as arguing about what food tastes best or what color is the most pleasing, is it not?

I’m only about half way through the book, so I’ll likely have more little gems to share as I go.

GenCon Auction

OK, finally the promised auction post.  I spent a lot of time at the auction this year.  I only really discovered how great it is last year, and this year I think I was making up for lost time.  Honestly, I probably spent too much time (and money) at the auction.  I think next year I’ll try to scale back.

Below is a complete chart of all my purchases.  I’m including this partly for my own personal records, and partly in case it helps anyone trolling the web to try and put values on stuff.  I don’t really consider myself a collector, I buy these chiefly for reading and actual use in play.  That said I wouldn’t buy a worse condition copy at the same price, and I do admit some delight in finding stuff in really good condition.  It’s the “still in shrink” that troubles me.  I never purposefully buy such an item, but on occasion I’ve ended up with one.  This year it was the copy of D1-2, and honestly I didn’t notice how good it was until I got it home.  I haven’t decided what to do about it yet, but since it’s fairly low in the reading list (very eager to read the A series), I can delay that decision.

These purchases were made throughout the 3 days I attended the auction.  I first went for the AD&D hardbacks.  I’ve always wanted copies with the original covers, and last year I just missed them.  I actually saw the guy with the last ones in hand leave the store.  This year, I knew if I could find some I would snatch them up.  I probably paid too much, but they’re in great condition.  Honestly, I blame last TotalCon for this purchase.  I played an AD&D game where I was the only player (out of like 10) that had the orange spine books.

Fluffy Quest probably deserves it’s own post.  Part of this was that I wanted to partake in the charity auction and was willing to pay extra simply for the altruism.  Part of it was also that I have fond memories of playing Fluffy Quest at GenCon back in the early 90’s.  I just couldn’t resist, and I’m kind of shocked I got it for only $40.

The copies of N3 and N4 were wrapped in plastic wrap, clearly not original shrink, but very carefully done.  I see now the reason for this was to keep the horrible smoke odor at bay.  These things are in good condition otherwise, so I’m trying to figure out how to eliminate the bad smell.  Right now I’ve got them just laying out on a table, but I intend to do some research on other ways to get that smell out.  Also I seem to have lost the auction slip for N4, which is why there’s no price listed, but I seem to recall it was pretty similar in price to N3.

OK, enough editorializing.  Without further ado, here is the list:

Item Condition Bought From Price Notes
AD&D Player’s Handbook Excellent – clean pages, no writing, minor wear Store 18
AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide Very Good, no writing, minor wear and staining Store 12
AD&D Monster Manual Very Good, some wear, original owner’s name written in inside cover Store 14
OD&D S1: Greyhawk Good, no writing, some wear and creasing Auction 14
OD&D S2: Blackmoor Very Good, no writing, sharp and clean Auction 12
A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity Fair, no marks, some wear, spine taped Store 6
A2: Secret of the Slaver Stockade Very Good, some wear on spine and corners, otherwise sharp and clean Store 6 Signed by Harold Johnson
A3: Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords Very Good, minor wear, minor staple rust, center handout loose Store 8
A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords Good, minor warping, staple rust, scraps of original shrink Store 7
D1-2: Descent into the Depths of the Earth Near Mint, in shrink Store 8
N3: Destiny of Kings Fair, staple rust, staining, smoke odor Auction 5
N4: Treasure Hunt Good, staple rust, smoke odor Auction ??
S2: White Plume Mountain Near Mint, very minor staple rust Store 8
T1: The Village of Hommlet Near Mint, very minor spine wear Auction 5 Unused store stock
UK1: Beyond the Crystal Cave Excellent, some cover wear Store 8
Monster & Treasure Assortment Sets 1-3 Excellent, some cover wear Store 8
Fluffy Quest, Special Edition Very Good, minor wear, minor staple rust Charity Auction 40 Signed by Rick Reid

 

 

Wow, I just summed up the prices and am kind of horrified by the total I spent.  Still, I barely spent anything in the dealer’s hall this year, so I suppose it’s not so bad.  I really do have to control myself next year.  Also, I think I had better make a master list somewhere of all the modules I own.  I’m in serious danger of starting to have more than one copy of some, and in fact I almost accidentally left the auction store once with two copies of the same module in hand.

Oh yeah, one more thing I almost forgot.  The Harold Johnson  signature on A2 was a happy accident.  It wasn’t there when I bought the module, but guess who was working the register when I went to pay?  Yup, the man himself, and he happily offered to sign the module right then and there.  Yet another reason the GenCon auction is just way better for buying this stuff than eBay.

GenCon Numbers

The wikipedia article on GenCon includes the following chart showing growth of attendance over time:

This year is not plotted on that chart, but assuming the number posted yesterday is correct (36,733), the next point would be just off the top of the chart.  What you can see here is some pretty steady and rapid growth from inception until a peak in 1995 at around 30k.  Then there’s a decline, and what would seem to be a stabilization with some fluctuation for several years in the 20-25k range.  Around 2006 though we see growth starting again, which at first seems just part of the normal fluctuation, but gets higher than that usual range in 2007 and keeps going up until this year’s record spike.

The article says that the the success of Magic the Gathering and “the ensuing collectible card game craze has been cited as generating the extra attendance that produced the 1995 record.”  This makes me inclined to speculate about the current spike we’re experiencing.  As far as I know there’s no break-out product to explain it, certainly nothing on the scale of Magic.  Pathfinder and 4e are I suppose both doing reasonably well, but the prevailing wisdom I’ve heard is that the pen and paper RPG market is in the decline.  It could be that board games are becoming more popular in this country.  Certainly if you just look at the map of the dealer’s room from this year you’ll see that the two largest consumers of space are Mayfair and Fantasy Flight.

It’s also interesting to note that this growth spurt happened right around the same time as the passing of Gary Gygax.  Much like the value of a painting increasing when the artist passes, Gary’s passing has certainly brought the public’s eye back onto the old game.  Most kids that grew up playing D&D are now in a ripe demographic — we’re now a bunch of 30-somethings with a fair amount of disposable income and a tendency towards nostalgia concerning the pursuits of our childhoods.  However the growth spurt actually seems to pre-date Gary’s passing just a bit.  2007 saw 27,000 attendees, well above the average of the preceding decade, and honestly if it was pure nostalgia I’d expect a bigger old school presence.  There’s certainly some old school stuff going on at GenCon, and it was cool to see an actual OSRG booth, but I hardly think our little corner of the population could account for 10,000 attendees.

Looking back to 2006 to find an origin of the growth spurt we do see the inclusion of much more video game space.  That was the year E3 was reduced in scope, and I remember seeing the increased video game presence and worrying it might take over GenCon.  That certainly never happened, and in fact this year I don’t recall seeing even a single booth dedicated to video games.  It’s possible that those couple of years of cross pollination between video game players and table-top gamers helped bring in some new blood and grow the industry, but again it seems too small to be the sole contributor.

Well, it’s looking like I can’t find any real answers here.  Maybe a little of everything above.  Maybe something else is going on in the industry that I’m just not aware of.  Either way I’ll be very curious to see where GenCon goes in the next couple of years.