Dungeon Delve at New York ComicCon

edited February 2007 in Actual Play
A friend gave me a free pass to New York ComicCon yesterday.

The event had too much passionless aim-for-the-middle-of-the-herd corporate promotion, and not-enough scrappy little guys with a vision... wanting to connect with other humans.

Chuck D had a booth, promoting Public Enemy comics. And the PE crew did appear to be doing something they really -felt-; not something that was tailored to placate the existing expected taste of geeks-in-general/ and Nobody In Particular.
(e.g. yet another line of cute/"dark"/X-treme/sexy/ironic/japanese-influenced/jokey doll toys.)

Chuck had a long line of fans, and was very present-in-the-moment with each one. Whereas many of the artists in Artist's Row had a glazed detachment; like a drone behind the register at Taco Bell. Zombies giving autographs. Gary Coleman looked miserable. Kevin Smith looked more fascinated with himself, than with anybody in front of him.

The in-costume attendees also get credit for their DIY panache, but (as always) they had that All Dressed Up And Now What? awkwardness. My attempts to chat with--or even make eye contact with-- costumers/ led to averted gazes and quick dis-engagement. "I'm not really here", they radiated.

Earlier, to pick up my free pass at my friend's apartment; I walked thru the-former-Little-Italy (now Chinatown), where a gang in satin roadie jackets with green praying mantises embroidered on the back-- banged out clattering Chinese war music and waved big flags reading "Southern Mantis". Several of their crew were beneath a big dragon costume, and they conducted mock dragon battles with rival martial arts schools. It went on for blocks. There was a gang in black hoodies with the Freemasons logo (compass over a G), but with crossed swords blow. Chinese Freemasons! Their dragon was jet black!!


My point is... that it was pretty inevitable that I wouldn't see anything nearly as awesomely superheroic as that, inside the ComicCon. But why were the ComicCon people so unable to interact with humans? As opposed to the Chinese New Year people, who were comfortable flirting, answering questions, listening.

At one point, at the 'con, I needed a pen. I started looking for a booth giving pens away. I went up to the gaming area. Heroclix tourney in progress.

I saw some pens under a sign labelled "Dungeon Delve". I tried to sweet-talk a pen from them. All I got was a memorized schpeil about how I could win prizes by playing some game. They didn't actually say what game. The big prize was a nylon bag with the Dungeons And Dragons logo embroidered on the side. I expressed that I would play their demo, and that I didn't want any of the prizes they had named-- but could I please keep one of their many pens instead? They said the pens were not prizes. I almost walked away. (They almost failed to demo their game). They & I both wanted something from each other, but they couldn't wake-up to that fact and negotiate a mutually satisfying deal.

Some other guys came-along. They wanted to play. I offered to play, so they could have the requisite 4 players. I asked what we were playing. It turns-out it was Dungeons and Dragons. You literally had to know that already, in order to join the product demo. At no point was I asked whether I knew what D&D was, if I was a player, etc.

I grabbed the pregen Fighter. I was handed a pen. All the other guys had their own dice, but some pretended they didn't--- so they could mooch dice from the demo guy. To keep, I presume. We had to kill 3 monsters within 30 minutes to earn points on a card to win prizes. I don't know if that was 30 in-game minutes or realtime. I decided to act like a zombie myself. As if I had no idea what was going on. Occassionally, someone would say, "What do you do?" And I'd glance at my character sheet and pick whatever caught my eye. There was a Control Animal ability and one called "Ride", and I got groans when I said I wanted to use them on a dragon. So I used the bastard sword and throwing-axe instead. At every juncture I just sat passive, until someone told me which die to roll. Nobody told me what number I was trying to beat, or what my result meant. I was role-playing: the role of a 4 year old little sister drafted to round-out a party.

We killed 3 monsters, and the other guys wanted to keep playing-- to earn more points. I quit. I tried to bequeath the points I'd earned/ to the Cleric who had bothered to heal my wounds. But the DM said points were non-transferable. That Makes No Fucking Sense... god forbid somebody recruit A Whole Bunch Of People to demo the product, in exchange for earning their prize-points for himself. Noooo... it makes muuuuch more sense to demo a-product-he-already-owns to One Guy for 4 hours straight, so he can earn the same number of points. When I announced I was quitting, the other guys were mostly concerned with who would get the free dice I left on the table. I stole a pen.

On the way home, I saw the Breeze Team breakdancing in the subway. More real-life superheroes. One b-boy was attempting to woo a girl, and another girl was peppering him with admonishments to leave the first girl alone. Humans being real.


  • Wow. Bad demoes make my teeth hurt.
  • edited February 2007

    Thanks for posting this. It provides several valuable lessons that I will take to heart:

    1. Make no assumptions about your demo audience
    2. Be engaged, service-oriented, and paying attention
    3. Fucking black dragon mantis freemason gang represent
    4. If you have prizes or some nonsense, don't make their acquisition some competitive thing

    My only point of contention is the whole pen thing - I wouldn't give you a pen either. Bring your own damn pen. Steal a pen from my demo table and I will find you. Of course there are no pens at my demo table, because

    5. Don't require pens for your demo. If you need a pen, it's already too complicated.

    EDIT: I just recalled that I did the same "naive user" thing once, too, when I got roped into a d20 Modern game at a local con. My experience was identical - it was like they were glad there was a body there to roll dice on command.
  • Terry and I have been going back and forth from Comic Con meeting with a few publishers and Josh Dysart who writes Conan and is working with me on the Avril Lavigne "Manga". The attendees at Comic Con were waaaay more entertaining than the exhibitors or professionals. Most of the seminars were only 10% full. The back of the exhibit hall was pretty depressing. Wizards and Wizkids were there. People were waiting outside over 5 hours on Friday to pick up badges. The Wizards demos were down right depressing. I don't think I would have gone if Random House didn't give us badges but I'm glad I went just to see it. It feels the size of Gencon (but probably closer to half the size with and exhibit hall 75% the size) but lacks the energy that makes Gencon great for me.

    Curly nailed it when he said there were many fans standing around with a kind of "now what" expression. There weren't many events that promoted socializing. The Star Wars party was pathetic.

    What was up with that Darkness booth!!! It was huge.

    Even the Walcom Tablet booth had booth babes. WTF!

    The best thing I saw was this booth for this card game. The entire booth, floor, walls, tables, and most of what people were wearing were all white. It really stood out. And the spent crazy amounts of money on... carpets!!! They have these extremely comfortable white carpets. After walking around for hours you felt like you were at heaven standing in their demo area. I almost bought a game just because of their carpet!!! I did take their card. They also had about 10 18-26 year old women running all the demos and they were on it. Damn... they were super professional and were amazing at demoing the game. I was very, very impressed.

    Tangentially, we went to a few parties with people from DC, Sony BMG, a few TV people, a few musicians, and a lot of book publishers like Random House. Terry and I spent hours and hours talking about RPGs. And do you know what... they all fucking LOVED it! As long as I never mentioned D&D and made sure to refer to it as storytelling, improv, interactive narrative... they were all sold. I talked up Dread (Jenga), PTA, and Dogs quite a bit. I think I scared people when talking about Dogs but they likened it to the Dark Tower.

    But here is the problem... they all wanted me to run an RPG for them right then and there. In 30 minutes. And I had no fucking idea what to do. Best I could think of is maybe a Horror LARP. I was completely unprepared.

    Another aside, sooo many media people know and LOVE Cthulhu. It's scary.

    Terry is going to name her next cookbook after Vegan Cupcakes Takeover the World... the Veganomicon!

    I haven't slept at all! Sorry about the ranting. Back to Comic Con!
  • (The heavenly white booth is for The Spoils, the CCG that ex-Magic pro Jon Finkel created after he made lots of money in Vegas. The game's no good, and their pay-for-play tournament model is fucked, but damn do they ever give good booth. They had it at Gen Con too.)
  • Posted By: jenskotEven the Walcom Tablet booth had booth babes. WTF!
    I'll second that WTF ... if a customer is capable of having their eyes attracted more by curvaceous flesh than by a display of Cintiq's (so ... pretty ... >drool<) then they're clearly not the right customer to be approaching the Wacom tablet booth in the first place.
  • Nifty story, man. I'm all over real-life superheroes trumping stale geek tropes. I gotta hear more about these Public Enemy comix and how they were going over.
  • I am glad to see jenskot did some networking. I had wondered if the dealmaking was confined to San Diego.

    That's a part of the con I respect.
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