Investing In: PAX Unplugged

Welcome back to Investing In! I wasn’t sure quite sure what to name my article series when I first started but the idea of showcasing or discussing things that make me excited, that I find new and interesting, or maybe I’m otherwise passionate about seemed to fit with the idea of Investing In something like the Pathfinder 2E mechanic. To use some magic items you have to give that little bit of yourself, which helps make these things even better. I like the metaphor of the community growing and being strengthened in the same way!

My First PAX

Last month I had the privilege of going to PAX Unplugged. I started off my weekend with a visit to Dog Might Games then went right to the airport for my flight to Philadelphia. It was going to be my first PAX though I’ve had friends attend PAX East before. In fact one of my friends Kyle has been to many of the PAX conventions and won the Omegathon once. Suffice to say he and the others are big fans.  I’d heard great stories of the vast gaming possibilities to try the new and forthcoming, or see those trying to drive marketing interest. They always had a great time and I’d been meaning to get to a PAX for years.

Thus the idea of going to the tabletop and board game focused PAX Unplugged was exciting, let alone knowing I could see fellow Order of the Amber Die and Know Direction members, as well as Roll for Combat’s Stephen Glicker. Of course, I was also excited to visit Philadelphia again, meet new people, and continue that energy I’d experienced at Gen Con.

MASKS

Dan Scholler of Order of the Amber Die and I made a day of Friday. That first day we signed up for was a game I’d only heard a little from Dan. MASKS is a tabletop RPG by Magpie Games in which you play young / teenage superheroes. It’s an established universe of the super-powered threatening world domination, saving the city, etc. The adults around you are powerful heroes but also influential teachers, government officials, or the angry public. Their perspective and reaction to your choices have Influence over you and can affect your Labels, like story-based ability scores including mundane, danger, and freak. How the world sees you changes your story, and in time certainly how you come to know yourself will as well.

MASKS, Magpie Games

Your characters take on a certain playbook or persona archetype, and then build your power-set and abilities, however you decide to describe them. One playbook is the Janus, a masked hero who leaves their real persona behind but then fights to know whom they truly are. The Nova is the vastly powerful, dangerous hero whose power could devastate the city or endanger their loved ones. I got the chance to play the Legacy whose family are all known heroes and it’s up to you to carry on their tradition. Dan played the Outsider, someone who doesn’t belong and doesn’t quite understand how the city works, but hey, they’re going to help! In this case, Dan’s Outsider was non-binary from another world and my Legacy was a tabletop roleplayer who transformed in a magical girl, She-Ra fashion to the glorious Paladin! He referred to everything in roleplaying terms, especially villains and their abilities. We had an amazing crew including the Janus as well as the Delinquent and a Protege. Our Storyteller offered us a slightly mature game and we all agreed. The game was about maturing into adult heroes after all. As it turned out my character’s father and grandfather had battled and destroyed the family of another person talented with necromancy. Few knew my grandfather had become a super-villain. The protege had to face their mentor’s previous protege who’d passed protecting us. The highlight might have been everyone agreeing to a social media event to later go back to the mausoleum we’d trashed apprehending the necromancer to help the Protege who was feeling bad after facing the risen person they’d replaced. I’ll say it was also nice to see the LGBTQIA representation in the room, talk with a few then, and happily run into them later that weekend. Again, like Gen Con, I noticed a large queer-positive vibe including having a diversity lounge where I met various local groups and got to see some of my favorite people: the Tabletop Gaymers. MASKS seems to encourage an exploration of these themes in a constructive, fun, empathizing way.

Suffice to say, I went to the vendor hall and bought up the core book and one of the sequel books too! Thanks Magpie!

Gehenna Gaming

Dan and I saw more LGBTQIA support later that day at our second game, playing Vampire: the Masquerade V5 with Gehenna Gaming. We arrived to find four other friends who were brand new to the game and eager to play. Dan had some familiarity with the game while I as you might remember love my World of Darkness, though hadn’t played V5. We started to talk of the clans and the nature of the Masquerade as we filled out Gehenna Gaming’s questionnaire or survey on the various topics we were and weren’t comfortable with. It was fairly detailed in its list including everything from insects to body horror to more personal topics like LGBTQI themes and those of a sexual nature. You could note if you were comfortable with them, maybe wanted to see them, absolutely did not, etc. It’s a very respectful and aware way of knowing your audience and players. I was really impressed, especially as it led to a positive dialogue with the other four who were interested in a game with mature themes but were cognizant not everyone would be comfortable with all of them.

Gehenna Gaming

One player adorably asked how long Dan and I had been together, which we noted we weren’t and merely friends. This player perhaps assumed due to our friendship and that both of us were wearing GAYMER tags. He was so quick to apologize as he turned red and one of his friends joked about how insensitive he was. We laughed, but noted it was nice of him to consider and speak of it in a friendly fashion. I talked of the LGBTQI representation long seen in the World of Darkness that I knew had been well received in the past, partly how I had learned of it. Of course there’s been some challenges seen recently with diversity and how topics are handled, but I’ve been happy to see the inclusion, an example being a gay man awakening to magic in the front matter of a Mage book or the LGBTQI in other fiction.

We went on to discuss the various clans and our Storyteller arrived to help us choose. I got to play the unreleased Lasombra and I was thrilled! My family man was ready to continue serving his family, though of course you don’t trust cops and you respect the darkness. We had to go break another kindred out of a monastery’s basement. What the Ministry (the former Followers of Set) newbie did to some pancake syrup after pretending to be in need of food and then to the monk who was trying to help him will make me wary of friendly people offering syrup for the rest of my life. Let alone, we were all laughing so joyously at the table. Horrific and dangerous yes, but it was still an absolute pleasure. We got to experience the rush and confusion of discovering our vampiric natures while flexing our abilities, using our social skills, and having some exploratory and combative fun. We all agreed that we needed to play more. Our Storyteller Rick turned out to be Gehenna Gaming’s VP of Community Engagement, informing us of their Discord and possible games in the future. In fact Gehenna Gaming will also be at PAX East and I heavily encourage you to check our their offerings should you be attending!

Friends and Family

PAX Unplugged also felt a bit like a family gathering. Stephen Glicker of Roll for Combat ensured I got some dinner that Thursday night when I arrived. I’d gone many times for work and for Order business but I hadn’t spent much time downtown socializing or touring. He wisely beckoned me to the Reading Terminal Market. My eyes became larger saucers of joy and sure the first thing I grabbed were some donuts but I had delicious biscuits and pierogies too.

As you know I spent Friday with Dan but I also got to see Order of the Amber Die members including Adam, Matt, and Julian. They joined Joe O’Brien of Glass Cannon Podcast and Chris Rutledge in Gloomhaven scenarios in the freeplay area. It was so good to see them after a busy fall career-wise and without the pressure of those marathon days and performing the best Ezran I can! I’m pretty sure Julian was already an inch taller. Gloomhaven, if you’re not aware, is such an immersive tabletop board game RPG combo and I’m envious of Order members playing it especially with GCP!

Karee and Critical Hit Cookies were there too, if by chance you spotted her or got to taste a delicious confection of hers! I’ll continue to recommend them as Karee is a wonderful person, a long-time Order supporter, an amazing baker, and just so kind giving out cookies all weekend. Talking with her and let me be honest, resting with her at a table to talk games were doing while I tried to find my second wind was awesome. I wish I could order some of her energy too! I introduced an old college friend Pat to her and we got to ruminate of times and games old and new. I got to say hello at DwarvenForge and their delightful constructs at the Die Hard Dice booth, as well as buying some beautiful dice, ’cause y’know.  Dice, and these are beautiful!  See my Instagram shot up top!

While not all of us were in town for the convention, many of us were and we gathered for a Know Direction dinner! I saw Vanessa and Perram again, yay!  And I got to meet many people I hadn’t yet in person like Luis and Alex, who is featured with my poke bowl above. He was telling me a bit about Everybody Games and the forthcoming Advanced Occult Guide Kickstarter! Everyone had different games they were trying, Pathfinder 2E they were playing, and were excited for the Holidays and 2020 ahead. It felt like a family dinner, even if I were only then meeting them. It’s important in our gaming / gayming / LGBTQI community; finding family is a heart-warming and inspiring thing. 

I spoke to one volunteer who was a wee bit dehydrated and hungry, but was taking a sit break. I might have provided some water and a snack while we talked of PAX conventions. Let it be known cough drops, beverages, and food certainly seem to be great gifts at a convention! This gentleman had moved to Philadelphia and was thrilled to now volunteer at Unplugged after doing so at East. He loves the people he met and can meet up with at PAX and other gaming conventions because they care how he’s doing, not just what he’s playing. He likes Gen Con but the size and FOMO (fear of missing out) with all there was intimidating to him. The more intimate PAX Unplugged and tabletop focus allows him to really experience and learn of games while seeing that gaming family.

While I’m not heading to PAX East, you can still sign up and I encourage you to do so! Otherwise, maybe we’ll see each other at PAX Unplugged in November! And now, for your brain munching pleasure, this amazing Mind Flayer cosplay by lucigen!

Investing In:

And I also want to hear what you’re Investing In! Leave me a comment below about what games, modules, systems, products, people, live streams, etc you enjoy! You can also hit me up on social media as silentinfinity. I want to hear what excites you and what you’re passionate about. There’s so much wonderful content, people, groups (I could go on) in this community of ours that the more we invest in and share, the better it becomes!

Sources

Banner – Pax Unplugged Banner, Penny Arcade Inc., https://unplugged.paxsite.com/

  1. MASKS, Magpie Games
  2. Gehenna Gaming banner, Gehenna Gaming
  3. The totally amazing and I love them all Order of the Amber Die
  4. mind flayer cosplay, lucigen
  5. and various instagram posts of my own

Rob Pontious

I’ve been gaming for over three decades mostly in the tabletop RPG space but also in video games, board games, card games, and even some LARPing! I’m a gamer and a GAYMER. You can find me online (including instagram and twitch) as silentinfinity.

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