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Interview with Texicon’s Kevin Pajak

2015 June 12
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by Stan Shinn

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 1.19.27 PM

DFW Roleplayers’ Stan Shinn interviews Texicon’s Kevin Pajak. Texicon is a local convention featuring RPGs and other great activities which runs June 25-28, 2015 in Grapevine, TX. Visit www.texicon.net for more information.

Stan: Kevin, tell us how you got involved with Texicon?

Kevin: I am glad you asked that Stan. I have been involved in the back end or behind the scenes portion of the gaming industry for a long time. Most of my experience was earned out in California. I worked the con circuit for years, I worked at a distribution company, edited games, worked for and with game manufacturers, etc. As a native Texan, I wanted something for the center of the U.S. that would work to strengthen and grow gaming. Both coasts have their cons, and then of course there is Gen Con. The way I see it is that there is a weak spot in the middle of the country. My brother and I wanted to do something about this. I came up with the idea of hosting a Game Convention. Karl liked the idea. I felt all of my Cali experience lent it self very well to this idea. So, we created Texicon. We picked a con over anything else because Conventions act as oases or gathering places. They are, or should be, the unique moment that brings the game community together. Because of the way Cons work, they act as reservoirs where the community comes to get energized. The con stands as more than just a simple weekend of gaming. They, if done properly, create this moment, a gathering, where everyone benefits. Players make new friends. GMs get new ideas and ways of doing things. Players and GMs encounter new games and game systems. Vendors get exposure and new ideas from other vendors. Game Manufacturers get exposure, new ideas, new clients, new games. What do I get as a Con owner? I get tired. I work on Texicon all year long and if I have done my job properly nobody notices, because there were no problems and everyone had a great time.

Stan: What have you done to get the word out about Texicon?

Kevin: Stan, I am glad you asked. We hired a social media person. She is doing a fantastic job. Also, I we are now reaching out to game stores in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Tennessee, Illinois, Alabama, Kentucky, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona. We have a Flyer Contest. Anyone who brings in one of our flyers gets a chance to win $50 to his local game store. There are three zones, Texas, the surrounding states, and the rest of the states.

Stan: What are your biggest failures?

Kevin: 
Sadly, I have to report that I was unable to find anyone who GMs Rolemaster or Stormbringer. Also, in my eagerness and tiredness I offended the owner of Goblinoid games. I said that I wondered if anyone still played his games. But what I meant was in the Metroplex. I want to formally apologize again to him about this misunderstanding. I love his Pacesetter games. My last big failure is that there is just not enough me to go around. Things, sometimes don’t get done in a timely fashion.

Stan: What sorts of events can we expect in Texicon’s 2015 convention?

Kevin: Well Stan, as you may know there was a turn over in our Staff. Rollin Kearly was our Role-Play Magnate, but he had to step down. So, I, as the Role-Player, had to fill in until we could find a new Role-Play Magnate. I instituted several new things. I went to OwlCon. I went to game stores. I went to game manufacturers. I hit the blogs and the forums. So, one thing we will see is a wider diversity of Role-Play games.

I would urge all role-play players and GMs to try a new game. They can go back home and still play the same system they have always done. Here at Texicon, they should try something new. After all, life is about experiences. The bonus is that Con games are specifically geared to teach new players how to play a game. The GMs expect it. So, nobody should be afraid to try something new. I sought out more Old School games, but still am bringing a lot of modern stuff as well. I want to provide something for everyone. We have one LARP game – it is a Cthulhu Game.

Another exciting thing, Texicon has just opened the Texicon’s Historical Hall. In it, only historical gaming occurs. I even managed to have one historical role play game.

We also have ramped up our efforts to help those in need. Last year, we partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters. However, I was not happy with the turn out. I wanted more kids. So, this year we partnered with two chapters of BBBS. We also partnered with Johnathan’s Place (an abused children’s shelter), and Buckner (a foster care organization). We are hoping to have anywhere from twenty to 100 kids on Saturday from Noon to 6pm. We love the chance to provide a day of fun for these children who face problems they should not have to face. This has led us to institute the “Kids Track” program. This is a program where we host games specifically tailored for kids. Most of the games are for ages 12+ but some are 8+

Karl is working on getting ASL interpreters for Texicon. If he does, there will be several games that are ASL friendly. We also will have a Role-Play game that is ASL only. It will be designed to act as a teaching tool for the deaf so they can begin Role-Playing.

We have a special guest who should be know by your people, Lester Smith. All I can say is, “What has he not done in the Role-Play realm?” We also have Ed Wetterman of Pinnacle Entertainment Group. They produce Savage Worlds and other things. He will be at Texicon as an Attendee of Note. I believe he will even be giving some Seminars.

Stan: How can people get involved to help?

Kevin: We have Magnates who are in charge of one of the three game types (board games, role-play games, and miniatures). We have one Curator who is in charge of the Historical Hall. And we have Jamie Mathews who is in charge of the General Volunteers. If someone wants to GM, then he should contact one of the Magnates. If he wants to GM in Texicon’s Historical Hall, then he should contact one of the Curators.

However, first and foremost, people can get on Facebook, get on forums, go to manufacturers’ websites and talk about Texicon. Spreading the word through word of mouth is the best way that someone can get involved. I know it is not glamorous, but it is vital that attendees AS WELL AS GMs tell people about both Texicon and the events at Texicon.

Stan: What have you observed about changes in player demographics since Texicon started? For example, are there more Role-Players than miniatures wargaming players? Increase interest in board games?

Kevin: Stan, this is a great question. You are asking about changes to the community at large. I love this question because it reveals what is happening in the gaming community. I am seeing changes. But they are not the kinds one would notice. They are subtle changes. For instance, there are fewer females than there were Texicon year one. I am not sure what to do about this. I think that the smelly kids at game stores and the manliness of the game store tends to make females think that gaming is for guys. This could not be further from the truth. I do not see a wide ethnic diversity at the Con. This saddens me. Everyone should take advantage of Table Top Gaming. It is so beneficial. I do see our crowd slowly growing in that direction, but I want more. In my mind, a healthy gamer population equals a healthy nation. I think most of the United States’ problems could be fixed if we were all gamers. Ha! I can see it now. The President of the United States a role-player. That would be something even better than having a flying car, which they promised we would have by 2020.

Our crowd seems to be getting younger and older. The middle age area seems to be shrinking.

As far as the numbers of players playing what. Yes, there does (and always has been) seem to be a few more role-players attending Texicon than either board gamers or miniatures. This will change in 2015 as we will have 100 miniaturists in our Warmachine tournament.

Stan: What games do you see growing in popularity?

Kevin: Stan, this is a deceptive question. I will address that in a sec. I see Old School Role-Play coming back like wildfire. Warmachine seems to be outpacing 40k. Euro Style board games seem to be in fashion right now. I love em too.

The reason it is a deceptive question is that it actually asks, in a subtle way, a deeper issue question. What mechanics are in favor is what this question really asks. Although, game companies attempt to change this or that, tweak a part of how a game plays, what seems to stand out as innovative are systems that address the changing needs of the gamer community. Currently, people seem to want euro style board games, old school role-play games, and quick to play miniatures games. These are the games that are growing in popularity.

Stan: What are the greatest challenges in putting on a convention like this?

Kevin: Oh Stan, you naughty man. This is a behind the scenes question. I don’t know if I should answer this one, but I guess I will. As a Convention Host, organizer, grunt I face many challenges. Advertizing, organizing, managing. So, the greatest challenge is communication. I have to constantly communicate with attendees, GMs, Magnates, game stores, printing houses, organizations, manufacturers, and of course Stan. I have to be careful to make sure that everyone gets the information needed so that they can do their job. This sometimes may mean that I have to talk for someone to someone–a translation nightmare.

The next challenge is making sure that all of the hardware is ready. Hardware in this case means: any printed material we need, any tables we need, any table cloths, any chairs, stamps, ink pads, and the like are made ready for use. For example, I have to make by myself, fifty four foot by four foot tables for the Warmachine Tournament.

Following that, the challenge of filling the Game Wagon with Con Swag as Apollo puts it is a challenge.

Another challenge is finding time to work on the website. It takes a huge amount of work to get it ready.

My greatest challenge is finding time for Texicon when my number one priority is my wife and son.

Stan: What gives you personal satisfaction in the work you do for Texicon?

Kevin: I love bringing people together and doing the best I can to accomplish this.

Stan: What does the future hold of Texicon in 2016 and beyond?

Kevin: Thank you Stan for asking this question. 2016 will see us moving to our new home at the Hurst Convention Center. We have outgrown the Grapevine Convention Center. This is a daydream question. If we get big enough, I think it would be a hoot to hire three trains to come to Texicon. One from Los Angeles , one from Chicago, and one from Atlanta. I would give out golden tickets to anyone who would want to come via the train. Then, they could game all the way to Texicon and then back. The cost of getting on those trains would be the purchase of one Full Con Pass per ticket holder. I also want to purchase 50 acres of land and build a convention hotel and space on it. Then, we could have a huge area where our LARPers could do their thing. I also want Texicon to be big enough that we can help manufacturers get their product out. I want to get an offset printer and then make games cheaply so the little guy can afford to produce his game. Dreams within dreams. I would like to have Texicon be large enough that we could do a lot of fun things.

RPG Cons in North Texas

2014 February 18
by Stan Shinn

waconBelow are a list of cons with a notable tabletop RPG presence within 5 hours drive of the Dallas/Forth Worth area. There are 11 conventions within 5 hours drive of DFW, plus I added GenCon (the mother-of-all-rpg-cons). 6 of these cons are actually in the DFW area, and of those six, three — Gamer Nation Con, G33G3 (Geeky) Con and T.A.B.L.E. — are new cons. ReaperCon has also expanded their RPG presence and includes six tables of concurrent Pathfinder games as well as other RPGs. Let me know if I had any notable misses, or if you have any edits to my descriptions (especially if you know approximate numbers of people who attend, how many RPG games are at a given Con, etc.).

Owlcon (Houston)
Feb. 21-24, 2014
http://owlcon.com
Long running con on the Rice University campus. Usually has something like 600 attendees, with a mix of RPGs, miniatures wargaming and other sundry activities.
 
GamerNationCon.com (Plano)
Mar. 14-16, 2014
http://GamerNationCon.com
New con debuting in 2014. Mostly RPGs with some board games.
 
TwisterCon (Oklahoma City, OK)
Mar. 21-23, 2014
http://www.twistercon.com/
Con in OKC with a mix of RPGs, miniatures wargaming and other sundry activities.
 
T.A.B.L.E. (Irving)
March 28-30, 2014
http://www.roll2play.com/table/
http://www.irvingtexas.com/includes/events/Tabletop-and-Boardgame-Learning-Expo-T-A-B-L-E-/23756/

New con; mostly board or card games with some RPGs (only GURPs as of this writing).

G33K3 – THE CON (McKinney)
April 4-6, 2014
http://g33k3.com/
https://www.facebook.com/events/573938906012613/
http://www.tabletopday.com/item/g33k3-con/
New con; should have some RPGs but games have not yet been listed.
 
ChimaeraCon (San Antonio)
April 4-6, 2014
http://chimaeracon.com/
Mid-sized (150-200) person con.

AggieCon (College Station, TX)
April 4-6, 2014
http://cephvar.tamu.edu/aggiecon
Long running con near the A&M campus.

ReaperCon (Lewisville, TX)
April 24-27
https://reapercon.com/
In addition to showcasing miniatures and miniatures painting, this year this is a large slate of RPG games including 6 concurrent Pathfinder games running all weekend.
 
North Texas RPG Con (Fort Worth)
Jun. 5-8, 2014
http://ntrpgcon.com/
Premier old-school con focused mostly on RPGs and with a large number of OSR celebrity guests from the TSR days.
 
Texicon (Fort Worth)
June 27-29, 2014
http://texicon.net/
Usually has something like 150-200 attendees, with a mix of RPGs, miniatures wargaming and other sundry activities.

Gen Con (Indianapolis, IN)
Aug. 14-17, 2014
http://www.gencon.com/
Not local, but this is the biggest con in the country with over 40,000 attendees each year.
 
WaCon (Waco)
Oct. 24-26, 2014
http://wacogamecon.com/
2014 will be the second year of this con. A mix of RPGs, card games, miniatures wargaming and other sundry activities.

 

Creating Cool Sci-Fi Props for RPG Games

2012 July 23
by Stan Shinn
starship-rescue

This weekend I ran a game called ‘The Starship Rescue’ at Texicon in Fort Worth using the ENnie award Nominated Savage Worlds rules. Gamer and freelance writer Mark Chance did a  review of the game on his Spes Magna blog.

The game was well received with some players asking for a continuation of this game and setting at the next Texicon. I’m making plans to do just that. :-)

Several folks have asked me how I created the visual props for the game.

I used both figure flats, starship schematic handouts and a nice starship map that were visually impressive and really helped set the tone of the game. Below is a list of resources to create your own ‘Starship Rescue’ type game — but really, any system set in a Sci Fi universe where you would like nice maps and inexpensive paper miniatures would benefit from these resources.

Figure Flats

Figure Flats:

Figure Flat Stands:

Starship Map Artwork

You can get the Spaceship Artwork here:

Or here

With a nice preview here:

Map Printing

I printed the Spaceship map using this service:

You can also print normal 24×36” posters at Office Depot for about $20. Alternatively, you can also order prints online here:

Creating Stories for Sci Fi Games

Lastly, though I didn’t actually use this for my ‘The Starship Rescue’ game, a recent Firefly sandbox toolkit PDF has appeared which would be a very valuable resource in coming up with story ideas for a space western type setting:

That’s it. What do you think — are these resources helpful? Any other resources to create this sort of game that you would recommend?

Owlcon 2012 Coverage

2012 February 1
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by Stan Shinn
owlconlogo

DFW Roleplayers will be covering the Owlcon convention Feb. 3-5 in Houston. Featured RPG luminaries will include Steve Jackson (GURPS, Munchkin, Ogre) and Matt Finch (Swords & Wizardry and OSRIC).

For full coverage, including photos and perhaps some videos of the events, join our Facebook group.

We’ll also be distributing our flyer while at Owlcon to raise awareness of our group.

 

Much of Older D&D Material To Be Re-Released

2012 January 29
by Stan Shinn
players-handbook

Enworld posted transcripts of a recent Mike Mearls (D&D Next designer) interview which revealed these upcoming D&D product plans.

The full Enworld article featured a discussion of D&D products for 2012, followed by a Q&A session. This transcript is paraphrased, with some responses shortened.

Much of the 1E and other older material will once again become available:

Any plans to rerelease the other products for 1E and 2E and other editions, either in print or electronically?

We are looking at making a lot of that older material available to you, but we want to make sure we do it right for you guys and for Wizards. We’ll have more news on that. (source)

The new 1E reprints covers will be new but the interior is almost entirely the same:

Are the 1E reprint the exact same as old books?

They’re identical except for the old ads at back. (source)

More boxed sets are coming:

More boxed sets coming?

If it makes sense for the product, yes. Boxes are great, we’re looking at it as far as what the product does/value, etc. Happy with them. (source)

Even publishing Dragon magazine again is being reconsidered:

Any chance of print Dungeon or Dragon mags?

Looking at possibilities. (source)

 

1st Edition AD&D Books Re-Release; 1e Playstyle Support Coming

2012 January 19
by Stan Shinn

WOTC is releasing new 1st Edition AD&D books:

Wizards of the Coast will reprint limited premium versions of the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks by Gary Gygax to help support the Gygax Memorial Fund.  The new editions will be released in limited quantities exclusively for the hobby channel on April 17, 2012.  They’ll include the original art and content with new cover designs commemorating the re-release.

The three core books being released are:

1st Edition Premium Dungeon Master’s Guide, a 240-page hardcover at $44.95

1st Edition Premium Player’s Handbook, a 112-page hardcover at $34.95

1st Edition Premium Monster Manual, a 128-page hardcover at $34.95 (source)

This comes on the heals of announcing you can play 1st Edition style roleplaying in the upcoming D&D Next (5e) game. Monte Cook talks about the new edition in his latest Legends & Lore column explaining the ambitious goals of the design team:

  • “……this sounds so crazy that you probably won’t believe it right now—we’re designing the game so that not every player has to choose from the same set of options. Again, imagine a game where one player has a simple character sheet that has just a few things noted on it, and the player next to him has all sorts of skills, feats, and special abilities. And yet they can still play the game together and everything remains relatively balanced. Your 1E-loving friend can play in your 3E-style game and not have to deal with all the options he or she doesn’t want or need. Or vice versa. It’s all up to you to decide.” (source
  • “…this isn’t another salvo in the so-called edition wars. This isn’t an attempt to get you to play Dungeons & Dragons in a new way. This is the game you’ve already been playing, no matter what edition or version you prefer. The goal here is to embrace all forms of the D&D experience and to not exclude anyone. Imagine a game where the core essence of D&D has been distilled down to a very simple but entirely playable-in-its-right game. Now imagine that the game offered you modular, optional add-ons that allow you to create the character you want to play while letting the Dungeon Master create the game he or she wants to run. Like simple rules for your story-driven game? You’re good to go. Like tactical combats and complex encounters? You can have that too. Like ultra-customized character creation? It’s all there.”  (source

The blogging community posted some early reactions here:

It will be interesting to see how WOTC’s strategy with regard to old school style roleplaying unfolds.

D&D 5.0 Announced; 0e/1e Style Gameplay Option Hinted

2012 January 9
by Stan Shinn
d-and-d-5.0

Today Wizards today finally announced their official work on D&D 5.0 along with a NY Times article on this upcoming release.

What’s interesting for the OSR / Grognard players are some hints that they are working to accomodate early edition play in their future ruleset. They hinted of this at Gencon last year, and again are hinting of this in their announcement today:

We want a game that rises above differences of play styles, campaign settings, and editions, one that takes the fundamental essence of D&D and brings it to the forefront of the game. In short, we want a game that is as simple or complex as you please, its action focused on combat, intrigue, and exploration as you desire. We want a game that is unmistakably D&D, but one that can easily become your D&D, the game that you want to run and play….We seek to reach as many people as possible, from the gamer who just started with D&D last week to the gaming group that has been together since the early-1970s. (source)

Rumors based on past Monte Cook blog posts hints 
(he’s the one engineering the 5.0 release) make it sound like the new edition with be a scalable rules toolkit that can be run in a lite 1970s style or in a more crunchy 3.5/4.0 style.

Can they pull this off without just further fragmenting their fan base? Will the bridges WOTC has burned with past fans be mended? It will be interesting to see.

It sounds like we’ll get a preview of how the new rules will work at the ‘D&D Experience convention’ in late January, and an even better look at during open playtesting starting sometime in the spring.

2012 Texas RPG Conventions

2012 January 4
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by Stan Shinn
owlconlogo

Here are some featured Texas RPG Cons coming in 2012. Other conventions may have a few RPG games, but the conventions listed below have the largest showing of tabletop roleplaying games:

AnimeFest has been doing informal ‘minicons’ at their clubhouse (they had for example a Black Friday Con on November 25-28, 2011 and a New Years Minicon on Dec. 30, 2011 to Jan. 1 2012). Follow this web site for information on new AnimeFest related gaming opportunities.

 

 

Welcome to DFW Roleplayers!

2012 January 2
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by Stan Shinn
meetup

Welcome to DFW Roleplayers!

DFW Roleplayers is a group open to all interested in games such as Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, Traveller, FATE, GURPS and other tabletop roleplaying systems. We post information about Texas gaming conventions and RPG events in North Texas. Mostly though we provide a place for people to hang out, share photos, chat about the roleplaying hobby and connect with like-minded folks in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

GM Checklist for Pathfinder Convention Games — Part II

2011 November 29
by Stan Shinn

As a follow-up to GM Checklist for Pathfinder Convention Games, here are additional tips.

In your game announcements, consider these rules:

Tell players to show up 15 minutes before the game if they have new (non-pregen) characters so you can review the characters and check the math. If you show up just as the game begins, expect to play a pregen which the GM will provide.

Announce a break schedule before the game begins and in your game announcement — one 10 minute break around the midpoint of the game often works well. 4 hours is a long time to sit at a table, and players will often simply walk off to take a break if you don’t give them one and they don’t know one is coming up.

No cell phones allowed at the table during game play — restrict checking Facebook, texting, or taking calls to the breaks.

Other ideas include:

Initiative cards with blanks for Player name, character name, Character Faction, Init bonus (and 4 rolls), Perception bonus, Sense Motive bonus, and six d20 random rolls from the players. This can speed up play and helps you remember the player/character names.

Alternatively, have tent-style name plates with both character name and player name to pass out.

Create “feat sheets”. Take the feats you’re not familiar with and write them out interspersed throughout the scenario when needed so that I have the information at hand.

Use wet wipes for hand-drawn wet-erase map mats. Also include some paper towels. Alternatively, keep a small spray bottle containing water with you. The perfect one for this application is the small spray bottle for cleaning eye-glasses.

Bring a sheet of new Pathfinder Society player numbers to pass out to any new players.