Nerd Louisville 2016 Recap!

Hello fellow nerds!

We’ve had a busy year here at Nerd Louisville! First, we’ve been growing our community through the forum and social media from a few dozen to over 1200 nerds. Second, we’ve had twenty-one successful Slur Your Role events (SYR XXII starts at 4pm today!). Third, we threw our first ever gaming micro-convention–NerdLouvia. And finally, there’s the other side of our mission which is to enhance the lives of underprivileged local kids through programs like Little Nerds.

Little Nerds

In June we began the “Little Nerds” campaign to bring gaming to underprivileged children in Louisville. Our community was generous and quick about donating, and in just a few weeks we raised enough money to provide gaming books and supplies to children at Cabbage Patch Settlement House, Iroquois High School, and the Newburg Boys and Girls Club!

We are grateful to our community for their awesomeness and generosity in supporting Nerd Louisville and these youth enrichment programs. In 2017 we have several new initiatives aimed at expanding our nerd community and bringing gaming to more kids–check back for photos and details soon!

GenCon is Wondrous and Wild

GenCon 2016
GenCon 2016

Story and photographs by Michael Pfaff, Illustration by Steven Wu

GenCon is the Kentucky Derby of tabletop gaming. This chronicle of events has been recollected from my hazy and sometimes void memory of what transpired at GenCon 2016. Proceed with caution. 

Oh, and there’s some cosplay photographs at the end of each section.

Wednesday: Day 1 at GenCon

The heat of early August in Kentucky is humid and stifling. I packed my clothes and gaming supplies the night before, but I’m sweating from the frantic, last minute packing of food and booze to drag along to Indy with me. My booze list includes two six-packs of West Sixth IPA, one bottle of bourbon, one bottle of Vodka, and one bottle of Zing Zang. Bates and Salyer are both asking me, what the hell is Zing Zang? How do you not know Zing Zang? Normally, I’ll craft my own Bloody Marys with individual ingredients, but I’m packing as light as I can. It’s a mix, I tell them. Everything in one bottle. And, it’s the best mix. I’m going to need those Bloody Marys as hair of the dog.

We pick up two fellas that needed a ride on the other side of the tracks in Germantown. Who are they? I don’t know, Bates tells me. I shrug and we pull up on a side street near Shelby Park and pack them, their packs and a bag with a boffer sword stabbing out of it into Bates’ tiny Honda Civic. These guys are LARPers, and Bates makes the joke that the drive to GenCon wouldn’t be appropriate without a boffer sword lying between our seats. There’s no cargo space and we’re all packed in like nerdy sardines for our pilgrimage to the Tabletop Gaming Mecca of the Midwest.

The road to Indy is always a terrible mess. I imagine they’ve been building I-65 between Louisville and Indy perpetually since the first GenCon in 1968 (though, held in Lake Geneva, Wisc. in those days). We launch into our schedules, gaming talk, and our hopes for this GenCon. Somehow it devolves into a discussion about reality and Aristotle (or was it Plato?) and the true forms of everything. A voice from one of our new convention comrades in the back: well, that got deep quickly.

Indy swells in size during GenCon. More than 60,000 nerds pack the downtown area, swarming the convention center and everything in a half-mile radius like ants over the biggest, nerdiest ant-hill ever. Bates and crew, like many of the folks here for GenCon, are cramming six to a hotel room. I’ve thrown in on an AirBnB a bit further from the convention with some kids from Games on Tap Louisville, but it doesn’t kick-in until tomorrow. So, I need to find floor space to crash on for the night.

I flag down a couple teachers I know here early for the Trade Day and convince them to let me crash at their room. It happens to be next door to the hotel Bates is staying at, so we drive to the swanky restaurant where they’re having dinner and get the room key. The hotel is bustling and two of the elevators are down, so I wait for twenty minutes for my turn to ride up to my floor. My first priority is to get one of those hotel cots, so I call down to the desk and I’m led on an Alice-in-Wonderland-like rabbit hole of telephone operators and desk captains. Finally, I get someone with a clue and ask for a cot. We’re out, sir. Oh, wait. We have one more left. Bring it up, I tell the guy. Two bellhops are there a few minutes later. They reiterate how lucky I am, being the last cot and all. I tell them they are not so lucky: I don’t have cash to tip them.

Sleeping space secured, I take a shower and the water pressure is awful. There are probably a thousand grimy nerds taking a shower simultaneously. Fresh clothes. Two beers plus one in a paper cup to-go. It’s time to get my badge. Nerd Louisville was lucky enough to get a single press badge that I claimed immediately; perks of being president, I guess. I walk across the street toward the convention center and already the place is packed. Near will-call, there’s a line wrapping the entire length of the convention halls and back again. I can pick up my press badge at a smaller, side room, but it’s closed until tomorrow at 7am. And, there’s no way I am standing in that god-forsaken line for my event tickets, so I call around. What’s everyone up to? There’s a game going down at the Omni the teachers are playing in, so I start walking that way and alert Bates to my whereabouts.

The Omni seems like an older hotel, nicer than the teachers’ hotel. There are curling wooden banisters, painted domed ceilings with chandeliers dangling from them, marble and finely carpeted floors. I’m looking for the Victoria room on the second floor mezzanine. There are half a dozen rooms already packed with con-goers huddled around tables playing roleplaying and board games. I find the room the game is happening in and sit down to a character named Lady Something. I’m told I have telepathic powers and some other gibberish about bennies and explosions of dice. I’m introduced to the other folks at the table. They’re all friends from a past life or something. We finally get the game rolling, but the gamemaster has about a dozen words to say. I pepper him with a few questions; you know, set the scene, dude. It’s still a struggle. Bates shows up an hour later. He sits in the chair of another player’s wife. She’s on the phone. He’s playing a character that has telekinesis and healing powers. Bates just watched Stranger Things on Netflix, so he thinks telekinesis is the most powerful ability in the game. He might be right. Still, the game plods along. My beer runs out, but luckily, Bates has his Diet Dr. Pepper bottle and shares some with me. I can taste the spiced flavor of the Kraken. I get a text message from Salyer looking to hang. He meets us and watches the game finally come to a welcome end. After the game ends, Salyer tells me he couldn’t tell who the gamemaster was. I say, that’s how you know it’s a bad game.

Bates tells us the best time to get badges and tickets requires us to drink until the wee hours of the morning. So we do. The bars around the convention center range from douchey to douchier. Are those words? Luckily, the influx of nerds helps to temper the crowd a bit. We find a bar called Kilroy’s and spend the next several hours drinking. The half-priced Bell’s Two-Hearted IPAs endear this place to us more, despite the sticky floors and frat ambience. There are nerds here too. I meet two guys from Illinois and ask them what they’re looking forward to at GenCon. We’re in a board game tournament, the more talkative of the two says to me. I wish them luck and settle the tab.

The three of us stagger back toward the convention center. Surprisingly, there are still folks wandering the streets and it’s only Wednesday. Indy is a lively place when GenCon rolls into town. Where there was once a mile-long line, there is now only a handful of night owls picking up their tickets. Bates was right. It takes us about five minutes to acquire our badges and tickets. The hotel is not far. My weary head hits the pillow as the greyish twilight of morning seeps between the window curtains and I dream of medusa and malformed cosplay.

It’s going to be a long weekend.

Thursday: Day 2 at GenCon

It’s the next morning and I’m getting kicked out of the hotel room early. I have a mild hangover and not nearly enough sleep. Plus, I need the pass code to get into the AirBnB. Serendipitously, moments after packing up, I get a message on Facebook telling me just that. It’s walking distance, but I’m loaded down with my bags and a cooler. I pull up my Lyft app, but there are no drivers out. A green cab is sitting in the turnabout, so I hail him and ask if he takes debit cards. He does. My cabbie moved here from Africa. How long have you lived in Indy? Three years. He tells me his family moved here from D.C. before that and likes Indy a whole lot more than D.C. I ask him about GenCon. He chuckles. Lots of people in funny outfits. He’s talking about the cosplayers. I glance at the faire rate and it’s already at $5 and we’re not even around the block from the hotel yet. Damnit, Lyft. We slowly make our way just outside of downtown Indy and into a neighborhood called Lockerbie Square, reminiscent of colonial Williamsburg. Nice. I thank the cab driver and tip him generously to redeem karma since I didn’t tip the bellhops.

The AirBnB is incredible. It’s three stories with three bedrooms, three baths, a spacious living area, and an outdoor patio with a firepit. The Games on Tap kids should be here momentarily, so instead of settling in, I make myself a Bloody Mary and start packing a sandwich to have on me later. When they arrive, I offer them each one and we all sip Bloody Marys and explore the space. The stairs keep going up, one of them tells me. Someone is claiming the cellar. The owner said we can have what we want; just don’t drink the wine in the cellar.

We’re all eager to get to GenCon and I have an event at two o’clock. I fill up my flask with some bourbon, tuck my gaming supplies into my bag, check my camera for battery, and we all start the trek to the convention center. It’s only Thursday, but the crowds of people are already forming as we draw nearer to the convention center.

When we arrive, GenCon is in full bloom with nerds from all over the world come to participate in a symphony of gaming, cosplay, and general nerditude. It’s then a Sean Bean Lord of the Rings meme flashes in my mind: “One does not simply go to GenCon…” No, GenCon is a place of power, a place of magic and wonder, a place that will enchant and enthrall you. It’s a place where nerds are the kings and queens of the social order, free to express themselves as they like. If someone isn’t elaborately costumed, they’re wearing the nerdiest shirt they could muster. I must have seen a hundred people wearing Millenium Falcon shirts over the course of the weekend.

I finally go to the press room to pick up my badge and I spend an hour at a Burning Wheel seminar. Then, find my way to the Goodman Games area,  where all of the Dungeon Crawl Classics games are being run. I’m still getting a feel for the space and layout of all the hotels so I’m a little early. Dieter – of Louisville’s Drunk & Sailor – is there filling out pre-generated characters for the game we’re about to play. There’s a few other tables where adults and kids alike are exploring mythical and wondrous worlds in their shared imagination.

Dieter is a far better gamemaster than the previous super hero game, and we have a blast. My character dies in chaotic moment of battle where our party warrior accidentally swings his buzz-axe in a wide arc, missing a greyish ooze monster and instead hitting my character. Blood. Gore. Exposed ribs. The rest of the party promises to hire a relatively okay sculptor to create a bronzed bust of my wizard. I get a button for dying in a DCC game. I clip it to my bag next to the Nerd Louisville button. Woot!

Sleep deprivation and inebriation forcing a saving throw, I’m exhausted by the time the game ends. I venture back to Lockerbie Square to take an hour long nap. On the way, I stop into Punch Burger and order a morning burger with a fried egg on it, a basket of waffles fries, and a beer. I sit at the bar and the girl cooking my fries I notice is staring at me hard. She asks me if I’m photographing GenCon. I tell her I sure am. Official press pass and everything. She tells me she is a photographer too – well, when she’s not making french fries. Have you been to GenCon before? I ask her. Not yet, but she’d love to go sometime. I tell her it’s the best people gazing ever. I finish up and we wish each other farewell and good luck in our future photography. When I get back to Lockerbie, I claim the nearest bed up the stairs. I crash hard and dream of wizard-mechs.

It’s three hours later and dark when I awaken. The house is abuzz with voices and laughter downstairs. I wash my face and spray my contacts with fluid. Then, descend. The whole of the Games on Tap crew is home and impassioned by their first day at GenCon. They show me all the new games and merchandise they’ve purchased. Two of them are playing this bizarre, magnetic game similar to air hockey but with no air and a little ball instead of a puck. Someone is cooking pasta for everyone, but I’m eager to get back downtown for the night. Save me a bowl. I refill my flask and trek back downtown.

Back at the convention center, I’ve embroiled myself into a series of games of Werewolf. I forgot my generic tickets, so people are buying my wrist band for me. For $2, you get two hours of game time. But, you can get kicked out of a Werewolf game pretty quickly. The first game I’m in, I’m a bit too vocal about who might be the Werewolf and I look suspicious, so I’m lynched by the rest of the villagers almost immediately. Assholes. I get a Coke and find a bench next to the games waiting for a new one to start. I’m sitting next to a guy dressed as Sagat from Street Fighter. He’s from Indy, he tells me, and comes down to GenCon dressed up to play Werewolf  — religiously. I pull out my flask and not-so-sneakily spill a little bourbon into the Coke. He grins at me and I ask him if he wants to share. We spend the rest of the night drinking and playing Werewolf. We collect a few more folks and become infamous within the Werewolf circles.

At this point, my intoxicants are starting to kick in heavily. Sagat goes to piss and my teacher friends walk by and notice me. I’m staring intently and unblinking at collective of Werewolf games all by my lonesome. They ask me what’s up and I tell them I’ve been playing Werewolf all night with Sagat and he’s just gone to the bathroom. They look at me like I’m a madman and I swear it’s true. Just wait a minute and he’ll be back. He never comes back and I wonder to myself if I am indeed going nuts at this nerd convention.

I don’t remember the walk home but the next morning I have pasta stains on my shorts. 

Friday: Day 3 at GenCon

I awaken Friday and thank myself for packing the vodka and Zing Zang. Everyone staying at Lockerbie has already left for GenCon, so I have the place to myself. I walk downstairs in my underwear and proceed to splash some vodka, Zing Zang, spicy peppers, olives, and pickles into a huge beer stein. It tastes refreshing and I’m quickly stymieing my hangover. I have a Dungeons & Dragons event at noon, so I shower and rush over to the convention center. The D&D game is what you would expect from a WotC Adventurer’s League event: pretty bog standard, railroady, and tame — it’s PG13 dungeon crawling. Luckily, our dungeon master was a fairly jovial guy who kept the game on pace.

After the game event, I thought I’d roam the convention corridors solo and soak up the majesty of the sea of nerds packing the building. I’m not particularly erudite when it comes to cosplay, but GenCon seems to be a bastion for cosplayers, both professional and amateur. I stroll down the corridor before the exhibit hall and dozens of cosplayers lined up to show off their sometimes elaborate but always amazing costumes of any imaginable character from any medium; comics, video games, movies, anime, you name it. There were so many good costumes I’m sure I missed dozens that were beyond amazing and something that should be experienced in person.

Salyer was wanting to run a pickup roleplaying game in the evening, so I started walking toward the meeting place and against all odds ran into another friend from Louisville. I invite her to join us and we all head to Salyer’s hotel with the teachers in tow for a full game. Hotel gaming is one of the cornerstones of GenCon. You’ll find people in every nook and cranny playing card games, board games, roleplaying games. If there is tablespace, you can expect gamers to have occupied it with dice and cardboard. We set up in a side room of the hotel with a sliding door. Sharing our beer and bourbon, we rolled up characters for Perils on the Purple Planet. We were all dwarves, cousins and brothers, with occupations like shepherd, wood cutter, and chestmaker. Somehow we were all transported to an alien world with blue and yellow humanoids fighting over a holy place. That’s when we decided to use the garb of a skeletal god to pretend to be arisen. We stood on each others’ shoulders and commanded the alien warriors to bow before us. And, it worked. For a moment, we were gods. The laughter from our little side room must have sounded across all GenCon.

The game petered out after that and Salyer and I decided to meet Bates out on the town. We stopped into the least douchey place we could find, called The Pub, where I ordered drinks and bantered with a married couple at the bar about GenCon and places to hang out. They recommended a few places I would forget in the next few minutes. The nerds were out in full-force on Saturday night, invading and conquering the bars. We were all fairly tired and so I started walking back to Lockerbie.

I was walking north through downtown Indy when I heard a sudden shout from a streetside bar. Mike! It was one of the Games on Tap kids. They were having a late night drink and so I joined them. My flask was out so I was forced to order drinks. Bourbon on the rocks, please. I’m from Kentucky. Someone was buying shots. From that point on, the night became a drunken, blurred debauchery. Things occurred that are probably not suitable for a chronicle of nerdism.

Saturday: Day 4 at GenCon

Saturday is the penultimate and most wondrous of days at GenCon. I’m off to a slow start. My body is aching and my head is pulsing. I’ve been averaging 25,000 steps a day and probably that much in cubic volume of booze. I’ve an event at one o’clock but I forego it for a 45 minute, steamy shower. The only other registered event I have is True Dungeon at eight o’clock. The house is empty again so I’m walking around in a towel and fixing myself another Bloody Mary. It acts like a healing potion and rejuvenates me.

Today, my mission is to explore the exhibit and demo halls and get my copy of Maze of the Blue Medusa signed.

I’m walking toward the convention center when I get a text from Salyer. Let’s meet up and try to expend our generics, he suggests. I’m lamenting the fact that I have so many left and agree. After meeting up, we go looking for food. My hangover is subsiding and hunger pangs are taking over. Just outside of the convention center on Georgia is a slew of food trucks. We find one without the typical 30-person line called Muy Thai and order some awful Thai food. Now we know why there was no line. Fool me once.

GenCon is a place where huge ballrooms and grand halls are filled with hundreds, no, thousands of people at the same time playing your favorite game and games you’ve never heard of. Salyer and I go into one of the huge halls and start to wander. Warzones with elaborate terrain models. Dragons and twin engine planes in mid-flight. Mechs and soldiers waging a battle. X-wings and tie-fighters dogfighting. This hall has rows and rows of tables littered with any imaginable war and skirmish gaming. There’s a huge section of the hall for Settlers of Catan and other board games.

If you listen to our podcast, you often hear me decry conventions as nerd flea markets. Tables of people selling nerdy art, toys, games, comics, junk. The GenCon exhibit hall is different. You still have all the merchandise but it’s also riddled with people playing games, many are demos for the new shiny or prototypes for upcoming games. The whole place throbs with an energy very unlike a flea market. I’m lugging my copy of Maze of the Blue Medusa with me. The artist and co-author of Maze, Zak Sabbath, is supposed to be here today and I want to have it signed. He’s not at the booth yet. So, we continue to wander. We sign up for some games. We play several games of the fantasy take on Star Realms currently on Kickstarter called Hero Realms. It’s amazing.

We check into one of the booths the author is supposed to be at. Still nothing. So, we wait. We sign up for a couple games of the Battle Mech pods. Salyer is MetalWizard and I’m Crom. We wage war against each other in pixelated mechs from 1999. It’s fun. We’ve spent most of our generics by this time. We set up outside of the booth and wait for Zak to arrive, playing Star Realms on the floor. An Ewok walks by. Someone nearly steps on my camera. I’m too sober for this. And, then we see him. A line is already forming. Shit. I pull out my book and rush to get in line. There’s someone handing out “Zak Sabbath Saved D&D” t-shirts. We’re all in line for this punk rock porn star and artist turned roleplaying game designer from L.A. I realize we’re all part of a pretentious cult in this line. Salyer grabs one of the shirts and hands it to me and then takes off while I wait for my turn. When I step up, Zak recognizes me. Hey, I know you. Probably from that game of Apocalypse World I ran for you on Hangouts. Love your work man, keep it up. He signs my book. Someone snaps our photograph. Mission accomplished.

It’s about time to meet the True Dungeon crew. I walk over to the Hyatt where they’re posted up. We play a card game they just bought with monsters and stars on it. They make me play by just observing everyone else. I lose. We head over to True Dungeon. Here’s where I have to have a disclaimer. I invited a guy I’ve met before at GenCon to participate in True Dungeon with us. We were trying to recruit 10 players. And, when he shows up, he’s tweaked out on drugs or something. He’s the loud douchebag that annoys everyone in the group. And, I invited him. Be forewarned: don’t invite people you don’t know well to a two-hour, $60 event. That’s all I’m going to say on that.

True Dungeon is the capstone to my GenCon weekend. We’re given some tokens and enter into this dimly lit hall. There’s a staging area and we have to choose a character class. I’m the Cleric. I skim over my card. I’ve some spells and a couple neat abilities. Then, we’re led into an antechamber prior to the dungeon proper. As the Cleric, I’m required to memorized this series of a dozen beads. Each is associated with a word; love, zeal, blessing, etc. I have no clue what I’m doing. Someone tells me to associate the beads with the words. Have you seen these damn beads? I say. Finally, we enter the dungeon.

Imagine a haunted house. You have a guide. There are rooms. There are darker corridors that lead from room to room. That’s basically True Dungeon. Except, our guide was dressed as a drow of the Underdark. He’s got this white wig of long, stringy hair. And, this fuzzy black jumpsuit. Then, when a monster jumps out at you, instead of just screaming in terror – or pretending to not be afraid – you can actually fight it. Not for real. But, with these pucks you slide across a table. The shape of a man is painted on the table with different target numbers. You need to slide the puck so it lands on one of those target numbers. You hit if it does. The monster takes damage. Maybe dies. Some of us have spells. We can cast them to fire magic or heal. I have to cast a spell! Oh crap! The wizard shouts at me. You got this! The drow is shoving a bead into my face. LOVE! It’s LOVE. Yesssss. Spell goes off. 

Most of the rooms are puzzles. There’s a riddle on a plaque inside the room and a series of objects or runes. The party jumps to figuring out what everything means. They place or touch something in the right order and our drow guardian permits us to continue. Sometimes, if we’re struggling he jeers and laughs and gives us a clue. In the finale, the drow guide goes ahead of us and beckons us forward. We enter a room to find him behind an elevated wall. There’s a huge spider behind him, so it looks like his torso is growing out of the spider. He’s transformed into a drider. And, for his first attack, he targets the loudest member of the party. We all cheer. It’s incredible.

I meet Salyer at a hotel after-party. Saturday night at GenCon is like hotel after-party heaven. The lobbies are jam-packed with people diving into the hottest, newest game they just bought. Salyer’s glowing from an amazing DCC game he just got out of, Punjar 50,000. Grab some food? We go to his hotel and grab a few beers. On the way, Salyer regales me with tales of his event. Four tables of GMs and players are all involved in the same game. Each table is a different faction. His table is Church. Another is Cops. There are more. They can communicate between tables using a transmission. You pick up a cardboard cutout of a television and pretend you’re on T.V. somewhere nearby. One guy pretends to be a doctor recommending the inquisitors take their vitamins as he’s relaying his transmission. There’s a Doom Planet hurtling toward Punjar and the mission is to stop it. The four tables fail. Punjar is destroyed.

A random guy on the street hears us talking and introduces himself. He’s one of the referees for the Cthulhu Masters tournament. Oh, Bates is in that. There’s some naval folks investigating bizarre whale sounds in the Bermuda triangle. The submarine goes missing. The people still on the ship have to figure out what the heck is going on. Then, Cthulhu shows up or something. He promises to email us a copy of the adventure and we tell him he has stiff competition in Punjar. At the hotel, I change into my Zak Sabbath Saved D&D shirt. Salyer changes into his Punjar shirt. Some people are playing a Goonies board game. We banter for a bit and then walk back toward the bars.

We’ve just finished our burgers at The Pub. Salyer borrows a lighter from a cute, obvious non-nerd named Carol. What are you all out doing tonight, Carol? Oh, we’re geek watching. I laugh. We’re some of the geeks. A random guy comes up and asks me about my Zak S shirt. Are you Zak S? No, Zak looks way cooler than me. I can’t tell if he’s a nerd or not. Doesn’t matter. Carol’s proximity to nerds starts to reveal her own nerdiness. She starts talking about Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. At first, I think she’s just a show watcher. But, then she delves into this long-winded theory about how Meera Reed is actually Jon Snow’s twin sister because Howland Reed is such good friends with Ned she was raised in the Neck with the crannogmen. She and her friend both have Harry Potter tattoos. My mind starts to explode. She’s a goddamn nerd. Eventually, we have nothing left to talk about. She’s “fiscally conservative, socially liberal”. I tell her I’m the inverse. She doesn’t get the joke and walks off. Salyer and I finish the night reminiscing about our time here at GenCon. I walk him back to his hotel, grab my bag, and proceed on a long walk home. I’m exhausted. I dream I’m a refugee on Punjar.

Mike with Zak Sabbath, artist and co-author of Maze of the Blue Medusa.

Sunday: Day 5 at GenCon

It’s the last day of GenCon. I’ve got one event. I’m playing the aforementioned Maze of the Medusa run by the publisher of the book. Salyer was supposed to play with me but is trying to hawk his Warhammer army. So, Bates agrees to play in his stead.

No Bloody Marys for me. On the walk in I stop at Wild Eggs. I need a good breakfast. I sit at the semi-circular bar. Everyone is facing each other. I order eggs, bacon, grits, and a biscuit. No coffee. Just water. I’m dehydrated beyond belief. Four days of drinking will do that to you. I have my D&D Player’s Handbook with me. The woman next to me sees it. Are you here for the convention? What’s that book? Oh, this is Dungeons & Dragons. Suddenly, I’m explaining GenCon to the whole bar. A girl sitting with her boyfriend seems wide-eyed. Oh, I wanted to go, she says. She has friends who are cosplayers. She helps me explain being nerdy. The woman next me and her husband are in town for a wedding. It was downtown. I smile and tell them that’s bad scheduling. Our food comes all at the same time and everyone quiets down and eats. I finish first and tell them I’ve got a game to be at around one o’clock. I’m late. So long!

Bates gets to the JW Marriott where the game is before me. He’s texting me telling me he sees me. Walking. Crossing the sidewalk. Yes, I know what I’m doing, Bates. You don’t have to provide me status updates. Send me directions to the room we’re supposed to be in. We’re on the third floor, way in the back. Ken is running the game. We’ve only talked online. He recognizes my name. Good to meet you in person. I’m playing the Barbarian. Conan the Barbarian. Ken kicks the game off. We’ve stolen a painting and get transported into the mythical maze. We meet a giant worm in a garden that speaks silly. We fight some chameleon women. A severed hand with an eyeball in it and a snake tail strangles the Cleric and kills him. Then the creature begins to face-hug our Ranger. The ranger sucks the eyeball out of the hand and is about to bite into it when a moon-headed man enters the chamber. We can’t tell lies in the light of his head, so when we admit we’re there to steal valuable objects, he teleports us all to random rooms in the maze. I’m in a room where two toy soldier armies are waging an epic battle. They are in awe of me. The game fades to black as I lead them on a rampage through the rest of the maze.

Bates and I thank Ken for running the game. Bates tells me he was not looking forward to that game after such a long weekend of gaming, but he really enjoyed it. We walk to get his car. I say goodbye to Lockerbie and load up my stuff. We pick up the two guys who rode up with us. And, soon we’re on the road to Louisville. On the ride home, we get stuck in traffic. We’re talking about our time at GenCon, what we want to do differently, what we learned that we can apply to Nerd Louisville’s mini-convention coming up in November, and then we have nothing to talk about so we put on a podcast. Hours later Bates drops me off.

GenCon. It’s amazing. And, truly the best four days in gaming. But, it’s good to be home.

Date Night: Join the (Adventure) Party

Nerd Louisville Date Night

Join the (Adventure) Party!

Written by Brandon Stettenbenz, Photography by Mike Pfaff

My wife has way more tabletop role-playing game (RPG) experience than I do. She played Dungeons & Dragons 2.5 and 3, but refused to play 4.0. Don’t ask me what the nuances are because I still don’t know, and I’m man enough to admit it. Although I played Dungeons & Dragons on Commodore 64 (it was older than me) and various level-based RPG video-games over the years, I never had the opportunity to play a pen-and-paper D20 game.

So when Ariel bought me my own set of rad dice, I promised her we’d find an RPG group. It’s hard to find 2-4 other people, a good dungeon master, and 3+ hours to play an RPG that works for everyone’s schedule. That’s why Slur Your Role, one of our awesome Nerd Louisville events, is a great opportunity for couples that want to game together. After all, many games (including all tabletop RPGs) require more than two to do battle.

In a similar vein, escape rooms are a great option for couples or small groups of friends who want to participate in fun activities together. Like tabletop RPGs, escape rooms require cooperation, communication, and problem-solving skills to complete the mission. Plus, unlike RPGs, escape rooms are typically timed, making them a perfect option for those who may not have several hours to devote to gaming. If you’re in the Fort Worth area, there are several escape room Fort Worth to choose from that offer a variety of themes and challenges, providing a unique and exciting experience for couples and friends alike.

Slur Your Role Tabletop Gaming (2nd & 4th Sundays)

Less of a traditional date than a social opportunity for couples, Slur Your Role is bi-weekly tabletop RPG event at Kaiju in Germantown (adjacent to both the Highlands and Old Louisville). Kaiju is a laid back bar themed in the giant monsters of its namesake. There are big Godzilla toys, as well as giant robots decorating the bar and kaiju artworks throughout. The nerdy decor helps you feel right at home with dice in one hand and a pint in the other.

Ariel - Slur Your Role XI
Ariel Fischer dungeon master’s a game of Dungeons & Dragons at Slur Your Role XI.

Whether you want to fight dragons, survive the wasteland, or uncover the mysteries of the Elder Gods, Slur Your Role has you covered. Games are comfortable at 4-6 plus a game master and the three separate rooms keep it from feeling claustrophobic. Ariel and I have been in the D&D group thus far, playing a thief and a magic user respectively. We’ve survived catacombs and ogres, ghouls and monsters, with the help of fighters, paladins, and rogues. We’ve talked to (and robbed) wise, old men, and dodged the ire of a bandit mage. As I’m a n00b at D&D, I’d say it’s been tough but fair, and never boring. Converting all D&D games to 5th edition (with our recent Louisville “multiverse” initiative) gave adventurers more room to manipulate their fate with extended skills and experience potential. You can also use your characters in multiple games, even outside of Slur Your Role, instead of starting from scratch.

Sterling - Slur Your Role XI
Sterling Pratt game master’s a Mutant Future adventure at Slur Your Role XI.

Sunday afternoons aren’t a popular time for a date, but there’s less of a bar crowd than Friday or Saturday nights, and nearly all the other patrons are there to game. So while you won’t be flirting and chatting the entire time, you also aren’t yelling over the jukebox and typical singles crowd. You’re also showing off your creativity and passion, which is nerd for “sexy”. So grab your crush or partner and sign on for an adventure that will challenge your collective nerd skills. You’ll build romantic rapport with your date and maybe even make some new friends.

Andy - Slur Your Role XI
Andy Bates describes a map to his players during a game of Dungeons & Dragons.

All our welcome! The next Slur Your Role is this Sunday 7/10/2016. Adventuring is free, but the drinks aren’t. So bring your imagination, your date, and don’t forget to tip your bartender


  • Don’t try to hook-up your characters—other players might not enjoy your romantic sub-plot.
  • You’re committing to several hours of interacting with other people—don’t flirt the whole time.
  • Stick to your character, even if that means acting against your real-life date. But keep in mind, if their character gets killed, they probably won’t want to stick around and spectate.
  • The Kentucky Taco Co. will be at Slur Your Role XII with food, so we got you covered for dinner.
  • Above all, have fun and share it. And, remember the golden rule of gaming & romance: keep the competition light-hearted.

Jeff Dehut & Pocket Dungeon Quest

eff points at PDQ at Powell's City of Books

Written by Brandon Stettenbenz

Jeff Dehut is a creative professional living in Louisville who has spent the last four years focusing on game development. His largest project to date has been “Pocket Dungeon Quest” (PDQ) and its first expansion “Don’t Go Alone”. He enjoys games because he believes they’re great for learning life and work skills including communication, social skills, team work, and healthy competition. Despite his success since moving here, Jeff is new to our local community:

“I haven’t been in Louisville for too awful long, so I am still relatively new to this particular scene. [But] gamers who I have met here in Louisville are always eager to talk about games and willing to include anyone who wants to play.”

It was Dehut’s love of games and their impact on people’s lives and friendships that drove him to make his tabletop concept a reality. Jeff had the idea to translate video game concepts to tabletop for a long time, and when he was let go from a job, he seized the opportunity. Beginning with paper and pencil sketches, Jeff translated his idea to a prototype that went through many iterations as the illustrated concepts from his brain became puzzle pieces of a then untitled game.

Pocket Dungeon Quest tiles
Early prototype designs for Pocket Dungeon Quest tiles.

Having just moved to Louisville before starting PDQ, Jeff didn’t have many connections in the local community, but he did meet some people at LVL1 Hackerspace who helped play test early versions of the game. After many revisions of both rules and art, the pieces of his concept eventually formed PDQ:

“I went through many prototypes using a printer, glue and foam core. Play tests included [myself], print & play copies sent to friends, and early prototype group plays. Feedback was collected and modifications were made until everything worked smoothly. The most important thing to me was to make sure Pocket Dungeon Quest was fun to play!”

When he was satisfied with the art and gameplay, Jeff made a final prototype using chipboard and mod podge, which he shipped to reviewers. Having seen the success that other independent tabletop developers had with Kickstarter, Jeff focused on that campaign first:

“Much of the community I interacted with was online. The greatest thing that I noticed about gamers and game developers in general is that everyone is very willing to help and wants to see you succeed. “

Jeff took to Kickstarter where he raised $27,000+ from 839 backers, the majority of which pledged enough to get the physical game. Others were able to download and print their own edition. Completed in 2015, the PDQ campaign met all its original stretch goals (above and beyond the core project), but did not reach an additional goal of $35,000 for development of a mobile app version. During the campaign, Jeff hit the convention circuit with his prototype to generate interest and get the word out about PDQ.

PDQ played on custom mat
PDQ played on custom mat (mat coming soon)

Since the first campaign was such a success, Jeff returned to Kickstarter for Don’t Go Alone, an expansion to PDQ. Don’t Go Alone recently finished its campaign with funds 200% over its original goal totaling $22,000+ and showing that there’s a substantial market for independent games. Now in production with Breaking Games, Jeff says Don’t Go Alone will be available to buy this Fall, 2016.

In addition to sending copies out to campaign pledgers, Jeff has distributed PDQ locally. Squire Greene at Book and Music Exchange in the Highlands said that he’s carried the game for about eight months, and it has sold moderately well. Jeff has plans to distribute both games on a broader scale in the future:

“I am so grateful for the small shops that took the chance to carry a couple copies of my game—[some] quickly found that they needed to come back for reorders. There are more [development and distribution] plans in the works, but those will remain a surprise for the time being!”

Don't Go Alone cover art
Don’t Go Alone cover art

Kickstarter has been a great platform for independent tabletop creators, sporting a healthy community of gamers willing to pledge money to make games. Other locals, including Wet Ink Games who we featured previously, have also succeeded in funding their games through Kickstarter. Jeff said that found great support and good feedback on Kickstarter, and he also learned a lot about marketing games during both campaigns. But he cautions that creators with big dreams should begin small:

“I have spoken with too many indie developers who believe they have created the next Magic: The Gathering. There is nothing wrong with aiming high, but at some point you have to bring your ideas back down to the real world. Games like Magic: The Gathering have had decades to improve, expand and perfect. Your first game will never be the next Magic. Start small, start simple. If that succeeds, then expand it. A good test is to hand your game with instructions to complete strangers. If they can figure it out without you guiding them, then you might be on to something!”

Jeff’s success while living in Louisville has made a positive impression on him. While we weren’t able to reach any local gamers who’ve played PDQ to get their impressions, speaking with Jeff about the game definitely piqued our interest. Although no community that I know of is ultimately large enough to fully support game making, Jeff’s journey with PDQ shows that having the support and feedback of local players is essential. In his words:

“I see the local gaming community embracing more indie games, and welcoming the new developers. I for one certainly appreciate that!”

Check out some additional concept art for Pocket Dungeon Quest and Don’t Go Alone in the gallery below:

All of the photos and graphics above are by Jeff Dehut. He has also published three video games games for iOS, Android and Steam–Draw a Stickman: Epic; Draw a Stickman: Epic 2; and Battlepillars. You can find more about PDQ and Jeff on his personal website.

Slur Your Role: Tabletop Adventure Fueled by Imagination & Alcohol

Original digital art by Steven Wu - Slur Your Role dragon

The town of Izuz is a hive of scum and villainy renowned for its dangerous storms and treacherous streets. In a murky tavern crawling with thieves and worse, seven strangers sit together warily sipping ale, waiting to hear about a perilous job. They leer with distaste at the squat wizard who has gathered them: “Polk will be here–he offers a pile of gold for this task. Just wait a little longer.”

Polk arrives wearing the guise of a beggar and tells them that he requires a painting held by the merchant lord Yondow. Growing angry, he refuses to reveal the nature of the cruel painting: “Very well, half up front, and I’ll show you what the painting can do IF you bring it to me.”

The manse of Yondow is a mysterious spire rumored to be built like a fortress with vicious creatures and a small army to match its imposing shadow. None of our crew have ever set foot in the spire or laid eyes on the wealthy lord. Using underworld contacts, they plan to infiltrate the compound disguised as suppliers of wild boar for the feast, a tasteful alternative to the slavers supplying bodies for dark ritual…

Adventure awaits at Slur Your Role VIII, May 8th

The above was excerpted from the Dungeons and Dragons “Eldritch Isles” game at our last event. If you haven’t made it to Kaiju for Slur Your Role, you’re missing fantastic opportunities. From Conan cleaving a grotesquely obese necromancer in twain with a thunder axe, to chimeras, gangsters, elder gods and red-shirts, our diverse tabletop games are a raucous adventure.

Read on for Slur Your Role VIII previews from our game masters!

Dungeons and Dragons 5e multi-verse: Eldritch Isles

After catching fire to the hedge maze, killing the medusa-lion, splitting Yondo in half, and making your daring escape with the enchanted painting, False Chanterelle, you slip into the smog-filled, rain-slicked alleyways of Izuz. The painting is returned to Polk, who awards you the fee he promised. You take your ill-gotten gains and spend it lavishly on revelry (level up!). And, perhaps resupply or upgrade your equipment with what is left. Word spreads far and wide of an axe-wielding barbarian and his thieving friends willing to invade a sacred Festival of Flame in a wealthy merchant’s manse and steal a valuable artifact…

Izuz - Eldritch IslesIt’s but a few nights later when Polk returns to the Onyx Lamprey and offers a few daring adventurers a chance to see the magic of False Chanterelle for themselves. Polk invites you to his tower and after dining on roasted eel and strong wine, he leads you up to the highest chamber in his tower. Rain blows in from the window and he pulls the black covering, exposing the painting. Moonlight streaks in and touches False Chanterelle and suddenly the chained woman in the painting animates and turns to you, pleading for help.

“When you touch this painting, you will be transported inside it. If my research proves correct, somewhere in that painting there is a way into the Maze of the Blue Medusa. Perhaps the woman knows. Enter and bring me any art, curios, or items of interest and I will reward you with gold and jewels.

You won’t have much time in the maze… When the moon ceases striking the painting, you will be expelled and returned here. If you die… And, some of you probably will… you will be forever stuck inside.”

When we play again, the (un)fortunate souls at my table will be entering the Maze of the Blue Medusa. Good luck!

– Mike Pfaff

Deadlands Noir RPG

Deadlands Noir (Savage World rules)

New Orleans, 1935. Whoever called this “the Big Easy” sure got that one wrong. Things are tough all over. Honest work is hard to find, and even dishonest jobs are getting scarce. The one thing that’s not in short supply is trouble. From shady thugs to crooked cops to Mafia soldiers, there’s plenty of characters out there looking to give an honest Joe a hard time.

And that’s not the worst of it. There are stories going round about things that go bump in the night. Things you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley on a darker night. And those stories aren’t just coming from rummies or saps who read that Epitaph rag.

Still, there are a few heroes left in the concrete jungle. Steely-eyed private dicks, fast-talking grifters, wild-eyed inventors, and shadowy hooligans still struggle against the encroaching darkness. With enough moxie—and more than a little luck—they might just be enough to turn the tide.

– James Sugrue

Star Trek + Cthulhu RPG

Star Trek / Cthulhu

Set Phasers for Ftagn!!

Dead Light is a Star Trek the old series mashup with the horror of the Cthulhu Mythos! Play Kirk, Spock, Bones or one of the other great Enterprise bridge crew as they investigate the mystery of deep space outpost 19. Some laughs, some drinking, some killing, and if we’re all lucky, Kirk will lose his shirt…AGAIN!!

Using classic call of cthulhu rules for ease of play.

-Matt McCloud

Achtung! Cthulhu RPG

Achtung! Cthulu

I’ll be running “Three Kings,” the first mission in the Achtung! Cthulhu series. You play Allied spies and commandos fighting Nazis and Cthulhu in World War II. If your character survives, you can play her or him again in future missions. I ran this mission at ConGlomeration and it might have been the best one-shot adventure I’ve ever GMd. Written by Sarah Newton for Modiphius Games, converted to 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu. Achtung! Cthulhu link:

-Andy B



Slur Your Role is open to anyone over 21. The event is free and walk-ins are welcome. Also, imbibing alcohol isn’t required, but please tip the bartender no matter what you order.

We highly encourage showing up right at 4 pm to secure your spot in the tabletop game of your preference. Check in at the front of the bar where we’ll be managing signups. RSVP on Facebook and join the conversation!