GenCon ’05 aftermath: Travel the world to meet NPCs and kill them

All the roleplaying cognoscenti at the show were talking about this: Otherworld Excursions is an “adventure tour agency,” only instead of adventuring off to some real place in this world, you go someplace in America and have some kind of location-appropriate tabletop RPG experience with a legendary GM and industry luminary. Ken Hite, John Tynes (!!!) and Dwarven Forge’s Stefan Pokorny are the starting lineup, offering events in Chicago, Port Townsend WA, and New York respectively. It feels like this idea has been waiting to happen for a while – maybe it’s been waiting for a good tabletop session to truly become a luxury item. In any event I think it’s a stellar example of how the RPG industry will likely adapt to market change over the next ten years. (Hint: services, not products.)


  1. I don’t see this working. Neat idea, but I can’t see anyone paying for it.

    1) Gamers are cheapskates. No way will any of them scrounge up the dough to do this.

    2) they’re planning meals at these fancy restaurants and such, and planning to drag along a gang of scruffy, unwashed gamers….

    3) Also, as cool as the idea of playing Cthulhu with John Tynes may be, the “x-factor” of playing with three-five random jerks blows it out of the water. No way would I pay $300 to fly to Seattle, $200 for lodging and $550 for the game, only to get stuck playing with the kind of people I try to avoid at DunDraCon.

  2. 1) This isn’t targeted at gamers so much as people who would be gamers if they had time. Instead of time, they have money. And $175 (the price tag for the Kenneth Hite Blues Explosion) is not that much more than a devoted gamer can spend on product in a couple months… a couple of months in which he might not get a game in at all. I think he’d rather game with a great GM.

    2 and 3) Well, the price tag and travel is a bit of a bozo filter, isn’t it?

    2) Your prejudices are (still) showing. These trips are aimed at older gamers with money, who, surprisingly often, have a couple of social graces lying around. If you were at GenCon and had your eyes open, you saw these guys as well as the great unwashed.

    3) Great GMs know how to moderate all kinds of playing styles, as well as how to give players with different styles what they want, and make players rise to the occasion. Read John Tynes’ articles on being a horror GM if you think there’s anything he can’t handle.

  3. This is definitely an intriguing idea at the least. I think I should look into a tour of Milwaukee and sign up to host…

  4. Re: #2. His “predujudices” might be showing, but anyone who’s been to a Con knows there’s a truth to what he’s saying, kind or not.

    While it’s nice to think that only well-groomed, social adjusted, more mature gamers with disposable income are the target audience, I wonnder … how *will* they keep the frothing, unwashed fantatics at by.

    You can’t hand-wave it away… I’d be really disappointed if my $500+ trip turned into one of *those* Con experiences.

  5. I find myself wondering how regular adventure-travel bookers keep out people who are unprepared and will only drag the whole group down with them.

  6. Good question. I wonder if they have some minimum requirements – possiibly easier with “adventure” where physical minimums can be set (for safety purposes)?

    Can they do the same? I guess would it even be fair?

    A sniff test? 😉

  7. If it were me, I would put co-players in touch with one another via email well before the trip and let them work out their compatibility for themselves… and maybe eavesdrop on the whole exchange to make sure the players don’t team up to spring bad surprises on the GM. 🙂

  8. That said… I wonder if most people would book this as a group anyway. Possibly to have a session with old friends, etc. I wonder if that’s the dynamic – most people booking together.

  9. All these are great questions, PC or not. As a founding member of Behemoth3 (the company behind Otherworld Excursions) I can tell you that the GMs must first pass the “sniff” test. Great GMs can overcome nearly all obstacles when it comes to player interaction — and these are great GMs.

    As someone who has run and played many events at various cons I understand the “do I really have to be stuck with that guy” fealing after taking my chair. Sometimes this applied to the GM. We thought about this long ago when we first started fiddling with the idea for Otherworld and Tavis Allison (another founding member) wanted to know how we could keep “problem players” under control.

    I told him that I have never encountered a gamer, unwashed or otherwise, who ruined the experience for everyone else. I simply didn’t allow it to happen. The GMs we have lined up, and those we are in final negotiations with, won’t either.

    This isn’t accomplished through any kind of torture, insults, threats or any other negativity that could break the fourth wall and distract the others, but through simple, solid roleplay that challenges everyone at the table to raise their level of play.

    I’ve seen this happen again and again, and gotten it to happen again and again, even with players who have very little to no experience with tabletop RPGs.

    I realize the world is a big place and I can’t predict what sorts of people will sign up for these tours, but we will do everything in our power to make sure no one person will be allowed to ruin the experience for any other, without becoming gamer snobs in the process.

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