These days Gaming conventions are clearly something of a cottage industry.
Hardly a week goes by where I don’t hear about a new con kicking-off somewhere nearby (who would have guessed those plastic ponies I grew up with in the ’80’s would become such a cult among middle-aged males in the early 21st Century?).
But in the Game of Conventions, it takes a special breed of gathering to be able to slug it out over the long haul and persist despite the ever evolving landscape that is Gamerdom. One such Con is Connecticut’s largely homegrown, Anonycon.
With it’s inaugural debut in 2001, Anonycon is one of the longest running gaming conventions in the North East corridor (older even than the vaulted PaxEast: c.a. 2004). Anonycon also boasts one of the catchier slogan’s for a Con; “Games so Good they Turn Undead” and has the dubious honor of being one of first gaming conventions I myself attended not too long ago. (Check out my first tip-toe into the Undeadery Anonycon waters here)
Since my first Anonycon I’ve witnessed my share of cons and meets in the gaming world. But it was with an especially warm and fuzzy feeling that this past December I got the chance to return to one of the first gaming getaways I ever experienced.
This time around though I went with a bit more focused intent as well as the welcoming grins of some familiar faces. I was also able to get a peek behind the scenes at some of the goings on of the con as an official Anonycon Adviser: a title graced unto me by the con organizers for some financial tips I gave the founders during the year and which included some insights into the convention and its unique place in the world of gaming.
Anonycon, like many cons and unlike many cons, doesn’t simply have a long history of running traditional games, but also has a rich and involved repeat fan and customer base, many of whom return year after year for some of the home-brewed RPG gaming sessions put on by the con’s organizers.
With heavy doses of Cthulhu themed RPGs mixed in alongside organized play systems like the ever-present Pathfinder and budding D&D Next, my first outing to the Con definitely taught me that Anonycon embraces divergent systems.
Long-standing designers and writers the likes of which include Kevin Kulp (A recent Kickstarter champ with his TimeWatch game) and Jason Stevan Hill (A wordy original Anonycon GM), and the perennial con-vendor and author Max Gladstone (Craft Sequence), bring their own systems to the con as well as run variant rule-systems arguably less familiar than the big-red-box brands.
Some of these systems delve into less traditional gaming territory such as the Scooby Doo Mystery-Comedy games that took place this year under the Gumshoe system and run by one of the originators and co-founders and influence-rs of Anonycon: Anise Strong.
Thanks in large part to the cons guiding principal and organizer, Max Saltonstall, Anise was gracious enough to share some of the elixir of success that contributes to Anonycon’s year-after-year appeal.
(paraphrased, a good deal)
1. Who is Anise Strong and what is your relationship with Anonycon?
I am one of the founders of Anonycon. Anonycon was founded in 2001 by Max, myself, Rebeca, Si and Adam Morse, my husband. We were all Yale Grads.
2. What was the inspiration for Anonycon?
Seeing the success of ConnCon and wanting to create a Fall-Winter convention with high-quality games and a friendly environment open to all.
3. What type of scenarios do you run?
Bubblegum- light and fluffy with humanoid monsters. Also horror games.
4. What type of games appeal to you?
Immersive, dramatist, less combat heavy more emotional or comic. I am system-neutral and not really into dungeon crawl. For genres I like horror and comedy– hence bubblegum.
5. Other than bubblegum games, what other systems do you run?
My homebrew- Aalterdam which is a themed fantasy setting. It is a year-to-year evolving setting that deals with specific themes and regions similar to historical periods but with a mythical bent. I have authored 14 scenarios for it and have run them for many years at Anonycon–almost every year.
6. What kind of themed setting is Aalterdam?
One of exploration– for example the Lost City of Gold deals with dwarves, but there was also a themed year with evil vampires who tasted like chocolate. It’s not medieval per se, more modern but with flavors like Aztec, Chinese, Icelandic. There are issues concerning political and social colonialism, and historical references like the Fountain of Youth.
7. What system does it use?
All the basic D&D ones– 3.0, 3.5, 4.0 and Next.
8. Are there any modifications to the core ruleset?
There are. For instance there is a magical Painter class- where a character can paint with a brush in the air– and create illusions and other magical effects with spell components.
9. Aside from the theme and mechanical differences are there any other items about Aalterdam you are especially proud of?
It is a diverse world with gender representation and scenarios and modules designed around real-world issues. Like marriage equality. That was something we tackled in the 2003 modules for the game setting– family trees for nobles. The princely families of Aalterdam had to deal with same-sex marriages and I felt it was important that people in Aalterdam could marry people of the same sex despite problems of biology. We solved that with surrogate parents.
10. Aside from a Convention founder, what else do you consider yourself?
A writer, a runner of games and scenarios and a history professor.
Anise and the other con organizers where very welcoming throughout the event and helpful with some of the Con background and kind of embody the Anonycon experience.
I did attempt to score some further gaming insights from other home-brew DM’s in residence at the convention but upon such requests for interviews I was handedly rebuffed and/or ignored–such is life.
But once again, overall the con, with its exuberant and warmly mellow hosts was a homely experience, very definitely the con I remember, and the one folks seem to enjoy returning to year after year. So if the winter months seem a bit chilly next year perhaps you can warm up with some good gaming vibes with the folks up in Connecticut at next years Anonycon and experience some Scooby, some Cthulhy or maybe some Aalterdamy and their home-brew magicks yourself and