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Joining the Party: PAX East 2012
Tracy Hurley

T here's a reason why PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) uses the phrase "Welcome Home." The PAX crew transforms something as large and impersonal as the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center into a home and community for every flavor of geek you can imagine—especially gamers. Video, console, computer, board, tabletop, card, and arcade games all coexist within one building, along with panels, seminars, and concerts. Not only is PAX massive, with an expected attendance of 70,000, but the diversity of interests also draws a diverse crowd.

Wizards of the Coast at the Show

This year the Wizards of the Coast booth featured a big screen TV playing a video introducing newcomers to the Underdark. As you emerged from the other side, you were greeted by a towering Lolth. Waiting outside was Drizzt Do'Urden. In addition to the booth, they hosted a number of panels, including one covering the future of D&D:

Tabletop Play Area

Tabletop games, including roleplaying, collectible card, and board games, are hardly an afterthought at PAX East. There's a board game library and tons of free play tables. A number of game designers attended with games they had in design, and played them with anyone who stopped at their table. As for D&D, the RPGA had a large section (about 60 tables I believe) with people playing the Learn-to-Play, Delves, a number of the board games, as well as sneak peeks of Rise of the Underdark, Dungeon Command, and D&D Next.

From Chris Tulach:

The DM Challenge this year was Elemental Chaos themed, to tie into the current season of D&D Encounters and Heroes of the Elemental Chaos. DMs were expected to create a 7th-level adventure and provide characters for the players. A field of 17 DMs created their own custom adventures, and a great time was had by all!

Winners of the DM Challenge were:

  • First: Melissa Lewis-Gentry
  • Second: Roger Alix-Gaudreau/C Steven Ross

On Sunday morning at 11 AM, we also ran a Lords of Waterdeep tournament. We had 24 players participate in the entry round. The final round consisted of a table made up of the winners from all the entry round tables. All players that advanced to the final table received Lords of Waterdeep. The winner of the tournament was Robert Ogilvie, who also took home all three D&D Adventure System games; the final round further included: Ariel DeMinelli, Jonathan Humphreys, Sean Hockin, and Nick Destefono.


Lots of people enjoy the console and computer gaming (they even have bring-your-own-computer) at PAX, but my favorite has to be the arcade. The American Classic Arcade Museum, normally located in Weirs Beach, NH, brought their traveling exhibit to the convention center, complete with dim lighting and booming music. Pictures from previous years are available on their website.


Some booths that caught my eye include:

Geek Chic: Many might know Geek Chic for their awesome gaming tables, including the one featured in a PvP web comic, but they make a number of other wooden products as well, including weapon art, wands, dice towers, and mustache monocles.

Guild Launch: For those who play online games, especially MMOs, Guild Launch is an interesting site that lets guilds build their own website.

Utilikilts: Who doesn't like kilts? OK, feel free to not answer that question—but if you do like wearing one, Utilikilts is a great place to browse.

Skallops: Take a deck of playing cards (or heck, some old Magic: the Gathering cards that don't fit into your Commander deck), plus a set of Skallops, and build awesome sculptures out of them. These little wooden clips, which resemble (naturally) a scallop, connect the cards at a number of angles.

Dragon Dice: Originally a product of TSR, the Dragon Dice product was bought be SFR. They've updated the rules and are producing sets again.

Tavern Tales

  • Looking at the various battle map options and not sure which way to go? Mike Shea from SlyFlourish provides an overview of the options and also tips about each.
  • Organized Play can be a confusing topic for the uninitiated. The Tome Show crew (Jeff Greiner and myself) interview Chris Tulach and learn the secrets of organized play, past and present.
  • Venture forth into the dungeon and learn to understand and respect it's long heritage in D&D. While you're in inimitable Steve Winter's Howling Tower, also check out the posts on the history of random encounters and their uses.
  • Every edition has its own terms and concepts. For newer players, it's not always easy to find them. Here's some D&D cant from the past.
  • Pacing in a sandbox game can frustrate even the most seasoned of DMs. Keith Baker gives some tips in his Dungeon Mastering post Playing in the Sandbox.
  • Counting squares and remembering the area of effect for spells can take up valuable time at the table. Make your own area of effect templates to help speed things along.
  • Sometimes adventurers can be a bit too cautious, frequently leaving the dungeon to rest up instead of pushing forward. While random encounters and restocking are used to keep the benefits of leaving in check, this expanded table by Grognardia complicates matters further with rival adventuring parties.
  • Interested in learning more about Animal Companions? The Roving Band of Misfits dives into the topic in their Level Up! podcast.
  • When clever players meet clever DMs, fun things can happen. While it won't work for every group, I'm glad it worked for this one. Greywulf tells us the story of the Arrow of Returning.
  • Did you know Heikki Holmas, Norway's new Minister of International Development, is a D&D player? He even won the Norwegian Championship in 1989 and was a founding member of RegnCon, an RPG convention in Bergen, Norway.
  • Find out what a weapon says about your character in this Dungeon's Master article.
  • Character resurrection is a common trope in fantasy literature and, by extension, D&D games. However, sometimes it makes more sense to move on to a new character rather than resurrect the dead. This article explores the topic and provides some ideas for how to integrate the new character into the story.
  • Part of keeping players involved in the storyline of the game is keeping up their suspension of disbelief.
  • To a DM, running a table full of lone wolf characters can be a bit like herding cats. There's nothing wrong with it but sometimes things could be a bit easier. In The Art of the Cross-Backstory, Ravyn discusses ways to integrate elements of the PCs' backstories.
  • And finally, join freelancers Steve Townshend and Mike Shea as they discuss adventure design on the Critical Hits podcast.

Community Discussions of D&D Next

Tracy Hurley is a D&D blogger, podcaster, and freelance game designer. On any given night, there is a 50% chance you will find her on Twitter as @SarahDarkmagic, a 10% chance you'll find her on the Tome Show, 4Geeks4e, or the DM Round Table, a 25% chance she's home plotting world domination with her husband, and a 15% chance she's planning a sneak attack. She is rarely surprised, never flat-footed, and uses Encounter powers as At-Wills.
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