Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Origins for Newbies - Gaming Groups

Gamers make up Origins; without them the convention would be nothing. When they band up and run games together, they become gaming groups.

There are a number of gaming groups at Origins that run games throughout the entire convention, and do an amazing job at it. This isn't an easy task, either.

Think about it - Origins is 5 days. The average RPG is 4 hours, so conceivably you could run 3 games a day (assuming that person took one game slot break). Thats 12 hours a day times 4 days (Wed-Sat) and one more game on Sunday...for a total of 52 hours of gaming. Sound like a lot? It is, but yet there are individuals in these groups that do it!

Some of these groups run hundreds of hours of games throughout the con, and keep their level of enthusiasm going the entire time. They are worth checking out, and with few exceptions, are very open to new players and teaching how to play a game. These are the masters, and you can do worse in learning a game.

Some of the list below I have played games in, some I have heard good things about. As always, YMMV.

Rogue Cthulhu
Rogue Cthulhu has been running Call of Cthulhu RPGs for 15 years at Origins. They run some of the best in the con, and if you want to learn how Call of Cthulhu is really played, see them. Want to know how to find them? Just look for the black-lit room with the large inflatable Cthulhu.

Matinee Adventures
Matinee Adventures runs RPGs of various systems, including Ubiquity/Hollow Earth Expedition, 7th Sea, D&D, and Champions. I've played in a number of their games and always look forward to seeing what they are running.

Kettle of Fish
This group is focused on LARPs of all sorts - Ghostbusters, Doctor Who, Deadlands, and many others. If you've ever wanted to try a LARP, then these are the guys you want running your game!

The Guild of San Marcos
The Guild runs a living campaign of the 7th Seas RPG, and has been highly recommended to me. Check them out at the con! 

Amorphous Blob Games
AB Games runs a ton of games at Origins...too many to mention. They also run Clay-O-Rama - a game where you create monsters with play-doh which then destroy each other (a favorite of my daughters). How to find them? They're the ones with the cool hockey jerseys!

Indie Games on Demand
Indie Games on Demand is a group that runs a number of Indie RPGs such as Cthulhu Dark, FATE, Fiasco, and more. The great thing is they have an open schedule where you just show up at the start of the game and what everyone wants to play, is what you play. I have never played with them, but look forward to doing so this year!

Rogue Judges

Rogue Judges is often in the miniatures/scheduled tabletop area and can't be missed. They'll have a large board with colorful signs advertising all the games they run...and do they run a lot! RJ runs a ton of different board games throughout Origins, and all of them friendly to those new to the rules. If there's a board game you want to learn, and its on their schedule, make sure you get in their games.

Did I miss your favorite group? Leave a comment and I'll add them in!

Origins: What to Expect
Origins: Gaming
Origins: Where to stay, Where to eat
Origins: Kids
Origins: What to do
Origins: Gaming Groups

Friday, May 9, 2014

Origins for Newbies - What to do

So you've gotten to Origins, now what? Here's a list of odds and ends of things to do (aside from scheduled gaming).

Vendor Room

The vendor room opens on Thursday and closes on Sunday. Make sure you give yourself time to go through the room, demo games, and see what is for sale. I recommend going through it at least twice - once to see everything, and a second time to see everything you missed the first time.

The vendor room also has a miniatures painting area, where you get to paint 1 miniature free with your badge. (IIRC, you can pay 1 or 2 generic tokens to paint another.)

Mayfair Demo Prizes
Mayfair Games demo area.

Mayfair Games is a major sponsor of Origins and has a huge exhibit area in the vendor room where they demo many of their games. For each game you demo, you'll get a ribbon that you can attach to your badge. Once you collect 5 ribbons (clay, sheep, wheat, wood, and ore), Mayfair will give you a small prize, an entry into their huge end-of-con raffle, and a 50% off coupon! After that, you can keep going to get more prizes and raffle entries.

Their raffle at the end of the con is huge and tends to draw a lot of people.

Play Something You Never Have

Origins is a unique opportunity to play a game you may not have the opportunity to otherwise. Take this opportunity, and get in a new game to try it out.

If you've never played an RPG, sign up for one. Do you only play Pathfinder? Sign up for a Call of Cthulhu game!

Never played in a miniatures game? There's a whole room for that!

Wander Around the Miniatures Room
A Stargate based minis game.

The miniatures room is downright amazing. The effort the gamers put into the sets is incredible and its worth spending 30 minutes walking around the room to check them out and take pictures. (Just be polite and turn off your flash if someone is playing a game.)


Yes, this has to be said. Gamer funk is, unfortunately, a real thing at cons.

Don't be that guy or girl who reeks. Yes, everyone has body odor, but not doing your part to prevent gamer funk is inexcusable. Take a shower every day and put on deodorant. Its probably not a bad idea to throw a travel deodorant in your backpack too. (I admit I do)

I often wonder why deodorant companies don't set up at Origins. They'd make a killing.

Also, teenage boys out there, dousing yourself with Axe is not a shower.

Are You A Werewolf?

Are You A Werewolf? is a staple game at Origins, with games being played almost 24 hours a day; it even has its own ribbon to play in all of them. Don't bother getting an event ticket for it either - just show up with a generic and within 10-15 minutes you'll be in a game. This is a must to try at Origins.

The Smithee Awards

Like b-movies? Then go to The Smithee Awards; an annual ceremony where the audience gets to vote for the worst movie for various off-the-wall categories. Very much worth dropping into!

Vote for the Origins Awards

Anyone who has a badge can vote for the games in the Origins Awards, an annual award that recognizes excellent games. Do you part and vote, and then complain Sunday morning when the games you didn't like get voted in!

BattleTech Pods
Battletech pods.

The BattleTech Pods are virtual-reality cockpits where you battle up to a dozen other players at the con in a robot-laden battlescape. Yes, it rocks.

The Art Room

The art room is where a number of artists showcase their work at Origins, and where you can buy pieces. Highly worth going in to look at the part and support the artists.


Origins has more to offer than what I can possibly put down here. I didn't even mention the auction, the movies, and all the other special events that are around.

With the exception of some LARPs, you can wander into any room to see what they are doing. Explore...see whats going on.

Have fun!

Finally, have fun and enjoy yourself...thats why you're there!

Did I miss anything? Shoot me a message or leave a comment.

Origins: What to Expect
Origins: Gaming
Origins: Where to stay, Where to eat
Origins: Kids
Origins: What to do 
Origins: Gaming Groups

Origins for Newbies - Kids

Is Origins good for kids? Absolutely!

Should I bring my kid(s) to Origins?

Obviously, thats a question that you'll have to decide for yourself, but many parents have brought their children of various ages to Origins, from infants on up.

One thing to keep in mind though...children tend not to be as patient as adults. I would not recommend signing up for a 4 hour RPG if you have to keep your toddler with you. They're probably going to get bored quickly, which might lead to an annoyance for the other games.

What can my kids play?

The event listing will have the minimum ages to play in an event. Typically, these are not hard and fast rules, and the person running the game will have the final call. If you are unsure, ask. Your kid may be more mature than most and able to understand the rules of a game and play. If you are still unsure, stick around for a while to make sure they are OK.

Understand, however, that sometimes the ages for a game are there for a reason. You don't want your 11 year old son showing up for a Call of Cthulhu horror RPG that is meant for 18 and older, do you? (Yes, that has happened.)

Origins also has a number of games specific to children. There is usually a kids track, which gears its games to children of all ages. Also, there is usually a kids room as well, which has games for children to learn, arts and crafts, and lots of other things.

Did I miss anything? Shoot me a message or leave a comment.

Origins: What to Expect
Origins: Gaming
Origins: Where to stay, Where to eat
Origins: Kids
Origins: What to do
Origins: Gaming Groups

Origins for Newbies - Where to Stay, Where to Eat

Origins takes place over 5 days. At some point, you'll need to sleep and eat. Here are some recommendations.


There are a number of hotels in downtown Columbus that are within walking distance to the convention center. GAMA keeps a list of nearby ones on the Origins web site, along with the special rates.

These hotels will sell out. If you can, book as early as possible.

Some hotels offer free breakfast, some don't. Look into them before you book. This is a great way to save time and money.

Word of warning, the hotels connected directly to the center tend to sell out early. In fact, the Drury usually sells out before the previous Origins ends!

Don't be afraid of hotels that are a few blocks away. Origins offers a shuttle to all of the nearby hotels until late at night (2AM IIRC), so you won't necessarily have to walk.

What if you can't get into one of the hotels on the web site, or can't afford them? Columbus is a big town and there are hundreds of hotels in the area of varying prices (and quality). Most are within a 20 minute drive of the convention center.


Parking in downtown Columbus does cost money, except on Sundays when it is free to park on certain streets (if you can find a spot).

There are a number of lots in the area as well. Check out this map for a decent estimate for prices.

The convention center does have a parking deck connected directly to it. The prices tend to vary per year, but expect at least $10/day. However, this typically fills up quickly.

Can't I just park my car in a garage and sleep in my car?

Probably not. Most parking garages won't allow this and I'm sure the police would have something to say if they found you.

Technically, you could get away with this. However, by day 2, you'll smell. Trust me, you will. I've been around people who have tried this, and even though they've "cleaned up" in the con bathrooms, they still smell. Do us all a favor and just don't.


Yes, at some point you'll have to break from gaming to get food. The food within the convention center itself is horribly over-priced and really not that good. Plus, there are lots of options within a few minutes walking distance. Here is a map with some options.

Some recommendations based on personal experience:
  • Food Court - The convention center is connected to a food court that has some decent offerings, some of which are open 24 hours. Some even run specials where you can get free refills throughout the weekend if you buy one of their special cups. This is the place to go if you want to get a quick bite at a decent cost.

    Also, the convention center has coupons for the food court here. Print these off and save yourself some money. (They'll be lying around the center too.)
  • North Market - No trip to Origins is complete without going to the North Market, which is located across North High Street and a block down Spruce St. North Market contains a number of excellent, hole-in-the-wall food merchants that are to die for. Make sure you make time to walk around it and see what it has to offer before you make your final decision. Word of warning: this is always crowded, but so worth it.
  • Arena District -  A block south and a few blocks west of the convention center is the Arena District, which is home to a number of great sit-down restaurants. These include BD'S Mongolian Grill and Buca di Beppo, as well as a Starbucks for those that need their fix. This is a great way to get away for an hour or two from the con, recharge, and get good food.
  • North High Street - This road runs along the west side of the convention center, and has a number of excellent restaurants and food shops along it. I recommend checking out Barley's Brewing Company, Le Chocoholique, and The Happy Greek Restaurant (which my wife and I hit every year).
  • Also, across the street from the convention center, next to the Crowne Plaza, is Max and Erma's. Great restaurant, and very gamer friendly.

Also, on North High Street, a board game cafe called Kingmakers just opened up too! Admittedly, I've never been there, but look forward to checking it out.

If you have a recommendation for a place to eat while at Origins, please let me know!

Did I miss anything? Shoot me a message or leave a comment.

Origins: What to Expect
Origins: Gaming
Origins: Where to stay, Where to eat
Origins: Kids
Origins: What to do 
Origins: Gaming Groups

Origins for Newbies - Gaming

Ah, gaming...the reason you are probably going to Origins in the first place! In this post, I'll cover the types of gaming you can expect, and how to get into games.


Games at Origins can be broken up into two categories: ticketed events and open play.

Ticketed events are scheduled events that you purchase tickets in order to play.

Open play games are pickup games that anyone can start or join in.

Ticketed events will have rooms and tables assigned to them, while open play can occur pretty much anywhere in convention center or hotels. There is an open play area at Origins too where you can check out games from a library and play them.

There are a number of different types of games:
  • Role-playing Games - RPGs are games where you take on a roll of a character and are taken through a number of scenes by a gamemaster. Examples include Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu, and FATE.
  • Board Games - These aren't Monopoly and Clue! There are hundreds of different board games you can play, most of which I can guarantee you've probably never heard of.
  • Miniatures - These games use miniatures to represent figures, armies, or ships that fight each other. Miniatures games at Origins run a number of genres, from sci-fi to war to everything in between.
  • Collectible Card Games - CCGs are games that use cards as their main playing piece. These include Pokemon and Magic: the Gathering.
  • Live Action Role Playing - LARPs are games where the players act out their characters actions. This can be thought of as a live version of an RPG.
Origins also offers a number of other events that you can go to, including seminars.

Where can I find the events that will be at Origins?

About a month or so before the convention, Origins will release the events that will be at the conference on their web site. This is usually in Excel spread sheet form, and will contain the name of the game, its description, when it occurs, how long it is, and how much it costs to play.

Note that GAMA usually releases multiple versions of the events as errors are corrected, games are canceled, etc. So, check back every so often to see if an updated event list has been released.

How do I register for games?

Once you decide what games you want to go to, you'll need to register for them. Close to the convention, Origins will open up registration on their site and you'll be able to log in and try to get into the events you want.

Notice I said try. Events only have a limited number of people that can play, and if it sells out, then you're out of luck. Don't worry though, there still may be a way you can get in.

Once you get to a con, you'll get a ticket for every event you registered for. The ticket will tell you the name of the game, what time it is, and where it is located at.

Make sure you print off a copy of your event invoice, however. Mistakes can be made, and there is always the possibility a ticket may be missing when you go to pick them up. Having your invoice will help things along.

Do I have to pre-register?

No, you don't have to pre-register for games. You are allowed to register on-site.

However, the pre-registration line is typically a lot shorter than the normal registration line, and by pre-registering you'll know what you will and will not be able to get into.

Whats the deal with tickets, generic tokens, and ribbons?

There are three ways to get into a game: tickets, generic tokens, and ribbons.

Tickets are the primary way to get registered for an event and get into a game. You register through the website or at the con for an event, and you'll get a ticket for the game. This is a guaranteed spot to play in the game. Game masters always take ticketed players before anything else.

Generic Tokens are the second way to get into a game. You can buy generic tokens for about $2 each. Generic tokens allow you to go to a game, and if there is space available, pay the appropriate number of tokens and join! The great thing about generics is that at the end of the con, you can trade any usused ones back in and get your money back!

Ribbons allow you access into a specific set of games, seminars, or special locations. There are a number of different ribbons, so I won't go into them here. However, if you have the ribbon that includes a game you want to play, you can jump in (if there is room).

GAMA tells game masters they have to take players in the following order:

1. Ticket holders
2. Ribbon holders
3. Generic tokens

Therefore, if you REALLY want to get into a game, get the ticket for it.

What ribbons should I get?

As I said, there are a number of different ribbons for a number of different purposes, and these usually change every year. Check out the Origins ribbon page to see what ones are there. Ribbons are also unlimited use - once you buy one, you can use it the entire conference.

Its hard to recommend on if you should get ribbons or not. If this is your first time, you may want to hold off. You can always buy one at the con if you find yourself wanting one.

I'll mention a few ones ribbons though:

1. Board Room - See below

2. Company-specific ribbons - Game companies, like Mayfair or Rio Grande, will sometimes have ribbons that allow you to play their sponsored games.

3. Puffing Billy - Like train games? This ribbon will let you get into most, if not all, of the ones offered at Origins.

4. Werewolf - Like to play Are you a Werewolf? This ribbon will let you play all the AYAW games.

There are more, so go look at the Origins page to see their descriptions.

The Board Room Ribbon
CABS Board Room

I wanted to put this ribbon into its own category because, well, I love it.

This ribbon allows you access into the CABS board gaming room. If you have the ribbon, you can get into the room, check games out of their library of thousands of games, and play with other board gamers.

Personally, I HIGHLY recommend the board room ribbon, and this is the only one I would recommend getting. The CABS board room is constantly filled with people, and there are always games to jump in and learn.

Note that you can ONLY get into the CABS board room if you have the ribbon. Origins does offer its own board game library in the open play area that you can check out, but CABS blows it away. Sorry GAMA, it just does.

One last note on the CABS board room. You may hear that you'll get a free game by getting the ribbon. For the last several years, CABS has worked with game vendors to get games to give away (while supplies last) to ribbon holders. THIS IS NOT GUARANTEED! Don't get this ribbon to get a free game, because it might not happen.

What if I can't get into a game?

So lets say you found a cool game you want to try, but aren't able to get a ticket for it. Well, here are some things you can try:

1. Look for it elsewhere on the schedule. Many games are run multiple times throughout Origins so it may be in another time slot that is open.

2. Show up with generic tickets. Players don't show up to games all the time; you could get lucky and be able to jump into a game with generic tickets. Some GMs will even let 1 or 2 people jump into the game even if all the ticketed players show up. Just show up early, tell the GM you don't have a ticket but you have generics, and would like to get in if there is room. You never know!

Did I miss anything? Shoot me a message or leave a comment.

Origins: What to Expect
Origins: Gaming
Origins: Where to stay, Where to eat
Origins: Kids
Origins: What to do

Origins for Newbies - What to Expect

What is Origins?

The Origins Game Fair is a yearly gaming con that takes place in Columbus, OH, run by GAMA, and has been going on since 1975. It boasts an attendance of over 10,000 people, with over 11,000 people attending in 2013. If I had to guess, it is probably the second largest gaming con in North America, behind GenCon.

This year will be my 13th year attending Origins, and one of the things I've found is that it can be overwhelming for people new to the convention and who don't know what to expect. Unfortunately, there aren't any good resources that I know of for Origins newbies anymore, so I've decided to put a number of posts up detailing Origins, what to expect, and answering questions I see commonly asked.

Note that this is based on my experiences at Origins, and I am not affiliated in any with GAMA, and therefore do not speak officially for them or the con.

What to expect?

Origins takes place in the Columbus Convention Center, in the heart of downtown Columbus, Ohio. The convention takes over the entire center, even spilling out into the connected hotels for some events.

Looking down at
Origins registration

Origins is a gaming convention, so you can expect to find all types of games being played. These include role-playing games (RPGs), board games, card games, live action roleplaying games (LARPs), miniatures, and more. There usually aren't any video games there, but every few years a few will pop up.

It truly is an amazing site to look down one of the main halls and see people sprawled out, playing every type of game imaginable.

The large ballrooms throughout the con are usually dedicated to a specific type of game or for a company. This includes a room for the miniatures game, a room for board games, and of course the vendor room. Sprinkled throughout the rooms in the rest of the convention center are other games being played.

What if I don't know where to go?

The sheer size of the convention center can be overwhelming, but don't worry. There are signs all over to help direct you and tell you what is in each room, the Origins guidebook will contain a map, information kiosks are present to get directions, and you can always ask a passing gamer. Don't worry, most of us don't bite.

How much does it cost?

In order to go to Origins, you need to buy a badge. Badges can be purchased from the Origins website, and cost varying amount depending on the type of badge, how long you want to go, and when you purchase it. You can also buy badges on-site at the con.

In general, you can buy either a full-show badge or a 1-day badge. These badges allows you to go to the convention and enjoy everything it offers. A full-show badge lets you go the entire time it is going on, a 1-day badge allows you to go for just one day.

If you just want to go around, consider getting the Family Day Pass. These are passes that allow a family 4 limited access to the convention. You'll be able to get into the exhibit hall, art show, and a few other places. However, you will NOT be able to buy tickets to play in game events. This pass is usually only available on Sunday, the last day of the con.

The family pass is a great way to check out the con without spending a lot of money.

Once you have your badge, you may also want to buy tickets, ribbons, or generic tokens. I'll cover those in another post.

What Should I Bring?

Origins is a fairly large gaming convention, so there are some things you should remember to grab.

  • Comfortable shoes - You'll be walking a lot. I mean a lot. So bring shoes that won't kill your feet. (Gel insert are wonderful too.)
  • Deodorant - Yes, people smell and at a gaming con the term "gaming funk" has come to existence for a reason.
  • Dice - If you are into RPGs, don't forget your dice! While the GM will certainly have some you can borrow, and you can buy dice in the vendor room, its probably not a bad idea to have your own.
  • Money - The vendor room is awesome and you'll inevitably find something you want to get.
  • Snacks - Not a bad idea to pack a couple small snacks in case you get hungry in the middle of a game.
  • Sweatshirt - It may seem counter-intuitive to bring a sweatshirt or hoodie to Columbus in the middle of summer, but the center cranks up the AC and some rooms can get pretty frigid.
  • Water bottle - Most rooms have a water cooler in it, or near the entrance, so you can easily fill up when you need to.
Is that all?

No! Expect to have fun! Origins is one of the few places you can go where all you do is play games all day for 5 days straight. Take advantage of it!

Did I miss anything? Shoot me a message or leave a comment.

Origins: What to Expect
Origins: Gaming
Origins: Where to stay, Where to eat
Origins: Kids
Origins: What to do 
Origins: Gaming Groups