Founder's Forum: ConTessa @ Gen Con Wrap-Up

Hello, Everyone! 

The ConTessa crew just got back from Gen Con, and we had a fantastic con! I'm pretty sure all of us are still in the throes of recovering from all the fun we had, but we're slowly getting back up to speed. Sarah's working on full coverage of the event as we speak, but in the meantime, I've got a few things to say about the awesome... 

On Thursday, we ran 20+ games, 1 Workshop, 1 Seminar, and 2 Panels. For many of us on the ConTessa staff, it was our first time running anything at all at a face-to-face convention, but we did it like we do everything else in ConTessa... we put our hearts and souls into creating the kind of events we would want to take part in, and we're so glad so many of you came along for the ride! 

It was my distinct pleasure and honor to get an opportunity to lead the opening ceremonies, and introduce for a speech and a keynote two of my favorite women in the industry: Shanna Germain, and Margaret Weis. I then went on to run a panel on RPG Design, Sarah ran one on turning your favorite fandom into an RPG, then I ran a women's-only workshop on system creation (where we created 4 minimum viable systems in 2 hours), and finally I got to hang out and keep an eye on the RPG night while being available to meet, chat with, and get to know some fantastic women in the industry. 

By the time the night was over, I was overwhelmed with the number of people who were eager and happy to see ConTessa there, and the number of women who were throwing their hat in the ring to help in all sorts of ways. 

Then, Friday night we went to the ENnies, and my cup continued to overflow... 

Our favorite piece of Gen Con swag!

Our favorite piece of Gen Con swag!

Sitting in the ENnies audience, I'd already prepared to win the silver - at best. This isn't to say that I have no faith in the fantastic writing that Sarah, Ethel, Ariana, Liz, and all our guest contributors have added to the blog. It's just that we've only really been going full speed ahead with the 'Amazing Content' dial set to '11' for about eight months. 

Usually, it takes a blog a lot longer than that to develop an audience with the critical mass necessary to carry an award based entirely on fan votes, no matter how stellar the content. This let us know that not only is our content stellar, but you've all been sharing it, talking about it, and creating the audience we've needed much faster than we originally thought! It was extremely heartwarming to hear the applause for ConTessa in that hall, and I still get a mixture of joyous glee and choked-up happiness when I look at the award. 

As I mentioned above, Sarah will be delighting you with more details on how all our events went, but I want to take this opportunity to thank some folks: 

Margaret Weis: Margaret gave us a fantastic keynote in which she talked about some of the women who joined the RPG industry back in the 70s. Her stories were heart-warming, inspirational, funny, and all-together beautiful. She could've talked about anything, but she chose to talk about her friends. Thank you so much, Margaret!

Shanna Germain: Shanna gave us a wonderful speech on subversive (or sideways) leadership. Many of the things she talked about (like leading through example) are core principles that guide what we're doing with ConTessa.  Sometimes leadership is just as simple as being a visible example of a woman leading within the hobby. Shanna also joined us for 'How I Designed It', a panel where audience members got to ask designers about their creative process. Thanks so much for all you've done, Shanna. It was a sincere pleasure to have you with us, and we hope you'll return. 

Elsa S. Henry: Elsa sat on our 'How I Designed It' panel, where she talked very passionately about the parts of game design that are near and dear to her from accessibility to history and everything in-between. Her perspective was genuinely beautiful and wonderful to hear. She also came and ran Dead Scare, the very game she talked about on the panel, for our game night. Thank you, Elsa! It was such a pleasure to get to hang out with you!

Cheyenne Wall-Grimes: Cheyenne sat on Sarah's fantastic 'How to Turn Your Favorite Fandom Into an RPG' panel, where she talked about the hack she's working on for Orphan Black. She also ran a game for us, and her enthusiasm and excitement kept us going even when we were ready to fall over. Thank you, Cheyenne! I didn't get to talk to you as much as I would've liked, but Sarah hasn't stopped singing your praises, yet!

...and of course my fantastic staff members... 

Sarah "Doombringer" Richardson: I often say that Sarah's my right-hand woman. She was the very first ConTessa staff member, and still remains my most valuable staffer, and one of my best friends. She ran a fantastic panel, sat on mine, participated in my workshop, tamed the chaotic opening of our game night, *and* ran Palace of the Silver Princess. I can not possibly thank you enough, Sarah. There are days when the strength of your convictions alone keep me going. 

Ethel "OK Gen Con" Buster: Ethel, too, did a ton of work organizing everything necessary to get all of these events off the ground. She's been our Official GM Wrangler, Gen Con Event Submission wrangler, and on the ground she was another one of our 'What do you need right now, I'll make sure it happens' people. Ethel, you're an absolute rockstar. 

...and all the GMs who ran games at our game night: Annah Madrinan, Anne Lukeman, BJ Hensley, Cheyenne Wall-Grimes, Darcy Ross, Donna Prior, Elsa S. Henry, Jacqueline Bryk, Jennifer Page, Kat Jones, Kelly Ohlert, Meera Barry, Rachael Storey Burke, Sarah Bonilla, Senda Shallow, Shoe Skogen, Shoshana Kessock, Stacy Muth, Stephanie Bryant, and Tara Zuber. 

...and last but not least, our great roadies Rob Dellorfano and Mark Malone, who were there to help us set up, break down, deliver goods, move things from one place to another, act as our photographers, and sometimes just get us something to drink. Thanks, guys, seriously... we couldn't have done it without your help!

What's next? 

This was our first face-to-face convention, but you better believe it won't be our last! Next year, we hope to team up with other diversity groups (like Tabletop Gaymers) to build out a set of events that doesn't just cover diversity from our angle (women), but from several different angles. We're also looking forward to planning our events over the course of a year rather than in only three months with limited scheduling options! 

We're already looking into other conventions, and we've had a handful of invitations. We're definitely going to need more helpers to get us there, though, as meatspace conventions are a time-consuming (and often money-consuming) thing to do. If you're interested in helping out with our face-to-face convention appearances, please email us at! 

Once we get settled down again, we'll also be planning our next ConTessa Game Weekend and ConTessa Panel Day (or weekend). Those will come within the next few months, so keep up with us here and all over social media! 

Until next time, true believers! 

Sarah, Stacy, and Ethel (Thanks to Monte Cook Games for the Champagne!)

Sarah, Stacy, and Ethel (Thanks to Monte Cook Games for the Champagne!)

Founder’s Forum is an at-least monthly column written by the founder of ConTessa, Stacy Dellorfano. Here, she waxes poetic about all things ConTessa. If you’d like to have Stacy address one of your questions, send her an email at