Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Gen Con 2014 - Day 4

It has always seemed that Sunday would be the natural day for the Zombie Walk since by then many of attendees at Gen Con resemble the walking dead. People have already been burning the candle at both ends for three days with little sleep, a lot of people stay up late partying on Saturday night, so by Sunday everyone is spent.

The addition of Family Fun Day, where a family of four can get in for $30 has infused some life into Sunday. Not only is it more traffic, but it brings in people that aren't burnt out from the past days, and a lot of them there for the first time. It brings up the energy level of the Sunday crowd.

I woke up still feeling the after-effects of the previous night. I got ready and packed everything up, hit the breakfast buffet, checked out and took my luggage to the carbefore my 11 a.m. mini painting workshop. Something I try to do every year is take a miniature painting session to try and learn some new tricks. The trick is finding one I haven't taken already on a Sunday, but not too early and when the Exhibit Hall closes.

The year's class was... okay. I don't think I got as much out of it as previous classes and the instructor didn't seem as engaged. Not that she was bad, just the previous ones I've had were better. Once the session was over that left me with a couple of hours to kill before the X Hall closed.

It didn't seem like a Sunday. It was a lot more crowded than previous Sundays, between the aforementioned Family Fun Day and attendance in general being much higher. I visited with people, looked around for anything I might have missed the previous three days, and looked for any bargains from vendors that didn't want to transport stuff home that was too good to pass up.

As usual, I waited until the closing announcement before departing the X Hall. I dropped off my loot at my car, and made one more pass down Georgia Street on my way to Scotty's, where I've been having post Gen Con dinner the past few years. Even Scotty's was busier than previous Sundays. Some of the muggles whined that Lord of the Rings was on all of the tvs instead of football.

Finally I made the short trek home, unloaded the car and crashed, another Gen Con complete.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Gen Con 2014 - Day 3

If you can only make it one day to Gen Con, Saturday is the day to go. It is the day with the most people, the most costumes, and the most parties. It was rather novel for me to start Saturday so early. This year the big LARP I play in, Brass and Steel, was a 3pm - 9pm event instead of the usual 6pm to midnight, so I wanted to get going earlier anyways.

I put on my Steampunk Texas ranger costume (my character in the LARP) and hit the breakfast buffet in my hotel. The busboy showed my his Gen Con badge, enthusiastic for when he would get off of work and get to go to the convention. An older employee asked if he could take my picture, the first of many pics that day. After finishing my bacon heavy breakfast, I headed for the ICC.

I tell people that even if you can't go to the convention, Georgia st. is a great place to hang out and people watch. Fortunately it wasn't sweltering hot as it had been recent years, so that made hanging outisde a lot more pleasant. I hit the ICC right when the Exhibit Hall opened but checked out the Auction Store to let the crowds thin.

The one downside to Saturday is that it's the most crowded. In addition to the sheer number of people, since it's the biggest costume day, people taking pictures of cosplayers add to the traffic complications. I try to watch out for people trying to get photos and not walk through their shot. When people asked to take my picture, I tried to stand where I'd impact traffic less.

Everyday of Gen Con I hit the X Hall, and every day I see something new. I strolled the hall for a while, navigating the mass of humanity and keeping an eye open for any last minute additions to my costume while visiting the booths of people I know. When @knharter arrived with her daughter (who was born during Gen Con one year, so now Gen Con is like a birthday party for her), we met up.

There's a rule for how often someone gets asked for pictures. When you have more than one person, the frequncy goes up. Add kids in costume, it goes up again. So as we made our way around, we stopped for multiple photo requests. Every one was really polite, only taking pictures after they asked or when we were obviously already posing for pictures. I'm just disappointed I haven't stumbled across any of them yet.

Later that afternoon was the Brass and Steel LARP. This year it was held upstairs in Union Station, which helps set the mood a bit. The earlier time slot I think worked better, as people weren't tiring out towards the end. There were a lot of great costumes and a lot of great role-playing - the scenario was a diplomatic one, so it relied a lot more on the players than on game mechanics. Again, I wish I had remembered to get pictures of us in costume.

After the game, several of the people from the LARP went to the RAM. I was surprised that we got seated in relatively short order despite the number of people in our party. After the RAM we headed to the Cosplay Deviant party being thrown at Revel, a downtown club.

Once upon a time, White Wolf used to throw the big party at Gen Con. However, since White Wolf stopped heavily participating in the convention, the party went away. I'm not sure if this was intended to be a successor to WW parties, but it has potential. I was surprised how fast the VIP tickets sold out at $100 a pop (they included booze), and also surprised that they didn't sell enough general tickets - $10 each - to get the whole club.

When we arrived the party had been under way for a couple of hours and I thought someone said that the VIP booze had already been depleted. The VIP section was mostly typical looking gamers sitting in a line against the wall watching the dance floor with a couple of dressed up girls moving among the areas. We went upstairs where the bars were less crowded and we could look over the balcony and see most of the club.

Some of the muggles didn't know what to make of us. I had to explain what Gen Con was all about a couple of times, got a few free drinks, and was challenged to explain quantum physics after I made a Big Bang reference. I pointed out that I wasn't a quantum physicist or any kind of scientist for that matter and was rather drunk, but my explanation was deemed "close enough". By now all of my friends from the LARP had already called it a night, so I headed out just before last call to try to sleep off the evening's festivities.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Gen Con 2014 - Day 2

Last year when I declared that I would do the Orc Stomp 5k, I assumed they would still have a 8 a.m. event. When it came time to register, I discovered they had eliminated the 8 a.m. run and only had a 6 a.m. run. Well, frak. I had already told people I was going to do the run, so I signed up.

Friday I got up at 4:30 to make it downtown and be on site on time. As it was, I cut it close to the wire, despite the fact there was no traffic at o'gods early. My friend @knharter was running it also, but she was actually planning on running it, as opposed to me, which would be more of a power-walk. I wisely moved towards the back of the starting pack to stay out of the way of the speedier folk. This was my first event of this nature. I was surprised by how supportive and encouraging people were. I finished just over 47 minutes, which is what I had done on the treadmill at the gym.

After the Orc Stomp, I went home to shower and change (don't want to live up to the gamer stink) and returned downtown. During event registration, we had only secured 1 ticket for a tabletop Brass & Steel game, so I took some generics and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, someone else had gotten there first with generics, claiming the only no-show spot. Rather than game without me, KNH opted to skip the game and we hit the Exhibition Hall.

We both had mental shopping lists, mostly to do with Steampunk costuming stuff. I didn't much luck - what I was looking for was pretty specific, and the only person I saw wearing it didn't get it from the vendor booth he was working at. He was kind enough to get me a card, so I can get it for next year. After KNH left, I also managed to do my annual blessing of the dice. I know KNH appreciates me sharing my luck.

Scotty's was chosen as the dinner venue and I went there with a couple of friends. Despite the farther walk, we thought it would be worth it as Scotty's was most assuredly better prepared than the Ram. It was funny seeing muggles show up with no clue what was going on. A bridal party showed up only to find a geek invasion under way. Some sulked, others were good sports, taking pictures with the 501 (the stormtrooper group) and so forth.

I tried the Dogslicer Ale. It reminded me of Heineken. My second beer was a Klingon Warnog.

After dinner, I checked into my hotel. We did some walking around downtown and visited the WotC Tyranny of Dragons release party. I was underwhelmed. My friends took off, so I hung around the beer garden a bit, running into various people I knew. I got to try the Sun King Gen Con beer, but that was it. They ran out, so I settled for a Wee Mac and found more people I knew. A friend led me over to Tiki Bob's where some Gen Con folks were having a get togther, but the 4:30 a.m. soon caught up to me, so I called it an early night.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Gen Con 2014 - Day 1

Every year I tell my self I will get downtown bright and early despite staying up late on Wednesday. Normally this is to beat the parking situation. My actually success in this in the past years has been hit or miss. Since I knew my parking situation was dealt with, there was less pressure, but I felt like I was making decent time, even stopping to grab breakfast I figured to be on site about 9. As long as I could get there around the time the Exhibitor Hall opened, it was all good.

My parking was taken care of, the traffic was a different story. It was as congested downtown as it would be by the X Hall. The traffic issue wasn't even Gen Con traffic, it was probably people being stupid. I ended up arriving just as they began the pre-opening speeches.

Speaking of which, if they are going to do that and want people to hear them, a few suggestions. First, stop the hall musicians during this time. There were a few thousand impatient gamers and one of the roving acts. Second, use a better sound system or turn up the volume. Finally, keep it short. As the crowd's attention wandered, their conversations rose.

When it comes to the actual opening of the X Hall, I don't try to go in with the tide of gamers. I'll wait until the crowds disappate. Then again, my sister found me to be infuriatingly patient on Christmas morning - she wanted to wake our parents at the crack of dawn, I was content to wait and avoid raising their ire before we could open our presents.

I met with a friend and we ventured into the hall, hoping to get a little shopping/sight-seeing before our game. We normally start at aisle 100 and work our way across. Evidently it was a popular idea. The crowd was significant, leading me to predict that Gen Con would break 60k. (Surprisingly, it was "only" 56k).

Our game of the day was a Pathfinder adventure. I picked the less-than-bright dwarf fighter so I could chew scenery with my quasi-Gaelic brogue. The GM was a bit less than prepared, and pacing suffered. My d20 betrayed me right out of the gate.

The fight before the "boss" encounter was a dragon that should have tore us up. Instead it was an hour of it playing apple-bobbing with our swimming cleric while our weapons bounced off and our wizard whittled it down. Time ran out for the session, so the GM declared that the dragon had killed the boss and taken the relics we were after, wrapping everything up. All in all, we still had some fun and I got out a few dwarf quotes on twitter:

"Kiss my axe!"
"I always keep my word... even if I can't spell it."

We went for an early dinner at the Ram (Oz tip - never plan to eat at 6 p.m., that's when everyone else will be leaving the hall.) We got a table in the bar right away, which seemed to bode well. However, service was slow and my medium burger ended up being closer to well and it seemed like our food had sat around a bit before being brought to us.

I called it an early night since I had to be up at 4:30 a.m. for the 5k Orc Stomp.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Gen Con 2014 - Day 0

Day 0 - Wednesday

I arrived early Wednesday afternoon and had an hour or so to kill before I started taking care of swag business for the Stink. I swung through the old part of the ICC to check out how crowded the registration area was. There were a lot of people and a substantial line, but the line looked to be moving pretty quickly. Still, I was glad that I ponied up to have my badge and tickets sent to me.

I noticed another short line at the coupon book pick-up. While I almost never use the coupons and wasn't going to bother even getting one this year, I noticed they were giving away some sort of bag. I hopped in line and soon walked away with one of the messenger-style bags they were giving away. Sure, they were cheap, but they were free and so much more useful and durable than the plastic swag bags from years past. Over the next five days it would serve me well, keeping my hands free and freeing me from worrying whether the plastic bag would give out under the weight of one more purchase. Kudos to whoever at Gen Con decided to give these out.

Veteran attendees probably all experience this phenomena - there are people you see every Gen Con, year after year, that you recognize but have no clue who they are. It took me five minutes to spot my first one.

One of the perks of collecting the Stink swag donations is that it lets me peek inside the Exhibition Hall during set up while I am making pick-ups from exhibitors. I've previously likened it to getting to peek under the Christmas tree. This year the Christmas tree was bigger than ever, with the X Hall totaling 30 aisles.

Something about Gen Con makes me a little less introverted than normal. Maybe it's being surrounded by thousands of people that get the same things I am passionate about. Plus we have a common topic to use to start up conversations - the convention. One conversation might lead to a job opportunity (no, not in the gaming industry) - nothing may come of it, but if so it will be another example of gaming leading to great things in my life.

The Stink set-up went off smooth. I was forced to miss the last Mavens (the group that puts on the Stink) meeting, but everyone else already knew what they were doing and had several years of practice. The generosity of Gen Con and the exhibitor donors made my job easy.

Ultra PRO
Fireside Games

The only hitch we ran into with the swag lines was people stopping to decide what color of a certain item they wanted, forgetting there was over a hundred people waiting behind them. Occasionally I would have to prod someone along, but all in all it went really well.

In addition to meeting a few friends I see every Gen Con, a gaming friend from high school came to visit so we were able to catch up. I think one of the best things that could be said about our hobby is that it forges friendships, especially for people that might otherwise find a hard time meeting people and making friends.

Every year my friend @Knharter plays host to some out-of-town friends and Wednesday night has a get together that has been dubbed N-Con. So after the Stink I bee-line it there. There's always an opportunity to game, especially since some of the folks are game designers, or like this year I just socialized. But after a couple of hours I headed some so I could be up bright and early for Day 1.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Gen Con 2014 - Day -1

Yup, that's Day -1, as in Tuesday (since I consider Wednesday Day 0). I was downtown on an errand and parked across from the ICC, so I decided to pop in and check things out. I walked by a reporter from a local news channel setting up to do a spot and joked that he was a day or two too early. We started talking about Gen Con and Wednesday events like the Beer Tapping and the Stink and he asked to interview me. A whole 5 seconds actually made the broadcast!

I saw that @nellybellexox had put out an open invitation to lunch at Scotty's via Facebook. Since I was already downtown, I decided to take the opportunity to hang out with gamers pre-Gen Con. I chatted with the manager of Scotty's while I waited for people to arrive and we talked about how Tuesday had become the new Wednesday as folks were arriving earlier and now events were happening on Wednesday.

This turned out to be kind of a gamer's UN as there were gamers from Ireland, Australia and Canada in addition to various parts of the country.

The pic was blurry because I snapped in in a hurry trying to hold the camera as much in the corner of the room as possible. Now it's time to make sure all of most costume stuff is laundered and ready, which may require some archeology.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Gen Con 2013 - Day 4

Normally the last day of Gen Con is pretty low key. People are tired after burning the candle at both ends for the previous three days, possibly hung over after partying on Saturday night, and are realizing the end of the con is all too rapidly approaching.

One benefit of not getting wild and woolly Saturday night was that I wasn’t hung over and was in pretty good shape after seven hours of sleep. I packed everything up and loaded it into my car, checked out of my room, and hit the hotel’s breakfast buffet.

I usually put off most of my purchases at Gen Con until Sunday. I headed to the Exhibit Hall with a mental list – Paizo’s Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign Book, Brass & Steel, a book for a friend and some dice.

I met up with Nicole and found out that she intended to get me a copy of Brass & Steel as part of the campaign to convince me to run a B&S table top game. Sometimes it’s good to be the GM. We also made plans to attend the Table Top Behind The Scenes seminar featuring Wil Wheaton, deciding that we’d better get in line early.

Fortunately (for us) the seminar was poorly advertised, so the line wasn’t huge. As usual, Wheaton was an entertaining speaker and it was cool to see behind the curtain of the show.

As usual, I waited for the closing announcement in the X Hall. Saying good-bye to Gen Con for the year, Nicole and I met Jason for a post-con beer at the Ram and to discuss the potential for a Brass & Steel campaign.

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