Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Gen Con 2016 - Day 4

Sunday used to be the day of the gaming dead at Gen Con, with everyone spent from the last three days of activity overload and sleep deprivation, with a side of unhealthy eating and maybe some imbibing tossed in for good measure.  Since Gen Con has added Family Fun Day to Sundays, letting a family of four in for one low price, it has breathed new life into Sundays.

For W! and I, the first order of business was to strike camp and evacuate the hotel room.  I had no games scheduled for the day, it was pretty much bug out of the room then troll the X-Hall until the con closed.

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Gen Con 2016 - Day 3

For me there are two major things regarding Saturday at Gen Con.  One is that it is the big day for cosplay.  The other is the annual Saturday Brass & Steel LARP.  I generally kill two birds with one stone by dressing as my LARP character all day.

I had also planned on doing some serious shopping in the X-Hall seeing as I hadn't spent much time in it.  I'm always on the lookout for new costuming bits, and you can never have too many dice.  Lunch was a quick break at the food court outside the hall, which was convenient and not quite highway robbery - the chicken tenders and fries was something like $6.75 (not bad) but the large soda was in the neighborhood of $3.75 (ouch - the price of convenience).  After lunch I continued to shop until N! let me know that she was there with her daughter.

Want to know what is the ultimate cosplay accessory that will get your picture taken a lot?  Kids.  The hierarchy of what is likely to get your picture taken is costume < group in costume < group with kids in costume.  So it was shop, shop, pose.  Rinse and repeat.  We tried to make sure when we were stopped for pictures we got out of traffic as much as possible.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Gen Con 2016 - Day 2

5:45 a.m. my alarm went off.  I didn't so much wake me up as prod me out of the cycle of tossing and turning and glancing at the clock.  Wondering why I hate myself enough to sign up for this event, I pulled myself out of bed for the Orc Stomp 5k.

Even at oh-gods-early, Poke-hunters are about (including W!).  As I understand it, you have to walk to hatch your eggs in Pokemon go and I found myself wondering if there was a market for egg-carriers.  I imagined a Chewbacca-like bandolier full of phones running the app.  Did I mention I was sleep deprived?

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Gen Con 2016 - Day 1

A hangover isn't a great way to start Gen Con. Fortunately, it was only what I call a 1-alarm hangover, remedied by hydration, a shower, and breakfast. I had considered hitting the breakfast buffet (or as I call it all-you-can-eat bacon), but kept it simple with pop-tarts and caffeine. In previous years, I hit the buffets most mornings, but they keep jacking up the prices to the point that I don't think I'm eating my money's worth.

I made my way to join the growing horde outside the Exhibition Hall (or as I call it, X-Hall). I decided to wait on the balcony level as there was nothing I was chomping at the bit to get, plus the atmosphere was probably less funky.

Finally, after exhortions not to run/trample/stampede, the doors were thrown open and thousands of chanting gamers marched into the X-Hall. I wonder if the vendors felt like the Spartans being marched on by the Persians? Once the crowds had flowed in, I made me way downstairs for a quick preview of the X-Hall. I only had a little over two hours before the game I was running, and given the enormous size of the X-Hall, I wasn't going to have time to even quickly walk the whole thing. Plus I had to leave myself time to eat.

Blessing the dice in the X-Hall for N!

Speaking of lunch, I figured the fastest way to go would be the food trucks. Here's a tip - the trucks on Georgia Street are going to have longer lines than the ones around the corner on Capitol Street (at least according to my observations). If you go during prime food times, expect a wait (but less than a restaurant), and several of them have good values.

This is the second year I've run games for Pamean Games, the creators of Brass & Steel. The core mechanic is real easy for newcomers to pick up, making it a great con game, while there are more advanced options well-suited for more experienced players. This year I had a full table (including W!), though only one had played before. The vetaran player knew the game better than me but was cool about it, not trying to rules-lawyer like some players in a similar situation might do.

The scenario basically consisted of two factions (Russian and British) working together even though their motives started out at odds. The set up was intended to produce some rivalry between the two "captains", but the Brit pretty much rolled over for the Russian. Though to give the Brit captain (a new player) credit, he came up with a use for his arcane powers that pretty much saved everyone's bacon during a sniper ambush.

W!, N!, G! and I went to Thai Paradise for dinner, heading there before the X-Hall closed and a ravenous gamer horde was ejected into the city. It was close enough for an easy walk (on Market St.), but enough off the beaten path to not be besieged. I kept things simple and safe with medium spicy Thai fried rice, which was pretty good even for a picky eater like me.

Afterwards, W! and I went to the Georgia St. beer garden to hang out, crowd watch, try the new Gen Con beer, 20-Sided Rye by Sun King (not bad, but I like Wee Mac better), and for W! to catch Pokemon. We called it any early night as we had the Orc Stomp 5k at 6 a.m. the next morning, and of course like an idiot I stayed up and watched John Carter on television (not that I would end up sleeping anyways, but that is a lament for Day 2).

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Tuesday, August 09, 2016

GEN CON 2016 – Day 0

Persona Dramatis (for all my Gen Con blogs)
Oz – Me. Hopefully I won’t write about myself in the third person, but accidents and beer happens
W! – Long time friend, one of my players, and my roommate at GC 2016
N! – A friend I met at Gen Con 2004, frequent partner-in-game
G! – N!’s brother, a total noob. Wait, I shouldn’t have said that, I play in his game.

Wednesday, the unofficial start of Gen Con

My focus on Wednesday is the Stink. I collect swag donations from Gen Con and exhibitors and transport the Nordic Distance Dice to the Union Station Grand Ballroom, so I try to be onsite early. In recent years I’ve started staying downtown for the duration of the con. Yes, it’s expensive, yes, I only live 30 minutes away, but it lets me spend a lot more time at the convention, frees me from worrying if I have a beer or three at the end of the evening, and gives me somewhere quiet to retreat. I found out at the last minute W!, who was splitting the room with me, was riding with me, so we played Tetris in my little car, stuffed with luggage, provisions, and brand new cooler for the surprise room party, and my 2-wheeler for lugging stuff around like monster-huge dice.

We got there early enough that there was plenty of parking under the Marriott, where we were staying. As an added bonus, there was a room ready so we could unload and be done with it.

After we finished establishing our base camp, W! went to get in the will call line, which stretched all the way from registration to Hall A in the convention center.

W! ended up being in line for about an hour and several Pokemon. He swears that going forward he’s having his badge and tickets mailed (which is what I always do). While W! was stuck in line, I roamed the convention center, checked out the program guide, and watched the crowd. I would say the crowd was surprisingly large for Wednesday, but in truth it has been getting bigger and bigger. There is more for early birds to do every year.

Eventually I got my annual “Christmas Eve peak”, where I go into the Exhibit Hall on Wednesday to pick up swag donations from exhibitors. I was on a mission, so I didn’t have time to look around, but it’s still neat to see what goes on behind the scenes.

Set up for the Stink went like clockwork. Almost all (if not all) of the Mavens have done this for several years, so everyone knows their job. Fifteen minutes before go time, we were ready, even with some last minute rearranging and swag packing.

The first hour and a half was linetastic. Despite our best efforts, people at conventions see a line, they get in it. We managed to keep the swag line moving with some cat-herding, and if anyone complained it was their own fault for staying in a line after the swag even though they could go ahead and sit down.

After the Stink, which had about 400 people, I grabbed a slice of Dragon’s Breath pizza from Hot Box Pizza (no line, reasonable price, tasty pizza) on Georgia St., then headed back to my room for the room party, where I expected something like 4 people.

The count was closer to 15ish. Granted, they weren’t all there at once, and some just stopped by to say hello, but we had up to a dozen in the room at once – which gets really loud in a hotel room, especially after copious amounts of beer, wine and whiskey. Fortunately no one pounded on the door telling us to pipe down.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Gen Con 2015 - Day 3

I usually say if you can only go to one day of Gen Con, go Saturday. It is the biggest day, it is when the cosplayers are out in force. It’s also when historically the best (public) parties happen. Plus, it’s when the big Brass & Steel LARP happens.

As I’ve been running games mostly while the X Hall was open, my plan was to spend most of the morning and afternoon in and around it. It’s where there will be the most to see people wise, plus I want to see if I missed anything during my hurried passes through on the previous two days.

Because I stayed downtown the whole convention, I only brought one costume, my steampunk Texas Ranger for the LARP. Fortunately not only was the weather decent, but I could stay indoors the whole way if I wanted. Air conditioning is a bonus if you’re wearing an extra 20 pounds of leather.

The crowding was insane at times in the X Hall. Gen Con broke another attendance record, at over 61k attendees, and it seemed like they were all in the X Hall. Of course this is exasperated by people’s insistence at towing luggage behind them or wearing huge backpacks the clean out half an aisle when they turn.

Lunch was at the Ram, taking a break from the madness. We’d thought by going after “regular” lunch hours, it wouldn’t be as nuts, but the Ram is popular with Gen Con attendees. Sadly, despite the upfront effort that the Ram puts into being ready for Gen Con, the experience (for me) has been declining. Service was slow, Weasel’s meatloaf sandwich tasted “gritty”, and the staff didn’t seem friendly compared to other locations.

I went back to the room to cool off for a bit before the LARP. It was nice to be able to take off the leather coat and hat and sit in the path of the AC for a bit. Having a room on site was really handy. If we get a similar room next year I’ll probably bring an additional day of costuming.

I headed to the LARP, grabbing some Brazilian chicken from one of the food trucks on the way. It was good to see some familiar faces at the LARP, there are players who have played year after year, some maintaining the same characters. I spent 5 hours suppressing my natural introvert instincts, plotting and scheming with and against 40 other people. As usual for the Brass & Steel LARP, a good time was had by all.

After the LARP, the B&S team invited people to join them at the Ram. I was hoping things had improved, that maybe lunch had just been an off experience. To give them credit, they did seat our party pretty quickly, especially for the size, but I was never asked if I wanted another beer after my first (and only). Of course, I did. Most of the televisions displayed sports instead of nerdery, I’m sure a concession to the muggles.

After the Ram, a friend and I decided to check out the Cosplay Deviants party. I’d had a really good time last year, especially once the muggles were let in. This year, it was in a different venue. By the time we got there, they were already letting muggles in, but we got to cut the line since we were Gen Con attendees. Inside was loud, hot, and full of people that didn’t want us there. We stayed for one beer and left.

I’d like to say that the Deviants party is the successor to the White Wolf parties, but based on this year that seems dubious.

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Friday, August 07, 2015

Gen Con 2015 - Day 2

This would prove to be the longest day of Gen Con, both in time and distance travelled (22 hours and 10+ miles). Up at 5 and out to the mustering area, a bit of a walk itself, we were ready for the Orc Stomp 5k. I was already regretting putting off returning to my long forgotten gym regimen until a couple of weeks before Gen Con. Finishing wasn’t an issue, but I was dubious about beating last year’s time, which was just over 47 minutes.

The weather was about perfect. We moved to the back of the pack, letting the real runners go first. Despite a twinge in my arch right after start, I marched the course at a 4 mph pace, finishing just a hair better than last year at 46:29.5. Trodding back to the hotel, having a room downtown turned out to be a huge boon, as opposed to last year where I had to drive home, shower, and return only to hit traffic.

After a return to the breakfast buffet (yay free voucher), I was ready for the rest of the day. I had another game to run at 1, but it was at the same table as yesterday so that eliminated the need to spend time tracking it down. After a visit to the auction store while the mob flowed into the X Hall, I started at the opposite end of the X Hall and worked my way towards the middle.

Most of this was preliminary shopping, figuring Sunday would be the actual buying day as I had no events. As usual, there were the typical traffic jams and people that insisted on wearing a backpack the size of a Winnebago into a crowd. The X Hall really could use some more space to widen the aisles a couple of feet, plus some booths should have been set up so that throngs of shoppers didn’t stop in the aisle to look at their wares. Cheap gaming books booth, I’m looking at you.

This time around, I ended up with 5 of 6 showing up (Weasel eventually showed up to take the sixth slot). All 5 were experienced with Brass & Steel, and 4 of them gamed together. This group turned out to be more scrupulous in that they actually took the bad guys to the authorities as opposed to just mete out justice themselves. My dice were again vicious, almost killing a couple of characters and almost letting the big bad get away when they had him contained, which would have prompted another running battle. They seemed to have a good time and my inexperience with the system didn’t hamper things.

We got out of the game a bit before closing time for the X Hall, but there was a new wrinkle in the dinner equation. Friday there was a One Direction concert at Lucas Oil Stadium, just south of the ICC, so in addition to the gamers, you had hundreds of girls and their parents swarming into downtown.

We opted for the Tilted Kilt. Besides the obvious reason, I figured it was unlikely to be impacted by One Direction fans. Wrong! I wouldn’t have guessed mothers would take their daughters to a breastaurant for dinner, but we were surrounded. Fortunately, the management had planned ahead and put all hands on deck. One of the waitresses told us they have 15 servers on the floor, as opposed to the typical 4 on a Friday. I presume the kitchen was similarly staffed as our food arrived quickly.

After dinner we had a D&D game. It was an odd scenario. I chewed on some scenery, there was some great role-playing (especially the two senile mages) and then got killed off by one of my friends (what are friends for?). I confess, I didn’t put up much of a fight because I had been invited to join the Brass & Steel team on their annual Friday night revelry at a local establishment that featured their staff in costume, a costume contest, and nerd-themed drinks.

As closing time approached, the other guys were ready to call it a night. I had just ordered a drink, so I decided to stay around long enough to finish it off before heading back. That was almost an expensive decision. On the way, a man approached me, talking rapid-fire. I assumed he was a panhandler, having seen them around during Gen Con. I picked up the pace to try to brush him.

“You don’t need to be nervous, man.” When he said that I snapped into red alert. We were heading towards a bridge that offered nowhere to go once you were under it. I was certain he was going to try to mug/rob me and earlier Weasel had paid me for his half the hotel room in cash.

Just going toe-to-toe I might have been able to hold my own, but odds were he at least had a knife, so that was a losing proposition, fortunately I was aware of a bar across the street and headed for it.

“I know this place. It’s closing, come on back out.” Yeah right. If I had to, I would make a scene or call the cops from inside. The bartender told me it was too late for last call, I pointed my thumb at my shadow and said he was following me.

The bartender pointed me to a barstool then watched the guy lurk around outside until he gave up and headed back the way he came. Once he was a couple of blocks away, the bartender told me it was cool and which way the guy had gone. I bee-lined straight for the hotel and called it a night, thankful I hadn’t had a few more drinks.

I’d like to think that gaming over the years helped me keep a cool head and quickly assess the situation when I had a random encounter of the urban kind.

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