Road trip! Yay! Wait, what’s that OMFG THAT’S A GIANT BUG! GASOLINE ALL OVER THE SHORTS! AHHHHHHH HAVE TO GO TO WALMART BECAUSE EVERYTHING ELSE IS CLOSED!
This was the start to Gen Con 2014, our annual fellowship for gaming, drinking, and more gaming. This year I want to relive my experience a little differently. Every year I get the question “Why do you pick Gen Con over Dragon*Con?” I hope by the end of this you’ll understand why this little gaming con has become the number one con of the year.
After we remedied the pants fiasco we made the trek to our first stop, Nashville, TN. From here it’s only about a 5 hour trip to Indy, but more importantly it’s home to the great house of Bass Monroe. Fellow gamers and home brewers we spent Tuesday night touring some of the Nashville craft brew scene and discussing our game plan for the week. It was tough getting to bed, even though we were running on less than four hours of sleep. The anticipation of four solid days of gaming made Tuesday night feel like Christmas Eve.
Stardate 68083.7. We’ve awoken at Gen Con for day 1. Our primary mission, to aquire our press badges. But first, cardio. Andrea and I downed our pre-workout Energy and Endurance formula, strapped on our Five Fingers, and set off for the amazing running spaces of downtown Indy. I won’t lie, this con is built on the stereotypical gamer and it’s amazing to fight that image with a kick to the face. Indy is so amazing this time of year and the convention center is near an amazing park where you’ll find numbers of people running, walking, or doing boot camp workouts. And it’s nice being outside. That done we made our way to the press room. Badge acquired and achievement unlocked! One would think a major con of over 60,000 people would elicit huge wait lines. GenCon wisely opens up it’s Will Call window Wednesday evening and leaves it open 24 hours all week. Even with a long line you’re in and out in about 10 minutes.
Thursday was “friend day”. This is possibly my favorite aspect of Gen Con, meeting all the friends you only get to see once a year. Kilted up and equipped with my Bag of Holding we made our way to the Geek & Sundry booth. There we met up with our friends Sarah, Tabitha, and Caylie. The conversation naturally fell into our gaming plans for the evening. It was pretty much understood we’d be destroying something that night, whether that be orcs, livers, or each other. And without further ado we were in the lobby of the hotel trading beers and joined by Lisa and Brian from d20Monkey playing a brand new game, Unspeakable Words. It’s like a card based Cthulhu scrabble.
Friday was costume day for me. We awoke early and did our P90X3 Yoga. This was AMAZING after a full day on our feet. Then I donned my only costume, Star Lord. Now, here’s where the primary difference between Gen Con and Dragon*Con come to light. GC is not a huge costuming con. There are some, and they are usually GREAT. But it’s not a constant barrage of photogs and people in worbla and spandex. That said I got a great response. Could have been the little Rocket I was carrying or the bluetooth speaker blasting Awesome Mix vol 1. But even though I got a lot of nods and thumbs up there were very few pictures. THIS IS GOOD! I was able to walk around the dealer hall and actually enjoy myself. Andrea and I were able to go to some of the booths and do some shopping, picking up an amazing game called Veliciraptor! Cannibalism!
This next part is tough to put into words but it highlights another awesome part of Gen Con. We decided to go back to Geek & Sundry to see the ladies. A few minutes later Wil came up, slipped Andrea a W00Tstout 2.0 and invited us to join him for lunch and games. We headed off with Sarah, Jaques, and his wife Dawn. Needless to say I was a bit nervous but it turned into a great afternoon playing Drunk Quest, Velociraptor! Cannibalism!, talking home brew, and all manner of things. Before we knew it we’d been there for about 6 hours and the place was starting to pack up. So after a few more drinks we headed back to the hotel and dropped everyone off. I couldn’t wait to get out of that costume!
Saturday came really, really early. But you know what, I was about to do something I’d never done before and that’s what GenCon is all about. I headed to the convention center at about 745 with Crystal and Chad to play my very first game of Pathfinder. Let me just say I have always been DnD. Drizzt’s my boy and I love the the Companions of the Hall. It had never crossed my mind to play another system (other than Star Wars or Firefly). But I really enjoyed Pathfinder. It seemed to have a community that I haven’t seen from Wizards in a long time. I got my Pathfinder Society number, signed up, and made my character (a badass ninja). That’s when I was told I could register my character and they would go with me from game to game, leveling up. So cool! Anyway, we mustered our little group together and sat down to go on an epic journey to unravel the mystery of the Gill people. The story was pretty fun and I loved the system, but our DM killed it. He opened up saying he’d already run the game 34 times so he really had no passion. In fact, often when we’d get stuck he’d just tell us what to do next. We also rolled 20’s like a boss, which he ended up really hating and he took it out on us. Honestly, if it weren’t for my friends I would have walked away from that game and never looked at Pathfinder again.
This brings me to one of the very few aspects of GenCon I’ve noticed getting worse as the years go on. They DM/GM’s are just over worked. See, the system for paying these folks is by having them work X hours for a % of their badge and room fees. If they work 4 hours they get a percentage of their badge paid for. Eight hours and they get more until they are able to get a free ride. This means many people sign up to work every available slot, literally from 8am to midnight every day of the con. The gaming starts Wednesday so by Saturday most of these folks are exhausted.
After a few more hours running around the convention floor all kilted up and snapping pictures of the various costumes and booths, we grabbed our cooler of craft beer, some board games, and set off for the convention hall to do some free gaming. Enter the only other aspect of GenCon that seems to be going down hill, the open gaming space. A couple of years ago you could squat just about anywhere with a group of friends, crack open a game, and go nuts. This year it seemed like the hotels and con were really trying to capitalize to the max. There was the open gaming hall like always, but more and more tables were reserved for ticketed games. We tried the upstairs area of the hotel where their were private rooms and tables, but they were already booked by gaming groups (most of which weren’t using the actual rooms but they would reserve them for 24 hours anyway). We finally ended up in the convention center food court. This actually worked out quite well as we had quick access to bathrooms and water, but were in a nice secluded corner. And this is how we welcomed Sunday, the final day.
Sunday is generally much more laid back. It’s the last day to get some really good deals on games. It’s the last day to do anything you haven’t done yet over the course of the week. It’s also the last day not to sleep in. So up again bright and early on about four hours of sleep I set of to do something I’d never done, paint mini’s. While Andrea and I were in Scotland we found a Games Workshop and painted our actual first mini, but they only let us paint one color. This was a full on mini, and it was free! You got a mini and brush to keep and use of all their paints. I decided to paint a mini for my wife, a bad ass red headed warrior. Then it was off to the dealer hall to get those last minute deals. Alas, there weren’t really any 🙁 It was a much different experience this year. I’ve seen a lot of the smaller indie game companies show up at this con with a table and a guy with a demo game, happy just to get his name out there. Now these indie groups have all grown up into million dollar groups, and as such are starting to lose their connection to the fans. It’s a shame, but also just a part of life. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have a damn blast!
All in all GenCon was a hell of a good time, as always. I met up with old friends, met some amazing new ones, found new games and loves, and got to do many things I can’t do the rest of the year. When you live in a town lacking a real gaming scene it’s a nice break to just spend a solid week playing every game you can get your hands on.
For all of the photos from this epic weekend please visit http://bit.ly/GenCon2014