Monday, September 3, 2012

GenCon 2007 - You never forget your first time

In 2007, a friend and I decided to go to GenCon. "Why not"?, we thought. We're grown men. Now seems like a great time to finally make good on all of those adolescent dreams of going to the great nerd fest in Wisconsin (Although it was now in Indianapolis). No one can stop us now - except maybe spouses - but they were sympathetic to our cause, and permitted the trip. There was only one problem with this plan. We decided to go in June.

The Set Up
Those of you who have attended GenCon, especially in earlier years, will know well that by June, every hotel room in downtown Indy is already booked up. Not only that but pretty much all of the events you probably want to do are already sold out. There is definitely some kind of Murphy's law that relates to no matter how obscure the event is, the likelihood of it being sold out is directly proportional to how much you want to attend it. So, no hotels, and limited events....screw it, we're going anyways. Additional incentive was provided by a group of friends who had been going for several years, so if nothing else we would have a whole posse to hang out with. And at least it was just the two of us in the hotel outside the city, as opposed to the 7 in one room that our friends had at the Marriott.

We end up getting a hotel room about 20 minutes outside of the city center. The rate was great, around $55 a night. The hotel was a bit on the nasty side, but what can you expect for $55? At least they had an old copy of Street Fighter II in the lobby. That provided some after hours entertainment as I used my long forgotten ninja powers of button mashing with Blanca to electrocute my friend over and over. It was a bit like Lucy pulling the football away from old Chuck, and I now understand why she got so much enjoyment from it. The only real problem we ended up with out of the deal was trying to find a parking space. ProTip - if you aren't downtown by 6am, make sure you brought a hiking stick.

The Events
With most of the events we might have wanted sold out, and this being my first GenCon, we loaded up on seminars. I hit the jackpot, as they were all really good. Great tips on GMing, encounter building, improvisation, and other skills, flowed freely. Handouts were available, we took good notes, and I can say without reservation that these seminars contributed to making me a better GM. We did not get into any RPGs, since at the time, I was pretty much in D&D only mode. We spent a long time wandering the dealer hall, marveling at what was basically Santa's house to my inner 14 year old. I had come to the promised land, seen the top of the mountain, and it was good. We also attended a few painting and sculpting workshops. I was playing a lot of Warhammer Fantasy Battles and other miniatures games then, so these were also very useful. Some more than others, but all worth the time and money investment in general. I did walk away feeling very inadequate though, seeing how quickly a talented miniatures artist can paint up a face to a quality I can barely imagine. It was like learning how, but still not being able to do it.

Things that I Bought
HackerMunchkin, More cards for the CCG Rage: The Apocalypse than I care to admit in a public forum

All in all it was a surreal experience, and set the stage for me to keep coming back. I have greatly expanded my own palette in gaming taste since then. This year I played precisely zero D&D, and of the games I played in, I had only played one of them before. I like having the opportunity that GenCon gives to play new games, try new systems without having to learn it on your own first. I have found it extremely useful to play in a session of a new game at GenCon before trying to run that system at home.

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