Countdown to GenCon 2012

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gen Con - Day 3

Saturday was one of those days I could not just get up late. 8 am was Revenge of the Iron Lich with @MilwaukeeJoe DMing, and was one of the scheduled games I had that I was not going to miss. I spent the night at my home, rather than the hotel so I could shave off about 40 minutes in travel time in the morning. As normal, 6 am saw me up and taking care of the dogs.

I'd not had any games in the Crowne Plaza yet, so I was a little concerned about finding my room. Union Station and the Crowne Plaza hotel have always confused me for some reason. I was happy to have a few minutes to find where I needed to be, even though I ended up heading right to the room without getting lost.

I was really surprised by the group that showed up for Iron Lich. 2 kids, one with his dad, a player who hadn't played any 4E, a more experienced player, and me.  This could have worked out well, had everyone been ready for a challenge and ready to work together. That's not how it played out though. I had not played that much 4E, and the pregens for Iron Lich were the highest level characters I'd worked with. I had a lot to sort out, and I knew this coming in. I think I might have done well if I had been able to focus on just what I needed to do for the party. I ended up, however, needing to babysit and try to help with coordination. The group just did not gel, and aside from me and Joe, I don't think anyone had a clue what fourthcore was about.

Right from the start, one of the kids got onery and elected to not share his rumor card. He also decided that he was just going to do his own things...usually stuff he thought was funny, and not really be a part of the party. His dad could have set him straight, but chose not to be involved at all. The other youngster was better, but had no clue how to play his character and had an unending stream of questions, most of which were of the "oh...should I use this power" variety. Since I was sitting next to that one, I got to field the questions. Please don't get me wrong, I think playing with younger players can be great, and I fully encourage them. I started as a young player. What I don't like is younger players that aren't there to play, or are there to disrupt. That has no place at a convention where each game is paid for.

I almost got up and left. I know I had that choice. I also know from playing in The Grind 4E Play-by-Post that @MilwaukeeJoe runs that he's a good DM, and knows his stuff. After a few rooms, I decided that we were not going to get very far, and so I might as well try to make the best of things and help where I could. I did my best to lure the obnoxious child back into playing the game with everyone. A combination of excluding him when he was being a jerk, and giving him the attention he craved when he decided to play with everyone else seemed to work to get him in the game. Helping the boy who did want to play, but was completely overwhelmed with the number of things his character could do seemed to really get him back in to the group and he seemed to legitimately appreciate someone taking the time to help him make decisions. The more experienced player helped the new to 4E player, and the dad was left to fend for himself, which he did sometimes, and others he just went off on his own. The end result was getting the party back to some level of functionality and bringing the enjoyment back to the game.

Our DM did what he could to involve everyone and try to solve these problems too, but as DM he had more than enough to do already. Sometimes it's up to you as a player to just sacrifice a bit of your fun and help run the game and manage unruly players. The reward for you is you turn a possible disaster into something that's at least a little enjoyable. Joe did a great job running the game, and I managed to have a good time, even with all the obstacles. We, of course, failed miserably in terms of scoring points and completing the adventure, but there was no getting around that.

After the game, @MilwaukeeJoe was kind enough to invite me to an invite only game later that night with some friends of his. I had nothing planned, so now I had a 9 pm game to go to. 

When Iron Lich was out of time, it was about noon, and so I had a Met RX bar for lunch, and dropped my backpack off in my room. My next event was at 1:00 pm, and since it was TerrorKore, I didn't want to be carrying too much.

Showing up at TerrorKore on time, which is to say early, I went through the signing of the waivers and waited around as the rest of  my group arrived. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous as I didn't really know what to expect from this one. I was fairly tentative, since I had no idea what I was doing, and still felt a little lost after the "training" videos. I don't think that was at all the fault of the game, more just that I was feeling a little overwhelmed. This is one that probably would have been better had I gone with a friend or two. I was issued the job of being the second team demolitions expert. I got the standard pellet gun and a detonator for explosives. The scenario was we were recovering data from a facility where cyborg zombies had run amok and taken control. Team two was the rear guard, which made me more comfortable. Just keep the zombies off our rear..no problem. TerrorKore is billed as a live action FPS. That's an apt description. I have to admit my adrenaline was certainly ramped up, and when we started getting actors (read: targets) coming at us, I got into it. It was fairly chaotic as one might expect, and it was fun, but ultimately not for me..at least not  at the price. I know some will (and do) love it, but I far preferred True Dungeon. Maybe someday TerrorKore will have the same budget as True Dungeon and the immersion level will go up, but I just wasn't feeling like I was there..True Dungeon gave me far more of that.

Once I got out of TerrorKore, I had some time on my hands. I also had a very old collection of M:tG cards that I'd been wanting to sell forever. What better place and time than GenCon in the dealer hall?  I hoofed back to my room, grabbed my collection, and headed in to see what I could do. Of course I wasn't going to be single minded about this..it's the dealer hall. I was also going to be doing recon so I knew where I most wanted to go when I got the chance to spend more time there.

Again..I can't express how huge and overwhelming the dealer hall can be. It's truly enormous, and stuffed to the gills with gaming goodness. You could easily spend all your time there and still miss out on many, many things that the hall has to offer. Walking in there, you pretty much have to stop, look around, and get your bearings before setting off in a direction. I did just that, concentrating on collectible card game vendors. Sure..there were many, many of them. I'm sure I missed a good deal, but really I just wanted to get some cash back. I had a non-sorted collection, and I knew that I couldn't really expect to get anything like maximum value since I had no idea what anything was worth. What took me by surprise was a lot of the vendors, after I patiently waited in line for my turn, looked through my cards and pronounced them "Too old."  Not in bad shape..just so old that they were irrelevant to the current players. Made sense when I thought about it for a second, but man it sucked. I finally did find a place that was happy to buy my cards. They very quickly sorted out the valuable ones, checked the condition thoroughly, and made me what seemed a very fair offer. I wish I remembered who I sold them to. They went so far as to let me know what they were going to sell the valuable cards for so I could see the markup. I had one card that was worth most of my collection. That one card got me $120. They offered me much smaller amounts on some less valuable cards, and then made a bulk offer on the remainder of the collection. $273 in total. I was more than happy with that and felt fairly treated. To be honest, I had expected to feel taken advantage of, but the dealers generally seemed to be very fair and forthright about how they did their business. I left the hall feeling good about my transaction, and having scoped out some booths I wanted to spend more time at.

At this point, it was time to drop my bag off and head over to the Westin for Obsidian Portal's panel. I had something I needed to get to @DreadGazeebo for all his help and encouragement in the past year. He hooked me up with one of those cool Obsidian portal badge ribbons and an action point counter. We agreed to meet for dinner later, and I headed out to wander around a bit. My girlfriend was going to come for dinner too, but got tied up, so she never made it. We ended up at Noodles and Company because downtown was totally jam packed with gamers, but we could get in after a reasonable wait. @Dreadpixee and @micahwedemeyer joined us as well, and it was a very pleasant meal. My dinner companions were headed off to the media party that evening, so I headed back over to the Crowne Plaza for my 9 pm game with @MilwaukeeJoe.

This proved to be a very enjoyable game. It was me and a very nice married couple that had been friends with Joe for a long time. The wife was very much a role player, so Joe ran Crucible of the Gods without the time limit for us. It was a very different experience, and we did manage to complete the adventure...barely. It wasn't like we did it fairly...our DM was very easy on us once or twice to keep this going as a very casual, fun game. It was an entirely different perspective on the adventure as well. One of the hallmarks of the fourthcore games I'd been in (very few) was the time limit. This makes for a high degree of challenge, but does tend to preclude role playing since there just isn't time. Playing the same adventure at a more casual pace was a very cool way to experience it, and my fellow players made this a very enjoyable game. Really, I have to hand it to @MilwaukeeJoe for being such a flexible DM. He can just go with events as they happen, and reacts on the fly really well. Versatility is a great boon for a DM.

We got out at some silly hour like 2 am. I hoofed it the few short blocks back to my room at the Westin, and crashed almost instantly. This had been a very full day.





Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gen Con: Day 2 (Friday for those keeping track of such things)

Right from the start, days at GenCon bled one into the other. I'd only gotten a few hours of sleep when it was time to wake up and take care of my dogs again. 5 bells found me getting showered and then heading back to my house for the dog feeding/walking ritual. Needless to say, I was tired. I figured it was prudent to get some more sleep, so I grabbed a few more hours and headed out at about 11 AM for some food. I skipped my morning Pathfinder game. One thing I've certainly learned this year is to only schedule things at 8 AM if you know you just can't bear to miss them.

My initial plan was to spend some time in the dealer hall and see if I could find a pick-up game. Thankfully I checked twitter that morning. I'd scheduled a Hollow Earth Expedition game at 4 PM on Saturday, but I knew there was absolutely no way I could play in it now with my dog care duties. HEX is one of the games I was really looking forward to trying a GenCon, and I knew one of my only real chances was a rumor that @KJBauman was going to be GMing a pick-up game sometime during the con. I'd gotten this info from @d20Blonde, and she'd recommended him as the best HEX GM she'd played with. Sure enough, today was the day. There was one spot left in @KJBauman's "Danger in the Arctic" game in the Embassy Suites' lobby at noon. I responded (as soon as I saw the tweet) that I would really like to play in the game, and managed to be lucky enough to get the last spot. See how useful social media (Twitter in particular) is at a con? I grabbed a quick sub at Subway in the food court at the mall, and headed to the game. After a little trouble in finding the group, they found me and we sat down to play.

This game was an absolute blast. Without spoiling this for anyone that might get the opportunity to play it in the future, the pre-gens form a shameless rip off of the Johnny Quest team with the same interactions built in to your motives. I played the brilliant scientist who can't quite get everything from paper to reality without some issue. There were rockets and Nazis and zeppelins and snowmobile chases and dogfights and portals to the moon and Hitler in a jar. The game was over-the-top pulp at its best. While we didn't play strictly rules-as-written, @KJBauman's modifications worked wonderfully for this scenario with new players and experienced. In my last post I talked briefly about being able to tell a good game by looking at the players. Our GM was up on his feet constantly, animated, and made every situation (bad and good) into something fun. The players were smiling most of the game, and grinning a good portion of it too. There was at least one good full belly laugh every 10 minutes (honestly, I'm surprised we didn't get asked to calm down). As you can probably tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this game. If you EVER get the chance to play in one of @KJBauman's HEX games, just make the time and do it. He gets nervous about GMing it seems, but I think that's because he puts a lot of pressure on himself to make sure everyone has fun. No need to worry, he's brilliant at what he does and it was again educational for me to watch such a good GM in action (when I managed to briefly break my immersion with the specific intent of trying to learn some techniques). This was absolutely one of the best twitter tips I got all con. So glad I was able to be a part of this.

As for the game, the Ubiquity system really plays smoothly. Sure, you need a GM who can come up with good numbers for target successes on the fly, but the skill and combat resolution is fast and smooth, keeping the game moving and exciting. The HEX system of rewards for playing built in motivations and flaws, even when doing so might cause a temporarily bad outcome, really adds roleplaying depth to the game. Yes, this system absolutely encourages RP. Even if you just don't RP, you're still going to gain significant advantages for staying in character because you're going to get rewarded with extra dice when you want them for doing so. This is a game I'm really glad I got a chance to play, and I am happy to have purchased the core rulebook in advance. I'd play a full campaign if the opportunity ever came up, and I'll probably look for another HEX game at GenCon next year.

I got out of this game at about 4 pm, and had a little bit of free time, but not a lot. I knew I wasn't going to my scheduled HEX game on Saturday, and I'd made plans for the night so I wasn't going to the Pathfinder GenCon special at 7 PM. Armed with this, I stopped by GenCon customer service and returned these tickets so they would know there were places for generics. I also got some money back (I think there was a 5% return fee...it was something small and very reasonable). At this point I didn't have to wait long in line, and everything went very smoothly again. The GenCon staff really has this down.

I think I may have wandered the halls a bit, but soon I headed back to my car to drive home and take care of the dogs. I was also picking up my girlfriend so we could walk around and admire the cosplayers. She likes seeing what people have come up with, so this was a great way to show her some fun at the con. We were also going to go to the Goth/Industrial night at the Ugly Monkey though we weren't planning on staying long. I had to be up early on Saturday and she couldn't be out very long with her back injury.

I don't remember what I did for dinner, but what does that matter? I know we headed back downtown and I changed into my goth clothes. We then walked around the convention center admiring the costumes. The Westin convention rooms are where all the film and anime events are held, so it's a great place if you want to see cosplay. We spent a significant amount of time there, and talked to a few folks about their costumes. We were heading back to the con center on the up escalator when I actually started listening to the performer who had set up his keyboard by said escalators. I heard Japanese, and it suddenly struck me that he was, for all intents and purposes, playing lounge versions of anime theme songs. Needless to say, we turned right around and headed back down to listen for a bit. Turns out he had a huge book of music, so when my girlfriend requested Gessekai by Buck Tick (the theme to Nightwalker, and one of the most goth sounding Japanese songs I've heard) he found it in no time and launched into a very respectable rendition. What a find. These are the cool little things you can see at GenCon by just being in the right place at the right time. The artist in question is Gavin Goska, and you can find out more at http://www.subtleinversion.com/gavin (unfortunately his page is locked behind some ridiculous login wall that even site registration doesn't seem to get you access too. Not the best marketing tool). I recommend catching some of his act if you ever get the chance and like anime themes or J-pop.
A really well done Hit Girl. Wish this
picture was better.
An orc...and a good one.

At about 10 PM we headed over to the Ugly Monkey for some dancing. As I should have expected, 10 to midnight was just too early, and very few people had shown up by the time we got there. The music was mediocre at best, so I'm not sure we missed much (though it may have improved later). Indy's goth/industrial scene leaves a lot to be desired, but it's nice to see them still trying. Maybe I'm just too old, but the music that gets played just isn't my thing for the most part. I got to dance to all of one song, so this part of the night felt like kind of a waste. We headed back towards my car at about midnight, and of all the flattering things, I got stopped by a bunch of much younger women so they could snap a picture and compliment my on my look. My girlfriend gets stopped a lot..she's significantly more attractive than I should be with, so it was a nice ego boost to be the one stopped for once.

I knew I had an 8 AM game, so we headed home and I got to sleep as soon as I could. Another great day of GenCon had passed, and I'd kept busy the whole time and had a blast.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gen Con: Day 1

Thursday was the first "real" day of GenCom. I started off with my duties at home. I woke up at 5 am, drove home, took care of my dogs, and drove back. This was a repeat task for me every day at 5 am and 5 pm. It's just what I had to do to meet my responsibilities to my pets. The original plan was for my girlfriend to take care of this, but she hurt her back, and dealing with big, excited dogs was not in the program any more. She was very kind and did take care of them once for me, as you'll see in a bit.

After returning to downtown, I had a little time, so I managed a little extra sleep before waking up at 9 am so I would be sufficiently early to my 10 am True Dungeon run. I scheduled this first thing in the convention partly because I hoped choosing this time I would be more likely to get my pick, and partly because there wasn't anything competing for my time yet. It turns out the group I was in was 8 friends, some of whom were podcasters, including @Tresi, @bafadam, @Jennisodes, @linabaf, @WarrenLocke, and @TheGreatMrChibi. We spent some time going through our bags of tokens trying to optimize the distribution as best we could. Turns out that was something of a wasted effort. When our 10th player showed up, he immediately dropped a massive binder of tokens on the table and announced the he was equipping the party. It was nice to have good gear, that's for sure, but this particular individual was a little over the top and proud of his collection. It was pretty clear that we were somewhat beneath him since we were casual True Dungeon players. I think he was disappointed that no one really cared that he was there.

Finally, we rolled into the practice room and had just enough time for our cleric and mage to memorize their diagrams and prayer beads before we were ushered into the dungeon. This was a puzzle run, but there was a fair amount of combat too. I could take you through room-by-room, but I'm sure if you really want to know, the info is out there somewhere online. We did fairly well, solving more puzzles and defeating more monsters than we failed. Unfortunately the final puzzle was a solve or die puzzle. We had the solution, but somehow just didn't manage to locate the hidden item even though we were pretty sure what we were looking for. We entered the final room with the whole party alive, but didn't solve the puzzle in time. That was a bit of a let down, but that's how it goes. I think everyone had a great time anyway. I know I did. This event was absolutely worth the price of admission, and I will be doing this again.

I got out of True Dungeon at about noon, so it was lunch time. I knew Scotty's would start to get busy today, so I headed down there and picked up my collectible die. Lunch was less crowded than I thought it would be, but the wait staff had certainly been trained to cater to the GenCon crowd. My waitress asked me about the games I'd played so far, and while I doubt she really cared it was still nice to have that little extra bit of effort aimed at gamers.

Once lunch was done, I made a dash to the dealer hall to try to get a little exploration time in before my next game. The new dealer hall area is just about overwhelming. I realized after a few minutes in there that I was really glad my first trip in was with a purpose. I'd heard so many good things about Ptolus that I wanted to get a copy of the two book reprint being released by Malhavoc Press and DriveThruRPG.com. I'd seen comments on twitter that they were running out quickly, so I located the booth on the hall map and headed straight back to it. Good thing...there were only about 7 copies left. This is a monster of a product. 2 books that add up to about 2 inches thick, and additional electronic docs to follow (I believe it's 16 PDFs, including the map). It didn't come cheap, but what really great product of that volume does?

Setting up for Crucible of the Gods in the J. W. Marriott. From left to
right: @BrainClouds, @Hzurr, @saveversusdeath, and @DanielRoanoke
After wandering back to my hotel room to stash my new purchase and grab some character sheets, I went to one of the events I'd really been looking forward to. On Tuesday before the con, I'd gotten an invite from Sersa V (@saveversusdeath) to play his new fourthcore adventure, C1: Crucible of the Gods. I'm a fourthcore fan, so there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to play the new adventure with the creator of the module and fourthcore as a whole as the DM. My girlfriend had said she could take care of the dogs so that I could play in this, and for that she has my sincere gratitude. At 3:30 I found myself in the lobby of the J. W. Marriott shaking Sersa V's hand and then looking for a free table to play at. This game was everything I expected and more. It was full of incredibly difficult challenges that we mostly barely scraped by. It was non-stop pressure and excitement. Sersa as a DM made the experience even better. His style was very animated, and each description of what the party was experiencing came complete with very evocative language and sound effects. Yes, we all died. Doesn't matter...everyone seemed to have a blast playing, and I know I did. I'll repeat this rule in my description of later days as well, but when you stop and look around a gaming table and everyone is smiling and laughing or totally absorbed, you know they are having fun and you're in a good game. We lost 3 characters on the way to the final room (including my poor cleric), and then in the final encounter defeated the rest. I think we did a really good job overall though, and made it really far for our first run at this adventure  (this is a replayable module). The last man standing was @Hzurr, and in the truest tradition of fourthcore, he made a last minute plea to the gods and basically won the day. His exploits in the final chamber earned him a place in the module from that point forward (see Crucible of the Gods Update and New Content). I'd like to think that this game is part of what changed Sersa's mind regarding D&D 4E and fourthcore. He'd announced prior to GenCon that he was no longer going to be adding any fourthcore products, just finishing what was already on the schedule, and was going to pursue writing his own game instead (Wrath). While I'm excited for Wrath, I really thought losing fourthcore D&D was tragic. Now, thanks to a post con change of heart we get both! As an afterthought, it occurred to me after the whole con was over that this game was my first full game of D&D 4E. I'd played Encounters, I'd played some play-by-post 4E, but this was my first full adventure. What an introduction! Baptism by fire if ever there was.

If you're trying to match up my day with my schedule, you'll find I skipped my 2 hour Tower of Gygax run to play in Crucible. I don't regret that at all. I would have enjoyed Tower, but I am sure I picked correctly. It's OK to skip things at GenCon if better opportunities arise. They have the generic ticket system in place for just this possibility, and I'm sure someone got my spot and was glad for it.

It was about 7:45 pm now, and I had a little bit of time before my 10:30 Tower of Gygax event. I stopped by the RAM to see about dinner, but they had a fairly long wait, and I like the food at Scotty's better. I took a walk down there expecting an hour wait, and ran into @Hzurr also waiting for a table. He invited me to join him, so I ended up only waiting about 10 minutes and had good company for dinner. To top it all off, he was in my 10:30 game as well, so it all worked out about as well as it could. I grabbed a growler of the Abbey Ale on the way out, just in case there was drinking allowed at the late night event. Turns out no one did, so the growler stayed in my bag for later consumption.

I'm a "Champion of the Tower"
My 10:30 game was again DMed by @saveversusdeath. It was a three night adaptation of the original Tomb of Horrors hosted by Tower of Gygax and run with slightly modified AD&D rules. We were each allowed to choose 3 pregens, and you weren't eliminated until all three were dead.  It was a fun and casual way to play a real challenging dungeon with none of the brutality taken out. Some at the table had never played any of the 1E style rule sets, so it was nice to be the one in familiar rules territory for once. One player had never heard of percentile dice :).  It was a great night that lasted until around 2:30 in the morning. There was only one player who was a little bit of a jerk (questioned the DM because "that doesn't happen in the original" and as a paladin summoned his warhorse inside just to be a tool). The party worked around him and @saveversusdeath maintained his cool as a DM. I was one of the few players left at the end of the adventure with my first character still standing, and I got a badge ribbon for that. By the time 2:30 rolled around, I was tired but on a high like only a great day at GenCon can give you. I headed back to my room to try to grab 2 hours of sleep if I could.

That, folks, is what a full day at GenCon looks like. Some scheduled events, some pick-up games, some time in the dealer hall and making a lot of friends. You'll notice a lot of twitter handles in this post. I can't think of one thing that I did better than making a lot of friends and acquaintances on twitter during the year running up to the convention. I arrived with a bunch of people I wanted to meet and that knew me well enough to feel good inviting me to games. I really got far, far more out of GenCon thanks to attempting to be part of the community and pay things forward with this blog.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Gen Con: Day 0

Wednesday was really the beginning of GenCon 2011 for me. I woke up early because I couldn't sleep (thanks to a somewhat rough Tuesday) loaded my van, and headed downtown. One of the great things about my job is that I get to use the Indiana State parking garages, so I pulled up within 20' of the door to the overpass (hereafter referred to as the gerbil tube) between the J. W. Marriott and the convention center. On a whim I walked over to the Westin and asked if they had a room, and they did. I was able to check in at 10 am and move all my stuff right away, which made the day a little more relaxing. The room key was a Neverwinter special, which I thought was pretty darn cool.

My roommate (David Flor, @BrainClouds) was scheduled to arrive at 11:20, so I had some time to explore the convention center and get some breakfast.  Seeing the banners and WotC's statues really increased the excitement level, as it was clear GenCon was finally here for me.

Trolls!
Love him or hate him, he was there
I dropped in to Scotty's for some brunch and to pick up my Wednesday die. I figured I wasn't going to get back there on Wednesday, so it was a good way to have a nice meal and check Daily Die Quest off my list. By that time it was time to head back to my car and drive to the airport. The airport featured more WotC advertising in the form of a huge 3D dragon display and Neverwinter ads on the monitors at the baggage claim. Yep, Wizards really spent some money to get their message out, and since the ads were cool I was really happy to see such a imposing presence. After picking up David, we headed back to the hotel and then out for some lunch at the food court. I also stopped by Will Call, since it was open at this point, and got my badge, tickets, and swag bag.

Scotty's Wednesday die
At this point there wasn't all that much to do in the remaining time for me, so I headed home for a bit to take care of the dogs and get some food. I had a significant amount of pizza left over from the previous night so that was a free meal I couldn't pass up. After that it was back down town and time for the fun to really start. Wednesday night is Critical-Hits Drinking Dungeons and Dragons (DD&D) night!
Airport GenCon Welcome from WotC

DD&D really set the tone for my GenCon experience. An amazing night all around. I met so many of my friends from twitter, I don't even feel like it would be right to attempt to name them all here. The night was like a who's who of the D&D world. In addition to many of the best bloggers and podcasters out there, a goodly number of the Wizards of the Coast employees responsible for the game and big name freelancers were there. Everyone was super nice, and it was great to just hang out and talk gaming. When the game itself got rolling, it was great to get to watch the masters in action (@Davethegame@chattyDM, @Slyfourish and @SarahDarkMagic were the DMs). Without spoiling anything, the game consisted of 4 encounters/rounds. The first was relatively normal, and there didn't seem to be all that much drinking going on. The second round really took off when the roles of DM and player were effectively reversed and people really seem to enjoy this. By the time the third round rolled in, everyone was clearly having a great time. The final round was a sudden death round, but seemed to go well despite it being pretty late.

It was all I could do to roll back to the room and crash at that point. Technically the con hadn't even started yet, and I already had a great night. I hadn't even played a single game yet.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

That's a Wrap (For This Year)

Well, GenCon 2011 is in the can. I had the time of my life, and met soooo many great people. My apologies for not keeping up on the day to day posting prior to the con. Life got very busy, very fast. As soon as I get a chance to sit down and really process everything I'll post my experiences and review some stuff I got.  Guess I better reset that counter for next year too.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Construction in the hotels

Eight days...

I stopped by the Westin today to add my roommate to my room reservation so that he can get a key even if he arrives when I'm not there. Imagine my surprise when I found out that the lobby was mostly blocked off.  The business center too. They decided to start renovations this week. Not sure why, except that maybe they need to start now to make sure it's done before the Superbowl.  In any case, pick another hotel if you want to do some lobby gaming.

For those coming into town very early, expect some traffic and crowd at the airport.  The Brickyard 400 is this weekend, so there will be a lot of NASCAR fans in town. Downtown probably won't be too crowded, but be prepared for some possible minor delays.

Looks like they mean to finish the carpeting in the convention center. The new carpet line moved again last night, and there's only a day or two more of work left to complete the whole center.

Eight more days...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Beer is here

Nine days folks.

Today Thr3e Wise Men brewery held the tapping party for Long Fang Abbey Ale, the Gen Con beer that will be served at Scotty's Brewhouse (Thr3e Wise Men and Scotty's are sister pubs). It was right after work for me, and on the way home so I had the opportunity to swing by and try it. The beer is an abbey style ale, which I have to admit is not a style I'm familiar with. For this reason, I can't tell you if it's typical of the style, but I can tell you it was tasty. The beer definitely has a bitter bite to it, but it's not an IPA. More like a slightly stronger bitter or ESB. It's got a very rich flavor, and goes down very pleasantly.  Technically, for those who are better zymurgists than I, it's ABV is 7%, and it measures in at 34 IBUs. To me, it seemed more bitter than I would expect from 34 IBUs, but its a pleasant bitter not a biting bitter. I will be drinking more of this next week.

Monitor at the Indiana Convention Center

Look what else happened today. The last event prior to Gen Con dropped off the calendar at the convention center. Technically it should still be there since it's on July 30th, but we're now the next event on the list.

They've been gradually going around and replacing all the carpeting in the old side of the convention center to match the new addition. They have one small spot left, and since they're moving forward again there's a decent chance that come Gen Con there will be completely new carpeting. If they don't make it, the area that the registration desks will be is that last area with the old carpeting. I wouldn't say the new stuff is attractive, but it is better than the old I suppose.

Today was also the day that reservations for Gen Con were released to the hotels. If you feel the need to confirm your reservation with the hotel, now is the time. If you need to make changes, you now need to contact your hotel, rather than the housing bureau.

Nine more days folks.

Monday, July 25, 2011

10 days....

And so it begins...

These banners went up today along the length of Maryland St. out in front of the convention center. Each has a different picture on the side. For me, this officially marks the warm up to Gen Con. Last year, when I was still a gamer in deep sleep (if you will), it was these banners that got me interested enough to check out the con.

Over the next few days, I'll try to post something short each day with the latest info I have on details about what's going on. I expect to see more prep as the week goes on. If you have any last minute con questions, ask in the comments and I'll try to get an answer an post it the following day if at all possible.

Currently, it looks like the weather is going to be reasonable. We're on a near record hot streak right now, but we're slowly coming out of it thankfully. It is currently looking like high 80's and mostly sunny for the con.

Tomorrow is the tapping of Scotty's Gen Con beer, Long Fang Abbey Ale up at the Thr3e Wise Men brewery in Broadripple. It's from 5-6 pm, so hopefully I'll be able to swing by on the way home and grab a small sample.

10 days....

Friday, July 22, 2011

Accomplishment: I Haz It

Today, an article of mine was posted on Critical-Hits. It's about all the great things Scotty's Brewhouse is doing for Gen Con.  Please go read it at :

http://critical-hits.com/2011/07/22/scotty%E2%80%99s-brewpub-gaming-grog-grub-and-good-times-for-gen-con/

Yeah..I got an article of mine posted on the ENnie nominated Critical-Hits (Two more days to vote as I write this..go vote for them here. Best Blog category). What an honor. I frankly can't really believe it. I was originally going to post it here, but I thought that they might be interested in it since they're talking a lot about Gen Con now, and it seemed like a better fit there since they get way more visits than my blog. I really wanted Scotty's to get maximum exposure because the place is doing so much for us gamers this year.

As this became a reality today, I looked back on my first post and how this blog came to be. I "visited" Gen Con for a few hours last year and wanted more. I thought I might be able to provide people coming to Gen Con with a little more information so they would have a better trip. There's also a healthy dose of personal stuff about my adventure in returning to gaming. To recap: 1 year from nothing to publishing article in one of the most respected gaming blogs out there (maybe someday I'll even post an article actually about gaming somewhere :) ).

Thank you all for reading my musings. I am going to call this experience a complete success, and when Gen Con starts (for me) in 11 days I'm going to pursue fun with all the energy I have. For those who think you'll never achieve your goals, you won't. You won't unless you put yourself out there, take a risk, and TRY. Do that, and who knows where you'll end up?

This isn't a final post, though it does have that sort of tone. It's just a milestone. Not sure where I'll go from here, but I will continue on.

This has been a good year.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Gen Con Survival: Assorted Suggestions

I was originally going to write yet another Gen Con survival guide, but there really are enough of those out there. Let me link to some fine ones right from the start:

Gen Con Survival Guide
Sean's Gen Con Tips, Rules, and Things to Bring--Indianapolis Version
Gaming Convention Survival Guide | Sly Flourish

These are some great write-ups on making the most of Gen Con and conventions in general. I can't agree 100% with everything, but those items I think aren't 100% are close enough so as not to matter.

What I have noticed is that the city changes gradually from year-to-year, as does Gen Con. That means tips for the year are always handy, so I'll put a few down here as well as some things I thought up to make my own experience better.

There are a few things I'm definitely packing for the con. I've already bought the first, and it's a 24 pack of 5 Hour Energy, Extra Strength. I could guzzle energy drinks and/or coffee all through the con, but I've found that 5 Hour Energy actually lives up to its promises for me. It perks me up in about 20 minutes and keeps me going for 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours. It's mostly vitamins, so it has never given me the caffeine jitters, and isn't harsh on my stomach. I have to face that fact that I'm not as young as I used to be, and pulling an all-nighter or even getting less sleep than normal no longer comes at no cost.  Something is needed to help me, and this is my choice. I consider it a major bonus that these bottles are very small and so they're easy to pack and I can keep one or two in my backpack with no issues. It's just about perfect as a supplement to keep my mind and body going. I really don't want to lose massive time because I need vast amounts of sleep or I nod off while trying to enjoy gaming.

Speaking of sleep, let me highlight one of the best rules I've heard yet. I think I heard it first from @SarahDarkmagic, but have seen it repeated many places. Mostly, it's known as the 5:2:1 rule: Every 24 hours, make sure you get 5 hours of sleep, 2 meals, and 1 shower....MINIMUM. Following this will keep you alive through the convention, maximize your time for gaming, and allow for the comfort of those who you are gaming with. Please, please take a shower and use deodorant folks. Also, no matter what you think, cologne/perfume cannot make up for lack of showering. In the levels you would need to get close to this goal, the fragrance itself becomes so overpowering as to have opposite the desired effect. I actually recommend toning it down on the fragrances. There are a lot of people out there allergic or sensitive to these, and you will force them to leave a game if you make their throat close and lungs shut down. Below is a little PSA. Thanks to @rosemaryjones for sharing this on Twitter.

Savage Gypsy - Shower for Me

I'm also bringing several "airplane" sized bottles of hand sanitizer. Con crud has to be the most frustrating thing. You spend your money, get to the event, play a few games and spend the rest of the time quarantined and suffering in your room. It's not always avoidable, but you can minimize your risk. Hand sanitizer helps a great deal with this. Get in the habit of using it on a regular basis, and use it right after you've shaken a few hands (discretely is best here, just to be polite). There's a lot of airborne stuff that can't be avoided, but a major source of infection is from hand to mucus membrane transfer. Don't believe this? Ask anyone who's gotten Norovirus on a cruise ship...someone like me. Keep your hands clean, wash often, use hand sanitizer, and touch your nose, eyes, and mouth as little as possible. Honestly, this could save your con experience. The small hand sanitizer bottles are designed to carry in a bag or purse, and take very little room.  I'm getting a few so I can replace those I've used or lost, and I can be generous with handing it around to others who would like to use it.

Bring something to eat and drink. Here's a free Indy Convention Center tip: the vending machines vend 20 Oz. Daisani water bottles with green or blue caps for $3.  $3 is expensive, so I recommend buying one at the start of the con and refilling it often or buying one before the con. If you have one of these bottles the convention center staff is going to be hard pressed to make you get rid of it as you can claim you bought it at the convention center. I actually advocate buying one from the vending machines and reusing it. You've fairly give the center some money at that point, and are sticking to the rules as far as I can see. Doing this will also allow me to carry the bottle in the drink holder on the side of my backpack. This leaves more room inside and removes the risk of spills and leaks in my pack. I'll also be adding Emergen-C Immune Defense formula to my water from time to time for flavor.  It doesn't taste great, but my personal experience has been that if I do get sick, my cold goes a heck of a lot faster, and is way less debilitating. There's no medical evidence for this, just anecdotal evidence like mine. For snacks, I'm buying a bunch of Met RX Colossal bars. These are fairly good tasting, fairly filling, and about 300-450 calories each.  It's enough nutrition to keep me going until I can get a real meal should I need to delay or skip a meal. Here's another tip: eat something for breakfast. Breakfast is the one meal you are sure to burn off during the day, and starting by giving your body something to create energy from will make your whole day better.

There's always a lot of talk about what to bring in terms of RPG books. I'm bringing my laptop. I readily acknowledge that this is a risk, so I've made sure all my data is backed up at home and on a cloud backup service, and all personal files are locked in an encrypted area of the hard drive that I can seal remotely should my laptop be stolen. My materials will mostly be PDF copies of rules I might need, and I'm going to try to afford Hero Lab for my Pathfinder Society characters to avoid as much paper as possible. I've got adventure information for 4E in Masterplan just in case I want to run a pick-up game.  This limits the number of physical books I'll need to bring, risk, and lug at Gen Con. It is also much kinder on my shoulder and back as it's much lighter. Cons are the perfect excuse to embrace electronic media in gaming.

This does bring me to a final cautionary word. Indianapolis is a fairly safe city, and Gen Con has a good track record for safety. This doesn't in any way mean crime can't happen to you. It happens to a few people every year. Just be smart and you'll probably be OK. A criminal will always go for the low hanging fruit...don't be one. Always know where your stuff is, and keep an eye or hand on it whenever possible. Store your bag at your feet rather than behind your seat. Keep your wallet where it's hard to get at on your person, and always keep an emergency stash of money and/or an extra credit card hidden somewhere on your body. Be savvy when it comes to distractions. If someone asks for help finding something, please help them if you can, but be extra careful during these times as that's a classic way for pickpockets working in teams to distract you and steal your loot. Walk in groups in the city, especially at night. Be wary of strangers in bars, especially (I hate to divide the sexes this way, but this is true) the ladies. Keep your eye on your drink. None of these precautions need to be obtrusive, and none of them need to in any way limit or prevent your fun. They are simple things you can do to stay safer in a fairly safe city.

Another thing you can do to stay safe is watch the area of the city you are in. Indianapolis is very odd in that it can go from luxury mansions to crime ridden streets back to low crime areas in just the space of a few blocks.  There's no one "side" of town that's bad...just areas. To the north of the convention center it's fairly safe all the way to the I-65 raised highway.  North of that, it get's iffy. To the south, things get iffy as soon as you cross the tracks that are on the south side of the convention center, except for the area around Lucas Oil Stadium and probably the new hotels next to it. That area is changing for the better, but be cautious. To the west, everything is safe until you cross the river, then it goes downhill fast. The zoo area is safe, but I would recommend against walking any further than that. Finally, to the east is downtown, which is fairly safe. Things do take a sudden turn for the worse when you go past the I-70 raised highway though, so stay west of that to be safe. In short, there's a very large safe zone around the convention center except to the south, and the south is probably the least dangerous of the not-entirely-safe areas.

I hope this information is helpful for all the Gen Con 2011 con goers. Feel free to drop additional questions in the comments, or ask me on twitter. I'm not a huge fan of Indianapolis as a place to live, but it's a really great city for a con like this. I hope any information I can provide will help people really enjoy their time here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Off The Beaten Path

One of the pieces of advice about cons that I see a lot of is "find a restaurant that's a little farther from the convention, or not as popular." It's true that the restaurants nearest the convention center get crowded pretty fast during Gen Con, even though there are a whole lot of them. The good bars get that way at night too. With that in mind, I took a little hike and visited a place I don't get to go that often: Mass Avenue.

Massachusetts Avenue (locals just call it Mass Ave) is one of the four diagonal streets heading out of downtown. It's a 15 to 20 minute walk northeast of the convention center, but very easy to find. It's an arts and eclectic shopping area, and from what I've seen of it lately the economy has taken it's toll. There are a few places of note though, including Bazbeaux's Pizza, The Rathskellar (just off Mass Ave), and MacNiven's.

I'll mention the Rathskellar in passing, since I haven't been there in a few years.  It boasts an extensive German/Austrian themed menu and a biergarten out back. There will be live music every night of Gen Con. The beer menu was really broad last time I was there, but this is at least a 20 minute walk from the convention center.

MacNiven's Scottish American Restaurant & Bar    |    339 Massachusetts Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46204
MacNiven's is a fantastic little Scottish pub serving a variety of menu items including some serious Scottish fare. Yes...they have haggis. I repeat this for all you kilt wearers out there...MacNiven's has haggis. They also have scotch eggs. Heck, they even have a vegetarian haggis, though I'm sure that would make true Scots cringe.

I stopped by recently, and had the most Scottish of the combinations, "Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties." While I can't vouch that the haggis was cooked correctly in a sheep stomach, it certainly was organ meat, and very tasty at that. Neeps, for those unfamiliar with them, are a seasoned, mashed yellow turnip and tatties...well, you know what tatties are. These were mashed as well. The whole meal was very good, and the service was excellent. The staff is very friendly and really made my lunch a very pleasant experience. Since there was an empty seat there, they put me by one of the windows. You can see in the picture that these are open in the summer, and very comfortable with a slight breeze on a warm summer's day.

If you're looking for a liquid libations, they have a fantastic beer menu and a fairly extensive single malt scotch menu. You could absolutely spend several nights drinking here without having the same beverage twice.

Let's face it folks, for a short walk and a few extra dollars MacNiven's is the kind of establishment that screams "Gen Con crowd". Authentic food and drink from the British Isles and a variety of other items for those with no interested in escaping to the moors. For that extra labor, you also get a place the probably will not be overcrowded. If you have the time and inclination, I highly recommend the journey.


View Gen Con Locations in a larger map

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

It's Almost Here

It's been a while since I posted anything.  I guess there hasn't been much to say that I though would be of any interest. It's just a little over a month until Gen Con, and I'm starting to get into final prep mode.

One of the first things I'm doing is trying to decide what I want to make sure I've read before con time.  I'm pretty much where I want to be.  I'm close to finishing the Pathfinder Inner Sea Guide so I have a feel for Golarion.  It's such a well done setting, that the book is just interesting to read.  It doesn't hurt that I have more Pathfinder games scheduled than any other game.  I'm also going to try to read through the Eclipse Phase rules, as that looks like an interesting game.  I read rules some times just so I can join a pick up game if I happen upon one.

My Wednesday schedule is giving me issues.  There's a surprising amount of things I could be doing with that day. I think I've decided that the best use does not include scheduling much of anything.  I'm going to go to the Critical-Hits Drunken D&D game party Wednesday evening to watch the game and mingle.  That's about all that's set in stone now (that and making sure my roommate doesn't have to take a ridiculously expensive cab from the airport).  I think the best thing for that day for me is to use it to meet people I know from twitter and other places and maybe get involved in a pick-up game or 10. Yes, Wednesday has officially become a socializing day for me.

I had the last second possibility come up last week to bring Abney Park to play during Gen Con.  After looking at the costs and time I'd have to commit, I decided against trying this year.  It's just too close to try to plan and pull off something like that.  I have to say, Captain Robert was very interested in playing the con, and very helpful in making booking the band as easy as possible.  I want to try to do this next year when there's time to plan everything and when I might be able to get the Gen Con staff involved.  There's an awesome 1500 person venue a block north of the convention center. This year would have been perfect since they're releasing the Airship Pirates RPG.  I just wish the twitter conversation that started this had come a month earlier.  Might have happened then.

My next post will probably be a discussion of what I'm bringing to Gen Con.  Sam's Club sells cases and partial cases of 5-hour energy, and I know that's on the list.  I'll also be scouring con survival guides and trying to pull out the gems from there.  If you have any suggestions, leave a comment.  I'd like to make the post a very useful guide targeted specifically at Gen Con.

Oh...a final note: Indianapolis is in full construction mode.  They're doing a lot of work preparing the city for the Superbowl that may or may not happen this year.  The city should be really pretty by Gen Con time as a lot of the beautification projects will be complete.  There will probably still be significant roadwork going on though, so plan accordingly and check for construction updates if you're driving in.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Finally Gaming Again

The internet is a wonderful place sometimes. I have little to no ability to play in a local game, but I have just recently started two online games that fit my life perfectly.  I'm also really enjoying myself.

The first is @DnDPrincessAria's Real Time D&D.  This game is done as a play-by-skype-chat game with an Obsidian Portal site to keep everything together.  It's designed for those of us who love the hobby, but don't have a lot of time to play.  A few minutes every few days, and thanks to the internet we're adventuring.  DnDPrincessAria has placed us in a truly high fantasy world using the D&D 3.5 system.  While I don't own any 3.5 material, I do play Pathfinder so making a character was no problem.  I am playing Ryfar, a Fetchling rogue sniper with his trusty repeating crossbow.  That character was made with Pathfinder rules, but I altered the skills to correctly fit the 3.5 edition character sheet that was available on Obsidian Portal.  So far, I've been the only player able to get a few sessions in, but that should change now that summer is near.  I can't wait to see where this goes as others get more involved.  DnDPrincessAria has a lot of GMing experience, and it shows in how she handles this odd game format. I also like that the world itself is a collaborative work, with players adding location details with story hooks.

My second game is my challenging game.  @MilwaukeeJoe is running the fourthcore weekly Grind4E as a play-by-blog-post game.  This is a great format for this challenging delve, and I'm really having a blast even though we just started.  The blog is at http://grind4e.blogspot.com, and it's really set up nicely.  The players seem to all be experienced gamers ready not only for the challenge, but also ready to really roleplay it.  By adding a "tech" section to any post, there's an easy way to separate meta talk from in character sections, and everyone is taking advantage of this.  Playing is really like being part of an interactive novel.  Right now we're not in a very good position, and I'm going to be pleased if I survive this first chamber.

Despite my lack of a local game, I've found places to play thanks to the work of these two fine DMs.  I really appreciate all the work they're putting into this, and I'm glad to be playing again.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Current Gen Con Schedule

Now that the dust has settled, I figured I'd post my Gen Con schedule for anyone interested.  I know there are a couple of you out there that I definitely want to meet up with, and a few that have scheduled some of the same games as me.


View Gen Con Locations in a larger map

Wednesday


Wednesday is technically trade day at Gen Con, and the convention hasn't really started yet.  That's just a technicality though.  A lot of folks will already be in town, and unofficial gaming starts up Tuesday for the most part.  My  current plan is to get down town pretty early and game with Kentucky Fried Gamers for most of Wednesday.  They set up in The Ram and Scotty's Brewhouse and game from morning into the night.  At some point in this day, I'll take a break and get myself checked into my hotel room and retrieve my badge and event tickets from will call.  Might also stop gaming to meet folks as they come in.  Overall, it's a casual day and I hope to meet a lot of people and have a good time doing some open gaming.

Thursday:

Thursday I hope to not be too hung over from Wednesday :).

Time Event Location
10 am - noon True Dungeon: The Lair of The Sea Lich (Puzzle Oriented) Marriott Ballroom
4 pm - 6 pm Tower of Gygax JW Marriott, 303
10 pm - 4 am Tower of Gygax Presents: The Howling Hills JW Marriott, 303

Thursday morning I'm getting my True Dungeon run out of the way.  I'm really psyched that I got in this year, and I'm hoping it'll start the convention off with a bang.  I've got a pretty big slot open between noon and 4 in which I plan to head over to the dealers' hall and wander through it.  I've got plenty of time to stop and play a demo game if I find something really interesting.  I'll also grab some food in this window, and hopefully meet up with more friends.  If someone happens to be playing an open game, I may just join that too.  Finally, if I feel like it, I might run an hour or so of the RPGA D&D delve.  I wanted to make sure I got a good bit of time for Tower of Gygax, so I went ahead and got tickets for a two hour slot.  Once this is done, I plan on going and grabbing some dinner.  Hopefully I will have met enough folks that I won't be eating alone. This would also be a great time to grab a beer. I can't have too much to drink, because I have to be back at the JW for the overnight Lich event with the Tower of Gygax folks.  @saveversusdeath is running this event, so I know it's going to be a blast.  After that, it's off to catch a few precious Z's.

Friday

Friday is Pathfinder day.

Time Event Location
8 am - 1 pm First Steps, Part II - To Delve the Dungeon DeepICC 231-234, Paizo HQ
7 pm - midnight Gen Con Special: Blood Under AbsalomICC 231-234, Paizo HQ

I'm a little miffed that I didn't get into the first adventure in the First Steps series.  That's just the way it happens with Gen Con scheduling though.  I may stop by Paizo HQ and see if there's any way I can get to play this prior to 8 am Friday.  In any case, I'm planning on starting a Dwarf Cleric I've made in this game, and if he is as fun to play as I think he'll be, he will be my new main Pathfinder Society character. I'm not sure what the special event is going to look like, but I've got a monk I can use if it's more combat oriented.  I've got a huge block of time on Friday for open gaming, hanging with friends, hitting the dealer hall, and anything else that strikes my fancy.  I'm pretty glad it worked out this way.  There's going to be so many things to do that I didn't want to have the majority of my time locked down with pre-scheduled events.

Saturday

Saturday is all over the place

Time Event Location
8 am - noon SND01: Revenge of the Iron LichCrowne Plaza, Conrail Station, 1
1 pm - 2 pm TerrorWerks 2011: The Holy CodeICC, 107-110
4 pm - 8 pm The Lost Logbook of Wei PeiCrowne Plaza, Pennsylvania Station B, 4

Up early again on Saturday morning for some FourthCore D&D.  I've been looking forward to playing this for a while, and I'm eager to tackle this adventure.  Many energy drinks will be consumed to jolt me into working form I suspect. I've got a short lunch break after this, then it's off to TerrorWerks.  This sounds like the Sci Fi horror equivalent of True Dungeon, and I'm eager to try my hand at this.  Once that's completed, I collapse...or not.  I've got a two hour slot where I'll probably try to get some more food in me and maybe rest and hang out with friends.  At 4 pm I've got one of the games that I'm trying out at Gen Con: Hollow Earth Expeditions.  This looks like a lot of good, clean (or not) fun.  It's a tropical setting adventure, so I'm hoping I can really send my mind on vacation with this one.  I've left Saturday night free for socializing and open gaming, but probably not much sleep.

Sunday

I live here.  There's no reason for me to stop gaming Sunday.  I'm going to pack up, check out of the hotel, then back for more gaming.

Time Event Location
8 am - 1 pm First Steps, Part III - A Vision of BetrayalICC 231-234, Paizo HQ
2 pm - 4 pm Arkham HorrorICC Hall E, White, C-D

Today, I finish up my Pathfinder series, and try out Arkham Horror.  Arkham Horror will be another new game for me.  It looks pretty cool, and I've wanted to give it a try for a while.  It's also a nice, quiet way to end Gen Con.  I'm sure I'll be sad it's over, but I'll also be ready to hit my bed at home for a marathon sleep session.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Gen Con Event Registration Process: A Few Observations

Today was the big day...event registration day for Gen Con.  At noon eastern time, the floodgates opened and everyone who really wanted to make sure they got their events descended on the registration servers en mass. Apparently there were some 3000 or more wishlists submitted right away, and I have to say that for the sudden load the process went fairly well overall.

This year, the wish list process was fine tuned quite a bit from my understanding.  I participated in the test, and while things looked promising there were certainly a few improvements to be made.  By the time the wish list function and event catalog went live last week, they fixed all of the issues I saw. While they certainly could use some more browsing options on the event catalog to make it more friendly and useful, I was able to find what I wanted in plenty of time and fine tune my wishlist.  The way scheduling occurred, when you submit your wishlist it was put in a queue in the order in which lists hit the registrations server(s).  One can argue about the fairness of this until the cows come home, but honestly someone is always going to feel that they got cheated due to their personal circumstances.  I, for instance, had to work today.  In order to submit my list at the correct time, I had to arrange with my supervisors to reschedule my lunch so I would be sure to get to an area I could access the internet in time to be ready to hit the button at noon (a Panera Bread in my case). I was lucky that I was able to do this. Do I think that this was unfair? No. It's just how things are, and it makes it fair for the widest possible group of people. One point to the Gen Con staff for the submission method...It meets the needs of most people.

Back to discussions of the wish list.  This year, instead of having the True Dungeon and TerrorWerks events scheduled first followed by everything else, everything was submitted at once. They decided this year they had a method and the capacity to handle the load.  True Dungeon is very clearly the most difficult event to get in to. While they are taking more people per run this year (and I believe they added runs) it's still way too popular to accommodate everyone.  This made organizing your wish list important if you wanted to get a True Dungeon event.  To create a wish list, you browse events in the catalog, and add events to the list by requesting tickets.  You can get tickets for yourself, or you and your friends.  You can chose to schedule the event with the most tickets you can get, or only if you can get all the tickets you request.  Also, if an item higher on the list conflicts in any way with a lower priority item, the lower priority item is not scheduled at all if you manage to get tickets for the high priority event.  The list is processed from top to bottom when it gets to the front of the queue.  Knowing all this, my strategy was to put all my True Dungeon events at the top.  I picked three different times I wanted (first choice on top).  Within these 3 time frames, I picked 2 combat, 2 puzzle, and 2 dragon runs because I could do this with them all overlapping. I sub ordered them combat, puzzle, dragon.  Doing it this way, when my list hit it would try to process all the TD items in my favorite time slot first, from most desirable to least desirable format. As soon as I got a ticket in that time, all the others past that would be rejected because of overlap.  It would then process my next favorite time slot the same way, and finally my least favorite time slot.  I figured this was the best way to get into a True Dungeon game.  I also made the first run in the whole show my first choice figuring some people would not even be at the con yet so I would have the least competition for that time.  Past my TD events, I placed a TerrorWerks run on my list, followed by 3 Pathfinder events that were a part of a series. The rest, I just ordered most desired to least, and had no overlap. I figured any time that I didn't get a desired event I could try for something later, or leave open for the exhibitors hall and open gaming.

When I hit my submit button at noon plus a second or three, it looked like it was proceeding, but did not return a place in the queue. I was too patient here. I should have resubmitted almost immediately, but I let my browser chug for 4 minutes instead. When I finally got smart and hit the button again, I was 1500th in line.  That's just how these things go. I was depressed, but what can you do?  The queue then seemed to freeze up at about 1471..PANIC! Thanks to Gen Con's responsiveness on twitter I was soon comfortable that even though my browser wasn't updating, my list was still in the queue. Sure enough, after about 20 minutes of trying to get a status back through the flood of requests to the server I was rewarded with a cart of tickets.  My strategy certainly paid off.  I got one True Dungeon game in every one of the time slots I'd tried for (2 puzzle, 1 combat).  I also got my TerrorWerks and everything else I wanted. The only thing I didn't get was the first game in the Pathfinder series. That was kind of a bummer, and a quick search showed me I wasn't going to get a replacement unless I wanted to play the games out of order. I'll just suffer through missing the first round. It's a small inconvenience for an otherwise flawless registration process. I had a huge hole in my schedule, so I went back later and added another event to partially fill the hole (Tower of Gygax...a classic I hear :) ). Now I have good times to visit the exhibitors hall, and for food, and open gaming. I'm happy with how it's turned out.  I had no issues with paying for my purchases within the two hours that my tickets were held in my cart. I rejected 2 of my True Dungeon tickets, deciding to free them so others would get a chance rather than me taking multiple runs.  Also, they're expensive so this saves me some money.

I really have to applaud the Gen Con staff for the way this went.  Overall it was pretty smooth.  There may or may not have been better ways to architect the solution for this registration, but what they did worked pretty well.  Now I just kick back, and try to wait for the next few months until Gen Con arrives.  I may go stir crazy. :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Two More Eateries

I haven't talked about the downtown eateries in a while, so I thought I'd add two more to the mix: Cafe Patachou and Curitto  Burrito.

Cafe Patachou

Cafe Patachou is located in the Simon Building.  This is north of the convention center, just on the other side of the little park between the Westin and the Hyatt (Elf Park to some).

This is primarily a breakfast place for me.  They open at 7am, so you can have a nice breakfast before heading to those early morning games.  The omelets here are heavenly.  That's why I go.  They're fluffy, tasty, and just all around awesome.  They come with some sides, but be sure to get the Cinnamon toast.  It's slathered in cinnamon sugar and butter to a ridiculous degree.

Price wise, Patachou is a little on the steep side, but you do get what you pay for.  I definitely recommend trying this place at least once if you're up early enough.

Currito Burrito

Currito is located in the food court on the third floor of the Circle Center Mall. You can get there via the hamster tube/tunnel system from the convention center.

I eat here for lunch a lot.  They make a good standard burrito, but the specialty burritos are where they shine.  The Mediterranean, for instance, is not what you normally see.  Rice, cucumbers, blackberry humus and feta make up the non-meat portion. To go truly meat free, you can get this with tofu instead of a meat.  Very tasty, very healthy. They also make a mean smoothie, including the Nutella shake.  Yes...that's what you heard...Nutella shake.  It's Nutella, regular chocolate sauce, ice cream, milk and ice blended together for a little taste of heaven.

The Oriental couple that owns this stall is very very nice, and they remember you if you're a regular.  Really nice people running a good business.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Yes, I'm going to Gen Con

It's all done.  While I handled it very poorly, I did get the final item in line to go to GenCon.  I will be there this year, and staying at the Westin. I'm going to take Wednesday thru Sunday off work, so I will probably be hanging out at the RAM with KFG on Wednesday, and stopping in to get my badge and check into my hotel at some point that day.  I've got 10 events in my wish list, and those are going to keep me plenty busy during the day, with time to socialize at night.  Looks like I'm not going to get a lot of time in the dealer's hall if I land tickets for everything, but that's probably for the best financially anyway.  I've got some D&D, Pathfinder, Hollow Earth, and Star Wars Saga lined up, as well as True Dungeon and TerrorWerks.  I guess I'll know if I'm overplanning in about 100 days. I'm really looking forward to meeting a lot of my gaming twitter friends there, and hopefully getting some game time in with you fine folks. While I've plotted this for 2/3 of a year now, it's hard for me to believe I'm actually going to do it.  Childhood dream, here I come....

Friday, March 18, 2011

Good news, bad news

Short post today.

In the bad news department, it looks like my original roommate situation isn't going to pan out.  That makes things more expensive again, but I'm not too concerned.  I'm sure I'll still be able to find a roommate before Gen Con.  If not, I guess I'll just pay a little bit more for the hotel.

In the good news department, I swung by Saltire Games for the first time after work today.  Wow!  I didn't know we even had a good game store in town.  I was initially put off by their ad in last year's Gen Con booklet.  They made the store sound like it was just for miniatures gamers.  Turns out their selection overall is excellent. I didn't buy anything this time, but saw Burning Wheel, Dragon Age RPG, and a lot of old stuff like some 3rd edition D&D source books I want (and at half the price I can find them on Amazon!), and old Traveler stuff.  I might end up spending some money at this store. I had to make a save vs. willpower to leave the store without pulling out my wallet today.

I want to visit Gamerz in Greenwood too, but that's over an hour drive from my house.  Not sure when I can make it down there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Whos Yer Con 2011

The last time I attended a convention, was a long time ago.  It was Rivercon down in Kentucky, a small convention that we decided to drive down to at the last moment.  I didn't register to play in any organized games, but did get in on a few pickups.  We also got in on a test game.  It turned out to be what might have eventually become the Vampire: The Masquerade LARP.  I had a blast.

I don't get a lot of days off.  I work 7 days a week, with some time to do my own thing once every 4 weekends.  This is because I cover weekend support for my weekday job once a month, but they almost never need anything.  As it turned out, Who's Yer Con fell on one of these weekends this year.  Who's Yer Con is an annual free convention put on by Who's Yer Gamers in Indianapolis.  The location was about 35 minutes from my house, so free + short drive made this a fairly easy decision for me.

As things go, it turned out the there would be a group working on Saturday at my weekday job, so I could not go to Friday or Saturday events.  I was still determined to press on, and signed up for a Gamma World game on Sunday because @serok42 was one of the GMs.  This was a good excuse to meet someone I follow on Twitter, and I was comfortable because he assured me if I knew D&D 4E, I would be OK for GW even though I had never played.  I also wanted to try some Pathfinder Society play, and there were a lot of these games at Who's Yer Con.  The final batch of adventures started just as the GW game was scheduled to end, so I tried to sign up for this too, but missed the online deadline.  No worries, I figured I'd show up and see if I could play, since registration was technically open until the game started.

At some ungodly hour Sunday morning (because we lost an hour sleep thanks to the "spring forward" portion of daylight saving time) I dragged my carcass out of bed and headed out.  Checking the registrations when I got there, there was one person signed up to play Gamma World at 8 am Sunday morning: me.  This did not look good, but I stuck around to see what would happen.  The event was a GMing competition, and there were suppose to be 3 GMs each with a full adventure of several encounters based on their home towns in the future of Gamma World.  Clearly, there were not near enough players to do this, so it was decided that we would each play one encounter from each GM, then have them describe the remainder of their adventure and vote based on the info and ideas.  With the GMs playing each other's adventures, and the help of one of the GM's kids we had a full party and had a good 4 hours of fun hopping from adventure to adventure.  I really felt like I got a good feel for Gamma World playing this way, and got to see some really creative work.  The prize went to a GM who had modeled an encounter on the Indianapolis 500 ala multiple person crewed pod racing.  It was a little too complex to run easily in my opinion, but everyone had fun and it was certainly very creative.  If there was another event like this at a different Con, I'd play it again.  Seeing how people took very familiar settings to them, and twisted them to fit into Gamma World was a real treat on top of just playing the encounters.  I played a sentient female parasitic mold controlling a male zombie body, an old, grumpy man turned into a cyborg, and a swarm character.

After this was over (and kept on time by the judges I might add), I stopped by the Pathfinder room to see if I could get in on a game there.  I let them know that I'd never played PF before, but was familiar with the rules and had played a lot of D&D.  There was no problem at all getting into a game with the PF Society character I had registered earlier in the week, and I was soon playing at a table of other new players with a very patient DM.  While this wasn't the adventure I really wanted to play, I still had a great time, and got a good look at how Society play works.  I have to say, Paizo has a really nice system for organized Pathfinder games.  It's well thought out, and makes for great Con play.  I suppose it helped that by pure chance, I had the character that eliminated 80% of our foes.  Sleep is a very powerful tool for the first level Sorcerer when used right.  Daze makes a wonderful cantrip too.  Had this been 4E, I would say I played a very successful controller.

One of the really neat things for me was the fact that hopping into 2 games, picked from descriptions, I had females playing with me or GMing each time.  I grew up when gaming was an almost exclusively male hobby, and was too geeky for girls to consider.  Thankfully the times have changed in many ways.  The women I played with at this con were not treated any differently because they were women. Guys played female characters and the women played male characters and no one blinked twice.  It was great to see real gender equity at the table...so much so that I didn't even think about how nice it was to play in mixed games until I left the con.  I'm really glad this hobby has come that far, even if it doesn't always make it to the level of integration I experienced.

I had a great time at Who's Yer Con, and I'd recommend it for those in the Midwest who would like to attend a con without breaking the bank.  Everyone was really nice, and the game play was awesome.  In reality, this is the first time I've really experienced convention games, and now I'm counting the days to Gen Con again.  I also have added things to my "To Do At Gen Con" list, based on my single day experience at Who's Yer Con.  Thanks to all the players and organizers of this wonderful event.  I'll be back next year for sure.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Time To Make A Difference

Gamers are generally good people. Sure you meet the annoying rules lawyer, or the total asshat now and then, but overall gamers are a really good, caring bunch. Some say we really don't do anything to help the world, but recent events put that theory to shame. I bought product today from two different sources, and the money is going to very good causes. I'm not going to say I donated, because what was offered for my money in each case is greater than the value of what I gave. I almost feel greedy because of it, but I know the money I spent is ultimately going to help others, so I'm OK with that. The real heroes here are those who donated their products or profit to these causes.

The first cause is one that really got to me. I can't imagine what this woman is going through. Few things scare me like the threat of going blind, and this poor lady is facing it as a single mother. Her daughter may be headed that direction as well. Please take a look at this site and donate if you can. You get gaming product for your donation, so seriously...take a look. It's $10. That's less than two fancy coffees at Starbucks.

http://twoscooterspress.com/2011/02/buy-the-sight-benefit-bundle-today/

The second cause is all over the news. We've all heard about the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.  This is the nightmare of many countries:  A major quake strikes a major population center. There are still many unaccounted for people, and to quote @CatherineQ: "300 people missing in NZ is equivalent to 30,000 people missing in the US. NZ is a small country." Catherine is a astrophysicist from New Zealand currently living in the U.S.. Sure, some will say New Zealand is well off, and doesn't need our support. I remind those people that it was the charity of others from the within the U.S. and around the world that made the most difference during the hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans. How can you, as a gamer, help out? Simple.  DriveThru RPG has put together a New Zealand quake relief bundle for $20. It's got something in it for every gamer. What amazes me about this is the amount of stuff DriveThru has put into the bundle. There's over $320 in gaming goodness in it. Yes...$320 for your $20, and your $20 goes to earthquake relief for New Zealand. Come on folks! This is truly a no-brainer. Follow the link below, and donate please.

http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_info.php?products_id=88713

I hope those who read this are moved to give money. If not, I hope you bought these bundles like I have, because with what you get you can't call it a donation. :)