Countdown to GenCon 2012

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.

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