Sunday, August 23, 2009

GenCon - Recap

It's been a week since I returned from GenCon, the self-described 'best four days in gaming'. Now that I've had a chance to digest and process everything that happened in those four days, I'm ready to come to some conclusions about it, or at least answer the most obvious questions.

Did you enjoy yourself?

Pretty much continuously.

Really? You weren't ever bored?

Nope, I was pretty fortunate. The closest I ever got to boredom was Saturday night, when the Goodman Games seminar on "How To Write Adventure Modules That Don't Suck" turned out to be largely an advertisement for their own products, and I went from there to hanging out in the hotel bar because a fire alarm provoked an evacuation of the convention hall and Chip invited the group he was gaming with up to our room to finish the game. Even then, though, karma smiled on me, and I met a friendly woman who was volunteering at the Con with her husband. We sat and talked for about an hour, and I insisted on buying her a beer, since her being a volunteer was one of the things that allowed me to be selfish and spend all my time hogging the fun at the Con. I figured it was the least I could do to show some appreciation.

OK, then, what was your favorite part of the convention?

Do I have to pick just one?

- Walking into the hotel room on Wednesday night.

- Grabbing the VIG swag bag on Thursday morning.

- Getting both James Jacobs and Sean K Reynolds to sign my Pathfinder rules hardcover.

- Doing True Dungeon, and surviving, with the help of Chip and Michael.

- Delving with the 'Force of Personality' crew.

- Catching up with what Tried and Aesoph have been up to since the DDM Guild took over D&D Miniatures from WotC.

- Learning a new game. (Lifeboat)

- Winning an old favorite game. (Illuminati)

- Trading stories and smack-talk at dinner with the crew on Friday night.

If my character had been more connected with the main 'secret storyline' of the LARP, I'd have put that in the list as well, but the LARP only goes to the level of 'fun, but not among the most fun things I did'.

So was the VIG badge worth it?

First off, I feel the need to point out that I don't think I'd have had a bad time if I hadn't bought a VIG badge. Granted, some of the things on the list above are specifically tied to the VIG experience, but even without them, there was still plenty of stuff to enjoy.

With that said, the VIG badge was basically 'paid for' on Thursday morning. On Wednesday night, Chip and I walked into a suite for which we were paying $90 per night apiece, which I doubt we'd have gotten and certainly not have gotten for that price without the aid of the VIG registration. Then on Thursday morning, I went down to pick up the VIG swag bag:

The bag is a kind of bag called an Israeli Paratrooper Bag, which goes for about $20 not counting the silkscreening. Add in the free copy of Monster Manual II, the two Magic boosters, and the latest Dragonlance novel, and you're over another $50 hurdle. Then the t-shirt, the pack of True Dungeon tokens, the water bottle, the two free games (Spoils and Family Business), and the deck of cards, and, well, it felt like a real haul. The cardboard tube contains a GenCon 2009 poster.

Now consider that the regular 'swag bag' consisted of a six-sided die, a six-card booster pack of Magic cards, and a bunch of promotional flyers in the kind of plastic bag that you get when you buy something at the Disney Store and, yeah, I can imagine why there'd be some hard feelings among non-VIGs.

I felt awesome, though.

What'll you do differently next year?

Try to get more people to come. I've had two different people specifically tell me they were jealous of my experience, to which my response was simply, "You should come with us next year, then!" Hopefully the economy will be closer to being back on track by then, and some of the folks who had to bow out this year will be able to come along next time around.

Also, I'll likely try to get to the hotel earlier on Wednesday, especially if we know we'll be in the same or a similar room to the one we were in this year. That'll give us some time to have people over for 'warm-up gaming' on Wednesday night, as well as to do some more precise schedule synchronization; you don't necessarily want to do everything with the entire group you came with, but it would have been nice to do more things with Keith, Rachel, and Justin, whom we seldom saw except at RPGA mustering.

Finally, I'll bite the bullet and accept that I simply do not have the stamina to get up at 8am four days in a row to play games; I'll schedule my first games on Thursday-Saturday at 9am (with perhaps one 8am game if there's no other convenient time to schedule it), and no games at all scheduled for Sunday.

On the whole, it was a wonderful experience, and I'm looking forward to doing it all over again next year. Less than 360 days until GenCon 2010!

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