Saturday, August 14, 2010

Gen Con 2010 - Day One

The first item on the agenda for the first day of the convention was the dealer's room.

I'd 'invested' in a VIG badge again for 2010, fueled in large part by the feeling of awesomeness I'd had in 2009 by being a VIG and taking advantage of all the perks of the program. Some of the options were better than the previous year, as the VIG organizers took the lessons of 2009 and applied them to improve the VIG experience (best example: there was no drink shortage in 2010 as there had been in 2009, and there was also more non-carbonated juice options, which I took full advantage of). Other options weren't as impressive as in 2009 (best example: though there were technically two swag bags in 2010, even both combined failed to be as impressive as the single 2009 swag bag, including the bag itself).

One of the big reasons to do VIG, however, is that on Thursday, with the rest of the con-goers waiting around until the official 10am opening time, VIGs (along with a few other limited classes of individuals, like press) got to enter the hall an hour early. Though there was a long line to get into the hall, the hall itself was so huge that by the time Chip and I had managed to navigate the line and get into the hall, the cluster of VIGs before us had been reduced to a vague mist of consumers that clustered just a bit around the larger vendors in the hall. I ended up picking up more magnets for my Alea Tools kit, stopped off at the Paizo booth to grab a couple of copies of the Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide for two friends back home who'd requested it, and helped Chip go through the list of Reaper miniatures he'd brought to collect at this year's con (though in honesty, it was more like Chip was going through the list while I stood back and flirted with the woman in costume). After our tour through the hall, which ended shortly after the general admission started at 10am, we waded through the now crammed exhibitor's hall to escape back to our hotel room, dropped off our various bits of swag, and headed off to D&D HQ - a.k.a. the Sagamore Ballroom.

The first thing we did at Sagamore was participate in a convention delve -- a delve is a short (in this case, hour long) D&D adventure in which you participate with pregenerated characters and try to complete as much of the adventure as possible without dying or running out of time. This year's main delve (the Lair of the Dread Witch) featured pregenerated characters using the new D&D Essentials toolkit, and not only were the characters far simpler than the 4E characters we'd gotten used to, the adventure they were participating in was viciously difficult, a seeming continuation of the ethic of the Dark Sun D&D Encounters series in which someone designing the encounters simply decided to prove to people that 4E isn't the candy-strewn cakewalk that its detractors claim it is. One brutal hour later, I decided to skip the delve for the rest of the con, though Chip gave it another try and, if anything, had an even worse experience in his second attempt.

After delving, I headed up to grab lunch in the room (the first of many PB&Js) while waiting for what I expected to be the highlight of the convention: True Dungeon. True Dungeon is a 'live action' D&D experience, where a group of up to eight players takes on the roles of traditional D&D classes, but acts out the adventure by walking through a constructed 'dungeon', physically interacting with puzzles and traps (and occasionally even monsters!) and generally enjoying the hell out of the experience. Even better, I'd managed to secure an entire block of eight tickets, and all of our group was in for the run -- the first time I was set to do a True Dungeon run entirely with people I knew.

The start of the adventure was fine -- we motored through puzzles and mowed down monsters (including a very attractive ice demon in a neat optical illusion room) before finally reaching the final challenge -- Smoke the red dragon! Sadly, we were a horribly under-geared party (at least three of us were playing for the first time ever) and we ended up being unable to slay Smoke before his fiery breath killed us all -- the first time I'd ever failed to successfully complete a True Dungeon run. The disappointment was short-lived, though, as it became clear that most parties were unable to defeat Smoke (though a tweet from celebrity Wil Wheaton bragged that not only had he defeated the dragon, but he did so with a critical hit at just the right moment -- more on this later).

After True Dungeon, there was a bit of time to rest up before my annual GenCon LARP experience. This year, I'd chosen a scenario entitled 'Nyarlathotep and Miss Jones', set in a mansion where a 70s-era porn film was being shot. One reason I enjoy doing LARPs in general is that the male-female gender ratio is a lot better balanced at LARP games than at nearly any other game, and this year certainly disappoint -- a few of the women were even glamorous enough in their costumes so that they seemed as though they could have pulled off being actual porn starlets. (And, as is the case with much of 70s porn, the men were, well, not quite up to the same standard.)

My friend Michael accompanied me for his first-even LARP experience, and his character was Hymen Schtupwell, the world's oldest living porn star. He took to the role with aplomb, turning it into an almost Mr. Magoo-like experience, where he was nearly constantly in the center of the great plots unfolding during the adventure without any conscious realization or physical impact on those plots, but managed to survive anyway due to exquisite timing plus a bit of dumb luck. My own character, the plastic surgeon Dr. Benson, was not so fortunate, falling victim to his own obsession with female beauty with led directly to his demise at the hands of the tentacled horror summoned at the climax of the adventure.

It was nearly 11 by the time the porn LARP and its post-mortem ended, so Michael and I went our separate ways and headed back to our hotel rooms to crash and prepare for the next day, which would include the beginning of our LFR Mini-Campaign experience for 2010.

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