(Oh, hey – Here’s a picture I forgot to post from Saturday the 17th:
– those structures? They’re all made of gaming cards. Yeah.)
Eight a.m. Sunday arrived all too quickly, since I’d just gone to bed five hours earlier. No, I did not drag myself down to the treadmill. I got up, showered, had breakfast, and hauled all my stuff – packed into one suitcase and one messenger bag – down to the hotel lobby. They let me check my suitcase with the concierge, since I wasn’t going to be leaving until mid-afternoon, but check-out time was 11 a.m., at which time I would be re-immersed in True Dungeon.
Dave and I met up around 9:30 and went into Hall B early so we could claim our characters and maybe help equip other players as they arrived.
This time through, we chose the combat-oriented storyline – again, there are more details in our GeekDad post on the True Dungeon experience. Different from Friday night’s puzzle-focused run – not just for that, but also because we were with eight people we’d never met – but the two hours flew by again. (Although if I do True Dungeon again, from here on out, I think I’ll stick with the puzzle quests.)
That was my last game of Gen Con 2013.
It was just past noon when we got out – yes, already afternoon on the last day of the convention, where everything starts to feel washed out by a sense of closing time and a bit of sadness, even though it’s hardly mid-day. Dave and I met up with Jonathan, who was heading back to the airport, and the three of us parted ways.
Texting Kato and Wendy, I found out they were close by, so I met up with them, and we made arrangements for gathering in a couple hours for the drive home. I think they were going to head out to the food trucks for some lunch, but I had just eaten another of my trusty peanut butter sandwiches, so I decided to go to the exhibit hall and pick up some T-shirts for Jenn and Kelsey and me. (For Jenn, a design with the TARDIS and the Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey quote. For Kels, John Kovalic’s CthulWho. And for me, one of these:
I spent awhile then just strolling the corridors and the exhibit hall, taking in one more time all the things that I love about these conventions.
Don’t blink, indeed. Where had the previous four days gone? How could it be over already?
Here’s my excerpt of the collective post Jonathan and Dave and I wrote for GeekDad afterward:
My short answer to “How was Gen Con?” can be condensed to four words: Physically exhausting, mentally invigorating.
I’ve been to four Star Wars Celebrations and the inaugural PAX East, so I’m familiar with the grin-inducing atmosphere and energy of large geek conventions, and the thrill of being in a crowd of people who share your excitement.
What I was unprepared for, though, was the different feel of Gen Con. I think I realized it somewhere around Saturday morning, when, despite the late nights, early mornings, and the amount of walking, standing, and hauling around a messenger bag, I was really energized.
I think it came down to this: Generally, the big conventions I’ve attended have offered tons of cool things to see and hear — panels or Q&A sessions featuring producers and model-builders and actors; presentations on toy prototypes or special effects; interviews and sneak peeks and art exhibits. And these things have been amazing and fun and mind-blowing, and I love them.
But while you can find similar offerings at Gen Con, the overall vibe of the place was one not of seeing and hearing, but of doing. People packing the exhibit hall not just to look and shop and get autographs, but to learn new games or play updated versions of old favorites, and share their discoveries with both friends and total strangers. Rows and rows and rows of occupied tables in the open gaming hall. The corridors still lined with dozens of people long after dark, sitting on the floors and just gaming together.
I played 15 games during Gen Con, 12 of which were completely new to me. They included everything from stacking/coordination games to memory-based challenges to deck-builders and role-playing games. And there’s not a doubt in my mind that this near-constant shifting of games and fellow players and strategies and goals played a big part in not just keeping me going, but eager to do more.
Wendy and Kato picked me up outside my hotel around 3 p.m. The drive home was uneventful, and I was glad for the chance to unwind and talk about the weekend with them. (And as we recalled Friday night’s True Dungeon run, Wendy totally solved the final puzzle which had doomed our party.)
So: A long weekend packed with unforgettable, enriching experiences shared with friends old and new?
No bigger win than that.
Woke up early enough to make myself go do another treadmill run. Only had enough in the tank for two miles, so I at least pushed myself and came in at under eight minutes per mile – barely.
Our first day at Gen Con, Dave had said something to the effect of, “We gotta play some D&D this weekend.”
We’d planned to line up with Kato at 9 a.m. to try and get a 10 a.m. session of Confrontation at Candlekeep, but just after eight, during another hearty hotel breakfast (seriously: I really enjoyed the morning menu), I got a text from Dave: “Just got over here. Line is out the door, erm, gate already.”
I got there a few minutes later, and Kato was there by about 8:45. I think we did wind up sitting down at our table to play a little more than an hour later.
I chose the pre-generated dwarf fighter as my character, since it’s a role I had no experience playing.
We had a great DM – Erica King – guiding our adventure, and I really enjoyed myself. (I don’t have enough comparative multi-edition experience to offer a good opinion on the D&D Next play. I know I had fun.) The only downside was that our party, through some odd quirk of the playtest logistics, didn’t actually get to do battle with the final monster. Erica did a great job of thinking on her feet and throwing new enemies at us so we weren’t just sitting there waiting. Still, again – FUN.
And hey: Sweet new free set of dice from Wizards of the Coast!
These are all my free dice from Gen Con – the blue and white set is from Wizards, the purple one was a Crystal Caste giveaway, and the green one was from ordering off the Pathfinder menu at Scotty’s Brewhouse, which is where Kato and Wendy and I went for lunch. (Love the effort that went into creating the art and copy for this menu. The descriptions are fun and amazing. And if you’re interested, we split an order of Goblin Ears, and I had a Squealy Nord.)
After lunch, I met up with Dave at the convention center again, then tried to catch Jim Hines for his 3 p.m. book signing. Then I double-checked the schedule and saw that it had been an 11 a.m. signing, and I’d gotten my days confused. Dang.
So Dave & I stopped by the Steve Jackson Games booth, where both Steve Jackson himself and John Kovalic happened to be sitting and signing. And I’d brought along my much-loved copy of Munchkin Bites for just such an occasion:
The third signature there is Andrew Hackard. Kelsey and I met Andrew at Penguicon – where he taught us how to play Munchkin – in 2009, and I’d been looking forward to catching up with him at Gen Con. The SJ Games booth was really busy, of course, but we got to chat for a couple minutes. Then he looked at his watch and said, “Hey: You should throw your name in the drawing for dinner at the Munchkin Tavern tonight – I’m hosting.” I filled out an entry card, and then Dave and I went to meet up with Jonathan.
The three of us played Paizo’s demo of its Pathfinder Card Game. At the time, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but in retrospect, I’d like to see how a full game plays out, since it’s an interesting combination of role-playing rules and deck-building strategy.
Not long after, the three of us headed off in different directions, and then I got a text from an unknown number: I’d landed one of the Munchkin Tavern dinner seats!
Via text, Kato suggested that we could fill the time until I headed to dinner with a game of Lords of Waterdeep, so Dave and I met him in one of his hotel common areas. I’d never played the game, but I liked it from the start. Easy to learn and a fun theme. Also, I won. (Though with an asterisk – we cut the game short by a couple rounds at 6:50 so I could head over to dinner.)
Dinner at the Munchkin Tavern was a blast. Six of us Munchkin / SJGames fans and Andrew, just geeking out for hours, and enjoying some seriously excellent food and drink. At one point, with his actual Red Pen of Doom, Andrew began creating custom (and Munchkin-legal!) “Go Up A Level” cards. As he’s doing this, he looks at me and says, “Is it ‘E-L-S-E-Y?” Realizing he was personalizing a card for my daughter, I said, “Yep. And you’re awesome.”
His response was to grin and say, “You haven’t seen the card yet.”
It reads, “Beat Dad – Again. Go Up A Level. KELSEY ONLY.”
“Hackaaaaaaaaaaaaard!” (No, seriously: Awesome.)
It was past 10 p.m. when we all left, and the time had flown.
Even though Dave and I were doing another True Dungeon run at 10 a.m., it was the last night of Gen Con, so I wanted to keep riding the adrenaline. “Still up?” I texted Kato.
About 20 minutes later, I got a response: He was heading down to the lobby to meet a couple friends for another Lords of Waterdeep game, and invited me over.
We set up at a table in the bar with Kato’s buddies, who were ordering a late dinner. After they ate, we ordered some drinks and got the game going.
After a bit, a guy came over and said something along the lines of “Hey, I don’t mean to interrupt your game, but…are you having fun?”
It was almost 2 a.m. by the time we wrapped things up, and even though I knew it was going to be hard getting up at eight o’clock, I kept thinking, “Yep. This is how you do the last night of a con.”
So I’m heading back to the room, walking east on Maryland Avenue, and there are still a fair amount of people out and about. And I’m thinking about how I’m going to have to pack all my stuff in the morning before heading over to True Dungeon, because checkout time is 11 a.m., and that means getting up even earlier than I’d planned, because at this hour, I can’t pack when I get back to the room without waking up Jonathan, and –
– and there’s Jonathan, standing on the next street corner talking with someone, because he has also spent the last night of Gen Con gaming into the early hours of Sunday. We see each other and crack up with the absurdity of being up this late playing games and having so much fun.
Back at the hotel, I pack up everything I can, and fall asleep around 3 a.m.
(In which John, having reached Indianapolis for Gen Con, unsurprisingly goes to Gen Con.)
Finishing up breakfast with Jonathan and Dave just after 8 a.m., it felt like it should have been much later in the day, since I’d been up most of the night. But I was ready to get The Best Four Days in Gaming under way.
Jonathan and I checked our luggage – we couldn’t check into the hotel until Thursday afternoon – and after short walk to the Indiana Convention Center later, we had checked into the press room made our way to the main exhibit hall.
Dave & Jonathan are really enthusiastic gamers, and it was fun seeing the two of them walk into this massive space packed with games… and practically freeze with overload.
Before playing anything, I made sure to pick up my first free swag of the con – this sweet DungeonMorph die:
So, here’s what I remember playing that morning:
Roll For It! – Hey! I won the first GeekDad-played game of Gen Con 2013! (Thanks to a bit of luck – it’s a dice game, after all – and, I’d like to think, some lessons learned from playing too much Tali.)
Walk the Plank – I won this one, too, thus racking up two-thirds of my gaming victories that weekend in the first hour or so.
WeyKick – Jonathan’s Gen Con photo set at GeekDad includes a picture of Dave and me playing this tabletop soccer game.
Ooga Booga – Silly, silly fun.
Jonathan and Dave wanted to check out Robinson Crusoe – Jonathan included his thoughts on the game in his GeekDad gaming round-up) so I went along and watched for awhile, thinking ahead to lunch and a 1 p.m. appointment in Gamma World.
I was starting to take damage from the lack of sleep, so I excused myself from the Crusoe game table and headed out to find the food trucks that Kato & Wendy had mentioned were nearby.
A couple observations on post-2005 changes to the Indiana Convention Center:
- The additional convention space that now occupies what used to be the RCA Dome was most welcome, and made a huge difference in the crowds and traffic compared to Star Wars Celebration III. While there were occasional bottlenecks in spots, for the most part, walking around Gen Con, I spent very little time in those zombie-shuffling shoulder-to-shoulder packs that seemed to fill the main SWC3 corridors.
- The rise of the food truck industry has done wonders. One of my huge gripes about conventions is the lack of access to food other than the unremarkable and overpriced offerings within convention centers themselves. While I remember the Indy convention center having decent – if not quick – dining options within walking distance, there was nothing in 2005 to compare to the couple dozen food trucks that lined the neighboring streets this time around.
Right across the road, I found a truck offering bowls of homemade mac-and-cheese ladled over a scoop of pulled pork BBQ, and then baked for just a few minutes to get that nice golden brown top. That and a Coke did me up just right, and I felt much better heading over to Kato & Wendy’s hotel for our scheduled Gamma World adventure.
I’ve written before about Kato’s DM skills, so when he invited me to play in a GW adventure he was creating specifically for Gen Con, he didn’t have to ask twice. I met up with him and Wendy, and we set up at a table in one of their hotel’s public gathering areas. Three of their other friends joined us, and a four-hour post-apocalyptic quest ensued.
My random character generation? A highly dexterous felinoid demon. Naturally, I named him Cattygrumpus.
It was so meta, and so fun, and Kato’s attention to detail and planning were on full display. The setting was Indianapolis itself, in the ruins of the convention center. After Gen Con, Kato explained it himself via Twitter, and shared some of the cool original art one of his friends – @symatt – contributed.
I collected Kato’s Twitter descriptions and other art in this Storify piece.
And when the whole thing was over, we each got a couple custom Gamma World cards – again, worth reading for the detail.
So, having gotten my third wind, I headed off to check into the hotel and take a shower before attending A Night with Dungeons & Dragons.
I met up with Kato & Wendy outside the Indiana Roof Ballroom, the interior of which was designed to evoke Baldur’s Gate. And while there was a big puzzle/murder mystery activity you could participate in, the three of us spent most of the evening eating, drinking, talking, and enjoying the surroundings and talking to several nifty game creators.
Shortly after 10 p.m., I caught up with Jonathan and Dave in Hall D of the convention center – the main open gaming venue. They introduced me to The Great Heartland Hauling Co., and we played a game before calling it a day. (The game’s inventor, Jason Kotarski, happened to be at the next table over, and posted this picture to Twitter.)
And that was it: Having been on the go since roughly 5:30 a.m. the day before, I slept well back at the hotel.
“The Madame,” by Josh Ellingson.
Hey! You! In Seattle! Like weird and cool monster-y type art and stuff? You probably want to go to here: Tentacles, A Squiggly Art Show Curated by Bonnie Burton at Ltd. Art Gallery in Seattle.
I only read through 25 books in 2012, compared with 36 in 2011. (And down further from the 38 in 2010, and barely half my 2009 number: 46.) Those books (linked to my GeekDad reviews where applicable) were:
- American Gods: Tenth Anniversary Edition – Neil Gaiman
- Ganymede – Cherie Priest
- The Martian Way and Other Stories – Isaac Asimov
- Redshirts – John Scalzi (GeekDad interview here)
- The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
- Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
- Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
- Girl Genius Omnibus Vol 1: Agatha Awakens – Phil and Kaja Foglio
- Pilgrim of the Sky – Natania Barron
- The Broken Universe – Paul Melko
- Libriomancer – Jim C. Hines (GeekDad interview here)
- Armored (anthology) – edited by John Joseph Adams
- Calico Joe – John Grisham
- The Stainless Steel Rat – Harry Harrison (I hadn’t read any of these books before, and I loved them.)
- The Stainless Steel Rat’s Revenge – Harry Harrison
- A Long Time Ago – Gib Van Ert
- The Princess Bride: A Celebration
- Revolt on Alpha C – Robert Silverberg
- Gateway – Frederick Pohl (I tried to read this in elementary school and hated it. Fred at Backlist Books had a copy, so I picked it up to try again – and blasted through it in a day.)
- The Science Fiction Universe and Beyond
- The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World – Harry Harrison
- Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made – Alan Eisenstock
- Juliet, Naked – Nick Hornby
- The Whore of Akron – Scott Raab
- The Inexplicables – Cherie Priest
The list does include fewer re-reads than the previous few years, the exceptions being American Gods, the Hunger Games trilogy (read as a psyche-up for the movie), and Revolt on Alpha C, a childhood favorite.
I did specify at the beginning that those are the books I “read through,” because I spent a lot of time in the pages of larger reference-style books, even if I don’t count them as cover-to-cover reads (links, again, to GeekDad reviews):
- Star Wars: The Ultimate Action Figure Collection
- Star Wars: The Essential Reader’s Companion
- Dungeons & Dragons: Into the Unknown
- Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of Shadow
- Pathfinder: Core Rulebook
- Advanced D&D: Dungeon Master’s Guide (1979 edition)
- Dungeons & Dragons: Player’s Handbook v 3.5
I also have a monthly Kindle subscription to Lightspeed magazine, which I don’t consume beginning to end every month, but which adds another bunch of short stories and interviews to my count.
I’ll also note that this was my first year owning the Kindle, which led to something that hasn’t happened much to me in the past: Unfinished books. Being able to grab books on the cheap (or for free) made it incredibly easy to load up, and there are several books on the device (or in my Amazon cloud) which I either haven’t started yet or which remain only partially read. Part of it is because I tend to read those when I’m not at home, which is part of the point of the Kindle, after all.
Maybe I’ll put those – plus the ones on the shelf on my new bookcase which I’ve reserved for unread books – at the top of this year’s list.
Once I’ve finished the book I’m reading now, of course.
Note: Beyond the map below lie some spoilery thoughts on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. You’ve been warned.
Adam Besenyodi will be sharing the table and selling Deus ex Comica: The Rebirth of a Comic Book Fan. He may even have some copies of Exo-1 and the Rock Solid Steelbots on hand. (And if he won’t, I’m sure he’ll let me know soon enough.)
I believe I speak for
all both of us at booth A12 when I say it would be excellent for you to come by and nerd out for a few minutes.
Honestly, I was just bombarded with So Much Awesome at Star Wars Celebration VI that the thought of trying to write it up in detail here is just overwhelming. And it’s more than just the usual post-Celebration melancholy, since I was lucky to spend some time with a few truly generous and funny and talented and fun people, and I miss them all.
For now, I’m just going to post bits and pieces, starting with coverage that I did for GeekDad, and that my friend Jim (we realized over the weekend we’ve known each other for something like 17 years) did for the Orlando Business Journal.
- Star Wars Celebration VI – a GeekDad photo gallery
- Sounds and Sights at Celebration VI – a second GeekDad photo gallery
- Jim’s feature on Ashley Eckstein – Ahsoka Tano on The Clone Wars
- Jim’s photo gallery for the Business Journal
- Jim’s right-on-the-money Business Journal blog post on the after-convention blues.
I finally rode the new Star Tours and LOVED IT. In just four rides, I saw both opening sequences, all three holograms, visited all the planets but Naboo, AND got to be the spy.
Kevin Smith’s Star Wars-centric “An Evening With…” was effing incredible – it was off-color and hilarious and nostalgic and heartwrenching and inspiring. (Two nights later, Jim and I spent awhile hanging out with the two fantastic sign language interpreters who almost stole the show. They worked many of the bigger Celebration presentations over the weekend, and they took the gig in large part because they’re both hardcore Star Wars fans.)
On Friday the 24th, I sat in on a taping of the Nerdist crew’s Star Wars Transmission – which was a poodoo-ton of fun.
Finally (at least for now), below are all my Star Wars Celebration VI Tweets (from most recent to earliest), cut and pasted from Snapbird, with links to the photos I shot with my phone camera.
This is not Bloomfield, New Jersey.
Neither is it New York Comic Con.
Both are places Jenn and Kelsey and I were supposed to be visiting this weekend for a long-anticipated get-together with friends and a GeekDad panel at the convention.
We were supposed to leave this morning. Unfortunately, it turns out my car needs a new wheel bearing, and it needs it now. Frakafrakkingfrak.
This all came to light yesterday, and I was tremendously pissed off and mopey and sad. A couple hours of Wednesday’s regularly scheduled Dungeons & Dragons Encounters at Backlist Books helped, as did an unexpected but very welcome past-midnight phone call from my old friend Ivan, whose family we were going to stay with for the weekend.
I drove my car to the mechanic’s this morning. It’s only about a mile-and-a-quarter from our house, so I walked home. It was bright and mild, and because it rained yesterday, the air was full of fall: the smell of wet leaves in the sun, an occasional whiff of apples, acres of corn husks drying and the sound of leaves falling in the woods.
(It wasn’t all pretty: My walk also included two cross-the-road detours to avoid recently deceased possums.)
I reminded myself of what I’d told Ivan last night: I’m planning to make the most of the time off work. I have three writing projects I’d like to tackle, movies and TV shows I’d like to enjoy with a beer or two, a book to finish and another to start.
I’m still frustrated over the scuttled weekend plans, of course: I haven’t been able to attend a GeekDad panel since the first one at PAX East in 2009; my friend Kirk is signing his book at Comic Con; I was looking forward to catching up with Bonnie Burton; and we don’t see Ivan and his family nearly enough. Jenn and Kelsey are also missing a reunion with one of Jenn’s oldest friends and a belly dancing convention.
Big-picture-wise, though, it’s just an inconvenience, and there will be other conventions and other excellent times with friends.
This was a good walk home.