The Big GenCon Report

I’ve had the better part of a week to recover from the GenCon weekend, so I’d better start writing things down before I forget it all. In a word, it rocked. There were some serious moments of fail, and convention fatigue settled in pretty heavily by the end, but overall it was a blast. The cast of characters includes Akusai, Magus, and the Girlfriend, Wikinite, Jon, the Action Skeptics’ friend Jason, and a few assorted others. What follows is a catalog of my impressions, in no particular order.

  • GenCon was a very different experience for me, compared to my last three trips to Wizard World. Since I was there as an attendee rather than an employee, I wasn’t tied to any one spot for any length of time. While that allows for some freedom, it also meant that I didn’t have any place where I could go, leave my stuff behind, sit down for awhile, and just chill while still on the convention floor.
  • Besides that, it’s been years since I picked up dice in an RPG setting, and I’ve never been much of a board game geek or a MMORPG player. The convention, consequently, was directed at an audience slightly to the left of me. So, while at Wizard World I’m scrambling to do all the things I want to do, buying everything in sight, and getting autographs from everyone I recognize at various booths, I was a lot more laid back at GenCon. I kind of went with the crowd, stopping occasionally to admire or purchase things. While I was easily the most purchase-happy person in the group, I really only bought a few things–the five printed collections of Order of the Stick and a bunch of Doctor Who toys. I exercised restraint in the latter instance, deciding against buying the TARDIS interior playset. Gotta leave something for next year’s convention season, after all.
  • And yet, despite not really having any kind of plan or driving intent, I did an awful lot of things. In fact, about the only thing I didn’t get to do enough of was hanging out with Diamondrock. Our schedules (and my cell phone reception) didn’t allow more than a bit of smalltalk over the course of the weekend, and that’s regrettable. I think I’m going to have to make the trip out to his neck of the woods one of these coming weekends.
  • One other thing that differed between this convention and Wizard World: the prices. At WW, booths are falling over themselves to see who can offer the best deals and cheapest books. Cover price is usually reserved for the newest releases and the graphic novels at Graham Crackers; comics and books go for ridiculously low prices, which is why I buy so many. At GenCon, not so much. There were places with boxes of RPG books or out-of-print stuff at discounted rates, but most folks were selling at or over retail on most things. It wasn’t the bargain-crazy atmosphere I expect from conventions these days.
  • Indianapolis was gorgeous. It was my first time in the city (as far as I can remember), despite the fact that I spent a good portion of my formative years in Fort Wayne, and I really liked the atmosphere. It felt a bit like a smaller, more manageable Chicago, or a slightly less walkable Denver, albeit with more panhandlers-per-capita than I’ve noticed in either place before.
  • And the food! Oh, the food was magnificent. I had fish and chips at the Claddagh; I had a burger the size of my plate at a Scottish place, where I also tried a bite of Wikinite’s haggis (a bit like sticky meatloaf–not bad, because I like meatloaf, but not something I’d order for myself) and ate some scotch eggs (hard boiled eggs wrapped in sausage, breaded, and deep fried–the egg didn’t really do anything for the snack, but it was good); I went to P.F. Chang’s for the first time, where I learned of the wonders of lettuce wraps and tried tofu (not a fan) and lamb (for the first time in a non-gyros context). Even the place we went for breakfast on Sunday was pretty good, despite the fact that they actually served “freedom fries” and “freedom toast.” Also, the usual standbys like Steak ‘N’ Shake and the Olive Garden.
    About the only place I wasn’t happy with was RAM, a bar and grill near the convention center which was plastered with D&D and other game-related posters and such, and which had renamed many of their dishes after fantasy characters. Magus and Wikinite were unhappy that their Guinnesses were served in keg cups like we were at some frat party (the waiter brought an extra one to make up for it, to his credit); I was slightly more unhappy that I had to scrape cheese and mustard off my burger, even after the waiter repeated my special request back to me. But, you know, one bad eating experience out of the whole weekend still averages out to damn good.
  • It was wonderful to pick up dice and character sheets again, for the first time since High School. Wikinite started an Amber diceless game (which, I guess, had neither dice nor character sheets–the point stands, nonetheless) on Thursday or Friday, based on Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber series. The first book is good so far (though I haven’t made any progress in it since…well, Friday), and the game was a blast. We made our characters in something of a vacuum, which meant that my steampunk alchemist/scientist was a bit out of his league when compared to Magus’s aging Arabian assassin, Akusai’s soul-stealing mad god, and Jason’s otherworldly shadow-manipulator. On the other hand, I got to be snarky, indignant, frequently exasperated, and compared to Xander. So, you know, it evens out. I hope we can get together to finish the game at some point; heck, I wouldn’t mind doing it over Skype or something–in fact, that’d be pretty cool.
  • Akusai and Magus ran a game of Mage: The Ascension on Saturday, which was made of win and full of awesome. Wikinite played a stoner whose powers centered around marijuana; Jon was a bum who believed himself to be Jesus and had the powers to back it up; an ailing Jason played Madame Charlatanne, a psychic of the Sylvia Browne persuasion; and I took up the mantle of Zariel the Blacksun, depressing super-goth extraordinaire. The plot of the game took us up against Jack Thompson and his army of video game-destroying Furries, a gaggle of geeky fantasy authors including “S.A. Ralvatore” and “Ted Greenhood,” Charlton Heston, Robo-Hobo and his mighty bumsaber, and finally Rev. Harry Ballwell and his army of cloned Jesuses Jesii.
    For those who don’t know much about Mage, most mages have some kind of focus–a ritual they perform in order to cast their magic spells. Jon’s Bum-Jesus had to recite a Bible passage, Wikinite had to toke up, and Zariel the Blacksun had to recite terrible Goth poetry. Akusai and Magus had the foresight to print some out along with the character sheets, but I decided early on that it would be fun to do some ad-libbing. Judging from the reactions of the group, that decision was probably for the best, if only because it led to masterpieces like this (from memory–this isn’t exactly it, and I kind of wish we’d been writing these down):

    Spirits, we invoke thee, using the power of three
    Three, a number of great power
    Three, the number of cuts in the perfect suicide
    One across, the classic
    One down, for practicality
    One diagonal:
    Tic.
    Tac.
    Toe.

    And so forth, reciting in the most pretentious, self-absorbed, overly-serious voice I could muster. I reached down into the deepest depths of my teenage angst and poured forth some hilarious poetic dreck, and it was good. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to play the character again, and I hope I get the chance.

  • The costumes worked out pretty well (pictures forthcoming). On Saturday, Magus and Akusai went as Dante Hicks and Randall Graves from Clerks II (respectively), and I went as Silent Bob, with a costume that was a bit of a hodgepodge of the various View Askew films. It’s a shame Jon couldn’t get a Jay costume together, but things worked out pretty well. We had several people hit us up for pictures, which is pretty exciting since I spent a grand total of, like, $45 on that costume. Akusai, the Girlfriend, and I went to Lafayette’s finest costume shops in search of a wig on Wednesday, and the Girlfriend was probably right in the one she pointed out, but the one I ended up buying actually worked pretty well…after Akusai and I took a knife to it Saturday morning.
  • I bought my first pack of cigarettes for the costume–I just bite it; it’s for the look, I don’t light it. On one hand, I totally get why people would carry them around. It was very handy to have something to gesture with, to fiddle with absentmindedly in my hands, and so forth. It felt very natural. On the other hand, it started making my lips numb whenever I held it in my mouth for more than a few seconds, and the sweet tobacco smell became sickening after a little while–especially with the way it lingered all over my hands and stuck in my mouth. I inhaled once with the thing unlit, and I about choked on the awful taste–I can’t imagine how or why people can stand it on a regular basis.
    To split the difference, I’m seriously thinking about taking up bubblegum cigarettes. Failing that, I may finally invest in a bubble pipe.
  • I’m going to leave it there for now. The various fundies and the EVP presentation will probably be the next post, and at some point I’ll talk a bit about the White Wolf party. Stick around!
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3 Responses to The Big GenCon Report

  1. Akusai says:

    Next year: Skeptics Panel FTW.

  2. Pingback: Gen Con 2010 Wrap-Up « Dubito Ergo Sum

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