Gen Con recap, Day Three

When i left off last time i’d expressed my imperative to play D&D posthaste the following day.  You’d better believe i set an early alarm, jumped right up and roused my slumbering (and loudly snoring!) attendee buddy.

Observing our two-day-long tradition of me making the Starbucks run while he cleaned up, we hit the road back to downtown Indy around 9 a.m.  i’d be lying if i said there wasn’t an extra pep in my step, because i had no doubt that i’d be playing D&D in the not-so-distant future.

Not surprisingly, there was a line already formed at the D&D Play area.  The line snaked through the divider ribbons and ended just outside the faux-castle walls.  I knew the most frequently run encounter was Confrontation at Candlekeep, which ran about two hours long.  No biggie.

i’ve gotta say, even standing in line for stuff at Gen Con is entertaining.  Naturally, everyone there has something to talk about so introductions and conversations flowed as easily as the mead at a roadside tavern where adventurers might muster for a dungeon crawl.  We chatted with an older guy who told us how he’d first come to Gen Con in the early 80s.  He talked about his son, or maybe it was his grandson, who was firmly a video gamer and didn’t want to come.  He remarked on the lack of security at an event this size, especially in light of the common sight of weapon-toting cosplayers.

Starcraft Sarah Kerrigan

Is that a real C-20A terran cannister rifle?  Security!

DnD Gen Con

That’s me in the forefront there.  i cleaned house with my Elf Ranger

The play area for D&D was pretty large, and they had encounters starting basically every hour of the day.  There were quite a few different “official” encounters at Gen Con and TONS of other ones going on all over the place.  We had to stand in line for about 45 minutes and wait for the next round of games to begin, and naturally continued chatting with the two guys in front of us, both of whom are pictured above.  So by the time we got to play, the four of us had decided to form a party together and hashed out who would play which pre-gen character.  The guy to my left there settled on the human monk, while his friend Zack chose the dwarf fighter.  My buddy went with the Half-Elf Paladin (he always chooses divine-powered characters).  i went with the Elf Ranger for a couple of reasons.  Chief among them is i looooooove me some ranged combat in any game (Long Shot – get it?).  Also, i figured that a two-hour session probably meant a lot of fighting and not a lot of resting or talking with NPCs so i figured i had a good chance of rolling dice a lot of slaying many monsters.  i was correct.

Before we sat down though, we had to sign up to be “official” D&D players.  i don’t know exactly what that all means, but i think it’s kind of like the old RPGA.  So you can go to official game sessions and maintain your character over time and stuff like that.  This includes the D&D Encounters program, which are sanctioned games in local hobby stores and whatnot.  There’s a store near me that runs them, but unfortunately they are every Wednesday which is the day i work a night shift.  That’s a bummer.  But!  i’m trying to organize a regular game night on Sundays so at least i’ll get to do some gaming that way.

Also, while waiting in line, a Wizards of the Coast dude came around with copies of Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle.  This is a really wonderful idea – it is basically an entire campaign to take characters from level 1 to 10.  Everything you need (except dice) is in the book including the basic rules, pre-gen characters and their advancement, monsters, loot and most importantly – adventures. [i will be running this on Sunday Game Night.  i’ll let you know how it goes – ed.]

Another WoTC employee approached us earlier as well.  He explained a little bit about the scenario we were to play, which took place at the legendary bastion of knowledge called Candlekeep.  He took a quick poll of the four of us on what sort of offering our characters would bring to the library there.  My vote for the best gift went to the guy who said doughnuts, because who doesn’t like when someone shows up with doughnuts?  But it was ultimately my friend whose suggestion of a cartload of students to become acolytes there that won.  For that, his prize was the blessing of Oghma, the god of knowledge, that translated to a +1 bonus to all his rolls for the encounter.  At 1st level that makes a huge difference!

Our DM for the encounter, called Confrontation at Candlekeep, was Nicholas.  He was just a dude in the area when they put a call out for people to run games, with the added incentive of an exclusive D&D Gen Con dice bag.  He was selected about 10 minutes before we started, so he barely had time to prepare.  But overall he was an awesome DM.  He had a great personality, he was funny and he described the action well and kept us entertained.

DM Nicholas

Nicholas Dance, Dungeonmaster

The way they had the encounter set up was pretty neat.  Ultimately, the session revolved around your party stationed on one of six towers surrounding a main tower.  Your mission was to protect an acolyte while he activated a Shield Stone that would protect the great library of Candlekeep from a supernatural invasion by the forces of Asmodeus.  Waves of regenerating skeletons and spiked devils attacked to try and kill the acolyte while a blue dragon circled the skies overhead, occasionally swooping down to attack parties.  By the way, most tables had parties of six, but we only had four.  Despite that, much ass-kicking was perpetrated by us upon monsters and cultists alike.

Candlekeep

The map of Candlekeep.  We had no minis so we used 4-sided dice for our characters and mini 6-siders for the monsters (over to the left there).

Blue Dragon attack

The Voice of D&D attacks our tower with the deadly Blue Dragon.  Also, he rocks a magnificent mustachio.

Playing Dungeons and Dragons at Gen Con was not only the highlight of the event for me, but the highlight of my gaming career that spans the last oh…27 years or so.  Seriously, does it get any better than that?!  Our game was just the way i like it too.  There was some role-playing, but no one was “in character” the whole time or anything; the DM was pretty knowledgeable about the rules but if he didn’t know he’d just figure something out on the fly to keep things moving; the combat was fast and exciting; and everyone got a chance to shine.  i’ve gotta say, i had a blast playing that ranger, Jindra Gold (or Jindragel as Nicholas called him).  Unfortunately i only got to fire off two arrows, but that’s only because we were in close quarters, and his two-weapon fighting abilities were freakin’ awesome!  At one point i even got some bonuses by demoralizing the enemy cultists.

Our group, despite being small, kept the action moving and we had a ton of fun interacting with each other and our DM.  Since we moved along so quickly, Nicholas had to come up with some interesting twists on the fly and our little party defended the crap out of the acolyte and the tower.  After a while, we dubbed our healer “Captain Paladin” because, since as we all know skeletons are resistant to slashing and piercing weapons, he resorted to shield-bashing the hell out of them, literally!

Finally, the blue dragon was defeated and a rousing cheer was made by all.  We thanked Nicholas for his great DM skills, and i made sure to give him high marks on the scorecard we were given.  i added some additional comments on the back in case they gave out extra swag for great DM’s – i wanted to make sure he was recognized for that.  When we turned the scorecards in, we all got a set of Gen Con exclusive dice too!

The rest of our afternoon was filled with geeking out about our experience with D&D at Gen Con, and another trip to the exhibition hall to go wild on some swag.  i took another pass around the place hunting for VS cards (to no avail), picked up a D&D red box t-shirt, and discovered a defunct Call of Cthulhu CCG for $4/deck and got two of those.

t-shirt-dungeons-and-dragons-fantasy-game-shr

i could have gone buck wild on all the great t-shirts we saw but in the end i went with just this one.

Some other notable ones i saw:

damn right t shirt

‘Nuff said

obey cthulhu

Really wanted this one!  Saw a ton of people sporting it but not a vendor in sight.

zur en arrh

Tower of T-Shirts was sold out of this Zur-En-Arrh t-shirt.  Drove me batty.

My friend and i thought we’d enjoy getting into a miniatures war game so we searched and searched to find one that appealed to us.  Our criteria was mainly that the minis had to come pre-painted, since neither of us had any intention of getting into that as well.  If i recall correct, there were rules for D&D minis combat, but surprisingly i could not find any of them at any vendors.  it was around that time i realized WoTC had no booth in the exhibition hall.  What up wit dat?

In the end, we decided to try out Heroclix.  The Troll and Toad booth had bins of random figures as well as a box of 50 random ones for $10 so we got a whole bunch of them.  More on that later.

We also agreed that Settlers of Catan was a thing that we wanted to get into.  Over at the Mayfair Games booth we rolled up for a demo.  They showed us the Star Trek Catan for some reason, which didn’t capture my interest if i’m honest.  However, what did catch my attention and caused me to shush the guy doing the demo was perhaps the greatest mash-up costume i’ve ever seen.

Hunter Cthulhu

Hunter S. Cthulhu?  R’yleh Duke?

i spotted the above gentleman weaving his way through the crowd like he was tripping out in a Las Vegas casino bar.  It was imperative to flag him over for a pic, to which he obliged while mumbling under his breath and totally nailing the Raoul Duke/Fear and Loathing mannerisms.  And then he just disappeared back into the crowd as easily as Vern Troyer beneath a passerby’s gown.

Even though the Trekkie version of Catan didn’t seem all that cool, we had already made up our minds to get into Settlers so into the swag bag it went.  We knew it would not be difficult to find people to play with since it’s so insanely popular.

With loot bags full and bank accounts less so, we made another trip through the open gaming area, hoping to squeeze in a few more games of whatever.  i was happily surprised that my friend expressed interest in Magic: The Gathering.  i love CCGs but it’s been historically very difficult to find people to play with so i was more than happy to approach the M:TG area with him.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have any demos going on at the time and the volunteer suggested we give Kaijudo a try.  So we did.

Kaijudo is a really simple game of giant monsters trying to destroy the opposing sides shield and deliver a final killing blow.  There are five different “civilizations” (think colors of magic) – light, dark, fire, water, and nature (white, black, red, blue and green, respectively).  Sound familiar?  Like most games, Kaijudo is a game of math and rock-paper-scissors.  i enjoyed it quite a bit though, because it was so easy to learn and a game only took about 15 minutes to play.  i suppose if you got really into it, found the interesting card interactions, and so forth that it could become more tactical.  It’s definitely a great game to introduce someone to CCGs with.  After the demo, we walked away with four starter decks, one of each civilization except nature.  We also got two M:TG starters (white and green) from an adjacent demo.  They’d finished and left the decks there and our guy encouraged us to snag them.

Later on that evening we attending Mystery Anime Theatre 3000.  My experience with anime is very basic.  Pretty much the stuff everyone has seen.  Akira, Vampire Hunter D, Hayao Miyazaki stuff, Robotech…i had no idea that subgenres like Magical Girl, which is what i believe the film we saw was.  Revolutionary Girl Utena certainly was a strange film.  Very surreal and full of avant-garde symbolism and such.  The Wasabi Anime guys who filled the Joel Hodgson and crew role were frankly not very humourous or entertaining.  i take that back – one of the sidekick guys had a few clever witticisms by the time the credits came.  But if i’m honest, the film itself intrigued me enough that i was trying to keep up with the subtitles and plot, and wished it were instead a simple viewing.

My friend explained afterwards something about strange anime properties and foory coory.  i don’t pretend to understand, but my guess is the script writers ate some furry curry for lunch before working on this story.  In all fairness though the moving walkways, swords withdrawn from hiding inside someone’s body, and an inexplicable carwash that transforms Utena into a racecar i bet were more than a little of the animators trying new things.

By the time we got back to the hotel that night we were pretty freakin’ pooped.  Despite that, the gaming spirit lived on when we agreed to stay up and play some of the many games we’d acquired thus far.  First up was Settlers of Catan.  i think it’s safe to say we were both hooked fairly quickly.  A simple, elegant game of resource management that takes about 30-45 minutes to play.  Far better gamers and critics than i have discussed this globally popular board game, so suffice it to say here that a new fan was made that night.  IiRC we played two games and each won one.  Since then, we’ve played several matches and i’d say we’re about even on wins and losses.  My friend has high hopes of representing the United States at the next world championship, in Germany 2015 (i think?).  Good luck to him!

My friend suggested M:TG next.  He was familiar with the granddaddy of CCGs of course but had never played, so i had the opportunity to teach him.  We had just those two starters, 30-card Garruk Wildspeaker and Ajani Goldmane decks.  He chose white (of course) so i played the green one.  Years ago we’d gotten into Upper Deck’s VS System together with hopes of winning a million dollars.  We were going to not only finance our film idea, but also we would win a million dollars playing a card game!  Never did win that million.  And as it turns out, you can make a movie with no budget at all.

Anyway, he won the first game, and i won the second.  i think he fought the urge to really like the game, because as we all know a cardboard crack addiction is a thing that is tough to break.  In time, however, i believe i can erode his will to the point where his curiosity will get the better of him.  Now that i think about it, M:TGO would probably appeal to him.  He prefers all that digital stuff.  i mean, i’ll do it when i’m slumming it but put real dice and cards in my hand any day of the week.

Finally, we pushed the envelope and decided to try and figure out Heroclix.  And that’s where i kinda loose the thread and wrap things up.  Now granted, it was something like 4 a.m. after a full day of gaming goodness.  But man, trying to figure out Heroclix sucked.  It just straight-up seems too complicated for me.  Too much to bother figuring it all out anyway; it just doesn’t seem like a game that i would enjoy much.  The figures are pretty awesome though.  They’re not astounding in detail, but it’s neat to come across the unusual or extra-nifty looking ones.  The 60-75 random ones i picked up contained a few gems such as these two:

In our sleep-deprived state, we decided to get some rest and head out the next morning for home.  In retrospect, it would have been worth it to tough it out for the last day of Gen Con, if only to see the destruction of both Cardhalla and Balloon Cthulhu.  But we would not go home disappointed.  No, sir.

Over the last three days, i got to play dozens of games, new and familiar.  Saw hundreds, maybe thousands of people in costumes roaming the halls and malls of Indianapolis.  Met people in person who i knew only through online gaming and blogging.  Really, an amazing time.

i’m already looking forward to Gen Con 2014.  Not a little bit because it’s also the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons next year.  So you know it’s gonna be huge.

There is a list of priorities assembled for the convention next time, too.  It’s not like anyway could think i was any geekier by this point so i’m proud to list them here for you.

  1. Wear a costume.  I’m heavily leaning towards Mister Miracle right now.  But Madman is on the shortlist along with The Creeper.  i also think a good back-up costume wouldn’t be a bad idea either, something more comfortable like a hobbit or something.
  2. Play more D&D.  i’m going to look for some longer games and register for those.  With four days to plan for, why not pull an all-nighter like in days  of yore (<– youth).
  3. True Dungeon.  ‘Nuff said.
  4. Build an all-foil VS deck to bring with me.  We’re still out here playing!  To go with my costume idea and because i dig the character so much, i’m working on a Mister Miracle-themed deck.  It’s a difficult proposition but i think teaming up with the Heralds of Galactus is a wise move.
  5. Play in a Settlers of Catan tournament.  In order to get ourselves in shape, my friend and i have been trying to stick to a game-a-night regimen.  He d/l’ed some Catan app so he plays that all the time too.  But i’m old school, man – it’s the tabletop board or nuttin’.

Whew!  So there you have it – my experiences at my first Gen Con, 2013.  Seriously, i’m still geeking out about it and we got home over a week ago.  As an added bonus, i was also inspired to get my own D&D group together because why not?  We’ll be getting together for our first game session next week and i’m excited about that.  i’m proud to say that our campaign’s first officially created character was made by actually rolling dice for ability scores!  Yes, that’s right.  No point-buy system, or arcane die-rolling formula.  He rolled 4d6, dropped the lowest, and arranged in chosen order.  The character is a dwarf barbarian with the Totem of the Hawk.  i really dig the way the character is conceptualized and i’m looking forward to see how he is played.

Another player might run a paladin.  Traditionally, these holy warriors are seen as uptight sticklers, but i had a change of perspective the other night.  In a fantasy setting like this, your typical village of 1000 people is more than likely surrounded on all sides by hordes of orcs in the hills, tribes of swamp-dwelling lizardfolk, and so forth.  So the lawful good guy isn’t necessarily the uncompromising prick that alignment stereotypes suggest.  Really, they’re just the people who see that their civilization is threatened by all kinds of chaos all around, and they’ll stand up to protect that.  That, and the player imagined the paladin follows a god of love and peace, and he’d be just as much or more a smooth talker than a divine swordsman.  This sounds interesting enough to me, and the player is a really imaginative, witty guy so i know he’ll play a fun character.

But, i digress.  If you’re still here, then boy you really don’t mind lengthy blog posts.  And kudos to you for that!  But, you know what?  All this writing about gaming adventures has got me ready to PLAY something!

i’m signing off now, but only to go login to DDO for a couple of quick runs before this evening’s Catan match.

Good gaming, and thanks for visiting!

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Gen Con recap, Day Two

Okie dokie well, in the interest of time (got back several days ago) and with a new semester starting in a few days, plus a dangling Act II and III…i was going to combine the rest of my Gen Con experience into a single post here.

However, that post had mutated into a giant mega-post!  We did so much stuff, it simply would not do to contain it within the confines of a single post.  So without any further ado, let’s get into Day Two of my experience at Gen Con 2013!

We left off last time with a much-needed night of sleep after a day of driving, gaming, and scouting out the convention floor.  As i mentioned previously, Day One was really just plain old overwhelming.  Personally, i was disappointed in myself for not playing more games, especially my beloved D&D.  Expressing those concerns to my attending buddy, he admitted similar feelings but put an optimistic spin on the situation.  Since we’d both already resolved to return next year, he explained that this trip was primarily an information-gathering quest so that we’d be 100% ready for 2014.  i could get on board with that, sure.

Our goals for Day Two were pretty simple.  The DDOcast Live was at 4 p.m. and we knew for certain we wanted to go to that.  Besides that, we returned to Gen Con with an eye towards taking stock of what to prep for next year. Properly caffienized we hit the floor for more walking around in amazement.  One thing that called to us was the True Dungeon, a two-hour live action walkthrough adventure.  That was our first stop.  According to the map in the program book the space where it was set up was pretty massive, so we were stoked about seeing it.  Bewildered, we tread inside the entrance ready for anything.

After gazing around in stupefied excitement for a moment we made our way over to what looked like an informational booth, which thankfully it was.  After expressing our newbitude to the volunteer there, she explained what the True Dungeon was and how it works.  There are three different adventures paths you can take, depending on what your interested in doing.  One is filled with a lot of monster battles, one presents puzzles and riddles, and the third…you know i don’t think she actually told us what kind of adventure it was.  i read more about it afterwards and it seems there are just the two types of paths, but it’s a multi-stage adventure.

Anyway, as you proceed through your adventure, you collect treasure tokens for things like Cure Light Wounds potions, cloaks of elvenkind, and various and sundry other magical and mundane gear that helps you best the challenges you face.  When the adventure is complete, i believe you have an opportunity to redeem your treasure tokens for pulls out of a treasure chest of swag.  The coupon booklet had a coupon for something like 10 free tokens as well.  Pretty cool.

Since we were already sold on the idea before even crossing the threshold, by the time she’d finished her spiel we were like “hell yeah we want to do this!”

Unfortunately, she went on to tell us that the True Dungeon was sold out for the entire weekend.

In fact, it’s probably the most popular event at Gen Con every year, and typically sells out within minutes of open registration!  She did give us a tip that there were some brokers around would sell their tickets, and we searched about the area for one but, unable to find any, we headed back out into the convention.  We were pretty disappointed about missing out on the True Dungeon, but since this was our scouting mission, we made a solemn vow that next year we’d make sure to try to register for this immediately.  i guess the trick is to put every timeblock on your registration wishlist, make sure you’re logged in when registration opens and mash that mouse button furiously!  So that’s our plan for 2014.  True Dungeon is #1 on the must-do list.  It’s one thing to play the rogue in your campaign and roll the dice hoping to disarm that trap.  It’s an entirely different thing to physically do just that, and answer riddles posed by live monsters and stuff.  Yeah yeah, i know it sounds pretty dorky – but only to those of you for whom RPGs are inherently dorky.  If you’re an RPG’er, you’d be geeking out about it too.

By this time it was mid-afternoon.  Time to snag a bite to eat.  Despite all the unusual and unique cuisine offered by the food trucks (i’d decided to only eat from them – gotta support those foodies!) it was a game convention after all, so i had to get me some pizza at some point, right?  Fortunately i knew just where to go.  The NY Slice had caught my the day prior.  i love NYC and i love pizza and i love those big NY slices so for me this was a no-brainer.  Plus, i got some of the more amusing pics from Gen Con while waiting in line.  Yes, that is Deadpool ordering a New York slice.

deadpool 4deadpool 1deadpool 3

While munching down our ‘za i also spotted a really terrific hobbit costume, complete with a Lothlorien cloak and walking stick, but i had my hands full of pie so i couldn’t get a pic.  i did, however, give the guy a nod to let him know i dug his style.  As a bonus, he had a sweet looking pipe that was actually a vape device.  Well-played, hobbit of the shire, well played.  On the downside he did have a goatee, so the nerd in me was thinking “hey dude – hobbits don’t have facial hair!”  But i can tell you from experience that when you’re used to sporting facial hair, and then you shave it off, you look weird even to yourself.  So he lost a couple points for authenticity, but it was a great costume nonetheless.

It was approaching 4 p.m. by this time, so it was off to find DDOcast Live.  i was pretty stoked about this for several reasons.  It was the only official DDO event at Gen Con, which made showing up pretty much mandatory. Not only had we been playing nearly since release, but it was the final broadcast to be hosted by Sig Trent and his wife Anne, and it was live!  Also, there were more than a couple people i’ve met through the blogosphere who would be there and i thought it would be really cool to meet them in person.  If you’re a DDO player, i highly suggest visiting The Order of SyncleticaDDO Gamer, and any of the other blogs from OurDDO (including this one!).

Located in one of the satellite hotels to the convention center, DDOcast Live had a nice turnout of about two dozen.  The hosts Sig, Anne, and frequent guest Geoff were happy with the attendance numbers too.  They were worried that barely anyone would show, but the DDO community pulled together and represented at Gen Con, which was great to see.  i know i’ve been taking a little hiatus from the game, but that’s the nature of MMOs and i am happy to say my interest was reinvigorated by the show.

The podcast had the usual assortment of game and community news, but since it was live, we in the audience got to participate too by sharing what we’d been up to in-game.  There was also a Jeopardy!-style segment for a chance to win the Shadowfell Conspiracy x-pac and lots of other giveaways throughout the podcast as well.

Finally, there were a few representatives from Turbine in attendence like Tolero and Producer Glin, who joined the panel and took some questions from the audience.  i am happy to report that i got a chance to not only request they refocus on Eberron but also to add psionics to the game.  Like so many fantasy gamers out there, i cut my teeth on the Forgotten Realms, and when DDO came out i was like “what the hell is Eberron?!”  But that was a long time ago, and i’ve grown to really enjoy the Keith Baker’s award-winning campaign setting.  So why they choose to continually expand into FR – especially in light of NWO‘s release – is beyond me.  Stick with what brought you to the dance, Turbine!  Who needs another pastoral/medieval fantasy setting we’ve seen a million times?  Give me back the magicpunk world of artificers and airships.  Besides, didn’t we defeat Lolth’s schemes in Caught in the Web?  Close that portal and bring us back to Xen’drik, please.  As for the psionics, i hear and read a lot that “it’s just like magic so what’s the point?”  Well, two things actually.  One: the point is for flavor – it’s an important part of the setting.  And two: who cares if it’s like magic?  i’m sure there’d be some cross-over spells, but there would also be some new ones, and i want to shoot monsters with mind bullets dammit!

Anyway, by the end of the podcast, i was walking out of there with free Turbine points, a code for free astral shards, an exclusive Turbine dice bag, and a new pin to adorn my Gen Con badge lanyard.  And i got to shake hands and talk with TeacherSyn and Gamer Geoff – two other bloggers who i’ve communicated with several times online.  So that was really cool.  Everyone in attendance seemed to have a really good time, and the show went great.  It was very cool to feel like a part of a community like that.  i mean, yeah all 50K of us at Gen Con were one thing, but this was a special little niche and we were proud to say we were there.

But wait!  The DDO goodness didn’t stop there.  As i understand it, an evening of drinks and camaraderie for DDO is a Gen Con tradition, and we all planned to meet up at the Severin bar that night.  So after leaving the podcast, we headed back to the car to drop off the day’s swag before making our way to the Omni Hotel where the Severin was.  i think we chose that place because it kind of sounds like Severus, which as we all know is a Harry Potter reference.  i’m sure that’s not what the bar owners were thinking when they named it, but it worked for us.  Yeah, we’re dorks.

The remainder of Friday evening was filled with a growing crowd of DDO’ers and the acquisition of pretty much all the tables in the bar area that morphed into some kind of mutant mega-table.  One of the fine folks of Turbine whose name i didn’t catch arrived and bought a bunch of appetizers for everyone too.  These included sticks of fried bacon, which of course were favorites.  There is also a traditional DDO-inspired cocktail menu that has developed over the last few years.  i may have imbibed some of these had i been aware of it beforehand, but by the time it was brought up i’d already started down the path of Newcastle.  Beer before liquor and all that.

Everyone there had a really super time!  At my end of the table were Sig and Anne, my friend who came to Gen Con with me, and the other guy who i understand used to be one of the GMs for DDO.  i didn’t get his name either, but he was a riot.  Very funny guy.  Mostly we all just talked about DDO and it was refreshing to hear everyone telling what they liked about the game and all the fun times they’d had playing it (unlike a visit to the forums, which is quite the opposite!).

At one point, we went around the table introducing ourselves and noting our main toon’s name and server.  Imagine my surprise when Solbiter from Sarlona stood up – he’s in my guild Sacred Flame Guardians!  That was a real treat to meet someone with whom i’d run around in-game quite a bit.  Quite some time ago, when i was fresh to the guild, i remember Solbiter jumping in to help us finish my favorite quest chain – Attack on Stormreach.

So Friday night was basically an evening of DDO.  We got to participate in Sig and Anne’s final DDOcast before passing the reins on to Shemgar.  i got to meet Geoff and Teachersyn in person, hang out with Tolero, run into a guildie in person, and spend the night carousing and sharing stories of all the great times we’ve all had playing DDO.

Now, if you’re keeping track, i’m heading into Day 3 of the Best Four Days in Gaming and i have yet to play Dungeons and Dragons.  This will not stand.

i was resolved that i absolutely would not go home without playing D&D, which i would consider a mortal sin for attending Gen Con.  As i told my friend, i intended to wake up early Saturday, head to the D&D Play area, and immediately play D&D.  No exceptions.

And that’s what we did…

…More on that later!

Please visit again soon for Day Three of Gen Con 2013, Acts II and III of the Big Waynowski, and who knows what else?!

Gen Con decompression, Part 1 (Day One)

Okay, first off for anyone wondering why there’s only Act I of what is surely a standard three-act structure story available.  That’s because, despite burning the midnight oil (and the 1 a.m. oil…) last Wednesday, i was not able to complete Act II before i simply had to get some sleep.

Why, you ask, when i did not have to arise early for either school or work the following day?  Well that’s an easy answer.

 

gen-con-logo

It really was.

Attending Gen Con was a childhood dream come true, and it was totally worth the wait (although i wish i hadn’t waited so long in life to go!).  Not knowing quite what to expect, the road trip began at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning and we pulled into the hotel parking lot around noon.  The drive from Cleveland wasn’t too bad at all, and it was a beautiful day to boot.  Admittedly, i was a little disheartened when told check-in wasn’t until 3 o’clock because of the event weekend.  That would have been nice to know ahead of time.  But oh well.  Stuff happens.

Undaunted, it was decided to just plunge right into the convention and check in to our hotel whenever we wound up back there.  So back into the car we went and headed for downtown Indianapolis.

convention center

Indiana Convention Center

What a great city!  Indianapolis is super nice, at least around the convention center where we were.  Very clean, lots of restaurants and storefronts along the street, and people out enjoying the city everywhere.  Maybe that’s not so unusual for downtown metropolitan areas, but compared to my hometown of Cleveland it sure is.

Eventually, a parking garage with space is found – at least until midnight as warned by the attendant.  What happens then, i wonder?  Whatevs, it was time to do what i came to do.

Indy rooftop

View from the parking garage rooftop.  Deceptive – it was a beautiful sunny day!

Have you ever seen tens of thousands of gamers gathered in one area?  i have, and it is awesome.  In fact, literally not 30 seconds ago i got an email that announced this year’s record-breaking attendance number: 49,058 unique attendees with a weekend turnstile attendance of 159,364!  Everywhere you look, geekdom abounds.

People lugging carts full of their wargame minis, deck boxes, and dice.

Ambient chatter of spell effects, rare cards, and LARPs.

And the costumes!

By the time my friend and i reached the convention center doors, we had already decided that not only would we attend next year, but also that a costume was a must.  It may sound pretty dorky to your average person, but we actually felt more out-of-place is plain old civilian clothes.  Neither of us even had a game-related t-shirt to speak of – something we knew would have to be remedied.

First things first – got to pick up the all-important badge!

Press badge

As you can see, thanks to this-a-here Long Shot i was able to get myself a press badge.  Got to pick it up in the press-only Press Room and everything.  Getting authorized for one of those was very exciting.  But, i’ll admit that it did me no good.  Or rather, i was too overwhelmed and wrapped up in the spectacle of the convention to really give much thought to journalistic pursuits.  Prior to arriving i had every intention of focusing on good reporting.  But once i immersed myself in the goings-on, if i’m honest i didn’t really give a damn.

Coming to the conclusion that the best thing to do was get a lay of the land, i snagged a program booklet (more like a tome) and a coupon packet and we hit the floor for some recon.  All of the main hallways were jam-packed.  If people weren’t milling around same as we were, they were sitting on the floor playing games together, or dashing through the crowd to make it to an event or tournament on time, or taking pictures, or getting their picture taken.  It did not go unnoticed that, outside of this event, these costumed folks probably rarely get an opportunity to don these duds in public.  And if they did, chances are more than a couple snickers would be aimed their way.  Not so here.

Even the simplest costumes, like Finn from Adventure Time (of which there were more than a few), got asked to stop for a pic by admirers.  i mean, where else can you dress up like a Pirate Deadpool, a satyr, a wizard, Master Chief, or clockwork Ghostbusters and hear everyone who walks by tell you you’re awesome?

Since it was the first day, the place was extra busy and nowhere was this more evident than the exhibition hall – where they sell stuff.  WOW!  i would say that anything you can think of, gaming-related, could be found therein. However, i was disappointed to have scoured the place several times and found but a single vendor hawking VS cards.  And then only a couple of booster boxes from the less-than-stellar sets like Man of Steel.  Not one place selling singles or anything.  i dreamt of finding boxes and boxes of singles to search through and come home with at least an extended art Dr. Doom card for my VS gaming sweetie back home.  But it was not to be.

doom extended

Sorry, Melissa – regular size art will have to do for now.  Unless you decided to change your deck up (please!!)

There was so much other great stuff though!  Cards, dice, board games, RPG rulebooks, demos, weapons (foam and real), costumes, assorted merchandise…the list goes on and on.  It was tough to take it all in, because the crowds were so thick that i got carried along like a twig in the arms of a mighty river.  One of the more impressive booths sold clockwork/steampunk items that the guy had handmade himself.  Lots of goggles – gotta love the goggles – and bracers/gauntlets, and stuff like that.  One of the pairs of goggles had a clock face on one of the lenses that really worked, with the exposed gears going up and over to the back of the harness that kept it in place on your noggin. He also had a leather bracer with some dials and switches that would make a lit orb change colors.  i don’t know why but it kind of reminded me of that show Voyagers!

Other things from the Exhibition Hall:

Dalek

Exterminate!

me and dalek

It was a friendly Dalek – Ingratiate!

Underdark minis

Underdark set-up for D&D gaming.  This is a thing that is awesome.

Finally, after making a circuit of the place once or twice, it was time to do some gaming.  For the first Gen Con gaming experience, we chose Upper Deck’s Legendary game.  It’s essentially a board game that uses CCG-style cards.  Basically, each player builds a deck as you’re playing, using the cards that become available each turn.  It’s a co-op game, with 2-5 players trying to overcome a villainous mastermind’s schemes.  Defeating minions and henchmen of the mastermind earns a player victory points, so there is an overall winner amongst the players as well, once the mastermind is defeated or their win conditions are met.

The guy who demo’d the game was okay, but he admittedly had only played the game twice before.  This begs the question why he would be selected to demo the thing, but oh well.  He was sketchy on the rules and unable to answer several questions i had, but nevertheless i picked up on it enough.  It’s a pretty cool game actually.  As a CCG player myself, i definitely like the deck-building part of it.  And as someone who is hesitant to get into another CCG due to an obsessive desire to not only collect but build specific decks, i definitely like that all the cards are included with the game and no additional ones are needed (or available to buy at all for that matter).  Granted, there’s expansion sets and so forth, but if you’re a card-flopper you’d recognize the difference right away.  i snagged a Gen Con exclusive promo card too:

en sabah nur promo

En Sabah Nur, or Apocalypse as he’s more commonly known.  Or Copalypse, if you’re my friend’s three-year-old son.

After the demo, the dude asked if we wanted to get a game started to win the boxed set.  So that’s what we did.  Three other guys joined us at the table and we got down to business.  It was a timed game – 45 minutes.  The three joiners were all familiar with Legendary and had played it quite a bit even before the convention (it’s not new – but there’s a new expansion released).  So that made me a little wary.  i’m all about having fun…but i’m competitive too and i certainly would love to win a $60 game!

As the time drew near, a quick survey of my opponents showed me that it looked like victory was mine.  That is, until one guy had a really awesome turn and took the lead using a really powerful version of Rogue that let him copy one of each of the other players’ cards…which led to another use of that same Rogue.  It was nuts.  At that point, there was only 1-2 minutes left.  The guy next to me – my friend that came to Gen Con with me – was contemplating his move and i subtlely tried to nudge him to hurry it up.  i realized i could beat a Sentinel with bystanders and take back the lead.  But he didn’t pick up on my signals and the game was over.  No boxed set for me.  *tear*

i thought about purchasing the game anyway, because it is really fun.  But unfortunately i don’t actually have many people back home who are into gaming as much – or at least that have compatible enough schedules to allow get-togethers – so i ultimately decided against it.  That being said, if anyone reading this is someone i really know and would like to get a game night going then i’m down for that.  Email me maybe?

From there, we wandered the halls some more.  i was really just plain overwhelmed by the whole thing (in a good way).  By this time we thought we’d get some fresh air and some dinner, so we headed outside to where about two dozen food trucks had lined up along the street.  In addition to my love of games, i’m also quite interested in cuisine, so this was really terrific to see.  There were things you’d expect like pizza and burgers, but i was more interested in the unusual things like banh mi, crawfish po’boys, and so on.

Food truck 1food truck 2

While waiting in line, we overheard a guy telling some people about how his daughter had won an art contest from Wizards of the Coast.  i didn’t catch the details.  A bit later, we’re standing around and see that guy and his wife bringing ice cream to a couple of female drow.  Turns out one of them was his daughter.  i still don’t have the details, but i did manage a snapshot of the drow.

Drow 1

Really terrific costumes!  Flawless make-up job, cool leather armor, and got the hand crossbow in there too.  Nice.

There was an entire street cordoned off around the food trucks for us gamers to enjoy the sunshine, and a local brewery had a set-up there as well.  Sun King Brewery was a welcome sight, as the idea of a cold beer at that point was simply capital.  Six hours in the car and straight to the convention without a fresh-up at the hotel made tossing back a cold one sound phenomenal.  They even had a special brew just for Gen Con called Flagon Slayer!  As much as i would have liked to have one of those, the high ABV made me wary.  i went with the Wee Mac Scottish ale – a nice malty brew that went perfectly with the spicy crawfish po’boy.

A couple of guys sitting nearby approached and struck up a conversation while we ate.  I’d already noticed how friendly people were to each at the convention and this was one of the best things about the whole experience.  All of these people, of all ages and walks of life, and we all had gaming in common.  It’s really very cool how personable people were.  More than a few times, someone would just stop and ask where you are from, or what games you’ve been playing, and tell you about their Gen Con experience either this time or in the past.  There’s a real sense of camaraderie amongst all the attendees.  In fact, once i was back home a friend asked if i’d witnessed any nerd rage while there, and honestly i had not.  No rants or raves, or bad sports, or angry tournaments players were seen.

Anyway, these two guys of course asked where i was from and what i thought of this year’s Gen Con.  They lived not too far, and said they come every year.  i told them how impressed i was with the city, and they explained how Indianapolis was spruced up a lot when the Super Bowl was held there.  Now, anyone who knows me know sports is like the last thing i have any knowledge of, but if an athletic franchise can have that kind of impact on a city, then…Go Browns!  And Indians!  And Cavs!

Now we reached a crucial point – do we head back and check-in at our hotel or forge ahead?  We forge ahead, of course!  Turning to the program – all but forgotten up to this point – we flipped through the first few pages and realized that what we’d seen and been utterly amazed by so far was not even the entirety of the event.  While most of the action took place in the main convention center, there were a total of NINE HOTELS full of gaming goodness taking place.

One of the coolest things about the convention grounds was that all the buildings are connected by skyways.  So you can walk between the buildings over the streets below without having to deal with the scary outside world.  My friend, being a huge anime geek, was practically salivating when we saw that one of the hotels was dedicated to anime and manga and we started our further adventures there.

The first hall we walked through had a bunch of tables set up for artists who were promoting themselves and selling prints.  We stopped and talked with them a bit about what they do, and it sounds like a pretty nice life.  They’re not uber-successful professionals – yet! – but nevertheless they doing their thing, honing their craft and traveling around to sell stuff and get their name out there.  Hustling, basically, as well they should.  i picked up a couple of zodiac character prints for people at home by artist Mandy Bouso.  Up until that point i hadn’t really purchased anything, and i was impressed by these artists work ethic so i thought what the heck, why not.

Zodiac_Warrior__Leo_by_Epscillion

My friend was really impressed with this one guy, Seth Hengstler.  We talked with him for a while about how he developed his style, how he creates, and some projects he has in the works.  My friend is basically an anime expert and knows his stuff.  So if he says this guy is good, then keep an eye out – you’ll probably see more of him in the future.  Actually, i just looked him up and it seems he has a showing at Lakeland Community College on October 5.  That’s right down the street from where i live so…that’s kind of weird.  i’ll make sure to stop by and say hello.  If you’re into great anime artwork, i suggest you do the same.  He also does custom work, and you can give him a pic or yourself or anyone and he’ll draw it anime-style for a small fee.  Pretty cool!

Hengstler

Let’s see, what else did we do Day One?  Oh yeah – there was a table set up with about a dozen or so different game pairings.  You could sign up for whichever of the two you wanted, and whichever got more sign-ups would be the one the GM would run.  The area was called Games on Demand.  We were handed an “Elf Boarding Pass” and instructed that when we heard them give a call for Elves, that was our signal to gather (or muster, as the convention term goes).  i didn’t recognize any of the games except for InSpectres.  It’s a game about the burgeoning supernatural investigation and elimination market.  i’d read about it a few years ago after Inception came out – a film i was very much stoked about seeing.  Love that frickin’ film!  Anyway, i liked Inception so much that i looked for an RPG with a similar theme to it and came across Lacuna Part I from Memento Mori.  Never got a chance to play that (see above reference to lack of gaming group).  Maybe someday…

Playing InSpectres never materialized though.  We were supposed to come back in 45 minutes or so when the game would start, and got caught up at the Might and Magic room.  Ubisoft had a pretty cool set-up because they have three M&M games: an MMO, a computer CCG, and a 3D dungeon crawl.  If you played all three you got a card punched and entered for an iPad drawing.  i don’t know if it was tiredness setting in, or the Wee Mac, or what, but those M&M games were freakin’ boring.  i mean, i was literally falling asleep in the chair.  It certainly didn’t help that the room was dark and there was a video clip on what i think was about a seven-second loop playing over and over and over and over and over on the big screen.

On the flip side, i got my card punched twice at once so i was able to skip the third game and go staight for the drawing.  Also, i got to spin the prize wheel and won a M&M t-shirt.  Can’t go wrong with free swag.

When they held the raffle drawing, we were disappointed that neither of our names were called, because there really wasn’t even that many people there.  However, the guy whose name was called was one of the people not there, so they drew again – a second chance!

“And the winner is…Brett…”

“Yeah!” Shouted my buddy, accompanied by a fist pump.

“…Weaver!”

Bummer.

At this point, our shoulders were raw from carrying totes of swag as well as bags of stuff we thought we’d need to bring in with us, so we headed back to the car to drop the stuff off, stretch our legs and get some fresh air.  We were absolutely whooped at this point, but there was one more event we’d bought tickets for that started at 10 p.m.

Oh!

Before i get to that though, i’m reminded of what i deem as the Best Thing i Overheard At Gen Con.  It was while waiting in line to get event tickets for the event.  So i’m standing up at the booth filling out the card to get tickets and i overhear the volunteer helping the guy next to me.  He’s handed over the card where he filled out what he wants tickets for and she’s reading it back to him for accuracy.

“I’ve got you down for Forging a Foam Weapon at 11, Forging a GIANT Foam Weapon at 12…”

i could not contain my laughter.  Not in a making-fun-of-the-guy way though.  It just sounded so bizarre to me, and something you’d only hear at Gen Con.  i thought to myself “is there a significant difference between the two?”  i suppose so, i mean – you’d need more foam at the very least.  Just the way the volunteer said it struck me as funny.  In all fairness, we would later attempt to forge our own foam weapons only to discover the booth had closed up and left.  Sad times.  With real sword prices in the hundreds and some cases thousands, i thought it would be nice to return home with some kind of sword, even if one made of foam.

foam buster

That’s not a giant foam weapon.  THIS is a giant foam weapon.

So, yeah, the event at 10 p.m.  When pre-registration began, i came across this and thought it sounded interesting: The Glitter Guild presents nerdlesque burlesque.  Why not, right?

Let me tell you – it was boring as hell.  Seriously, there isn’t much to speak of.  Bad dancing is the first thing that comes to mind.  Also, the static camera they had for the screens along the side of the audience seating was terrible.  It was basically to scale, so pretty much all you could see was the background and top half of the stage unless you were sitting right next to it.

Granted, again here i was just exhausted as well as under the gun because we had to be out of the parking garage by midnight or…i don’t know what…but it was just pretty stupid really.  The hostess was funny though.  The only thing that saved the show was the comedian/magician Tomas Medina.  Now he was entertaining.  If i’m honest, i was expecting an awkward, campy magician with some corny jokes and so forth.  Turns out he is a super funny comedian and also does magic.  Unfortunately, i couldn’t really find anything official online to link for you readers, but i did write to him through facebook to ask about it.  In the meantime, if you’re interested i believe his stage name is The Amazing Tomas, and there’s some videos out there.

When his set was done, it was about 11:20 p.m. so we excused ourselves from the ballroom and headed for the car, arriving just in the nick of time – 11:55 p.m.

Back at the hotel, we finally checked in, dropped our bags, and geeked out about all the great things we’d seen and done that day…for about 5 minutes – then we passed out.