It has been about 10 years (give or take) since I last attended a GenCon. I went to the first couple in Indy, but then got caught up in other things, like MMOs and found myself otherwise occupied in August. This year, through a convergence of events, I found myself back. Here are some notes:
1) Yes, Indiana is still in all sorts of hot water regarding its bonehead legislation against American citizens, many of whom attend GenCon. However, Indianapolis itself is a tad bit more progressive. On the way into town, I saw a billboard welcoming gamers to GenCon, with a pride flag in front of it. A nice start.
2) And to a great degree, I found the natives to be friendly and helpful and incredibly tolerant of the huge herd of nerds (nerds with money, but still nerds) that descended on them. "Good People", as they like to say.
3) The convention was big when I last saw it, and is huge now. 61k people (counting as unique hits).
4) It is so large that it is now not only is it important to get a hotel near the convention center, but to get one near the rooms where you have events.
5) I stayed at the Fairfield, in a block of Marriott-owned properties. It was nice. Good breakfast. Though I had to go through an underground parking garage to get to a skybridge. Sounds like something an old school DM would think up.
6) Strangest hotel rooms were at the Crown Plaza, a renovated railway station, where some of the rooms are converted railroad cars. And the place is littered with white statues of passengers, newboys, and nuns. Sort of like what would happen if Pompeii had gone off during a Call of Cthulhu adventure.
7) I was there for the Writer's Symposium and would be taking some brief shifts in the Kobold Press/TPK/Legendary booth. Kobold just launched its Southlands product and the Southlands Bestiary. Both were selling very well.
8) The Writer's Symposium, put together by Marc Tassin, was pretty damned impressive. I got to sit on panels with Terri Brooks, Elizabeth Bear, and fellow TSR Veteran Jim Lowder. The conversations were interesting and diverse. Kudos to Marc, Matt, Molly, and the others who worked so hard to put everything together. This is an ongoing thing, so if you're at GenCon, go there. Seriously, well worth it.
9) In fact, GenCon is made up, now as then, in dozens of small conventions. People are there for the RPGs, or just one RPG. For the card games, or just one card game. For miniatures. For board games. For the writing. For the crafting. For the costumes. In addition, everyone spills over into everyone else's fandoms. It's pretty cool.
10) But here's an idea of the hugeness. The area for the Puffing Billy games (Train games) is larger than the Horticulture building in Lake Geneva, where the FIRST GenCon was held.
11) The dealer's area is large enough to be physically exhausting. Huge hall, filled with companies large and small.
12) One thing that was different that made me happy - the dealers were prominent about their awards. Many had their nominations and previous awards from the ENnies posted, and a lot had their statues from the Origins Awards on display. I like that a lot, and am reminded that it was the efforts of Nichole Lindroos and Charles Ryan who brought physical awards to the Origins. Good job, and yes, it has paid off.
13) My personal haul was limited by what I would pack into my carry-on. Alas, that put most board games out of reach. But I did pick up a lot of Cthulhiana that I have been unable to find locally. Several recent issues of the Unspeakable Oath, a handful of out-of-print monographs, an autographed copy of Robin Laws' Book of Ants for Trail of Cthulhu. I bought some battle mats for Sails of Glory, a great ship-to-ship combat game. And I snagged an autographed copy of A Red and Pleasant Land, purchased before it won any ENnies, so that makes me still young and hip, right?
13a) I also bought a fez. Fezzes are cool.
14) I did not pick up a copy of Cubicle 7's Curse of Nineveh, even though the London Boxed Set where it is set looks beautiful (I have a copy from the Kickstarter). Curse of Nineveh was hardback and heavy and I hope to find it from my FLGS. I also whiffed on getting a copy of Mummy, the Curse from Onyx Path, which was also hardback and heavy but would complete my WoD Mummy trifecta. And I didn't see any Tekumel/EPT material, which may just be because it was overwhelmed by everything else.
15) Palomino's is a good place for a steak. Steak 'n Shake is everything people say it is.
16) I made it to the Diana Jones and was delighted to see that Guide to Glorantha won. Skipped the ENnies although I had a minor credit in one of the winners. Made it to the Monte Cook Games party where Monte and Bruce were bedecked in their medallions and looked like a pair of French diplomats. More importantly, the MCG party shifted over to a surprise 50th birthday party for Charles Ryan. I am incredibly pleased that all those gamers managed to keep a secret.
17) Saw a lot of friends from the industry, played some demos, signed a lot of books, sat on some panels, huckstered for Kobold Press. A lot of people thanked me for Marvel, Spelljammer, Al-Qadim, FR and other stuff I've done over the years, which is encouraging me to actually get back to some RPG design. But the best event for me was getting together with some members of my old dungeon crew from Purdue University, many of whom still live in Indiana. We are all older and greyer, but it was great to see the gang from "The Swamp".
18) So it was a good trip, but it is good to be back.
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