Your Morning Head: I’m a Gen Con virgin

300px-gen_con_indy_logoPromoted as the original, longest running, best attended, gaming convention in the world, Gen Con is Mecca for us gamer types. It calls to us, speaking to the soul of the gamer. It is a pilgrimage, I am told, we all have to make at least once.

This is my year. I’m going to Gen Con.

I’m no stranger to genre conventions.  I’ve been to my share of gaming, comic book, and science fiction conventions.  Gen Con will be far and away the biggest of such of events I’ve attended.  It’s huge!

And really, quite daunting.

Seriously, I’m a little intimidated by the catalog of events listing more than 5000 opportunities to do cool things.

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Lady, you're standing in the way of those cool posters...!

On Twitter, I see folks talking about what they’ve registered for and such.   Unlike other cons I’ve experienced, event registration begins EARLY!  Additionally, most of the games are pay-to-play.  In the current catalog, more than 1500 role playing games are offered and 50 of those are listed at no-charge.  1400 of those games are reasonably priced between $2-$6.  Other games are more expensive – up to $20 – and while I am certain there are reasons such as game length to warrant additional dollars, I’m not sure why one four hour game is more expensive than the other.

I’m sure this will become more clear as I immerse myself in all things Gen Con.

But really, it’s a lot.  I sought help from my peeps on Twitter.

RPG podcaster Chris Hussey suggested, “Only sign up for a couple of games. Save your freetime for the Exhibitor’s Hall and the demos within.”

Meg from the Brilliant Gameologists recommended, “Look at the catalog and see if there is anything that catches your eye. If so, go for it. Otherwise, don’t worry.”

“My advice for Gen Con,” My buddy Josh offered, “Buy a couple of event tickets, buy a few generics, play lots of demos in the Exhibit Hall.”

Generics?  I don’t know what that means…

Jeremy, a fellow Texan, had a lot of advice. “Schedule some games. You’ll regret it if you don’t play, and it’s an important part of the experience. Also, it adds some structure. Leave plenty of time to look and hang out, but without 1 or 2 things planned each day it’s easy to get overwhelmed and do nothing. Lastly, always carry a couple generics…”

Crap! There’s that ‘Generics’ again! Apparently this is important.

Jeremy went on, “They’re cheap and you never know when you’ll stumble across something you want to do or find someone you want to bring with. Worst case, make someone’s day if you have some you don’t need and they want to play with you.”

So generic tickets can be used at the game table for ad hoc events or games you haven’t pre-registered for?  I think I understand.

John shared some wisdom: “Gen Con awesomeness = Playing games that you normally wouldn’t get a chance to. Gen Con awesomeness = Not playing too many games… so that you have time to shop and see the sights.”

Rich recommended, “Anything with Furries is gold as well as alternative lifestyle panels… not like I’ve been to GenCon – but I will stand by my choices.”

I’m studying over the event list… and pondering.

9 comments on “Your Morning Head: I’m a Gen Con virginAdd yours →

  1. I have no GenCon wisdom to share but I just want to say I hope you have a great time and I am very anxious to hear your GC “tales”.

    I have always wanted to go, but I am far too domesticated now to do so.

  2. Yeah, last year all I did was hang out and do some backroom gaming. I didn’t buy a single ticket. I plan to do the exact same this year and will even have something awesome to demo to peeps.

  3. LOL, what they taught you and what your cohorts did are clearly two different things, or so says the various games on my shelf (I think I’m down to D&D Clue and Risk 2012, having given the rest away as presents). Aron doesn’t strike mas the kind of guy that would want to cheat at getting free games anyway.

    The need for tickets depends on the type of games you’re interested in playing. You mentioned the cost, difference, Aron, and there are a number of factors that play into that. A higher profile company (like WotC) will have inherently higher ticket prices as they’ll have a higher player demand. Higher ticket prices can also suggest (though not always pay off) a higher likelihood that the game will make. A lot of scheduled games will fall through when the GM doesn’t make it to GenCon, the adventure was never written, or he’s in his hotel hung over from the night before. At the same time, a guarantee (or as close you can get) doesn’t necessarily promise a higher quality. A game that has an unexpectedly high demand of players may recruit impromptu GMs that have never prepped the adventure.

    The GenCon catalog is like a compass, not a map. It’ll point you in the right direction, but once you’re there, look around and see what catches your fancy. If you see something in the catalog you absolutely want to participate in, buy a ticket. Hell, convince your friends to buy tickets at the same time. That way you guarantee enough participants.

  4. This will be my 7th GenCon and I have never once bought a ticket to play a game. It just seems counter-intuitive to me. What I _do_ do however is try and set up games with friends I know who are going. I usually game once and only once- there is just far too much to do otherwise.

    I absolutely recommend spending a ton of time in the vendor hall. There is so much to see- so many designers to meet, so many games to playtest. I love demo’ing games. Booths are set up for it and it’s a chance to try out a ton of games to make sure if you are only buying 1, you know which one to buy. Lots of great board/card/ mini games. Even if you don’t think it looks great, try it- I’ve bought games I would’ve never taken a second look at had I not demo’ed it. (Pro tip- the wotc guys are trained NOT to give out stamps- even to friends. I worked the wotc booth for 6 years).

    I’m also a big fan of panels. Going into a room with all of the WotC designers to hear about the plans for the next 2 years is awesome. Getting into debates over “the problems with revising D&D” is even awesomer. Hearing exactly how a CheapAss game is made and as a group, design a new one, was one of my highlights. And the panels I’m leading (http://brilliantgameologists.com/blog/86) promise to be awesome-overload. Prizes, swearing, and debate, come on!

    And know that EVERY night there will be a social event (or 3) to fill your dance card!

  5. Well, I didn’t want to say anything about your mother. 😉 Maybe it was just my lack of funds, but I never really spent that much time in the exhibitor’s hall. I’d give it a circuit, find what I liked, and then be done there. A lot of the free crap is just that, crap, and unless you have a few hundred dollars to spend, there’s only so much you can do in there.

    (Pro Tip: make friends with the guys running the WotC events and they’ll give your card a stamp whether you’ve played the demo or not. When it’s time to roll the big d20 to win free shit, you get much better stuff.)

  6. He didn’t misspell my name, my mother did 🙂

    One last thing, pick a couple long sections of time that you are specifically scheduled to do nothing. I never plan anything before 8pm Thursday or after noon on Sunday. Give yourself plenty of time to browse the exhibitor’s hall.

    Oh, and if at all possible, stay at the Embassy Suites.

  7. I actually preferred Origins to GenCon. So much of GenCon I wasn’t interested in. There’s more, but more doesn’t always mean better (and Columbus is better than Indianapolis). Origins has since crumbled under its own second-class status so that opinion no longer holds up, but 6 years ago, it was the place to be.

    GenCon is much better with groups, so find people you’re friendly with and pal around. Identify those games you want to play and sign up for them (don’t think you can get into the True Dungeon with generics, that ain’t happening; it’s probably already full though). Lots of game samples in the dealer room (especially from the larger companies). New games are often playtested in their respective areas (I appear in a few playtester credit lines because I was hanging out in the board game room). Boardgames, RPGs, RPGA, anime, LAN all have their own areas so if there is a genre you prefer, you can walk around and find more of things you’re interested in.

    If you have the budget ($50/meal) supposedly the best steakhouse in America is off the square NE of the RCA dome (it’s where the Colts players eat). You’ll want to go to the Ram because everyone does, but it gets crowded fast. The Red Eye is good eats and not so crowded if you don’t want to stand shoulder to shoulder and yell to be heard.

    And you misspelled Jeramy. 🙂

  8. Generics are just what they sound like. They’re generic tickets worth a particular dollar amount. You can then use them in place of a real ticket for an event IF THAT EVENT ISN’T FULL. Some people only buy generics so they can play whatever they want, whenever they want. The problem with this is that if it’s a popular event, it will fill up with real tickets and you’ll have to go play something that isn’t as good. Still, it’s nice to have some on hand. I don’t know the policy now, but it used to be you could sell back to the con any generics you had left over, so it wasn’t even a risk to stock up.

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