GenCon 2011 Day 3 wrap-up

Sorry for not having an evening post for Saturday; I was gaming late into the night.

After the D&D New Products Seminar, I spent about an hour in the vendor hall. I bought myself a nice mini to represent my beloved bard, Factotum, from Dark Sword Miniatures. I don’t think I’d heard of that brand before, but they had some great options. I love the way miniatures sellers at GenCon display their wares by having glass cases filled with beautifully painted versions of their minis, so you can imagine what they could look like. You find one you like in its finished form, and they’ll sell you the unpainted version. It makes a ton of sense.

From there, I went to a late lunch at Shapiro’s with a couple of friends. This is a huge deli / cafeteria about a half mile walk from the convention center, and I had a delicious reuben sandwich. A nice thing about this place is that it was all Indy locals; I don’t think I saw any other GenCon folks there. If you’re eating where the locals eat, you’re probably getting a good meal. Amusingly, I put up a tweet mentioning this lunch, and then later in the day saw that @ShapirosDeli was following me. I guess they pay attention to social media! I wouldn’t have guessed based on the place itself, but okay.

After lunch was a little more time in the exhibitor hall, then to the 4:00 taping of the Dungeon Master Roundtable podcast. Being the D&D blog and podcast fan that I am, this was something I’d really been looking forward to all weekend, and it was great. Aaron from 4Geeks4e wasn’t on the panel, but they had Tracy Hurley (Ennie-award nominated Sarah Darkmagic – wild cheering, much to her embarrassment), Randall Walker (the “old man” of the group), Thaddeous Cooper (the frequent-talker – and yes, I actually saw him sip from a flask during the taping after his water cup went dry) and special guest Mike Shea of slyflourish dot com slash book. They spent a little time talking about the future of their podcasts (apparently some changes to the lineup of 4Geeks4e – Aaron won’t be in it?) and then basically took questions from the audience for an hour. I had a ton of fun.

Tip for seminars at GenCon (or anywhere, really): Sit in the front row. There have always been seats available in my experience, and dude, you’re there to get close to people you want to listen to! You can even interact (very briefly) during the talk itself if you’re right up there with the panelists. For both seminars I attended (D&D New Products and the DM Roundtable), I sat right in the front and really enjoyed it.

By this point my wife was in the exhibitor hall, so I joined her for some massive dice shopping for herself and for our gaming friends back home (my wife is so thoughtful – I felt like an ass for not having already gotten anything for our gamer friends). When the dealer hall closed at 6:00, we went to dinner at Palomino, which is only a block away. I read some blogs before the convention saying that you’re going to have long waits to get food; we really haven’t found that to be the case. We’ve often gone during slightly off hours, but right when the dealer hall closes on Saturday night is NOT off, and we were seated right away. I’m guessing that maybe cheap eats have longer waits (like Steak n Shake or Noodles and Company right down the street from GenCon), but sit-down restaurants (Palomino, Weber Grill) have been no problem so far.

After dinner, the wife and I checked in to the board games library. For the evening, you pay $6 in generic tickets and then can come and go as much as you like, checking out any of the massive number of board games they have available for no additional cost. The window lasts from 6:00 PM to 3:00 AM. It’s awesome.

My wife and friends got started on the board games while I made my way to the “media meet and greet” event. This was a get-together in a bar that’s below Union Station (it’s called The House, and Google Maps on my phone couldn’t find it). I’m terrible at mingling, but I gave it a go. I talked with Mike Shea for a few minutes, since we had interacted a little bit at the DM Roundtable. I had submitted a question asking about ideas for traps or hazards for the adventure I’m running on Thursday (Descent Into Darkness), and Mike gave me some good inspiration. Thanks, Sly Flourish!

I spent some time chatting with NewbieDM and BrainClouds, and then ended up getting into a conversation about D&D4e and Pathfinder with a friend of Mr. and Mrs. Sarah Darkmagic (Tracy and Frank). I didn’t catch his name, but it was useful to see his perspective on the issue. I imagine he’s a pretty typical Pathfinder gamer, and he didn’t seem especially rabidly anti-4e, but it was clear that he’s definitely the type of person WotC wishes they could regain trust with, and they’re nowhere close right now. They’ve got some work to do, and it’s going to take more than words. I hope they succeed – I’d love to see a more united gaming community, or at least one with less distrust.

At this point, a woman from a local Indianapolis paper came over to the table to chat (she liked my bright-blue Hawaiian shirt). I guess this WAS a media event, but I was still surprised to see anyone from the actual print media there! She said she and her husband mainly came in the (alas, vain) hopes of free beer. Anyway, we mainly talked about Indianapolis restaurant, their Fringe Festival for theater, etc. Nice lady… but wow, did she love to talk! Still, she gave me some good restaurant recommendations.

I left the media meet and greet after about 90 minutes (I wish I’d have stayed – apparently some Fiasco games broke out later) and rejoined my wife and friends in the board game library. We saw a game called Trailer Park Wars and simply had to play it once. Once is the correct number of times to play a game like this. It was really, really funny to us at this point, but I’m sure it would have gotten old. I was tied for second place with 23 flamingos at the end, falling to Ryan’s 24.

After the game I was getting tired, so we decided to play one more quick game. We went with Quo Vadis. I’ll come right out and say that I personally ruined the game right at the start, and I’m sorry! It was described as a political game, which I thought meant that politics was just the underlying flavor. It turns out that this can be seen as a perfectly fine trading game without the political flavor, but I didn’t get that for the first few turns. See, I can’t stand politics. And when Ryan asked if I would vote for one of his pawns to advance early on, for which he would give me nothing directly but the game would give me one point, I couldn’t see how this would be good for me at all, and I basically said, screw it, I’m not voting for people. This totally wrecked the game, and I backed off on that position two turns later once I understood that this was just at trading game, but my early actions had definitely screwed up the play of the game (Ted thought that I’d never work with him, so he never asked, for instance). I finished in last place, which didn’t bother me in the slightest. I just felt like a jerk for having ruined the last game I’d get to play with Ryan and Ted and GenCon. Sorry, everybody!

Now it’s the morning of the last day of GenCon, and it’s already feeling bittersweet even though I haven’t left my hotel room yet. We’re staying Sunday night as well, and I’m sure that Monday will feel surreal. But for now, there are hours of gaming ahead of me, and I’m going to make the most of them!

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