Friday, August 24, 2012

Gen Con 2012: Beggars at the Feast

Yeah, it's taken me a while. I brought home some nasty little midwestern stowaways from the con and haven't been feeling too good this week.

Fans of the musical Les Miserables will recognize the titles and captions. Yes, the songs are out of order. And, for the love of Grodd and your own sanity, don't try to put together some kind of consistent parallel with each of us being just one character from the show. Just chuckle or roll your eyes at the cute lines and don't ruin it by being anal retentive, okay?

Tuesday: One Day More
So anyway, after staying up late printing out character sheets and stuff and then working half a day, I got everything set for the cats and packed up. We headed out early in the evening and soon achieved sufficient velocity to pierce the net of the dreaded Barrier Arch at the edge of Ohio. We ended up arriving quite a bit earlier than we expected, so we tracked down the other Robin (Caed) at Scotty's. She was in the middle of a trivia game thing but, luckily, one of the waiters was willing to take our money and feed us while we waited for the chance to catch up. After that we headed out to Jordan's house to crash for the night (our check-in at the hotel wasn't until Wednesday afternoon).

Whatya think ye're at -
hanging round me patch?*
Wednesday: Look Down
Wednesday morning, we stuffed the boxes and boxes of stock we had shipped from the printer to Jordan's house into the trunk and drove down to the convention center. Tom waited in the car while I grabbed our badges. The booth for that turned out to be way back by the Exhibit Hall instead of at the front with all the others. It makes perfect sense, and I should have known anyway because I'm sure it was in one of those emails, but it was still frustrating at the time. So I told Tom what was up and quick-marched back there, then went into the hall to figure out how to get a dolly for those boxes. The exhibitor services contractor was no help, offering all kinds of services that would make my work take longer and my purse lighter. Jim at Studio 2 was willing to loan me one, but the it turned out that the guy who was using it at the moment was trapped in a terrifying labyrinth known as "the marshaling yard" and not likely to escape for another couple of hours. After unsuccessfully canvassing the area for other exhibitors from whom I could borrow such a device, I called Tom and he said we should just go eat and rent a dolly, which made good sense to me.

Not much to look at - nothing posh.
Off at Acapulco Joe's, we relaxed a bit with a frozen margarita (and of course Tom had beer) and some good food. Their Tex-Mex is a different style than the Tex-Mex I'm used to, but still very good. Tom somehow waved his hand and made a UPS Store flyer appear in the middle of our table. Seriously, I could have sworn that thing wasn't in the exhibitor packet until he conjured it up. He called them and got everything set up to rent us a dolly. Then we were off to pick that up and check in at the Omni, where all our bags were whisked away by a porter or whatever they're called.

Sooo, back to to the Exhibit Hall, we loaded up our mechanical beast of burden and had a division of labor to decide on. Somebody had to haul the boxes into the Exhibit Hall and start setting up, while somebody else had to take the car back to Jordan's house, catch a bus back downtown (so we didn't have to pay to use the hotel parking deck all week), and walk the dolly back to UPS. Luckily, we disagreed as to which of those tasks were preferable. It's great when things just work, isn't it?

These are my people; here's my patch.
I wheeled my way through the convention center and started unpacking. Would it have wrecked their budget to turn on the AC a day early, I wonder? Anyway, I started opening boxes and moving stuff around, occasionally taking a moment to fan myself with the dry-erase board. Jim saw me scraping at the tape with my keys and loaned me his knife. I ran into Ken St. Andre and got him to pose in front of our stuff, much of which is for his game. A strange man walked up and gave me a handful of tiny dice. Tom came back to get the dolly while I went to the hotel to chill for a bit. Literally. I was seriously craving air conditioning.

Where are the swells who run this show?
After taking some time to unpack and relax, I wandered back over to the Hall and found that Tom had returned and touched things up a bit, or maybe he did that before he left. Anyway, I fidgeted a little more myself and then wandered out to see where he had gone. I found him back at the Omni hotel bar, where he introduced me to Teemo, who worked for (owned?) a European distribution company and was here for research and networking. Here he is from behind, with Tom. After an interesting chat, Tom left to powder his nose in preparation for Old Home Night at Scotty's (we're thinking Claddagh next year).

On the way, we passed a new and truly grotesque piece of statuary, so Tom had to pose with it. I guess I should have read the plaque, because I still don't understand what, apart from revulsion, this piece is supposed to convey. Hoping to attract more horror conventions, maybe?
Only one m-- AAAA! Severed legs! SEVERED LEGS!

Everybody raise a glass!
Anyway, Scotty's. There was all kinds of confusion about where we could sit and then we all ended up right next to the live band, which is exactly what you want when you're trying to catch up with old friends and get to know some new ones, right? They were actually pretty good, or at least I might have thought so if their amplifiers hadn't deafened me. Still, they left eventually and we managed to have a good time anyway. If you click on the picture, you can see Kelly, Monk, me, Teemo, Tom, Jordan, Amy, Ryan, and Frosty. That's a really awful picture of Frosty. Caed was off doing something Caedish and didn't make it. A trip over to the convention center for the non-exhibitors to get their badges, then a quick nightcap, and we were done for the day. At least I was.

Never wants a passerby to pass him by.
Thursday: Master of the House
The Hall opened at nine this morning instead of the usual ten, so folks who shelled out the big bucks for "VIG" badges could get in an hour early. Tom made it on time. I was a few minutes late. Tom jumped in and was handing out Qalidar: Resistance flyers like a champ, getting so many out there that we soon had to dial it back and just give them to people who bought something or expressed an interest.

Comforter, philosopher, and lifelong mate.
One of the people who came by was Jeff from The Gaming Gang, who talked me into joining in on his interview with Tom. It was actually kind of fun, despite the fact that I'm terrible at these things. Later, Monk and Kelly showed up, and Tom left to take a nap in preparation for his impending games (he was running two every night). Monk and I took the opportunity to add anomalous equipment (rocket boots, a cell phone, a laser pistol, and some frag grenades) to his Tunnels & Trolls character sheets. Sadly, Tom caught the tampering before his players could benefit from our magnanimity.

After the Hall closed, I met Tom, Scott Grant, and Jordan in the back room at Champions, then went back to the room to prepare for the games I was planning to run for Friday and Saturday. My brain was so fried from the soul-numbing task of constantly nodding and smiling at people who were just trying to get past me to make an offering at the Temple of Catan or something, that it took me another hour or so before I could conjure up any creativity.

Sitting flat on your butt doesn't
 buy any bread.
Friday: At the End of the Day
Another day at the booth. Sales didn't pick up much from the day before. The kilt-wearing masses continued to slosh back and forth. Seriously, I've never seen so many straight men wearing skirts. I can't think of anything particularly interesting that happened during the day. It's all kind of a blur. Monk and Kelly stopped by again. Tom left early again to rest up for another marathon. I passed up an invitation to dinner because I wanted a couple of hours to prepare for Aqua Teen Hunger Force later on, and that only left me time for a quick drink at the Omni bar. Monk and Kelly joined me for that, and then I went up to enjoy some decompression time.

My first session of "Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1: Puppet Show Tango" was amazing. The usual crew showed up with a couple more friends who I don't think were there last year. Once I got them started, they took off on their own. I hardly had to use any of the plot bits I had put together, apart from the "Last Dance For Napkin Lad" inspired background twists that I periodically threw in. The evening's fun ran back and forth between the two neighboring homes, across the neighborhood, out to Melon Shakers (where Willie Nelson and the Love Mummy went on a horrific rampage), back home, out to 612 Wharf Avenue, and back home again. Ultra Mega Chicken put in an appearance, and there was all kinds of mad sciencey fun with Frylock's cloner, ending in a mega-swarm of meat-fry-spiders devouring the world. This was the longest of these I've ever run, and easily the high point of the whole convention for me.

You need somebody taller and I volunteer!
Saturday: The Second Attack
I had a game at eleven that morning, so Tom "opened" the booth himself.

Anyway, I was off running Walk the Sprial. Hopefully I'll have it all written up pretty soon, but to sum up, the session went well. I ended up with a full party of six, so all the characters were accounted for. The players were great, too. I hadn't prepared as much as I intended to, but I had studied the setting enough that, even though I left an important source book in my room, I was able to guide them through the surreal mysteries of late 1920's Silver Springs without a hitch.

Someone's gotta collect their odds & ends.
Monk and Kelly were at the booth when I got back. I think they ended up running it most of the day, which turned out to be our best sales day. I keep telling myself that's just because it was Saturday. I hung around for a bit, then wandered off to do some shopping. I picked up a bunch of classic Doctor Who DVD's from Who North America, got some beautiful green dice from the Zoccinator himself, snagged a copy of Cubicle 7's The One Ring, and picked up a Gen Con tee-shirt.

Said goodbye to Monk and Kelly, because they were leaving early Sunday and, a hazy few hours later, I was off to Champions to have dinner with Caed and her friends Randy and Josh. After that, not enough people showed for the next Aqua Teen session (needs at least four to keep it crazy), so I just chilled in the hotel room.

The law is not mocked.
Sunday: Drink With Me
Tom slept in a bit, so I got over there early, after slipping past the dalek guarding the entrance.

Jonathan Tweet stopped by to take a look at the Peryton RPG, which kind of stunned me. Did I tell him how cool I thought Everway was? No. Did I tell him how many hours of enjoyment I got out of D&D stuff that he worked on? No. Instead, what I said was, "Hey, I know who you are!" Pleased to meet you, sir. I am an imbecile.

When Tom showed up, I wandered off to drown my recriminations in a new (to me) Eclipse Phase supplement, Rimward. Then I picked up the latest Marvel Super Heroes game, too. I had been meaning to take a look at and possibly buy the Dungeon Crawl Classics game, but was surprised to find that Goodman Games wasn't here. I could've sworn they usually were. Oh well. I'm probably better off without another giant book anyway.
...where they kill for the bones in the street.
There was something going on at the Flying Buffalo booth with actors from Dorkness Rising. I took a picture, but mostly I got the backs of other onlookers.

After the con closed, the breaking-down process was remarkably smooth. We got everything rolled back over to the room and then headed off to meet some folks at Bourbon Street. Originally Tom had cooked this up as some sort of networking thing with Ken and Rick and somebody from FASA or something who impressed him earlier. Ken and Rick bailed because they were staying in some roach motel a hundred miles away, so the FASA guy had no reason to show, which left us with only Scott and John, both of whom had turned out to be great company while we were doing time at the booth. No offense to Tom's new contact, but I was actually thrilled that there wouldn't be any business talk and that I wouldn't have to nail on another plastic smile for another stranger. I was also thrilled to have some delicious blackened tilapia and several hurricanes. Jordan and Amy showed up a bit later, making it a good victory dinner all around.

Bodies on the highway - law & order upside down!
Monday: Empty Chairs at Empty Tables
We booked the room for Sunday night as well. We did this last year just because it makes for a nice, relaxing wrap-up. This year, however, there was also the consideration that we didn't want to be homeless while we were trying to get all our boxes and stuff packed up.

I looked out the window from the hotel room while I waited for Tom to come back from Jordan's with the car. The Gen Con banners had all been taken down. There were no clusters of backpack-toting conventioneers wandering around. It wasn't the Mecca of Gamers anymore. The city was just a city. It was time to go.

Also, dinosaurs were breaking loose and rampaging through the streets. Definitely time to go.

And that's it for this year. See you all in hell!

*In case there's any doubt, our neighbor Eloy from Third Eye Games was really nice and in no way reminiscent of an angry French prostitute played with an English accent. He was even cool enough to pose for this silly photo. If you're still in the mood to shop after you've bought all my stuff, then please do go buy some of his.