Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Gen Con 2017: FIFTY!

So yeah, that whole, "not going to Gen Con anymore" thing didn't stick, and I'm glad it didn't. Nothing else is Gen Con. I had been a little anxious about the fact that they sold so many badges that they actually ran out, but the crowds didn't seem any worse than usual, so I guess they managed it well.

Worry the Bottle, Mamma; It's Grapefruit Wine
We arrived around noon on Wednesday, after stopping not far out of town to chill the night before. I love Crowne Plaza. It's full of statues and rivety construction stuff and trains. We checked in, unpacked, and headed to the bar, where I had a cocktail with whiskey and various kinds of bitters and stuff. We chatted with somebody else who was hanging out there for a while before I wandered off to buy some Gen Con swag. They had set up a tent outside and it was right across the street, sort of. I grabbed a t-shirt, a shot glass, and a bigger glass, which I think they said is meant for a particular kind of beer, but I'm going to use it for bourbon. I also picked up a shirt for Tom.

I was developing the beginnings of what I was afraid would turn into a nasty headache, so I went back to the room to take some painkillers and lie down. When Tom texted me that people were starting to arrive for our Wednesday night thing, I was relieved to find that the headache was gone.

Kick Off Your High-Heel Sneakers; It's Party Time
There was already a good crowd, including several people I knew and several people I didn't know. They had already given Caed her birthday cake. I was still a little groggy, but their energy infected me before long. Jerry showed up with the GM badges and handed those out. Several ideas were discussed for next year's events.

There was a decision to head out to another bar. I don't recall if there was a reason beyond why-not. Maybe drink specials were involved. Somehow we ended up in at least two different bars: Kilroy's and Cadillac Ranch. I was in the second one, mostly talking to Bill and Andrew. And, I don't know, there was something about generational stereotypes and smoking and Katie having to go do stuff and maybe that the bar was technically closed and they weren't supposed to have let us in in the first place.

Some Funked-Up Music
Thursday morning was bustling and chatty, and then abruptly very quiet. Once everyone else was gone, though, I left the quiet behind and dove into the crowd.

I picked up my coupon book and this year's Gen Con d6. I thought I might eventually look at the rest of the coupons to see if there was anything useful, but I never did it.

Then it was on to my D&D game, Fane of the Froghemoth. I had never gotten around to doing much preparation for any of this year's games. At the last minute, I cranked out some pre-gens, borrowed some maps of real places from the internet (I think the frog cult had actually taken over Saint Patrick's Cathedral, somehow located in the middle of a park), and flipped through the monster selection until I had a decent idea what was in there. Yeah, after the title, the stuff I did with the monsters at the last minute was all the inspiration I ever had on this.

Needless to say, I was a little nervous. On the way there, though, I heard a band playing "Yub Nub" in the hall. And sure, I resent the Ewoks as much as any other good Star Wars nerd, but I can't help but smile when I hear that song. If my cash hadn't been buried in my bag, I'd have left them a few bucks. I certainly owe them.

Anyway, the D&D game: once they got into the temple, they found that the frog priests had all been wiped out by cranium rats and a sort of mind flayer/beholder hybrid that was living in the high priest's skull like an intellect devourer, but not bothering with the cap. Below that, they found some treasure and a shaft down to a dead brain pool, where the ghost of the elder brain attacked them. After they found out what had happened and wrapped up, they decided, that, since it was just a one-shot anyway, they might as well go back and fight the froghemoth.

And they killed it. It was partly because I gave them some pretty good stuff in the treasure pile, which was only there to help them fight the ghost brain. They also did a good job setting it up and fighting it, though.

They also were really interested in the Dungeonesque books I was using to save backpack space. I would've told them Studio 2 had 'em in the exhibit hall, but I didn't know it at the time.

Blues and Elvis
I needed to head back to the room to swap out my game books, so I took another quick run through the exhibit hall on the way. I can't remember exactly what I bought when, but I think I picked up something. Doesn't matter, I guess. Then I went to meet Tom, Jordan, and Scott for dinner in High Velocity, the sports bar under the RPG rooms. Tom had waited through a couple of no-shows for his games and I guess had mostly been spending his time coordinating get-togethers like this one.

Scott jumped in on The Nightmare Tree, which made it a full table. I was even less prepared for this than the other one. I came up with the idea that the tree was a portal earlier in the week, and most of the other key concepts in High Velocity a few minutes before. We ended up with some night swamp-trekking, a random bigfoot encounter, a trailer house lost between dimensions, transcosmic spiders, psychic powers, and gadgeteering. And it actually worked.

Somebody Else's Favorite Song
Tom was off to an early morning (well, early by my convention standards) start. I think he brought me breakfast Friday. There was one day that he did. I was never up early enough to go, myself. So anyway, I stumbled into Archer: Something Something Danger Zone a little bit late.

So there's this thing I had done at Carnage that worked really well. I had appropriated some cards from an Archer board game with quotes from the show. As each player worked the quote in, I gave them a determination point and another card. Since I was switching from Icons to Vortex this time, they were story points instead, but it actually worked better here because multiple story point spending is more of a thing.

Only, somehow, I left my cards in the room, this time. I handed out the character sheets for discussion while I frantically texted and called Tom, who had just left. The payoff on that was going to take a while, so I went on and started the game.

The guy who played Archer had seen every episode and was a little drunk already. The woman who played Cheryl had never seen it before, but somehow channeled the character with disturbing accuracy. Everybody was great. In their attempt to get from New York to Geneva, they crashed two planes, repeatedly interfered with each other, and somehow eventually accomplished their mission. At some point in the middle of this, Tom did show up with the cards, and there was much rejoicing and praise of his Tomly valor. A couple of times, they had those things flying so fast that I could barely keep up.

The Girls Don't Seem to Care What's On
After that I joined Tom, Caed, and Scott downstairs at High Velocity, then went back to the room and actually fell asleep for a little while. When I came back, I found that, although the Aqua Teen Hunger Force event had sold out in seconds, none of those people were there. I waited around until fifteen after, labeled my empty envelope, and turned it in.

I really wasn't disappointed. Not even another energy drink had been able to completely wake me up this time. I might have found a spark if there had been enthusiastic people ready to play, but then again I might not have. I think I just burned myself out having so much fun in the Archer game.

So anyway, I shuffled back to the room, watched TV for a while, and went to sleep. I think I posted a picture of Arnim Zola on Facebook, too. Arnim Zola is cool.

As Long as the Mood Is Right
That was it for my scheduled events. Saturday was all about the shopping and the freedom.

So yeah, I wandered all around the exhibit hall, went back out, wandered past the line for the costume contest or parade or whatever it is, and even went outside.

I think at some point I went up to the JW to check on Tom and Jerry but they were busy or not there so I went down to High Velocity and had a couple of rum & cokes. Then I wandered around some more. Finally Tom or Jordan got ahold of me and we grabbed a bite to eat. I think.

Jordan had wine and bread and blackberries in his car, so we went to get those and then I went with him to tour the exhibit hall. I don't remember what Tom was doing while we did that. Jordan bought a card game (the same one you'll see in my second loot photo, later on). We hooked back up with Tom and decided to find a place to play the game and drink the wine. Scott was there. I can't remember if he had joined us earlier or was just showing up now.

We found a side room in Union Station and got set up. I had been planning to get together with another friend -- let's call him Brian, because that's his name -- so I let him know what we were doing and invited him.

The game was a little bit like Cards Against Humanity, but instead of just tossing out one card, the judge for the turn draws one random card, places another card either before or after it to create a sequence of events, and then chooses the best submission from the other players to conclude it. I enjoyed it enough to pick up my own copy.

Play Till Dawn
Brian went off to do his own thing and the rest of us went back to the Crowne Plaza bar. The Flying Buffalo gang was also there so we said hi. I took this picture because I thought the different layers were interesting, but now I think that might be Kenneth Hite over there on the left. Not sure.

Tom suddenly realized he didn't have his backpack anymore, so that was sort of a mini-crisis. There wasn't anything too valuable in it, but obviously it had some useful game notes and stuff. It turned out later that it had been picked up, and was being held for a Mr. Campbell, which was why they didn't tell Tom about it the first time he asked. We never found out who the enigmatic Mr. Campbell was, or what happened to his red backpack.

No Static at All
Tom had a Sunday morning game, so once again I slept late and wandered off to see what I could find. I did find some things, as loot photo number two will attest.

Then I wandered around a bit. I had been curious about the construction at the Marriott, so I went to see what was up with that. This led me to a fairly quiet nook with comfy chairs where I could read some of my new stuff for a while.

Then I thought maybe Tom was done with his game so I went over to the JW. He was not only done, but long gone. The next logical place to look for Tom would be the bar downstairs, but there was no reason to rush, so I sat in one of the chairs over there for a while too, just taking in the gamer traffic.

I did, in fact, find him down in High Velocity. He was talking to a guy he had jumped into a space marine game with. I joined them and had a bite to eat while a couple we knew from BASHCon joined us.

After another quiet time, we went over to Acapulco Joe's just because we wanted to, then came back to the room again, where Brett contacted us about meeting up in the Crowne Plaza Bar. We found him dressed as Captain America, with a couple of other Canadians, and joined them for drinks. Jerry showed up too. Turned out to be a really nice after-party. Some ridiculous bean-bag tossing sport came on ESPN and we had a great time making fun of it.
Later, Tom & I ordered room service and the next day there was an eclipse.

Tom's blog is here. Don't believe his lies.

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