The flights up were pretty awful. Just as we pulled away from the gate in Houston, the pilot came on and announced they'd been issued a "ground hold" from Chicago. They DID take the plane back to the gate, so it wasn't one of those nightmare scenarios, but we were on the ground for an extra hour before we ever got going.
Since we had almost two hours of layover ahead of us in Chicago, this wasn't too awful a prospect, just boring. However, when we landed at Midway, we had to wait another half hour on the taxiway waiting for our gate to clear. This left us with a very short window to traverse the airport and grab some food. It was rather nerve-wracking.
So, of course, our flight from Midway to Indy turned out to be delayed for about forty five minutes.
Fortunately, our roommates had gotten in earlier and had already gotten the hotel sorted, so we just had to turn up and get our stuff. Last year, the guys I was with were staying way on the outskirts of Indy and we had to rent a car. This year, we were across the street at the Marriott and could get to the Convention Center without even going outside. Which was a good thing on Wednesday, as Indiana was in the grips of a major heatwave. The temps were in the high nineties and with the massive humidity, the heat index was around 106, only three less than Houstopolis. It was like we'd never left home.
We picked up our swag bags and gawked at the MASSIVE Will-Call line. Last year, on Wednesday, the Will-Call was about a five minute wait. This year, it was nearly an hour. I don't know if it was due to more folks pre-registering, or more folks choosing Will-Call instead of having their badges shipped to them, or more folks showing up on Wednesday, but whatever it was, it made me glad to have paid a few bucks extra to get our badges FedEx'ed to us early.
After a couple of our other Houston friends got their badges, we met a friend of ours from RPGnet (where he goes by Metallian) for dinner at Scotty's Brew Pub. Like a lot of local businesses, Scotty's goes in for Gen Con in a major way. There were gaming posters all over the place, "Galaxy Quest" was playing on the TVs, and they had a special Gen Con menu inspired by Castles & Crusades. The food was good as was the beer (or so I'm told: I didn't drink on Wednesday, so as to try to avoid potential migraine triggers). I ran into a couple more friends, and one of the Houston bunch became the first person to defeat Scotty's 24 oz burger challenge. H-Town represent!
Thursday morning, I was like a kid at Xmas. I woke up at 5 AM (which, according to my body clock was 4 AM) and didn't get back to sleep. The next five hours were an agony of anticipation, waiting for the Exhibitors' Hall to open. My roomie J had a six-hour 2nd Edition Gamma World game first thing, Jane (my wife) took his wife (Miss A) with us for her first exposure to Geek Prom. The ladies very kindly humored me as I checked a few things off my "must buy" list. First and foremost was DC Adventures, from Green Ronin. Yes, I've already got a copy on pre-order AND I bought the cheap PDF and bound it out. But to have a copy in hand at the convention? I imagine that's how Gary wanted us to experience Gen Con. Or something. Mostly, I knew if I got one in Indy, I could get Steve Kenson to sign it for me, so I happily grabbed one.
I spent the next couple of hours shopping, exploring, and taking it all in. The ladies went off to a Middle Eastern Dance class (One of the really cool things about Gen Con is that they know they draw families and they know that not everyone attending is a gamer, so they put together an entire non-gaming tracks with dance classes and craft seminars and the like). For Jane, who's a very good dancer who studies with some very well-regarded teachers, it was a nice chance to work on her fundamentals and meet some new dancers. For Miss A, it was her first crack at something she's wanted to try for a while. After, we grabbed some lunch, did some more shopping, and then returned to our room to chill out for a while.
This set the pattern for the next few days, where we'd hit the dealers' area in the morning, and relax in the afternoon until dinner time. Compared to last year's schedule, where I was pretty much in the Convention Center (or immediate vicinity) from 9 AM to 1 AM, this was a welcome change. Jane had another class in the evening and dinner was PF Chang's for just the two of us.
Friday was more of the same, with a bit less buying things a lot more running into folks I know "From the Internetz." We stood in line so I could meet Wil Wheaton, who was entirely cool. I told him that a blog post he made some years ago about running "Orc and Pie" for his son got me off my butt about gaming with my son, which he thought was awesome. This segued into talking about our "Dads and Kids" 4e game, which was further endorsed. In fact, I found myself talking about that game quite a bit over the weekend, and a number of people were really excited by it.
Dinner on Friday was Indian with Gareth Skarka's clan, along with Jason L Blair and TS Luikart, another couple of Imaginary Internetz Friends. Here, I discovered two things: 1) Indianapolis-level spicy is not Texas-level spicy, even with Indian food; 2) If you're looking for a quiet dinner at Gen Con and don't want to wait for a table, Indian is very definitely the way to go. Even if it wasn't as hot as I'd wanted, the food was still quite good and the company even more so.
(Amusing dinner conversation moment: Gareth was telling about how his teenaged daughter M had played D&D for the first time ever. She'd already been a bit taken aback already to learn that her "hermit" work-at-home dad is actually a Pretty Big Deal in the gaming industry. During the game, she texted him, asking if he knew the DM. Before he could reply, she wrote back, "You do! He looked at my name badge and said 'OMG! GMS!' And everyone at the table knows who you are!" Of course, that would have been funny in and of itself, but at that precise moment, a friend of mine replied to an LJ post where I mentioned going out to dinner with Gareth, saying "Heh! We gamed with Gareth's very nice daughter this afternoon." Small world.)
Saturday, I made a point to track down Dan Houser, the artist who illustrated "Sins of the Past." He wasn't in the main dealers' area, so that involved a trek over to the Anime Hotel. I had a nice visit, met his new artistic partner, and discussed upcoming projects. Then it was time for me to actually get in some gaming! I know, who goes to Gen Con to game?
First up was a one-hour DC Adventures demo. Granted, I'd already bought the game and was a fan of the system, but honestly, how often does one get to play a superhero game with Steve Kenson GMing? I played Batman, and while I suffered from some very mediocre rolls early on, I managed an amazing Intimidation check and pulled off a spectacular rescue of Nightwing at the end.
Following that was a Day After Ragnarok (Savage Worlds) game run by Jeb, a friend of mine from Austin. Yes, it's ironic that we have to travel a thousand miles or so in order to play in the same game. Jeb had recruited various folks he knows online, and it was a bit of an all-star lineup, consisting of RPG reviewer C. W. Richeson, and game designers Rob Heinsoo, Logan Bonner, and Jesse Scoble. For about ten seconds, I had a "What am I doing with these guys?" moment before my rational mind kicked in and reminded me that we're all gamers, and I probably had a decade at the table on couple of them. It was a fun session: we were members of the Texas army charged with determining the status of some large naval guns that had been on Galveston island before the Serpentwave devastated the area. We did a fair bit of recon and quite a bit of shooting. I think the ending pretty well defined the term "Pyrrhic Victory" (the bad guys committed a mass murder/suicide when it was clear we were winning), but it's a dark setting, so that was OK.
After the game, I met up with Jane and we stopped by the RPGnet meet and greet. It was cool putting faces to user names, and chatting briefly with one of the group who'd come all the way from Greece. After the meet-up, we had a quick dinner with Jeb and mutual friend Jason Durall, followed by a return to the hotel, where we watched "Shark Week" in hi-def and finished off some beer we'd bought earlier in the weekend.
We had an early flight on Sunday, so that was it for us. Another three hours in the air (with a couple at airports) and we were back in Houston. But we're already making plans for next year.
Next: The Stuff I Bought