It’s time to summarize my Gen Con 2017 experience. It was the 50th Gen Con and for some reason I expected something special. Oh, there was some stuff different. They have a museum of gaming, which is cool. There was a concert this year. Honestly though, it seemed like a typical Gen Con, only bigger. There was a lot of walking this year because things have spread out across the city.
There was a lot of Gen Con 50 merchandise, that was for sure. I doubt any of it will be collectible – I mean there were well over 60k attendees.
My buddy Kevin picked up the Bob Ross – The Art of Chill game. Yes, that guy from PBS that painted trees is the subject of a game…a game about painting. It sounds crazy, but it totally worked.
StarFinder was the big “must buy” RPG of the convention. It’s Pathfinder in space. Paizo was good at forming a line for purchase, but lousy at processing them. Two guys that came with me were in line for almost 1.5 hours. I got in line (and got an autograph – which was nice) and then a guy from Paizo came buy saying if we were paying cash, he could take care of us. Granted, it could have been some dude with a Paizo shirt, but it got me out of line before the other guys by 45 minutes. Mental note – next year find out what Paizo is wearing (and Fantasy Flight Games) and run the same scam. I could have paid for the next three conventions collecting cash that way. I’ll review the game in an upcoming post. My initial thoughts were that it looked awesome.
FFG’s big hit was the Lord of the Five Rings game. Wizkids made an appearance but only brought a few products. No Star Trek Attack Wing. What the hell Wizkids? I came with money – and you managed to just make me get more frustrated deep down inside.
I was geeked about Modiphius’s Star Trek RPG release. I purchased the book a few weeks ago and I wanted the miniatures and dice. Dice were on hand – but nothing else. That left me a little frustrated as well. It was my hope to review them here – well that’s not happening – not yet. I will review the game system later. Suffice it to say I like parts of it, dislike other aspects.
Steamforged Games had a big presence. I had never really taken a look at them before. I watched a demo of Guild Ball and was actually impressed with the quality of the minutes and the fun of the game play. I am already regretting not picking it up. Argh!
Catalyst Game Labs released the other big hit – Dragonfire. This is a cooperative card game based on their Shadowrun Crossfire system. Pure D&D carnage with cards. I have a copy and will be reviewing this later. I have to admit, it looked great. They also had some aircraft aluminum dice (I scored some Smoke Jaguars) for BattleTech and they had previews of the new ‘Mechs for the BattleTech boardgame release.
I got to see the minis from Cool Minis or Not for the Game of Thrones miniatures game. I did the Kickstarter for it but it was very cool to play the demo. Those miniatures are awesome and the game play is pretty smooth. As Jamie Lannister I took out Rob Stark – ending the young wolf’s life.
There was a new game Wild West Exodus that had an impressive line of miniatures. It looks like cowboys, Confederates, steampunk, aliens and other weirdness. They had a lot of minis, but no rules or starter sets.
In terms of playing – we did the BattleTech pods (as always). These never get old. They had 14 this year and they had been upgraded! The graphics were crisper. Nothing says fun like an Alpha Strike to the rear of your enemy. Seyla!
We signed up for the Gorn game of the Star Trek RPG. That went okay…we ran out of time to complete it. What sucked was that we had geared up for the Gorn and got the Romulans instead. What the hell? At the end of the game I finally asked, “Where were the Gorn?” We got an excuse that the Gen Con folks had pressured them to do a tourney so they went with some material they already had. There were some funny moments despite this being a clear bait and switch. We beamed down and sent the ship away. Twenty-five minutes into the game we called them to come back, only to be told they were 12 hours away! The best was playing the Galaxy Quest theme music during game play. Well worth the download to my phone before the session.
We played the D&D tournament as well, at least I think we did. There was no combat and only one spell used. We ended up in some dinosaur race and could only use quarterstaffs and no combat spells. It was two hours of dino racing rather than D&D. I came away confused as all hell as to what we had just done. I wanted to swing a sword, go into a dungeon…you know, play D&D. This was lame.
As one of the BattleTech insiders, I got invited to a super secret BattleTech strategy session. We used to do these things at Gen Cons. It was great to be back at it. I cannot share the details of the meeting (for free at least. I am a complete mercenary otherwise.) I have included these photos simply to whet your appetites as to what is coming and how cool it is going to be…
After this I capped off Gen Con playing in the Master’s and Minion’s tournament. Colin Duffy got stuck with me as a player on his side (pity his soul). Colin paints a lot of the minis and did a great job. True story – I told them I wanted Clan Wolverine paint schemes. Somewhere along the way they told him “Wolverine.” Well, in past years I had Captain America, Deadpool, and Iron Man painted ‘Mechs, so he painted my Wolverines as Wolverine from the comic books. It was funny and oddly they fit my collection perfectly.
My favorite paints (other than mine) were the Suicide Squad (shown at the bottom)
The battle left Colin saddled with a crappy player who refused to follow plans and went after every shiny object that caught his attention (that’s me of course). I lost, two killer head shots. Honorably defeated it was a lot of fun…as always.
So there you have it – another Gen Con under my belt. I have a ton of booty to go through and material for game reviews for the next six months.
When you write true crime the book is never really done, even when the book is printed. You are always getting new information. With cold cases this feeling of ongoing attachment is multiplied. When you decided to write a book about crimes, you are stuck to that crime forever.
I think about the victims I have written about almost daily. They don’t haunt me. I do think of them though. There are so many things I wish I could ask them…so many details that only they knew.
August hits me hard (and I suspect September will too, given our new book). Two of the crimes I have written about took place in August. It is inescapable that I think of these victims and the heinous manners they met their fate.
On August 16, 1982, a murderer climbed into the apartment of Maggie Hume in Battle Creek, Michigan. This killer brutalized her, strangling her to death, then hid her body in her closet.
To this day, this murder remains an open wound in that community. Maggie’s father was the coach for the city’s only Catholic school and was immensely popular. Adding insult to injury, a convicted killer, Michael Ronning, gave a false confession to the crime in an effort to get relocated to a Michigan prison. Maggie’s death was senseless and vicious, and her true killer has managed to hold justice at bay.
On August 18, 1967, Nola Puyear was working in the tiny Tasty Café that she and her husband owned on Marshall, Michigan’s main street when a package was delivered to her. When she opened it a bomb went off, killing her instantly and injuring several others. In an age before the Unabomber, a killer had struck in broad daylight in the heart of the town, taking out an innocent woman that had no known enemies. The investigation was a rollercoaster ride, involving salacious sexual escapades of some of the citizens of the town – but all leading to dead ends. It would take a daring citizen to come forward with a tip to finally bring her murderer, Enoch Chism, to justice…only to have him released on a technicality.
There must be something in the air to have two deaths I have written about both falling in August. I have to wonder if there is something subliminal that draws me to crimes that happen in the fall. Even writing this I pulled up the crime scene photos and look at them again, wondering if there was something I might have missed, some miniscule detail that might leap out at me. The photos are mute however. They have no more stores to tell me.
I wrote about Nola’s grisly death in my first true crime book, Secret Witness. I had always read true crime but to tackle writing one was a new experience. I learned a lot of lessons in interviewing people and how to deal with the survivors and especially the families of the murderers. Thanks to Mardi Link, a fellow true crime author, I learned a lot nuances about writing in the genre…just by reading her books.
Writing about Maggie Hume (The Murder of Maggie Hume – Cold Case in Battle Creek) I had a co-author, my daughter Victoria Hester. You might think that writing with another author is hard, but with Victoria it was natural. It changed our father daughter dynamic forever. She brought a closeness to the age of the victim that was helpful in many of our discussions. She proved herself to be adept at devouring reams of research material to make some semblance of sense out of it.
The crimes are horrific, but that is not what occupies my thoughts. It is the victims that stir my memories. Contrary to logic, you don’t get jaded to violence and murder when writing true crime. Over time, you actually get more sensitive about the people whose lives were severed from the rest of us. In those quiet moments near the dates of these crimes, I will wrestle with the memories of their senseless murders. Over time you want justice in the cold cases even more than when you wrote about them. That is the curse of writing true crime.
It is part-and-parcel with being a true crime author. We don’t create our own demons, we do write about them. #truecrime
I don’t generally read political action thrillers. I met Tom Clancy once when his Hunt for Red October had just come out. I met him at a gaming event where he was playing Harpoon. True story. Clancy was approachable but what stunned me was his off-the-cuff depth of knowledge about naval warfare and ship details. I read a lot of his books over the years but once he became a franchise/factory, I just dropped out of that genre. Sadly, with his demise, I just felt it would be hard for anyone to fill his boots.
I broke my streak this spring when I finally broke down and read a Jack Reacher novel. I liked it, despite constantly picturing Tom Cruise saying all of the lines. Honestly, I didn’t want to like it, but I found myself liking the witty dialogue and Reacher’s unique brand of thinking. Suddenly I was back reading political thrillers.
When I saw the cover for Jeffrey Miller’s Bureau 39, it kind of pulled me in. Don’t kid yourself, we’ve all bought novels because of a good cover…admit it. The synopsis grabbed me too. A mysterious North Korean Bureau that was covertly plying the drug trade to help secure ICBM’s with nuclear capability. I purchased it a few months ago and had no idea how timely the subject matter was going to be.
Actually – it’s eerie how accurate this book feels. Makes me wonder, does Miller have some sort of inside track we’re unaware of?
I won’t ruin the plot or story for you. Suffice it to say, it is a solid plot. Two things stood out for me. One was the dialogue of the characters. They were distinct voices in the story, and were not cheesy one-liners but carefully crafted phrases. There were times I chuckled at some of the references. Miller doesn’t waste scenes or character time with things that don’t propel the plot forward – and that is something that is both rare and worthy of respect. Good dialogue ensures good believable characters. Miller is masterful in this aspect of his art.
My favorite part of the book is that the author puts you there, in Korea. This is not blatant, but subtle. You are given a fantastic geopolitical and geography lesson throughout the smooth flow of this book. There are wonderful little details that I ended up Googling only to find that Miller was dead-on with his facts. This added sense of realism in the setting makes Bureau 39 a welcome addition to any political thriller bookshelf.
Given the current tensions between US and North Korea, this book couldn’t be timelier and adds to a captivating story and strong characters. This is a solid five out of five stars.
Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters. For me, it lets me do a little creative writing. Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this one. Enjoy!
That cockatrice bite gave me a limp with my leg that was irritating. A large portion of one thigh had turned to stone, gray, impervious to pain, but heavy and hard to move. It made my hip hurt, and I feared the ailment might spread. The time had come to see if anyone had a cure. The apothecary had proved useless in this, all of their bottle and nothing to cure cockatrice bite. That left me with one choice, one I was loathe to make. The church.
I am not anti-religion. I just see them as an enemy. For the record, they started it. Years of hunting down magic users like myself instilled a strong disdain for priests. They are always friendly and cordial, but would sell out warlocks like me in a heartbeat for crucifixion or worse.
While the others stayed at the Copper Horse, waiting for Theren and Bor to return from court, I decided to visit the temple. The moment I left the inn I spotted that bald headed, blue-robed monk that had been shadowing us since we had arrived in Karn. He seemed harmless enough but I didn’t trust him. Trust is not my strong suit. I coyly watched him as he trailed me through the city. Why was he so interested in our little party?
I was impressed by the temple when I found it. It only slightly modest on the outside, high quality stonework from what I could tell. No doubt the stonemason’s guild had to donate their considerable services to build it. The inside was ornate, with gold-leaf covered statues of angels and an ivory embedded cross. Braziers with incense burned from their hooks, filling the air with a sweet smell. So much for their coppers going to help the poor. The hypocrisy was not lost on me.
The white robed pastor stepped forward. “I am Pastor Galt,” he said with an all-too charming tone to his voice. He had black hair and was easily 20 years my senior. “What brings you here my son?”
“I am in need of healing pastor,” I said, opening my robe and showing him my gray splotch of stoneskin. His brow furrowed when he looked at it.
“What is your name my son?” he said, stooping and looking at it more closely.
“Althalus. I am here from Whiterock. I had a bit of a run-in with a cockatrice.”
“So it would seem,” he said rising. “Very rare, such a wound. Cockatrice are rarely found in these parts.”
“I am not from these parts,” I countered, “Can you cure it?”
He was noncommittal in his shrug. “Perhaps. I most certainly can try.” He paused for a moment, which seemed awkward.
“I appreciate it,” I finally said.
“I understand,” Galt said. “It does require a tithe to church my son.”
“Oh,” of course it did. “Forgive me father, but I am unsure of how much such a cure might cost.”
“It is not a cost, but a payment from the heart. Usually it is what someone can afford,” the pastor said. “But this is complex. I think a donation of fifty gold pieces might help in such a case.”
Lexa Lyoncroft had nothing on the church when it came to robbery! I paid him, counting it out slowly. He ushered me to the altar and I climbed up. Galt traced an outline with his fingernail of the stoneskin and began to chant. His hands felt hot on my thigh. I watched as he massaged the skin. At first I felt nothing – and I wondered if he had failed. Then I felt his hands touching me through the skin. I had feeling again. After ten minutes or so he stopped. “I have done all that I can my son,” he said with a ragged voice.
I looked at my thigh and saw the gray skin. I touched it and felt my finger. Swinging my leg over the altar I tested the leg. I had control again, though the spot was sore and a little unsteady. “What about the gray color?”
Galt shook his head. “There isn’t anything I can do for that. I have restored your ability to walk and feel, but the color will remain I am afraid.” It made me wonder if I had paid more, if that could have been fixed as well.
He walked me to the door and I thanked him. As I opened the large oaken door I saw the monk across the street. “He’s still there…” I muttered.
I turned to Galt and bobbed my head in the direction of the monk. “That man in the blue robe has been following my friends and I since we arrived.”
He snorted a grunt of disdain. “The Blue Robes. They arrived here and set up a friary next door. They are men of God, I will give them that, but little more. They make people nervous, the way they flutter about the fringes of the city. Their agenda is that of the church…and their own I fear.”
“The friary is next door?”
“Yes,” Galt said pointing to the right. “That is their friary. Perhaps Friar Rez can provide you the answers you seek.”
I thanked him and went next door. The friary was not as conspicuous and austere as the church. It was much more simple in its construction, less permanent. The air stung with a sweet smell, and a touch of must and honey. The door was open but I knocked on it the sill. A man wearing a royal blue robe approached me. “Hello. I am Malgorzata Rez, the friar here. How may I assist you?”
“Well, I was just wondering. I mean, one of your men has been following us,” I turned to point to him but he was standing right behind me. How did he move up so quickly and quietly? “I was wondering why?”
Friar Rez began to gesture with his hands, and I half-wondered if he was about to cast some sort of a clerical spell. The stocky monk replied with hand gestures of his own, leaning his quarterstaff against his body as his hands flew about the air. It went on for a good two minutes before the friar turned back to me.
“Brother Dimitrios has had a vision that has profoundly changed him. Apparently you have a part in what he has seen. I believe he wishes to accompany you. He has conveyed that your trek is one that is filled with darkness and death, and feels you may hold sway on the dark days that are to come.”
I wasn’t sure what to say. He seemed harmless enough. I didn’t fear the dark days, I intended to bring them about. The church used such talk to instill fear and obedience. “I guess that’s okay,” I replied. “Does he have some sort of vow of silence or something?”
“No,” Rez replied matter-of-factly. “He has chosen to not speak. He can at any time.” I looked at Dimitrios and he nodded. I turned back to the good friar. He stepped into the friary and came back with a small wooden keg in his hands. “This may help.”
I took it and it was heavy and full. “What is it?”
“Mead of course – the best in the lands. I offer it for the man that would help Dimitrios fulfill his vision.”
I chuckled. “I thought you might offer me a prayer, not something to drink.”
“Well know, we both know that a prayer might be wasted on you, don’t we?” There was something in the way that he said it that told me that he knew I was a warlock.
“Thank you,” I replied and turned to Dimitrios. He had his quarterstaff back in hand and was ready to follow me.
We walked back to the Copper Horse and I saw that Bor and Theren had already arrived. “How did it go with Lord Sklaver?” I asked.
“You’ll love this,” Arius said sarcastically.
“Oh, it went well,” Theren said. “We passed on the message as planned.”
“Great, we can go home then?” I said.
“Not exactly,” Bor replied with a hint of hesitation in his voice.
I looked back at Theren. “What does that mean?”
“Well,” the druid said hedging his voice slightly. “It’s like this. We have sort of been drafted into the royal guard. Temporarily of course, but we need to accompany reinforcements going to the Gash.”
“Drafted? I don’t like the sound of that. How temporary of a time are we talking?”
“Well, if our message was right, we’ll be released once we arrive there. If not, they will likely kill us.”
“Like I said,” Arius quipped, “You’ll love this Althalus.”
“Okay,” I replied, putting down my small keg of mead on the table. “No problem. We go to the Great Gash, then we go home.” I knew it was not going to be easy, but at least we were traveling with soldiers rather than wandering afield alone.
“Who’s your friend?” Theren asked, quick to change the subject.
“This is Dimitrios,” I gestured to the blue robed monk who bowed his head to our small party. “He’s going to be joining us for a while.”
The monk began to gesture with his hands. Theren, much to my surprise, did the same thing. I waited for a moment then asked. “Can you understand him?”
“No, I was just waving my hand around.”
I immediately felt a headache come on. Druids…a combination of hemp, cheap philosophy, regret and dirty fingernails.
I hope you have enjoyed the saga thus far. Here are the previous parts if you have missed any installments. Enjoy!
As a true crime author I read true crime books at a dangerous rate. This was one I held off on initially. It felt ooky getting a book by Simpson, a man I felt skated justice. I write about cold cases and with me it is always about the surviving victims. I knew deep in my heart that OJ was not going to tell the truth about what happened on June 12, 1994. I also remembered the controversy surrounding this book…how the publisher hadn’t expected the backlash, fired the editor and retracted the project. The fact they were surprised by the public reaction is stunning itself and demonstrated nothing but insensitivity to the surviving family members. Douchebags.
This book was a surprise. First, it is two books. One is the ghostwritten manuscript that OJ originally planned to publish. Second is the story about how the Goldman family struggled to wrestle this book from OJ’s grasp and how he had set it up as a scam to pilfer the profits and evade their civil suit’s settlement. This part appears at the start and end of the books, a wrapper of words that provide some context around this literary work.
On the first part – OJ’s confession, one word comes to mind, “yawn.” This is less of a confession and more of a trip into the psyche of a narcissistic maniac that brutally murdered two people. Yes, there a parts of this where I believe he is sharing new facts that only he could have known as the killer. They are few and far between. Simpson creates a second character that was present and responsible for the murders – sort of. It is bizarre at best. I’m sure some psychology major will write a thesis on him from this book.
What disturbed me the most was the fact that OJ never assumed responsibility for anything related to his ex-wife. He only hit her once. He dismisses the photographs of her abuse as fabrications on her part. He paints her as a druggie, a woman of loose morals, and a bad parent. Her diary? That had to be a fabrication as well. The manuscript portions of the book deflect everything to either the police framing him, altering transcripts, or Nichole’s delusions. Even when confronted with transcripts of what he said, he simply lies. I don’t think that Nichole was some saint, but at no point does he seem to embrace her as a tragic murder victim. Ron Goldman is barely mentioned by OJ. This part of the manuscript is mostly a vain attempt to recast Nichole in a negative light…as if killing her was not enough.
In short, by writing this OJ Simpson only validated everything I ever thought about him.
Now, the rest of the book – positioned in the text at the beginning and at the end, is great stuff. The journey that this book went on and how the Goldman’s got control of it is wonderful. Even the jockeying of Oprah at the time the book was released was fascinating to me. Dominick Dunne’s chapter was great as well. This is what made the book for me. I could have tossed all of the alleged confession out and still would have been entertained. When you read this you are confronted with the internal debate and struggle that Goldman’s went through and the moral issues tied to putting this book on the market. While not a nail-biter, it is the best parts of this book.
It is hard to position this with an outstanding review with OJ’s confession being little more than a self-indulgent masturbation session on his part. Yet against this blemish on society we are given a wonderful story of a family struggling for even a fragment of justice. It is worth reading if only to delve into the bizarro world of OJ’s twisted way of perceiving the crimes and the victims.
This popped up on a random Facebook post two weeks ago and was well worthy of capturing in a blog entry. These are quotes from the Star Wars film franchise that had sexual connotations or about a person’s sex life, when read out of context. I have tried to get the quotes right, but to be honest, there’s major variations on the web and I couldn’t stomach watching Phantom Menace again to validate anything.
Let’s face it, some of these are hilarious. I have deliberately shuffled the order of these and have included content from the entire franchise thus far. Enjoy.
Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you?
The force is strong with this one.
It’s a trap!
How are we doing? Same as always. That bad huh?
He’s more machine now…
You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.
You came in that thing? You’re braver than I thought.
Pull out, you’re not doing any good back there!
That’s no moon.
Laugh it up Fuzzball.
There’s an awful lot of moisture in here.
Oh yes, that’s very good. I like that … oh, something’s not right because now I can’t see.
You have failed me for the last time.
Be careful not to choke on your aspirations.
Never tell me the odds.
It’s no good, I can’t maneuver.
At that speed, will you be able to pull out in time?
Will someone get this walking carpet out of my way?
No, no, no! This one goes there, that one goes there!
Do. Or do not. There is no try.
Into the garbage chute Flyboy!
Did You Know That Wasn’t Me?
I find your lack of faith disturbing.
I have felt him, my master.
Get in there you big furry oaf. I don’t care what you smell.
Stay on target. Stay on target!
I was expecting someone with your reputation to be a little, older.
Myself, the boy, two droids, and no questions asked.
You were right about one thing master, the negotiations were short.
I gotta bad feeling about this.
It’s not a problem if you don’t look up.
You underestimate my power!
I can’t shake ‘em!
You do have your moments. Not many, but you have them.
Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?
I’m endangering the mission, I shouldn’t have come.
Hey, we don’t serve their kind here!
An elegant weapon not as clumsy or rampant as a blaster!
Good! Good! Let the hate flow through you.
It’s Working! It’s Working!
Shut him up or shut him down!
Uh, we had a slight weapons malfunction, but uh… everything’s perfectly all right now.
You’re all clear kid, now let’s blow this thing and go home!
No point getting upset about it. It was a fair move.
Don’t get cocky!
What an incredible smell you’ve discovered…
Sister! So, you have a twin sister!
Intensify forward firepower!
What I told you was true…From a certain point of view…
In my experience there’s no such thing as luck.
I have the high ground.
Impressive … most impressive.
What is thy bidding, my master?
I’m looking forward to completing your training. In time you will call me master.
All too easy!
Your powers are weak, old man.
Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise.
Negative! It didn’t go in. It just impacted on the surface.
And I thought they smelled bad on outside.
Be careful not to choke on your aspirations, Director.
I can’t hold them.
Great shot, kid. That was one in a million!
Doesn’t look like much, but has it where it counts.
This had better work.
I’d rather kiss a Wookie.
Look at the size of that thing!
Oh, no! We’ll never get it out now!
Hang on back there!
They’ll be back and in greater numbers.
No. I don’t like you either.
Who are you calling ‘Scruffy?’
This is no cave…
Put that thing away, you’re gonna get us all killed!
Something just touched my leg…
Punch it Chewie.
It’s not my fault!
Turn her around!
I expect to be well paid. I’m in it for the money.
They may come around for another pass.
Nice girl! Either I’m gonna kill her or I’m beginning to like her!
This ain’t like dusting crops, boy!
Sorry about the mess…
Is that possible?” “I never ask that question until after we’ve done it.”
You my fire when ready.
Bring me Solo.
The target area is only two meters wide…
I didn’t hit it THAT hard…must’ve had some sort of self-destruct.
I guess you don’t know everything about women yet.
Use your harpoons!
But how am I to know the good side from the bad?
It’s risky but we can’t hold out much longer.
Why does everyone want to go back to Jakku?!
I’m out of it for a little while and suddenly everyone’s got delusions of grandeur…
I thought you were blind!
I’m afraid our furry companion has gone and done something rather rash.
But these are my friends!
Uh, everything under control. Situation normal.
Boring conversation anyway.
I just got this bucket back together.I’m not going to let something tear it apart.
I love you. I know.
“Stop taking my hand!
“I have something here for you, your Father wanted you to have this when you were old enough but your Uncle wouldn’t allow it.”
You’re far too trusting…
There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?
Take your father’s place by my side
The Resistance will not be intimidated.
So. You got your reward and you’re just leaving, then?
Alright, so what did I miss? Feel free to add in the comments section.
Yes, it is that time of the year again – time for my unsolicited updated list of GenCon tips survival. These are to be treated as tongue and cheek – intended with a hint of a sense of humor. If you’re offended, well, suck it up…this was intended to be useful and hopefully funny.
#1: Plan in advance. Go online, figure out what you want to do. DO NOT try and figure all of this out while you are at the counter buying tickets. This is like that person standing at line at Starbucks for 15 minutes, getting up there and going, “Hmm…I’m not sure what I want…” Don’t be that guy. Everybody hates that guy.
#2: Pack as if you are going to be at the convention center for 16 hours straight…because you are. Slip in some snacks because let’s face it, convention food is expensive and sucks. Bring pencils, pack your lucky dice (you know the ones!) graph paper, phone charger, a small tape measure (for miniatures games), aspirin, you know – typical geek gamer survival gear. Think over seriously if you need to bring all of your rules books and game manuals. Chances are the guys running the game are going to have a copy there. Don’t over pack. You don’t need to bring your PC with you, I’m almost positive. Keep it simple, keep it light. Pack what you need but remember, you’re not setting out to climb Mt. Everest (or Mt .Doom, your choice.)
#3: Be prepared for the rush to the main hall when it opens. Yes, when the balloon goes up and they open the doors to the sales floor, it is a geek equivalent to the running of the bulls in Spain (albeit a little safer). Don’t fight the masses, ride it in. To answer your question now: Yes, it’s that crowded every year. You can’t get in without a badge, have it out and visible. The Stormtrooper Door Guards will stop you dead in your tracks, meaning you are subject to being trampled by the crowd surge. Also, nothing sucks more than being in a crowd of 2000 only to find out you have turn around and run back to the hotel room through a sea of angry and exited geeks.
#4: Cosplay is part of the experience and is encouraged. If you are going to do it, don’t design a costume that is going to injure passersby. Think it over. No one is more of a douche-bag than a guy that has designed a costume that is hard to get around or trips/blinds people when you pass.
#5: If you’re going to be one of those people who stop in the middle of a crowd to take a picture of the booth-babe wearing a chain mail bikini, do it quickly and don’t clog up the corridor. She’s not going to go back to your hotel room with her because you’re taking her photo and you don’t need a photo to prove to your buddies back at the office that there were indeed females at the convention. Okay, that last point – I may be wrong.
#6: Bathe and use deodorant. This shouldn’t have to be a tip, it should be common sense. Based on my own experience moving through the crowd, I had to include it. Look, you paid for a hotel room right? Go back at some point and at least use the shower. Foot powder, toothpaste, and clean clothing (a fresh set for every day) shouldn’t require mentioning – yet here I am doing it. Why? Because people don’t do it!
#7: While you have no adult supervision and can do what you want, be respectful of others. In other words, bringing your leftover Taco Bell burrito from dinner to that 8am gaming session and eating it during the set-up is just wrong. You do know that their meat isn’t real meat, right?
#8: For your meals eat outside of the convention center. First, convention food sucks and is expensive. My memory is that a single, room-temperature, piece of convention cardboard pizza runs around $425. I don’t blame the folks in Indianapolis for this, it sucked when the convention was in Milwaukee too. It is something of a tradition to stand in line at the nearby Steak N Shake for 20 minutes at least once during the con for me, but that’s just me. I also like the brisk walk to the attached mall. They have a food court, variety, better prices, and it’s a hoot watching the locals interact with the convention attendees.
Go only five blocks away and there are a lot of eating places. Gamers hate leaving the convention site, even for an hour for food, so if you are willing to walk, downtown has a LOT of eating options and the further you walk, the smaller the crowds. I recommend taking the stroll. Ten minutes of walking gives you a few minutes of peace and quiet.
The Food Trucks are your best friends. I only discovered where these vendors parked four years ago and found their offers to be a much better alternative to eating on-site at the con. Let’s face it, everything is better than the food in the convention center. While we’re on it…
#9: Don’t frighten the locals. Look, Indianapolis really seems to like having Gen Con in town – well, at least they like our money. Don’t try and frighten that family on the sidewalk with your Orc costume waving a sword and cursing in Orkish. A lot of locals come down town to look at the cosplay folks – don’t add to their stereotype images of us. Not cool dude.
#10: While I totally appreciate Cosplayers, sometimes the costumes are confusing as all hell. Don’t be insulted if people ask you, “who are you trying to be?” Corollary: Taking any other costume and tossing on a Deadpool mask is not as innovative as you like to think it is. (We call these folks “Douce-pools”)
#11: There is always someone that knows the rules better than you. He’s arrogant, overweight, and wearing a black tee-shirt (then again, who isn’t?) Nothing kills a game faster than two guys trying to prove who is smarter about the rules regarding the splatter effect of a Mark IV plasma rifle in zero-G. We get it, you read and memorized the rule book. Stop ruining game play for everyone just to demonstrate your incredible powers of memorization…please. We refer to these individuals as Rules Douches, or the more French- La Rules Douchebag.
#12: Don’t just sit around. Go and check out the miniatures games, or some of the big events like the Live Dungeon. You didn’t shell out all of that money to sit and read a catalog you picked up did you? The convention won’t come to you – you need to move.
#13: Do some prep work if you are planning on buying some specific products. Some companies are bringing limited quantities of games to the con for each day, or a certain day. If you aren’t in line at the right time, you’re hosed. The short version of this: Make up your mind on what you are going to purchase and do it. If you wait too long that newly released product can/will sell out. Check the web sites and Twitter feeds of your favorite companies to see if that new product will be available and when.
#14: Wear comfortable shoes. Preferably shoes that do not have a predetermined aroma (see Tip Six.)
#15: Go back to your hotel at night and get some sleep. The convention is not designed as an endurance test. You’ll need the energy. All night gaming is great, if you’re young, but even then you need some sleep.
#16: Attend the auction. You’ll be able to tell your wife/mother/cat/significant other than that shelves and containers of games you have ARE of value. You’ll be surprised at what games people collect and what they will pay for one. It’s also kind of fun to see last year’s hot products being sold for a pittance of what people paid for them a year ago.
#17: Play the demo games. Look, games cost money – a LOT of money. I sit in on demos, watch tournaments, etc. to figure out where I’m going to spend my cash. I recommend you do the same. Try some things you’ve never played before. Think of this as a chance to test-drive new games and systems.
#18: Don’t insult your favorite writer or game designer intentionally. These guys work hard to produce your fun. Don’t be “that guy” that shows up to tell someone how horrible a product they wrote in 1992 was, or how they made a mistake in an out-of-print 1989 book. We get it, you can read. If you’ve traveled all of this way to show off your knowledge, you’re a decade or two off. If you meet writers, authors, artists, designers – be cool and respectful. As a writer in the industry, I welcome comments from fans…but there is a limit to critique that I will endure, and I am not alone. As a corollary – there is a limit to the number of things you want autographed.
#19: Go early to the con. Get out of bed and get to the convention early. There’s a lot going on and the lines are significantly shorter. I hit the MechWarrior pods usually at 8-9am when the convention hall is empty-ish. They are a tradition I am addicted to.
#20: WIN. Savor your victories. Cherish the lament of your foes as they are crushed under the weight of your killer die rolls and strategy! Don’t rub it in, but enjoy it. Serious dude, don’t rub it in when you win. You didn’t travel all of this way to lose did you? Hell no! In other words, have fun!
#21: Don’t wear costumes that are designed to deliberately upset people, unless those people are politicians. You can abuse them all you want – they deserve it.
#22: Wear something other than a black tee shirt. At GenCon, black tee shirts are like camouflaged ghillie suit for snipers. Everyone is wearing a black tee shirt. Someone someday will earn a PhD studying why gamers are drawn to black tee shirts. In the meantime, I recommend wearing something else (something clean), in a color other than black. Corollary: Reading the hilarious tee shirts is one of the more phone things about the Con.
#23: Don’t abuse your demo time in any booth. Okay, in the main showroom, the vendors often offer short demos on their products. These are a major part of the experience. Don’t abuse the privilege. I saw one guy camped out a table last year for four hours. There were a lot of people wanting to sit in, but this guy had decided to turn a demo into a full-fledged campaign.
#24: Remember the GenCon food groups. Caffeine, Chocolate, Salty Snacks, Caffeine, Pointless Carbs. Beef Jerky, while not a formal food group, is also permissible but please be discreet when eating it – no one looks cool tearing into a piece of jerky. Yes, Caffeine is listed twice because it is that important.
#25: If you want to do free events plan on a wait or get there early. A good example of this is the Paint and Take event Reaper puts on. It’s cool to get a free mini you paint there, but everyone wants to do it and there’s usually a line. See #30 below.
#26: If you want the Convention giveaways – go to those booths first thing when the doors open. A lot of these vendors run out in the first 20 minutes.
#27: Con-Crud – prepare for it. Con Crud is not a new module release of Pandemic – it’s the social plague that hits thousands when they return from GenCon on the following Monday. Use hand sanitizer (you have to bring your own on this). Load up on vitamins and other legal medications aimed at reducing colds, flu, or whatever it is that morphs into Con-Crud.
#28: Meet the celebrities. I’m not just talking about the “name” celebrities. This is a chance for you to track down that favorite author or artist and shake their hand. I make a point at every GenCon to network and meet people (and re-meet people I met years before). Mingle and be social.
#29: “Language” I’m noticing more and more kids at the Con which is great. If you feel the need to curse, make sure only the adults are around.
#30: Take advantage of the crowds to do things you want to do. Look, at 10am, everyone is lined up to get into the main hall. That’s the perfect time to do things that otherwise have long lines. Understand the masses, don’t always be part of the masses.
#31: If you are in a wheelchair, it is not a weapon to clear the crowds. I got hit by someone in a wheelchair last year just standing still. He just plowed into my ankle because he wanted to get through. I’m understanding, but not that understanding.
#32: You will get a book of freebie coupons. If you plan on redeeming them, you need to do it first thing in the main hall. Some of that stuff disappears in a matter of minutes.