Posts Tagged With: Conventions

Gen Con Tips for Newbies

So, I spent last week telling you how not to be a dick around folks with physical challenges at Gen Con. “But, this is my first year! I don’t even know anything about anything about Gen Con.”

Today’s post is for you!

Gen Con can be overwhelming for the first time attendee. We’ve all been there. Bask in the Nerdvana and enjoy it. You’ll never get to experience Gen Con for the first time again. When you walk into the Dealer Hall (or even just join the crowd that’s gathering for the opening, aka the “Running of the Nerds”) it is at once exhilarating and terrifying. When the crowd finally thins and you get in, tens of thousand of square feet of games and game-related merchandise await you. There really is nothing like it on Earth.

Some folks say that for your first year, don’t cram your schedule full of ticketed activities. There’s wisdom in that, and I certain recommend setting aside a large portion of time for the Dealer Hall. Why? Because you can spend all day in there and not see everything. Now, there are some things you’re probably not interested in, that’s fine. But, surely there are some new games you want to try. The Dealer Hall is perfect for that. Almost every booth selling board games has demos running all day and many booths with RPGs are running demos as well. These demos last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour and cost absolutely nothing. In theory, you could probably spend all four days playing games for free in the Dealer Hall.

If you have an interest in seeing the best products get recognized, pop by the ENnie Awards on Friday night. It costs nothing to attend and it’s a veritable who’s who of RPG designers and writers. Granted, most of them won’t have much time to socialize with you at the event; that’s what their Dealer Hall hours are for (that, and selling their new games). The ENnie Awards are in the Grand Hall of Union Station again this year, just a short walk from the Convention Center. If the weather is too nasty, you can even get there without going outdoors (though the route is considerably more convoluted, confusing, and quite a bit further).

Don’t be discouraged a game you REALLY want to play in is sold out. Grab some generic tickets and go anyway. There’s no guarantee you’ll get a seat, but some GMs will take an extra player and there might be no-shows. One thing is certain: if you don’t try to get an extra seat, or one of the no-show seats, you definitely won’t get to play. I highly recommend playing in some games you don’t get to play at home. There are tons of games I never get to try with my home group, for a variety of reasons. Were it not for conventions, I would never get to play these games. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a new favorite. I know some people who go to Gen Con and spend all four days playing the same game they play regularly every week in their home games. They enjoy it, OK, but for my money, I like to try something new.

Be culinarily adventurous. The food truck lines are epic, but it’s a good opportunity to try new foods. “But, it’s Gen Con! I’m there to game and not eat.” Make a game of it. Create a Food Truck score card and keep track of what you eat. I dunno, play Food Truck Bingo or something. Or heck, just give your taste buds a treat now and again since 95% of Gen Con attendees are eating worse those four days than they do most of the rest of the year.

Hang out in the crossroads Saturday afternoon and bask in the brillance of the parade of cosplayers (technically, it’s the Costume Contest Parade). The artistic talent on display is AMAZING. There are some truly mind-blowing costumes at Gen Con every year. If hanging out isn’t your thing, go to the Costume Contest and sit and watch, then.

Game on and have fun. See you in a few days!

Categories: Conventions | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Guest Post! — Gen Con Tips & Advice Series

Jakub Nowosad a.k.a. Arathi: master of Law & master of Political Science, Polish convention organizer since 2004, RPG player since 1996. Redactor and reviewer in Polish RPG websites. He is trying to popularize board games and RPG in his region in Poland. He has also served as an ENnie Awards judge in 2014 and 2015. He has a tumor in his spine resulting in muscular atrophy of the left side of the body. You can reach him online: Google+ at +JakubNowosad, Twitter @Arathic. 

As a disabled person sometimes I have a problem with conventions. In this text I want to tell organizers, participants and other handicapped persons a few words. Most of the things below are an outcome of my career as a convention organiser for almost ten years.

For organizers:

I know we don’t always have a possibility to choose a place with good infrastructure that will be helpful for disabled. But as an ex-organiser I think you can make some convenience. First You can make a special point for buying tickets with priority for disabled. Second You can sensitize volunteers and helpers on the needs of the disabled. It’s always helpful when a physically impaired person can ask someone from the staff for help. Having a spare wheelchair and a medic is helpful too. In Poland most conventions require from underage attendees to show a permission slip from parents. I think parents can write down in a permission slip  helpful information about theirs kid: allergies, chronic illnesses, and disabilities. Adult people can have an ICE card (In Case of Emergency) – i.e. special card in a wallet where is written information about family (address, phone number), blood type and other medical info. Organizers should have a few spare ICE cards for people who want it (You can find them on the Web).

Special symbols (such as badges or an armbands) could be useful with identification of disabled. Organizers can save first row of seats in the seminars just for disabled.

With all this, physically-impaired people could have a better time in the convention.

For convention attendants:

A lot of people have some medical problems. Sometimes hidden. When you are in the crowd remember people are around you may have medical issues. Try not to be the one who is always rush others. When you are entering a room don’t scuffle to enter as fast as you can. Rush is not a good advisor and can be harmful for others.

A good thing to do is to find another chair if you sit in the last one in the room. Sometimes at a convention or conference I feel powerless when I can’t find a place to sit. And a lot of people are sitting around and pretend they don’t see me or other handicapped. So look around, try to help if you can (with luggage, chair, box etc) and don’t just think of yourself – convention should be a fun for everyone.

And finally as a physically-impaired person I have a few words to other people like me – don’t be macho. I know it’s hard to live when you have a serious illness. But pretending that you can lift those boxes or luggage by yourself, will not help you and can be harmful for your health. It’s not shameful to ask someone for help – in Poland we say: Your crown will not fall from your head. 😉

Note from Doctor StrangeRoll: The Indianapolis Convention Center is an ADA facility; they are supposed to adhere to all the laws for ADA accessibility. If you find this is not the case, please let a member of the Convention Center staff know immediately.

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Guest Post! Conventions & Canes — Gen Con Tips & Advice Series

This week I’ll be posting my Gen Con Tips and Advice, but I’m shaking things up from the past two years and I’m leading off with a guest post!

Jacob Wood is the founder of Accessible Games, a small press publisher devoted to making games available to everyone. He’s a writer, designer, layout artist, and accessibility advocate for the gaming industry. You can find him online at http://www.accessiblegames.biz, on Twitter at @AccessibleGames, or on Google+ as +JacobWood.

Conventions and Canes

This year, for my first time ever, I’ll be heading to GenCon. It’s the nation’s leading tabletop gaming convention and attracts 50,000+ people. I’ll be attending as an industry professional, a small press game publisher and member of the Independent Game Developers network. I’m thrilled to be going and excited at the opportunity to meet dozens of people I interact with on a regular basis. People I work with, game with, and otherwise enjoy spending time online with.

 

As excited as I am though, there’s one significant thing that makes me nervous. I’m legally blind, and I’ll be travelling solo. By itself that isn’t scary–I get around just fine in my daily life, from home to work and back again. I travel around my home city with little to no anxiety (most days) and don’t think twice about jumping on a bus or even catching an airplane. What makes me anxious is the large crowds of people who will be, by and large, not paying much attention to anything that isn’t shiny and attention-getting.

 

From my experience, when people (in general) gather in large crowds they tend to become less aware of their surroundings. I get it–it’s easy to get lost in a sea of people and more difficult still when you’re just trying to find your own way through the horde because you’re late for a game or need to locate a restroom. For those of us trying to get around with a physical impairment though, it can be a panic-inducing nightmare (and I don’t even get panic attacks… or nightmares).

 

With that in mind, if you’re heading to GenCon (or any other convention or large gathering, for that matter) I’d like to offer some advice on how you might be conscious of others even while you’re understandably focused on yourself.

 

Stowe the Electronics

It’s hard to believe this has to be said, but it does. If you’re walking, you shouldn’t be texting or checking e-mail. You also shouldn’t be checking your calendar appointments or, for goodness sake, taking pictures of yourself or others.

 

There’s always time to pull over and check these things later. Seriously. If you’re in so much of a hurry that you simply can’t slow down to read your messages, you should at the very least invest in a good Bluetooth headset and some hands-free messaging software (of which there are tons of free options available for any platform you choose). There’s also no reason to be taking selfies or snapping images of cosplayers if you’re not prepared to stand aside and focus the picture.

 

This doesn’t apply just to using electronics and walking though. It means don’t stand still in the middle of a hallway to do any of these things either. The bottom line: if you find yourself reaching for your phone or tablet, pull over to the side of the hall and make sure you’re not in anyone’s way. Everyone, not just people with disabilities, will thank you for it.

 

Be Aware

I wrote about this a couple years ago on my own blog (link: http://www.accessiblegames.biz/gaming-people-disabilities/) but it doesn’t hurt to repeat it.

 

We’ve already discussed how it can be difficult to be aware of your surroundings when you’re in a huge crowd, but you can still control how you behave and react when someone approaches you or is in your immediate vicinity. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped to ask a random stranger for information or directions and they completely missed the fact that I was carrying a red-tipped cane (which, in the U.S. at least, is the common sign that someone is blind). Using phrases like “it’s right over there” and pointing at something is sort of lost on someone who can’t see what you’re pointing at.

 

If you do interact with someone who has a noticeable physical impairment, try to be aware of it and what that might mean in terms of the requests they’re making or the questions they’re asking. That doesn’t mean you need to fall all over yourself trying to help, but it does mean tailoring your responses with their needs in mind. If you don’t know what those needs are, you can just ask. It’s not impolite, it’s awesome for you to do that.

 

Navigating Crowds

Just about everyone has difficulty navigating through large crowds, but people with physical impairments have it even more difficult.When you’re walking through a sea of people, you constantly make split-second decisions about how to turn and where to place your next steps in order to avoid collisions and make progress toward your destination. People with disabilities have to do this too, but it can be a little more tricky.

 

People in wheelchairs, on crutches, using canes, or pushing strollers are far less maneuverable than others around them. They don’t always have the luxury of avoiding you, so if you spot a less agile person then try to be aware of their needs and make your own efforts to go around them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into (or nearly missed running into) people because  I was headed their way with my cane in front of me and they simply didn’t bother to notice. Oftentimes it’s I, the blind person, who winds up doing the evasive maneuvers and, frankly, I’m not very good at them.

 

With that being said, just knowing where to go in a new location filled with billions of bodies can be difficult. Occasionally I’ll stop and ask someone for directions. Sometimes those people will offer to show me where I need to go. That’s completely awesome, but as a fair warning you’re very easy to lose in the crowd. Would you be so kind as to let me take your elbow? I promise I bathed today and you won’t catch “gamer funk.”

 

If you find yourself being the lead for someone who has a physical impairment, it’s okay to ask them if you’re walking too fast or if they need some additional assistance (like an outstretched elbow or a held door). If for some reason you’re just not comfortable with that, I think most people would prefer you be upfront about that so they can find someone else to help before getting too frustrated.

 

Conclusion

As GenCon grows, the likelihood of you encountering someone with a disability increases. If you see someone who appears like they may be in need, it’s okay to ask them if they’d like any help. If they don’t need it, they’ll tell you they’re okay. Otherwise, it’s a great relief to know someone else was being aware and being willing to lend a and.

 

I hope everyone has a fun and safe time at GenCon this year. I’m looking forward to it being my first. If you’re going to be there, stop by the IGDN game room and say hello.

Categories: Conventions | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Gen Con Tips & Advice

Gen Con logoGen Con is nigh! With less than two weeks to go before the best four days in gaming (as of the time I’m posting this), I’m not going to rehash what so many others have put out there, here are some links.

Sean K. Reynolds (of Paizo) says…
Gnome Stew (ENnie Awards-winning blog) says…
Erik Mona (of Paizo) says…
DoingIndy.com says…
Examiner.com says…
The Illuminerdy (ENnie Awards-nominated blog) says…

OK, enough about that. As you can see, there are tons of blogs and articles out there with advice regarding large conventions like Gen Con. My advice is going to be different. I am going to rehash what I posted last year (it was my most popular post ever!). To most of it, Wheaton’s Law applies. For those of you who are link-averse, Wheaton’s Law is this: Don’t be a dick.

However, the things about which I’m going to speak, are the sorts of things people are not aware they’re being dickish about. They’re not being malicious; they just don’t have any personal experience with these sorts of issues, so when they start breaking Wheaton’s Law, they don’t know they’re doing it. My job here is not to castigate, but to educate.

Specifically, I’m talking about dealing with those who have physical challenges at conventions. The handicapped, to be blunt. People like my wife. She can walk, but conventions like Gen Con are too big for her. So, she uses a wheelchair to get around. This year, she has a snazzy metallic red electric wheelchair, but in years past, I’ve pushed her in a manual wheelchair. This gives us a unique experience at Gen Con.

The average con goer is, shall we say, Plus-sized. OK, that’s fine. I could stand to lose 40 pounds myself. At conventions, people often have large backpacks. Sometimes, everything they brought to the convention is in this backpack. People are not always aware that this backpack adds 2′ – 3′ to their girth. They spin around quickly. If you’re in a wheelchair, those backpacks are level with your head. More than once my wife has narrowly avoided being clobbered in the head by an unaware con-goer suddenly spinning around because something caught his or her eye. When I’m pushing her, I’m watching for this sort of thing. This year she’ll be driving herself and I actually worry she’s going to get beat up.

  • Be Aware of People Around You

Moving through large groups of slow moving people is a challenge in a wheelchair. Sometimes people back up unexpectedly. Worse, they often stop unexpectedly. Sometimes it’s because the crowd in front of them has stopped. Sometimes its because something caught their eye. Sometimes it’s because someone caught their eye, and they’re stopping to chat. If this happens to you, look ahead a bit and see if there’s a spot in a booth where you can divert to stop. Please, please, please don’t just stop in the middle of the aisle to root through your backpack. You’re not in a High School hallway, stopping in the middle of the aisle is hugely disruptive. Also, if you’re pushing your kids in a stroller, you really need to watch where you’re pushing them. My wife almost got t-boned by a stroller last year because the mother had her head turned one way, watching something, and was pushing and walking in a different direction… in a CROWDED hall way (not even the Dealer Hall). She also almost got run into by a guy walking very fast and not watching the direction he was walking. His friend yelled to to his attention, otherwise he would have tripped over my wife’s (in motion) wheelchair. Situational Awareness is a thing. You don’t have to be a fighter pilot to practice it. Seriously.

  • Step to the far sides or into a booth space, if possible, to have conversations with friends or on your phone, or to look at the map, in your backpack, etc.

Shower regularly and use deodorant. This has been covered by almost every blog and podcast I’ve seen on the subject. I bring it up because something most people aren’t aware of: Gamer Funk is worse when your head is at waist level to the average con goer. Think about it: you sit on your butt every day during the con, often for 4-6 hours at a time. Frequently, walking around the city during the Con can be like walking on the surface of the sun (i.e. it’s HOT). The chairs don’t breathe. The A/Cs in the convention center will have trouble keeping up with a roomful of gamers when it’s hot and humid outside. Except for a very few, select people, most attendees have the crotch region covered completely by a couple of layers of clothes (basically, I’m talking about everyone who can’t get away with wearing something like a swimsuit or lingerie to Gen Con). Sweat happens. Funky things happen in dark, warm, moist areas. This is not shameful, it’s just a fact of bio-chemistry. Cleanliness saves noses!

  • Bathe regularly. Use deodorant.

Often, those of us using wheelchairs move a little slower than others in the Dealer Hall. Sorry, it’s just difficult to push a large mechanical object through a crowd. Sometimes, we have to stop for a moment to wait for an opening to cross an aisle. I know you’re in a hurry. I know there’s a demo you think you’re late for, or a game in another room. But FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY: DO NOT STEP OVER THE LEGS OF THE PERSON IN THE WHEELCHAIR. This happens to my wife at least once a year. Someone will get the bright idea that they can cut a corner if they just step over my wife’s legs. That is 100% NOT OKAY. For one, these people usually misjudge how much space they need and end up kicking my wife’s feet or the wheelchair. She’s not paralyzed, OK? She has feeling in the lower half of her body. In fact, because she has a degenerative spine condition, she feels these jolts acutely. IN HER BACK.

Pain is a funny thing (and I mean funny like a heart attack). In my wife’s case (and I know many people experience this same thing), it’s like gas prices. It’ll spike very quickly, and then take FOREVER to come back down. If you kick her wheels (however accidentally) or kick her legs because you felt stepping over her was quicker than going around, or accidentally knee the back of the chair because you’re standing too close in line, all of those jolts go right into her back. The extremities are ALL connected to the spine in some way. That jolt of pain doesn’t just go away. It takes HOURS. Often, it takes her lying down for hours before it gets back down to a manageable level and it’s not something that can be alleviated by popping a couple of ibuprofen. Chronic pain does not work that way.

More than once, she has missed out on a half-day or a whole day of a con because of this pain. When you are the cause because you carelessly stepped over her wheelchair and kicked her legs, causing a flare up of pain in her back, you have taken a day at Gen Con away from her. Is that worth saving 5 seconds to you?

  • Give wheelchairs a wide berth; don’t step over them.

This last thing is just actually a castigation because this happens every Gen Con and it’s not a matter of people being unaware; it’s a matter of people being rude jerks. If there’s a person with a wheelchair waiting for an elevator and they were there waiting when you and your group of friends arrived, WAIT FOR THE NEXT ELEVATOR IF YOU ALL WON’T FIT. More than once we have had our elevator poached by a group of rude assholes who rush to get into the elevator before we can. That’s being a dick. That’s being rude. You are bad people and should feel bad. When that happens, we hope the elevator breaks down with you in it. If I’ve had a really bad day, I hope the elevator breaks and falls back down to the ground floor with you in it. Don’t make me be a bad person for wishing bad things upon you.

  • Don’t be a dick.
Categories: Conventions | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Gary Con VI Report

The Cosmic Bacon arrived just in time!

The Cosmic Bacon arrived just in time!

For those of you who don’t know, Gary Con is an annual game convention held every March in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, to honor the memory of the father of role-playing games, E. Gary Gygax. Their focus is on the one thing Gary loved most: gaming! I’ve been going since 2010 or so.

Wednesday is usually a quiet day at Thursday – Sunday convention. Arrival. Check-in. Settle into room. Get badges. For many, it is the longest continual socialization time of the convention.

This year, many people attended a pre-con party at Frank Mentzer’s home. While I would like to have gone, when I heard smoking would be allowed in the house (albeit confined to one room away from most of the guests), I had to decline. Any amount will play hell with my wife’s asthma, and we’re both sensitive enough to it that the lingering smells on everyone’s clothes (our own included) would be a problem. Contrary to what many smokers think, non-smokers CAN smell it on them for hours and hours and it gets on us, too, when we’re around smoke. When it induces respiratory problems, that’s an issue. Nevertheless, I’m sure everyone there had a great time, and I’m sure many stories will come out of it that will be told for years to come.

After checking in and getting settled, we decided to try to rustle up some gaming action. I brought with me Sentinels of the Multiverse, Project Ninja Panda Taco, and Edition Wars, but was unable to drum up any interest. Rather than assume it was because the games held no interest to anyone but myself, I will instead assume that my Game Master badge intimidated everyone. Instead of gaming, we joined some friends for dinner and conversation, which was just as good as gaming, in my opinion.

Thursday was a fairly low-key day. I started off by wandering around, visiting with Jolly and Barbara Blackburn of Kenzer & Co. (and Knights of the Dinner Table fame) and visiting the Dealer Hall. My first game of the day was supposed to be a HackMaster game at 10AM, but I screwed up during registration and signed up for a 10PM game by mistake! Resigned to my failure, I wandered around some more and purchased some old Spelljammer supplements out of pity for myself (they were still in the shrinkwrap, so I essentially bought NEW items from the ’90s!). My next game was in the afternoon, a Savage Worlds game run by Gygax Magazine called “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 1940.” I played Indiana Jones. The other characters in play were Ms. Fury, Doc Savage, and The Phantom. We had a few empty chairs, so no one played Tarzen, The Rocketeer, or The Shadow. There were car chases, Nazis, and zeppelins, as you might expect from a pulp-action game. It was a lot of fun and further cemented my wife’s preference for Savage Worlds over Pathfinder. I, too, have been leaning towards less crunchy systems over the last couple of years, and Savage Worlds and Fate are quickly rising to the top of that list for modern RPGs.

In the evening, I ran my first Paranoia game, “Groovin’ to the Oldies.” I ended up running two sessions of that particularly adventure, and will talk about my games later.

Friday started off with my second Paranoia session. The rest of the day was very low key and I only had one game in the evening, a Top Secret game set during the Cold War called “Operation: Good Night.” We took the role of western spies assigned to extract a Soviet defector from East Berlin. It was interesting to play an RPG set in setting I was somewhat familiar with, having grown up in Germany during the Cold War (though I never visited Berlin). Our group ended up having two moles, but we accomplished our primary objective without any gun play. It was a good game, though a little more gritty & realistic than I was expecting.

Saturday was the big day at Gary Con. It was the busiest from an attendance standpoint, and from a play standpoint for me. My wife ditched both of the games we were scheduled for (one of which was a game I was running!) because she was personally invited by James M. Ward to play in his female-gamer-only game “Monty Haul’s Lesser Tower of Doom.” I, of course, was perfectly OK with this, since when a former TSR luminary and con Guest of Honor invite you to his game, you don’t say no. Publicly, I acted hurt and betrayed that she ditched her husband’s game for another GM’s game. 😀

I started my day with “The FATE (sic) of Skull Island.” It was another pulp-action game set in the 1940 (I’m sensing a theme here), but using Fate Core. I had the books from the Kickstarter, of course, and I played in a Bulldogs! game at Gen Con two years ago, but I rated my comfort level with the Fate system at “Not at all comfortable.” This game changed that. I played a Dashing Barnstormer named Henry “Hank” Jericho, Captain USAAC, Ret., who was a veteran of both wars. From the event’s title, you might surmise that King Kong was involved…and you would be wrong, but his larger cousin EMPEROR Kong was. We had great fun and when the game was over, I had to dash downstairs to run my Star Wars game (WEG, 2nd edition Revised & Expanded), “A Simple Job.” All four of the players who showed up for my game had been players with me in the previous Fate game, so at least no one was waiting for me since I scheduled the games back-to-back. As with the Paranoia games, I’ll talk about my Star Wars game later.

After dinner, we tried to scare up some interest to play Edition Wars, Sentinel of the Multiverse, or Project Ninja Panda Taco, but again, my GM’s badge intimidated everyone. We instead got involved in a couple of games of Bang! The Dice Game and Cards Against Humanity. Never before have I felt guilty for liking a game (and I know there are folks out there who absolutely LOATHE Cards Against Humanity). We noted that the game at least took shots against EVERYONE and not just any particular ethnic group. Still, I understand the loathing some people have for the game, I just don’t particularly agree with it.

The oasis where we had to recover stolen drones.

The oasis where we had to recover stolen drones.

Sunday was Gary Con’s slow day, and my day started early with another Top Secret game, this one set in the modern day, run by the game’s creator, Merle Rasmussen. It featured a lot of trading and negotiation, but felt very action packed. It was a ton of fun and all the players received a printed version of the adventure “Operation Rendezvous Oasis” (which will also appear in issue 4 of Gygax Magazine) as well as a new-in-box, shrinkwrapped copy of Merle’s first game, SQWURM from 1979! It was a blast. Originally, I tried to get into Jim Ward’s Sunday game, but due to registration hiccups, there were a lot of games I couldn’t get in, and I didn’t even think to try to get into this one. I figured since it was Merle’s first convention appearance in 30 years, and Top Secret is still pretty popular, that I wouldn’t have a chance. To my shock, there were still seats when I finished registration, so I quickly saved my spot.

My novels at the Broadleaf Book Shop

My novels at the Broadleaf Book Shop

After the game, I ran into Harold Johnson in the Dealer Hall. I’d heard he was running a book shop in Lake Geneva, so I wanted to talk to him about what it would take to get my books in his store. When I showed him my books, he was excited and wanted all the copies I had with me. My novels are now carried in the Breadloaf Book Shop in Lake Geneva, WI. This pleases me to no end, since Lake Geneva is essentially the birthplace of D&D and without D&D, I probably wouldn’t be writing.

When we returned to the hotel, Gary Con was essentially over, but we managed to play a couple of games of Elder Sign. I now have another game added to my “To Purchase” list, and I bought the electronic version for my Kindle Fire.

Gary Con was a rousing success for me in many ways. My books are carried in a book store now, and I had a lot of fun. It was the best Gary Con yet. There were hiccups, to be sure (we never got to play in the Gary Con Joust as no one was ever officiating when we’d try to play), but overall, it was great. My games…well, I’ll consider them fun failures. All three ran too short. The length was the only failing of the Star Wars game, so I could beef it up with another encounter, and run it again with no other modifications (though I would like better miniatures for the vehicle segments). The Paranoia game, however, is a different story. I got all the jokes in there (I referenced disco, Saints Row IV (Dubstep Gun), Fraggle Rock, Borderlands, The Simpsons, and the Matrix), but the game was so deficiently lethal, it played more like a wacky Gamma World game than a Paranoia game. There were 2-3 deaths at most out of the 6 characters in play, far from the 400%+ death rate I should’ve had. I just didn’t have the right mix of pre-gens and Secret Society missions. I think if I add two more encounters and change up the pre-gens to all be Red clearance (I had a mix this time just to change things up) and re-write all the Secret Society missions to focus more on interparty conflict, I can get it to the right length. The ending though…I like the ending. As a response to criticism I received last year (about always ending with a button press nuclear explosions), I changed it so the button press either reboots the sector or [SPOILERS] ends the Simulation, ala The Matrix. The criticism was about the button press, not the nuclear explosion, so I misinterpreted that, but I really like the idea of Paranoia taking place in a simulation run by our Insect Overlords to keep humans occupied before they toil in the underground sugar caves (there’s your Simpsons reference…from the 90s). Oh well, they can’t all be home runs, and since both groups chose to End the Simulation, I have a perfect excuse to not run Paranoia next year since there are so many other games I want to play and run. I’m considering running all my games in costume next year, and I’ll have to fit the games to the costume so that would mean I need to run Star Trek, Fallout, and a western. I have a year to work on that.

Thanks to Luke Gygax, Dale Leonard, Gene Drebenstedt and the rest of the Gary Con staff for a great convention! I’m looking forward to next year!

Categories: Conventions | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Gen Con Tips & Advice

Gen Con is nigh! With only 6 days to go before the best four days in gaming (as of the time I’m posting this), I’m not going to rehash what so many others have put out there. What would those be, you ask? Here:

Sean K. Reynolds (of Paizo) says…
Gnome Stew (ENnie Awards-winning blog) says…
Erik Mona (of Paizo) says…
DoingIndy.com says…
Examiner.com says…

OK, enough about that. As you can see, there are tons of blogs and articles out there with advice regarding large conventions like Gen Con. My advice is going to be different. To most of it, Wheaton’s Law applies. For those of you who are link-averse, Wheaton’s Law is this: Don’t be a dick.

However, the things about which I’m going to speak, are the sorts of things people are not aware they’re being dickish about. They’re not being malicious; they just don’t have any personal experience with these sorts of issues, so when they start breaking Wheaton’s Law, they don’t know they’re doing it. My job here is not to castigate, but to educate.

Specifically, I’m talking about dealing with those who have physical challenges at conventions. The handicapped, to be blunt. People like my wife. She can walk, but conventions like Gen Con are too big for her. So, she uses a wheelchair to get around. This year, she has a snazzy metallic red electric wheelchair, but in years past, I’ve pushed her in a manual wheelchair. This gives us a unique experience at Gen Con.

The average con goer is, shall we say, Plus-Sized. OK, that’s fine. I could stand to lose 40 pounds myself. At conventions, people often have large backpacks. Sometimes, everything they brought to the convention is in this backpack. People are not always aware that this backpack adds 2′ – 3′ to their girth. They spin around quickly. If you’re in a wheelchair, those backpacks are level with your head. More than once my wife has narrowly avoided being clobbered in the head by an unaware con-goer suddenly spinning around because something caught his or her eye. When I’m pushing her, I’m watching for this sort of thing. This year she’ll be driving herself and I actually worry she’s going to get beat up.

  • Be Aware of People Around You

Moving through large groups of slow moving people is a challenge in a wheelchair. Sometimes people back up unexpectedly. Worse, they often stop unexpectedly. Sometimes it’s because the crowd in front of them has stopped. Sometimes its because something caught their eye. Sometimes it’s because someone caught their eye, and they’re stopping to chat. If this happens to you, look ahead a bit and see if there’s a spot in a booth where you can divert to stop. Please, please, please don’t just stop in the middle of the aisle to root through your backpack. You’re not in a High School hallway, stopping in the middle of the aisle is hugely disruptive.

  • Step to the far sides or into a booth space, if possible, to have conversations with friends or on your phone, or to look at the map, in your backpack, etc.

Shower regularly and use deodorant. This has been covered by almost every blog and podcast I’ve seen on the subject. I bring it up because something most people aren’t aware of: Gamer Funk is worse when your head is at waist level to the average con goer. Think about it: you sit on your butt every day during the con. Often, walking around the city during the Con can be like walking on the surface of the sun (i.e. it’s HOT). The chairs don’t breathe. Except for a very few, select people, most attendees have the crotch region covered completely by a couple of layers of clothes (basically, I’m talking about everyone who can’t get away with wearing something like a swimsuit or lingerie to Gen Con). Sweat happens. Funky things happen in dark, warm, moist areas. This is not shameful, it’s just a fact of bio-chemistry. Cleanliness saves noses!

  • Bathe regularly. Use deodorant.

Often, those of us using wheelchairs move a little slower than others in the Dealer Hall. Sorry, it’s just difficult to push a large mechanical object through a crowd. Sometimes, we have to stop for a moment to wait for an opening to cross an aisle. I know you’re in a hurry. I know there’s a demo you think you’re late for, or a game in another room. But FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY: DO NOT STEP OVER THE LEGS OF THE PERSON IN THE WHEELCHAIR. This happens to my wife at least once a year. Someone will get the bright idea that they can cut a corner if they just step over my wife’s legs. That is 100% NOT OKAY. For one, these people usually misjudge how much space they need and end up kicking my wife’s feet or the wheelchair. She’s not paralyzed, OK? She has feeling in the lower half of her body. In fact, because she has a degenerative spine condition, she feels these jolts acutely. IN HER BACK.

Pain is a funny thing (and I mean funny like a heart attack). In my wife’s case (and I know many people experience this same thing), it’s like gas prices. It’ll spike very quickly, and then take FOREVER to come back down. If you kick her wheels (however accidentally) or kick her legs because you felt stepping over her was quicker than going around, or accidentally knee the back of the chair because you’re standing too close in line, all of those jolts go right into her back. The extremities are ALL connected to the spine in some way. That jolt of pain doesn’t just go away. It takes HOURS. Often, it takes her lying down for hours before it gets back down to a manageable level and it’s not something that can be alleviated by popping a couple of ibuprofen. Chronic pain does not work that way.

More than once, she has missed out on a half-day or a whole day of a con because of this pain. When you are the cause because you carelessly stepped over her wheelchair and kicked her legs, causing a flare up of pain in her back, you have taken a day at Gen Con away from her. Is that worth saving 5 seconds to you?

  • Give wheelchairs a wide berth; don’t step over them.

This last thing is just actually a castigation because this happens every Gen Con and it’s not a matter of people being unaware; it’s a matter of people being rude jerks. If there’s a person with a wheelchair waiting for an elevator and they were there waiting when you and your group of friends arrived, WAIT FOR THE NEXT ELEVATOR IF YOU ALL WON’T FIT. More than once we have had our elevator poached by a group of rude assholes who rush to get into the elevator before we can. That’s being a dick. That’s being rude. You are bad people and should feel bad. When that happens, we hope the elevator breaks down with you in it. If I’ve had a really bad day, I hope the elevator breaks and falls back down to the ground floor with you in it. Don’t make me be a bad person for wishing bad things upon you.

  • Don’t be a dick.
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Gary Con IV Report

Ahh…four days of gaming and no work. That’s what Gary Con is to me. Gen Con may bill itself as “The Best Four Days of Gaming,” but I spend over half of my time at Gen Con working on ENnie Awards-related stuff. I get more gaming in at Gary Con.

The convention started off with me driving in on Wednesday afternoon. After getting settled in at the hotel and having dinner at Popeye’s (NOT the Chicken & Biscuits place, but a better, locally owned/operated restaurant that was there FIRST), I headed to the Lodge to collect my badge and see if I could get in on a Shadowrun game. I played a street samurai with a mild addiction to stimulants and a gold allergy I called Rio “Goldie” Cancíon. She really liked her guns, but sadly, did not get to use them much. We were a group of unknowns hired to provide security for some meeting. We never found out what the meeting was about, but we kept the location secure without killing anyone.

On Thursday, I was able to sleep in and, in fact, didn’t have anything scheduled until after lunch. I actually don’t remember if I went there in the morning to walk around and check things out. I might have. The days blur together. My first game of the day was a Hackmaster game. It was my first time playing Hackmaster (we were using the new rules; the PHB just went to ther printer last week). Our group did pretty well; there weren’t any deaths and we saved the town from the cultists who were kidnapping people for some nefarious purpose (either to turn them into undead or feed them to undead, I don’t quite remember). After that, I had a brief respite for dinner (Popeye’s again), then I was running my Ghostbusters game, “Bustin’ the Con.” One of the other Dead Games Society GMs had some custom Ghost Dice created and was able to give me one. It looked better than the one that originally came with the game.  The game went well. When I wrote the adventure, I had NO idea what the solution to main problem was. I trusted (and hoped) the players would come up with something, and they did. I’ll probably run this game at Gen Con in some capacity, so no spoilers.

Friday was a busier day than Thursday. I started with a game of Hercules & Xena (which I didn’t know was  game until I signed up for Gary Con this year). The game went really well and was easy to play with very fast task resolution (it was a West End Games d6 variant, Legends, I think). I played a Monster Slayer who was supposedly very good with the javelin and sword, though they way I was rolling, I was only good with a sword. Strangely (I didn’t plan this), it was the third game in a row I played/GMed featuring undead. For the afternoon, I was GMing Paranoia, “Soylent People are Green” (which made its debut at Gen Con about 4 years ago). I was once again told how difficult it was to get into my Paranoia game (it sold out in less than 10 minutes after registration opened). I even had some newbie players. My rough calculations indicated there was about a 250% mortality rate for this adventure, so everything turned out as it should’ve. The team leader (with Machine Empathy–those of you familiar with Paranoia KNOW what that means) died the most. He was on Clone #5 by the time the adventure wrapped up. The Loyalty Officer was only on clone #2. There was much wackiness and once again, I showed WHY people who can’t throw shouldn’t have the grenades. After Paranoia was another dinner at Popeye’s, then back to the convention for my second Hackmaster game. I was prepared for a late night, but my character died less than two hours into the adventure (rapidly and in a most bloody fashion). It was fun while it lasted (I played a close-talking elven mage with low wisdom…he didn’t always make good choices about what spells to cast).

Saturday was another busy day. I started off with an early morning Star Frontiers game. I played a vrusk (a two-armed, eight-legged insect guy) medic I called “Doctor Ix.” He wasn’t sure how many stomaches humans had and was sure they had at least two splanches (in practice, he was a VERY competent doctor, it was just funnier this way). I patched up my team regularly, even performing major surgery in the field. I was like a one-man MASH unit. After completing our goals, I had time to eat lunch before running my Star Wars game, “Imperial Entanglements.” In this game, I learned how one skill check assisted by a Force point could succeed so wildly it would “break” the adventure. I also had the least shootin’-est group I’ve ever run for. If there was an alternative to a straight-up fire fight, they looked for it (much to the chagrin of the Trandoshian soldier-playing 10-year-old who just wanted to blast something). They managed to complete the objectives in a nearly-completely non-confrontational way and never set foot on the resort & casino space station that was supposed to be the central location for the adventure. Note to self: remove all stun grenades from future versions of this adventure–they’re TOO useful in the enclosed spaces of an Imperial Shuttle. After the Star Wars game, I enjoyed an excellent dinner at Sprecher’s Restaurant & Pub.

Sunday was the last day of the con. I didn’t have anything schedule, but I managed to get into another Shadowrun game in which I played Rio “Goldie” Cancíon again. Our mission this time was mostly recon, so we spent the whole game casing a corporation’s compound near Puget Sound. There were some run ins with some jackbooted thugs driving a black van I dubbed “The A-Team,” but we were able to evade them without trading shots (I really wanted to open up with my machine gun, but didn’t get the chance). There was a wacky plan to have me parasail from the sound over the compound to take pictures, but once we hired a hacker and found out what sort of security they had, I’m rather glad I didn’t get that reckless (besides, parasailing over a coniferous forest just sounds like a bad idea). We didn’t get as much intel as our employer would have liked, but we did acquire a lot of nifty tech to sell, so our payday was quite lucrative.

A good time was had by all. I’ve already started contemplating what my games for next year will be. I could probably get away with running nothing but Paranoia all weekend and have full tables each time, but that might get a little boring for me. We’ll see…

 

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Gary Con IV

There isn’t a Doctor StrangeRoll game this week due to Gary Con IV in Lake Geneva, WI. I’ll be there, so I can’t be here. See you in a couple of weeks!

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