There was a brief, unannounced hiatus from the blog while I took a week off to attend Gen Con. Last year I posted a note like this on Facebook. I found the notes a useful reference point when planning for this year. It is my hope that these notes will help for future years.
Ten Things I Took from Gencon 2014:
1. Hotel registration was worse than ever this year. Event registration was marginally better, but only because i didn't try to register until two weeks after it opened. Gen Con seems to pay a lot of lip service to improving these services without ever doing anything that makes them any better. I guess as long as they having increases in attendance every year, they will not do much to change things. The on-site situation, however, was much better. Lines were long at Will Call and in other places, but seemed to move at a much quicker pace. The expansion of the dealer hall also really relived the congestion in the aisles. Even the Saturday crush was better despite the increase in attendance this year. Good job on that. Now just make it so that I can get a room without having a stroke every year.
2. There are two restaurants in the Mariott. Champions is the one that everyone frequents. I find this puzzling as my two efforts to eat there were filled with microwaved food and at least one attempt to give a friend e. coli. Circle City Bar and Grille on the other hand is delightful. It never seems to be crowded, has always had good food, and tailors the menu to the gamers in attendance. It is sort of like the Ram, only with far better fare and less waiting to be seated.
3. Gamestation had no booth this year. Their presence at Gen Con has been gradually shrinking for several years. Curiously their website is down as well. I hate to see that. I do not much like their precision dice, but I have always wanted the WKU grads in the gaming business to succeed.
4. The dealer hall was bigger than ever! The added aisles were very welcome and not just for the eased congestion. The number of small vendors selling cool things was impressive. I purchased several products from the little guys this year. I wonder how many of them would not have even gotten space in the hall without the expansion.
5. Last year I declared Paizo/Pathfinder to be the new kings of the Role-playing world. This year they provided evidence that they might not be benevolent dictators. Roping off your entire booth and then making people line up outside the dealer hall for a chance to get in was a complete dick move. Certainly that probably helped with the congestion situation, but those folks standing in line did not get to see anything but a hallway until they got to go to the Paizo booth. That is certainly not the way I want to spend my vacation.
6. D&D NEXT/5e/V, whatever you want to call it seems to have gleaned some positive buzz. Everyone I came in contact with who encountered it seems to have at least something good to say about it. I cannot tell if that is because people actually like it, or they are just happy that fourth edition is now mercifully put out to pasture.
7. I heartily recommend finding something to do outside the convention area a couple of times per convention. This year I went on Thursday night to the theater at the Circle Center Mall to see Guardians of the Galaxy (Excellent!). On Friday, I took the six block walk with friends to eat at Shapiro's Deli (also Excellent). These departures from the convention craziness were very welcome. Too much noise and too many people lead to gamer crud and sensory overload.
8. Food trucks continue to be really spotty. On Wednesday night, I got an excellent Crawfish Po Boy from one truck. On Saturday, my friends waited for 30 minutes or so to place their order and then nearly an hour to get tepid, mediocre food. Aren't food trucks supposed to be fast and convenient? That seems like neither.
9. The Con Bag was a definite upgrade, and a good way for many con-goers to haul their stuff around. I filled mine up with purchases for the ride home. A book bag with a strap is certainly less likely to clog up the trashcans than the plastic jobs they have given out in past years. The coupon book, however, has gotten as dire as the swag did back in the day. There is no coupon to the coupons. Does anyone actually use any of the coupons other than the Crystal Caste free die?
10. I got to play in a number of RPG sessions this year. Even with one cancellation, I managed to play three sessions of 7th Sea and a game of Desolation with one of the designers. Since I never get to play those games, i was more than happy to paritcipate in each of those sessions.I noticed, however, a couple of problems. First, in two of the four sessions hand waved the final encounter. I paid good money to beat up the bad guys, not have the GM say: "You beat up the bad guys!" Also, I noted a marked amount of house rules going on. That is not a problem per se, but a GM needs to realize that a house rule, even one they have used for years, is likely not going to be familiar to the players coming to a convention game table. I do not need to play the game "as written" necessarily, but if you change something it is on you to realize that it is different than the rules as written, not me.
The housing debacle and the stressors involved in convention planning made me declare more than once that this would quite possibly be my last Gen Con. It is easy to forget how much fun the con can be once you get there. Then you forget how much of a pain it is to get registered for the con when you start making plans for the next year. I enjoy Gen Con a lot, and this year was a good year indeed. i will have to keep my mind on that when I am pulling my hair out next year while securing a room.