(Cross-posted with my Wasted Lands blog)
Got back from Gen Con Sunday and needed some time to recover before writing anything about it.
The short version: the con was an absolute blast. There were a TON more vendors in the dealer's room, though not a single video game vendor this year. The con in general had a sense of excitement and anticipation for the future that I haven't sensed there in a few years now. Pathfinder has taken off in a big way, which for reasons upon which I cannot elaborate right now is a very good thing.
The trip out was interesting. We got stuck in a TORRENTIAL downpour just inside the Indiana border. Everything was so flat we could see the lightning hitting the ground all around us. It was pretty terrifying, actually--at one point I was a bit worried we might see a tornado form. But we turned off the highway and found a parking lot to wait it out. This was at some industrial supply company on a back road in the middle of the Indiana countryside. Thank God for the Garmin or we might not have gotten back to Rt. 70. Julie was very nearly struck by lightning when she was a teenager, so she doesn't do well with lightning storms--she was pretty panicked by the time we found the lot, but she did well not to wreck the car. At that point we switched off and I drove for awhile, until about a half hour out of Indy we found this travel stop that--so help me God--sold grilled turkey legs just like you see at a Ren Faire, for $4.99.
I bought one.
It was tasty.
There were a lot of production issues this year--apparently some last-minute labor law changes or conflicts in China had seriously adverse effects on a lot of publishers and manufacturers, so many folks who had hoped to have new product there...just didn't. That was a shame, but many did at least have a token sample copy that people could look through.
Not a great deal of representation for the old school community beyond the usual retailers but that's not a surprise. Let's face it: the OSR is a relatively tiny movement in the overall industry, though it does tend to make a lot of noise. Perhaps next year a number of OSR publishers should consider going in on a booth together? Just a thought.
I walked away with more of a haul this year than usual. Picked up the Age of Conan board game for $45, brand new. Got a few Mongoose Conan RPG books as they were liquidating stock and all were discounted. Julie and I split the cost on the two Dresden Files RPG books. I got the entire system-free Freeport series (3 books thus far) at 50% off from Green Ronin. Picked up ESP 3 and Enter the Zombie from Eden (ESP at zero cost b/c I was owed a comp copy and EtZ because mine is falling apart). I also nabbed a copy of "Roll d∞," the new periodical from Skirmisher Publishing that is designed to support all tabletop games, not tied to any specific system. If it takes off it should be interesting. And I picked up the Fields of Battle mass combat/miniatures system for C&C, as well as their CKG preview (a $10 bound version of Chapter 1 of the at-last-forthcoming CKG). Finally, I secured a really awesome hand-carved churchwarden pipe and stand, made from rosewood, for $55.
I got to meet a few fans, including Kurt Wiegel of Game Geeks. All were really cool and pleasant. My buddy Taejas made the comment after Kurt came over to our table at Johnny Rockets that he (Taej) can't get used to one of his friends having fans. I just said I wish fortune actually went hand-in-hand with fame.
I sat in on one of the writers' seminars and found it to be lacking. Overall the panel was quite good with some very sound advice, but the attendees made it rough, asking questions like, "Do you have a special tool you keep by your side when writing?"...in a seminar about making a living as a freelancer. The problem with this is that the seminar was only an hour long and such inane questions took time away from more valuable questions such as, "how do you research quickly a game you've never played before?" and "how do you actually land gigs writing copy for Amazon or toy companies?" (Hint: the unfortunate answer to both is "know someone" or "get to know someone.")
I then had to listen to whining afterward from people who somehow thought this panel would be a magic wand to make them wealthy novelists. But perhaps the biggest problem with the writers' symposium is that the seminars tend to be the same fare year after year, so if you attend once, attending again is just refresher stuff.
Did a troop with the Indiana branch of the Rebel Legion and 501st on Thursday night, which was awesome. All of those folks are great people, and we had a lot of fun interacting with the kids at the restaurant. One little boy who had to be about 2 or 3 years old and had a birth defect (deformed left hand) jumped up when he saw me, pointed, and yelled, "JEDI!" He and his brother took pictures--I let them hold my lightsaber, which they loved--and when they had to leave the poor kid burst into tears because he did NOT "want to go bye-bye." One of the guys up there brought his 7-year-old daughter who had the coolest Jawa costume I've ever seen--it was screen accurate to the glowing lightbulb eyes, and she had a sound card and voicebox built into it that (loudly) chattered in Jawa-ese. She was the hit of the troop, obviously. Plus, trooping there (at Scotty's Brew Pub) introduced me to the best-kept secret in Indy. Scotty's is everything the Ram is, but better. It's about twice the size of the Ram, so there's no waiting for two hours for a table, it has the custom Gen Con menu (this year's was from Troll Lord and Green Ronin, I think), all of the gaming banners, and the TVs playing sci-fi and fantasy movies all weekend. It's a great place to eat. Good food, GREAT service (another leg up over the Ram, whose service is "meh" at best) and good prices. I had a very good T-Bone steak for less than $15.
My food consumption was not as varied this year as it usually is. Ate at Scotty's twice, ate at Johnny Rocket's twice, ate at White Castle once (because we don't have them in Pgh...but the fact that the window sills were COVERED in dead mosquitoes makes me think I won't be eating there again), and on Saturday (which was my birthday) Julie, Rico, Taejas, and Derek took me to P.F. Chang's. Outside Chang's some guy came up to us with a video camera and asked if he could ask us a question. He refused to tell us in advance what the question was, though he assured us it wouldn't end up online. Rico and Taej (who are both elementary school teachers) were uncomfortable, so I volunteered. The guy then proceeded to turn on the camera and ask me, "Who do you think Jesus Christ is?"
The gang said they could see my entire religious studies degree flash through my brain as I considered how badly I wanted to screw the guy over. In the end I decided to be nice and just tell him, "I'm Christian so I believe he was the son of God, but I also respect people who believe otherwise." I kinda wish I'd been more of a smart ass about it, but ah well.
By the end of the Con my feet were in agony and covered with blisters (I chose poorly when it came to walking shoes) but I had an euphoric time. I also secured several new freelancing gigs and got some great inside industry buzz that I can't really throw out there as it's unconfirmed at this time.
The trip home was long and involved many stops to stretch our legs and wake up, but we made it without incident.
Overall the best time I've had at GC in several years. Good stuff.