I made my way to Gen Con like so many other con goers by airport, hustling to make a late connection flight in Detroit that required running the entire length of the Detroit Delta Air terminal. I fortunately made the connection and arrived in Indianapolis’ airport on time, which is so gamer friendly that the walkway to transportation is its own video game – lights above you track your progress as you move along the terminal, turning from red to blue, until you reach the end and then it plays a pleasant sound and lights up the entire row (watch the video to see it in action).
I milled around in confusion with all the other visitors waiting for the hotel shuttle. Indianapolis doesn’t appear to have anyone actually representing airport shuttles – there are plenty of folks who will pounce on you for a limo or taxi – but eventually figured it out. When I was in the elevator of the hotel one guest asked me if I had been to the hotel before and when I said I was new, he mentioned earplugs. How loud could it be?
Turns out that the airport hotel is next to an airport. Every 15 minutes a jet would roar past. The hotel provides earplugs but I skipped them because I was exhausted. I also learned that there’s a shuttle that runs every hour to Gen Con. It’s $50 for the entire weekend and takes about an hour for the furthest hotel (which I was at) to reach Gen Con, but well worth it for visitors who can’t spare the cash.
My taxi driver dropped me off at my second hotel on Thursday morning, where I checked my luggage and then made my way to the press room. I was probably around the 30th person to arrive around 6:45 a.m. in the morning. The reason there was 29 people ahead of me? The first 100 press get to enter the dealer’s room an hour early. To my surprise, I met my buddies at the Gamerstable RPG Podcast – we have an uncanny ability to show up at the exact same place at the exact same time – and they graciously invited me to their Gamerstable awards that evening.
After getting my press badge, I then got on line for Will Call to get my other tickets. After that line, I got on line to get coupons as the press swag didn’t include the coupons for the Exhibit Hall. Then I got on line to get early access to the Exhibit Hall. This line wound around the entire building and outside of it, and included Trade Day folks, Press, and Very Important Gamer (VIG) packages, which numbered in the hundreds. I spoke to the VIG members and they were all very happy with their package, and I imagine even happier when they discovered free copies of the Player’s Handbook and Monster Manual!
I spent the hour checking out what was new in the Exhibit Hall. The Exhibit Hall seems even bigger than before; the rows now number up to 3,000, but maybe that’s just my imagination. One thing Gen Con wisely changed was the indy and artist sections so that they are part of the natural flow of attendees walking up and down the aisles. This ensures they are not sectioned off from the rest of the convention flow, and by the looks of it definitely increased business for them.
Gen Con is a unique mix of tabletop gaming, card gaming, board gaming, video gaming, cosplay, and anime and the diversity of vendors reflects that in the Exhibit Hall. There’s so much to see and do that you can spend the majority of the con simply wandering the massive Hall.
My next stop was an interview with D&D game designer Jeremy Crawford who DMed for me last time I was at Gen Con during the playtest. I’ll share the transcript of our interview soon.
I then returned to the Exhibit Hall to meet with friend of the column, Jay Semerad, who is the lead designer of Foretold: Rise of a God. I got a demo of the game and then interviewed Jay, which will be posted later.
Then it was time for a quick game (and I mean QUICK GAME) of Defiance in Phlan. The Cult of the Dragon has come to Phlan, a refuge town on the Moonsea, and players take part in one of five different missions aimed at stopping the cult from securing a foothold in the city. Unfortunately, we all used pregenerated characters which led to no less than five dwarf clerics at the table. By the time we sorted that out (we were down to three dwarf clerics, two fighters, and a wizard), we managed to whip through two encounters. Goblins died, then a bugbear, and some wolves ate one of our fighters but he was immediately given a new character (a twin brother!) so the player could keep playing. I’ve decided I’m over these 1 hour sessions, that are so short you can barely figure out who the other players are much less achieve any kind of goal.
By the time that was over I was off to the Gamerstable awards at St. Elmo’s Steakhouse, where Shane Hensley of Savage Worlds fame was honored for revolutionizing the role-playing game format. It was a delicious dinner and the Gamerstable folks were gracious hosts.
I then retreated back to my hotel room to use my Con*Quest Adventure Journal, which I picked up at in the Exhibit Hall as a Kickstarter backer. Overall, it seems Indianapolis has finally figured out how to accommodate the massive influx of gamers. Everyone, from the hotel staff to the restaurant staff, understands and caters to the gaming population (including several beggars who are out in force). This is a good sign that the only barrier to getting gamers to the con is the logistics of the con itself.