Convention Reports
A Visit to GenCon 2001
Christmas in Milwaukee?
Christmas in Milwaukee? No, it's just GenCon.

Another year, another GenCon. This is my ninth consecutive report! (And I had been going a year or two previous to that.) See the links to those reports above. (I'm not as late this year as I have been occasionally in the past, but yes, it is November. I've been busy. )

This was the fourth time that GenCon has been in the new Midwest Express Center; it is pretty hard to believe that the lamented MECCA Convention Center has already been gone for three years. We're starting to get used to the new digs, just in time for the show to move to Indianapolis in 2003. (Although it may not; let's see what Milwaukee can pull out of its hat. I'm a Milwaukee native, and I'd rather see it stay here than move 5 hours away.)

They still haven't built a skywalk to the bits of MECCA still around (the Arena and Auditorium), and I'm guessing that by this point, they won't. It would certainly help making the trek between the buildings easier, especially in bad weather (not that we had any of that this year).

Wednesday, August 1 - Where did my registration go?

To: ...
Subject: Gen Con 2001 Pre-Registration
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2000 21:07:27 -0800
X-OriginalArrivalTime: 19 Dec 2000 05:07:27.0287 (UTC)

Dear Gen Con Registrant,

Thank you for submitting your registration for Gen Con 2001.

We have begun processing it. When we finish processing your registration, you will receive a registration confirmation letter in the mail (approximately 3 weeks from today).

[. . . . . . . . . . . . and so on . . . . . . . . . . . . ]

The question on everyone's mind was, "What happened to my registration?" Well, everyone who was me, that is. I arrived 6-ish to get my stuff, and waited in the right line this year (which was really long, but moved along pretty well). In any case, my brother's pre-reg was there, but mine was not. I went to several places to try to figure out the problem, but there was no good answer at all. So I finally broke down and bought a badge at on-site prices. (And hoped that I'd be able to get the pre-reg taken off of my charge card.)

So, I get home that night (after the RPGA meeting, more on that later) and check... Yep, there is the email from them. Hmm. I look through my charge card bills. No charges. Well, it seems that they lost my registration early in the process. (I had forgotten to watch for the registration letter and follow up if I didn't get it... which I hadn't.) I guess it's partly my fault, but I did give them all the right information at the right times. (And, since I didn't get around to pre-regging for events, I didn't know they had lost it until the con.)

GenCon 2001 badge
The badge...

By the way, they did something annoying with the badges this year. Take a look at the picture - there are no names there. They just give you a laminated badge, no attempt to put your name on it or anything. I tell you, I like the names on badges so that I can tell who it is that I'm talking to sometimes! I see some people only a couple times a year, and some I've never met in person, so it's tricky without the names!

At the RPGA meeting that evening, I met up with a bunch of old friends and met some new people, and I was up front when David Wise announced the Big Bombshell...

David Wise
David Wise dropping The Big Bombshell
Ryan Dancey
Ryan Dancey sweeping up the pieces

Living City had been sold; a company named Organized Play had bought the rights to run it. David brought Ryan Dancey (one of the big people behind getting D&D 3rd Edition out the door) on stage. Ryan had formed this company to run organized games of many sorts, including Living City.

Since then, more details have come to light about the plan; Ryan has said that he doesn't want to change things too quickly, but he has a definite vision on how things will work, including a central database of characters and magic items that would need to be updated after every game. He also wants to improve the quality of the events. There are a few people who don't agree with some of the more ambitious parts of his plan (like myself), but we shall see how it works. (Or doesn't work, as some may suggest - that's a pretty big database he's planning.)

Other bits from the meeting, modified by further news:

Thursday, August 2 - We save the Republic at what hour?

I got back to the con site around 7 AM, in order to stake out a spot in the Living Force game (first of the Clouds trilogy) with my generic ticket. I in fact did do so, and had a lot of fun playing down in the Labyrinth with August Hahn (of the LF campaign staff) as judge. Dark Side points were flying, although not in my direction. We visited a cloud city on the planet of Genarius for the first time.

Then it was time to visit the great hall and spend the cash burning a hole in my pocket. As usual, I'll just collect all the stuff from all four days here.

KenzerCo's art board
Part of Kenzer Co's art board, that people could draw on, and add captions to comics

Phil and Kaja Foglio are in the process of publishing a new comic, Girl Genius. It's a steampunk world, with rare individuals called "Sparks" that have an ability to bend the laws of the universe and build fantastical machines - they are mad scientists, like Agatha Heterodyne, the heroine of the series. It's a lot of fun. Go buy it! I already had pretty much everything that they had for sale, but I found a pin of the Winslow. (The Winslow is an omnipotent(?) being that looks a lot like a cute stuffed alligator, and is prominently featured in the Foglio's previous series, Buck Godot: The Gallimaufry.)

Tom Smith, the World's Fastest Filker, has written the Transylvania Polygnostic University Fight Song (for the university featured in Girl Genius.) He's put the results on

Of course, Kenzer & Company was there, with their new Hackmaster game system, the Player's Handbook and the first two "Hacklopedias" of monsters. I bought the PHB, pretty much just to have it, since I've followed the Knights of the Dinner Table comic almost since the beginning. I haven't really looked much at it yet, although at some time I want to see the rules behind the comic book. It does hearken back to First Edition AD&D, something that I feel is not to be grasped for, since 1st Ed. was quite a morass of rules. But as the backdrop for the highly dysfunctional groups in KODT, it's good.

The Dork Storm Press booth was also fun; they publish the comics Dork Tower, Nodwick (of Dragon magazine fame) and PvP (which started out as a daily online comic strip, and still continues - one of my favorite of the genre). Since I already had all issues of the comics, I consoled myslef with buying a copy of Pokethulhu, a small game inspired by John Kovalic, the creator of Dork Tower. Imagine a world where Pokemons are actually members of the Cthulhu mythos... you get to play the kids who train the cuddly, bloodthirsty Pokethulhus.

I'm also now member #214 of Hechmen's Local #246, so says my laminated membership card.

Steve Jackson Games was there; their Cardboard Heroes books provide an inexpensive way to have a bunch of miniatures, without spending a lot of time to paint them. They now have plastic bases that can be used with them to give them more weight. These have been previously difficult to find; the only place I have found to buy them by themselves (rather than as part of another game) was a British company called Plastics for Games, Ltd.

MasterMaze... oh, if I could justify buying some

To go with this theme, MicroTactix has downloadable templates that can be printed on cardstock to make unlimited armies, buildings and terrain. They had some deals going on, but I would have little use for them, however neat they are. They were handing out samples, a d10 you could cut out and assemble.

On the other end of the coolness/expense spectrum is the MasterMaze system, which has been sold at GenCon for many years. They have beautifully painted dungeon sections that can be put together in a multitude of arrangements. There are even natural cave sections. Dan's Con of the Vale II, a couple of weeks ago, used something like 20 sets to create a layout during its interactive. (I know, since I helped put it up and take it down. ) They're even cooler when you're putting them together. Unfortunately, I would not have any use for them, so I can't justify buying them.

Incoming! Roll me a Reflex save!

It has turned out that Phage Press has finally put out another copy of Amberzine this year, and is getting ever so closer to actually publishing more Amber Diceless Roleplaying books. It's been, um, a while.

And yes, Fortress WOTC was there, with a lot of demos on a number of items, including D&D, Star Wars, Magic, and so forth.

At 5 PM was the first round of the Virtual Seattle (RPGA's Shadowrun campaign) Prime Runner event (at least for me). The judge was Steve Gabriel, the author, so that was good. We had fun getting screwed by a megacorp as usual, even though I didn't advance to the next round. (This was the only event that I actually had scheduled ahead of time, other than volunteering at the LC Interactive.)

After that, I went home to rest and recharge for the next day.

Friday, August 3 - Look, really, this is the only Holy Water we have for sale...

I was back and waiting for the LF game (Clouds 2) with a generic ticket again early, and lucked into a spot. This time, there wasn't a LF campaign staffer running the table, but it still was great as we visited another cloud city on Genarius.

Next was a quick generic ticket into the 2-round Virtual Seattle game... It was pretty good, and earned us a lot of Karma and some money. (I can't really say much about these games without giving the plots away...)

After that, on this marathon day, was the Living City Interactive. I ran the Temples table, while people swarmed about (especially to the Magic Item creation table across the way.) I don't think that I had a free moment until we closed around 1 AM. We signed up a lot of characters, sold a lot of Holy Water (didn't have it from quite all of the temples, though) and answered questions related to the new cosmology of Toril with 3rd Edition D&D. To be honest, I don't know much about how the rest of the Interactive went, like this whole "Game of Masks" thing. ;) I got a couple benefits for my characters as thanks for volunteering, kind of cool. So there must have been some interesting parts of the Interactive.

We stumbled out of the convention center well after 1 AM and went home.

Most of the dice that I bought during the con...

Saturday, August 4 - Look, I do know how to fly this thing...

I dragged myself back to the convention center a bit later this day, as the LF game (Clouds 3) was running at noon as well. (While parts 1 and 2 only ran at 8 AM on Thursday and Friday, there were three slots of part 3; Friday late, Saturday early, and Saturday noon.) Anyway, based on information from the first two events, we entered into a dangerous mission among the clouds of Genarius, succeeded, and crashed at the site of the Interactive, which was taking place immediately following.

The Living Force Interactive was a lot of fun, with many booths to play at. (My character, Sy-Amun-Katari, won a bunch of money at sabacc, but there was no place to buy a ship! ;)) Later, the plot heated up, with August doing his hilarious impression of a hologram from the Metatheran Cartel.

After this, you guessed it, the second half of the LC Interactive happened. It went much like the first half, and we stumbled out well after 1 AM again. Whew. I hope that people had fun playing it.

Sunday, August 5 - Time to let the dice cool down...

I returned to the convention center late, and spent quite a bit of time at the Great Hall buying stuff. Later was the RPGA awards ceremony, with the usual bits of silliness and tired relief at the convention being over. I bid farewell to friends, and headed home.

Jason Bulmahn handing out an award Clare Hoffman giving Steve Swan his Living Death item
Highfolk Triad (Living Greyhawk) member Jason Bulmahn talks about the event the Triad wrote for GenCon, and hands out a special item.... Living Death administrator Clare Hoffman hands out an item to Steve Swan, which amuses her far more than it does him....

So wrapped up another fine year for the con, proving that you can indeed walk in without a thing planned and still have fun. Just buy a lot of generic tickets. See you next year!

Mage Knight dragonfly rider
I think that one of these will be my ride next year...