Convention Reports
A Visit to GenCon 2002
Long line inside...
...and outside
A long registration line inside and outside.

Well, look at that - this is my tenth year of writing a GenCon report! I've been doing it since before the World Wide Web (although just barely) - that's really odd, in "Internet Time", I've been at this forever. And you know, GenCon has been in Milwaukee "forever" as well, and in Wisconsin since its inception 34 years ago. Next year, it moves to Indianapolis. (Boo! Hiss!) I guess I will need to get a hotel room next year. Since lack of hotel rooms seems to be the main reason that it is moving away from Milwaukee, I hope that it goes smoothly for me...

The initial reports were posted on the GEnie online service, which was the first online service I subscribed to. I've moved them forward to a couple different web sites of mine since then.

Well, that's next year, something to be tabled for a few months at least. (Note: it looks like registration will be more automated next year - they had the signups online in a better fashion than previous years, and with Peter Adkison's purchase of GenCon, it looks like he trying to make it even better.)

Wednesday, August 7 - Misjudged schedules

I arrived at the convention center about quarter to six. After last year's registration snafu, I had made sure that I registered for everything ahead of time. The system was such a that you bought a badge, waited a couple days, and could then register for events. I had gotten the badge pretty much when they went on sale (and had it shipped to me), but I delayed a little too long and missed some of the events I was hoping for. In any case, there was no option to get the tickets shipped, so I waited in a huge line to pick them up - it only took about a half hour, which wasn't that long, considering the length of the line. The line got longer later, going out the door onto the sidewalk.

GenCon 2002 badge
The badge this year

After picking up the tickets, I headed over to the Hyatt to partake of the RPGA members meeting, only to find it had been cancelled. There were varying stories as to the room being double-booked (it seemed empty to me), or there being nothing to talk about (right...) or that the RPGA management was too afraid to speak to the members (a conspiracy theory that I certainly don't believe).

In any case, I wandered around a while, talking with people, and making it over to the Arena where the RPGA games would be taking place. The Auditorium is being renovated into a more modern theater (there's a big hole to the outside where the stage should be), so half of the complex was closed to us. After a bit of this, I headed back home so that I could get back early the next morning.

Thursday, August 8 - On the road

RPGA battle mat
The RPGA battle mat

I arrived early at the Living Force marshalling area so that I could use generic tickets to get into it; this was one of the games that had been sold out in prereg. I ended up being able to buy a ticket from someone who didn't need it, and played a fairly enjoyable table - my character, a Cerean pilot/mechanic, got to do a bit of what he's good at.

After this (we ended a bit early), I stopped by the RPGA headquarters - as a paying member of the RPGA (for now about 12 years), I was entitled to a battle mat - the membership in RPGA is now free. It's pretty much a standard Chessex mat with the RPGA logo.

I then ran off to the Grand Avenue Mall to get lunch, and my passage took me through the skywalk system through the Reuss Federal Building - the bright blue building across the street from the convention center. Well, they had a metal detector, and I dislike subjecting myself to them. So, I always went at street level from them on.

Dungeon Magnets
Less than half of the tiles from the basic Dungeon Magnets set

After coming back, I had an hour or so to canvass the great hall, and I found some cool things. First was Dungeon Magnets, which is a new product from Carnivorous Plant Games, which seems to be two guys in a basement. However, I bought the first set for $20, and they have another set coming soon. Basically, they have little magnets in the shape of rooms, doors, stairways, etc, which you can mix and rearrange on a magnetic board to make dungeons. Pretty nifty, and a lot less expensive than Master Maze. (BTW, they are very new, and are still working on the web site.)

Master Maze alacarte
::sigh:: masterMaze, a la carte...

Speaking of Master Maze, they were there, and I was still wanting to get them - however, they wouldn't be anything that I would be able to use much. I have come up with the idea of putting them under the Christmas tree this year, however...

As usual, there was a moderate amount of free stuff at the con - I picked up some of it - in fact, pictured below is just about all of it save the fliers. One interesting handout was from Rick Loomis of Flying Buffalo - one of the oldest gaming companies around. This was released at Origins this year, and was called The Origins Metagame - it is a collectable card game with actual game industry people, companies and products. It plays sort of like a cross between War and Rock, Paper, Scissors (in that that is how the winner of each trick is determined). I bought a few packs - it's pretty neat. You can see Rick's and Flying Buffalo's cards in the picture below.
Free stuff Crossed Swords
Free stuff at the con The Crossed Swords (two to the right) and friend - they are a swordfighting duo that has been coming to GenCon for many years, and put on a great show

All the Magic cards
A display of all of the Magic: The Gathering cards, sorted by name and editions

There wasn't much in the way of huge new releases this year, with the possible exception of HeroClix DC and Battletech. The makers of Mage Knight (the collectable miniatures game with turnable bases that represent how damaged a figure is) are releasing a version based on superheroes. The Marvel version has been out a while, as I understand, and the DC version just came out and sold out quickly at the con. Also, the Battletech version of Mage Knight came out as well. Both were being demonstrated in a huge area between the main doors and Fortress WOTC.

Speaking of the Fortress, it looked to be the same as last year, although the stuff was a bit rearranged. d20 Modern was being demoed, although it won't be out into the fall. I picked up some buttons that give bonuses for certain games. (You can see a couple in the "free stuff" picture above.) There was a section that was running a dungeon crawl using Master Maze that used the iconic D&D PCs - the kill count on Saturday showed that poor Krusk the Barbarian had been offed more than 20 times, and a lot of the others not far behind.

At 2 PM, I wandered over to the RPGA area to run part of the Living City metacenter, where people could bring thier PCs to sign up for organizations, buy or make magic items, buy animals, etc. It was a busy five hours.

At 7, I played the first of the two Virtual Seattle scenarios ("Escort Service"), and let's just say that the road was rough. My judge was Rich Osterhout, the new administrator, and a lot of the other players were significant players in their own right. We had fun until the... well, the Bad Thing happened. Grr.

Friday, August 9 - Ow, stop punching me in the stomach!

This was a pretty rough day for my characters - first up was "Escape from Tehn", a Living Greyhawk event. It was rough on my 7th level cleric of Fharlanghn (and the other four clerics at the table - bad organizing), but we persevered with only one PC death.

After that was "Forgotten Echoes" - a much more deadly scenario (and we played our low level party at too high a threat level), as four of the PCs died, including mine - he got better, though. To be honest, this was the low point of the convention, even before the deaths.

Finally, came the third part of the Living Force trilogy, the only one I got a ticket for. (I hope to get in part 2 sometime.) It was well-written, although it had some troubling bits, for more than our table, I understand.

Well, that business over with, I went home and crashed.

Saturday, August 10 - Hey, look, there's stuff to buy! Where's my credstick?

I got a chance this day to hit the Art Show, the Auction, and the Great Hall in much greater depth, since I didn't have a game until 2 PM. The Art Show had a lot more tables of artists selling this year - the actual gallery was pushed way in the back of the room almost as an afterthought. There was some good stuff there, but nothing that tempted me enough to buy.

The Auction, likewise, came close to getting me to spend money, but not quite. It was in a new place this year, on the first floor of the main convention center - the room it was been in the last several years is over by the Auditorium, and is closed due to the construction.

At 2 PM, I went to the Living Force Interactive, which of course didn't start until 2:30. I have never seen an Interactive start on time. I wore my "Weird Al" Yankovic "The Saga Begins" t-shirt this day. This is the one that has a parody of the Vader-shadow poster for Star Wars: Episode I on the front, and a concert schedule that includes Tatooine, Theed, Alderaan (cancelled), etc. on the back. I got many comments on it all day. Anyway, the Interactive was a bit short and focused on metagaming booths, although there was a referendum about letting the Theran military stay in the Cularin system, or kick them out in favor of the militia. Everyone's favorite caarite, Thurm Logg of the Metatheran Cartel, made an appearance first via hologram, and then by droid. August Hahn is very entertaining playing him. I think that the Thurm-bot had been destroyed and replaced 28 times before the end of the Interactive.

Living Force Interactive Thurm Logg at the Living Force Interactive

Campaign staffer August Hahn portraying recurring villain Thurm Logg, using his theory of dressing the part in found objects
(at left) People dressing up at the Living Force Interactive

After that was a bit more shopping, and dinner, and then at 7 PM, the other Virtual Seattle scenario, "I Only Want What's Mine". It was quite interesting, and we completed the mission very successfully, but with little loot (both a lot due to my rigger's use of anto-vehicle rockets). It also introduced a continuing thread for the campaign now.

The Big Announcement RPGA Headquarters
The sign from the Big Announcement in 1999 (3rd Edition D&D) - the little sign at the upper right is telling people that this is from three years ago - don't go to the WOTC booth and ask. RPGA Headquarters, including shields from many Living Greyhawk regions - hey, where's Highfolk?

Sunday, August 11 - A mental haze settles...

Sunday morning was my second stint with the Living City metacenter, with a lot more people signed up. After that, I went to get some late lunch with some friends from out of state - unfortunately, I missed the RPGA awards ceremony. About 3:30, we ended back in the Great Hall, and made some last-minute purchases - not much in the way of last-minue bargains, but there were some things I had missed nonetheless.

Downtown Indianapolis Last GenCon in Wisconsin?
Model of downtown Indianapolis - ::sniff:: Last GenCon in Wisconsin - right.... It'll be back!

Anyway, it was fun, although things seemed a bit muted for the last year in Milwaukee, for now. See you next year in ::sniff:: Indianapolis!