Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gen Con 2009 - What is there for those who still play 3.5E?

Gen Con is what is considered by many (and by me) to be the gaming convention.

Despite my longstanding participation (off and on) with gaming, I have only managed to make the trip out to Gen Con once. I would not remember the precise year had I not saved the program. It was 1994. John DeLancie was one of the special guests. I did not try and wait in line to get his autograph or talk to him, but I did see him there.

Larry Elmore was also there, with pretty much his whole family, in a booth. I liked Elmore a lot as a kid. He did a lot of Dragon Magazine covers. He also did the original art on the cover of the original Dragonlance novels. (I liked those, but didn't think they were great - I have read better fantasy). He has a very distinctive style. A friend of mine thinks that you can always tell an Elmore painting by the feathers. I'm not sure how true that is, but I certainly can recognize his work. I really liked his Snarfquest comic as a kid as well. That and What's New with Phil and Dixie I looked forward to in my Dragon magazines each month. Again, neither were high art, but they were fun, and there's nothing quite like the memories of what you enjoyed as a kid. Needless to say, I really enjoyed meeting him and getting some of his art signed.

Additionally, I managed to snag one of the last Dragon Magazines I did not have at that time, Issue number one. This was before E-bay, so digging up old issues mostly involved treasure hunts in used bookstores (one bookstore hit me the mother lode). Gen Con was the last, ultimate place to get any holes filled in. After Issue One, I basically had them all, save, I think, Issue 61, which, ironically enough, was the issue that came out just before the very first Dragons I ever bought, Issues 62 and 63.

I actually did not play any RPGs at the convention. I tend to think it is more fun to play that with friends on an ongoing campaign, so it didn't appeal to me to play any at Gen Con. There was lots to do and see without doing any games, though I did sign up to play Advanced Squad Leader - both in single games and in a tournament. I ended up doing very well, nearly winning the tournament and winning a few single round games. That was a lot of fun. That's when I determined that my skill at the game was actually pretty decent. Up until then I had basically only played it with my cousin (who also went to Gen Con with me). My cousin also figured out I was good at it because he also played ASL there and did very well - up until then, in playing only me, I had beaten him almost every single scenario we had done. In so doing, he learned how to play very well by playing me, so when he played others, he actually beat them quite handidly. One of these days, I may post more about that game in general. One other funny thing of note - in one of the large games of ASL I played at Gen Con, a team game, one of the people on the opposite side looked almost exactly like my brother-in-law. It was uncanny.

I also saw some interesting anime films and attended a few seminars (I think) but mostly I don't remember all of the details. It was 15 years ago.

Now, last year, I wanted to go again. Several of my friends went, and they have gone for the past few years. Because of uncertainties with an impending change of jobs last year, I did not end up going (which turned out to be the right move as I did get a new job just a few weeks before the convention). Now I really want to go this year, but as it turns out, I have now tried 4E and don't really like it. My friends actually go and play the RPGs there and that was what I was going to do, but now that Wizards has completely switched over to 4E, I feel less enthusiastic about going.

After thinking about the last one I went to, maybe it isn't so bad. After all, I didn't do RPGs at all last time. But I probably would want to this time with my friends. Also, there is always the fun of seeing what new products are coming out. Except now that all new products are 4E, that really has lost its luster.

So now I wonder, just what will Gen Con ultimately offer for someone like me who is sticking with 3.5E? I will have to look at what is planned and figure that out. I'm going to have to discuss this with my friends as well. Maybe we just need to go and see how it goes and then decide if we'll ever go back after that. I'm sure half the fun will be just going on a trip. I haven't done that in a very long time. I have two baby anchors. I haven't taken a vacation outside of simply staying at home while not at work in over four years.

1 comment:

Art said...

It's been a LONG time since The Castle was a focus of the convention. (My first GenCon was in '96, so at least I remember the Castle... I even still have a piece of it when they tore it down.) Even as a major sponsor WotC doesn't have that large of a draw. With every company under the sun having made D20/ v.3.5 add-ons, most D&D products aren't even made by WotC. A lot of the D20 companies have all-but abandoned the original lisence for home-brewed versions. If your focus is for D&D in general, you'll be surprised by the amount of OTHER stuff there.

For me, Gen Con is a time to be surrounded by 30,000 gamers, enjoy the atmosphere of gamers/anime/artists/collectors adn other freaks of nature and just soak up the atmosphere. I go to restaurants (RAM, PF Changs, Webber Grill are good, but there's the mall food-court and Steak & Shake on the hand), I hang out with other artists, or sit at just about any table in the city and strike up a conversation about some game.

So I guess, if you're looking to go to GenCon to be absorbed into a Dungeons and Dragons atmosphere, you may have to do some looking to find the niche. But if you just want to be a part of a giant gathering of gamers from every corner of the gamer-sphere from TT, to TCG and video games, stop on in for a day or so and see what you think. If you like it, come on back next year. (Or I guess you could jump in both feet-first and just do the whole 4-days anyways! Try calling the Indianapolis Visitor's Bureau or whoever is running the housing for Gen Con to see about hotel openings in the GenCon system perhaps.)

Good luck and if you go, I hope you have a blast.