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Gen Con Tips from an (Increasingly) Old Pro

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hard as it is for me to imagine, this year marks my 18th consecutive trip to Gen Con, and my 14th in a row attending as a gaming professional. In all those years I’ve seen the convention move from Milwaukee to Indianapolis, I’ve played hundreds of RPG sessions, and I’ve met and re-met thousands and thousands of gamers, many of whom I now consider some of my closest friends. As I look at my packed suitcase and contemplate another year of the world’s greatest gaming convention, I thought it might be fun to take this opportunity to list 18 Gen Con tips that will help you get the most out of the show.

Paizo

  1. Stop by the Paizo booth in the exhibit hall at least once every morning to get a different free daily Pathfinder button. We started handing out Pathfinder buttons to folks visiting the booth about three years ago, and it’s been amazing to see how popular they have become. If you’re interested in collecting them, try to visit the booth during the first two hours the exhibit hall is open each day. Even the staff missed out on most of last year’s buttons because they vanished to rapidly. (PROTIP: We’ve created a special FIFTH button this year, and the only way to get it is to visit the Pathfinder Society Organzed Play area on the second floor of the convention center overlooking the exhibit hall.)
  2. Pick up a Gen Con-exclusive edition of the very first issue of the brand-new Pathfinder comic at the booth, then have your limited-edition collectible autographed by writer Jim Zub and artist Andrew Huerta, who will both be signing through the convention. Andrew will even be doing character drawings all weekend long!
  3. Be among the very first to get a copy of Ultimate Equipment, the huge new hardcover item catalog for the Pathfinder RPG! With thousands of magic and mundane items, the book is sure to have the perfect gift for your favorite player character. Don’t you think he deserves a special gift from the convention, too?
  4. Gamers who finish an event in the Pathfinder Society Organized Play room on the second floor of the convention center receive special wooden coins produced to commemorate the new season of play, the Year of the Risen Rune. Turn in your coins at HQ for a chance to win exciting in-campaign prizes!
  5. Check the program book and the posted list at the Paizo booth for a look at more than a dozen seminars and panels we’re putting on at the show. From a look behind the scenes at the Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition to Pathfinder RPG rules workshops to 10 Years of Paizo retrospectives to discussions of topics like the art of Pathfinder or the Pathfinder Online MMO, we’ve got all kinds of exciting events going on every day of the convention.
  6. A crate of adorable little plush goblins was seen in Anchorage, Alaska today, en route (so they say) to the Paizo booth at Gen Con. Should these rumors prove true, it means Gen Con attendees will be the first people on Earth with the chance to adopt their very own plush Pathfinder goblins. Lock up your dogs and bring home the best Gen Con gift you can ever give your family—a loveable new member!
  7. Stop by for a chat with the hard-working members of the Paizo staff. If you appreciate what we do, let us know! There’s nothing like a face-to-face compliment to recharge the old batteries. On the other hand, if there’s something we could be doing better to make Pathfinder more appealing to you, we’d love to hear about it.

Gen Con Tips

  1. Schedule several hours (or more, if you’re a compulsive game collector or demo fiend) for the exhibit hall. Resist the temptation to fill every hour of every day with gaming (but oh, what a way to go!), because if you neglect a thorough investigation of the exhibit hall, you’re missing out on one of the things that makes Gen Con such a great experience.
  2. Wander randomly a bit. There’s no way to distill a convention as large and as crazy as Gen Con in a web article or even a full convention book. Sometimes you’ve just got to see it yourself. Wander through the miniatures gaming hall. Check out a demo of a game you’ve never heard of, even join a random pick-up game. The best memories from Gen Con often involve situations you hadn’t anticipated until they started happening around you.
  3. You’ve got to do the True Dungeon. Even if it’s sold out, I often hear of folks with extra tickets looking for someone to go with them. If you don’t have tickets and hear such an offer, jump on it immediately. It’s quite an amazing experience, and well worth the time, cost, and effort involved. You won’t quite feel like a “real” adventurer after going through the True Dungeon, but you will certainly appreciate the value of a good torch. It’s dark in there!
  4. Make some new friends. From the PFS room to the Paizo booth to the informal chats that often break out following a seminar, Gen Con is a great place to meet gamers with similar interests to your own. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with your fellow gamers. Maybe you’re in line at a restaurant, or waiting to get assigned to an organized play table. Either way, the place is packed with potential friendships. Take advantage of the opportunity to meet some new people.
  5. Take photographs. These days most of us have incredible cameras in our phones. Use them. Take snaps of the cool displays you see in the exhibit hall, cool architecture you see in Indianapolis, and cool people you game with. Stimuli hits you so fast and furious at Gen Con even the incredible can start to seem sort of normal. “Oh, what, a dude dressed in a full-on goat costume with working neon rays shooting out of his eyes seated on a throne and palanquin being carried by a procession of short stormtroopers? SEEN it!” Yeah, you’re going to want to tell someone about that later, even if it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal compared to the dozen other amazing things you saw in the prior 10 minutes. Take a picture. It’ll last longer.
  6. Set aside a little money to pick up a gift for your significant other, even if said other isn’t really into gaming. There’s plenty of cool non-gaming stuff for sale at Gen Con, from novelty T-shirts to toys to jewelry. Find something that certain someone would appreciate, and get it. They put up with a lot from gaming, and if they aren’t with you, they’re probably holding down the fort back home and would appreciate the thought. If they are with you at the convention, you have won the significant other lottery, and don’t really need my advice. Keep doing what you are doing.

Indianapolis Tips

  1. Don’t neglect nourishment. The convention hall is good for a hot dog in a dire emergency, but Indianapolis has a nice selection of restaurants within walking distance. The Ram is always jam packed with gamers, and the Circle Center food court (accessible by skybridge from the Convention Center) has a variety of, well, food court options. While there, I often grab a fruit smoothie to remind myself about wholesomeness, since it’s not exactly on offer at places like Steak N’Shake and White Castle. Mmmmm. White Castle.
  2. Go to White Castle.
  3. It gets hot. Oh, lordy, it gets hot. Pack an extra set of socks. After a full day of trekking from panel to panel and back and forth to meals in a soggy Midwestern summer, your feet will love you for a quick sock-swap before dinner. And bring comfortable shoes, as well. Your feet and you are not necessarily going to be the best of friends at the end of the weekend, so it’s best to make sure things remain comfortable between the three of you for as long as possible.
  4. Don’t forget to sleep. You’re going to be tempted to game into the wee hours, to close down the bar, and to play more games after that. Don’t. Or at least don’t every night. You’ve waited a long time (and spent a pile of money) to get to Gen Con. You owe it to yourself to experience at least a little of it with clear eyes on at least a half night’s rest. Man cannot survive on gaming, booze, and 5-Hour Energy alone (trust me, I’ve tried).

The Most Important Tip

  • After the spending spree of travel bills and exhibit hall excursions, it’s time to start planning how to afford the trip to NEXT YEAR’s Gen Con. Because seriously, once you go once, you’re going to want to go every year.

I mean, look at me. I’ve been to 17 of these things, and have no plans to stop any time soon.

My plane for Number Eighteen leaves in 10 hours!

See you at the show!

Erik Mona
Publisher

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Gen Con
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Paizo Employee CEO

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Only seventeen? Whippersnapper! This will be number 28 for me! In a row!

Good advice, though. You have learned well, young padawan.

-Lisa

Grand Lodge

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

One day, I will make the pilgrimage.

However, PaizoCon was more important this year.


This'll be my 29th GenCon... wow how it has changed over the years. Erik is *dead on* with his advice- especially things like food, sleep, shoes, cameras (take photos!), gifting others with gifts you can only get at GenCon, pace yourself a bit and by God if you are going to drink like I do, make sure to hydrate! a lot!

For those of you going to True Dungeon this year, I'll be seeing you in room 3 on the Dracolich side. Tonight I pack my Pathfinder stuff for the special Friday night and I am excited.

Silver Crusade

For 10 years the gods have conspired against my first Gencon trip. This year, I will not be thwarted!!!!

Paizo Employee Director of Game Design

Lisa Stevens wrote:

Only seventeen? Whippersnapper! This will be number 28 for me! In a row!

-Lisa

Got me beat by 3 years. This one is number 25 for me!

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer
Paizo Publishing

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

I started going two years ago, and it is causing me PHYSICAL PAIN not being able to attend this year. But, when it comes between going to GenCon or buying my ailing dog some new knees, it really isn't a contest. *sigh* See you all at GenCon 2013. Have a blast rolling some dice there for me this year.

Paizo Employee CEO

Tarrintino wrote:
But, when it comes between going to GenCon or buying my ailing dog some new knees, it really isn't a contest.

If it is any consolation, I would make the exact same decision. Good on you for putting your poor dog before yourself.

-Lisa


Why can't I buy myself some new knees?


3 people marked this as a favorite.

My favorite Gen Con moment of all time: I had been working at the Forge booth. It was the end of the day on Saturday. The mobs were thinning out and I was hanging out at the Castles and Crusades booth talking to a girl I'd met the night before at a party White Wolf had thrown at a club down town. She and I had both been working as a booth models and we were joking about Chainmail bikinis. An older man who was also working at the booth joined the conversation, and spent the next hour laughing with us. Toward the end of the conversation we finally got around to introducing ourselves to each other.

I'd been talking to Gary Gygax.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Card Game, Cards, Class Deck, Companion, Maps, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
Sad TOZ wrote:
Why can't I buy myself some new knees?

Oh, you can. But not for the price of a trip to Gencon :-(

And then you'll spend the rest of your life setting off the metal detectors at airports, amongst other inconveniences. On the plus side, though, you might qualify for a handicapped parking placard.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

This is number 2 for me. Went last year as a volunteer and had such a blast I wanted to do it again. Now 2 questions,
1.) Will paizo staff hand out buttons to those working the tables for them and unable to hit the stall regularly?
2.) More for anyone else attending I'm probably taking the greyhound this time and was wondering if anyone else is/has done this before and if they have any advice on the matter or might be joining me in the this adventure in public transportation?

The Exchange

I found out Sunday this was going on and will be there... GOBLIN PLUSHIES!!! (In my defense I am here for work so I couldn't plan ahead properly like DragonCon)

Silver Crusade

See you saturday! Wanted to come up on friday, but had to work aroun our gaming groups work schedules. Can't wait!!

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
doc the grey wrote:

This is number 2 for me. Went last year as a volunteer and had such a blast I wanted to do it again. Now 2 questions,

1.) Will paizo staff hand out buttons to those working the tables for them and unable to hit the stall regularly?
2.) More for anyone else attending I'm probably taking the greyhound this time and was wondering if anyone else is/has done this before and if they have any advice on the matter or might be joining me in the this adventure in public transportation?

1) I believe Mike Brock posted that he was going to try to have buttons for the PFS volunteers at HQ.

2) Hey, I'n going Greyhound too this year. In fact, I'm on the bus headed towards Rochester right now. Only 3 transfers and 15 hours to go!

Silver Crusade

Maybe next year, but since it would involve a flight from germany... well maybe they will develop teleporters realllly quick.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Card Game, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Maps, Tales Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
TriOmegaZero wrote:

One day, I will make the pilgrimage.

However, PaizoCon was more important this year.

This was true for me as well. However GenCon 2013 is another story of two conventions one week and 90 minutes travel apart...


This will be my inaugural visit. I'm probably going to be overwhelmed. But I reckon I will be surrounded by some old pros. Looking forward to some faces I haven't seen in a couple of years and a whole lot of new faces.

And shenanigans.

Dark Archive

This will be number 31 for me. Originally went when it was at Parkside, and Erik you forgot a tip (it's even mentioned in the program book).
#19 Don't forget to shower (at least once during the Con).

Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber
doc the grey wrote:
2.) More for anyone else attending I'm probably taking the greyhound this time and was wondering if anyone else is/has done this before and if they have any advice on the matter...?

You can stick it on the roof rack, like Mitt Romney, right?

Liberty's Edge

#20 And don't forget hand sanitizer!

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Reckless wrote:
doc the grey wrote:

This is number 2 for me. Went last year as a volunteer and had such a blast I wanted to do it again. Now 2 questions,

1.) Will paizo staff hand out buttons to those working the tables for them and unable to hit the stall regularly?
2.) More for anyone else attending I'm probably taking the greyhound this time and was wondering if anyone else is/has done this before and if they have any advice on the matter or might be joining me in the this adventure in public transportation?

1) I believe Mike Brock posted that he was going to try to have buttons for the PFS volunteers at HQ.

2) Hey, I'n going Greyhound too this year. In fact, I'm on the bus headed towards Rochester right now. Only 3 transfers and 15 hours to go!

1.) Nice will be sooo happy if this is true sad I missed out last year on some of them cause i couldn't break from GM'ing last year.

2.) awesome happy to hear I'm not alone on this. Hey we might even end up crossing paths during our excursion. You heading back the same way bro?


great tips! Economical food is always a priority (leaves more money for product!!)

Contributor

2 people marked this as a favorite.

One of these tips is both a lie and a trap.

(Hint: It's #15. BLARGH.)

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

F. Wesley Schneider wrote:

One of these tips is both a lie and a trap.

(Hint: It's #15. BLARGH.)

I took Cosmo to White Castle today for lunch and it was his first time. He's a convert now. Any other Paizo employees who haven't been to White Castle are welcome to join me on the next outing...lunch is on me!

Grand Lodge

a lot of folks might laugh at me but Ensure! drinks like ensure have all you need for a full meal in a can that you can drink easily. also people might laugh at you but...fanny packs...they might be a thing of the 80's but if you still have one that little bit of space to put an energy bar, granola bar, or pack of crackers and peanut butter can make all the difference. also, why peanut butter you might ask? because the proteins in it stay with you longer than any bag of chips will. just a few tips from a con-goer who's the eldest son of a nutritionist


My advice as a local: make the trip to Mass Ave. to Chatham Tap or over to Bourbon Street Distillery just off the IUPUI campus. They have the best food for the best prices and you won't feel like a swollen goblin dog when you're done.

And if you're a beer connoisseur, make sure you try Triton and Upland (as seen on Parks And Recreation). The other, more in-your-face local brews can't hold a candle to these.

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16

I'm missing Gen Con for the first time in 12 years - but since it's because I moved to Seattle, at least I got my first PaizoCon in this year.

Great tips all around though. I'll add another:

Buy some breakfast to bring with you from the grocery store before you go - pop tarts, donuts, muffins, etc. It saves time for those early 8am games so you can get more sleep in, and money that is better spent on new games.

Dark Archive

[heresy] GenCon is neat, but I kind of like Origins better. [/heresy]

Liberty's Edge

I crack up every time I see the "Erik Mona at White Castle" picture.

Sczarni RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

This is my first GenCon. Thank you Paizo for offering me an opportunity to volunteer and afford the trip! I look forward to many hours of PFS and many more hours my my jaw on the floor.

Silver Crusade

For the love of Torag, shower. Hells, grab an extra one during a break if you exerted yourself at all (jogging to make an event, long distance walk, carrying cases of minis)

As self designated hygiene evangelist, I am not above passing out a hotel travel soap, or doing a kamikaze Febreeze run on your stinky butts.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
CalebTGordan wrote:
This is my first GenCon. Thank you Paizo for offering me an opportunity to volunteer and afford the trip! I look forward to many hours of PFS and many more hours my my jaw on the floor.

Awesome! Mine was last year, word of advice be ready for that special if you're running it, it's a gauntlet for all involved.

Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.
F. Wesley Schneider wrote:

One of these tips is both a lie and a trap.

(Hint: It's #15. BLARGH.)

Eric must own some White Castle stock or something.

Take time to wander away from the convention for a trip to Yats at 659 Massachusetts Ave, Indianapolis and have a plate of the Chili Cheese Etouffe ($6.25 with bread) and a slice of the peanut butter pie if they've got it.

Trust me. From someone living in Indy for nearly 20 years, it's worth the side trek.

White Castle...shame on you, Eric Mona.

Contributor

WASH YOUR HANDS, WASH YOUR HANDS, WASH YOUR HANDS!!!! =-)


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Mark Moreland wrote:
F. Wesley Schneider wrote:

One of these tips is both a lie and a trap.

(Hint: It's #15. BLARGH.)

I took Cosmo to White Castle today for lunch and it was his first time. He's a convert now. Any other Paizo employees who haven't been to White Castle are welcome to join me on the next outing...lunch is on me!

I'm going to have to side with Wes on this one. I may be a bit more biased as my mother was employed with Corporate for 13+ years and I've built up quite an immunity to them over the past two decades. Not even Harold and Kumar could convince me otherwise.


Mark Moreland wrote:
F. Wesley Schneider wrote:

One of these tips is both a lie and a trap.

(Hint: It's #15. BLARGH.)

I took Cosmo to White Castle today for lunch and it was his first time. He's a convert now. Any other Paizo employees who haven't been to White Castle are welcome to join me on the next outing...lunch is on me!

Before or after we eat?


1-2-3
1 shower every day
2 meals every day
3 hours of sleep every day

Silver Crusade

6 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

GenCon is where I realized that I am a slim, handsome person who smells of freshly picked flowers.

I gotta do that again someday.

Silver Crusade

Gorbacz wrote:

GenCon is where I realized that I am a slim, handsome person who smells of freshly picked flowers.

I gotta do that again someday.

You travelled half the world to go to cool convention ? cool ^^

Then again I always though of you as a very smartly dressed bag.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Sebastian Hirsch wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:

GenCon is where I realized that I am a slim, handsome person who smells of freshly picked flowers.

I gotta do that again someday.

You travelled half the world to go to cool convention ? cool ^^

Then again I always though of you as a very smartly dressed bag.

It's Prada. Always Prada.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Still have never made it to GenCon. Hopefully someday. I'll have to remember this blog should I ever make it.

I don't understand people's "obsession" with rat burgers, errr White Castle. Never been a fan personally. Every time someone from out of town comes for a visit, they always want White Castle...

-Kcinlive

Sczarni RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16

Mike Shel wrote:
F. Wesley Schneider wrote:

One of these tips is both a lie and a trap.

(Hint: It's #15. BLARGH.)

Eric must own some White Castle stock or something.

Take time to wander away from the convention for a trip to Yats at 659 Massachusetts Ave, Indianapolis and have a plate of the Chili Cheese Etouffe ($6.25 with bread) and a slice of the peanut butter pie if they've got it.

Trust me. From someone living in Indy for nearly 20 years, it's worth the side trek.

White Castle...shame on you, Eric Mona.

AMEN! Yats is the best food in Indy (aside from my wife's cooking, of course) :-)

Though I personally would take the B&B over the Étouffée.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Sad TOZ wrote:
Why can't I buy myself some new knees?

You're saving up for the mastercrafted option?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber
Brandon Hodge wrote:
WASH YOUR HANDS, WASH YOUR HANDS, WASH YOUR HANDS!!!! =-)

+1, +2 and +3.

I recommend carrying hand sanitizer and use it every time you sit down at a table, leave a table and any time after you walk in public places. Don't believe me? Let's hear from those who come back with Con Crude. I've never had this happen because I follow the above advice.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

Every one of Eric's tips is gold. However, I don't go to White Castle. I tried one itty-bitty burger and that was enough. I've learned you're either a White Castle, In-n-out Burger, or Five Guys fan. Any fan who spans across these universes is rare.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Will there be a section on the forum devoted to GenCon? if so were?

Paizo Employee Customer Service Manager

Mark Moreland wrote:
F. Wesley Schneider wrote:

One of these tips is both a lie and a trap.

(Hint: It's #15. BLARGH.)

I took Cosmo to White Castle today for lunch and it was his first time. He's a convert now. Any other Paizo employees who haven't been to White Castle are welcome to join me on the next outing...lunch is on me!

MEMEMEMEMEMEMEME!

Paizo Employee Customer Service Manager

Dragon78 wrote:
Will there be a section on the forum devoted to GenCon? if so were?

The Paizo General Forum works for that.


Pathfinder Pawns Subscriber
Rene Ayala wrote:
Every one of Eric's tips is gold. However, I don't go to White Castle. I tried one itty-bitty burger and that was enough. I've learned you're either a White Castle, In-n-out Burger, or Five Guys fan. Any fan who spans across these universes is rare.

Sweet, I'm rare!

I've never had real White Castle, just that which I find in my grocer's freezer. I won't say these things are "great", but they're pretty good, so if someone that likes White Castle says they're garbage compared to the real thing, I'm in for a treat.

I love In-n-Out, which was one of the highlights of my recent trip to San Diego, and I'm digging the Five Guys that have sprouted up around here (mid-valley Oregon).

(Edit: Also, Burgerville rules!)

(Further edit: Flagged this one by mistake.)


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

You missed one of the most important con rules, not just for yourself but also for those around you:

6-3-1

AT ALL TIMES, you must have done the following three things within the past 24 hours:

Slept for 6 hours.
Eaten three real meals[1].
Had a bath/shower and changed into clean clothes.[2]

[1] Grazing in the con suite doesn't count. Try to make every non-breakfast[3] meal different and have a significant amount of greens in at least half of them.

[2] This is the 'for those around you' part. Note that neither the pool nor the hot tub are bathtubs. Neither can you get away with trying to mask it with perfumes[4].

[3] For breakfast it's more than OK to find some high-protein choice you like and go with that. Note that all-you-can-eat pancakes is a trap, you will be hungry again far too soon.

[4] Stinking for two reasons just means you stink more.

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