Gencon 2008

by Mike Shea on 18 August 2008

The older I get, the more I return to the things I enjoyed as a younger man. Never is this more the case than on my now yearly pilgramage to Indianapolis to Gencon, the largest fantasy / science fiction gaming convention in the world. Over twenty thousand people go to Gencon from year to year, all there to play just about every table-top game imaginable.

Over the best four days of gaming, starting on Thursday and ending on Sunday, Michelle and I played over ten table-top RPG games including a marathon 10 hour RPGA Living Forgotten Realms D&D game. We played through the True Dungeon, a life-sized dungeon for LARP-lite including a 14 foot tall animatronic ogre and a huge Conan-style animatronic snake, all inside a dank full-sized dungeon.

I learned a few things along the way as well. First, I don't like any sort of competitive championship D&D game. We played one from Goodman Games and one from the RPGA, both championship games, that were tuned way too hard and seemed to be designed to really make it difficult to succeed. We didn't in either game. Competition seems to be a big motivator for games, it is the reason to play Magic the Gathering or D&D Miniatures, but in my tabletop RPG games, I just want to have a good time with friends and roll some dice. The other Forgotten Realms RPGA games were wonderful, although I realize now that I don't really like the rogue class that much. My dwarven fighter, on the other hand, was a thick can of good times.

I also managed to get my players handbook signed by all three of the authors; Rob Heinsoo, James Wyatt, and Andy Collins. I managed to talk to Rob about character building and James Wyatt about his new upcoming adventure "Pyramid of Shadows" which has both pyramids and shadows in it.

I also had a chance to talk to the creator of Dwarven Forge, the 3d terrain I use for my D&D games. He is a really neat guy who started his business small, selling a few dwarven forge sets out of Gencon a decade ago. He and those running the booth seemed surprised at how well they sold their sets in such a rough economy. "People want to invest in their fantasy lives" I told him. "It helps them escape from their real one." Indeed, escape seems to be the primary motivator for everyone at a conference like this. Some choose alcohol or sports. Others, like me, choose Battlestar Galactica and Dungeons and Dragons.

Another highlight of my weekend was meeting with my friends Brad and Mark with Mark's wife Amy, Brad's girlfriend Amy, and their kids Max, Trevor, and Colton. Seeing Max playing the Wii on Brad's 100" screen made me really wish I was five years old again. Hanging out with my old friends playing Rock Band (I will never sing "Roam" again, I swear) was one of those perfect moments in our adult lives. It makes me want to move back out there and do it every weekend.

The older I get, the more I embrace my childhood. I plan to do this until the day I die.