First time going to GenCon- need advice/tips/etc.

FoxWander

Adventurer
So, events in my life have finally aligned so that I can attend GenCon this year. But, I didn't know it would work out until just recently and so I've missed all the pre-registration deadlines. Not that pre-registering might have mattered anyway since aside from getting into the Con I wouldn't know what I'd like to register for anyway!

To put it mildly- there's A LOT to do at GenCon and I haven't the slightest idea where to start. So I'm asking all the GenCon veterans out there to help me out. I know the basics of Con courtesy and survival- regular bathing, comfortable shoes, good backpack for loot, keep some snacks/water in backpack and that kind of thing, but what about everything else? What are the must-see events? What are the main things to avoid? What are the common noob mistakes? How should I plan out my time? What are the best non-convention events going on? Any and all advice, tips or guidelines to this effect would be most welcome and appreciated. Thanks!
 

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Vyvyan Basterd

Adventurer
I know the basics of Con courtesy and survival- regular bathing...

What more could you possibly need to know if you've already got this down? :D

My real advice (I apologize if any of the following is dated, it's been a while since I've been able to attend):

1) Do not assume you will have enough time to register for anything once the con starts. You may spend more time in line than having fun. Know when the on-site pickup and registration lines are open and if you can get as much as you can taken care of on Wednesday.

2) If there is something you REALLY want to do and it is sold out, don't be afraid to show up anyway. Those running the event may make more room for you or someone signed up may not show. This probably hols true for all but the virtual dungeon events.

3) Make sure you have some generic tickets. You never know what you'll find, no matter how long you pored through that dang catalog!
 

Good advice from Vyvyan Basterd.

Also, check the GenCon forum here for pick-up games by ENWorlders as there are still some that have spots free.

When playing in games, remember that a 'con game is different than your home game. Go with the flow, have fun, and don't get bogged down in the details or get hung up on rulings -- you've only got a few hours, so everyone has to get along to get things done.

If you've got some favorite games, take some time to stop at the publisher's booth in the dealer hall amd talk to them., even if it's just to say 'Hi, I'm really enjoying your game'. Most of these folks aren't in it for the money, they're doing it because they love gaming.

Consider stopping by the ENnie Awards Friday night. It's a good chance to unwind after a couple long days, meet some other ENWorlders and game publishers/writers/artists.
 

beverson

First Post
But, I didn't know it would work out until just recently and so I've missed all the pre-registration deadlines.

Does this statement mean that you don't actually have your 4-day badge (or however many days you plan to attend)? If so, then you'll want to get to the registration area as early as humanly possible, and plan for half of your first day to be spent waiting in line to register just to enter the con! Hopefully it won't take half the day, but plan ahead for it so you won't be upset if it happens, and if it doesn't, then you'll be pleasantly surprised. Badge registration is notoriously slow and always seems to be set up in an area where having long lines is suboptimal. Add to the fact that this year the Dome is unavailable because it's being worked on, so there is less space than previous years.

That said, once you actually have a badge, plan for at least half a day to wander the dealer's floor - it's massive, and you will be in awe the first time you set foot on it.
 

subbob

First Post
Check Out Gen Con Newbie FAQ

Any and all advice, tips or guidelines to this effect would be most welcome and appreciated. Thanks!

First, congrats on being able to attend this year. Like you, my son and I are also going to Gen Con for the first time. As another first, we also attended Origins two weeks ago.

Have you visited the Gen Con community forums?

Someone over there has put together a thread called The UTTER GENCON NEWBIE FAQ that has a lot of suggestions and advice.

From our experience at Gen Con, I'd recommend the following:

  • Don't overlook generic tickets - they are good to have when you find an unexpected game or open spot at a table
  • Have some kind of "swag bag" - we used one of those large black bags with a wide shoulder strap that allows good distribution of the weight. It will get heavier over time!
  • In the bag, consider carrying a refillable water bottle and snacks (energy bars, power bars, luna bars, etc. work well for this)
  • Pre-generate some characters for any game system you think you might play. For example, if you end up sitting down at a 4E D&D pickup game, it's very frustrating to have to try and create a new character with insufficient time to do so.
  • Keep a journal or diary. So much will happen during the convention that by the 3rd day you'll be hard pressed to remember what you did on the first day. Even if it's just a short date/time/game I played type entry, you'll have better recollection of what you did.
  • There's LOTS of gaming opportunities in the exhibit hall. Many vendors have several people on-hand and continuously demo their games. I do not know if Gen Con is the same, these games did not require any tickets and there was plenty to do in the vendor hall.
  • Cash may give you discounts. I found some vendors would discount their products slightly when paying with cash. If they do not offer, don't hesitate to negotiate for a bargain.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
If you want to save food money, bring groceries. Keep them in a cooler that you restock with ice each day from the hotel ice machine or get a room with a mini-fridge. I usually bring lots of sandwich fixings and soda. Obviously, this doesn't work so well if you fly in to Indy...

Having a family, when I went to Gen Con (I haven't in 4-5 years), I would also pack soups, a hot pot, juice boxes, small milk cartons, baby-cut carrots, grapes, and lots of other kid-friendly snackies. One year, back before I had a family but when I would get a hotel room with a bunch of other friends, we actually brought our own mini-microwave and packs of burritos to stash in a cooler packed tightly with ice (because the burritos were supposed to be frozen). Worked out well.
 


Mindseye

First Post
Just don't over schedule yourself. There is so much to see and do it is very easy to get overwhelmed there.

This is probably the best advice you'll receive!! This will be my 6th (7th?) straight year to attend.........my gaming group is bringing 8 of us from Texas this year!

Although my group has different opinions on scheduling, most of us schedule one event per day. You can absolutely fill the rest of the day with dealer's room demos, pick-up type games, and night time activities. We hit the True Dungeon every year and try to demo or play things that are new or that we're dying to try out.

Make sure and hit some of the nighttime stuff like the Ennies, The Cthulhu Rally, KODT Live Reading and stuff like this. The other thing we do is to break out some games in our hotel lobby after hours.....mostly brainless stuff.

Have fun!
 

C.W.Richeson

Explorer
Eat at least one meal at The Ram, a local restaraunt that maintains a wonderfully geeky atmosphere during the con.

Make a list of people you'd really like to meet and try to make it happen.

Don't burn yourself out too quickly! A little bit of pacing can really help.
 

FATDRAGONGAMES

First Post
Eat at least one meal at The Ram, a local restaraunt that maintains a wonderfully geeky atmosphere during the con.

Aagghhh... I can't believe I forgot to mention the RAM. It is likely the only restaurant I have ever eaten at (or will ever) and was able to see Hawk the Slayer on the big screen. ;)
 
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Great advice so far! A few tips on hotel and accommodations and your stay in Indy pre- & post-con.

1) The swag bag idea is awesome, make sure that you empty it every evening. Seems like a simple no-brainer but after three days of carrying 201 pounds of junk around, you realize rational thought and con thought are two very separate and distinct animal.s

2) Divide and conquer - your itinerary. Having to wait to register isn't all bad, but you won't get a handle on things until you are there - take time to make a plan and try to stick to it. Prioritize it so if two things overlap you know which one to ditch first.

3) Meet and greet the ENworlders. I now have some of my best yearly occasional friends thanks to GenCon. I look forward to running into to certain faces every year. Also, it's nice to put a face with a handle.

4) Make time for the ENnies. It's nice to see a social setting at GenCon that's all about games but has nothing to do with con mentality. It's the Oscar's and Emmy's of gaming and it is a dress-up gala affair. Also its a great chance to rub elbows with fellow ENworlders and industry professionals, who knows who you might end up sitting with.

5) Stay hydrated and well-fed. Soda and beer are awesome, they don't however keep you hydrated, dehydration can lead to headaches, diarrhea, weakness and general malaise. Drink plenty of water and stave off the brain cramps. Likewise, hunger can lead to incoherent thought, not a good thing when deciding whether to bluff the troll or take it on with your +2 wet noodle of stupidity...

6) Have a great time! Sounds simple but too many people try and MAKE GenCon great instead of letting GenCon BE great. My first year I played in two games and had a pick-up run through at True Dungeon, the rest of the time I wandered around and did things on the fly. I had a great time, because I didn't try to have a good time. I suggest you do the same.
 

Brown Jenkin

First Post
Just don't over schedule yourself. There is so much to see and do it is very easy to get overwhelmed there.

Thirded. Unless you have been to something like ComicCon you will be overwhelmed. This is not a bad thing but just the way it is. There is no way to do everything like there is at smaller cons. It will take at least 3-4 Gen Cons before you can begin to say you have done all the must do events. This is why you shouldn't overshedule yourself. Pick 1-2 things a day that you are really really interested in and only schedule those, don't worry though because you will find more than enough to fill the rest of the time.

As for the dealer hall a half day is only enough to make one run through. If you want you can spend 2 days in the dealer hall alone just playing demos and spending quality time at the booths. The dealer hall is huge, I figured it out once that there is over a mile of booths to walk by. Be prepared for exercise, I walk 2 miles a day just so that I am in shape for Gen Con. Nothing sucks more than reaching day 2 and being unable to walk anymore.
 

HellHound

ENnies winner and NOT Scrappy Doo
6) Have a great time! Sounds simple but too many people try and MAKE GenCon great instead of letting GenCon BE great. My first year I played in two games and had a pick-up run through at True Dungeon, the rest of the time I wandered around and did things on the fly. I had a great time, because I didn't try to have a good time. I suggest you do the same.

Bingo.

In seven years of GenCon, I've not once pre-registered for an event.
 

Chaldfont

First Post
GENCON!!!!!

There are tons of great places to eat in downtown Indy. The Ram, of course, is a place you must go. They cater to the gamers. I had lunch there today and the servers are already talking about it.

They usually brew up a special beer just for the con. They wouldn't tell me today what it will be, but I should be able to pry it out of the brewer Saturday at the Indiana Brewer's Guild Microbrewfest.
 


Rel

Liquid Awesome
Rel's Guide to Having Fun at GenCon:

1) Overschedule the hell out of yourself. Try to leave no more than half an hour between games. When you have to sprint from one game to the next, you can count that as your workout! REL TIP: You can also lose weight and save money by not leaving time to eat!

2) Make sure to drink plenty of alcohol every night and plenty of coffee and soda every day. REL TIP: These empty calories can help replace any that you lose from not eating! This is the best way to deal with...

3) Sleep almost none. That's what the plane ride home is for. Remember, ever moment you are sleeping is a moment that you are not having fun with fellow gamers. REL TIP: Not sleeping is also a good way to avoid those awkward moments when you wake up spooning the guy you agreed to share a room with. Especially make sure you miss sleep for...

4) The strip club. Get together at least one, possibly two nights with your buddies and head to the strip club. Only at GenCon can you see a fellow strip club attendee in a kilt! Also marvel at the strippers who will tell you that they are gamers too because their little brother plays WoW. REL TIP: Don't spend more than your mortgage payment each night at the strip club.

5) Don't spend too much money in the Dealer Hall. This leaves more money to spend at the strip club. In fact, you don't want to have to lug around a bunch of swag, mostly in the form of free booster packs from some collectable card game that you're never going to collect. Best to just stay out of the Dealer Hall as much as possible. REL TIP: However DO make time to stop by the Expeditious Retreat Press booth and flirt with Suzi. She's a hottie.

6) Make time to go to the ENnies. The awards are cool and all, but mainly you're there to see the various publishers and authors get squiffy. When they are drunk, rivalries surface, heated words are exchanged and drama unfolds. Don't miss it! REL TIP: If possible, get your picture taken with Sue Cook. Also a hottie.

7) Stay at the Embassy Suites if at all possible. That's where all the cool people are. If you hear loud noises coming from high above the lobby, come on up and join the party. REL TIP: Don't do this if you owe Morrus a lot of money and have no intentions of paying it. It's a long drop from the 14th floor to the lobby below.

Follow those rules and I guarantee that you'll remember having a good time right after you take a week off to recover.
 

JediSoth

Semi-Professional Author
Epic
Since some first-timers are going to be reading this thread, I'll post this link here. Last here, I did a bunch of reviews of downtown Indianapolis restaurants at OYT. They're still valid this year.

Restaurant Reviews at OYT

JediSoth
 

JediSoth

Semi-Professional Author
Epic
<SNIP>
6) Make time to go to the ENnies. The awards are cool and all, but mainly you're there to see the various publishers and authors get squiffy. When they are drunk, rivalries surface, heated words are exchanged and drama unfolds. Don't miss it! REL TIP: If possible, get your picture taken with Sue Cook. Also a hottie.

<SNIP>

Unfortunately, Monte and Sue won't be making it to the Con this year. Nevertheless, it's a good tip!

JediSoth
 

Poet22

Explorer
More Advice

Our group has been attending GenCon for almost a decade now and we use it as a "Guys Weekend" away from our families. We tend to focus on the Vendor Hall more than anything else and then game at night back in our hotel. It's a great time. Here are some thoughts:

1. If you've got transportation, you can stay in the Indianapolis area and drive in, often saving money on your hotel. More money means more purchases later.

2. We actually try to see every booth in the Vendor Hall. However, don't try to do this in one day! You'll just end up exhausted, sore, and frustrated.

3. Don't dismiss Sunday. Often, retailers will discount certain items in the last few hours of the Con. At the same time, they can also sell out of items by Friday. Grab the hot stuff first and then look for bargains on Sunday.

4. Backpacks are essential, as are water bottles and snacks.

5. Take time for lunch. Get outside for some sun, fresh air, and better food than what is in the convention center.

6. Try the demos. It's a great way of learning a new game and getting free stuff.

7. Paint miniatures. Take time for the Paint and Take. It'll give your feet a rest and a figure to use that night!

8. Bring a camera. You'll want to take pictures of the costumes, dioramas, and chainmail bikinis.

9. If you are with a group, bring a means of communication, either phone or walkie-talkies. That way, you can "split the party" and everyone can move at their own pace.

10. Have fun! I echo what others have said: just soak in the glory that is GenCon!
 

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