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All contents © 2011
by Lori Ann Curley
unless otherwise specified

Articles written for Virtual Gen Con
Virtual Gen Con was the online component of Gen Con  for a few years.

2001   2000

Gen Con 101 Series written during Gen Con 2001:
Wednesday    Thursday   Friday   Saturday   Sunday

Wednesday  Part I:  Registration

    Welcome to Gen Con 2001! I'm Lori Ann Curley, correspondent for Virtual Gen Con, to teach you Gen Con 101: Conventioneering for Newbies. If this is your rookie year at GC, I'm here to teach you the ins and outs of GC and what to do while you're here.
    Step One: Registration. If you have not pre-registered for GC, you will need to visit On-Site Registration. Christina Peerce, On-Site Registration Manager, gives this advice:
    "Keep your eyes open for signs; they're everywhere." On the first level of the Midwest Express Center is an information booth that can send you in the right direction. The first item you need is a badge. "Remember," Peerce says, "There's a difference between a visitor's badge and a player's badge." A visitor's badge allows admittance to most GC events: the Exhibit Hall, the Games Auction, the Art Show, etc. More than a decade ago when I first came to Gen Con, these were called "spectator's badges." With a visitor's badge, you can look, but you can't play. You must buy a player's badge to actually play the myriad of games offered at GC. How do you select games? Peerce advises, "Pick up your on-site book." She's talking about the Program Book available for free at the registration booths, and Peerce describes it as "the bible for the convention." The PB is your guide to the abundant offerings of GC: the Art Show, which displays original art and booths where you can meet some of the artists; the Games Auction, think of it as E-Bay without the computer; and, of course, the games themselves. Do you play trading card games (TCG)? Or do you prefer Live Action Roleplaying (LARP)? Maybe you're here with kids and want to check out the family and board games? Or do you like the basic roleplaying that involves sitting around a table and rolling the dice. It's all here at Gen Con.
    Remember the words of Peerce, "You need to buy your badge before your event tickets." The staff will no sell event tickets to anyone who does not have a player's badge.
    When you arrive at Event Registration, check out the list of sold out events. If the event you're looking for isn't there, heck even if it is (because gamers do change their minds), write your name and the events you want on the slips of paper provided. Once you're at the booth proper, the staff can look up any event's current availability and sell tickets to the open events you want. If what you want isn't available, buy some generic tickets and show up at the event anyway. Not everyone who is registered shows up for all events. You may get lucky.
    Whatever you decide, remember that we're all here to play games and have fun. See you later.

Next episode: Wednesday Entertainment: the Safe House

Wednesday Part II: Entertainment

    Gen Con proper doesn't begin until Thursday, so what do you do when you arrive on Wednesday? Well, after you've registered (see my last article), Milwaukee has tons for you to do.
    Remember, you're in Wisconsin now. A major part of our entertainment is drinking. and yes I'm a native Wisconsinite. I know what I'm talking about. I recommend The Safe House.
    Located across the Milwaukee River, The Safe House is hidden behind the facade of International Exports Limited. You need a password to enter when you're looking for a Safe House. <grin>. The bar has a circa 1960s spy motif. Think James Bond and you've got the idea. SH has a lot of fun nooks and cranny to discover: the puzzle wall, the picture of Burt Reynolds with a stratigically placed leaf, the secret exit, etc. Good times are definitely abundant at the SH.
    Wednesday evening is the best time to go because SH is not too crowded as it is on the weekend. On this particular Wednesday, I caught up with John Monnett, of Madison, Wisconsin, and he said, "On Wednesday at The Safe House, there's not too many people, you can find a place to sit, and there's not too much smoke."
    An excellent yet quite deceptive drink is the "Spy's Demise." The fruity nature of this drink doesn't let on to its potency, and the first one hits you midway through your second. As I am about to partake of my second Demise, I'll logoff until tomorrow.

Next Segment: The Exhibit Hall

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Thursday Part I: The Exhibit Hall

    Walking into the Exhibit Hall on Thursday may seem daunting: So many people milling about , wandering up and down the aisles. The newbie could feel confused, maybe frightened. Don't worry; the Exhibit Hall is worse on Saturday when all the weekend warriors arrive.
    Your best tactic is to start in a corner, then walk the aisles in a vertical up/down pattern. As one experienced gamer put it, "The way that we seem to be going is the way that's easiest." -Jason Ladue, Boulder, Colorado. Of course you'll bump into people. Some may apologize to you, but remember it's equivalent to bumping someone on the bus.
    Right away you will notice people's duds: gamers dress in costumes or t-shirts. Costumes include fantasy: wizard hats, cloaks, bodices; Star Trek, especially Klingons; Star Wars, I saw more than one jedi knight; and Goths, people dressed all in black with black makeup and silver jewelry. Oh, wait; that's how they dress all the time. T-shirts include those from Gen Con present or past, advertising favorite games, or wonderful sayings such as "I didn't say it was your fault. I said I'm blaming you." or "You say ‘psycho' like it's a bad thing."
    The meat of the Exhibit Hall is the booths: anything gaming related, no matter how tenuous the link, can be found in the Exhibit Hall: games; gaming supplies such as dice, computer programs, storage; videos, especially Anime; artwork either from games or just fantasy; sculptures and miniatures; costumes and costumes supplies, including fun contact lenses and very real swords. At the Silver, Sword, & Stone booth, they refer to their customers as M'lord or M'lady. Nice.
    The Cloud Kingdom Games booth is especially fun: they sell riddles. Every hour they post a new riddle. If you guess it, they give you a RiddleMaster ribbon to attach to your badge (one per person, not riddle). Matt Mayfield, of Cloud Kingdom, explains the hourly riddle, "It's fun. Sure it helps sell books, but riddles are fun. If Bilbo had one of these books, the story would have been very different. These [the RiddleMaster ribbons] are cool."
    Other booths attract customers with either a beautiful woman in a skimpy costume or bowls of free candy. Other freebees include an introductory version to a game called Forbidden Kingdoms, and slick four-color brochures advertising prints from such sci-fi classics as Babylon 5, Farscape, and the Star Wars and Star Trek series and movies. Free demonstrations of new games are available everywhere, and some booths give prizes.
    The Gen Con Exhibit Hall is a springboard for new games and new ideas. Cheapass Games, best known for their innovative games that don't include the extra "stuff" that you already have (i.e. dice, pawns, play money), is now introducing a demo computer game. Joyce Godecke, of Cheapass's marketing division, said, "We're eventually going to bring out a deadwood game. A company approached us, and now we're testing [Plasmaworm] to see how it goes."
    Whatever you buy, keep your eye out for signatures. Artists and game developers are more than happy to sign your purchase if you ask. John Kovalic, an artist from Madison, Wisconsin, who just started his own publishing company Dork Storm Press, is always happy to sign copies of the games he has illustrated (Chez Geek, Apples to Apples, Munchkin) and his comic books (Dork Tower). If you go all the way to the back of the Exhibit Hall and take a right behind the Board Games and Miniatures Section, guests of honor such as Richard Biggs, Babylon 5; James Marsters, Buffy the Vampire Slayer; and Marina Sirtis, Star Trek: The Next Generation, will be signing at the Autograph Stage.  Watch for the lines!
    In the center of the Exhibit Hall, you will see (because you certainly can't miss it) the Great Wizards of the Coast Castle. This tradition was started by TSR (the founders of Gen Con) several years ago. Inside you will find games, demos, novels, TCGs, etc. In the early years of the Castle, other companies became envious of its largess, so they stormed the castle with Nerf weapons (but don't get any ideas <grin>).
    Please remember that the Exhibit Hall is the main place to shop at Gen Con and follow the basic rules: no shoplifting. As a sign at the Aldebaran Imports booth read, "Shoplifters will be pimp-slapped, groped and handed to authorities."

Next: The Art Show

Thursday Part II: The Art Show

    On the first floor of the Midwest Express Center is a beautiful Art Show. After checking your bag at the door, your eyes will be treated to a feast of color and some of the most wondrous fantasy art anywhere. The artists selling their wares include pictures of high fantasy, wizards, dragons, mechanical monsters from cyber games, and the whimsical comics that poke fun at us gamers. We don't mind because they're so damn funny. Some artists have been commissioned to create for trading card games, so they combine the original artwork with a copy of the card in a nice matting and frame. You can purchase almost everything at the Art Show.
    Not only can you find pictures, you will also find 3-D art. Chain mail jewelry and earrings can be found. The Fate Laughing Booth sells padded wings to wear, and don't be afraid of a miniature dragon perched on someone's shoulder. These little creatures were purchased at the Sundreams and Myths Booth. For the more risque, Rahne Storm Studios sells hand-painted demon panties.
    As music wafts through the sound system, the conventioneer can peruse the gallery, a maze of gorgeous artwork that include science fiction, fantasy, and gaming humor. The Art Show is a must for a tranquil walk through gaming dreams.

Next: The Block Party

Thursday Part III: Block Party

    Free music, free food, free beer, free t-shirts, free hats, free lighters. Has to be the Gen Con Block Party.
    Four years ago, when Wizards of the Coast announced they were buying TSR, the first Gen Con Block Party took place. The Violent Femmes played to a crowd outside the Bradley Center (now the US Cellular Center). I was there, and I remember the roaring music as fans of gaming and rock danced the night.
    Tonight we danced to the rock of Spirit Creek as we ate free nachos and drank free booze. The freebees included bright orange and black t-shirts. Halloween came early, and WotC was giving.

Next: Games Auction

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Friday Part I: Games Auction

    For those wishing to add to their games collection, without having to pay the Exhibit Hall Prices, the Games Auction in Bruce Hall of the US Cellular Center may be the perfect solution. You have two options: Games Auction or the Auction Store. To purchase the used product offered by your fellow gamers at the Auction Store, all you need is your convention badge (Do ya think I've hammered home enough the importance of your badge?). To bid at the Auction, you require a card, and two versions are offered. For those who want to buy a lot of items, they can buy a tab card with a $50 deposit. If you want instant gratification, to have your purchases immediately after you bid, an instant card for $1. Either way, the auction works like you've seen on TV, but the cards have numbers on them so no sneezes will count as bids <grin>. When your bid is accepted, you pay at the register and take home your new stuff to add to your collection.
    For storage solutions, see.... <grin>

Next: Guests of Honor

Friday Part II: Guests of Honor

    Gen Con is notorious for bringing guests that gamers really want to meet. Past Guests of Honor included George Takei (pronouned ta-kay like okay; I know because I asked him), Mark Hamill, and Claudia Christian. This year's Guests of Honor include James Marsters, Marina Sirtis, and Richard Biggs. Not only do we have media guests, Gen Con also hosts industry and author guests. One man who fits both those categories is Monte Cook, who authored two novels: The Glass Prison and Of Aged Angels, as well as the current Dungeon Master's Guide and several D&D products. He is also teaching a series of Writing Seminars during the con. I had the pleasure of interviewing this pleasant man. Okay, I cornered him when I bumped into him in the Exhibit Hall.
    VGC: When did you find out that you're a Guest of Honor at Gen Con?
    MC: When they handed me this badge.
    VGC: So you didn't know before you arrived?
    MC: No. It's probably due to the Writing Workshops.
    VGC: Do you think it's a honor?
    MC: I do. I think it's great.
    VGC: How long have you been in the gaming industry?
    MC: Thirteen years.
    Wow. Many Guests of Honor sign autographs at the Autograph Stage located in the back of the Exhibit. If you go, please plan ahead. A few booths in the Exhibit Hall sell pictures of the guests, and you do need to bring something for the GoHs to sign. Although announcements are made when a new GoH will be signing, I recommend that you go early to get in line.
    "We have to cap the line because they're [the Guests] here for a limited time." said Rob Nicholls, a convention volunteer from Illinois, as he turned away people wanting to see Hudson Leick and Alexandra Tydings. The two ladies from Xena and Hercules were only signing for an hour, and people stood in line longer than that to see them. As I wait in lines, I chat with those around me and get to know my fellow gamers from around the country. Finally, be nice to these special guests, and remember that they're people just like you and me.

Next: Night Games

Friday Part III: All Night Gaming

    "But, Lori, when are you going to play games?" you ask, "Isn't that what Gen Con's all about?"
    Of course. People play games all weekend long at Gen Con, 24 hours a day. Board games and miniature games are played on the third floor of the Midwest Express Center. Go to the right of the Exhibit Hall as you're facing the doors going in. You'll see huge versions of Settlers of Catan, made with terrain used for miniature games, played next to a table full of Fuzzy Heroes. Anything you're interested in, just buy a ticket, or bring some generic tickets.
    If you can't find a scheduled event you like, go to the Gen Con Games Library, back toward the escalator and next to the mini-donut stand <yum!>. Bob Allen is the chief librarian who is on call 24 hours a day. Mike McDole, who was working when I approached the booth, told me the rules, "To check out a game, people leave a [driver's] license.  When they return the game intact, we give them the license back" Because areas of the Midwest Express Center are open 24 hours a day, the booth is staffed and games are available to play from now until 1:00 pm Sunday.
    Gamers such as myself and the group with whom I'm sharing a hotel room have brought some of their favorite games from home or purchased new games in the Exhibit Hall. In our room we have Munchkin, Button Men, D&D (of course), and many more. Somewhere right now, someone's playing a game.

Next: Science Fiction Saturday

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Saturday Part I: Science Fiction Saturday

    Science Fiction Saturday includes more than just the Guests of Honor (Marina Sirtis, James Marsters, Richard Biggs, etc.), events are held throughout the convention. Pick up your SFS Passport at the booth outside the Exhibit Hall. Joei Kimpel, who volunteers with her husband Kyym, gives these instructions, "Go to SFS themed events," as she gives me a list, "and get a punch. Bring the passport back to the SF Booth, and you get a prize. The more punches, the better the prize." Prizes are generously donated by the dealers and are game and sci-fi related.
    The events include Kij Johnson's SF Writing Workshop, the Annual Grand Admiral's Tournament of Babylon 5, the Star Wars Connections seminar, and the Klingon Jail & Bail (see separate article) that collects money for charity.
    Another philanthropist with a SFS theme is Pamela Shanteau, the Artist Guest of Honor. Every year Shanteau paints a gorgeous portrait of a fellow guest of honor, has the subject sign the portrait, and then the painting is auctioned off with the proceeds going to the Gen Con Charity. This year's portrait is Marina Sirtis. Past portraits have been of James Doohan, George Takei, Majel Barret Roddenberry and Carel Struckyn, and Jon DeLancie.
    The Guests of Honor themselves participate in philanthropy by hosting a Charity Dinner. Fans buy tickets ($1 each, 6 for $5), and each is a chance to join Sirtis or Marsters for dinner tonight. The drawing occurs at 3:30 at the Autograph Stage, and you must be present to win. A bit of trivia: two fans each purchased $1000 worth of tickets.  Good luck.
    Of course, fans participate by wearing costumes. Today, I saw Guinan, Seven-of-Nine, and several Klingons from Star Trek; jedi knights and stormtroopers from Star Wars; people from Predator; and other sci fi films. If you want to come in costume, have fun with it!

Next: More Gaming

Saturday Part II: Nighttime LARPs

    Live Action Roleplaying takes place on the Wisconsin Avenue side of the first floor of the Midwest Express Center. One World By Night, an international organization, runs a Vampire LARP around the clock, or until players become too tired, usually between two or three in the morning. Jennifer Lewkowicz, from Wheeling, Illinois, enjoys the game.  "I'm involved in trying to stop the sabbat from getting a firm hold on the city of Rockford. We're using a crazy artifact to make the werewolves come into the city and kill them all."
    "Or it'll do nothing." adds her fellow player Robert Ashby, of Iowa City, Iowa. He feels the LARP is fun "because there's a lot of stuff for people to do. [There are] NPCs for new people to play to try the game without being overwhelmed."
    Another Vampire LARP is played in the two-story lobby of the Hyatt Hotel. The Interlopers is the name of this year's game run by Nocturne Productions, a non-profit hobby company that runs events at about three cons a year.  Andy Agin, of Indianapolis, Indiana, told me that the game runs "Thursday and Friday until 2:00 am, and Saturday night until we finish, but the players are free to leave at anytime."
    Although the traditional black costumes and makeup are predominant at the One World By Night LARP, the Nocturne game featured very few costumed people. Agin said, "Costumes are up to the player."
    As Lewkowicz said, costumes are good, "if they help you get into character, but they're harder in the heat."

Next: Places to Rest

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Sunday Part I: Places to Rest

    By Sunday, you're exhausted. You've played all-night LARPs, walked the Art Show once, walked the Exhibit Hall at least twice a day, and you were out drinking at the Safe House last night. You don't want to walk all the way back to your hotel, so where can you rest?
    Benches are located on the Wisconsin Avenue side of the first floor of the Midwest Express Center. Granted, they are cement, but they are long and wide. The second floor walkway toward the Hyatt Hotel has lots of carpeted floor space for you to set down your backpack and weary body. Of course you can sit at the various demo tables in the Exhibit Hall, but you'll probably have to play a demonstration game for the luxury of sitting down. The Anime room located in the Hilton has lots of chairs and will be nice and dark, but the audio is very loud.
    My personal favorite place to rest is to go to the corner of the Midwest Express Center where Wisconsin Avenue intersects with Sixth Street. This corner also contains the series of photos and and sound dedicated to Polka Music.  Take the elevator to the third floor (you can't get here from the third floor area where the Exhibit Hall entrance exists), where there is a lookout over the intersection. This area is very isolated and usually very quiet (unless someone hits the button to play the Polka Music), and an excellent place to rest.

Next: Discounts in the Exhibit Hall

Sunday Part II: Discounts in the Exhibit Hall

    If you've been frugal enough to save your money (or if you're like me and volunteered 16 hours and earned your badge fee back), then you can hit the Exhibit Hall one last time for some nifty discounts. Remember: retailers would rather take home money than product.
    Take the case of George at GWB Imports of Fine Pewter: All those gorgeous pewter figurines of unicorns, skulls, pigs, and coffins have to be heavy to take home. When I asked George how much of a discount he offers, he said, "It depends on the piece. The more you buy the sharper the pencil."
    The Geo Hex Booth, which sells incredible looking terrain and figures for miniature gaming, posted a sign, "Last Day Special: 25% Off." They use a shipping service to send home whatever doesn't sell.
    Fantasy Gifts was eager to not have to ship their fine glass and pewter items. The retailers told me they'll take "Whatever we can get. We don't like to go home with stuff."
    Not every booth offers a final day discount. Mike at Ultra Pro/Rembrandt said he's "kept my prices the same the whole show." He can pack all the tradeable cards he sells into the back of his van.
    Susan Van Camp, an artist whose paintings include fantastic visions of cats with wings, also is not offering a discount. When I asked her why not, she said, "I don't have to. I'm at least a full box less [than when I came], maybe two." All retailers should be so lucky.

Next: Pre-Registering for Next Year

Sunday Part III: Pre-Registering for Next Year

    What's the best cure for the Post-Gen Con Blues? Plan for next year! On or after January 1, 2002, log on to, and pre-register for Gen Con 2002. The last Gen Con scheduled for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, will take place August 8-11, 2002. See you there or in cyberspace!

Next: Gen Con 2002 <grin>

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D&D Ball: What's Your Story?

    What is your favorite D&D story? I don't mean the novels, modules, or whatever. I'm talking about those personal anecdotes that are funny to more than just the experiencing group. I asked this question of those attending the D&D Ball Saturday night, a gaming industry function celebrating the release of the game's third edition. I received some wild responses, some dating back to the first edition of this RPG.
    James People III of Nebraska once played a halfling armed with a sling. The halfling was at the back of a party, and at the head of the party was a paladin fighting a demon. The halfling tried his sling against the demon, but kept hitting the paladin. Irritated and injured, the paladin paused in his fight with the demon by sticking his holy avenger in the ground, went back to the halfling, hoisted the little guy into a tree branch, took the sling, went back to the demon, and resumed the fight.
    While running a game out of Dungeon Magazine, Theodore Black, an artist, described a massacre in graphic detail. One hungry gamer eating pizza couldn't help but connect the entrails and blood to the cheese and tomato sauce. The gamer "bugged out" and never finished the pizza.
    Matt Forbeck, a freelancer currently working with Artbox Entertainment and attending his nineteenth Gen Con this year, learned to play Basic D&D in the summer of 1981. However, he and his group tried playing an AD&D module, which was much tougher on heroes. Throughout the summer campaign, the group went through about a party a day, killing 23 parties in the process.
    Press member Gary Peel played D&D in tournaments this year, and his team wore T-shirts boasting their prowess: "Slit your own throats and save us the trouble." John Jordan, of Barchetta Distributors, remembers one of his gaming buddies as being a shy, quiet Eagle Scout. The scout played a paladin in a battle with a "big bad guy" and rolled extremely well, cleaving his foe in two. The DM asked, "What do you want to say?" The scout said to the big baddie's minions, "The door, gentlemen, is that way!" All enemies within a twenty-foot radius left.
    Rados the Ranger was a character developed by Stephen Richards of Illinois when alliteration was in style. Rados was determined to catch and eat every species of humanoid in the Monster Manual. He even created Rados's Cookbook of Humanoids . John and Yvonne Newman of Ohio reminisced about John's gnome priest who killed a dragon. The gnome had a bag full of diamonds and explosive powder that he set with a firetrap. When the wyrm demanded to see what was in the bag, the bag exploded in the dragon's face. 'Nuff said.
    A paladin that lost his paladin-hood six times? Yes. Jeffrey Baker of Alabama says his paladin:
    1.    Told a thief to "change to good or die"
    2.    Killed someone while that person was unconscious
    3.    Refused to attack an evil creature
    4.    Angered Odin
    5.    Doesn't remember what happened the fifth time
    6.    Got mad and attacked his warhorse.
    Other industry representatives attending the ball had their own memories of the game --sometimes. Ross Jepson of Atlas Games played D&D in the seventies, but he doesn't remember much from that period because his group "used to drink a lot while playing D&D."
    Real-life spouses who are also DMs can create problems. Jacqueline Unger of Minnesota had a character who owned a magical flaming whip, which her DM/hubby Joseph took away. She still does not know why.
    The best summation comes from Michael Conrad of Florida. "The story of D&D is fascinating itself."

Overheard at the Ball:
by Sue Cook
    While Lori chatted with members of the crowd at the party, staff members handed out official commemorative D&D shot glasses (lines on the back marked the measurement of "lawful," "neutral," and "chaotic" levels of your favorite beverage). Meantime, I took the opportunity to speak briefly with the bouncer: the now-famous fighter Regdar (pictured above with artist Todd Lockwood).
    Wizards of the Coast: "So, what is your job here at Gen Con?"
    Regdar: "I govern the events here, maintaining the peace through strength of arms."
    Wizards: "Oh. Has anyone gotten out of line?"
    Regdar: "No, not a sword has been raised. [Pause] I am a little disappointed."
    Wizards: "Why? Not enough experience points for you in this gig?"
    Regdar: [Silence]
    Wizards: "Or maybe you're not the bloodthirsty type after all?"
    Regdar: "Not bloodthirsty -- just thirsty. Spot me a glass of ale?"

Virtual Gen Con is currently owned by Gen Con, LLC.  Please contact Peter Adkison for reprint permission.

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