Special Report: Gen Con 1999
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Gen Con 1999 Day 1
Our trip to the world-famous Gen Con gaming convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States was a two-man expedition, with representatives from both EhGO Games (Robert) and Fat Messiah Games (Neal). We've differentiated ourselves with color, so you'll know who's talking.
Day 1August 5, 1999
Too Damn Early In the Morning
Approaching Milwaukee International Airport
The view is spectacular this early in the day and this high in the air, so maybe it's worth it.
We arrived at 5:30am with no hassles except lack of sleep. As usual, Midwest Express has great service and every seat is first class. At the Hertz counter, the rental guy would not give us the free upgrade without the coupon that I foolishly failed to bring. That was kind of a pain. But they also offered a cell phone rental. We decided to rent the cell phones. At US$1.95 per minute, 3 minute daily minimum, it was not too much. These were mid-80's models, bulky by today's standards. We should be able to reach Iridium with sets this large. The case that came with it for the charger, extra battery, manual, and padding made it almost luggage. We soon found out what a great decision it was to rent the cell phones.
An hour after I wake up we're in a white rental Neon streaking towards MECCA, with me at the wheel marvelling at how much cooler than mine this thing is. (No snide remarks from those of you who've seen my Hideousmobile, please.) My LA-honed offensive driving skills seem to be right at home here. Maybe people just drive badly all over the country.
Driving to the convention, we missed the exit. We turned the Neon around, only to find that Milwaukee has a lot of one way streets. Eventually we made it to the still-under construction Midwest Express Convention Center (MECCA)
By 6:30am, we've deduced that the convention center's parking garage remains incomplete, despite not having seen it yet, based solely on the price gouging going on at the local lots. From our extensive convention experience we know that resistance is futile when it comes to searching for cheap parking downtown (any downtown) so we pay our ten-spot with resignation. We grab our gear from the car, enough to outfit a decent scientific expedition:
Robert's also got some D&D stuff, and I've got a copy of Shapeshifters just in case. Hauling our junk, we hike a block to join the burgeoning mass of gamers waiting in the chill morning air for registration to begin.
The doors open at 7:00am sharp, which means it's time for the old hurry-up-and-wait. Instead of standing in line outside where it's cool, we're standing in line indoors. At least Mr. Tropical here will be happy. Now if he can just locate a coffee fix...
The thing about the jungle, you see, is that it's hot! Never give up coffee for six months straight if you are going to the world's largest producer of coffee (Brazil), next to the producer of the best coffee in the world (Colombia). But that is another tale. Back in Milwaukee, it was chilly. I mean cold. We had not eaten, much less gotten some nutritious hot coffee in our tummies. Some people taunted us by carrying cups of Starbucks coffee (or some reasonable rip-off). Eventually I was able to warm up.
Despite my fears, Andon ends up being pretty well organized. After a half hour of the usual clearing of organizational throats you get at any gathering of gamers, I've got a badge, program, and bag of stuff (with a spiffy Origins/Gen Con logo) and we're out the door on a breakfast quest through downtown Milwaukee.
We finally end up eating an expensive but excellent breakfast
at the Hyatt after all, and regroup at the RPGA area in the sports center
No, it does not say "RPGA HO". It's "RPGA
No, it does not say "RPGA HO". It's "RPGA HQ"!to figure out our schedule for the con. You'll notice that we stop giving the exact time of day for anything at this point; once you hit a con, you're in the Twilight Zone for the duration. This being the biggest one, the separation from our normal spacetime is the greatest.
Being at a con is like being on break from school for a few months. After a while, you don't really know what day of the week it is, and time is broken simply into day and night. Hours lose meaning. It's quite liberating.
The first (and, as it turns out, only) event we hit is the "Not Really One Of The Guys" seminar by Liz Danforth. Then we go on to do a quick sweep of the Exhibition Hall (AKA the Dealer Room in smaller convention terminology) and deal with a bit of RPGA bureaucracy to try and figure out what the deal is with the upcoming Interactive on Saturday.
The huge, huge map of Ravens Bluff, the so-called Living City. The map was on one of the walls of the impressive and imposing new TSR castle.
The coffee's wearing off of Robert, and I'm starting to hallucinate, so we head for the hotel. This brings us to:Neal's Game Convention Rule #1:
Always Book Your Room Early
Otherwise, you'll end up in our situation, a hotel more than six miles from the convention site. Among other inconveniences, this means you can't get totally toasted each night like you can if you're within stumbling distance of your room. But for now that doesn't matter, because any room will do in the condition we're in. We both sleep so soundly we wake up way too late and rush back to the con.
We were pulled over on the way back from the hotel. "U turns" are not allowed at controlled intersections. The officer was nice and let us go after he realized we were chumpy tourists from California and did not know the ways of the Midwest. Naturally, he rode a cool looking Harley Davidson motorcycle, since they are made here.
It turns out we've missed the big Wizards of the Coast Disco party. But we do manage to hit the area in time to make the big freelancer gathering, as you can see. Too bad I had to drive, so I didn't get properly plastered, at least not until the next day.