Looking for tips on getting most out of my first Gary Con

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by JasonM, Dec 27, 2018.

  1. JasonM

    JasonM Level 0 Character

    Howdy folks,

    This year will be my first Gary Con (I've been to several Gen Cons) and I'm looking for tips on getting the most out of it. I am a Silver Badge holder. I've got a room at Comfort Suites Lake Geneva East and will be coming in on Wednesday. Right now I've got my room through Monday but I am considering on checking out a day earlier.

    - How does badge and ticket pickup work? Can I pick them up on Wednesday? Are the hours pretty expansive on this? It doesn't look like most of my flights options get in until the early evening so I'm even considering coming in a day earlier if this looks like it would be an issue. For comparison, I can't imagine having to do will-call at GenCon on Thursday morning (shudders).

    - Does anybody have any event registration tips?

    - I grew up with AD&D 1e and B/X D&D and those are awesome but I'm really looking forward to trying to get into DCC, MCC and Mothership events as some of my top choices. Anybody have any suggestions for something that might not be obvious to me?

    - Should I come stocked with my own food and water or is this readily available on site?

    - What's the parking situation? Given that I'll be coming from Comfort Suites Lake Geneva East, how early should I plan on arriving to get decent parking? My assumption is that I'll be renting a car at the airport and using it for travel between my hotel and the convention.

    - Anything else?

    Any information is much appreciated! This will be my first trip to Lake Geneva and it's pretty much Mecca for folks of my generation who grew up playing D&D so I'm really looking forward to this. Thanks!
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  2. gizmomathboy

    gizmomathboy Spellbinder

    If there are people you know at the con staying through Monday is nice because then you can hang out and do whatever on Sunday night.

    You can pick up your badge on Wednesday. It's a smaller window than the rest of the con and there lately there has been a substantial line. However, it's not too bad.

    Once the final schedule of events is done you can pull down the event catalog and slice and dice it to your heart's content. However, we silver badge holders are the last folks to select events. So many of the Featured Events (FE) get sold out, but there are usually plenty of those so don't be discouraged. Some times if there is an overabundance of FE then the silverites might get an extra one. It depends upon many variables. I wouldn't count on it.

    I mostly play miniatures and such at cons because I don't have the time, talent, space, or money to do that in general. I do an RPG or two if I have the time. So I'm not help on this point.

    There is a decent amount of water available, but food is mostly what your budget is likely. The food is decent and at con pricing. So it's purely a subjective call.

    The lot fills up but if you can't park at the Grand Geneva you can park at Timber Ridge and catch the shuttle to Grand Geneva.

    Sleep at least 3 hours a day, eat at least 2 meals a day, and shower at least once a day. :)

    It's a marathon, not a race, at least for me. I've been going since VI but I know plenty of folks at the con so I tend to hang out with them. Also, I run a bunch of stuff so my personal gaming time is limited, but I usually am in something each day. Which can make for a long day but I try to get plenty of sleep, water, and food each day.

    That's my advice for whatever it's worth.
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  3. Buttmonkey

    Buttmonkey Troubadour

    Some tips for newbies:

    1. Don't obsess over featured events. There are a limited number of seats and the expensive badge holders are going to get the seats for the really hot games with industry legends. It's great if you can get into one of those games, but you shouldn't freak out about it. I've managed to play with almost all of the old guard GMs and can safely say that you have just as good a chance at a good game with a non-featured event. Some of the famous GMs are fantastic, but so are many of the relatively anonymous people running non featured events. Some of the legendary GMs are actually not that good (opinions will no doubt differ on who is great, so I'm not going to call anyone out here). Just look for events that sound interesting and enjoy whatever events you can get into.

    1.5 Even if you can't get into many of the events you want, you will still have a great time. Many GMs will let you join their games if you show up at game time and ask for a seat because (a) sometimes players don't show up at game time and there are openings; and (b) some GMs will bend over backwards to accommodate players because they love the hobby and want everyone to have a great time. Even if that doesn't work, keep in mind that there are probably more events you would like than you could possibly play in. Take a chance on an unknown GM or game system. You will find something fun to do. 2 or 3 years ago I did a suicide registration (i.e., I didn't sign up for any events in advance) to prove the point. I just showed up at tables to see what I could get into. I had no problem finding enjoyable games on the fly.

    2. I strongly recommend signing up for a war gaming event. One of the things that makes Gary Con special is the opportunity to play war games that formed the roots of the hobby. I was a hardcore RPGer until I was invited to play a war game as I passed through the Legends of War Gaming room a few years back. I had a great time and my gaming world expanded in directions I never expected. Last year I played in a Braunstein event run by the guy who created it. It doesn't get any more old school than that! Take a chance even if you have no experience with war games. I've found the other players and GMs in war games to be incredibly welcoming to newbie players. I had no clue how to play Bridge at Remagen the first time I played a war game, but I had a ton of fun thanks to the other people in the game.

    3. The social aspects of Gary Con are more important that the games themselves. Pushing yourself to interact with strangers at Gary Con pays huge dividends, especially if you come year after year. You will eventually build up a large friendship base so that you rarely have any down or bored time even if you aren't playing in events. You will see familiar people in passing and spend time catching up and socializing. Try to get to know at least one person per event at least a little bit. Say, "Hi" the next time you see them. This is hugely important in my opinion. It can also be very difficult if you are shy, but it is very much worth the effort. There is something very special about being in a place for 4-5 days surrounded by people who share your nerdy passions. You can relax and be yourself in a way you really can't in normal society.

    4. Hand sanitizer is your friend. Con Crud is real. Don't let it get you.

    5. Personally, I wouldn't sign up for any RPG session for more than 6 players. I find I don't get enough screen time to make it worth my while. There are large games worth signing up for anyway, but keep in mind you will not be getting much individual attention from the GM. Steve Chenault of Troll Lord Games runs a Friday night C&C game every year with 20+ players. I signed up last year and had a lot of fun, but only because I went into it knowing the limitations of the event. That event is an outlier for me. An AD&D game for 8 players is just about my worst nightmare. Figure out what you are looking for in an event and target that experience.

    6. DCC and MCC can be a lot of fun. I recommend not participating in more than one funnel adventure. Some people love funnels to death. I personally don't get it. It's like running through Tomb of Horrors with an army of 0 level PCs. Skill doesn't really come into play. It's all a question of running a gauntlet and getting lucky enough to survive. Some of the set piece encounters can be pretty cool, but the novelty wore off for me pretty quickly. The good aspects of DCC and MCC don't kick in until first level (in my opinion).
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  4. jim skach

    jim skach Troubadour

    Badge Pickup:
    In earlier years you just came by Wednesday afternoon/evening and picked it up. No fuss no muss. It's pretty much the same now but the lines are longer...dammit.

    Event Registration:
    What Buttmonkey said for the most part. Seriously, as we approach registration, it will be tempting to think the only way you'l have fun is to get in as many featured events as possible. Horse-muffins! I've done years with a loaded schedule, and I've gone commando. Having little to nothing on your schedule is a kind of Zen experience. Let go and let GaryCon come to you. It's amazing. Having said that - it being your first time and the convention being much different than it was 8 years ago, I'd go for a nice sweet spot in between. Get in a featured event and then scatter a few regular events..toss in a seminar you might find interesting. Leave an ample amount of open time for shopping and socializing and impromptu games. Meet up with friends. Make new ones. Sling some dice.

    Dungeon Crawl Classics:
    DCC and MCC can be difficult gets. That crowd is capital-H-Hungry for the events. It's difficult to go wrong with the Judges. I'd suggest getting in one of my daughter's DCC/MCC games (if I can get her to take some time from her busy schedule to decide and get them submitted) so she can get a new stuffed head over the mantle. But seriously - if you really want to get into a DCC or MCC game, and I or my daughter are available, we can try to get a few folks together and go off-grid. Because getting in an off-grid game and falling in love with it is what makes GaryCon great. Also...Buttmonkey doesn't know what he's talking about. Funnels are the bomb. :D

    Don't tell anyone, but I've heard of people who bring their own microwave and set it up in their room and then plan on eating all of their meals there - supplemented by late night pizzas at the game table. But that's just crazy rumors. But you're coming from a different hotel, so...there's plenty of food at the convention. Though I would suggest a reusable water bottle and snacks if you're planning on doing a whole day at the con (then back to your room for shuteye). They usually have water stations throughout so you can just refill and the snacks can hold you over and cut costs a bit.

    Pretty much what Gizmo said. Just a warning...I'd plan on parking at the timber ridge and then be pleasantly surprised if you can find a spot on site. I've seen that lot get really freaking crowded.

    What Buttmonkey said in #3 is really the key. GaryCon is a different beast - or at least traditionally it has been. I have at least three different groups of friends that are pretty much all from going to GaryCon - dozens and dozens of people that I get to hang out with once a year and all because of this convention. It's far more a social event with some games for me. After you pick up your badge on Wednesday night come to the bar - first Spotted Cow is on Gizmo....or me...
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  5. JasonM

    JasonM Level 0 Character

    This is great information, thanks guys! There's some really awesome advice here that I'm going to take to heart for sure.

    Gizmomathboy, you say there's a limited window for pickup Wednesday, which tells me if I want to hit it I may consider coming in a day earlier. I might be missing something obvious on the site but can't seem to find any info on the site regarding badge pickups and times. Do you (or anyone really) happen to know where I might find that info or at least in your experience roughly what that Weds window is?

    I normally go to GenCon with friends but will be flying solo this time so Buttmonkey, your advice about just dropping by a table and seeing if there's room might work out too bad for me in some cases.

    Does anybody feel there's a sweet spot for the number of events per day / hours in events? At GenCon I like to make sure I have a coupe hours in the dealer hall each day but I drive there and have no problem bringing back artwork and such. I'll probably pick up a few books and trinkets at the hall here but I don't plan to purchase anything large that would be a pain to fly back with.

    Again, thanks for the great advice. Please keep it coming, folks!
  6. jim skach

    jim skach Troubadour

    Step 1) Do not use GenCon as a model for what's going to happen at GaryCon. At least not for a few more years, I hope.
    Step 2) Let. Go.

    Wednesday is usually...what, about 3:00 or 4:00 it starts and goes until about 9:00? I don't know...I'm usually in a bit of a fog of joy...
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  7. JasonM

    JasonM Level 0 Character

    Hi Jim, thanks for the insightful comments! I will take your advice and try to keep my ear to the ground for off grid stuff because that does sound fun and a great way to meet folks (images of me saddling up to the bar, slipping the bartender $20 and asking what the word on the street is about off grid DCC/MCC and Mothership lol). I played my first DCC funnel at GenCon this year with Judge Joan (Joan Troyer) and fell in love with the game!
  8. Scott308

    Scott308 Chevalier

    I like to play games I'm unfamiliar with at cons. I generally get into 5 or 6 RPGs I've never played before at each con, although that gets harder to do each year. I took a chance and played in a couple of Legends of Wargaming events a few years ago and had a lot of fun. I was hesitant because it looks pretty intimidating, but everyone is really happy to help new players, and there are some amazing setups! I highly recommend trying a minis game.

    Sticking with registering for games, there will be plenty of great games available for those of us with silver badges. Yeah, some of the games run by big name guests will be filled, but there will be some great guests that have plenty of seats available. And to be honest, while I have had opportunities to play with many of the big names from yesterday as well as today, my favorite games most often have been with people you've never heard of. There are a LOT of extremely good GMs out there.

    I have really only had two bad game experiences, and those were in games run by industry professionals. The regular GMs are there because they enjoy running games and are usually very enthusiastic, especially if it is a lesser known system that they are able to teach to new players. I'm not saying special guests or people running popular games like D&D, DCC or Cthulhu don't enjoy running games or aren't every bit as enthusiastic, just that great games can be found in every nook and cranny at Gary Con, so there is no need to worry that all the good games will be filled.

    I try to pick a couple games based on the system, with the description and GM being pretty irrelevant. I try to pick a few games run by friends or GMs I have played with before, system and description are fairly meaningless. And I try to pick a few games based on the description, system and GM aren't that important. If I can find games that hit two or even all 3 criteria at the same time, all the better.

    A water bottle and snacks are a good idea. I generally bring some snacks and a Gatorade that I'll drink before I start drinking pop or beer. One really nice feature at Gary Con (although it was pretty inconsistent last year) is tableside food service, so you don't have to worry about having time to get lunch or dinner, although you still have other options if you want to have a more relaxed dinner.

    As for badge pick-up, if you can get your stuff Wednesday, that is the best option. If not, don't schedule an 8 a.m. game as the badge pickup doesn't open until 8 am, the same time games start, which will prevent you from getting to a game on time. I don't know why they choose to do it this way, but every year it screws up a number of people's first game.

    Coming from another hotel, they may have shuttle service. I know I stayed off-site a few years ago and used the shuttle. Just make sure you know when it runs so you don't miss the start of a game or the final shuttle back at the end of the night. Plus, that way you don't have to worry about having a beer at the bar with your new friends and having to drive. Obviously, if you want to head into town for dinner, you'll need to drive. If you're driving, the earlier you get there the more likely you are to find a spot.

    I'm going to preface this last part with a warning that what works for me may not (almost assuredly won't) work for others. When I go to cons, I pack my schedule so full that I have to sit on it so I can zip it closed, figuratively speaking. I schedule myself from 8am to midnight. If there are hours I can game, I'm gaming. I like to know what my schedule us going to be; I don't do as well if something cancels and I have time to fill. I have been told I'm crazy for scheduling myself this way, but it works for me. I typically get 4-5 hours of sleep when I'm not at a con, sometimes less than that, so I am able to game until midnight, hang out at the bar for a bit, then get up, get breakfast, and be ready to start gaming at 8 a.m. I would not suggest you do anything similar to me in this regard, but I wanted to show a different point of view to those who make sure they have time to hang out.

    Also, I agree with Buttmonkey- avoid funnels. You really don't even get to experience the system when you play zero level characters. Some people love them for some inexplicable reason, like our misguided friend, Mr. Skach, but we like him anyway. :p
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  9. stahlnee

    stahlnee Spellbinder

    IIRC badges are generally available for pickup starting at 3pm or so on Wednesday afternoon. Not sure how late it goes though.

    After getting your badge on Wednesday afternoon, find several individuals and head over to the Frankenparty. Details are usually posted in this forum several weeks in advance.

    As far as games to sign up for, have a first and second alternative in case the event fills up before you can snag a ticket.

    A number of GMs can accomondate an extra player or two. Show up about 15 minutes early and ask nicely. The GM will tell you the situation and you can go from there.

    Legends of Wargaming events can mostly accomondate extra players. In particular the miniature events.

    Consider signing up for the Legends of Wargaming tournament that occurs on Friday evening. It was very successful last year and is being listed with 90 available tickets for GaryCon XI.

    Don't be afraid to talk to a featured/special guest if you run into them. Avoiding interrupting them while they are running or playing a game.

    Look at the seminars and you will be surprised at to the offerings. Growing Up Gygax is a wonderful seminar to hear very interesting tales of what it was like to grow up in the Gygax household.

    If you are interesting in eating at the resort restaurants for dinner, make a reservation ahead of time to avoid a wait.

    For snacks there is a Walmart near by that I see a number of attendees stock up on Wednesday mid-day.

    Make new and lasting friendships.

    Stats from last year:
    - 16 of the 203 featured events were filled prior to the start of Silver Badge registration.
    - 26 of the non-featured events were filled prior to the start of Silver Badge registration.
    - Only 3 of the featured/special guest had all of their events filled prior to the start of Silver Badge registration (Heidi Gygax 1 of 1, Jeff Talanian 2 of 2 and Mike Mearls 5 of 5 with a ticket being returned and available later).
    - If you remain flexible in your scheduling you can get a seat with almost every DM you want.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2018
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  10. sir jon

    sir jon Spellbinder

    You guys all miss the best thing! Once you get your badge, you get in your ride, or any one else's ride, and go down to Bruno's for your 10% off your beer and Malort purchases. We do it every year for a little added variety to our room (and carrying capacity). Bruno's loves the added revenue and the selection is great.

    Walmart, Target and other stores are nearby. If you're staying at the Comfort Suites, they're almost spitting distance. Some cheapo options to what the resort has are always good to have. We are all gamers and know what we want at any given point - there are always options.

    Main thing is to have fun and do what makes you happy. You're not going to get into everything you want, but you can always try after the fact. Just walk up to the table and see if they'll fit you in!
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  11. jim skach

    jim skach Troubadour

    Clearly this is a lie as we are all well aware that nobody really likes me...it's more of a tolerate kind of thing...
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  12. DMtrev

    DMtrev Level 0 Character

    Hey Jason, this will be my 3rd GaryCon. I have found that everyone is attending for the same reasons... Playing games and having fun. You can't go wrong!

    But by all means feel free to fret over the schedule of events. I enjoy doing that in the lead up to registration day quite a bit! (Even though my MUST ATTEND events never seem to be as good as the random weird stuff I get into) . I have yet to have a bad game at GaryCon. Except one. And that was because I was soooo hungover should have just skipped it and stayed in bed.

    PS I shower and brush my teeth every day. And deodorant.
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  13. Buttmonkey

    Buttmonkey Troubadour

    For a first time attendee, I'd recommend signing up for a lot of events and making an effort to get to know your fellow players. It can be easy getting lost amidst the sea of attendees and the con can be strangely lonely when you don't know anyone and have nothing to do between events. Meeting a lot of gamers during events is the best way to alleviate that problem, so playing a lot of events is an important step your first year. In subsequent years, you're probably best off limiting yourself to 1-2 events per day so you will have time to socialize and hit the dealer room repeatedly. On the other hand, if you are insane like Scott308, load up your schedule every year until you collapse from exhaustion.

    Scheduling a one hour break between events can be helpful if you are bouncing around the venue. It takes time to get between the forums and the main area. Back to back events (i.e., one event ends at the same as your next event begins) can be stressful if not impossible in some cases.

    If you decide to drop out of a game you signed up for, it's classy and courteous to notify the GM. If you can't reach the GM before game time, show up at game time and let the GM know you are bowing out. Alternatively, find someone who is interested in taking your spot and give them your ticket. It really sucks as a GM to be waiting at game time for missing players with no idea what is going on. If you let them know you are bowing out, they will be able to start trying to recruit passing attendees to be players immediately.
  14. sir jon

    sir jon Spellbinder

    Also, if you don't end up going to Frankenparty on Wednesday Eve, there is the usual mixer at the lobby bar of all us nuts that come the day early to get together for a few drinks, laughs, pickup games, and even catch up on the last year. It's a pretty good time, even if the resort never seems to be able to keep up with our food and drink demands before the con actually starts.
  15. SoulCatcher78

    SoulCatcher78 Level 0 Character

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  16. red wizard

    red wizard Troubadour

    And don't forget the Annual Wednesday Night Unofficial Super-Classy DGS Cocktail Mixer! We put the ass in class :)
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  17. gmbarry

    gmbarry Footpad

    We get there Wednesday and get our Badges and then head to FrankenParty
    It is a good way to socialize and try to follow the GaryCon facebook page and get to know players and GM's...
    People are so awesome at the con, except that one guy named Skach, we try not to talk about him

    Sign up for as many as you think you can handle... you may be able to just walk up and slip into featured games

    Bring stuff to get signed, even if you are not in their game, you can ask for an autograph from anyone and talk to anyone... I will hate lugging around Art and Arcana this year

    If a game you want to play in is full, ask the GM ahead of time. I run a lot of 8 player games and they go pretty well so don't be shy

    Here is some practical advice on any Cons

    OH, and make sure you try Bitners Bakery for Donuts !!!
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  18. JasonM

    JasonM Level 0 Character

    Man there's so much good info here to digest, thanks evybody! I'm totally looking forward to this. I honestly hadn't even considered doing any wargaming events but now you've all got me curious about the LoW stuff. Thanks again everybody for the outstanding feedback!
  19. stahlnee

    stahlnee Spellbinder

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  20. The Blue Max

    The Blue Max Level 0 Character

    The Fight in the Skies Society will be running Dawn Patrol from Noon on Thursday thru the end of the con in the Legends of Wargaming area, and we always have space for players. As an added bonus, the Designer, Mike Carr will be around for many of those games.
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