Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Memory Fragments of Gen Con

Here it is as I remember it - a lot of this will be turgid or pointless to anyone who has gone to America, or who is American - so most of you.

Airports are bad, Manchester is even more of a glitzy pile of shameless shit-capitalism than any US airport I was in.

JFK is a city of people who are all going somwhere else.

Indianapolis Airport is the nicest.

The sky is actually bigger there, especially in Indiana.

The cab driver on the way to the hotel hung a dangly thing in front of his readout so that people can't see that he is bilking them. It was the most pathetic thing ever, I was going to tip him up to a round 40 anyway.

When I got to the hotel the told me they had fucked up the booking and asked if they could pay to put me somewhere else. My phone wasn't working and I was wasted from air travel. I knew I needed to meet Jacob and the only thing he knew was that it would be in this hotel, so I said no. They upgraded me to a 25th floor corner penthouse for free. If my phone had been working or I had been thinking rationally I would have probably agreed, and not got the Penthouse. I think the per-day cost of that room was something insane like 1,500 or 1,800. I paid 200-300.

Gen-Con is huge, then you realise that the room you are staring at is only one room of the Con, it spreads like a spiderweb of nerds into many of the major downtown buildings, linked by walkways and tunnels, you can cross a lot of Indianapolis without touching the street.

The cleaning staff in the posh rooms of the JW Marriott leave your toiletries in parallel lines, and they won't stop leaving new soap, even though you haven't used the old soap, so theoretically, over time, the suite could just fill up with soap.

I left as big a tip as I could for them but I suspect for that room its still a tiny tip so now they think I am a complete 'asshole'.

Americans say 'bathroom' not 'toilet'.

No-one serving food in the US understood my accent.

Indianapolis has an open Congressional Medal of Honour museum by an unfinished, now ornamental, canal. The museum plays a sad whistling song when people enter. This is not intended to be ironic.

I don't really know who anyone is.

The booth is you want to submit things to next years Ennies in person is at the far left of the hall, in the early 200's.

Indianapolis has a HUGE war memorial, mainly for the civil war. The lamp-posts alone have rings of writhing bears, spikes, alternating gorgonite faces with waving snakes I think? Eagles clutching shields and more radial spikes. In loops beneath the bronze eagles, real birds have nested and the techno-organic street-detritus droops down the almost-futurist Victorian bronze patriotism. (Do Americans say 'Victorian'?)

The monument itself has these massive, I think they are called bass-reliefs? made of broken guns, shattered spears and kindling, hung flags, wild horses bursting out from the centre like someone dropped a Horse Grenade, Buffalo Heads and glowering eagles and I am forgetting most of it.

Zak can appear from anywhere.

The popular audience for RPG's really likes the fucking 80's, and new versions of things they already know.

I still cannot process complex social events, crowds and/or loud noise without having an aspergers breakdown.

Jez Gordon has a warm embrace.

Charlotte Stokely has CHA 18.

If you walk into a State Museum of Modern Art with Zak Smith then yes, someone will say; aren't you Zak Smith?

Perhaps more surprisingly, if you walk into the Kurt Vonnegut Museum with Charlotte Stokely, someone (a hairy guy) will say; Charlotte Stokely, you are my hero.

Christian Kessler has Seen Too Much and seems kinda like an Elmore Leanord character.

Zak never seems to get tired but its almost like he has a Catalapsian Node like a Space Marine; one eye kinda half-closes and he gets a little mentally soggy, as if one half of his brain is shutting down, but he never actually stops.

Zak will make you do the; 'you Sir, do you like games? Do you like D&D?' but with him for some time, even though there is no-one else there to be either attracted or repulsed.

Raggi is still Raggi.

I have no idea who hates who in the Ennies Awards Hall. Apparently everyone hates at least someone, though I'm fucked if I can remember. It is a complex ever-shifting network of resentments.

Ron Edwards seemed nice. I'm not sure he has actually read anything I have written but he gave a good impression of generally knowing something non-specific about LotFP.

Apparently you have to 'play the game'.

I have no impulse control when playing D&D, to the detriment of my team.

I think maybe 3 or 4 women, total, bought copies of Veins of the Earth.

The medal-awarding little girls at the Ennies were very sweet and did their job well despite the strangeness of the situation.

If there is enough stuff in a room, its as if there was nothing in the room.

Indianapolis is based around Convention Culture, meaning that, depending on the time of year, they have their downtown area filled with; Nerds, Racing Fans, Firefighters, Football Players and Fans, and, amazingly; Mayors. Mayor-Con is held in Indianapolis and every mayor from the US goes there. So, depending on the season, the population of that area and the way it interacts is utterly unique.

You could do a pretty good crime show about the Cops who have to Police the 'Con-Town'.

There - I just named the show.

A midwestern waitress in a mid-range diner will do the whole 'well sure you will suger' thing exactly like off the movies. They really do that.

Almost every American I spoke to or dealt with was kind, helpful and tolerant. Almost every American I've told this to was wary and almost suspicious of the information, as if there were some danger of them being tricked.

On our last night, at the 'Red Roof Inn', Jacob Hurst and I saw a shirtless man in the night, leaning into a truck filled with broken mirror fragments. if he was larping Unknown Armies then he was doing it well.

It's possible that everyone in the less wealthy areas of the US is Larping Unknown Armies, it certainly seems as if they are.

The trip back with Condor/Thomas Cook, was SHIT - FUCK THOSE GUYS.


  1. Thanks for flying out! I got to meet you at the booth and you were super nice (as was the rest of the crew).

    Gen Con can be a real beast - I've worked it for something like the last six years in a row and even I was surprised at how Zak kept his energy up. I was like "How do you do this?" And he just said, "Adrenaline."

    I just now realized I forgot to leave a tip at my hotel, so you are probably fine.

  2. Life is never boring there
    Everything is on such a big scale
    Glad u survived
    Now the immunization will slowly grow and metastatize
    And rewrite your home to new better improved...bigger :3

  3. Indiana is a wonderful state. If you are going to visit one of the less-famous American metropolitan areas, Indianapolis is a great one.

  4. To clarify: Patrick died 3 TIMES in team vs team D&D.

    That is, according to Mike Mearls, the in-house record for deaths during D&D at WOTC where they play D&D like it's-, and because it's-, their job.

  5. At one time, Indianapolis had the second most war memorials in the US, after DC. It may still be true. The massive one downtown has a REALLY cool Tomb of the Unknowns inside, and the Medal of Honor stories in that memorial are interesting from a "Holy Fuck! How did someone actually do that?!" standpoint.

    That canal was a real, working canal. Indianapolis was the center of the canals, and then the center of the railroads, and then the center of the interstate system, and the center of the fiber optic system. That's why it exists, just like Byzantium, a crossroads. They eventually filled the canal in, and then dug it all out to build condo's on it.

    Indy is within a 6-8 hour drive of a huge prerentage of the US population. Essentially everyone west of Denver ... 80% or some such. Hence the convention town aspect.

  6. Yes, we say Victorian.

    Zzarchov threw me into a pit of my own free will. I wish I could have gamed more.

  7. It was a pleasure meeting you, if only briefly. I hope you're able to return soon. :)

  8. "It's possible that everyone in the less wealthy areas of the US is Larping Unknown Armies, it certainly seems as if they are."

    Best sentence I've read in a long time, thanks for that.

  9. I'm 40.4% British so I understand your food order.

  10. This was precisely what I thought it would be like but nobody else is able to articulate it in such an Ayoadean manner.

  11. That was an enjoyable read from my perspective (an American rube that has never been to any big RPG convention). :)

  12. The sky is indeed bigger in the Midwest - the nearest mountain to Indy is 400-odd miles (6 or 700km) away. Views from tall buildings are therefore usually boring but expansive.

    It was disappointing a few things came together to stop me going this year, since I'm only a state over.
    Glad you had a got to see our side of the pond Patrick

  13. Great to finally meet you in person though we didn't really get a chance to hangout non-superficially.

  14. This is the huge war memorial that Patrick was talking about (the Soldiers and Sailors Monument):