Lessons Learned from GenCon 2017

Now that we're back from GenCon, we thought it would make sense to look back at our previous blog. See how we followed our own advice and how we strayed. 


Taking care of yourself was the biggest advice, and advice that I clung to. I had numerous instances where I had to march from one end of the con to the other. At least once a day I ended up back in my room during the day. I used this time to grab an extra shower and just lay down and relax for twenty minutes. It meant time away from the con and my friends, but likely helped my mood and health.

Eating turned out to not be as big of a problem. I had snacks, but only had to rely on them once. More often than not I was with family or friends who wanted supper and we organized meal times away from the convention. Planning together meant we never went hungry. With this, I was able to follow 3-2-1 rule easily. It ended up being more like the 5/6-3-2 rule.

Even though this was the biggest GenCon ever, I never had any issues with the size of crowds. Lines seemed to move fast and I was never overwhelmed by the size of the crowds. And with other issues, everyone was really eager to help. Friends and family obviously, but even some strangers helped with bags or asked if you were OK. That doesn't mean everyone there is like that, but GenCon goers have generally been for me a positive, helpful group.

Laura B

1. It is possible to GM a game from 8pm to Midnight and then start another at 8am the next day.

You just won't like it. And may feel dead for the rest of day two.


2. Don't bring any perishable food.

Even if you get lucky enough to have a hotel within two blocks of the convention. GenCon is part of Midwestern fandom (and a trade show).  There is no consuite like in Southern fandom. In addition, GenCon is in a purpose-built convention center — this means the infrastructure to support going out to eat at the convention is robust. Which means the food is actually pretty tasty. So the social expectations, at least among the RPPR fan crowd, is that folks go out to lunch or dinner together.

So all that perishable fruit Adam, Rachel, and I brought to snack on didn't get eaten and went bad. Bleh, food waste.


3. Pantry items, like granola bars, do work well.

Granola bars, string cheese, apples, and water bottles were worth carrying. Especially the water bottle. Even given how heavy full water bottle are. Don't worry, as you drink the water you'll be replacing the weight with loot/swag.


4. GenCon is not a costuming convention.

That's not to say that no one is in costume, but the vast majority are not. Keep in mind that my baseline of what a ‘costuming convention’ looks like it's Dragon*Con, where you see a multitude of costumes walking the hallways anywhere and plan how to move through crowds based on costumes you need to duck around. So, for me, GenCon is not a convention it's worth bringing my costume for, not when I rather do other things than go back to my hotel room and change out of a costume.

Which is a bit of a shame since it's a lot easier to throw the costume in the car for the drive to GenCon than check a bag for the plane ride to Dragon*Con.


5. Expectation drop as a GM — try to avoid it.

First, to define my terms. Expectation drop is that sinking feeling you get when you were excited to do a thing because you expected it to be X, but instead it's Y.

If at all possible, I recommend avoiding this at conventions, as a GM or a player. You'll (most likely) be playing with folks you don't know, and so won't be able to anticipate their play style. Without knowing their play style, that gritty, dark investigation you signed up for could easily be a screwball comedy. Without knowing the players’ levels of genre awareness, that tense horror game can easily become a SWAT team monster hunt. I'm not saying you should ignore game descriptions — absolutely go for games that sound interesting — just don't expect any particular tone or style. I find when all I expect is to experience a system and I'll get what I get from the players, I have a better time.

It does help being the GM and getting to at least try to set the tone.