2011 proved to be an interesting year for me at GenCon. Normally, I have large blocks of time to hit the dealer hall or meet people. This year, my schedule was crammed, not the least because I only chose to attend 3 days without cutting back on my usual number of events.

As a Gnomie, this was a special con. We won our second silver ENnie (I have it on pretty good authority that we were going to take the gold before a Halfling voting bloc tipped the scales) and debuted the hard copies of Masks! On a personal note, I was especially thrilled that I was a much better contributor at the Gnome Stew seminar this time around, rather than wobbling in and grunting like a zombie extra.

On a personal front, it was my first Con as the official Victoriana line developer for Cubicle 7 (which meant I spent a lot of time running events for it) and I got to see two of my freelancing projects, DC Adventures: Heroes & Villains, Vol. 1 and Paris Gothique, in print for the first time.

Since I’ve covered a lot of bases in previous installments, I thought I’d just cover a few notes and observations this time around:

1. Don’t expect things to be the same year to year. It seems that downtown Indy is always building something, and businesses come and go (I still miss a Cajun restaurant that came and went in a single year). Inside the con, the hot games this year, or even the past several years, may be hardly a blip this time around, while others rise to take their place in prominence on the floor.

I know this is horribly anecdotal, but from my perspective the presence and influence of Dungeons & Dragons (and, by extension, WOTC) seemed very diminished this year. Now, I didn’t play in any D&D events so I had no reason to go upstairs and see the tables, but their spot in the Dealer’s Hall was against the back wall and primarily promoted Neverwinter Nights. Judging by the products displayed at various tables third party support had really dried up, and all of the gamers I talked to that called themselves “fantasy gamers” (admittedly a small number) were playing Pathfinder.

That said WOTC’s presence was much more prominent than White Wolf, who used to be one of the “big companies” in the room. They were limited to sharing a small table with another company and the only reason I know that is because I looked them up in the GenCon guide. They were far removed from the rest of the RPG companies sans Green Ronin, who also had a crappy floor location.

On a more personal level I stayed at the Marriott Downtown this time, which I thought was quite the housing reg coup. Unfortunately, the Dealer’s Hall and the food court was moved further inside the Convention Center. Also, while Crown Plaza and Union Station used to be out-of-the-way, they were now the closest event-hosting hotels, along with the Omni, to the Dealer’s Hall. Marriott threw up another hotel as well and this one, while connected via Skywalk, is now the furthest event-hosting hotel.

On top of that, all of my events were scheduled at the Omni, so I actually had to go further in the morning to get to my events than when I was booked at the Hilton.

2. Rather than get generic tickets, check the GenCon website for open events and purchase them outright. The site is continually updated (although the GenCon app seemed slower) and you’re more likely to get in a game. The best times for generics (again, anecdotally) are early in the morning or late in the evening.

3. This one deserves its own article (guess what topic my next article will cover!) but if you’re running a game anticipate that shy, introverted players can often be as difficult to manage as a loud, obnoxious player.

4. Listen to your players and treat every event as a playtest if you are running it more than once. One of them questioned something in the adventure and I found myself agreeing with him so I adjusted things accordingly for the rest of the events. Also, my first event group inadvertently solved several problems I’d been struggling with for the final act and this made things run more smoothly and elegantly than I’d thought possible.

5. Sometimes you inadvertently turn off a GM or other players with your demeanor without even realizing it. I know one person who played in an event and left feeling that it was an excellent adventure and a great time was had by all, only for me to overhear the GM later complaining that said player was extremely difficult and almost derailed the event.

That’s it for now. If you were at GenCon how was your experiences? Did you find anything different, for good or ill, between this year and previous visits? Did you learn anything new?