Gen Con is America’s largest tabletop game convention, and draws over 60,000 visitors. It began 50 years ago in Lake Geneva (hence the “Gen”) by Gary Gygax (one of the creators of Dungeons & Dragons), and has grown and moved over the years.
Hundreds of companies sell their board games, card games, roleplaying games, dice, costumes, movies, books, and anything else that the crowd is interested in. I used to own a game publishing company and ran multiple booths there for several years.
Christian Gamers Guild
I’m probably best known by many Gen Con attendees as the guy that leads the Sunday morning Christian worship service, and the Friday panel discussion about Christianity and Gaming, under the auspices of the Christian Gamers Guild.
The first time I held the panel, it even included Gary Gygax (a few months before he passed), talking about the origins of D&D. (Thanks to Geek Preacher for the video.)
Our church service for the past few years gets about as many as we can fit in the room, so the organizers schedule us in one hotel ballroom to another, as the logistics allow. This year, we had around 200. Tom Vasel, of The Dice Tower, preached for us again.
I ran three roleplaying game sessions, and played in one.
Champions: Bring Your Own Brick is the trickiest game for me to run. Players bring superhero characters, and my job is to give them a plot, some opposition, and some resolution. It’s tricky because I never know what the characters will be like. As superheroes, they could be magic, technological, aliens, mutants, animals, or anything else. This time, I went with a scavenger hunt / race structure, like a cross between It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World and Avengers: Infinity War.
Meep on the Borderland is the funniest game for me to run. Muppets take on the role of fantasy characters. Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie, and a dozen others rescue kidnapped colleagues from all manner of evil creature (also played by muppets). We open up the game by singing the theme song, because of course we do. Everyone laughs and laughs throughout the game. (Read more, see the art, and download the character sheets here.)
Cereal Killers: Night of the Living Crunch is the strangest game for me to run (which is saying a lot). Breakfast cereal mascots like Cap’n Crunch and Tony the Tiger claw their way through grim and gritty adventures. What makes it strange is that despite the inherent silliness of the concept, it’s all played with a straight face. My friend Joe Linehan came up with the idea, and put the crew through adventures like Watchmen. I liked the idea so much, I’ve run a few of my own, and this year faced them off against the living dead. (Download the character sheets that fold into or around fun-size cereal boxes here.)
Can of Whupass is the game I look forward to playing every year. It’s an annual last-man-standing event of pop culture comedy mashups. Characters like Christopher Walken: Texas Ranger, Stephen J. Hawkman, Farley Quinn, General Grievous and Butthead, Bizarrobama, Dr. Zeuss, Hellboy Wonder, Popeye the Sailor Moon, and Elon Musketeer. I won this year! As a reward/punishment for winning, all the other players and organizers “crown” me (and my teammate Mike) with Silly String.
I saw hundreds of costumes. Some were funny, some were incredible, some were cute, and several that surprised me. My favorite one was a blind woman who dressed as Poison Ivy (or a plant spirit, dryad, or similar leafy being). She wore green clothing with leaves, branches, and such, and her white cane was also covered in leaves! I’ve seen some great costumes for people in wheelchairs, but I think this is the first time I’d ever seen a blind cosplayer.