Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I WAS A 44-YEAR-OLD CON VIRGIN

I WAS A 44-YEAR-OLD CON VIRGIN

My involvement with roleplaying games began on the cusp of the Eighties. While in seventh grade, I was shown a AD&D Monster Manual while sitting in art class by a peer. I was instantly fascinated. I had always been a kid fascinated by the fantastic. Three years previously, I had tackled The Lord of the Rings at the tender age of ten.

As soon as I realized that this game was out there, I had to know more. I rapidly found a group of boys much like me who played every weekend, and the course of my next five years was charted. We played obsessively, but our little group was a self-contained bubble, often veering off canonical rules and just playing whatever way we wanted. None of us had the slightest desire to attend any gathering of geeks, in fact we were all fairly antithetical to groups in general.

Years rolled by, and my interest in RPGs waxed and waned with my life. I went years without playing, and sometimes had periods where I played intensely. However, I retained my childhood mistrust of gatherings, and I never felt the urge to go to a gaming convention.

During the past four years I have become more involved than ever in RPGs via the Pathfinder gaming system. The rise of internet forums and social networking has also allowed me to come into contact with the larger community of tabletop gamers scattered across the globe. I have come to view many of these distant gamers as fast friends. Case in point, my gracious host Theodric, whom I have never had the pleasure of meeting face-to-face.

With the formation of these virtual friendships has come the urge to actually meet these folks in person, share a beer, roll a few dice, and do the many things that come with tabletop games in ‘meatspace’. To that end, I have arranged to attend PaizoCon this July, where I hope to meet many of my friends for the first time.

Before I made the leap to the major leagues, I wanted to experience the convention atmosphere in a smaller, more intimate venue. I also had some more regional internet friends whom I wished to meet. As luck would have it, there was a convention in my home state of Massachusetts known as TotalCon. Several folks I respected were also putting on a competition known as IronGM, and I was curious to experience it. I decided to take the plunge.

My situation in life unfortunately means that it is difficult to find time away from the house, however, thanks to a patient geek-loving wife, I was able to get Saturday off to attend. As I travelled up to Mansfield, I was nervous. What would it be like? I had met only a handful of gamers in real life, I had no idea what to expect.

When I arrived at the Holiday Inn, I entered and immediately spotted my brethren clustered at many tables. The clatter of dice and the sussurus of discussion of actions filled the main atrium of the hotel. I registered, and went to check out the vendors.

One main facet of my involvement in RPGs has been as a collector. Ever since my earliest days I have been interested in collecting books, magazines, and miniatures. At the various vending tables I found some fantastic pieces, including several old Dragon Magazines from the early Eighties and several Spelljammer accessories still wrapped in plastic. A few geek t-shirts and a few miniatures later and it was off to experience IronGM.

I went to the stage set with tables and met the first of my virtual friends, Rone Barton. Rone is one of the co-creators of Iron GM, along with Lou Agresta, another long-time virtual friend. I sat down to a great fast-paced game in which the GM was given an hour to come up with a scenario based on three words: Archon, Abbey, and Appeasement. As I awaited the game I came into contact with another virtual friend, Mike, who sat down with me and rolled up a bard alongside my rogue. We became the team of the Crimson Masque and Fingers Took, amoral road gypsies looking for a big score. Unfortunately, we didn’t find it and fell afoul of some cultists in a corrupted abbey guarded by a Gibbering Mouther.

I have to say, I found the experience a lot of fun. Not only did I have a great experience, but it smoothed my concerns about my future attendance at the much bigger event I plan to attend in July. Truly, I was happy to lose my con virginity to the tender mercies of the TotalCon event.

8 comments:

  1. I'm going to Gen Con this year, which will be my first gaming con (I've been to 4 comic book conventions).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. GenCon is amazing. The variety of games and other events is fantastic. You will enjoy it. Have fun.

      Delete
    2. I would be interested in GenCon at some point (It was the Big Deal when I was a kid, still is for the most part) But, getting the scratch together to fly/room/attend PaizoCon will have to do for me in the forseeable future!

      Delete
  2. Nice article A Curious Monkey. I find it ironic that my first game convention experience was last year when I too was 44. It must be a magical age. My wife and I attended OwlCon in Houston, TX in late January and had the same apprehensive feelings you had before the con. We played 3 PFS games on Saturday. We had so much fun that we took the plunge and went to GenCon in August along with 2 of our sons. It too was a blast.

    This year we will be going to PaizoCon. I look forward to meeting you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I look forward to that as well! There really is no substitute to an actual face-to-face meeting.

      Delete
  3. Hey, Curious Monkey, thanks a lot for sharing this! You join the ranks of the Great Honored Guest Bloggers. I have to admit, I have trouble going into most game stores, so thinking of going to a Con makes me break out in a sweat. And I'm not an introvert: it's certain behaviors exhibited by certain of my fellow geeks that make me want to run away screaming and purchase everything online and only hang out with tried-and-true geek friends rather than make new geek friends. Also, I go back-and-forth over whether geek or nerd is the acceptable term. Why can't we just be ENTHUSIASTS? :-)

    Anyway, you have brought me one step closer to overcoming my Con aversion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad I could help. I hope one day to share a lager over some gaming suppliments with you as well, Theodric. =D

      Delete
  4. I went to one small Con years ago somewhere on the outskirts of Sydney, but it was purely because the Continental Qualifier for Vampire the Eternal Struggle (a CCG I was heavily involved in) was being held there instead of its usual location. Other than a quick glance around the merchandise tables during my lunch break (of which I am glad that I took no money, because I could have spent hundreds of dollars without even blinking) the whole experience was confined to the VtES game room. So I kinda feel like I only ever got to second base with a Con...

    ReplyDelete