Monday, August 18, 2014

DragonCon 2014 : Ten Days and counting

DragonCon 2014 is just 10 days and some change away and I am pretty freakin' excited. 

In order to give my excitement some outlet, I thought I'd look at what to pack, as someone who will be more or less commuting to the con, and as a gamer, in particular. 

Since, I don't cosplay, I only need a backpack. Last year, I did OK, but I'm tweaking my essentials a bit. 

Here's what I'm doing this year:

First, my backpack is an Element Mohave 3. It's not the best pack in the world for this kind of thing - it only has one large pocket, and a built in laptop sleeve. Still, it's pretty roomy, and the side pockets are deep (but they don't expand wide enough for my water bottle) The front pocket is mostly useless except for pens and small items. The biggest point in its favor is that mine is turquoise (which seems to be sold out at most sites). It's pretty easy to spot.

  • A hand towel - it's August, it's Atlanta. You know, Georgia. The South. Assuming you aren't staying at the Hilton and gaming the entire convention and only ordering delivery, you will go outside at some point and it's not exactly breezy and cool. With a towel, I can wash my face off in the sink and dry it off, without using a million paper towels, or worse, the hot air blowers.
  • An extra shirt - See above. Plus, I almost always spill something on my shirt at some point during the day. At least when I'm running a game, I'd like to come across as someone who has their shit together.
  • Deodorant - 'Nuff said.
  • Hand sanitizer - I'd carry a gallon of this if i could. I'd coat myself head to toe. i am nothing if not a germaphobe. Besides, CON CRUD IS REAL!
  • Refillable water bottle.
  • Almonds, apples, and other small, healthful snacks that won't smoosh in the backpack. These aren't meal replacements, just snacks to get me through to my next meal. For meals, I might throw in some PB&Js or grilled portabellos or something. Unlike people who travel to get here, I have the advantage of being able to use my regular grocery items, instead of eating out for every meal.
  • A light jacket - Despite not being breezy or cool, the hotels pump some serious A/C into their conference rooms. The open gaming area is like a freezer. I don't know if it's to keep the gamer nerd odor to a minimum or if it's like that all of the time. Either way, you might need to put something warm on.
  • An umbrella or rain jacket. I like this one because it packs very small. Although I'll be in the Hilton most of the time, getting there involves a walk, so better safe than drenched.
  • Small notepad + pen/pencil - Most of the panels I've attended haven't given me anything worth writing down, but some have, so it helps to be prepared. Also useful during gaming sessions.
  • Business Cards - I had some made up to advertise Six Iron Spikes & a Small Hammer. They are very plain, but they do the job.
  • Camera- Last year, I only took pictures of the games I played in. This year, I'll do more of the same, although maybe I'll take some crowd pics too. I also have an idea for a zine but we'll see.
  • Cash - Many of the vendors only take cash. I'll hit up the ATM on the way to the train station. The ones near or in the con hotels tend to be empty by Saturday afternoon. I'm debating on my budget.
  • Con Badge - Can't get in anywhere without it.

I'm running games Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Here's what I'm carrying for that:

Abstract Battle Mat and Counters - It's an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper with some sections per Ancient Odysseys: Treasure Awaits. It is most definitely not a grid - it just shows who is in where relative to the battle line. We've used it enough in my monthly FLGS game for me to know that it works pretty well. It still maintains theater of the mind combat, but helps players specify exactly who they are attacking, and reminds them about flanking and sneaking and such.

Adventure Notes - I'm running two published adventures ,but I rewrite EVERYTHING to work better at the table. I'll have my notes and map with me in printed form for the day's game, as well as stored on phone.

Additional 1-page adventures - I plan to put a call out for some pick up games while I've got the zine library going. Also, if players complete one of the adventures early and want to keep playing, we can.

Blank Character Sheets - Maybe a dozen. Depending on time available, I may let people roll if that's what they want to do, but I know that can take a good 20 minutes or so the first time with 1 person, and it can turn into chaos with more than 1 if I'm not careful.

Social Game Checklist - I have a list of things to do at the start of each session, during the session and at the end. I got the idea from Gnome Stew. It reminds me to: go around the table for player's to introduce themselves, see if anyone needs a pencils, etc. I almost always have 1 new person in my monthly game, so introductions are important and at a con, they are obviously more so.

Dice - for myself and players. I picked up extra 7-dice sets, just in case players need them. 

Drinking Quest -I hardly ever drink, but the rules claim you can enjoy it with whatever your preferred beverage is. It's a small box and easily taught - perfect to carry and play wherever.

Index Cards - for players to put their character names on

Modified GM screen - My DM screen for b/x is two 3-ring binders clipped together. It works great but it's bulky and I'm trying to pack light, since I have to carry it around the con and because I need the space for other stuff, too. I know that all of the PCs will be 1st level, so I only need data relevant to their level including Thieves Skills, Cleric turning ability, To Hit rolls, and Saving Throws. And conversely, for the monsters, I'll know exactly what level monsters they'll be encountering - I will include their To Hit tables IN my notes.

Pens and Pencils - I use Sharpie Pens, and no one else touches them. For the players, I'll bring a handful of pencils and a sharpener.

Pre-Gens - Probably 21 per day (3 per class). Leftovers can be used in pick-up games.

Rule Books - both B and X on Friday, and S&W: Whitebox on Saturday and Sunday.

Finally, getting there:

I drive 5 miles to the MARTA station and then hop a train downtown. I would drive 10 or 20 if it meant avoiding parking hassles (the fees aren't that bad - I used to live in Philly; you can park for a week in Atlanta or a day in Philly for about the same price). 

The trains are cleaner and more reliable than you might think.

The only downfall is that MARTA's last trains depart from Peachtree Center (right near some of the hotels) around 1:30 AM, and on the weekends, the first train isn't until 6 AM. This doesn't really impact me that much, but for those that attend the con parties, that means 2 hours to kill somewhere waiting for the morning train.


  1. Have fun! I would love to go to DragonCon, but it's not really in the cards for me (what with being on the other side of the country and other claims on my vacation time and budget.)

    1. Thanks, Fitz-Badger! If i had to travel to get to it, I'd probably opt out - airfare + hotels with ridiculous rates would keep me away. But, as it is, it's only 20 minutes from my house, so I can take advantage of it.