Gen Con from Over the Pond

Fellow RPG enthusiast Martin Tideswell, part of the Raging Swan Press design team, is coming to Gen Con 2012 all the way from England. Roleplayers Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Aaron T. Huss will be staying with Martin and sharing an experience years in the making. Martin will be writing a guest article about the experiences of going to Gen Con from the perspective of a gamer living in England. Leading up to this article (coming in August) is a look at Martin’s desires to take the trip.

If you see Martin and Aaron at Gen Con, stop them to say hi and grab a picture, welcoming Martin to the states!

MARTIN TIDESWELL is about to realise a long-held ambition by crossing the Atlantic to attend Gen Con Indy for the first time – thanks, in no small part, to his very understanding wife…

I’m not saying I’m excited but my bags have been packed for several months. I have one suitcase and one rucksack. The latter carries the important stuff like my dice (including God’s d20). Oh, and my passport, money and aeroplane tickets. The suitcase is basically empty as it contains one pair of jeans, some boxer shorts, a few pairs of socks and a couple of T-shirts. This is strategy, my friends. Consider it my bespoke Bag of Holding. Where else am I going to fit all of the yummy gaming goodness I intend to purchase at Gen Con?

It’s hard to explain what this trip means to me. Not only have I never been to the States before but I’ve waited almost 30 years to visit Gen Con Indy. I’m a roleplayer, you see, and I reckon I’ve earned my stripes. I’ve played everything from Call of Cthulhu and Judge Dredd through to Chill, Pendragon, Vampire and Battlestar Galactica. I own the rule books and source materials for, and have played every edition of Dungeons & Dragons – from the basic rules through First Edition AD&D, Second Edition, Third, 3.5 and Fourth. I have hundreds of painted miniatures (figures as we call them over here), floorplans galore and umpty-thrumpty published adventures.

As I write this, my friends and I, along with thousands of people around the world, are currently playtesting the Fifth Edition of the daddy of all RPGs – or DnD Next as some bright spark decided to call it. The verdict thus far? Looking good, Wizards. Feeling better already.

I owe my obsession with RPGs to a school friend of mine who Dungeon Mastered a D&D game for me when I was eleven. That game was U1 – The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh – ‘the Premier adventure from the United Kingdom’ as it was billed. The haunted house of an old alchemist, a Philosopher’s Stone, an assassin, sea caves and a boat load of smugglers. I mean, what’s not to like? Thirty seconds and I was hooked. Possibly less. Even now, 29 years on, I can tell you what happened and how certain characters died.

Gamers will know exactly what I mean when I recall that first ‘hit’. It was like all my Christmases had come at once. Finally, chubby, asthmatic yours truly had found a hobby I could invest in: A pastime where my imagination could run riot. Nothing was ever the same again after that first session and through school, college, my working life, marriage and the arrival of my children, RPGs have been my constant companion. In other words, I never grew up. And I’ve no intention of starting now. Life is simply too serious.

Through gaming I have kept in touch with a circle of friends who may otherwise have gone their separate ways. They are friends who get round a table once a fortnight with some snacks and share a laugh and a joke while their characters carve legends by overcoming endless evils. Some of them, including my long-suffering wife, come with me to gaming conventions here in the UK. I worked out the other day that I have, to date, attended 11 cons: The annual and much-missed Gen Con UK or Gen Con Europe as was, and its successor –  UKGamesExpo.

They are fun-filled blurs for me but, make no bones about it, they are pale imitations of the monster that is Gen Con Indy. The sheer size of August’s event, the mind-numbing number of games and activities on offer, the chance to purchase gaming aids we simply don’t have here in the UK, and the simple number of attendees makes the ‘Best Four Days In Gaming’ the Holy Grail for me.

A newspaper journalist by trade, I was sitting in my office at 5pm a couple of Sundays ago when the event registration system went operational.
I clicked ‘submit my wish list’ literally the second the booking system went live and was horrified to see I was 1,215 in the queue. Amazingly, I got everything I asked for: Tickets for the D&D Championships and four sessions of Living Forgotten Realms; Tickets for the Cthulhu Open and Cthulhu masters; Tickets for the zombie game Outbreak: Undead and a WWII war game session involving Rommell and a bunch of tanks; Plus a ticket for the sneak preview of DnD Next.

Happy days.

In truth I’ve probably booked too many slots and I’ll probably be knackered (that’s English for exhausted) by the time I get to day three. But this is once in a lifetime opportunity for me and, in the words of Steven Tyler, I don’t want to miss a thing. And, in the words of Jon Bon Jovi, I can sleep when I’m dead.

I was 40 in March this year and, in honour of that milestone, my missus agreed to let me fly to the U.S. and get Gen Con Indy out of my system. This is a huge deal. Bear in mind I’m not much of a traveller and I’ve never been overseas on my own before. I’m just glad the natives speak the Queen’s English.
I can’t wait to step off the plane at Indiana (via Chicago, of course). I can’t wait to hear some American voices. I can’t wait to sample the enormous restaurant meals I’ve been told about. I can’t wait to see blocks instead of streets and different types of cars on the road. I can’t wait to stay in the nice hotel I’ve picked. I can’t wait to browse the aisles of gaming merchandise. I can’t wait to have my photograph taken with luminaries of the gaming world and perhaps some of my favourite artists and authors. But most of all I can’t wait to meet fellow gamers, DMs and GMs with whom I share a common bond.

I’ll be attending Gen Con Indy with a healthy dose of respect for the nation  that spawned my hobby and which nurtures it still through the passion and creativity of its diverse gaming community. Whatever games I play, whatever tips I pick up from fellow players or the people running our sessions, I will take home to England with me to share with my gaming buddies. If you see me, come say hi. I’ll be the one at the front of the queue wearing a Captain Britain T-shirt and sporting the biggest grin in Indianapolis. I am, quite literally, counting the days…

Martin Tideswell is a journalist who works for the newspaper in his native Stoke-on-Trent, England. He has been roleplaying for almost 30 years – mostly spent in the realms of Dungeons & Dragons. In recent years he has begun writing for Raging Swan Press, a UK-based publisher for the Pathfinder RPG. He has design credits on, among others, the following supplements:
Antipaladins, Bard’s Tales II, Scions of Evil, Villains I, II and III.

You can read his blog at:

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