How to Summarize PAX?

For those of you just waking up from a year-long nap, I took last Friday off and spent the weekend at PAX East. I hitched a ride in with friends and slept on a couch in a hotel a block away from the convention center. I watched daylight savings time kick my netbook's clock forward on Sunday morning. I'm still recovering, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, I'm sad I can't constantly live in an environment positively crawling with gamers like PAX.

Summarizing PAX is somewhat like explaining electricity to Neanderthals. "It's like fire, but much cleaner to use and you can do more cool things with it."

First off, everyone there is simply great to deal with. Enforcers knew their stuff about what line to go to and where things were located. I encountered no dicks at all, and I could laugh at jokes around me with no territorial "What the heck are =you= laughing at?" looks. I could kibitz at game tables and hang out with strangers without fear of being branded "OTHER". This Is My Tribe.

"And now for the rumors behind the news..."

I got in around 10:30 on Friday after fighting traffic on the Pike. I took a walkabout to get the lay of the land. Things were fine once I found my jaw (I tripped on it)and wrapped my mind around the scale of the hall. Imagine an aircraft hanger big enough to fly a couple Hindenburgs in. Now add a couple of glassed-in bridges across this space, connecting three floors of meeting rooms and ballrooms tacked on to the sides. Put a large hall with the main stage on top like a cherry, and you'll start getting a feeling for the scale. I bet there were at least 30,000 people in the building at the same time on Saturday afternoon. The tabletop play area was pretty full, but you could walk around the convention and still find a myriad of things to do.

I had a few simple goals:
1) BUY A SCARF DURING THE KEYNOTE. This, a mandate from my wife, was taken care of in the first 45 minutes of my attendance.
2) Play games. A lot of games.
3) Buy the Leverage RPG.
4) Meet people I've been following on Twitter.

I set up in the tabletop game area for most of the weekend. The Zombie Dice set I got for Christmas got the most use all weekend, though I dusted off Car Wars The Card Game and played a few games of that as well. I played Bohnanza and Boom-o. I got introduced to Ascension and Small World, both great games. I watched Munchkin and Magic: the Gathering and Survive, and a host of other games in passing. I had a blast and could have spent the weekend playing games to the exclusion of all else.

I playtested Inheritance by @gamefiend on Friday. It's a card/RPG/storytelling hybrid that lets the players create their own world for the setting. The characters are the realms in the world/region/whatever, and the cards provide jumping-off points to describe actions in the setting. Very cool, and I'm looking forward to playtesting the next revision (THIS IS A HINT, QUINN). @psychopez even recorded it and took notes - I haven't listened to it yet, but I will sometime soon.

On Saturday, I saw the Geek Parenting panel. I had no real expectations, and the panelists focused on great games for kids and adults to play together. We got some good advice and anecdotes about raising your geek (or not-geek) kids, but the general takeaway was "pay attention to your kids and they'll let you know what they're ready for", which is sound advice no matter what. I had circled other panels I wanted to see, but gaming, friends, and food trumped panels this weekend. And I'll need to bug @rdonoghue for the list of kid-friendly comics they rattled off.

I also looked for Leverage on Saturday. Pandemonium came to PAX with 3 copies but had sold out by the time I asked about it. I contented myself with buying the Leverage PDF on Monday. I also found the Chessex booth - such a dice orgy! I picked up a d10 in Spanish for homeschooling purposes. They had megamats as well, but mine is still serviceable, old as it is.

Saturday night 10 of us hit a restaurant for dinner, which took a few hours between the finding and the walking and the waiting and the eating. And we hit the hotel bar and hung out playing Loot until the wee hours. Good times. Just after daylight savings time I got a text from my wife that nobody at home was well. I toyed with skipping Sunday and heading home, but things at home pulled together enough that I stopped into the con for a few before heading out. Next year, maybe the whole family can go to PAX for a day, and my wife is talking about organizing an event for PAX widows...

I had wanted to meet a few more of the Twitterati that I'm following, but I did meet @gamefiend, @psychopez, @rdonoghue, and @chattydm, plus I got a freebie copy of Don't Rest Your Head from @fredhicks for saying "Because the cockroaches in my head squirm too much." I ran into @lucasthegrey, @camelloma, @trollitc, and Wayne from @SagesOfRPG. And all these people in addition to the 6 of us staying in the hotel.

Huge thank yous to Jeremy for scoring the suite in the hotel, to Todd for buying me a PAX shirt, and to Joe for driving and buying me a pass. Too bad we missed on the DDO challenge - a lifetime VIP account would have been pretty sweet.

I'll get into more specifics in later posts, but I wanted an overall reaction to the whole thing posted today. Feel free to check out the quickie posts I did after Friday and Saturday as well.

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