Your Gen Con Survival Kit: (alt title: Why you should bring a lacrosse ball to the G.C.)

I can’t go to the great geek pilgrimage this year, but if I was, here’s what would be in my everyday gear and a few tips:

Shoes: I know you aren’t going to go barefoot (well, maybe).  If you listen to just one thing in this post, listen to this one.

If your shoes are not comfortable, you should’ve started breaking in your walk-around Gen Con shoes yesterday.  If not, go buy those comfy shoes right now.  You do not want to be pounding the unforgiving concrete of the dealer’s room floor on new shoes or shoes that you aren’t used to using for putting in some hard walking mileage.

Lacrosse ball: Oh yeah, I’m serious.

At the end of the day, it’ll be nice to go back into your hotel room and roll the lacrosse ball on the bottoms of your feet. If your back is a mess, you can put it against the wall and roll it against problem points on your back.

It probably won’t cost you a buck, is a small thing to carry and when you are getting a self-made foot massage, you’ll thank me.

The Writing Gear: I like to roll with a batch mechanical pencils, a nice pen or two, some index cards and a compact notebook.

  • Mechanic Pencils: Nice for marking up character sheets, marking down damage and handing over to people I game with.  If they get returned, great and if not, so be it.
  • Index Cards: Good for writing down notes, playing Shock: and making little name-plates for the gaming table, so folks don’t have to hunt down the badge dangling and spinning from your lanyard.
  • Notebook: I find cons to be intensely stimulating and will often write down odd little ideas for later.  I have often wished I had a week off after a big con just to write.

Thinkthin Bars: 15-20 grams of protein, gluten-free, sugar-free and they hold up well in a bag.  I’m fond of the peanut-butterish and the chocolate and strawberry flavors.  Grab a few this week and see if you like ’em, if not, find your own quick, easy and relatively healthy snack for when you are on the run.

Pick-up and Play: Grab a game that you can easily carry all day long, and can drop on a table and play at a moment’s notice.  Maybe a print-out of Lady Blackbird, Cosmic Wimp-out, Jungle Speed or whatever playtestable goodie that is lurking in your hard drive.  The key here is that it can be dropped on the table and ready to play damn near instantaneously.  BAM!  GAME ON!

You never know when you might end up with an odd hour or two here and there.

Water Bottle: There are water fountains all over the convention center and our hobby does involve a bunch of talking.  It helps to take care of one’s throat.

Throat Lozenges: If you end up DMing 12 hours a day, your throat will need ’em and if you don’t need them, someone around you will.

Judd, WTF: I know, I haven’t mentioned your favorite game, dice, laptops, iPads, and a compass (which is never a terrible idea, really).  I’m talking about stuff to carry around all day.

Cons are intensely physical, not in that they are marathons or work-outs but in that we are taken way out of our normal physical routines and prioritize different things than we usually do.  Give your body a warm-up this week and see how important the stuff you are prioritizing is going to really be.  Do yourself a favor, make up a trial bag that you want to carry around at the con and carry it around all damned day this week.  See how it feels.

Shit, we could do a whole post about the kind of bag you use.

What else?  What is in your Gaming Con Go Bag?


Adamy Jury’s Tips are solid


11 thoughts on “Your Gen Con Survival Kit: (alt title: Why you should bring a lacrosse ball to the G.C.)

  1. On G you asked for things you missed, so…

    Cell phone charger
    Generic tickets
    If you’re in the industry, business cards
    Extra deodorant
    Hand sanitizer

    • Hand Sanitizer, good one!

      Deodorant, I was kind of consciously avoiding this one, hoping to leave behind the often documented person hygiene issues that plague the con. But I hear ya and you are right.

      • I have found it to be an excellent plan to carry touch-up deodorant around. Even if one is properly hygienic, all-day can take its toll on one’s odor. I usually keep a portable stick handy when I’m traveling for that very reason.

  2. In my carrying-around-all-day messenger bag, I’ve got breath mints and hand sanitizer.

    In the suitcase I’ve got breakfast/granola bars in a box that is way too big for them. Eat ’em at the show, toss out the box, and BAM extra space in the suitcase to bring back all that stuff from the show.

    Last year, I took a bunch of quarters because the prep for GenCon articles I read said the lockers at the convention center used quarters. those articles didn’t mention that there were only 20 lockers at the convention center.

  3. Whenever I go to cons, I make sure that I bring some uber-vitamins with me, or at least b-12 dots. They can help knock a nasty hangover, or fight against sleep deprivation.

    Also, I know I’m a tool for the corporation by saying this, but I love Starbucks Via iced coffee. They’re little single-serve packets that you can stick in a glass of ice water (or super-chilled bottle of water) for an instant caffeine fix that’s not going to make you grimace quite as much as a lot of convention coffee.

    On the line of breath fresheners, I’m a sucker for the Wisps.

  4. I plan shoes, as I have insets, which makes shoe shopping an Adventure. (Smart saleslady actually thought about the oddity of one out of four pairs of the same make, model, and size fitting my feet, and realized that the pair that fit was made of suede. She brought up the other suede pairs she had, and I bought them in three different colors).

    Water is important. So is a hat, if you’re going to be outside in the sun. I also want a light jacket, something I can use as a sun block if necessary, tie around my waist if it isn’t, and put on in over-air conditioned rooms. Also, pay attention to whether you need to load up on electrolytes. Usually, water and lemonade do the trick for me. At Origins this year, I was downing strawberry lemonade Powerade, one bottle morning and evening. Allergies kicked into overdrive for some reason, leaving me more fluid depleted than I realized.

    In the past, I’ve taken my wheeled suitcase to go shopping. It’s small enough that, so long as I pay attention (and if I’m not paying attention, I should be, bag or no bag), it won’t trip people or block aisles any more than I already do. It saves wear and tear on my back. And, it gives me a good idea about when I’ve used up the spare luggage space. Remember the nice UPS booth.

    Suitcase or not, and I may well not take it shopping, I have my backpack. I carry way too much shit, and last year, one of my roommates got me to leave a lot of it in the hotel room. Stuff I carry in the backpack:

    Medicines. Eyedrops, allergy pills, cholesterol meds, ibuprofen, baby aspirin (which I need to replenish). Tissues and feminine products. These last are useful not just for myself, but for others. A compact mirror for taking the eyedrops if I can’t easily get to a big mirror. (And, there was a time in a restaurant where I loaned a friend both mirror and allergy-relief eyedrops.)

    A ziplock bag of pens. For whatever reason, I am resistant to pencils. Unless I’ve just started a notebook, I’ve probably got the one I’m writing in and a spare. Power for various electronic devices, and now, my very own Cool Power Brick. We got these at InMotion at JFK. They have slots for two USB cords and three three-pronged (or, y’know, two pronged) plugs. And they spin! You can orient them in whatever direction works.

    I try to carry hand sanitizer and Blistex as well. My backpack has a slot for a water bottle. I try not to carry the umbrella around, but if I really think there’s a chance of rain and I can’t take the skywalk all the way home, I probably pack it. Last time I remember using an umbrella, good sense prevailed to the point that it was a small umbrella, not the monster umbrella I usually favor.

    Dice… you know, I can get away without dice. I’m not saying I will. I like my dice. But, realistically, I can.

    My current game of choice to pack is Misery Bubblegum. I’ve yet to play it outside of a convention where Tony’s running it, but hey, you never know.

    I now have a Nook. This increases options for one or two extra things. I’m almost certainly carrying something hardcopy to read. My Nook has my spreadsheet of RPG stuff I already own, and I’m thinking of putting the GenCon vendor list and maps on it. But, I expect I’ll use paper maps, and this year, as we’re going at the last minute, I’ll probably carry around the whole program book. If you don’t need to do that, don’t — tear out maps if you need the maps. If not, don’t carry that thing.

    Food. I want to lose weight, rather a lot of it, but keeling over is rude, as is growling at people because one is starving oneself. I favor poptarts as emergency food, but I’ll see if I can’t try something healthier. I’ve also packed a lunch — I like to pick up bread and peanut butter.

    (Side note: If you feel out of sorts and you have eaten, drunk, and slept recently enough that this shouldn’t be a problem, try going to the bathroom. It’s one of those things we figure we all know to do, but at a convention, everything’s thrown out of whack, and we can forget all kinds of obvious things.)

    In my pocketses and on my belt: cell phone, camera, wallet, change purse. I used to carry a pda, but my phone absorbed that function. My hotel key usually goes in my badge holder. This keeps my phone from demagnetizing it, at least if I’m not stupid. (Tip: Do not put a rare earth magnet on your badge holder if that’s where you’re storing an electronic hotel key. I had two electronic hotel keys die on me at WorldCon back in 2002 before I realized what was going on.) If you are in a Dread game, the one played with Jenga — or if you’re in a Jenga game — take off any badge holder you might be wearing around your neck, lest it bump the table.

    Another thing I have found useful: Prepare in advance. Do research. What do you want to play? What do you want to buy? When and where do you want to have your meals? What’s likely to be available? And how far is everything from everything?

    If you’re going with other people or trying to meet up with other people, have a plan. It can be “Text me at around six pm” so long as you have a back up plan on the order of “If I don’t hear from you by then, I’ll do something else that evening.” If you don’t have a smart phone or a cell phone, and you still want to touch base with people, plan it out, and make sure you have some way to keep track of the time.

  5. I remember buying the End of WoD books in a convention once, or 3-4 Exalted hardcovers, then lugging them around all day in my bag. That certainly isn’t fun. If possible buy late in the day/make a trip to the hotel room after buying.

  6. It’s often very cold indoors, so a synthetic long underwear layer you can throw on or very light sweater (I have a lightweight Capilene pullover).

    Hand sanitizer is a must!

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