Pax East 2011 – A Critical Success

I feel like I’m in a relatively unique situation. Not only did I just get back from PAX East, at which I had a fantastic time, but my one-year anniversary as a writer here at Troll in the Corner came up just a few weeks ago. Thinking about Pax through that lens has given me a different perspective on the event. So bear with me; if this becomes long-winded, I promise that you will find a point to all of it. If you just want to hear about Pax East, then skip down a few paragraphs.

About a year an a half before I began writing for TC, the guys at Penny Arcade worked with Wizards of the Coast to produce a series of podcasts that recorded their experience with D&D 4e. I’m sure that many of you out there are already familiar with it, but if you’re not, they bear listening to; they’re good and fun. When they came out, I hadn’t been gaming for a few years and those podcasts combined with the group I was gaming with to make for some good sessions.

Fast-forward to roughly a year ago. I found Ben’s post on reddit asking if anyone wanted to become a writer for his blog. I had checked out TC a few times before and thought it a fine blog. I sent links to some articles I had written for blogs of my own that never panned out and he liked what he saw. I started writing for TC and the rest, as had been said before, was history.

As I have mentioned before, when I began writing here, the only systems that I was familiar with were the systems whose initials are both D and D. I had only ever rolled d20s to determine the outcome of the actions for my character or for the monsters I ran for my players. A few months after my first article posted, I went to Origins.

The road that I have traveled in the last year, through articles, through conventions and more games than I can count, was one that culminated at Pax East. Aside from being a really, really good convention, it basically summed up my gaming life in three amazing days.

First, the nuts and bolts of the convention: the organization. For a convention of this size, over 60,000 unique attendees over the three days, things were organized very well. There were long lines, of course, and you might have a hard time moving through heavy crowds, of course, there was no pushing, shoving, cursing about the state of the lines and there were always volunteer Enforcers on hand to direct you and help in any way you might need.

Second, the events and organized activities. The panels that were available offered a good variety and covered every aspect of gaming, from the playing side of both video and tabletop games to the gritty business of writing and publishing both of those types of games as well. I managed to make it to two really excellent panels. The first was about house rules and stealing from other games, run by the fine folks from Critical Hits and At-Will. (You’ll find the audio of it at that link). The second was about running a long-term game. And I’m not talking about trying to get your players to game for a year straight, I’m talking about games that have gone on for 16 or more years. Fantastic.

The third aspect that makes or breaks any convention is the atmosphere in and around the convention, plus the people that make up the body of attendees. In this area, Pax East excelled. Both the atmosphere and the people were up there with the best that I have ever experienced at any convention that I have attended to-date. The vast majority of my time at this convention was spent sitting and talking with fellow gamers while waiting for another game sessions to start. We had some great conversations, and I even managed to record a few of them.

The shining jewel was the gaming. The Tabletop area was phenomenal. I got to play in two great games and run a session of my own. There was an openness to the gaming there that made me warm inside. At any point in time, people would be walking by the gaming tables, looking at what other groups were playing. More than that, the groups at the tables were more than happy to explain the game or even invite the passers-by to join in of there were open spots. I don’t want to crown a winning game convention or anything, but I can safely say that Pax East is another “must-attend” convention for me.

And what does all of this have to do with my one-year anniversary? Everything. A year ago, I was sitting in my own little gaming shell, largely ignoring the world outside of the d20 System. Now, I have played in or run well over 10 different game systems and I have expanded the horizons of my gaming in ways that I honestly never imagined would be possible. More than that, I have discovered that the gaming community at large is a diverse and varied group that possesses a generous spirit, the likes of which I have rarely encountered in my time on this world. I went from being just a dude who plays games with his family to a dude who writes about games and has opportunities to play games with amazing people from all around the world. This transformation was embodied for my by Pax. If you are a gamer looking to meet and game with a host of fantastic people, then I can recommend to experience more highly. (Although GenCon and Origins are pretty great, too).

[tags]rpg, rpgs, role playing games, tabletop, conventions, Pax[/tags]

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