- A rose to: the Adam's Mark Downtown, for having lovely rooms and in-room broadband internet access.
- A brickbat to: the restaurant staff at the Adam's Mark. Probably the worst service we've ever had at a US eating establishment - it wasn't so much that they were slow or anything (though that was very nearly a problem on the last day at breakfast), they just didn't seem to listen to anything we said. Sheesh, I wouldn't mind if we weren't allegedly speaking the same language!
- A rose to: the Ruth's Chris Steak House near the convention centre. Fabulous food and also very quick about it (going in at about 5.45 probably helped)
- A brickbat to: American Airlines, for cancelling part of our homeward trip (of which more below)
- A rose to: the guy who owns the Dwarven Forge company, for giving in to my blatant sponging and giving rotwang a free T-shirt ;)
We had some stuff scheduled for the first couple of days, but not after that. Trying to schedule around multi-round stuff is a nightmare, because I hate booking in for something and then not actually showing up for it (I suspect I hate this mostly because it's such a pain when people do it to us). So Thursday morning we played in the first round of the Open, coincidentally having as GM someone with whom we played in a team in last year's Open. We didn't quite finish the final encounter and as a result didn't progress (bit of a shame as we got through to the final last year).
Thursday afternoon we played some more D&D, a scenario which eventually combined two parties against a common foe - it was really designed for newcomers to the system, which was a bit of a shame, but it was also about all that had spaces in by the time we got to sign up. It also turned out to be a 'Living' system... had I known that, I don't think I would have signed us up for it. I don't really have much interest in progressing a character I play once a year at most; if I want campaign play, I'll get that more locally and not in a convention setting. Also, most of the RPGA 'Living' stuff wouldn't work well for players coming in from outside the US -- as I understand it, anyhow; the UK and Europe play in the same world but in a different part of it. I think. It was a bit frustrating looking for games at the con which weren't 'Living X' for some value of X, while we were sorting out signups.
After that we paid the first of many visits to the trade hall, which was larger than last year (and it took us seven hours to make it all the way round then). My credit card is still whimpering. We bought all sorts of stuff; acquired most of the necessary issues to fill out the Dork Tower and Knights of the Dinner Table collections, various Dwarven Forge stuff, a copy of The Gamers, soap with dice embedded in it, plenty of not-contained-in-soap dice, board games, RPGs, a leather lace-up bustier (not surprisingly, that would be for me instead of rotwang - not really his size), and Stuff. Lots of Stuff. I think rotwang's picking up the How to Shop stuff from me ;)
Friday morning was spent in the trade hall again, before heading off to play Lost Cities again (the n+1th round of the ongoing tournament which has now been played on at least four different continents (assuming you count North and South America as different continents)). After that we tried out Babel, which probably would repay a bit more looking, and probably acquisition of a copy of it.
Friday evening we ate at Ruth's Chris Steak House, which was terrific (see rose above). Yummy seared tuna (twice, 'cause it was so good the first time) and steak and creme brulee). Mmmmmmm.
I played Cthulhu that evening (Novus Ordo Seclorum), a scenario centring around the imminent eruption of Krakatoa. It was pretty good but I wish I'd been less shattered (it finished about 2330, and jetlag was kicking my arse by that point). Annoyingly I'd got the last place for that slot, which left rotwang flailing a little bit - he went off to play Lifesize Kill Dr Lucky with the Cheapass guys and then I met him back at the hotel room.
Saturday, hm, let me think. Oh yes; got up in time to make sure I made it to the Del Rey stand to catch Elizabeth Moon's signing session - an entirely pleasant surprise which I found out about while perusing the programme. Not only was she doing a signing, she was in fact signing advanced reading copies of her new book Trading in Danger which were being given out for free. Yay ;) (shame I couldn't get a signed copy of Speed of Dark for caffeine_fairy but one can't have everything).
I was an alternate for the next round of Novus Ordo Seclorum but, as it turned out, not needed, so I went down to join rotwang in a demo of Arcana Unearthed, Monte Cook's new 'alternate 3rd Ed. background. Um, not too bad a game, though not exciting enough to make me buy it. The GM could have done with a bit more preparation (even a bit more prep on 3rd Ed itself would have been useful).
Sunday we played in a demo of KenzerCo's new boardgame Dwarven Dig, which is a bit like Dungeonquest with even more backstabbing - though I can't complain since I won the game. We then had a crack at Wyrm Wars, a card game which I think we bought at last GenCon - we've certainly had it a while, anyhow - and departed back to the hotel to pick up our luggage.
But then, things started to go a little bit pearshaped. American Airlines' recorded message reckoned that leaving 90 min for check-in onto a domestic flight with luggage was right. Their phone droid said "ooh, no, it needs to be two hours if you're checking onto an international flight as well, we need to verify your documentation." I pointed out to him that it takes all of about 30 seconds to do that.
In any case, as we'd rather run out of things to do and also of luggage space (so visiting the trade hall again was not an option), we wound up at the airport a few minutes before two hours ahead of our flight.
This was, as it turned out, just as well, as the board was giving out the slightly worrying message that our flight from Indianapolis to Chicago was cancelled. Apparently this was due to Weather In Chicago. Our reaction at the desk was something along the lines of "er, but, but, we have this onward flight to get onto? I'm supposed to be at work tomorrow?"
There was an earlier flight which was supposed to have left about 1420 but had not yet gone, and they offered us standby seats on that (and we only just made that - while we were being checked in, the announcement came through to the desk not to put any more people on standby for that flight). Cue much phoning of the UK to warn bytepilot's Best Beloved that I might be later back to the office than had been planned - she was covering while caffeine_fairy and I both wanted to be out at the same time - and also to let CF herself know that it was possible I'd need her the next afternoon. (Good thing I didn't since she didn't wake up until 7pm. ;))
So we went through and sat near the gate, and very shortly thereafter were paged to pick up boarding passes with actual seats for the flight. Phew.
We left the gate about 1700 or so - a little ahead of our original schedule - but then had to sit on the ground for about an hour or a little more while some rain and thunder went over. (Good thing Chicago Centre are not based in the UK - they'd hardly ever get planes off the ground.)
Eventually we got to Chicago about 1845 for our onward 2015 flight, which put us in a better position than almost anyone else who had been on the flight from Indy. The family next to me had an onward flight to Orlando to catch; when we landed - let alone got to the gate - they had 15 min to get their flight. I don't for a moment expect they got it unless it was held for them.
The 2015 flight wound up taking off about 2145 after we'd waited for a spare co-pilot - what did they do with the other one? feed him too many peanuts? - by which time I just wanted them to give me something to drink, possibly something to eat (eventually I skipped that) and then just FUCK OFF SO THAT I COULD GET SOME SLEEP. Who, me, stressed?
I slept in fits and starts... some of it on rotwang's shoulder... and eventually roused up enough to have some breakfast and watch as the plane meandered around above London; the flight map looked as though the pilot had misplaced his A-Z. (Though I could see the road my office is on, which was unusual and quite nice ;)). Eventually got back, headed home for a shower and then into the office.