As you read this, I’ll be on the road to the PAX Unplugged gaming convention, taking pace at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia from November 30 through December 2. I’ll be driving a van full of Onyx Path books and booth supplies to the show and back again next week, and it’s an 1800-mile roundtrip — not as long as my drive to Montana last month, but long enough to take two days without pushing too hard. This time of year in the north-central US there are always weather concerns, and that’s the part that worries me the most about this trip: running into heavy snow. So we’re leaving half a day early, just in case. My kittens have been supervising me as I pack, and they seem particularly needy, as if they know what the suitcase means. I’ll have to lavish some extra attention on them when I get back. My wife is also not thrilled to have me gone from the house for more than a week: we prefer to travel together, so trips like this can be hard on us both.
In a way, setting up and running a sales booth at a convention is similar to opening a theatrical production — hence the title of this post. There’s scenery (backdrops and tablecloths) to be set up, and while some people are staffing the booth and selling books to avid fans, others are running games — part teaching the game to new players, and part entertaining all players with the scenario, acting out the roles of all the individuals — humans, monsters, and other things — the players’ characters will encounter during the game session. The people running the demo games are very much like actors in that respect.
Then on Sunday, the booth gets torn down, everything gets packed up, and we begin the long drive home the next morning. Again, all very much like a traveling theatrical performance. I’ll be one of those “on stage” this weekend, running games for passersby to partake of and enjoy. The hope is always that they’ll have enough fun to purchase the game or setting book, so there’s a little bit of pressure to make sure things go well.
I’ve never been to Philadelphia before. One of the must-see things on my list is the Mutter Museum, attached to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. It’s a museum full of medical wonders and oddities, and I expect it will be fascinating in all respects. To get there on foot is a 20-ish minute walk from my hotel — or so says Google Maps. In the opposite direction are Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, and at 8 blocks away, they are a bit closer. The only question now is, will I have enough time to do both? I have several blocs of time free: I’ll be available to run games Friday morning into early afternoon, Saturday morning and night, and Sunday evening, so I have Friday afternoon, Saturday midday, and Sunday morning to do sightseeing — IF they don’t need my help in the booth. At the moment, the schedule looks flush with staff, but things can change suddenly, so I have to keep my options open and be ready to take advantage of free time when I have it. I also hope to sample some of the local cuisine: I’ve heard tell of a mystical thing called a “cheese steak”, and I hope to sample one and compare it to similar things I’ve eaten elsewhere. Phildelphia, bring your “A” cheesesteak game!
Traveling for work can be fun, but after several long road trips to conventions this year I’ll be ready to take a break from road-tripping for a while. I enjoy conventions: seeing old friends — and meeting new ones — talking shop and maybe making a deal or two for some writing work, but the traveling and living out of a suitcase takes it’s toll on a person. I find I’m already looking forward to being home again afterwards and enjoying the holidays with family and friends.