Just got back this week from attending PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia. My buddy Matt McElroy is employed by Onyx Path, so he and I took a van full of Onyx Path books on the road to stock the company’s booth at the show. The weekend before we left, Chicago got hit with a decent amount of snow. All we really had to deal with on the way out was the aftermath: plows out salting, a few cars abandoned in the ditch, but nothing major, and really no active weather issues to speak of. Lucky.
The trip out was surprisingly painless — except for the $100 worth of tolls we racked up between Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Word is that my home state of Wisconsin is considering implementing tolls too, since Wisconsin is broke because we gave all the state’s money away to big, multinational corporations with no guarantees or safeguards to protect that “investment.” I hate toll roads, so I hope it doesn’t come to that.
With Matt navigating, we arrived in Philadelphia on Wednesday. We checked into our hotel first, then drove the van over to the convention center to get in line for loading dock access. Two hours later, we were waved to a spot. The Teamsters helped us unload the van, and took our stuff to the booth while I found a place to park the van for the weekend. Matt’s navigation was flawless; we got to Philadelphia without a single hitch.
I was scheduled to run games all weekend. Usually, I help staff the booth, but for this show that was better covered than usual. I’m okay running games. I’m an introvert by nature, though, so being “on” for several hours at a time is stressful and tiring. I had a split shift on Saturday: open the gaming room at 10, then off from noon until 8 PM. I took advantage of this break to be a tourist, since I’ve never been to Philadelphia before.
I visited the Mütter Museum http://muttermuseum.org/ and saw lots of things in jars. Hosted by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the Mütter Museum is concerned primarily with the human body, and has tons of specimens, replicas, and models demonstrating just how weird and wacky human physiology can be. From the Museum’s website:
“America’s finest museum of medical history, the Mütter Museum displays its beautifully preserved collections of anatomical specimens, models, and medical instruments in a 19th-century “cabinet museum” setting. The museum helps the public understand the mysteries and beauty of the human body and to appreciate the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.”
It is not a museum for the squeamish. It is, however, equal parts cool, morbidly fascinating, tragically sad, and inspiring. If you visit Philadelphia, I highly encourage you to visit.
I did run a few games: two sessions of Pugmire, and one of D&D 5th Edition in the Scarred Lands setting http://theonyxpath.com/category/worlds/scarredlands/. All went fairly well, and we mostly finished up in the time allotted for each adventure. Mostly. I did have one minor run-in with a munchkin-type gamer, who first took issue with the build I used for one of my pre-gen characters, then continued to harp on a mistake on the sheet – I’d inadvertently left off some information. However, there was a player who was brand-new to gaming in that same session, and I was able to focus more on making sure she had a positive experience. It seemed to work; she and her boyfriend went off talking with one of the other players (NOT the munchkin), exchanging contact info to try to get a regular game together. That made me smile out loud.
I spent some time walking around Philadelphia’s Chinatown, too. Besides having several satisfying meals there, I also admired their beautiful Dragon Gate. The hotel I was booked into was right on the edge of Chinatown — and across the street from the convention center where PAX Unplugged was being held. As a bonus, there was an indoor open market on the same block as my hotel, and I ate several meals there too.
The drive home started out fine. As we neared Cleveland, Ohio, snow started to fall – lake effect snow from Lake Eerie, I imagine. The last hour or two of driving was tense, but we made it to our hotel for the night. and I was able to retrieve my aluminum water bottle — the one I’d left there by accident on the way out. The next day we encountered more lake effect snow around Chicago, but traffic was otherwise mercifully light; we had no problems clearing the Second City, and made it home in plenty of time for dinner on the following Tuesday. The trip had covered nine days, crossed over 1900 miles through five states. I enjoy road trips, but after driving to and from Indianapolis, Great Falls, Montana, and Philadelphia, all since August, I’m ready to not be in a car for a while.