Wanted to get to GenCon this year, but couldn't. Would have been my first time at that one, and with the Swords & Wizardry win, I'm sure it would have been a memorable event.
I've been to exactly three RPG conventions, all before the age of 18. These were all smaller scale conventions (2 Griffcons in South Bend Indiana and another in nearby Fort Wayne whose name I cannot remember). My memory of the first convention is very dim - I believe that my older brother took me, which would have put me in the 9-10 age range. I do remember, a few Apple ][ computers set up with a dungeon program running. I was amazed by this.
At the second convention, with a little experience under my belt, I signed up to run a total, from-scratch, homebrew (from scratch meaning largely cribbed from a variety of other games). The slots filled and I was excited. On the big day, I waited 1/2 hour, one player showed up - we agreed to go look for a pick-up game instead. Bummer. I'm sure that this is for the better - whatever that game was (all I can remember are some hit location charts from Twilight 2000...), I'm sure it was nothing that needed to be inflicted on anyone at that point.
A few good things happened that day though...
1. Napoleonics! The only time I've had the opportunity to play straight-up miniatures - it was a blast! Whatever the rules being used (I have no idea) they were easy to pick up. The physicality of miniatures and landscaped tabletop allows for less rules - there's not a rule for line of sight, weapon range, etc - there's a tape measure! Empirical! I did not win the scenario I played, but I loved the whole experience, and have always wanted to play more.
2. Got in a game of Fringeworthy. Fortunately, the GM knew the rules well enough that I just had to say what my character did and roll dice (the system is one I would not have to want to run - though the setting/premise is pretty awesome). My friend Donn (a cartoonist and general genius) was running it, and I was awed*.
3. Watching a game of Paranoia after the homebrew wash-out. What a f'in hoot that game was when it first came out! I like games that can throw seriousness into a sea of silly and see what floats. I ended up playing a lot of Paranoia with my buddies - stretched it all kinds of ways and had gonzo-goodtimes.
Then there was a weird quiet one in Fort Wayne. It was quiet, held in a dusty warehouse space. I signed up to play D&D. Turns out that the DM was this guy I went to high school with and didn't much like. We were tasked with chasing some goblins out of a keep. We strode up to it in full daylight (having agreed among ourselves that goblins don't like daylight, so sure - why not?)and stormed the gate. The action couldn't have taken more than 20-30 minutes - we died pathetically under arrows and spears, nets and oil. I ended up liking the DM fella more after that - we were asking for it...
So now I'm getting ready to run a couple of games at a convention the gaming club at Univerity of Kentucky gaming group this February. Want t keep it 'abstract' (I have no miniatures - stay off the battle mat - I like RQ-style 'ranks'...) Looking forward to it - a Swords & Wizardry game and a Tunnels & Trolls game. These are totally new games to the people in the gaming club - yay! Toying around with ideas for what to run - a variation on City of Terrors for the T&T game I think, and I'm inclined to run Chgowiz's quick-start for S&W - and distribute copies to the players afterwards.
Maybe I'll get a chance to play some of these new-fangled games there - it seems a sad certainty that there'll be no fatbeards with musketeer figurines there...
* this has made me think of something.
There's a lot of examples of games that I liked when I was younger, but could never run - out of intimidation. It was a 'write-what-you-know' kinda thing - with fantasy, absurd dystopia, cthulhu spooky, apocalytic mutationry - I felt like I "got it" enough to run it well. It was mostly make-believe.
Traveller, Aftermath, Twilight 2000 - loved reading them, but couldn't bring myself to run them. Note the military/technical theme here. My math has never progressed past simple geometry - my unit-conversion skillz == 3/0...If only I'd thought at the time that it was OK to take the system into my rush-clutch and take it to some far endzone - but at the time, looking at the tables and skills, megacredits and kilometer ranges - too intimidated to even try.