Time stretches out like a barren graveyard, with the headstones marking the frailty of joy and hiding crypts full of regret. But enough about the shitty weather. There’s only so much time one can spend huddled up with cats (or cat videos) around a space heater, so why not brave the Tauntaun-killing cold and come downtown and play some games? Beginning Thursday, January 15 at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center Hotel, the Midwinter Gaming Convention will offer the opportunity to indulge some geeky tendencies at a time of year when nearly everything else in the city is still suffering from a holiday hangover.

Midwinter began 15 years ago during the heyday of LARP, a.k.a. Live Action Roleplaying. Back then, the genre of choice was “urban fantasy” in the style of Interview With The Vampire or True Blood, rather than the Lord Of The Rings-style LARP seen in films like Role Models. The game grew into a convention thanks to a connection to One World By Night, a World Of Darkness LARP that allowed characters from all over the world to mix, mingle, and steeple their fingers ominously together. In 2010, the gathering expanded to the Midwinter Gaming Convention and started appealing to a broader class of nerd. 15 years may be a lonely grain of sand cast adrift in the crimson void of eternal ennui, but for a gaming convention, it’s pretty dang impressive.

This year features a steampunk invasion on Saturday, full of impressive costumes and wobbly British accents that won’t be seen again until the Bristol Renaissance Faire reopens later this year. It also coincides with professional portrait photography in the evening, since one of the big draws of LARP shows are the costumes. Showing up in a t-shirt and jeans is fine for some, but there are plenty of players who enjoy costuming as much as they do setting up immortal schemes to wrest control of Oak Creek from their fellow undead. For those looking to get into the costume game, the exhibit hall features plenty of folks ready to dress up patrons for a nominal fee. A variety of LARP genres are represented at the con, so if vampires and changelings don’t appeal, perhaps a post-zombie apocalypse or swashbuckling pirate story is a better method to escape the awfulness of this month.

Other games are well represented. Milwaukee Company of Gamers brings its massive board game library to the event, allowing free trials of hundreds of board game for those who want to get their Eldritch Horror on or try out that expensive game without having to clean off the kitchen table. Tabletop RPGs are represented by Pathfinder, Shadowrun, and several other games that aren’t compound nouns, including a brand-spanking-new edition of local-geek-experience-done-good Dungeons & Dragons.

Midwinter Gaming Convention runs January 15-18 at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center Hotel. Tickets are $15 per day, $45 for the weekend, and $60 for the VIP upgrade. Observer badges are $5, but the porkpie hat and shaved head are sold separately.

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