Just went to my first game convention (GenCon). Still learning how this all works, but I know we had to sign up for spaces at events like Playtesting, or workshops or panels or to play certain games and purchase tickets. Is it the same for Pax? If so, where? The tab for Scheduling just says it's not up yet. Also, does anyone know when the badges get mailed out? We bought our tickets back in May and haven't received anything yet. Lastly, how are the lines at Pax? At GenCon, it took us 1.5 hours just to get our event tickets from Will Call even though we got our badges and registered for events in advance, which was super annoying. But after that, we didn't have to wait in lines for much of anything since we had our event tickets. Any other things you think I should know as a first-timer, please share!
Badges: Usually mailed out ~3 weeks before the show.
Lines: At Unplugged, not so bad compared to other PAXes. Expect lines for stuff in Expo Hall, Tabletop Freeplay and RPG areas.
The lines for most things aren't as bad as, say, PAX East. There are a lot of panels and other events you can get into without too much of a wait. Buuuut... lines for some things get packed almost immediately, which means you'll have to get in line as soon as the line opens and stay there for a couple mildly uncomfortable hours. Think things like the Acquisitions Incorporated and other big D&D live games, signings featuring the people from those D&D groups, stuff like that.
Also, the lines for D&D Adventurer's League were out of control the past two years. There were advanced signups for Tier 2+ Adventurer's League games through the PAX app last year, but not for Tier 1. There were no advanced signups for Tier 1 games - the only way to get into those was to line up, and since a lot of people wanted to play the Tier 1 games the lines filled up very quickly.
It will still be a while before your tickets get sent out. As whypick1 said, they go out around 3 weeks before the show, so don't start getting nervous about them until after Halloween.
As for other stuff... Wear comfortable shoes, drink plenty of water, and head over to the Reading Terminal across the street from the convention center to get reasonably quick food, snacks, drinks, etc., with reasonable waits. If you have questions at the show look for the Enforcers in the purple shirts - they'll be able to answer questions and point you in the right direction. There will probably be a bunch of people in rad cosplay - ask first before taking pictures. Respect everyone's personal space (especially when lines get scrunched together). Take advantage of the Diversity Lounge if you want to get off your feet for a while during the day. The AFK Room run by Take This! is also good for that, plus they usually have some mental health volunteers if you're stressed out and need someone to talk to.
As your badge will be mailed to you (closer to PAX), you won't need to wait in any Will Call line (but the one at PAX is super fast anyway)
Download the PAX App. Once the Unplugged schedule goes live, there will be a separate Unplugged 2019 guide that you can download within the app (you can download the 2018 one now and poke around to get a feel for it). There will be an event pre-registration date a few weeks prior to PAX, all run through the app, but it doesn't cover a ton of events. Online pre-reg is only for events where you need to do some pre-PAX preparation, and therefore really should know whether you're in the event or not. This means RPG events where bringing your own character is mandatory, any miniatures events, and our more competitive board game tournaments (you gotta practice!)
The rest of the line waiting is up to you. You can have an awesome weekend at PAX and wait in zero lines. Or you might wait in a few for some stuff that you really want to play/watch/experience. For the most part, events that require in-person registration are all done on the day of the event. Each area that runs registered events (RPG department, Tournament department, etc) has their own Headquarters with an event registration desk. The cool part is that these open way earlier than the official con start time (between 8 and 9AM, rather than 10AM), so if you want to go for a registration line that day, you will do some waiting, but at least you aren't burning actual PAX hours.
My preferred method is to swoop in on the event registration areas after the rush has passed, and be pretty open minded about playing in whatever is left, perhaps trying something new. As for the panels, there is a Lines feature in the PAX App that gives you real-time status on if panels are filling. 95% of panels you can just walk right in as it starts. But a quick peek at the Lines tab can tell you if you should be heading over a bit earlier, based on fill rate.
thanks, all! very helpful. i notice that the app has events listed but the website says the schedule is not available yet. Does that mean that there will be an "official" schedule coming with more events? From the app, it looks like you can't reserve space at events but just set a reminder for yourself to attend. Is that correct? At Gencon, we paid $ to sign up for events in advance, but doesn't look like that is an option here? Is what is on the app the final version of the schedule?
Event registration hasn't opened up yet. The event entries tell you exactly when/where that will be.
Most events are free (with your badge), but you can filter on pre-reg events in the app. It looks like the Megagames are open now, but everything else that's pre-reg opens up on the 15th.
There will be more events as the details are finalized. Final schedule (barring last minute cancellations) is done around early-mid November iirc. App has things added as they are confirmed, website will likely be updated once it's all finalized.
PAX is very different than Gencon in how it handles events. There's essentially three types of events.
FREE, line based: These events are included in your badge purchase, and can be attended by anyone, but you'll want to get in line early for the more desired ones.
FREE, registration based: These events have registration available either through the app, or at the registration table the morning of the event.
PAID, third party: Events run by some third parties (tournaments and megagame, etc) require pre-registration and payment for the event. These are the least common type of event, but they do exist.
PAX has offered pronoun stickers for badges the past few shows, but the only reason we're able to hand those out is because Enforcers physically put them onto the badges.
Long story short: please don't bring stickers.
Thanks! So I should check the app around Nov. 15?