So, after Q-CON earlier this year, I decided to try and make it to Dragonmeet, a gaming convention held in London’s Earls Court. I had a pretty pleasant train journey down from Edinburgh, although London rush hour is not a favourite of mine now. I was staying with my sister in Hackney so, accommodation-wise, things were OK. What follows are my perceptions of the Convention as a first-timer to Dragonmeet. Were you there? If so, shout it out!
Dragonmeet is currently a one-day convention (focussed primarily on RPGs), and this year was being run by Chris Birch and Modiphius Entertainment for the first time. Before I continue I should point out that I’ve backed a lot of the Modiphius Kickstarter Campaigns (Achtung! Cthulhu and the Mutant Chronicles, so far!) and I’m also a Modiphius Silvershield so there’s a certain bias on my part.
Like in my Q-CON review, I’ll also add a few tips in. As usual, most are common sense, really.
I was staying in Hackney and could take the District underground to Earls Court from Mile End. As it was a Saturday morning the trains/buses weren’t too busy, but I left a little later than I’d planned (10am, with the convention starting at 9am). With my usual unerring ability to land myself in it, I managed to exit Earls Court station from the wrong damn exit. This lead to me taking a huge unnecessary detour before I arrived at the somewhat underwhelming-looking ILEC Conference Centre. I got there about 11am, so had missed the lines at least. I got my programme and red band fairly quickly as I’d pre-registered, but the entrance to the convention seemed a bit cramped to me. There were big hoardings up all over the place, each detailing the games that were going on, along with the sign-ups.
TIP: It’s pretty warm in the hall (not uncomfortably so) and crowded, so make use of the free cloakroom to stash your coat and/or jumpers.
The hall is vast. It is huge. There were 1,600 people through the doors I heard later, and there were a colossal amount of games going on. A lot of the UK gaming scene was there in the form of trade stands, with quite a lot of stock. And there were guests! I wish I’d brought my “YOU ARE THE HERO” book by Jonathan Green, and my Lone Wolf RPG book. Joe Dever (Lone Wolf gamebooks) was there signing books, and so were Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone (Fighting Fantasy/Games Workshop etc.) and the artist Tony ‘H’ Hough. Next time, I’ll pay more attention to the guest list.
TIP: My Achtung! Cthulhu haversack (or bro-bag!) worked well for the books (and dice and adventure notes) I was carrying. However, I also carried a small Reisenthel fold-up rucksack (like the ones here) that proved very useful. These fold down to approximately 4″x6″x1″ and easily fitted in the A!C bag. This proved useful later on!
I was there to run three demo games of Achtung! Cthulhu, so I introduced myself to the folk at the Modiphius stall and made myself known (pics here) and scouted around the hall. It was a bit cramped in the demo areas and I was slightly worried that I’d have trouble hearing during my game. I was needlessly worried as it turned out – the hall must have some form of acoustic dampening installed. However, I did have trouble hearing any announcements – maybe a big screen would have helped?
TIP: if you’re running multiple games, make sure you’ve got some Strepsils or throat lozenges. You’ll be a bit hoarse by the end of the day.
Throughout the day I ran three games of Achtung! Cthulhu. I used the Prayer for St. Nazaire scenario I’d used for Q-CON, split into three parts. I had full sign-ups for all three games (4 players), but only had a full table for the second game. Running a 1-hour demo game is harder than you’d think – it’s pretty exhausting, especially when you’re trying to give people a good experience.
TIP: If you’re running a Demo game watch the clock, but make sure your players get a great ending, Start building up to a finale in the last 15 minutes. It may not be what you had planned, but give them something to remember.
This was the second time I’ve run “A Prayer for St. Nazaire” using Call of Cthulhu rules, and if I’m going to be honest, it’s the wrong system for the adventure. I’m looking at Savage Worlds for next time. It makes no difference to A!C as it uses both systems.
One of the GMs running the Mutant Chronicles Demo had one of the game’s original developers in his game, so no pressure there! He’d come down on the night train from Plymouth and still managed to run games and help out.
TIP: If you’re a GM running a Demo, get yourself in place on time and make sure you’re prepared. The players shouldn’t have to wait on you.
I’d brought both the GM and Player’s Guide for Achtung! Cthulhu and they were eagerly examined by ALL my players. The attention to detail in the books really helped get across the whole concept of the WW2 theater of operations. For one of my players, it was “Quite an insight into WW2”.
Dragonmeet – Bill at large
When I wasn’t running, I used the rest of my time to wander round the hall, looking at the stalls and games. There were a lot of stalls selling miniatures, but the majority of games going on were RPGs (Pathfinder Society and D&D Adventurers League included) and board games going on. Dragonmeet is still very much an RPG convention – there’s not really a huge amount of space set aside for wargames or CCGs. Personally, I think this is a good thing – many gaming Cons marginalise the RPG play areas. I can understand why they do (so they have quiet), but ultimately an RPG con should focus on RPGs in their main areas!
I also got a chance to meet the Shadows of Esteren crew, who produce some fantastic-looking games (Shadows of Esteren for one!) and great Kickstarter campaigns. Their display looked amazing and they gave me a Christmas card when they found out I was a backer of their Kickstarters :). It was great to meet both them and the Modiphius Crew (and other some of the other Silvershields!). I also now have a Modiphius T-shirt (ho ho ho).
I also bumped into some former members of ORC Edinburgh – Peter, who was running a Svavelvinter game (I’d never heard of this game until Peter talked about it at ORC), and Dee (who’d nearly forgotten Dragonmeet was on!). If you’re reading this: Hi guys!
TIP: if you’re a vendor trying to flog stuff, engage anyone actually taking the time to look (within reason). If a sale means listening to them talk about their character so be it. But don’t let them bogart you! A signature/notation in a book costs nothing really if you’re the writer/developer. At the very least that customer will walk away feeling special… that’s what happened with Sopio at Dragonmeet ; and at Q-CON; Laurence “@LarboIreland” Donaghy and Folk’d (NSFW!).
Here comes the swag bit…
More than a few folk at Dragonmeet were there to pick up their Kickstarter Pledges. As a Keeper of Terrors KS Backer for Achtung! Cthulhu I already had the PDF versions of much of the books but I picked up the books themselves on Saturday. These were the Achtung! Cthulhu Guide to North Africa and Guide to the Pacific Front and the artwork is amazing by Dim Martin. I also finally managed to get my hands on Mindjammer – I’ve both the FATE and Starblazer Adventures ones now. I also picked picked up the Sopio card game, the basic set. And, because (!), Lamentation’s of the Flame Princess – I picked up their FreeRPG scenario.
Ze Low Point
The worst thing about ILEC was the pub. The Dragon and George is one of those awful IBIS pubs that charge you a fortune for a pint. The seats were those stupid 6-seater ones that no one ever uses because there’s only two of you. That’s not Dragonmeet’s fault – it’s the venue. Plus, there wasn’t enough staff. If the queue at the bar waiting time is >= 10 minutes there’s something wrong. I’d originally planned to go to the Pub-meet that Dragonmeet holds on the Sunday. But trailing across London for a sub-par pint wasn’t something I was prepared to do. Plus it was cold and wet. I ended up checking out 221b Baker Street (a bit expensive for what it actually is), and the Sherlock Holmes exhibition at Museum of London instead. Worth a look. Its called “The Man Who Never Lived And Will Never Die” and is on until April 2015.
Summary of Dragonmeet 2014
Dragonmeet is a great convention if you live in London, but could be a bit pricey if you’re not local. London prices for accommodation and food aren’t cheap. For a one-day convention there’s a lot to cram in and they are considering making it a two-day event next year. Having said, that it was fun – the people I talked to were friendly and the convention ran pretty well. The only criticisms I have is that it was quite cramped and the bar obviously wasn’t equipped to deal with the volume of requests. The games I ran were well-received and hopefully got more people interested in Achtung! Cthulhu. As always for me its good to meet new people, and add another convention to the list! Will I go back? Yes. However next time I’ll likely stay over the weekend in the hotel and actually play some other games too! There were a lot of industry people there and I did feel a bit of an outsider initially, but that wore off later.