A few days ago, I was at “Over-The-Hill-CON” – a local mini gaming convention arranged (largely by my fiancé, Katrina) as a slightly late birthday celebration. We’d been far too jetlagged to organise it around my actual birthday, having just got back from 3 weeks trailing around New Zealand… so it was about a month later instead.
As an event, it was a huge success. I also thoroughly enjoyed running one of the RPGs and facilitating another. We had roughly 35 people across two rooms, with one room purely RPGs, the other mostly tabletop gaming with a bit of RPGing.
What follows is a bit of a roundup of the day from my perspective… and some thoughts around the idea of making it a regular event.
Games in the RPG room
Unsurprisingly, I lived in the RPG room, facilitating one game of Our Last Best Hope (based on the fan-created microscopic scenario) for the first session, and running a Don’t Rest Your Head convention scenario for the second.
Our Last Best Hope went really well, and the fan-created scenario really did the job nicely – helped (as GMless games always are) by a fantastic group of players who really gelled and got into it with gusto.
Don’t Rest Your Head was also great fun, even if I’m pretty sure I got half the rules wrong and messed up the scenario a bit. I probably should have read it more thoroughly first, but I’d actually planned on running one I wrote myself… until I realised I couldn’t find it and had to grab one from the internet that very morning! But it did end with the PCs (all children) “plugging up” the black hole they created to dispose of the antagonist by stuffing it with psychically summoned dinosaurs, so I call it a success anyway. (If you’ve not played “Don’t Rest Your Head”, you should probably be aware that dream logic is more important than most things – certainly more important than mere physics).
Because I was in the RPG room the whole time, I didn’t get much of a look in to the other room, so I can’t comment on that too much… but people seemed to enjoy it. In fact, everyone seemed to enjoy it so much that the room got very busy indeed, and became somewhat crowded and a bit noisy.
The event was attached to my birthday, so naturally there was cake. Katrina excelled herself – the cake was an amazing creation built around spice and cookies. Ten out of ten: would eat again.
Do it again
The event went so well and was so well received that we’re planning to un-tether it from my birthday and cast it loose into the sea of small scale annual gaming conventions. Whilst I think it’d work fine as is once or twice, there are issues we’d need to address if it started to grow.
Add an evening LARP
I’d like to see it further supplemented by the addition of an evening slot, too, with a one-shot LARP taking pride of place in that slot (potentially with other games alongside it if there was interest). Which means knowing numbers and dealing with pre-booking, at least for the LARP.
We already have a pretty solid local LARP scene, and one public event a year would be a chance to pull new people into that, or to try out new ideas.
Consider alternative venues
Our favourite venue, whilst lovely for our usual LARPs, has some significant (but not deal-breaker) issues for such an event:
- Awkward location – it’s half an hour’s walk from the nearest railway station, and that walk is uphill.
- Noise – it’s not the greatest venue for multiple things happening in shared space, and can get quite noisy.
- Crowds – The spaces were getting pretty full – we had capacity for (I think) around 40-50, max. We were in the mid thirties and it felt crowded and loud in the larger room.
Our usual venue could provide the following options for space:
a) Upstairs only: a medium sized room (capacity: optimistically 45, likely: 25-30) and a small room (capacity: 12) – good for what we did, but a bit crowded and loud.
b) Downstairs only: a huge hall (capacity: optimistically 168, likely: 90-100) and a medium sized room next to it (capacity: optimistically 45, likely 25-30). The hall has an optional stage at one end, which would be good for RPGs as it has sound dampening curtains, but it’s not huge – two games maximum. The rest of the hall probably has more noise issues and the space is hard to subdivide.
c) Some other combination of the above: This would push the price up some, and we’d need to grow to make it worthwhile.
If we’re doing it again, we may end up in the same venue, but using more of it so we’re more spread out. With some work, we might be able generate the numbers to make use of the whole building or at least the larger downstairs area. Hopefully that’d resolve the issues, but I suspect it won’t.
Otherwise, we’ll be on the lookout for other venues which resolve at least one of the problems above. There’s another couple of halls for hire in the area which might be usable, but so far I’m not convinced that either of them would be much of an improvement, and both cost more for not much extra. They’ll bear investigation, though.
The best option would be a school or college (or similar) building which would let us have a small hall / large room for everyone to meet up and a selection of small classrooms for games… but we need to be able to reliably book such a place without breaking the bank. But such spaces are surprisingly hard to secure these days unless you have contacts there. My old uni would provide several great venues, if it were still there as anything other than a derelict ruin.
More lead time, more RPGs
We always knew this one was being organised at short notice. Next time there’ll be more lead time, so hopefully we’ll get a bit more roleplaying alongside the boardgaming. I’d love to have more than three tables of RPGs going at a time!
More lead time means more time to plan and prep RPGs – to generate pregens or at least create some customizable templates to accelerate character creation within the 3 hour game slots.
Enough games to have to think about a signup system
Many gaming cons agonise over their signup systems. This event was not big enough for it to be a real problem… which was nice, but I’d like to scale up to the point where we have to get at least slightly more organised. Not so much that pre-booking is a major requirement, but enough that GMs get to run games and players get to play them.
The biggest problem this time was that I, personally, had four games to offer and only two slots to offer them in. Short of cloning, this limited the RPG options somewhat.
A new (non event or location specific) name
I had toyed with “up-the-hill-CON”, given the location… But given that the location may change, we might need something else. How do you name a gaming con, anyway?