Anxious Gamer Diaries: Dragonmeet 2016

I’ve left this blog a little quiet for a while now due to real-life busyness and concentrating more on my fiction, but I’m going to try and get back into the swing of things in the new year. Not least because I have loads of awesome new or classic RPGs to read after my trip to Dragonmeet on Saturday 3rd December.

I’ve never been to a convention before. For someone who is anxious, the combination of a trip to London for an event full of people I don’t know was a double-whammy of deep-seated anxiety in the days leading up to it, but I had a really positive experience. For a start, despite the stereotypes and often unfortunate truths of geek culture, I felt really safe. As a female gamer, there is always that underlying nervousness when surrounded by a male-dominated crowd of geeks, but everyone was lovely. Kudos to the event organisers for fostering such a comfortable and accessible atmosphere – their anti-harassment policy is comprehensive, printed in the event booklet and very easily accessible on the website. Hooray for creating safer spaces in gaming culture! I have never really understood the desire to go to cons before, but now I get it: there’s a buzz about being there, surrounded by people you share interests with. This wasn’t even a particularly big event compared to, say, GenCon, but there was plenty to see and do all day. Plus I ran into a bunch of cool people including Gonzo History.

Squeeeeees

The seminar programme was something I was very hyped about, and sadly I missed the chance to see Robin D. Laws and Kenneth Hite in conversation live because the seminar room had really limited space. My one disappointment of the day, but ultimately not a big deal because we took the opportunity to go out for pizza instead, which fuelled the rest of the day. I was at one point about two feet from Laws and Hite at the Pelgrane table, but I wasn’t 100% confident that it was them and I didn’t want to make an idiot of myself. Regretful that I didn’t just go for it! But judging how excited I was at the prospect of meeting them, it was probably a good thing that I didn’t, as I’m aware my enthusiasm can be a bit…overwhelming. Especially when fuelled by constant panicky anxiety that leaves me running on high alert and means I have no filter.

Anyways, something that was very exciting for me was that I did get to meet Dave Brookshaw, the guy who wrote Mage: the Awakening. While I don’t have quite the relationship with Mage that my fiance does (it’s basically his perfect game), it was the second tabletop game I ever played and one I am extremely fond of, so it was pretty wonderful being able to thank Dave Brookshaw for writing it! During the Onyx Path panel, I had to restrain the urge to shout “HOW DO I BE YOU? HOW DO I WRITE FOR YOU?” I did restrain myself, because I think that would be a little intimidating and they might have had me removed by security. And besides, they have very clear submission guidelines on their website, I’ve just never had the courage to submit anything.

We saw some great stalls. The Shadows of Esteren folks were as joyful and likable as my fiance had said they were when he last met them at the UK Games Expo. The people at Leisure Games had an entire table of Powered by the Apocalypse games, FATE books and weird cool indie RPGs, and I seriously could have spent an awful lot of money on that stall. Hell, I did spend a decent chunk of money there. And they knew about their products and responded very pleasantly to being talked at by an overenthusiastic gamer. They must get very practised at doing that!

The people at Pelgrane Press highlighted Seven Wonders for me, a fabulous little book of work by up and coming game writers. All Rolled Up combined two of my favourite things: gaming and stationary. I came away with a dice tray that folds flat and that you clip together at the game, some sweet little skull tokens and (my favourite new accessory) some dry-wipe cards with stands. I also got some new Chessix dice, as it felt like about time. To digress slightly for a moment, I have two matched sets of polyhedrals, one from my very first game (they’re green, because we were playing a Matrix hack of D20 Modern) and another set that look like Baileys given dice form, but my third set, a beautiful red-and-white strawberries-and-cream set got lost before I got them home, maybe fell out of my bag or something, and they’re now out of print. I spent a long time mourning the loss of those dice, but I finally got over it by buying some fiery coppery-red-and-gold dice that are pretty much my perfect colour scheme.

And, naturally, I bought A BUNCH of awesome books. The Bring and Buy sale was particularly successful, providing my fiance and I with copies of weird obscure stuff like the Willow board game, Over the EdgeNephilim, the original core World of Darkness book and various other awesome things, and I obtained physical copies of Monsterhearts and Heroine, which I’ve wanted for ages. I almost went for a copy of Annalise as well, and was very tempted by the Worlds Rise Up and Worlds Take Flight collections from FATE, as well as a collected edition of Emily Care Boss’s games, but decided to go for other things.

Seminars

Honorable mention: I am a little sad I didn’t get round to seeing Matthew Sanderson on the ‘Cool of Cthulhu’ panel because he’s awesome, but there was so much to do we barely fitted it all in as was.

The Onyx Path seminar was by two of the Onyx Path writers, Dave Brookshaw who is much more about the Chronicles of Darkness stuff, and Matthew Dawkins  who handles the Vampire: the Masquerade 20th Anniversary stuff. I guess it’s a testament to the seminar that I came away from it actually interested in a Vampire: the Masquerade book, but admittedly that’s partly because it’s in-character written by my favourite character from Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines, Beckett. He’s kind of my favourite character in all of World of Darkness, actually. Snarky academics for the win. The company discussions they had about their upcoming projects and their current lines was interesting but not something I particularly feel like reporting on, as it’s sort of current events stuff, but I did really enjoy the brief foray they made into defining the differences between Classic World of Darkness and Chronicles of Darkness. More of this, please – game designers often have really fascinating insights into the games they write for, even for more mainstream games connected to big companies, and as someone fascinated by the possibilities of gaming as a narrative form, it was brilliant to hear people working in the industry discussing the nature of their lines in such depth.

The ‘What’s hot in story games?’ seminar was an excellent, if slightly surreal experience, as we were watching one of friends, Grant Howitt, being authoritative on a panel. It was a great insight into the current trends and concerns of story gaming, even if it definitely felt far more indie than I will ever be!

I’d highly recommend listening to the Across the Table podcast recording of this seminar since it was terribly interesting. I’ve put my rather sparse notes into a document for posterity (partly so I have them somewhere). There was a handout which was a kind of story games newsletter (something I feel is much needed to keep up with everything) but I can’t find it online anywhere. Hopefully it’ll be put up at some point!

Summary

So that’s my rambling reminiscence of my first convention, and Dragonmeet 2016. I didn’t gush too much at people who are basically gaming heroes of mine, and it kind of brought home that this isn’t an abstract industry: the people who write games actually exist, they’re grounded and smart and often baffled at the idea that they’re in any way celebrities, but for people like me, who’ve found these books to be an access point into incredible worlds, fascinating stories and amazing characters, not to mention friends, they’re pretty admirable. It’s an aspiration to someday create something that matters to people like that. It also brought home how much of the RPG industry is essentially still a cottage industry. OK, so books put out there have to be printed on an industrial scale and are sold all over the world, but often the companies that create the content are made up of a handful of people. Which means there’s hope for those of us who would love someday to have our work out there.

10/10 would geek again

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