Dragonmeet 2018

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Simonpaulburley

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#1
TLDR: the premiere London gaming convention finally done properly. An impressive achievement and now an essential fixture in the calendar.

Dragonmeet is THE London Games Convention. It’s been running in one form or another for decades. It’s a no brainer that it should be a “must not miss” fixture on everyone’s TTRPG Convention calendar.

But, somehow, for me it hasn’t been in the past.

Firstly it’s a one day event. And it’s in London, in the run-up to Christmas. Even though games run until midnight, if you’re not local then accommodation costs make it uneconomic to stay over in London for a night if there’s nothing happening on Sunday.

Secondly, I’ve had the impression in the past that the convention wasn’t as slickly organised as you’d expect from such a premiere event.

So in recent years I’d been travelling down Saturday morning, running two games and then travelling back up Saturday evening, skipping the evening game slot. This made it a satisfying and economically viable day out.

But in 2017 the failing British Train system meant that me and my mate were massively delayed missing our morning game.

So this year I chose to make it a one day event again but arranged to offer short “games on the hour” in the morning and a long game in the afternoon.

Shortly before the event I was contacted by one of the organisers - who I’ve known for years. He needed more games advertised in advance on the web-site (to attract punters). In return for me staying all day, offering three games, and being “room captain” for the RPG floor he said I could bunk in (literally) with the volunteer crew. So I agreed and submitted three games - along with, I hoped, exciting and engaging blurbs.

(I also submitted an article for the programme about Role Play Relief which was printed.)

Given this flexibility, I chose to try to make my trip as cheap as possibly and booked tickets on a slow train to London.

This meant, Friday night, I arrived just as the crew were finished setting up at the venue - Novotel hotel in Hammersmith - and was able to walk with them in a crowd to the accommodation. Perfect!

In the morning the convention opened for signing up for games at 09:00 with games starting at 09:30. The trade hall didn’t open until 10:00. This allowed a staggered start. This plus over staffing the reception meant punters got in with minimum queuing. Much better than previous years.

Sign up sheets for TTRPGs were on boards clearly labelled with the rooms they were in. So punters could go to the rooms at their convenience instead of having to wait for them to be announced at a “muster” (as in previous years). Another massive improvement.

Unfortunately my morning game garnered no signups - well it got four but all then found other games and crossed their names off or switched. It was my demo of the “lite” rules from the “Role Play Relief” Book but with the limited space on the standard sign up sheets created and printed by the convention, none of this transferred over from the blurb.

Note to self and other prospective TTRPG referees - when submitting games for DM don’t rely on detail and length to grab punters. Short and exciting is best.

So no game but, as room captain, I had to hang around and help punters - which I did a lot of. Also lots of nice chats with people - including advising a professional company on how to promote their up-coming TTRPGs. And I got to watch a stunning 5th Ed Referee enthralling a table of children.

A volunteer from the front desk was sent up to relieve me for an hour so I could trawl the rest of the convention.

Now, as a Referee, DM gives me the option to run games. That’s what I want to do. I don’t need - or care about - the rest of it. But I was very very (very) impressed.

There were three floors - the bottom was the trade hall. This was packed with goodies as you’d expect. But I found the offerings to be particularly interesting and eclectic. Even I was tempted by a couple of items myself.

(“The Big Book of Maps” is amazing. I also visited the “All Rolled Up” stand. They usually have stuff I didn’t know I needed. Today it was “Dungeon Cards”).

The floor had its own bar.

If you like gaming bling you can spend the whole day in the trade hall.

Above trade hall was the general gaming area. Room after room after room of demos, drop in games and open gaming space. The Bring and Buy was there in a large open area - not a side room - and it was impressive and well run.

There was also a room offering a full programme of seminars.

This floor also had its own bar.

This floor was a convention of its own. If you just wanted to play games, there was more than enough here to keep you occupied for the day.

I grabbed a programme from reception and headed back upstairs to the third floor - “my”floor - which houses room after room of TTRPGs.

I took up my Room Captain duties again and began reading through the glossy professional programme. As well as the article about RPR there are other contributions including a full and impressive “Horror” scenario that I may well run at some point.

Lunchtime came. This is a two hour break - another improvement - but a game in my room overran and I had to wait for it to wrap up. I nipped out to a nearby artisan sandwich bar for lunch rather than sampling hotel cuisine (and prices!)

Sign up sheets for the afternoon games went up halfway through lunchtime. Apparently their was a bit of a rush as some people were desperate to get into particular games

After lunch my East End gangster game was fully booked with 6 players. This was an absolute hoot. I went for the players designing elements of the setting route. And it worked because they were all amazing. We were all in fits of laughter throughout. It was one of those “you had to be there” things. One of the best groups of players I’ve ever had.

I was also bought a couple of pints of lager, which was nice.

I made sure to finish early to give my players time to get to the sign up sheets for the evening games.

Only an hour’s break for tea - so went out again - this time grabbing a takeaway pizza from the nearby Hammersmith station.

Again my evening game didn’t get any sign ups. Again my fault. I use my own (published and known but not famous) rules and based it on an obscure property (the 1962 TV scifi puppet series Fireball XL5.) Note to self - many older punters at DM seem to look for specific games. If you can’t (or won’t) offer one of the “big” game systems, offer a well known IP.

However I arranged for someone to fill my room captain role and the wonderful “yellow shirts” told me there were a couple of spaces in a Star Wars game.

This was the referee’s own rule system - which I like. It was meticulously researched and used the canon characters in episode 9.1. This guy’s take on Star Wars was that it was “bickering in space” and he’s not wrong.

The character sheets were like scratch cards and as the characters suffered consequences, lost hit points or levelled up you scratched off the relevant part. Consequences (personalised for each character) were usually deeply emotional events rather than physical ones.

Good system.

The other three players at the table were three older teenage girls/young women who were an absolute delight. They’d come to Dragonmeet and just thrown themselves into games without knowing what to expect and had had a ball. Their enthusiasm was infectious.

We played Luke, Leia, Han and the droids (designed as a single character - nice touch). Everyone played their characters perfectly.

The highspot was Han and Leia back to back surrounded by troopers, blasting away and having an emotional argument about when she hadn’t told him she was pregnant. Only Han was played by a teenager and Leia by a middle aged man (me) and it worked! I love this hobby.

There was time for a pint at the bar with mates - £4.60 not as bad as I’d feared - and then back to the accommodation with the convention crew.

I felt a bit guilty accepting the free accommodation but I feel it was justified by all the work I did as room captain.

So for me this was:

The. Best. Dragonmeet. Ever.

(Despite only getting to referee one game.)

It’s moved from being one of the better events on the convention circuit to an essential.

But I was in with the convention crew. Is it worth it for a normal referee or punter?

I’d say YES! If you’re local, you’ve no excuse for not treating yourself to this wonderful experience. If you’re not, I’d suggest making it a day trip or booking a weekend’s accommodation and making DM the centre of a pre-Christmas weekend away. Come for the convention, stay for sight seeing or shopping.


At last - at last - Dragonmeet has got it right!

Continue reading...
 
#2
Agreed, I went to Dragonmeet this year and thoroughly enjoyed it. When I have been before, it was a case of wandering around, wondering why I wasted my money.

This year, I GMed a HeroQuest Glorantha game, as a Runemaster, attended the Greg Stafford Memorial Seminar and played a Cthulhu Hack game.

Rather than getting up at some unearthly hour to get the train from Walsall to London via Birmingham, I booked a nearby hotel (Not at the extortionately-priced Novotel, but 54.00 isn't too bad for a hotel in London) for Friday night but couldn't get in for Saturday. As I couldn't find a cheap hotel for Saturday night, I decided to miss the evening game and travel back. Hotel was OK, about 10 minutes walk from the Novotel, nice and easy to get to/from.

Arrived at Dragonmeet to find that my morning game had no signups, disappointing. Then a family signed up, maybe because it was the only game without any players. Couldn't get a table in the assigned room, as they were all being used, which was irritating, but the GM at one table said that he had to wait until 0930 before giving it up, if nobody turned up, so he did and we had a table. The family were a father, who had played RuneQuest since it first came out, a son in year 5, so about 9, and his younger sister, who was probably around 6. None had ever played HeroQuest and the children had never played a RPG, but the son had played some Fighting Fantasy books and they had all played Lets Pretend. As I have never GMed for so young an audience, I hoped it would work. It took about 10 minutes for them to choose characters and they ended up with a draconic human, a duck and a baboon. The duck had a breakout of "I wish I could fly" and the monkey had Monkey Magic, which were lost on the kids but the dad got both references, which is why he chose the baboon. I cut out a lot of the really heavy interaction, went very easy on the myth and was, unusual for me, very enthusiastic in how I presented the game, which seemed to work. The kids were very effective, knew exactly what to do in all situations and drove the game along quite nicely. They verbally smashed some Lunar bullies, gave a mean static shock to another, got a standing ovation in an inn, flushed away some harpies, using magic to control a waterfall and a combination of Lightning Bolt and Dragon Breath, jumped off the mountain and described how they wanted to fly, went into the Dragonkill, negotiated with a True Dragon, returned and scorched a Lunar army, then proceeded to defeat the Lunar Bullies who had returned with the army, again by using Dragon Breath, Lightning Bolt, Throwing Bananas at them and then going in to hand to hand combat. What surprised me was the kids' insights. The son thought that an old man on the mountain must have been Orlanth, because of what he had done, he was Orlanth's son, but was close enough. The daughter worked things out about ducks and dragons and they named the White dragon who helped them scorch the Lunars. At the end, I said I hoped they would have fun for the rest of the day and the son said "We already have", which was nice, then they left to see of they could find a copy of HeroQuest to buy, which was also nice. It was interesting to see what worked with young kids as opposed to adults.

I had lunch, which was an overpriced Angus Beefburger and Fries, but that was fine as it was (a) in London, (b) at a Novotel and (c) saved me going outside in the rain.

The Greg Stafford Seminar had people queuing around the hall, with standing room only. It wasn't the usual Chaosium sales-spiel or telling us what is coming, but was a genuine lot of respect for Greg, his life, times and legacy. A lot of the people at other memorials didn't know he was a games designer, for example, but loved him as a shaman and friend. All in all, it was a very good Seminar, probably the best one I have been to.

I didn't realise there were games stalls downstairs, so thought there weren't many games stores in attendance. When I went downstairs, I bought some dice, as I promised my wife that I wouldn't buy any more books. I also checked out the Chaosium stall and saw a book by Martin Heldson that he had mentioned over at BRP Central. It is a beautifully laid out, well-illustrated book covering armies and weapons of Glorantha, a lovely white brick of a book that draws you in and needs to be published. It's a shame I didn't get to meet Martin, but he should be proud of the book.

In the afternoon, I played a Cthulhu Hack game, run by a very talented GM, who, as it turned out, had only run a few games and never at a convention. I really enjoyed it, even though I have continued my streak of only having had 1 PC survive a Cthulhu game. I'm not saying anything about the scenario, as it might be published, but my knowledge of Greek myth meant that I had worked out what was happening, but didn't really care.

As I had to make the train back to Walsall, I left at about 1930, so missed the Greg Stafford get-together in a local bar, which was a really big shame, as I would have loved to have gone. The train from London was packed and the train from Birmingham was cancelled, so I got home at around 2330, absolutely shattered.

So, I ran a game, played in a game, attended a Seminar, saw a wonderful Gloranthan book, met some old and new people and had a great time.
 

First Age

D&D h@ck3r
Staff member
#3
I had a wonderful day, following your erstwhile gambit of early train down and late train back. Although I had a fun game of Legacy with the author as part of the hourly Inde Games, I principally went to Dragonmeet to do all the things I don't do at Garrison cons: schmooze, shop, socialise, seminars and just chill.

I got to see everyone! Also met Mathias of Symbaroum fame. :)

Dragonmeet has really come on since my last attendance a few years back and hope to do it again next year. My only criticisms of the organisation was a general lack of signage, a perceived sudden restriction to the trade hall times (and possibly the cloakroom) and this...

DSC_0020.JPG

There are better ways of doing this.
 
#4
Dragonmeet has really come on since my last attendance a few years back and hope to do it again next year. My only criticisms of the organisation was a general lack of signage, a perceived sudden restriction to the trade hall times (and possibly the cloakroom) and this...
There are better ways of doing this.
When we get the computer system we've been looking at, then it won't be a problem, but I'm always interested to hear how others would do it.
 
#6
I had a wonderful day, following your erstwhile gambit of early train down and late train back. Although I had a fun game of Legacy with the author as part of the hourly Inde Games, I principally went to Dragonmeet to do all the things I don't do at Garrison cons: schmooze, shop, socialise, seminars and just chill.

I got to see everyone! Also met Mathias of Symbaroum fame. :)

Dragonmeet has really come on since my last attendance a few years back and hope to do it again next year. My only criticisms of the organisation was a general lack of signage, a perceived sudden restriction to the trade hall times (and possibly the cloakroom) and this...

View attachment 561
There are better ways of doing this.
Fortunately, I managed to Ninja my way in the side, sign up and Ninja out again, while feeling sorry for the people in the crowd behind me.
 
#7
Dragonmeet was interesting and fruitful since I met in person, Nils Karlen of Fria Ligan fame, because, obviously, Coriolis The Third Horizon is my favorite thematic space opera, though, mechanics-wise, I prefer the funky dice of Star Wars also the partially funky uber expensive dice of Modiphius' Star Trek Adventures, but all still welcome in my RPG Premiere League.

Meeting Sarah Newton of Mindjammer fame was another positive experience, especially, getting her rare French dice and collectibles too.

Unexpectedly, the strangest encounter was with the individual known as Matthew Pook, who inflicted a dose of mental trauma with the spell of confused wandering.

Dragons Conquer America failed to run, so missed out on useful feedback for the creators, Burning Games. On the other hand, Coriolis, sold out, naturally.

And literally, John Carter of Virginia (or John Carter of Mars if you prefer), was on full display by Modiphius Entertainment.

Many northerners travelled the road south, The Baldowskis, Amy, Mark, Mitchener, Graham, Guy, Jag, Gow (who almost confused me in his debonair attire), etc.

Most importantly, I was not on the receiving end of John Dodd's superb choir this year.

(ps. I found out I will be adventuring in the Forbidden Lands with the priestess from Harn, and to clarify, this is a table top hex crawl for me or role play for those with that predilection).

john_carter_of_virginia_at_dragonmeet.jpg
 
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