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Confessions of a Convention Virgin

by Brett Mathews

In which the author discusses his first impressions of the concept that is the RPG convention


Firstly, I apologise, but the sexual references end with the title. However the web caters to all taste and there are some good links out there...

Well, I attended my first convention on the 10 and 11th of October this year, and it was a first for the convention organisers as well so perhaps that was appropriate. The convention was ConJure of course, which PTGPTB has made constant references to over the last few issues.

As a convention virgin it would be foolish of me to review the con, because I have nothing to compare it with, so I'm just going to give my impressions of the weekend. I'll also make some observations based on my vast con experience about things I'd like to see at cons.

Got your own ideas about how cons should be run? Why not share them with everyone?

What a motley crew we gamers are. At ConJure there were people with long hair, no hair, tattoo covered bodies, people wearing robes, trackie dacks, suits, someone briefly in full cyberpunk garb, vampires a plenty, even a healthy dose of women! Which is great, because no one really cared how anyone looked, unless they'd gone to particular effort and then it was "cool gear, well done." Ah, but wouldn't the world be a better place if everyone was a gamer. Mind you, there was somewhat less tolerance of gaming styles, but then again that is our stock in trade.

The gaming community, by the nature of the hobby, consists of many disparate groups: the phrase gaming community itself is misleading. You never really know how many groups are out there - I have played pretty much in isolation for most of my gaming life. Conventions are a change for the many people like me to get together.

Conventions are a chance to get to know some of the other gamers in your local area. It doesn't hurt to vary the people you play with after all, think of it as insurance if your current group falls apart. However, I find it a particularly good way to get to know more about some of the gaming resources available, and I'm not just talking about new products. The most glaring hole in my local gaming knowledge being the existence of The Hit Point.

The Hit Point is a dedicated gaming venue in Brisbane. They have rooms in which to play, experienced people to GM, and existing games which you can join. For more info, look here

I tried to vary my experiences at ConJure. So I played the freeform RPG Toon, the semi-structured Everway and the very detailed Vampire. I also tried the German board game Settlers. Toon definitely seems to be something you have to immerse yourself in, to enjoy, and I found it difficult to "let myself go" with a group of strangers. It was also the first game I played so perhaps it helped me relax for the rest of the con. As the GM had warned me, I felt out of my depth in Vampire, because there seemed to be so much I just didn't know, but you have to start somewhere. Although I enjoyed all the games Everway was probably the most enjoyable because it suited my style of gaming, and that's what it comes down to after all. Settlers is a must try game for those who enjoy strategy board games. It has the essential elements: simple rules with the potential for complex strategy.

Unfortunately the venue for ConJure did not allow registration to occur indoors on the Friday night. This is a shame, it would have been nice if there had been something for the participants, full of expectations of the weekend ahead, to do at registration, such as play a few CCG's or whatever. The Central Hall was also fairly dead during sessions - perhaps the gaming rooms were too far away - just the nature of the venue I guess.

Prize giving ceremonies are a bit of a conundrum. I know prize giving ceremonies are an important opportunity for sponsors to get their name mentioned but it doesn't serve much of a purpose for the gamers, unless you won something I suppose (I'm not bitter). Gaming being such a private pursuit many people seemed a bit embarrassed to be singled out for being good at it and hardly broke stride in grabbing their prize.

We will be looking at The Hit Point, and other local resources in upcoming issues.

Other than those people involved in the LARP there wasn't anything on the Saturday night either. A common occurrence at gaming con's I understand. Most other conferences I have been to have a dinner on the Saturday night, and some even have something on the Friday night. It would have been a nice touch if there could have been a simple meal laid on at $10 a head. The meal could have been themed, the obvious and easiest choice being a mediaeval banquet.

A costume store could have been encouraged to be present and hire out different costume pieces, rather than full costumes, so that everyone was in costume to an extent, such a store may even be keen to be a sponsor.

Perhaps even some simple plot to the evening of the "How To Host A Murder" style, or the LARP could have used the banquet as one of its settings, with the munchers as extra's, or people could have just generally stuffed themselves with food while in character.

Listen, I had a great time and if you've never been to a con, give at least one a try. I've procrastinated over the years, achieving quite an impressive list of conventions that I've thought about going to. Gaming can be such an isolated pursuit and cons are an important chance to game with some new people, new GM's and new games. Don't pass up the chance.


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