For the second time I went to San Ramon for DunDraCon 37. A primarily role-playing based convention, DunDraCon is a great place to try new systems. This year I also tried running a game at the convention. This time around had some ups and downs with unexpected finds and some bitter disappointments.
I’ll get the complaining done first.
Once again the convention was held in the San Ramon Marriott. My stay at the hotel was not as nice as last year. There was an issue with some noisy gamers next door as well as some lost room service. Still the amenities were nice for the gaming sessions. Each roleplaying session had its own room, well insulated from others.
There were issues with the registration system for the games that meant I was only involved in 5 sessions of games instead of the 7 my wife managed. The issue was that they introduced an advanced registration for priority tickets. Those who GMed or volunteered for the convention gained priority slips (a big reason why I decided to run a game this year) for getting into games. Even better (it seemed) you could use your priority before the convention began locking in one game. unfortunately a software glitch then caused everyone who did that to be given lower priority on all registrations until they had their priority game (Sunday night in my case). I’m told this will be fixed but it was rather frustrating not to get into games.
That brings up my last down note, which is that my priority session: a 10 hour Dresden File game was not what I hoped. The game suffered by pacing issues (partially brought on by a friend of the GM) and we didn’t get close to resolving the plot. Worse from my point of view is that we never really used the game system which was the whole reason I wanted to play it. All in all it was 4 hours of cracking jokes and 3 hours of sleepiness.
The dealer’s hall was again small but with a good selection. I picked up two new Trail of Cthulhu books which have been rather entertaining.
Also this year I tried out the board game room and anime showings, partly due to the technical glitch with signing up for games. I only watched a couple shows in the Anime room but they were intriguing and I’ll likely look for more episodes at some point. As for the board game room, I managed to jump in a couple of sessions of an indie game called Golden Wilderness. I’ll try to get a review for this up soon, but it is basically a game modeling the settling and exploration of California. The game-play is pretty fun, mixing competitive and cooperative aspects and with a nice range of options for victory.
I unloaded more stuff at the Mike Nebeker Memorial Freecycle Table this year, this time eliminating some of my most underused D&D books.
The other roleplaying games that I did end up playing were really good.
The first was While Rome Burns by Cassady Toles on Saturday using the Unknown Armies system. I had to crash the game to get in but the game was an excellent game in pretty much every respect. It was a nice bottle episode of the strange aftermath of a heist gone wrong. I thought there was great use of the madness rules, leading to many memorable incidents. The only critique was the end narrative didn’t lead to many options for the surviving PCs besides life in prison and death. It subtracted a bit from our accomplishment of overcoming the game’s obstacles. But that was the only thing I didn’t like and even that wasn’t so bad.
My final game was Calling Call All Stations!! This is Attu!!! by Frank A. Figoni which used the Dread system. I had heard of this system but never had a chance to play it. It was a great way to end the convention. The GM did a terrific job. We were naval officers heading to an island radar station when things went weird and bad. I loved the Thing soundtrack playing the background. Playing expandable naval crew stranded on an island being stalked by ghosts was awesome. I can see why Dread is the perfect system for this setup as we all on edge as the Jenga tower grew taller and taller. Character creation consisted of a questionnaire which led to get dynamics among the group. It was the best game I played at the convention.
As for the game I ran, a Mage: the Awakening game that serves as the denouement to my long running online game, it was a success. Most of the players who signed up showed and we had a lot of fun trying to escape a dying alternate world. Along the way some characters used the damaged nature of space and time to rewrite their history and thereby alter the game as a whole. I was surprised by some decisions and had a great time. I plan to run another con game in May at KublaCon.
Also on the plus side were the seminars. DunDraCon is a highlight for me because one of my favorite game writers attends: Kenneth Hite. His works of weird conspiracies have inspired many of the campaigns. He was part of the panel on the long running City Building panel which gave me many ideas for scifi dying cities as well as insights into common criminal structures. There was also the Alternate History panel where we came up with several different 1940s Germanies among other ideas.
The hotel food was edible but not very tasty. The burgers in particular were rather bad. I think in the future I’ll stick with hot dogs and pizza.
So overall the convention was a great deal of fun. I’ll almost certainly go again next year and probably run a game as well (though I will use my priority slip more carefully).