Dragonmeet this year. It sits prominently in the calendar at the end of the year, and is recognised as one of the biggest gaming conventions on the UK schedule, although dwarfed somewhat these days by the likes of Salute, UK Games Expo and Games Workshop's Games Day. Dragonmeet currently takes place at the Ibis hotel in West Brompton, which is somewhat of a step down from the more salubrious environs of Kensington Town Hall.
I had been expecting a bigger venue, perhaps more geared towards the needs of conference goers, to have justified the move, but really, the Ibis disappoints. The quality of the con itself cannot be questioned, but I'm sure a superior venue could be sourced in London for the same or marginally higher cost. Perhaps I should volunteer for the organising committee?
The content of the event was excellent. I was there from shortly after the doors opened at Dragonmeet, to about 6.45, when the trading hall started to pack up. I say started - there was still plenty of activity, because many punters stayed on to play evening games.
I spent most of the afternoon running a game of Night's Black Agents, of which more in a future post, but the rest of the time was able to get a good idea of what is going on in the UK gaming scene. It was good to catch up with Rob Heinsoo on the progress of the 13th Age in Glorantha project, and James Raggi, who was there with his full range of products for Lamentations of the Flame Princess.
I managed to score a copy of Red & Pleasant Land which is indeed truly a gorgeous product and sets the bar for gaming books as literature, IMHO. I may post in the future on my first impressions of this game, but if you can get your hands on a print copy, do so before they go out of print and start trading on eBay for silly money. Not since Vornheim has something impressed me so much.
I also ran into the team spear-heading the re-launch of SLA Industries, a game I used to play a LOT in the 1990s. Apparently a 25th anniversary edition is in the pipeline which will include a re-write of the rules and re-imagining of the setting. It is being funded by the launch of the official SLA Industries miniatures and some T-shirts. Eventually, the plan is to re-publish the old supplements, plus start to add new material.
I also managed to get my hands on a copy of The Heart of the Wild for The One Ring. I love this range of books, particularly the atmospheric art. Heart details the Mirkwood campaign sandbox, providing more detail for the open campaign I am coming increasingly to prefer these days. As a group we have dabbled a bit in this setting, but I for one would like to return to it at some point, even if it means running it myself.
I purposely attended Dragonmeet with a small bag with limited room, as I didn't want to come away laden with games. I was particularly tempted by Mutant Zero from Mophidius which looks like an awesome post-apocalyptic RPG sandbox, including community mechanics for running your own base area. This means the PCs are less the wandering murder hobos of other settings and have a community they have to support and stand up for. It does look most intriguing.
Urban Shadows (Magpie Games) also grabbed me - this is a hack from Apocalypse World in which the PCs are mortals and monsters striving to acquire power and influence in an modern urban setting. It may sound like the World of Darkness meets Apocalypse world, but the game's creator Andy Madeiros insists the inspiration comes from Angel and The Dresden Files. Players are not restricted to vampires and werewolves however; there are three mortal archetypes, ghosts, fae, demon-possessed and others. The AW engine, with its focus on archetypes, helps to make each character more distinct. I'd be very interested to see how the game manages social politics rather than combat - characters trying to achieve their goals through their supernatural influence rather than brawling in the streets. Sadly Urban Shadows had sold out by the time I did my last fly past through the traders hall.
And so the end of another Dragonmeet. Will I go next year? Yes, if I can. Even if they keep the event at the Ibis, much as I detest it. On the way back to Sussex I found myself musing about the possibilities of a gaming con in Brighton, but I know full well that the organisers of these events rarely get time to actually enjoy them - they involve a titanic amount of blood and sweat to create and manage.