Sunday, June 28, 2009


DragonMeet South West 2009

A glorious day to pop down the M4 to Swindon for the first Dragonmeet outside London. The venue was the Croft Sport Centre, easily accessible from the motorway and next to some peaceful playful fields - very different from Kensington Town Hall in December.

Trip down was slowed as three lanes on the motorway became one to get past a nasty accident - upside-down car with a mashed front right corner in the slow lane. The middle lane was also cordoned off to protect the helpfully highlighted bits of wreckage waiting for analysis. Well in advance there were illuminated signs advising us that the two left-hand lands were going to be blocked so we dutifully moved into the fast lane in single-file and slowed to a crawl. To my left hordes of cars and trucks still drove past us so - with an eye on the clock and the meet's 10am start - I pulled out and joined them. Now I hate people that drive along to the front of an empty lane and then try to push into the lane they really want - as bastards do in the Kings Road in Reading before Eldon Road - so I didn't take this decision lightly. I soon found that the accident was still a long way off so I felt like an idiot following the sign's advice so far in advance. The railways didn't offer a better journey - a bus replacement service was needed to get you to Swindon from the East due to Sunday maintenance.

The Sports centre was easy to find (once you bother to read the signs after the Marriott hotel...) and the parking was easy - being able to put the car so close to where I was gaming/shopping meant I didn't have to lug everything around with me all day.

There were a number of trade stands along the outside of the hall...

... with a large arrangement of tables for organised and open gaming:

In the morning I played a role-playing game from Contested Ground, one of the small, independent companies. "Worse Things Happen At Sea" - a 'Post-Apocalypse Dark Horror' scenario was using the Hot War system and run by Matt Nixon (Pheonix Games Club) who I knew from previous London meets.

"...K-R-A-K-E-N, a six letter transmission, sent over and over again in Morse Code from an unknown location somewhere out in the North Sea...
The only person with any answers, an ex-Government scientist serving a prison sentence for treason, is looking to cut a deal with the Special Situations Group. Are you willing to pay the price?"

Only 3 players turned up to play the SSG Agents which did mean the game probably flowed a lot faster then if the full 6 were there. The system uses dice at a higher level than the more traditional RPGs like D&D so a whole encounter or event can be decided by sides rolling a small bucketload of d10s at each other to decide who wins and narrates the result. This does give the players more creativity in the story telling which takes a little getting used to. My character ended up drowning in the North Sea...

During the lunchbreak I tried a dice chess game to fill the time. I can't remember what it was called but the principle was that each die acted like the chess piece showing on its uppermost face and you could move one piece and promote/demote another. Victory was decided on points gained from capturing the opponent's pieces. I lost through misunderstanding a queen-capturing rule obviously added for game balance.

In the afternoon, I joined in on an old favourite - Call of Cthulhu. "Someone To Watch Over Me" was run by Jenny 'Evil Kitten' Waddington with a full table of players all willing to act out their characters.

"Tonight, the latest hotel and gaming monolith has its gala opening. But is it all champagne cocktails and society pages? Welcome to the old Las Vegas, the Vegas of the Rat Pack, the Mafia and exuberant glamour. It gets into your soul and you never leave this hometown. Gangsters rub shoulders with society belles, in the company of policemen and reporters, who've all together trodden the route of the person who's seen too much. Where everyone knows what lies behind the glitter and flashbulbs, but nobody looks. Where the house always wins, no matter what..."

Different from other CoC games I've played, no gribbly monsters turned up and we all escaped. I suppose that's a success :-)

The convention ended at 6pm, as usual, but no-one stayed around as there was no (long, drawn-out) charity auction afterwards so I was home by 6:30pm.

I ended up impulse buying:

# "Munchkin Bites! 2" (Steve Jackson Games, £5) from the bring'n'buy stall even though we rarely play Munckin.
# "Exemplars of Evil" (WotC, £8.50 in a trader's half-price sale) to add to the many D&D books I already have and rarely make use of.
# "T-shirt of X-Ray showing dice for heart" (Pagan Angel, £15) which seemed a bit expensive for the thin feel of the material.

Obviously the organisers will be looking hard at whether this sort of convention outside the big cities is sustainable. If the choice of locations such as this sports centre reduces the cost of running the convention whilst offering most of the facilities we had at Kensington then that works for me. £2 to get in is nothing and the lack of a bar wasn't a problem as I'd driven anyway.

Next Dragonmeets are in November (London) and then Spring next year (Birmingham).


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