I attended the Kensington-based Dragonmeet convention at the weekend. I’m verging on being a regular, having attended for the last four years, but never been before as the guest of anyone. On this occasion, I attended as a guest of Arion Games owner Graham Bottley. Mind, I would not get to sit around and freeload… No, I had to run a demo game for the Maelstrom system.
I have been roleplaying since I was about 12 years old. However, aside from (poorly) assisting Allen Varney run a PARANOIA adventure at a Cambridge con a while back, I’ve never GMed at a Con myself. I approached the event, therefore, with a touch of trepidation and more than a touch of a Cold. I’d suffered for the last week, with an irritating cough and just a tad of ‘drainage’. Not pleasant. Certainly not the sort of thing that makes it easy for someone to talk almost constantly for a 3+ hour stint.
I also didn’t have any clue what adventure to run. I have specifically written a Maelstrom adventure – The Sward and The Stone – but, I didn’t fancy the idea of spoiling it for anyone. If they got interested in the game, maybe they’d like to discover Sward themselves, or, indeed, play in it. I wanted to run something completely new – a playtest opportunity. So, I decided to dig out the scratchings of an adventure I started to write for my PARANOIA Avignon setting and proceeded to make adjustments to that instead. I’m happy to say that adjusting the adventure required only moderate effort, really coming down to expanding the detail, scribbling a map, and preparing characters/handouts appropriate for the occasion. I retained a competitive edge in the adventure as it seemed appropriate to a Convention where the people playing wouldn’t know each other and therefore might find it easier to play for themselves.
As it happens, it turned out fine. One character dead, another severely injured, and a further one facing some quality time in a cell with a representative of the Inquisition. You can’t say fairer than that! I managed to keep it together without collapsing into a coughing fit with a plentiful supply of drink and a few mints. The adventure didn’t go entirely to plan – but, they rarely do once you get real people involved and have no particular desire to railroad them. My adventure intended to provide a situation, not a straight line from A to B. I can now consider re-writing elements and filling the sidebar with some advice on how to play the game. Presenting the 6-year old noble Phillippe as a overbearing, hyperactive brat from hell seemed to help no end as an ice-breaker until someone took the time to engage his interest and calm him down a little.
After the game, I pretty much collapsed behind the stall. I met Jamie Wallis from Greywood Publishing, who publishes QUERP (amongst other things) and writes many a supplement and adventure himself. I also met Graham’s friend Chris, who he’s known since school and has highlighted as a serious Rolemaster fraudster (apparently spending enough points to generate a 14th level character on something he claimed to be only 4th level). The trio made for some good banter and I had the chance to see a convention from the other side. I have to admit, I enjoyed seeing the different ways people approach (or don’t approach) a stall. The variations in body language, eye contact and chat say a great deal and can pretty much tell you whether you’re on to a sale opportunity or not from the outset.
Anyway, I enjoyed it enough to agree to doing more demo work for both Graham and Jamie next year. And in the meantime, I have a lot of writing to do!