Con+3

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Sue Savage

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#1
I didn't make it to the previous two Con+ events due to larp clashes, but obviously there's not much larp on right now, so I decided it was about time I showed up. Virtually showed up, that is, since it's an entirely online convention. If nothing else, Jayson and Becky (the organisers) are friends, and I figured it would be nice to see them, even over the internet.

Which in no way explains how I ended up not getting to bed until 2am, and then getting up again at 7:15am to log back in.

While most of the RPG conventions I've been to are primarily about playing some games, with the charity raffle being there as a bit of fun to raise some extra cash, Con+ is primarily a fundraising event with online games on top. It raises money for The Butterfly Project, which helps underprivileged children through the medium of board games and RPGs, which couldn't be more on brand really.

But it's 2020, and coronavirus happened, and well, read about it here. So Con+3 got brought forward and consisted solely of the 24 hour live stream and prize giveaway.

There were interviews with various RPG writers and designers, most of whom had supplied prizes. I particularly remember Mike Mason from Chaosium, dispensing good advice as usual, and the owners of Rattlecake Inc explaining how they make their customised dice. There were interviews with the charity's founder, and footage of the gamer kids in Uganda (nice to see goblins getting some love).

But while that was all great and I enjoyed it immensely, what motivated me to get up at too early for a Sunday o'clock was the prize giveaway. Not just because of the prizes (which were pretty damn good) but because of the way the recipient of each prize was determined: gladiatorial combat.

I'd had a sneak preview of Becky's Prize Fighter program, which pits a set of AI gladiators against each other in a simulated mass combat, but seeing it in action was even better. To take part you just had to be active in the YouTube stream chat, and a gladiator would enter the fight on your behalf. If you made an account on the Con+ site, you also got a stack of virtual currency (dinari) with which you could bid in an auction house to win better gladiators and equipment. And if you donated to the charity, you got a lot more dinari to spend.

Gladiators could be mages as well as fighters, so the hack and slash of conventional gladiator combat was enlivened by fireballs, shockwaves and chain lightning. The charity also got to enter the fight, in the form of animals being released into the arena, so as well as each other the gladiators also had to take on tigers, rhinos and scorpions, plus some more unconventional animals like a red dragon and the ever-popular public domain eyeball monster.

So all that made for some thrilling fights, plus there was the competition in the auction house to get good equipment and then assign it to gladiators, and that was what kept me hooked for as much of the 24 hour stream as I could reasonably stay awake for.

Reflections

This was absolutely nothing like any other convention I've been to, so it would be ridiculous to compare it to anything else. I thought I'd enjoy it, as I've enjoyed watching Jayson and Becky's livestreams before. What I didn't expect was just how much fun Prize Fighter was to play and watch, even when I wasn't particularly interested in the prize and had sent in a weaker gladiator. And I did win prizes, including a Syrinscape subscription, a new set of dice, and an Evil Hat store voucher.

There were some technical difficulties overnight (which I missed due to sleeping) as apparently YouTube doesn't like you calling their API too much, but the hosts handled it and got things running again, which given how tired they must have been at that point is pretty amazing. By the time I woke up everything was mostly back to normal, just a bit behind schedule. Since that meant I got a shot at more prizes, I'm definitely not complaining.

I can't guarantee I'll be back next year, when larp will hopefully have resumed, but I'm very much hoping it will be a date when I'm free. Gladiators ready!

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