DragonDaze 2018

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Simonpaulburley

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Adventures of a Travelling Referee- Saturday 6th October 2018

Today I took my “Choose Your Adventure” set up to the DRAGONDAZE convention in Newport in South Wales.

DragonDaze is a “Games and Mini-ComicCon” rather than a dedicated TTRPG event. The RPGs are more like a bonus feature than central to the event.

Actually I’m not sure “Games and Mini-ComicCon” is a fair description of DragonDaze. It fills a Leisure centre so it’s not mini. There are games but there are also many other things - cosplay and music to name two - and I don’t think there are many comics at the event.

This weekend is part of the early autumn surge in conventions. Apart from DragonDaze there is also Tekucon - a small one day convention in Birmingham devoted to the world of “The Empire of the Petal Throne” - and Furnace.

Furnace is a dedicated residential 2 day TTRPG Convention in the marvellous Garrison hotel in Sheffield. Described as the “Olympics of RPG conventions” its a high quality event that all TTRPF players and referees should aspire to go to.

So why wasn’t I going to Furnace? Simple. I’m addicted to refereeing TTRPGs and there are so many high quality referees going to Furnace that you have to submit your games MONTHS in advance. It’s called “Conkrieg”. I missed the deadline. I could have gone as a player but that doesn’t interest me.

I’ve supported DragonDaze since it first started. It’s well organised and a great day out - especially for children. However, though the TTRPG offerings are excellent, there are usually a plethora of Referees and a shortage of players. It’s one where the local TTRPG community don’t support their local convention as much as they might. I thought I might not even get to Referee a game today.

As always, there were more games on offer than there were players to play them. And things were slow to get started. The games offered and scores on the doors (roughly) were:

Dr Who - played in a Star Trek game in the morning - full table of 5/6 in the afternoon.

Star Trek - small table (3-4?) in the morning. Table of 4/5 for something Travellerish in the afternoon.

Fantasy Trip - full table - 5ish in the morning, played in the Traveller game in the afternoon.

Cthulhu - table of four in the morning (eventually) unable to referee in the afternoon due to the PA (see below).

Dark Heresy - table of two in the morning. No takers in the afternoon.

50 fathoms (savage Worlds pirates) - 2 players rising to 6 across the morning. Full table of 6 in the afternoon.

5th Ed D&D - three players rising to 6 across the morning. 8 players in the afternoon.

Tunnels and Trolls - no takers at all. Played in the Cthulhu game in the morning.

John Carter of Mars - only offered in the afternoon - full table of 5/6 players.

“Choose your adventure” - two one hour games. The Black Hack, 4 players. The Code of the Spacelanes (Firefly) - 5 players.

This is all an improvement over previous years. Previously the TTRPGs were upstairs in hidden rooms. Last year, like today, we were up on a balcony overlooking the trade hall. A lovely space. Last year we shared it with some wargames tables. They weren’t in evidence today so it looked a bit bare.

The organisers have never really taken the TTRPGs in hand, just accepting any game offered. Then posting them on Facebook and encouraging people to book into games through Facebook. This wasn’t successful IMHO. This year I recommended no prebooking or arranged slots took place. I undertook to greet customers and point them at appropriate games - before taking any players into my own games. And I checked with all the refs before the end to make sure they were flexible on game length, numbers and casual drop ins. As you can see, I think this worked well. And I’m proud of my contribution towards its success at the expense of my own refereeing.

I didn’t get time to visit the trade hall but it looked worth a visit. Cosplay was good, there were “celebrities”, the starship simulator, board games library and events announced like a SciFi quiz. So plenty to do - no Expo but better than your normal local convention. Attendance in the 1000-2000 range I’d guess.

The only fly in the ointment was the fact that the Hall’s PA’s loudspeakers were on the balcony. The occasional announcement was liveable but the raffle and the cosplay awards ran on and made refereeing pretty much impossible. (Why do Cosplay organisers always SHOUT?)

If you’re local and looking for a pleasant way to spend a day - is recommend it. I wouldn’t travel too far to get to it. If you’re a TTRPG player looking for a couple of good games, it’s probably worth the trip. If you’re a referee looking to offer games I wouldn’t recommend it. In fact I’m going to suggest to the organisers that they cut the Number of tables offered slightly and stick to well known games, IPs and returning referees. We’re beginning to get returning players from year to year and that’s nice.




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