Haworth Steampunk Weekend 24th and 25th November



TLDR: Steampunk convention with little room for TTPRGs. Interesting experience, though.

Games conventions in the UK seem come in clumps. More and more there are weekends when some clash. There are other times when there aren't many on. I've not been able to commit to events a long time in advance this year, and this has exacerbated the situation for me.

So - having missed out on Grogmeet and the 24 hour RPG challenge - I found myself with a personal hiatus in November. Though I've not got a regular gaming group for the first time in decades, this still left me with withdrawal symptoms.

No problems, though. Because I've got my "Choose Your Adventure" set up I can visit SciFi and other conventions offering to run TTRPGs and introduce fellow nerds and geeks into our wonderful hobby.

So I wrote off to various events. I received a very positive response from the Haworth Steampunk Weekend. This is a steampunk event up north in Bronte country (it's right next to the Bronte museum) with a local Steam train service. Though the organisers clearly had no idea what I was offering, and it was all very last minute, they promised to find me a table or two and invited me along.

It was a weekend event which started with a show on the Friday, followed by two days of events separated by a show on Saturday night. Fairly standard for Steampunk events. Of course I didn't want to attend the evening shows, so I wrote to various hostelries near the event to see if they'd let me run a game at one of their tables. I'd had some success running an evening game in the students' Union at the Asylum Steampunk convention. To my surprise I got two very positive responses. (see below).

Naturally to save money I decided to travel up at stupid o'clock Saturday morning (about £50 on split ticketing) and stay one night in an inexpensive B&B (about £50 again).

Shortly before the event the organiser contacted me to tell me she'd found space for me one stage in the Village Hall Saturday afternoon, and in the Chapel on Sunday morning. Luckily not as a show, just as a place to play. I was also in the event brochure - sandwiched between a Ukulele Orchestra and some Steampunk dancers!

Despite a train strike, superb support from the staff at Leeds station - and reasonable taxi fares - meant I got to the venue in good time.

Keighley and Haworth are lovely with 1950's charm and sweeping Yorkshire scenary. The taxi even had to bobble down a cobblestone track to get to the village hall.

The organiser had found me a trading table for the morning, but that only seated three people with no space for my banner. Despite some fascinating chats with people, I wasn't able to convince anyone to try a game. The ukulele group were superior though and I had a good time.

In the afternoon I took over the stage and did manage to cram two families (strangers to each other) together for a 6 player steampunk game - my usual "Evolution of Species". It was good fun. One dad asked for purchase details saying it was going "to be the family game this Christmas". One of the best feedback comments ever!

The event finished earlier than I'd expected to get the venue ready for the evening show. I hadn't managed to sign anyone up for an evening game but I decamped to my booked table anyway to apologise to the hostess, sample their food and ale and wait to see if anyone did turn up. (I'd promoted it on Facebook).

No one did turn up. But I'm glad I went. Firstly the centre of Howarth is amazing. Basically loads of great pubs separated by artisan stores (traditional sweet shops etc.) linked by a cobble street. The ideal Stag/Hen do setting. Secondly the pub I went to - The Kings Arms - was simply superb. I left my first ever review on Trip Adviser (5 stars). The service was superb, despite the place being crammed. And the food was superb. I just took the soup of the day (sage and onion) and daily special (liver and onions) - for ease - both were excellent. Thirdly a mother came in with her son and, in passing, said "are you the Gamesmaster? He's been raving about the game."

No-one did turn up so I got a taxi to my B&B which was clean and well managed and good value for the price.

In the morning, I got a taxi to "the Chapel" and set up on stage. Again, there were lots of interesting conversations, but it was difficult to get people to sit down and play. This is typical. People come to a geek event to do whatever it is they've come to the event to do - in this case to browse the eclectic and fascinating Steampunk stands. Then they might try a game when they've exhausted everything else.

Eventually I got a couple I'd played with at Asylum onto stage to start a game and, once we'd started, the table filled. Again typical. Sit down with two people and other people join in.

It was "The Evolution of Species" again but with a different twist. This group was great at getting the drop on the bad guys and then having the dice betray them. Massive fun (as always).

After the game I had to strip everything down to make way for the dancers. I decamped to the lounge but wasn't able to get anyone into an afternoon game.

So with taxis and food I invested the best part of £200 in travelling to Haworth Steampunk Weekend to referee two games for a total of about three hours. Was it worth it?

I think so. Firstly I hadn't realised how lovely this part of the world is. Secondly I really enjoyed my couple of hours in the Kings Arms. A GREAT pub. Thirdly I had a lot of interesting chats.

And, of course, I thoroughly enjoyed the two games I played.

I have three take always. Firstly - and I'm not being negative here, just trying to be factual - this convention's demographic skewed older. The median age was in the sixties. The men, particularly, seemed set in their ways. They'll wear brass and goggles but sitting down to play make-believe seems a step too far. (Maybe they just can't sit down in those corsets and jet packs? I hadn't considered that.) I got more blunt "No's" before I'd gotten through two words of my spiel than at any other convention I've been to. But I LOVED it! In asking WHY they'd said "no" I discovered so much about their attitudes and experiences. I remain convinced, of course, that if they tried TTRPGs, they'd find out their assumptions are wrong.

Secondly, I need to work on that "spiel". I found I didn't have good standard elevator pitch explaining what TTRPGs were, why I was at the convention and why they should sit down and play. I found my story changing from person to person.

Thirdly, I'd forgotten to print my usual "Simon Burley TTRPG newsletter". It would have been good to have some business cards at least. For every blunt "no" I had someone who wanted to know more. I found myself writing contact or book details on scraps of paper or getting people to log onto "The Tavern" on their phones.

So, though things didn't go exactly as I'd hoped, they went better than they could have done. I enjoyed myself and learnt a lot. I now have to decide if I want to come again next year. Will more advance notice and me getting familiar with events and events getting familiar with me allow interest to grow or not? Only time will tell.

A great event for Steampunks. Potential for TTRPGs. A work in progress?

Continue reading...