Spaghetti ConJunction 2b - 20th October 2018



TLDR: A one day, two game slot event in central Birmingham. Food on site and at your table. Great location, great people. Good selection of games. A really nice day out.

Spaghetti ConJunction is the TTPRG convention I co-organise. It's a one day event at a gaming cafe - Geek Retreat - in Birmingham City centre.

It's based on the model trail-blazed by the wonderful Concrete Cow conventions in Milton Keynes. We promote the event and publish details of any games people say they intend to offer on the day, through Facebook, web-site and many other outlets in advance. But nothing is actually decided until the event. If you want to Referee a game, you turn up, put a sign up sheet on the table and wait to see if anyone chooses it. Nothing is pre-booked or guaranteed.

There are two differences between SCJ and Concrete Cow. Firstly we only have two game slots in day. Secondly, it's in the gaming cafe. So, though it's in the city centre and surrounded by loads of options, no-one actually needs to pop out to get food. It's a really great venue.

As usual I met up with my fellow organiser for breakfast at a nearby bistro. When the proprietor of Geek Retreat arrived I popped round and was gratified to find people already waiting outside. I then had 15 minutes to get in, stick up the signage and sort out the sign up table and front desk. We book the entire top floor of Geek Retreat.

By the time I'd finished it was 10:00am and people started coming upstairs and it was a flurry of taking entry fees and issuing them their Tombola tickets. It's £3 entry but most people opted to buy a couple of raffle tickets as well and just pay a £5 note. Almost forty people came in and I was pleased to see a lot of new faces amongst the old familiar ones.

At 10:15 we did introductions and started signups. Referees had placed sign up sheets for their games on a table. We supplied blank sheets and pens but many referees provided their own. Attendees had been perusing these before we started. Sign up was via lottery. Any new players were allowed to choose and sign up for their games first. This was a bit of a crush because we had so many new faces. Then the numbers from 0 through 9 were drawn in a random order. As each number was announced, anyone with a Tombola ticket ending in that number was allowed to come up and choose a game. We kept a list of the number order.

Five games were fully signed up with up to six players plus referee. One game ran with a smaller number, picking up spare players and referees whose games didn't run. 2 or 3 sign up sheets didn't garner any players. This is perfectly normal. We like to have more slightly games offered than we need and it gives players a wider choice.

I was surprised to find that the signup sheet for my game seemed to have disappeared. However it turned out that, in my rush, I'd put out my afternoon sheet by mistake and someone had kindly put it in the pile of afternoon sheets. This left me without a game to referee. Instead of playing, however, I chose to spend the morning at front desk where I had a great time - allocating late-comers to games, sorting out the raffle tickets, counting the money, handling other admin tasks and posting about the convention on Social Media.

Games running included Dr Who AIT&S (Torchwood), I Love the Corps (Zombie Thomas the Tank Engine), D&D 5th Ed, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Is it a plane (with Player character Starships) and Heroquest Glorantha (offered in memory of Greg Stafford.)

There was a lovely atmosphere in the room. All the games seemed lively and happy and the acoustics seemed fine.

Many games seemed to over-run slightly but the constant stream of food from downstairs made sure everyone had had their lunch at the table. (Food is mainly burgers and toasted sandwiches.) So the slight extensions didn't cause any issues.

At 3:15 we had the raffle. As usual the donations from companies were extremely generous with the retail value of items of prizes being amazing total. We even had a copy of Zweihander - the massive update of Warhammer Fantasy - which was the thickest TTRPG hardback I've ever seen. A real coffee table book.

I'll admit I'm not a fan of raffles at conventions. Too often they eat into valuable gaming time. So I make sure the SCJ raffle goes at a fair click.

Then it was the afternoon signups. This happens in reverse order to the morning games - which is why we keep a list of numbers drawn.

There were more games offered in the afternoon than the morning and several of them only garnered one or two players. There was a bit of "horse trading" - great fun "would you rather be psychologically tortured or draw your adventures" - and soon we had half a dozen games going again.

One of them was mine - the simple introductory adventurer and rules from our forthcoming book to be sold in aid of Comic Relief. This was fun as always but due to some unfortunate rolling at the extreme end of the bell curve, the characters suffered a real mauling. But the players enjoyed it and were complimentary about the system. I know some changes to make, however.

As I was refereeing, I didn't keep a close check on what was running but I know it included:

Two D&D 5th Ed games, my d6 Hack D&D clone, Is it a plane?, a wierd West Scenario and Lamposts in Bloom (run using The Dead of Night). There was probably one other one I've forgotten.

What was lovely was that one popular D&D game was run by an experienced older referee of my generation. (Set in Pan Tang in the world of Elric.) The other equally popular D&D game was run by a young lady who I've never met before who was clearly less than half our age. I don't know details of this one beyond the smiling faces and rapt attention her players were giving her.

Games are due to end at 7:30 but most wrapped up at around 7:00pm. Mainly it seemed to be due to people heading for their trains. (The venue is a convenient walk from all three main Birmingham stations.) The big D&D 5th game from the younger Referee ran on and on (who'd've thought it?), not stopping until 7:50 - which gave us time to do the tidying up and some planning for next year.

Overall SCJ 2b was a great success. Small enough to be friendly, large enough to offer a good choice of games. I thought we had a good number of players for the venue and exactly the right number of games on offer. It's only two game slots so it might not be worth travelling a huge distance to get here - though it's a pretty convenient journey from most places. And if you're a referee offering a game, you're not guaranteed to get players. However, it's great venue, with a good selection of different systems, great referees and great players. A great day out.

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Missed this again, it always seems to fall on a day that I can't make. However, I have committed to go to the next one, all being well.