TabletopScot Tabletop Scotland 2019 RPG report

MartinP

Rune Priest
#1
TLDR: Bigger, better and more fun than last year. A top con.

So, another weekend spent holed up in a room full of roleplayers, away from the harsh light of reality. Perth, Scotland this time, for my second local gaming convention of the year.

For the second outing Tabletop Scotland expanded everything, double the floor space and double(-ish) the RPGs. The main floor (traders and open play areas) was expanded from one hall to two, and the non-D&D RPGs swapped rooms with the seminars to give a lot more space. The Adventurers League had the same cool balcony space as before, so I think they only added a couple of tables. I was actually a bit worried about the number of RPGs on offer, given that last year had seemed a bit marginal at times with the number of players. But the pre-booking had gone fairly well, so I was hopeful it would go OK.

This year I had convinced a couple of friends to come along, one was going to see us there and one I was picking up from the Park and Ride at Inverkeithing on the way north. He'd flown up from down south especially to go to the con, so I was really hoping it would go well. No pressure, TTS.

Arriving at the venue (a sports centre/ice rink) at 8.30 I was impressed to see a queue already waiting outside the door in anticipation of the 9.00 start. We parked up in the underground car park and sneaked in through the 'secret volunteer entrance' AKA the fire door and grabbed our badges and T-shirts. After a quick eyeball of the main floor I went to the front desk to find the RPG sign-up sheets, which unsurprisingly were in just the same state they had been when the pre-registration was frozen. There was a little bit of confusion between the horde of GMs checking the sheets until we realised that all the sheets for a given slot were together on the same clip-board. Cue shaking of heads and embarrassed laughter.

I then dashed upstairs and grabbed what I thought was a good table - in the corner of the room, next to the window. The corner was to cut down on noise as much as possible, the window because it was uncharacteristically forecast to be over 20C and sunny. (As it turns out the best tables were those in the back of the room by the doors to the D&D balcony, because they were set a little back from the rest and in the breeze coming through from the main hall). Outside the window the queue had now stretched along the front of the building and was starting to cross the car park. And there were cars queuing up to get in through the barriers. A good omen!

My table was claimed by laying out the rule book, character sheets and maps for the first game, and then I watched the crowd press in through the doors while chatting with the other GMs. It was only at about 9.30 that I remembered I needed to go down and pick up some more dry-wipe pens from the wonderful folks at the All Rolled Up stand, so I dashed out into the masses and grabbed them before hustling back to catch the muster for the first game.

Muster was a little confused the first time, some people were waiting outside the room, some inside and inevitably some didn't realise there was a muster happening and just turned up at 10 for the games to start. So there were plenty of people coming into the room going "I'm looking for Game X?", but luckily we'd had a hour to chat so the GMs had a pretty good idea of what was running at which table.

Game 1: ReContact! (Traveller). This was an adventure I'd written and run at Conpulsion about 20 years ago for T4, converted to Mongoose Traveller 2nd Ed. I'd not run Traveller since (apart from the online playtest with my usual group), so this was a bit of a nervous opening for me. Full table too. I managed to hold it together despite the entirely linear plot and some horrendous dice rolling by the players, and everyone appeared to have a good time. Even managed to get mentioned in dispatches during and after the con, so I guess it went OK.

Lunch was a quick dash over to the Aldi behind the sports centre for sandwiches, doughnuts and water. Water was pretty essential given the heat, and the bar at the venue were happy to keep filling your bottle up for you. We made the mistake of sitting directly on the grass outside in the sun to eat, not realising until too late that it was wet with rain or dew. At least one part of me was cool for the next hour or so, even if I did have to stand up the whole time!

Game 2: The Graveyard of the Robots (Manifold). A post-apocalypse killer robot survival game, sort of. Three players, who felt bad about not knowing anything about the system until I told them Simon still hasn't published it. Our heroes survived by hiding under tarps, hiding in caves and at the climax of the adventure by building themselves a junk vehicle disguised to look like a robot death machine. Good fun, and a bit of validation for the scenario which was eaten alive by a group of 'goal-oriented' teenagers at Conpulsion a couple of years ago.

Dinner: Myself and my long-distance friend had booked a hotel room for the night, so in the hour break we popped off over there and checked in. It was about a 10 minute walk from the venue, so I left the car in the underground car park for the night (with the warning from the staff that it would be locked overnight with no way to access the car in an emergency). On the walk back we popped into the nearest Chinese take-away which was also a chippy, and picked up a fish supper each. I thought it was a bit expensive, until I saw them load not one but two fish fillets on top of the pile of chips! The food was so hot (and so plentiful) that we had to force ourselves to finish the fish and then bin the remaining chips in order to get back for the games.

Game 3: Midnight Watch (Is It A Plane?). This is a 40's noir adventure for the draw-your-own-comic superhero game (quick pitch: Pictionary the superhero RPG). There was only one player signed up for this, but she really wanted to try it out so we headed to the bar to round up some more players. Due to her convincing patter two very nice gentlemen agreed to give up their evening of drinking and give it a go, so we were on. I'm not sure that the detective style game really suits the system, as it's kind-of hard to know what you are supposed to draw when you are discovering secrets. Still, we did more-or-less OK and got through to the end of the issue (it's a comic book, see?) without breaking the system or ourselves. Much like Fate, I really like the idea of this game but I'm not sure I'm doing it right.

Overnight was spent in what I can only describe as a traditional hotel, with narrow corridors, unexpected corners and creaking staircases. The room even had a telephone in it, how quaint! Breakfast the next morning was the usual 'order the cooked breakfast and eat as much cereal/fruit/pastry as you can stuff in' deal. On the way out I spotted from the badges on the other guests that there was a Mensa gathering there, so I left before feeling of inferiority could overwhelm me.

Game 4: no sign-ups for my game, which wasn't a complete surprise given how late I got them on the site, the usual reduced interest on day 2 and the fact it was a home-brew no-one had heard of. Anyway, I did my bit by joining the 'They came from beneath the sea' table, which had one punter (my other friend, actually) and a guest/colleague of the GM who had come to play NPCs but was going to play. We then picked up another player looking for a game, before getting two more from the Alien game that was cancelled (GM ill, I think). So the game went from 1 to 6 players in about 10 minutes! Very cool game, 50's B-movie game from Onyx Path using the Storypath system, run by the writer.

Lunch was again from Aldi, this time with fruit slices. And dry grass.

Game 5: again no sign-ups, so again I joined a table in need, this time it was Superlatives, a superhero game by a local bloke (well, Dundee) that I'd backed on Kickstarter but never played. The system was a bit tricky to get your head around, and the adventure was just plain weird (no, really, Alice in Wonderland type weird with a side order of Minecraft zombies and Lego princesses), so we sort-of bumbled around before finding our way to the penultimate fight and totally invalidating the climactic boss fight. Oops! Still, a fun way to spend the afternoon, and a pleasant finish to the con.

Overall TTS2019 was bigger and better in every way than last year, and is well on the way to making itself a big deal in the UK convention scene. 1500 unique visitors over the weekend, and 20 tables of RPGs running throughout? The organisers have done themselves proud, and I think the main problem for next year is going to be finding the space for any further expansion. I think the con could do with is a unique something, so that people go 'Are you coming to Tabletop Scotland for XXX?'

One point for the organisers to consider for next year is that neither the RPG sign-up sheets nor the programme have any details of the games, only the names and systems, so on-the-day punters have to look up the website if they don't know what a game is. Should be an easy fix (the sign-up sheets are A4 after all).
 
#2
TLDR: Bigger, better and more fun than last year. A top con.
Cheers Martin.

Muster was a little confused the first time, some people were waiting outside the room, some inside and inevitably some didn't realise there was a muster happening and just turned up at 10 for the games to start.
Yeah, that didn't work as we planned. Plus signage wasn't good enough for the muster itself. The muster was supposed to have a dedicated volunteer to stay in the room but unfortunately we had 2 volunteers drop out at last minute... So you got me, which whilst may have the benefit of me knowing most of the GMs had the other side of the coin that I couldn't hang around due to other things that I needed to rush off for.

Overall TTS2019 was bigger and better in every way than last year, and is well on the way to making itself a big deal in the UK convention scene. 1500 unique visitors over the weekend, and 20 tables of RPGs running throughout? The organisers have done themselves proud, and I think the main problem for next year is going to be finding the space for any further expansion. I think the con could do with is a unique something, so that people go 'Are you coming to Tabletop Scotland for XXX?'
I'm all ears as to how we add that "unique something". The expansion of the "non-D&D" RPG selection and interest levels was something I was REALLY keen to do improve for this year and I think we largely nailed it. The reality is that I'm not expecting a similar expansion for future events, although I am curious what level of submissions we'll get when we open that process. Plus, as we chatted about pre/during the con it may be that we need to now consider a games on demand offering.

One point for the organisers to consider for next year is that neither the RPG sign-up sheets nor the programme have any details of the games, only the names and systems, so on-the-day punters have to look up the website if they don't know what a game is. Should be an easy fix (the sign-up sheets are A4 after all).
Yeah, the summaries unfortunately fell on the cutting room floor when collating all the inputs for the 56 page convention programme. Something I was loathe to do but became a necessarily evil. Sign up sheets though, that's a really fair call out as we should have incorporated some sort of summary into those.

In addition to the above we also had 10 x 90 minute kids RPG sessions over the weekend which were all over subscribed. These were hosted on the convention floor rather than in the RPG rooms and definitely a sign that there's demand for those too.

Genuinely I'm all ears to what we can do to evolve the con further. However, I reserve the right to ignore 90% of suggestions! That 10% though might be exactly the nugget we need.
 
Top