The Dudley Bug Ball 2020


Sue Savage

When it comes to weekend events, I'm used to LARP, where everything kicks off around 8pm on a Friday. Being able to eat dinner at home and pack at my leisure before heading off on Friday evening was a bit of a novelty.

All the same, I arrived at the Premier Inn at around 8.30 and decided to go looking for people. Surely a few others would be there on Friday night? Maybe we could get an extra game in?

When I finally found the way into the Station hotel, which involved doing almost a complete lap of the building looking for an open door, I found only two other people. Still, we had a good chat about gaming, other conventions, and for some reason, bats.

Saturday morning I wandered back to the Station Hotel some time around 9am while everything was still being set up, and found some familiar faces at the guest tables. Sign-up for RPGs was harder to track down. Eventually sign-up sheets appeared, in no particular order, including what seemed to be games for the entire weekend. I gave up trying to make sense of it, or even sign up for anything, in favour of chatting with some old friends, until it was past 10am and I decided I really should try to do something. What I did was hang around the sign-up table until gravitational pull attracted enough people that we all agreed we had enough for a game and went to play one.

Game 1

I don't generally play games set in IP that I'm unfamiliar with (hence having never played The Expanse or Judge Dredd) and I'm also not keen on playing pre-existing characters from TV and movies. So a game in the world of Blake's Seven wouldn't be my first choice of game. Still, I was willing to give it a shot, and the character of Soolin seemed fairly uncomplicated - fearless, and shoots things. I reckoned I could manage that.

Soolin was joined by Avon, Jenna, Gan and Vila, names which meant nothing to me but which seemed quite significant to those players who knew the setting. We had an exciting sci-fi adventure, Soolin got to shoot lots of things, and we ended by mind-wiping Avon when he turned out to secretly be a Federation spy.

I'm now tempted to watch Blake's Seven, as the idea of a Firefly-like show but in the style of 1970s Doctor Who is pretty appealing.

I had lunch in the hotel bar, which took a while as there seemed to be only two people actually staffing the entire place. All the same, my barbecue chicken wrap was pretty good and came with some nice hot chips.

Game 2

A friend of a friend had been looking for an old-school dungeon crawl, so I pointed him at an afternoon game: Spiderbite, an old White Dwarf adventure but using the d6 Hack. And then decided to sign up myself, since it looked like that one would definitely happen. Six people had signed up for that by the time we assembled to play, but only four of us showed up. No worries. Four adventurers is enough for a party.

I picked up a pre-gen warrior character rather than go to the effort of making one, and named her Crimson. Along with a fellow warrior, a conjurer and a priest, we set out to make our way down the inside of a giant stone head. We encountered an amorphous tentacle blob, a shiny crystal snake and a big spider, and manage to behave reasonably competantly. It all went wrong when we were trying to leave. There was a simple solution to the problem which we entirely failed to do, leaving things at a bit of a stalemate, until we hit on the idea of shoving the NPC who'd hired us for this job down a pit. This did the job, and we quietly left, vowing never to speak of this again.

The adventure finished rather earlier than the slot allowed for, but that suited me fine as I had other places to be.

What possessed me to sign up to perform at a hafla (belly dance show) in the middle of the Dudley Bug Ball, I don't know, but I headed back to my hotel, collected up my costume and drove to the Cradley community centre for an evening of dance and charity fundraising.

I returned at around 11pm and decided to drop in on the event again to see who was around. A game of Call of Cthulhu was ongoing. The one game advertised before the event that I'd actually wanted to play should have been happening, but it seems the numbers weren't there. So I hadn't missed it after all. Another time, hopefully.

Unsurprisingly, numbers were lower on Sunday morning. I entirely failed to locate a game to play, but headed back to the guest tables to chat with old friends. That kept me happily occupied until lunchtime, when once again dance called me away, this time to a rehearsal with my troupe.


Apparently around 70 people were there on the Saturday, which isn't at all bad. A reasonable number of women too.

A nice venue. The main hall was a decent size and well laid out for the demonstration games and traders. RPGs happened in smaller rooms nearby. I particularly liked the room where the two games I played were held, with a dresser holding a selection of vintage teapots.

I bought a full weekend ticket for £15 - reasonable for the length of the event as there was the potential to play five games if I'd played in every slot.

I initially planned to stay in the hotel, but something was wrong with their website and I was unable to book, so I stayed at the Premier Inn instead for the incredibly reasonable price of £33 per night. This didn't include breakfast, although I could have had either the Premier Inn breakfast or gone next door to Costa, Burger King or The Harvester for their breakfast options. In the end I just had the snack bars I'd brought with me and the free coffee in my hotel room.

Travel by car was easy enough - a straight run up the M1 and M6 most of the way, and free parking at both the Premier Inn and the Station Hotel.

What I'd really like to see at the next one of these events is more organisation of the RPG side of things. There seemed to be an assumption that things would sort themselves out organically, and that doesn't really happen. There was no call for sign-ups, no muster, no directions to rooms. While the demo games happening in the main hall managed to pick up players, if I hadn't already known the GM of the two games I played, I'm not sure I'd have actually managed to get myself signed up to anything.

That said, I had a fun weekend, had two enjoyable games, and got to spend time with some friends I rarely get the chance to see. And this is only the second year for the new Dudley Bug Ball, so I'm sure it will get bigger and better in future years. It's one of the easiest and cheapest two days events for me to get to, and I intend to be back next year.

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Brass Jester

Staff member
Ahh ... so you were the person incidental in shoving me into that alien mind-destroying trap! I seem to recall you fell down the lift shaft right at the end as we were escaping from the mines.

I would have joined in Spiderbite but I got roped into a demo game of Chivalry & Sorcery