Sunday, 19 July 2015

Longcon - Debrief and expectations for the new year.

This time last week, I was just winding down Longcon, and I normally like to take a few days after I finish a convention to put my thoughts in order.  There’s so many things going on that I’ve not had chance till today to write everything up.  Still, if I’m honest, I could sum it up in a single sentence...

It was awesome...

But that wouldn’t explain why, so here’s the rest of it...

I knew that many of those attending would be attending the night before to catch up with their friends. If I hadn’t been doing last minute preparations, I’d have been down there with them, because at the heart of it, this convention was about taking the time to have fun and play games with friends.

So when I arrived in the morning, I wasn’t the first one through the door, but all the things that needed to be organised already had been, so for once, I wasn’t worried about all the things that could have gone wrong, because all the preparation was on me, and this convention wasn’t anywhere near the size of the other conventions that I do, so there wasn’t as much to worry about.

Four games running on the first day, two of them the first day of a two day scenario, two of them single day scenarios only running on that day.  

The two day scenarios were a Dresden files based game being run by Neil Gow

Why, Yes, Neil did duck every photo we aimed at him...
A One ring mini campaign being run by Paul Mitchener.  

More fun than Elrond at his secret meetings...
The single day scenarios were an OSRIC scenario that had been previously run at Garycon by Simon Todd

Because having your own kids at the table is a challenge most would not take on...
Finally a game that put the Firefly cast into the film of Alien Resurrection being run by Darran Sims. 
 
Of course he's grinning, he knows what's coming next...
All implausible?

Many of those playing had been planning these games for several weeks, they’d got their characters in place, given the GM time to prepare a good scenario, and got to know each others characters, so when the scenario started, they all knew where they were.

Everyone started drifting in around ten of the morning, some earlier, some later, but I hadn’t specified slots that people had to start by, deliberately so.  If there’s one thing that I’ve learned stresses GMs, it’s having to rush to get there on time, and then have to rush to make the second slot and so on, so the whole point of this was to make sure that the GM’s didn’t have that pressure on them.  It was down to each group to choose their hours, all I was doing was giving everyone a space to be in.  With so little for me to organise (compared to cons like Expo), I had time to catch a game myself, and so put myself in the Osric game to get a little old fashioned THAC0 going.



Good scenario, Simon had clearly put the time in on it, images that he drew himself and maps to work with, betrayal and confusion were the order of the day, and with players ranging from those in their early teens to those in their mid forties, the stage was set for a grand game.



Across from us, the Firefly team were beginning to realise just what a problem they’d signed up for. I’d seen the NPC list early in the day, and to give you the idea, ED209 was at one end of the scale, and Grant Mitchell from Eastenders was at the other...



Through day one, people came and went, the Dresden game started later, broke in the middle of the day and early evening, and were still playing when I went home for the night.  

Where did everyone go?  Someone said food...
The One ring game relocated to the veranda (it was a nice day), had two breaks through the day and were still playing when I went home for the night.

Day two, and the single day scenarios for this day were the Cyberpunk 2020 game I was running

Don't be deceived by the calm exterior...
Then the D&D 5th retelling of Ravenloft 2 run by Martin Tideswell with a number of 9th level characters heroically provided at very short notice when I got a last minute request for more players in the game.   

On a map so large it needed four tables...
Again a calm day, relaxed and easy, taking breaks when we wanted to, and as Saturday had been a long day, those breaks were more often and lasted a little longer. 

My game ended up with Simon “Rock God” Burley getting his followers to lynch one of the other PC’s who’d sold out to “The Man”, and a promise that I’d run the follow up to the game in the next Longcon.
 
Note the conspicuous absence of one player....
Most games broke up around five of the afternoon, with the last game to finish being Ravenloft and everyone meeting in the bar downstairs for drinks and reflection upon the convention.  The overwhelming thought in both players and GM’s heads was how relaxing the convention had been.  Because it was only one game being played, no one had to reorient their heads to play a different character, and the GM’s didn’t have to bring notes and books for all the other games they were running.  Paul Mitcheners comment at the end was that he was tired because he’d been running for two days solid, but he wasn’t broken as he would have been had he offered five slots at Expo over two days...

The players reported back that the games had been a great success, mainly because there had been time to get into the games (even the one day scenarios), go through every option, work through the plans of the enemy, investigate red herrings, and most importantly, not have to suddenly rush when the time hit three and a half hours to get to the end...

I’ve already got sixteen of the twenty two people who came this year wanting to sign up for next years Longcon, and I’ve now had time to put together a list of the things that I’ve learned over the course of the weekend.

In no particular order...

Don’t hold the convention at the same time as any other major convention...

You don’t need to be experienced at long games to have an excellent time with long games, of the players in the one day scenarios, none of them had ever played an all day game, all of them had an excellent time and many are wanting to come back next year...

Timing is very important, next years convention will be later in the month, because later in the month and we’re into the summer holidays and all those working as teachers (and you’d be surprised how many of us do) find it a lot easier to get time...

Equal spread of two day and one day games required, but no dungeon crawls, and anything with Cthulhu in it will have to be something suitably cerebral...

Given the nature of the games played and the players who turned up, there was a lot of interest from those who are GMs wanting to get in on the whole weekend of playing, I’m going to be putting the call out for GMs a lot earlier next year because of the number of GMs who wanted to play over the normal onslaught I get when asking for GMs at a con...

It’s not just a good GM that makes the games here, the reason why the games worked so very well were because there was advance preparation in almost every game, no worries about character creation on the day, and everyone could get straight into it.  As an approach to games, I’d like to do it more at the other conventions I run, but I recognise that this (Presently) is a niche convention, it’ll be bigger next year, and as more people enjoy it, so more will come along, of that I have neither doubt nor reservation...

The Venue was excellent, but I’m wary of putting many more games in there, the number that we could have been expanded on, but not by much without starting to get noise overlap, and it’s very important in a long game that the atmosphere is maintained throughout...

I’ll be bringing short games and board games next year as well, because some of the games broke up earlier than others and left those who were staying over with not as much to do as I would have liked.  An easy fix to be sure, but certainly a lesson learned and one to rectify...

 Any event relies on the assistance of others, never let anyone say otherwise, and Longcon would certainly not have been possible without the assistance of a very select bunch of individuals, in particular, the GMs who gave up their time and effort to come down and run games for no more reward than a drink in the bar, so in no order at all, my deepest thanks to...

Paul Mitchener, Neil Gow, Simon Todd, Martin Tideswell, Darran Sims, Simon Burley

I may have built Longcon, but you guys were holding the walls up for me, and any con you find me at (Whether I’m running it or not), it’s a drink on me every time...

So here’s looking to next year...

5 comments:

  1. One risk of the format of course is GM illnesses or emergencies. Any thoughts on what you'd do with a 5 player table and a GM who cancels the day before the con?

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    1. Actually, this year that had been a distinct possibility, we had six GMs on standby as part of the groups that were coming in, in the event of an unplanned cancellation, one of them would have stood in and I would have refunded them the cost of their ticket. With regards to those in the game, I would explain the situation and offer them the alternative, and while it wouldn't be the same, the GMs chosen for these games and the backups are good GMs, so it would still be a good game. Good point well made though, and certainly something I have been considering.

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  2. "and with players ranging from those in their early teens to those in their mid forties......"

    Bless you!

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  3. John is a nice men to not single out those of us who last saw the mid forties nearly twenty years ago. Thanks you John, you now fall into the same group as the young supermarket cashiers who check my age when I buy alcohol - makes my day.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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