Friday, 11 August 2017

Convention Report Longcon 2017 and what's going to change for Longcon 2018

This month past, it was my pleasure to host the third Longcon.  On the Sunday, I spoke to a few of the attendees and GMs, and with three years of data on the games behind me, I came to a few conclusions that I’ll be implementing in the years to come.

The first thing I’ve noted is that while there is limited interest in single day games, most people really are in it for the Long game.  The case in point this year was when we had a few single player games up that didn’t get any interest for a few weeks, switched out with the same GM for a two day event and it got three players within a day.  I’ll still be accepting single day games from GM’s, but I’m going to be looking for more two day events than single day, and that brings me to the second point.

Games which had players signed up for some time do better. 

That’s not to say they’re better games, or better GM’s for that matter, but the players are more invested in the games and so it’s easier for them to put effort into them.  Looking at the games that were run at Longcon this year, those that had players signed up long in advance and had time to prepare averaged twenty hours of gaming not counting breaks.  Those that had players that hadn’t had time to prepare averaged fourteen hours not counting breaks.  It’s still a reasonable amount of gaming to be done, but with more organisation on my part, everyone gets time to put things together and have the best game that they can. 

That brings me to point three.

The games that got the most interest in each year have been the ones that had an interesting writeup, some sense of what was going on in the game, what the players would be doing, and what sort of game it was going to be.  The games that have had little to no write up have had little to no interest in them by comparison to those games that promised something epic.  It’ll take a little more when it comes to the editing of the website, but future submissions for games will have those details so people know what they’re signing up for, and more importantly, they’ll be more inclined to sign up early.

And that brings me to the contentious point…

Every time Longcon comes about, the same voices speak about it being Cliquecon, and how only some people get to be in some games and how everyone should have a chance to play in every game.  After three years running Longcon, twenty years of helping with Dragonmeet, two years of running Dragonmeet, and nearly a decade running the RPGs at UK Games Expo, I’ve learned one thing…

Be Organised if you want to get in a game.

If a group of players want to get into a game, they’ll camp on it till it gets made available, they’ll be smart and organised, and they’ll find a way to get into that game.  They can’t be bargained with or reasoned with, they don’t feel pity or remorse, and they absolutely will not stop, ever, till they get the game they want… 

At Expo this year, one GM’s games sold out within six seconds of the bookings going live, at Dragonmeet, those that want to play go straight in to the hall, ignore all the trade, get their games booked, and then think about what to do next. 

Then there’s the matter of the GMs, and the question of whether or not they should be allowed to pick the players they want for the games they’re running.

This is something that’s troubled me since year one, so I’ve kept a close eye on every game that’s run at Longcon, I’ve followed up with the GM’s and the players afterwards, and I’ve given a lot of thought to the quandary.  Most GM’s don’t mind which players they get as long as they get players who are willing to play at the table, not sit around checking their phone waiting for the fight to start. A few GMs only want to run with players they know and have played with before, and when it comes to something like Longcon, it’s more important to have a game you know will run well.  This convention isn’t like any other, in a normal convention with eight game slots, if you have a single bad game, you just wait for the next one and try again.  At Longcon, if you have a single bad game, it’s the whole convention ruined, and quite possibly for everyone else in that game.

Given how many excellent games I’ve seen at Longcon, I’m not willing to take that chance anymore.

From next year, players will put forwards their choices for games to play in.  Each GM will be notified of players that want into their game, and they’ll make the choice of which players to accept for each game.  After three years of hearing people complain that they’ll never get in the game they want to (usually just after the sold out sign has appeared on the game they wanted), I know with certainty that if you only want to play in one game, camp on that button or you’ll miss that game.  Booking for games will be the same as it has been in previous years, you sign up, list the three games you want to play in with an order of preference and I’ll send back word indicating which game you got into, the same way Gencon does it, but on a smaller scale.

Longcon games are good, I know that because last year I put up an offer that I’ve repeated this year, and will repeat every year going forwards, where any player who doesn’t have a good game, doesn’t pay for the con. After two years of that offer, you know how many players have decided that the game they were playing in was one that they didn’t want to pay for?


And that person turned up on the day, played the game both days, looked to be having a great time, and then didn’t pay.  It doesn’t trouble me, I’m in it for the long haul, and the games that have been running have surpassed my expectations every time. With that in mind, the offer I’ve made for three years will now be permanent, anyone wanting to try the weekend can turn up without paying, and decide if they enjoyed it at the end of the weekend.  Didn’t like it?  Don’t pay for it.

Call it Cliquecon, call it Exclusicon, call it whatever, the problems faced by Longcon are the problems faced by every convention.  The only thing that’s ever stopped a person getting a game at Longcon is themselves, there’s always been something available, and from a damn good GM.  Maybe people only wanted to play in a particular game, maybe they’d heard about something before and wanted in on it this year, and then felt upset when the places were taken instantly when the games went live.  Examples of this are clear, with Neil Gows Watch series and Steve Ellis’ Dracula Dossier being prime examples of people looking at the game write ups and thinking “What I wouldn’t have given to be in that game…”.  What I do know is that when games sell out in the future, I’m taking them off the website, so people don’t get upset they missed something, and it’s clear when the con’s full.

In all, I’m very pleased with how Longcon has progressed these last few years, and I’ll be looking to increase the number of games being played there in the coming years, starting with more organisation on my part.

And that starts now, Longcon next year is provisionally on the first weekend of July, the 7th and the 8th, and there’ll be a precon meetup scheduled for the night before.  We will also have traders there in an official capacity, because while Jim from Patriot doing deliveries was very well received, it’s apparent that there’s always interest for gamers buying more things.  It won’t take up any of the gaming space, but it makes for more of a complete convention.