Friday 14 June 2019

Volcon and Longcon

Volcon and Longcon

The announcements for Longcon haven’t gone out this year, and there’s a number of reasons for that, but I keep getting people asking, so I thought to tell people what’s going on with it.

Longcon, for those who don’t know, followed the idea of having a single game that ran across an entire weekend, as things used to when we were all younger and had the time and availability to be able to give up whole weekends just to spend with our friends.

It worked, and at the same time, it didn’t work, but I learned a lot from running it, and in some way, it will continue, but in a different form.

The first Longcon worked well, but was primarily composed of existing groups that wanted to run a longer game with a number of friends and still have the social aspect of a convention where everyone had a few drinks in the evening and just kicked back.  There was one group that decided to hold Longcon at their own house rather than coming to Longcon itself, and I can’t blame them for that, indeed, that for me was always the concern for Longcon.  If you have a group of people who want to play a game together, all you have to do is provide a room, and they can organise themselves.  They may not have recognised that they all wanted to play for the whole weekend, and if by starting Longcon I gave them the inclination, that’s good enough for me.

The problem for Longcon was always in the games being offered.  In a regular convention four hour slot, if you have a bad game session, you run the risk of having four hours lost.  At Longcon, you have a bad game session, and you’ve lost the whole weekend and ended up paying travel and accommodation for yourself for no reward.

Don’t get me wrong, when the games go right, they are the best in the world (Steve Ellis’s epic Dracula Dossier game in year two, Neil Gow’s massive Watch campaign over several years.), but the increasing risk that if the players didn’t know each other, there was more chance of something going wrong, and on the weekend, there would be nothing I could do to prevent that.

And it has been that, that played on my mind, and has been all this year.  It has been that, that prevented me from putting the announcements out.  Because there’s something about me that many don’t know, and in telling everyone, it’ll make a lot of what I do make a lot more sense.

I do conventions so that gamers, board gamers, war gamers, role players, all of us, can have a good time.  I don’t do it for the money, I do it because then there’s a place where other gamers can have a good time without worrying about anyone giving them a hard time, just for being gamers.

If there’s a chance that a convention I run will end in them not having a good time, then I get stressed about it, more than I let on, but this year, it’s been really playing on my mind.  Most of the games that have run at Longcon have done really well, but there have been two that ended in the players not entirely enjoying them.  The “Don’t pay if you didn’t like the game you were in” guarantee has only been taken up once, but still, it concerns me, and I’ve found that despite this being the one convention where I should have had no stress at all, I was looking forwards to it less and less.

Here’s where the change is going to be…

Longcon will continue, I’ll still be offering to run weekend long games and I’ll still accept submissions for day long, weekend long games if anyone wants to play them, but I want this to be something that people can enjoy, no matter what game they play.  I’ve long wanted to give something back to all the people who offer their time to conventions, some place where they can enjoy games with others like them, and know that the convention will run itself, it’s just a place for them all to come together and play games, drink, kick back and have a good time.

This is Volcon…

I’m still renting out the Garrison for the entire weekend of the 6th and 7th of July, I’m still offering weekend long and single day games, but more than that, I’m also bringing a stack of board games, and I’m making it open to everyone, with one particular caveat.

If you volunteer at any convention, any convention at all, this weekend is free. There will be no payment asked or taken for this space, this is my way of saying thank you to every person who does things so that others can have a good time.  It’s not sponsored by any other convention, it’s from me to everyone else out there.  If you want to turn up and bring games to play, that’s fine, if you want to turn up and just catch up with everyone without having to wonder about turning up on shift, that’s fine.  If you want to run games across the weekend, tell me what they are and I’ll put them on the website, submission before the end of June if you could please.

If you don’t volunteer at a convention (and there’s no distinction to which convention or in what you volunteer as, GM, volunteer, door troll, ambassador), then you can still book into games at the convention, same price as it always was, £10 for the one day, £20 for both.

And between this Longcon and next year, just volunteer at any convention and it becomes free to you as well, any of the Garrison cons, Airecon, Concrete Cow, Stabcon, any convention at all, so spread the word, this is for those that have already put their time in.  Feel free to share this everywhere.

Any Questions, just ask, if you see a game you want to play in, send me a mail and I’ll put you on the list.

For more details, find us at

Convention Announcements - Dragonmeet

Worldcon, Volcon, Longcon, Dragonmeet

That sounds a little like a John Le Carre novel title, but it’s what’s occupying me right at this moment.  As some of you know, I run a few conventions, I help at a few more…

Well, maybe more than a few…

So, I thought about doing one massive update, but there’s just too many things to go through, so we’re going to start with Dragonmeet, all the others will be following shortly.

First things first, Dragonmeet trade bookings are going live next week, we’ve worked out the trade areas, moved a few things around, and put everything in place to get moving on it.  It’s now over four floors, so we’ve had to do a lot of remodelling to get it all in place. Ground floor for a lot of the trade and the Bring and Buy.  Change from the previous year where the Bring and Buy was upstairs, because the space that we’ve been using for the Bring and Buy has been acceptable, but rapidly becomes nothing but a scrum that blocks access.  We put it at the back of the Trade hall and we can spread it out wide to give people the space they need to get a good look in.

Mezzanine level (that bit in the middle that everyone keeps asking why we’re not using it) will be Press rooms, RPGs in the two north rooms, and seminars in the Bourg suite, which is not only larger and has better acoustics, but also frees up space in the first floor.

First floor will still be demonstrations, Best of Essen, Playtest UK, and the larger games that people have come to love over the years, and with the increased interest from traders, we will be moving some stands upstairs as the demand requires. 

Second floor:  In previous years, we’ve had three rooms at the south end of the first floor that have been dedicated to RPGs, and as the convention grows, I don’t want to be taking away the very thing that for me makes Dragonmeet, Dragonmeet.  We’re allocating two rooms on the Mezzanine for more RPGs, and two more rooms on the second floor so that the entire North Wing is going to be allocated to RPGs.  We considered using all the smaller rooms down the side, but if I’m honest, the several hundred pounds that it would have taken to get all those rooms is better spent on larger rooms rather than adding five more games per slot, especially when we’ll be adding more than fifteen games per slot with the extra rooms.

And on the subject of RPGs

There has been a number of issues in recent years with the scrum of games and the sheer number of people who all sign up for them at the same time, so we’re instigating prebooking for games across the weekend.  I know that’s a controversial move because it means that a lot of games over the weekend will already be signed up before people arrive on the day, but if I’ve learned one thing about conventions, it’s that you can’t please everyone.  This way we won’t have a crush on the day, and if people want to be prepared for the business of the convention, they can do that well in advance.

Trade bookings go live next week, and games will be accepted from the end of next week.

Next is Longcon, which hasn’t seen much movement this year, and there’s a good reason for that, although not the one that many might be considering

Friday 7 June 2019

On inappropriate content in games and where we as a community need to be going next...

So, my week has been completely mullered by the events that took place over Expo this year, we normally get some problems over Expo, some you can deal with easily, some are the sort of thing that you hope to only ever have to deal with once.  This is my personal thoughts (I do not speak for Expo in this) and resolutions from what happened.  Just for the record, I’d like to say that there hasn’t been a single waking hour that I’ve had in the last five days where something about this hasn’t come up, so I’m putting this out in the hope that it will stop some of the questions

On Friday evening, I was advised by a good friend (Thanks Anthony) that there had been a situation in one of the afternoon games whereby a GM went completely off the reservation and subjected the entire groups characters to gang rape and other things that shall not be mentioned.  In the seconds following reading the advisory, my immediate thoughts were both that I know the gm in question, and that it couldn’t have been true.

My investigation was swift and through, as I have always promised it would be, the GM in question did not dispute the charges and was summarily removed from the Expo so that no more harm could be done.  In the two days that followed, I spoke to all but one of the people who played in that game, and the general consensus was that they were all having an excellent time, when about two and a half hours in (the game finished at three hours), the GM made a shift in tone that none of them (or anyone who ever knew that GM) could have predicted, resulting in the horrible situation that all of them found themselves in.

I have to give every credit to the Expo Directors and the support team that we have in place to deal with anything like this, I was allowed to investigate and report back my findings and recommendations, and then they make the decision based on that and their own investigations.  The GM in question was removed from the Expo roster, the game he was running at the time was halted, all future games were pulled, and he was expelled from Expo.  Given that I am also RPG manager for Airecon, Dragonmeet, and Longcon, he will also be pulled from those conventions for the foreseeable future, a question many have been asking.

What I need to address, in the aftermath of what happened and the resultant hysteria, is the truth of what happened, and what we as a community need to be doing, going forwards.

And we do need to go forwards.

I’ll start by saying that I have known this GM for more than a decade, he’s now been identified by someone who was seeking to use these events for their own publicity, whose name I won’t give out because it will give him the publicity he wants. Prior to that, the GM wasn’t named by Expo and he wasn’t going to be.  He always turns up to events on time, always runs his games, and until now, has never (at any event I’ve been running) had a complaint levelled at him or his style of gaming.  He’s worked for almost every games company out there, he’s done demo’s at nearly every shop out there, and he’s absolutely worked at every convention at one time or another, and up until now, never an issue.

Which is why it was such a shock.

I’ve been hearing a lot in the last few days about #Notinmygame and #Notatthiscon, and it’s missing the whole point of what happened here.  Someone who had a previously spotless record went completely off the board and betrayed the trust of everyone who’d ever known him, this behaviour was so far out of context that many refused to believe it was him. When we confirmed that it was him, we dealt with it immediately and without any consideration to the years of service that he’d put in for the roleplaying community.

Because when you do something like this, you have to be taken to task, the world has to see that we do not tolerate this sort of behaviour, not from a newbie running a first game, not from a person who’s put in decades of service, no one gets a free pass.  We have a duty to our players and to our community, and that cannot ever be forsaken.

But here’s the other thing, because social media is a wildfire, and I’ve seen so much unsubstantiated nonsense in the last few days that it beggars belief, so here’s the truth of it.

The reason why the Room Captain didn’t step in on the game when it went sideways is because the GM in question was the Room Captain, he’d earned that position with years of good work and trust.

The scenario as listed did not include anything about Gang Rape, and given that the setting deals with teenagers, would have been rejected had anything of a sexual nature been suggested by the scenario listings.  There are those who say that BBFC age rating guidelines should be used to assess the nature and content of games, and to those I would say that while it’s fine as a general guideline, there’s a massive difference between the content of Stir Crazy (Rated R) and Hostel (Rated R), and in this particular case, the description was deliberately vague.  This is not uncommon in game submissions, but going forwards, the description will have to match the scenario to try and head this sort of thing off.  As anyone who’s ever organised a convention will be able to tell the world, that will add a massive amount of work to the preparation of a good games schedule and even then, isn’t a guarantee that someone won’t go off the board.

The system and setting used for the game bear no responsibility for the scenario that was run using them.  There have been a number of people saying that certain game settings should be censored so that things like this can’t happen.  Roleplaying games occur in the boundless world of human imagination, anything can be done with any setting, Rule 34 really does exist, it’s not the setting that makes the scenario, it’s the person running the scenario.  If it wasn’t, Call of Cthulhu could never be run at a convention.

The reason it took Expo as long as it did to make a resolution on the situation was because the problem was reported over social media and not to Expo directly.  Nothing was reported to the Expo front desk, the Hilton Manager, or any of the roving staff.  There was an email sent to me directly, but that was sent more than half an hour after I’d been made aware of the situation and by then, I was already investigating. 

And that brings us to where we are now, a community still in shock about what’s been done, some people trying to profiteer off the controversy, and everyone looking around to see what we need to do next. 

What we need to do is act in a rational manner.

We need to vet games more carefully, the descriptions can’t be what they have been previously.
We need to ensure that everyone is familiar with what to do if there’s a problem (several cons I know already do this).
We need for people to know that we don’t stand for this, and I think that Expo’s response has gone a long way to letting people know that, but it needs to be everywhere.

What we don’t need is people spreading wild rumour and supposition, consider that I’ve had more than twenty people contact me, both at the show and afterwards, saying that they’d splashed the name of the GM out there, so as to make sure that they could never do it again…

Twelve of those people had the wrong name…

Now if you’re talking about someone cheating at a board game and getting caught, or storming off from a game because they didn’t like the ruling against them, that carries little weight in the non-gaming world.  An accusation like this one can have real and serious impact on that persons life, particularly when they aren’t the one that did it.

We need facts before we act on them…

The initial complaint wasn’t put in to the Expo team, it found its way to us half an hour later, after several people had pointed out that getting me involved in something like this was probably going to be a good idea.  I’m glad that someone pointed it out to me, because I’m not normally on twitter (and after this week, I’m turning it off again), so I didn’t see what had happened, and most of the Expo team work the whole weekend, so we don’t get chance to look for things like this. 

People need to let us know that a problem has occurred…

Please, if there’s a team at the convention, you take it to them, they’re the people most likely to know what to do in the situation and they’re absolutely the best people to talk to about it, because not a one of us does this for the pay, we do this because we want other gamers to have a great time, and when someone pulls something like this, it puts into jeopardy all the works that we’ve done before.  In my particular case, I offered my resignation when this came out because it happened on my watch.  Everyone in the world has told me that there was nothing I could have done with this, no way I could have seen, but it still happened on my watch and I feel responsible for it.

We are all responsible, these are our shows, our people, we are all responsible…

We do not stand for behaviour like this, and I’m glad it made the national news, because anyone looking can see that not only did it happen, but that it was stamped on hard and that the community does not stand for it.  A short while back, I did an interview with ENworld, the content of which can be found at with my comments on Harrassment policies being found around the 1:13 mark.  This was how things were back then, they are still my comments now, we did what I said we would, and we did it fast.

And that’s it for now, if anyone’s got any questions, please let me know, but if I don’t respond immediately, forgive me that, it’s been a very long week and there’s been a lot of questions.