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Dragonmeet... A Pretty Good Convention

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How We Got Involved

We volunteered to help out at Dragonmeet as gophers a little while after we'd published the article about Conception 2002. We felt then, and still do, that we were justified in writing the Conception article. But we also felt that while it's easy to sit on the sidelines, criticising those who are actually doing something, sometimes you should actually get out there and try doing something yourself.

So to cut a long story short we (me, Bubba, General Tangent, Bog Boy and Mark) volunteered to help out at Dragonmeet as "gophers".

What This Report Contains

This isn't really a report on Dragonmeet. I can't say what the convention was like, because I only saw a particular segment of it. But it would have seemed perverse to not write up what happened, so here it is.

Getting Started

We arrived, as asked, at a little after 8 am, and immediately set to helping the traders carry their stock through to the main hall. Once that was done, all the gophers (there were about 15 in the end) were called together in the lobby, to be assigned their jobs for the day.

At this point we got the first surprise of the day. The bloke who was supposed to be in charge of the gophers was an Australian called Troy, but he'd suffered a motorbike accident (thankfully nothing too serious) which meant that he was unable to attend, and which required James Wallis to find a head gopher at about two hours notice.

Now where would one find such a person?

Well, remember how in the Gaelcon report (written before Dragonmeet) I wrote about how we'd bid for a set of Dragonmeet VIP tickets:

"In the end Colm, the convention director and auctioneer, ended up with them, so we will / did meet up with him at Dragonmeet. (Damn, this tense thing gets confusing)."

Well James had been kind enough to let Colm stay at his place...

...Guess what poor bastard got stiffed with the job of head gopher?

Actually, Colm did a cracking job. He arrived on the job with basically no notice, having expected to spend a leisurely day as a VIP guest, but did a bloody good job.

Getting Assigned To Jobs

Colm ran though a rough list of jobs that he'd sketched out. I volunteered for one of the first ones that came up, which was the job of gopher assigned to the "Game In A Day" project. In hindsight this was probably a mistake, but I'll describe that later.

A funny moment here was when Colm said they needed someone to do the door. Funnily enough, all 15 people there turned and looked at the big bloke with the shaved head (Bubba).

What can I say? He was born to do the door.

Game In A Day

I spent most of the day involved in this, which explains why this report is pretty short on details of the convention as a whole, since my duties involved spending most of the period between 9am and 8pm in a green window-less basement.

The idea behind the project was for the convention goers to develop a complete roleplaying game, from scratch, in a day. I have to confess that I didn't really get involved in the project.

As I told people at the time: "What's happening here is really in the nature of a social experiment, and as a representative of the organisers, it would be both morally and ethically wrong for me to get involved in any way, by like... working."

But actually it just didn't grab me. I'm not sure that I'm one of life's team players, at least when it comes to creative endeavours. I tend to get my own very strong vision of what I want to do, and want to do that, rather than work on someone else's vision.

Or perhaps it was just that I wasn't in to the type of game being developed. Personally, I was more keen on the idea that got outvoted: "Aliens have invaded the Earth and taken all the human beings away to be slaves. Now the rats (and other rodents) are fighting back..."

Which was a pity really, because it meant that I spent eleven hours in a small room watching people design a game, which was a bit boring. But I'd like to think that I did my bit to help it all happen, offering a few bits of general advice here and there, and explaining to newcomers what was going on.

You can find more information about Incarnate (the game which was produced) at: http://www.gregorhutton.com/incarnate/

(Despite what I might have said about preferring the comedy rats idea, the idea behind Incarnate was a very good one).

What Happened When I Got Released

I managed to get out by around 7:30 ish and had a cup of coffee with Paul Tucker of Mongoose Publishing who we'd met up with at our GenCon UK pub meet, and who I'd managed to bump into again (he gave us each one of their grab bags of goodies, which we were all pretty chuffed with, although Bog Boy, Mark and Bubba were chuffed enough not to lose theirs, while I'm afraid I wasn't).

Then we headed over to the second Dragonmeet building (the library) to pick up the end of the auction and then the "Dice Another Day" panel game.

Auction

Like many conventions, Dragonmeet featured a charity auction, which (I believe) ended up raising over 1600, a sum that would have seemed impressive if we hadn't had our perspectives totally warped by the outbreak of collective insanity that the organisers of Gaelcon termed "the auction".

The auction was, as with its Gaelcon counterpart, ably hosted by James Wallis and Colm.

I only got to see the last few minutes, but the rest of the guys had managed to get in at the start, and had actually splashed a fair bit of cash around (they were of course still stuck on Gaelcon values, so everything seemed insanely "cheap").

Bog Boy and Mark had bought VIP tickets for both Warpcon and Gaelcon 2003 (the two big Irish conventions) while Bubba bought tickets for Gen Con Europe 2003. (We're giving these tickets away in the competition elsewhere in this issue).

Bubba also splashed out 50 on an early Christmas present for me, a Sonic the Hedgehog gamebook, written by one James Wallis. (He then got this signed by the man himself, with the inscription: "To Jonny Nexus, the only man I have ever loved.")

Class.

I think they spent about 350 in total.

I arrived just as a huge Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay banner was being auctioned. James Wallis had shut down his company Hogshead Publishing earlier in the week (which was why he was walking around in a T-shirt captioned "Oh my God! I killed Hogshead") and so had donated a whole load of stuff to the auction. This banner, which measured around two by one metres, used to be displayed behind the Hogshead stand at conventions. I arrived (in the doorway to the auction room) just as it reached 45, and was on offer for 50.

This seemed an insanely low price, so I bid 50, not expecting for a moment that I'd get it, and being fairly surprised that I did. (And then, embarrassingly, having to borrow money off Paul Tucker to pay for it, because I only had thirty-five quid on me).

Dice Another Day

"Dice Another Day" was described in the Dragonmeet programme as a panel game featuring two teams of "well known industry personalities". I guess some of the "well known industry personalities" dropped out late, because two days beforehand James Wallis had emailed me to ask if two of us could appear.

I was bricking it, big time. I hate any kind of public appearance, and had only agreed to do it because it's the sort of thing that you regret not doing if the only reason for not doing it was fear. Which seemed an admirable principle on Thursday when I'd said yes, but not so at about 8:10 pm on Saturday, when I was hiding under a table in the corridor, being asked by Bog Boy: "Look do you want to do it or not?"

Bubba, by contrast, seemed quite calm.

James introduced the teams one by one. As well as James's mate Dave, who'd supplied and run the computers for the Game In A Day project, the contestants included Steve Long (who's worked on a whole load of games including Champions / Hero System, Dune, Lord of the Rings and Star Trek) and John Kovalic, famous for Dork Tower and Murphy's Rules.

And then we were introduced as "Jonny Nexus and Bubba from Critical Miss", and you know what?

I swear we got the biggest cheer. How cool is that?

The game was actually pretty fun. It started off with questions about the gaming industry, none of which we knew the answers to, and then moved onto a "musical" section. James had a CD from a band called "Bloodhag" who - he told us - are big fans of science fiction. (He told us that at concerts they throw paperback novels into the audience, because: "The sooner you go deaf, the more chance you'll have to read").

This particular CD was a tribute to science-fiction authors, with each track being about a particular writer. Our task was to listen to a particular track and then guess which author it was about.

Simple, yeah?

No.

You see, Bloodhag aren't some nice easy-listening four-piece.

They are into what I believe is known to its devotees as "speed metal", and to the rest of us as "fucking noise".

All I could hear was tortured guitars and incoherent screaming, and from the furrowed brows all round I'm guessing I wasn't alone. (Although Bog Boy, who's into this sort of crap, claims that he did manage to make out the word "neuromancer" at one point).

The way the quiz actually worked is that you would guess the name of an SF author, and James would say how hot or cold you were. You would then make a second guess based on that. You had three guesses.

It probably looked quite funny.

The final round was a game of Mornington Crescent. We were all totally confused by this, but somehow managed to win anyway.

Then we wondered off into the night with Gar (who we'd met at Gaelcon) and Brian (the chairman of the Irish Games Association) in search of a pub.

And that was Dragonmeet.