This is my 4rd (or 5th?) time there, and it was Amy’s 3rd (or 4th?) We got there late because we both overslept. I put this down to 2 factors: playing Red Dead Redemption 2 way too much, and a subliminal anxiety about meeting lots of RPG design peers and not having anything new to show. (Relevant: I released a supplement for Into the Odd last year. Also relevant: I got married in between last year’s con and now, which is far cooler than having something new to show, so eff my anxiety I guess.)
Anyway, we got there about 1ish, which was plenty of time to see everything. (I had one of the cheap burgers from the trade hall instead of the overpriced fancy food in the bar upstairs… it was like eating a meat plate between cold bread. Ugh. Do not recommend.)
I saw lots of lovely people! A no-doubt incomplete list, in rough chronological order:
- Amy got an early Xmas present from The Crafting Jones. She picked out a cute rainbow dice keyring, I picked out a set of polyhedrals in the same design from the other side of the stall at the same time. Everyone went aww.
- I got talking to David Coulter of RPhaven.co.uk. They help set up local gaming clubs in exchange for raising and donating money for charity. Very nice. Could be relevant in the near future (Horsham Gamers I am looking at you, if I’ve not already spoken to you about this remind me.) The stall and staff were very professional and friendly; David was also in a bright green dragon costume and had dyed his beard red. (Welcome to Dragonmeet.)
- I said hello to Gavin Norman, when I was helping out the Lost Pages stall last year we had a quick conversation about his B/X Essentials rebuild. In the year since he’s released the core rules and several other fine bits as well. It was nice to say hello and congratulate him on his hard work.
- I got a look at the Black Hack 2.0, which I gave a few ££ to in the Kickstarter and bought the PDF last month. As always David Black designs a mean product and I was happy to see more strong design work from the UK RPG players, as nice as the rules are I know it’s a hard sell for my 5e-centric gamers though.
- Dragonmeet has never been much of a Wargames venue (although I feel that’s changing, more on that later) but Osprey Games were there selling Frostgrave, Gaslands, Last Days Zombie Apocalypse and others. Amy was tempted by and then talked me out of picking up Dracula’s America, which in retrospect I wish she hadn’t. I don’t have the minis for it but I’m down for Red Dead plus Vampires if I can fit it in. I was lucky enough to meet the writer of Frostgrave and Ghost Archipelago, which made me very happy as that was an unexpected pleasure. He was in the middle of selling stuff to 2 other people, so I was a bit of that guy and offered my own opinion on the games. The 2 people looked like a lovely couple, so if you’re somehow reading this now I hope you bought it and I wasn’t too much of a bother!
- Talking of which I know Jason and Nik played a bit of Gaslands upstairs which I understand was good, but mixed? (Jason said something about there were models, dice and tokens to hand, but no rules – you had to buy them downstairs.) Gaslands remains in the big old pile of “to play one day” mini-based games, and I suspect it’ll stay there for a while. I do have the rules though…
- I managed to catch Chris McDowall as I was just leaving the toilet and he was going in, which was awkward (you know when you’ve washed your hands but they’re still a bit wet and you go to shake someone’s hand? Yeah.) Anyway I gave him the super-secret codeword and got a look at his prototype for Electric Bastionland. I’ve seen the manuscript and know the content is strong; I had some thoughts on the general design but it’s a promising start and plus Luka Rejec is doing the artwork which is a good mix.
- I saw my boy Paolo Greco who has had a tough year but had the stall up (along with an ridiculously huge banner) and some lovely stuff for sale at the Lost Pages stall (and Bastion Ein Sof.) I really liked his two “fancy paper pocket edition” editions, they looked darn pretty although the content (spellbooks and real-world magic) isn’t quite my bag. Also I just realised I didn’t grab a copy of Macchiato Monsters, sorry Eric! I’ll get one off Paolo now.
- I did remember to get Mothership and it’s add-on Dead Planet, in fact they were the 2 things I was looking forward to the most this year. Again it all comes down to clever, clear design. The format feels like a zine but smarter, or like a book but cheaper and more expendable – just the way I like em, smart enough to look nice but not so smart you don’t want to bring them to the game table. As the critics say, if I’m going to run a sci-fi game I reckon it’ll be this.
- Amy has hidden away most of the bits she bought to wrap for Christmas. I know I grabbed myself a cheeky Mantic Terrain Crate for DND escapades.
- There was a mysterious wooden crate upstairs that turned out to be a secret Escape Room. That’s Amy’s cup of tea but not mine – she finished it fairly quickly and came back very happy, so that’s a win. Seems like it’s a secret advert for a Spy Game modern DND supplement – very clever. The company is called Black Cats Gaming (unfortunate, all I find are Spiderman guides and stuff about a software piracy site) and the game is called “The Spy Game” which is straight-up impossible to google. If I can actually find them again, I’ll keep an eye on things.
- The last event of the day for me was Epistolary Richard’s seminar on the Indie RPG scene right now. Given I’ve wound up pretty clear of Story Games this year (it’s been 5e with a dash of OSR for me) it was good to hear what’s been going on. The talk was a lot of fun and very informative, and it made me feel good and welcomed to be in the audience. Shortly after, I lucked out and was able to catch up with Richard and Robert Carnel, so they know how much I enjoyed the talk. I also got a chance to grill them about where everyone’s going after G+ (not sure, but there’s still options on the table).
A lot of strong stalls overall, I’m always happy when traders and creatives alike make a strong effort on their presentation and Dragonmeet has been consistently good for that. Again a very positive vibe.
It might have been my imagination and my arriving later this year, but the con felt busier than last year, which I think was due to there being more board game/wargame influence. Certainly I saw a couple of familiar board game faces that I don’t think were there last year.
Age-wise it felt like there was a strong mix of young and old alike. Other than the crowds I’d say Dragonmeet is about as family-friendly as you’ll get. I think it’s fair to say while a lot of products on sale are designed for an older gamer (“old school” D&D players and/or mature themes, not to mention small and delicate playing pieces!) the con as a whole is welcoming of all ages, races and genders and is richer for it. Going to Dragonmeet renewed my determination to get a Kickstarter out there and a table of my own next year.
The venue is expensive, but I don’t think there were any problems with it other than that crappy burger I had. Amy and I stopped overnight and made a weekend of it which isn’t something we’d want to do for many other cons, if any. Even if we hadn’t, we can travel there in about 90 minutes by car or train. I’m aware it’s only been a couple of years since the last venue change and this one is a marked improvement over the last, so I’d understand if they stuck with where they’re at for the next year at least since it feels like a net win.