Thanks to countless blogs, subreddits and forums, it’s never been easier to connect with your fellow nerds online. For some things, however, there’s no real substitute for meeting them face-to-face, and if you’re British and into RPGs that means going to Dragonmeet.
Now in it’s 17th year, Dragonmeet is the largest RPG-focused convention in the UK and this shows in the sheer size and breadth of its 2016 offerings, which spanned from the mighty Dungeons & Dragons to the one-man labor of love that is The Cthulhu Hack.
The trade hall of the West London Novotel was stocked with third-party suppliers and publisher stalls, including Call of Cthulhu creators Chaosium as well as Cubicle 7 and Modphius, while the seminar room was packed with talks from industry stalwarts. The bring and buy tables were surrounded by a constant wall of curious shoppers and the area set aside for playtesting rang with the clatter of tumbling dice.
Another one of the highlights of any RPG convention is going to be the range of games being run in the conference rooms and meeting halls. Dragonmeet had a strong focus on Pathfinder, which had sessions running all day, though there was also a good mix of more unusual titles. Some were well-established, but many others were recent additions to the gaming landscape – including a few that hadn’t even been released yet.
The designer of Modpihus’ upcoming Star Trek Adventures was running taster sessions that were completely filled almost as soon as the hall opened, while the author of the upcoming second-edition Discworld RPG was running longer previews.
Any convention that tries to do so much is bound to have a few snags here and there, but the only real problems with the convention were a few quirks of organisation and of scale. The seminar room, for example, was far too small for the numbers attending the event and as such had to turn away guests from the more high-profile sessions.
Similarly, the system for both arranging and booking games was more than a little ramshackle. Advance online bookings were confusing and a little unclear when it came to showing what system was being run for each table, while signing up on the day involved sheets pinned to a noticeboard, covered in scrawls and crossings-out. It felt like a setup that would have worked perfectly well as a smaller event, but with the hundreds of guests flowing through the Novotel it was overwhelmed.
In many ways these small problems are actually a sign of something positive. The UK’s tabletop gaming and RPG scene is going from strength to strength and the size of the convention – and its growing pains – reflect this.
The sheer array of publishers and fans on display at the one-day event could bring a smile to even the most jaded of gamers, and there really is nothing that can compare to meeting your fellow roleplayers face-to-face.