Thursday, 5 February 2009

Conception 2009 con report.

0 Conception X. Naish Holiday Village, Highcliffe, Christchurch, Dorset, UK.
Wednesday 28th January - Sunday 1st February 2009.

Conception is a fantastic convention. I go to it to run some games and relax with my family, something I can’t do at other conventions as I am more often than not far too busy.

This time I took my granddaughter Trinity along with my wife, Jenny and my brother, Russell.

We set off from Derby in the early hours on the train – a quick change at Birmingham and then a very pleasant three-hour train journey down to Brockenhurst for a nippy local train to New Milton. There was a thick fog and travelling through that landscape was a touch eerie. The fog did seem to flatten the view and hide much of what was out there.
At New Milton we saw several people that were obviously going to the con but several of them got in separate taxis instead of sharing them – weird?
Our Taxi driver remarked on our destination as “You going to that strange war-game event then? You are the sixth lot I taken there already.”

The lodges of the Hobourne holiday camp.

Our arrival at the reception desk at the main complex of the holiday camp was met with happy greetings and an efficient sign-in for our lodge keys. A pleasant surprise was the convention goodies for the attendees. A large plastic mug with ‘Conception X’ on it – perfect as the cups in the lodges are fairly small, a Convention Booklet, a pencil case, again inscribed with the Conception logo, that contained a Conception pen, a couple of Conception pencils, a couple of Grim Reaper dice, and a couple of Conception dice. This was a nice touch especially the Convention Booklet as it had some very helpful information about the venue and the convention itself. Also my little article about Convention Gaming was published in the book along with my game descriptions, I was over the moon!

The Conception X Goodies!

We then dropped off our luggage at our lodge, passing the burnt out remains of a lodge that suffered a fire the day before. It came as a bit of a shock as it did remind us of how fragile the lodges are. The smell of burning plastic and wood did linger in the air, and with the addition of the deep miasma, it was a strange and poignant start to the convention.

Then it was a walk along the cliff-tops in the mist and then down to the beach to watch the wild sea crash into the breakers. That was followed by a trip to the local Sommerfield at Highcliffe to get the supplies in - both food and booze. Trinity decided to play hide and seek and hid under a large shelf. Had a big gripe there as we had to wait for 45 minutes to get a local taxi back to our lodge with all our shopping.

So we get back to our lodge for a bite to eat, finish unpacking and headed back to the main complex for a bit of a socialise. Trinity was already stripping off her shoes and coat as we entered the building so she could play in the coloured balls in the inside play area!

I handed my sign-up sheets in at the con reception to be put up on the signing boards at the appropriate times. This was a great help as the sign-up sheets went up as that slot’s board was ready and it saved me from having to remember to do it in time. Also there would be no bias on my part as the sheet went up with all the other games in that slot.
I was rather chuffed to see that within ten minutes of my first sheet going up that it was full of six names already! Nice!
I also booked my gaming tables for each of my games, very useful as I could pick tables that suited my needs. I choose the sofas for my Gloranthan and Dad’s Army games, a moody quiet table in corner near an old fire place for my Supernatural game and a large round table that would accommodate seven player plus myself for my Firefly game.

Then we hit the bar and the Ringwood Bitter flowed well. It seemed a little bit pricey as our round of three drinks came to just short of twelve pounds in total though Trinity’s drink came from the vending machine for just 90p. I spent most of the evening nodding as all the familiar faces passed and I caught up with a few people.
We did leave a bit early to get Trinity to bed and to relax a little after a long day of travelling.

Woken up early on the Thursday morning by my granddaughter Trinity jumping on my bed; “Open eyes granddad and wake UP!” We had a big breakfast of bacon and eggs then I went to the main complex to set up ready for my game on Thursday morning.

Slot 2 – ‘Winter Warriors’ Glorantha HeroQuest.
This was a change to the advertised game ‘Street Urchins of Ancient Pavis’ as I wasn’t happy with the scenario and some of my handouts were incomplete.

The players in my Gloranthan HeroQuest game.

I had a full game of six players none of whom had played in my games before. A few had played HeroQuest before though one player thought it was the Milton Bradley board-game!
The players were a little bit shocked to find out they had to create their characters themselves there and then but they all took it on with enthusiasm.

I described the setting to them avoiding going into too much detail and then took them through the simple rules that make up the HeroQuest system. It took about forty minutes for us to start the game proper once I had finished my introductions and they had generated their characters.

The scenario did run well as the players were very inventive and had come up with some great characters. They planned well, coming up with some good tactics and there were some great character moments. I almost felt sorry for the NPC ‘Pretty Boy’ as the PCs and the players took a very strong dislike to him from the beginning. He definitely got his comeuppance at the end of the scenario. Also we discovered a few new ‘truths’ about Glorantha.
An excellent game in all and one that I recorded so hopefully it will appear as a podcast soon.

After my game my wife and I along with Trinity went swimming in the indoor pool located on the site. It a good swimming pool, especially for kids as it isn’t too deep, the deepest is about just over chest height, more than enough to swim in yet is fairly safe for kids.
Trinity loved it in there, so much so that I struggled to get her out of the pool when it was time to go. Only by reminding her about lunch did I get her out.

The swimming pool on the site.

After a late lunch we returned to the main complex so that Trinity could play in the balls and we sat in our usual spot in the main corridor.
We went to our lodge early to get Trinity to bed and the grown ups watched a few DVDs.

Friday morning we went down to the beach to get some sea air into us before going to the swimming pool again as it was quite sunny.
In the afternoon Trinity did the Goblin Hunt with a little help from her granddad though she did the drawing of the ‘Dice Goblins’, six goblins each with a side of a dice, herself. I didn’t think she would win as other kids were entering their drawings in as well.
We went back to our lodge for a roast chicken dinner then I got ready for my next game Friday evening.

Slot 7 – ‘Crop Circles and Lights Out’ Supernatural HeroQuest.
This was the game I was nervous about. I haven’t really GM’d many investigation type scenarios and I haven’t ran any Call of Cthulhu or other horror games before either.

The players of my Supernatural game minus one.

The players I got for this game were all fans of the series, and played their characters with gusto. Mik Reed, who played Bobby Singer, brought some of the season guides and some other books on the series. Very useful as he could look up some of the entries on the creatures from the TV show as part of his research that his character would normally do.
I was a little bit worried that the characters of Sam and Dean would dominate the play and at one point it did seem that they would. Fortunately the other players were able to step forth and lead part of the investigation. All the players were fairly confused about what exactly was happening and who the ‘big bad’ was. On learning what exactly was being summoned and the consequences of it were the PCs did group together and slaughter a whole collective of supernatural entities to prevent it.
There was some great scenes played out that felt like they had come out of the TV series; to the point were the players were able to name what part of the season this ‘episode’ took place and there were some cool character moments to boot. Of course the Bela character left with the big book of summoning leaving a trail of slashed tyres as she got away. Cool.

I was happy with the player characters I had made as I thought that they did capture the characters from the TV series well yet make them playable.
I also thought I had done enough handouts for the scenario yet it seemed in play that I will need much, much more than I normally have, even for my Firefly games. I did make a Hunters Journal though it was more for show than anything else yet I will improve on that and have a finished version for the next time I run this.
It is a game where a laptop or netbook might be useful as googling live in game would have its advantages. Also I do need more than my usual list of six names as the players were very inquisitive and I will possibly need a little bit more tighter structure to the scenario than I usually do.
Again I have recorded this game and hope to podcast it soon.

Saturday morning I was still on a roll with my games I was up early.

Slot 8 – ‘Echoes in the Black’ Firefly HeroQuest.
This was also a change to the advertised game ‘Rocks and Hard Places’ as none of the players had played in my Firefly games before. I do really like this scenario, having run it now twenty-three times in total.

The players of my Firefly game.

I had a good group of players who managed to role-play and stretch out the introduction of the game set in the docks at Persephone so much that I had to cut some sections of the scenario and rush some others. It was interesting though that they distrusted the Alliance Lieutenant so much yet didn’t want to part with any money for the bribe to him. They even dug themselves deeper when the Lieutenant asked them instead to snitch on their new patron, a ‘Made Guy’ who was known for giving people who up set him Columbian neck-ties, they hadn’t met yet. They were certainly the first group to explore this part of the setting and seemed to have fun trying to play both of them off on each other.
Fortunately the survived that little hick up and straight away decided to take the job from the barkeep at the same time just because he paid upfront.
Also they got very obsessed getting spare parts for the ship called ‘Engine Manifolds’. They stole six from another ship in the docks plus were asking everyone else thy met for them. I think they ended up with an additional couple of sets in total!

As a group they managed to avoid the radar dilemma rather well and by-passed the Reavers completely. Their plan for doing the heist meant that they also avoided dealing with a Firefly crew and avoiding the complications there in as well.
The look on the players’ faces when I dropped the big stack of money on the table was priceless!
And of course they must have been only the third group to actually open the cases at the end of the scenario to see want was inside before handing them over.
I have recorded this game and hope to podcast it soon.

We spent Saturday afternoon relaxing, with Trinity playing in the play area while we had a few drinks. I did check out some of the stalls in the trade hall. Leisure Games had set up stall on the stage for the weekend though they had sold out of ‘Monsters and Other Childish Things’ a game I am interested in looking into.
I did buy some excellent dice earrings from Pagan Angel for Trinity and for my wife, Jenny.
Highlight was the Clone Trooper from Star Wars in full costume that was wandering about and posing for photographs. A nice bit of spectacle at the convention.

The Clone Trooper taking Julian as a prisoner.

The rest of the Saturday we all just chilled in the lodge watching DVDs. Nothing beats watching ‘Happy Feet’ with your granddaughter.

Early Sunday morning was the last time we went to the swimming pool; we had the pool to ourselves for most of the time, before having an excellent Sunday lunch at our lodge.

We headed for the main complex in the afternoon for the speeches and the raffle in the trade hall. We got a good seat at the back of the hall with a table that we could spread all the raffle tickets out on.
The good news was that Conception X managed to rise over £10,000.00 for the various charities they support.

Also they announced the winners of the Goblin Hunt and Trinity was one of the winners! She was really chuffed to get a prize, a Conception Conference bag full of goodies donated from Hobourne Holidays that included a cap, four kids T-shirts, soft toys, a mouse mat, two beach balls, and some seaside gifts.

Trinity with her prize bag.

There was also the Golden Badger Awards, the most spectacular PC deaths during the games at the convention. Some great stories of player stupidity, bad luck and gory death scenes. I never really have any PC deaths in my games but perhaps next year I might change that just to enter the Golden Badger Awards!

Next followed the raffle with Andrew, Julian, Duncan, and John drawing tickets out constantly it did go fairly quickly. They had a huge table full of goodies all donated by various traders and game companies.
Russell managed to have a winning ticket and picked up a copy of a pockets-sized RuneQuest Deluxe and I had a winning ticket also getting a copy of ‘Zorcerer of Zo’, a fairy tale role-playing game, and a copy of ‘Lashings of Ginger Beer’, a somewhat tongue in cheek role-playing game set in an idyllic vision of England. I was rather chuffed with the result; we managed to get a good stock of prizes and booty that certainly brightened up the last day of the convention.

Next I got ready for my last game I was running, and I picked a nice spot on the sofa area of the bar.

Slot 12 – ‘We Are the Boys…’ Dad’s Army HeroQuest.
A great ending to the convention, a good funny game though slightly intense as the players are in character for most of the time.

A couple of players from my Dad’s Army game.

Two of the con organisers joined in the game, Andrew Mussell and Julian Hayley, possibly their first chance to get a relaxing game during the whole con.
Again the players did very well in staying in character and there were plenty of madcap hilarity as they tried to beat the Eastgate Platoon.
Captain Square of the Eastgate Platoon even made an appearance at the gaming table! A photo on the wall seemed to be the spitting image of him!

Captain Square

Captain Mainwaring’s main plan of attack was turned into a distraction while the real plan devised by Private Walker and Sergeant Wilson succeeded in winning the day.
As in all role-playing games of mine there was wanton destruction as the windmill was set on fire!
A great game to finish off the convention on. I have recorded this game and hope to podcast it soon.

We spent the rest of Sunday afternoon relaxing on the sofas while Trinity played in the play area. We said our good byes to some of the attendees already leaving and watched the convention wind up. We then retire to our lodge to start packing ready for our trip home on the Monday.

Monday morning we discovered that it had snowed overnight.

Snow on the lodges.

We decided to head to the New Milton railway station earlier to make sure we got our connection at Southampton. I handed in my keys and said my final goodbyes and thanks to the organisers before diving into a taxi. Quite a few of the trains had been cancelled but fortunately we made it to Southampton to catch our connecting train to Birmingham. We had a pleasant three hour journey as we had a table to ourselves and we could watch the snow covered landscape pass in relative comfort. At Birmingham we had two minutes to run from one side of the station to the other to get our Derby connection – we made it just!

So we had a good day of travelling despite the weather and got home in the afternoon. I had discovered that my fishpond had leaked so had to rescue that though everything else was fine.

So another great convention of running game for some excellent players as well as having some relaxing time with my family. It can’t get any better than that!

I put twenty-four players through my games through the convention. Though I don’t do fast-paced action all the time, or indie-hippy game systems or heavy, gritty crunch mechanics, they were very gentle paced games of setting emersion and character inter-action [therefore player inter-action]. The players seemed happy with the games I ran and a couple of them did come back for more.

There are more photographs on my Flickr site here:

1 comment:

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